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The Crown of Thorns

A token for the sorrowing

by E. H. Chapin


One of the discourses in this volume-"The Mission of Little
Children"--was written just after the death of a dear son,
and was published in pamphlet form. The edition having
become exhausted sooner than the demand, it was deemed
advisable to reprint it; and accordingly it is now presented
to the reader, accompanied by others of a similar cast, most
of them growing out of the same experience. This fact will
account for any repetition of sentiment which may appear in
these discourses, especially as they were written without any
reference to one another.

To the sorrowing, then, this little volume is tendered, with
the author's sympathy and affection. Upon its pages he has
poured out some of the sentiments of his own heartfelt
experience, knowing that they will find a response in theirs,
and hoping that the book may do a work of consolation and of
healing. If it impresses upon any the general sentiment
which it contains, --the sentiment of religious resignation
and triumph in affliction; if it shall cause any tearful
vision to take the Christian view of sorrow; if it shall
teach any troubled soul to endure and hope; if it shall lead
any weary spirit to the Fountain of consolation; in one word,
if it shall help any, by Christ's strength, to weave the
thorns that wound them into a crown, I shall be richly
rewarded, and, I trust, grateful to that God to whose service
I dedicate this book, invoking his blessing upon it.

E. H. C.

May, 1860




And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for
us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles , one for
thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. MARK ix. 5.

Caught up in glory and in rapture, the Apostle seems to have
forgotten the world from which he had ascended, and to which
he still belonged, and to have craved permanent shelter and
extatic communion within the mystic splendors that brightened
the Mount of Transfiguration. But it was true, not only as
to the confusion of his faculties, but the purport of his
desire, that "he knew not what he said." For even "while he
yet spake," the cloud overshadowed them, the heavenly forms
vanished, they found themselves with Jesus alone, and an
awful Voice summoned them from contemplation to duty, --from
vision to work.

Peter knew not what he said. He would have converted the
means into an end. He and his fellow-disciples had been
called to follow Christ not that they might see visions, but
had been permitted to see visions that they might follow
Christ. Just previous to that celestial interview, Jesus had
announced to them his own painful doom, and had swept away
their conceit of Messianic glories involved with earthly pomp
and dominion, by his declaration of the self-denial, the
shame, and the suffering, which lay in the path of those who
really espoused his cause and entered into his kingdom. They
needed such a revelation as this, then, upon the Mount of
Transfiguration, to support them under the stroke which had
shaken their earthly delusion, and let in glimpses of the
sadder truth. It was well that they should behold the
leaders of the old dispensation confirming and ministering to
the greatness of the new, and the religion which was to go
down into the dark places of the earth made manifest in its
authority and its source from Heaven. It was well that they
should see their Master glorified, that they might be
strengthened to see him crucified. It was well that Moses
and Elias stood at the font, when they were about to be.
baptized into their apostleship of suffering, and labor, and
helping finish the work which these glorious elders helped
begin. But that great work still lay before them, and to
rest here would be to stop upon the threshold;--to have kept
the vision would have thwarted the purpose. Upon a far
higher summit, and at a far distant time--with fields of toil
and tracts of blood between--would that which was meant as an
inspiration for their souls become fixed for their sight, and
tabernacles that should never perish enclose a glory that
should never pass away.

You may have anticipated the lessons for ourselves which I
propose to draw from this unconsidered request of Peter. At
least, you will readily perceive that it does contain
suggestions applicable to our daily life. For I proceed, at
once, to ask you if it is not a fact that often we would like
to remain where, and to have what, is not best for us? Do
not illustrations of this simple thought occur easily to your
minds? Does not man often desire, as it were, to build his
tabernacles here or there, when due consideration, and after-
experience will convince him that it was not the place to
abide; that it was better that the good be craved, or the
class of relations to which he clung, should not be
permanent? In order to give effect to this train of
reflection, let me direct you to some specific instances in
which this desire is manifested.

Perhaps I may say, without any over-refinement upon my topic,
that there are three things in life to which the desires of
men especially cling, --three tabernacles which upon the
slope of this world they would like to build. I speak now,
it is to be remembered, of desires of impulse, not of
deliberation, --of desires often felt, if not expressed. And
I say, in the first place, that there are certain conditions
in life itself that it sometimes appears desirable to retain.
Sometimes, from the heart of a man, there breaks forth a sigh
for perpetual youth. In the perplexities of mature years, --
in the experience of selfishness, and hollowness, and bitter
disappointment; in the surfeit of pleasure; in utter
weariness of the world, --he exclaims, "O! give me back that
sweet morning of my days, when all my feelings were fresh,
and the heart was wet with a perpetual dew. Give me the
untried strength; the undeceived trust; the credulous
imagination, that bathed all things in molten glory, and
filled the unknown world with infinite possibilities." Sad
with skepticism, and tired with speculation, he cries out for
that faith that needed no other confirmation than the tones
of a mother's voice, and found God everywhere in the soft
pressure of her love; and when his steps begin to hesitate,
and he finds himself among the long shadows, and the frailty
and fear of the body overcome the prophecies of the soul, and
no religious assurance lights and lifts up his mind, how he
wishes for some fountain of restoration that shall bring back
his bloom and his strength, and make him always young! "Why
have such experiences as decline, and decay, and death ?" he
asks. "Is it not good for us to be ever young,? Why should
not the body be a tabernacle of constant youth, and life be
always thus fresh, and buoyant, and innocent, and confiding ?
Or, if we must, at last, die, why all this sad experience, --
this incoming of weakness, --this slipping away of life and

But this is a feeling which no wise or good man ever
cherishes long,. For he knows that the richest experiences,
and the best achievements of life, come after the period of
youth; spring out of this very sadness, and suffering, and
rough struggle in the world, which an unthinking
sentimentality deplores. Ah, my friends, in spite of our
trials, our weariness, our sad knowledge of men and things;
in spite of the declining years among which so many of us are
standing, and the tokens of decay that are coming upon us;
nay, in spite even of our very sins; who would go back to the
hours of his youthful experience, and have the shadow stand
still at that point upon the dial of his life? Who, for the
sake of its innocence and its freshness, would empty the
treasury of his broader knowledge, and surrender the strength
that he has gathered in effort and endurance? Who, for its
careless joy, would exchange the heart-warm friendships that
have been annealed in the vicissitudes of years, --the love
that sheds a richer light upon our path, as its vista
lengthens, or has drawn our thoughts into the glory that is
beyond the veil? Nay, even if his being, has been most
frivolous and aimless, or vile, --in the penitent throb with
which this is felt to be so, there is a. spring of active
power which exists not in the dreams of the youth; and the
sense of guilt and of misery is the stirring, of a life
infinitely deeper than that early flow of vitality and -
consciousness which sparkles as it runs. Build a tabernacle
for perpetual youth, and say, "It is good to be here"? It
cannot be so; and it is well that it cannot. Our post is not
the Mount of Vision, but the Field of Labor; and we can find
no rest in Eden until we have passed through, Gethsemane.

Equally vain is the desire for some condition in life which
shall be free from care, and want, and the burden of toil. I
suppose most people do, at times, wish for such a lot, and
secretly or openly repine at the terms upon which they are
compelled to live. The deepest fancy in the heart of the most
busy men is repose - retirement-command of time and means,
untrammeled by any imperative claim. And yet who is there
that, thrown into such a position, would find it for his real
welfare, and would be truly happy? Perhaps the most restless
being in the world is the man who need do nothing, but keep
still. The old soldier fights all his battles over again,
and the retired merchant spreads the sails of his thought
upon new ventures, or comes uneasily down to snuff the air of
traffic, and feel the jar of wheels. I suppose there is
nobody whose condition is so deplorable, so ghastly, as his
whose lot many may be disposed to envy,--a man at the top of
this world's ease, crammed to repletion with what is called
"enjoyment;" ministered to by every luxury, --the entire
surface of his life so smooth with completeness that there is
not a jut to hang, a hope on, --so obsequiously gratified in
every specific want that he feels miserable from the very
lack of wanting. As in such a case there, can be no
religious life--which never permits us to rest in a feeling
of completeness; which seldom abides with fulness(sic) of
possession, and never stops with self, but always inspires to
some great work of love and sacrifice --as in such a case
there can be no religious life, he fully realizes the poet's
description of the splendor and the wretchedness of him who

" * * built his soul a costly pleasure-house
Wherein at ease for aye to dwell;"

and who said

" * * O soul, make merry and carouse
Dear soul, for all is well.

* * * * * * *

Singing and murmuring in her feastful mirth,
Joying to feel herself alive,
Lord over nature, lord of the visible earth,
Lord of the 'senses five

"Communing with herself: , 'All these are mine,
And let the world have peace or wars,
'T is one to me,' * * * * *

* * * * * So three years
She throve, but on the fourth she fell,
Like Herod, when the shout was in his ears,
Struck through with pangs of hell."

The truth is, there is no one place, however we may envy it,
which would be indisputably good for us to occupy; much less
for us to remain in. The zest of life, like the pleasure
which we receive from a work of art, or from nature, comes
from undulations --from inequalities; not from any monotony,
even though it be the monotony of seeming perfection. The
beauty of the landscape depends upon contrasts, and would be
lost in one common surface of splendor. The grandeur of the
waves is in the deep hollows, as well as the culminating
crests; and the bars of the sunset glow on the background of
the twilight. The very condition of a great thing is that it
must be comparatively a rare thing. We speak of summer
glories, and yet who would wish it to be always summer? --
who does not see how admirably the varied seasons are fitted
to our appetite for change? It may seem as if it would be
pleasant to have it always sunshine; and yet when fruit and
plant are dying from lack of moisture, and the earth sleeps
exhausted in the torrid air, who ever saw a summer morning
more beautiful than that when the clouds muster their legions
to the sound of the thunder, and pour upon us the blessing of
the rain? We repine at toil, and yet how gladly do we turn
in from the lapse of recreation to the harness of effort! We
sigh for the freedom and glory of the country; but, in due
time, just as fresh and beautiful seem to us the brick walls
and the busy streets where our lot is cast, and our interests
run. There is no condition in life of which we can say
exclusively "It is good for us to be here." Our course is
appointed through vicissitude,--our discipline is in
alternations; and we can build no abiding tabernacles along
the way.

But, I observe, in the second place, that there are those who
may discard the notion of retaining any particular condition
of life and yet they would preserve unbroken some of its
relations. They may not keep the freshness of youth, or
prevent the intrusion of trouble, or shut out the claims of
responsibility, or the demands for effort; --they may not
achieve anything of this kind; and they do not wish to
achieve it; but they would build a tabernacle to LOVE, and
keep the objects of dear affection safe within its enclosure.
"Joy, sorrow, poverty, riches, youth, decay, let these come
as they must," say they, "in the flow of Providence; but let
the heart's sanctuaries remain unbroken, and let us in all
this chance find the presence and the ministration of those
we love." And, common as the sight is, we must always
contemplate with a fresh sadness this sundering of family
bonds; this cancelling(sic) of the dear realities of home; this
stealing in of the inevitable gloom; this vacating of the
chair, the table, and the bed; this vanishing of the familiar
face into darkness; this passage from communion to memory;
this diminishing of love's orb into narrower phases, --into a
crescent, --into a shadow. Surely, however broad the view we
take of the universe, a real woe, a veritable experience of
suffering, amidst this boundless benificence, reaching as
deep as the heart's core, is this old and common sorrow; --
the sorrow of woman for her babes, and of man for his
helpmate, and of age for its prop, and of the son for the
mother that bore him, and of the heart for the hearts that
once beat in sympathy, and of the eyes that hide vacancies
with tears. When these old stakes are wrenched from their
sockets, and these intimate cords are snapped, one begins to
feel his own tent shake and flap in the wind that comes from
eternity, and to realize that there is no abiding tabernacle

But ought we really to wish that these relations might remain
unbroken, and to murmur because it is not so? We shall be
able to answer this question in the negative, I think, --
however hard it may be to do so, -- when we consider, in the
first place, that this breaking up and separation are
inevitable. For we may be assured that whatever in the
system of things is inevitable is beneficent. The
dissolution of these bonds comes by the same law as that
which ordains them; and we may be sure that the one --though
it plays out of sight, and is swallowed up in mystery --is as
wise and tender in its purpose as the other. It is very
consoling to recognize the Hand that gave in the Hand that
takes a friend, and to know that he is borne away in the
bosom of Infinite Gentleness, as he was brought here. It is
the privilege of angels, and of a faith that brings us near
the angels, to always behold the face of our Father in
Heaven; and so we shall not desire the abrogation of this law
of dissolution and separation. We shall strengthen ourselves
to contemplate the fact that the countenances we love must
change, and the ties that are closest to our hearts will
break; and we shall feel that it ought to be, because it
must be, -- because it is an inevitability in that grand and
bounteous scheme in which stars rise and set, and life and
death play into each other.

But, even within the circle of our own knowledge, there is
that which may reconcile us to these separations,. and
prevent the vain wish of building perpetual tabernacles for
our human love. For who is prepared, at any time, to say
that it was not better for the dear friend, and better for
ourselves, that he should go, rather than stay; --better for
the infant to die with flowers upon its breast, than to live
and have thorns in its heart; --better to kiss the innocent
lips that are still and cold, than to see the living lips
that are scorched with guilty passion; --better to take our
last look of a face while it is pleasant to remember--serene
with thought, and faith, and many charities --than to see it
toss in prolonged agony, and grow hideous with the wreck of
intellect? And, as spiritual beings, placed here not to be
gratified, but to be trained, surely we know that often it is
the drawing up of these earthly ties that draws up our souls;
that a great bereavement breaks the crust of our mere animal
consciousness, and inaugurates a spiritual faith; and we are
baptized into eternal life through the cloud and the shadow
of death.

But, once more, I remark, that there are those who may say,
"We do not ask for any permanence in the conditions of life;
we do not ask that even its dearest relationships should be
retained; but give, 0! give us ever those highest brightest
moods of faith and of truth, which constitute the glory of
religion, and lift us above the conflict and the sin of the
world! No truly religious mind can fail to perceive the
gravitation of its thoughts and desires, and the contrast
between its usual level and its best moments of contemplation
and prayer. And it . may indeed seem well to desire the
prolongation of these experiences; to desire to live ever in
that unworldly radiance, close to the canopy of God, --in
company with the great and the holy, --in company with the
apostles and with Jesus, --on some Mount of Transfiguration,
in garments whiter than snow, and with faces bright as the
sun; and the hard, bad, trying world far distant and far
below. Does not the man of spiritual sensitiveness envy
those sainted ones who have grown apart, in pure clusters,
away above the sinful world, blossoming and breathing
fragrance on the very slopes of heaven?

And yet, is this the complete ideal of life? and is this the
way in which we are to accomplish its true end? I think we
may safely say that even the brightest realizations of
religion should be comparatively rare, otherwise we forget
the work and lose the discipline of our mortal lot. The
great saints--the men whose names stand highest in the
calendar of the church universal--are not the ascetics, not
the contemplators, not the men who walked apart in cloisters;
but those who came down from the Mount of Communion and
Glory, to take a part in the world; who have carried its
burdens in their souls, and its scars upon their breasts; who
have wrought for its deepest. interests, and died for its
highest good; whose garments have swept its common ways, and
whose voices have thrilled in its low places of suffering and
of need; -men who have leaned lovingly against the world,
until the motion of their great hearts jars in its pulses
forever; men who have gone up from dust, and blood, and
crackling fire; men with faces of serene endurance and lofty
denial, yet of broad, genial, human sympathies; --these are
the men who wear starry crowns, and walk in white robes,

We need our visions for inspiration, but we must work in
comparative shadow; otherwise, the very highest revelations
would become monotonous, and we should long for still higher.
And yet, are there not some whose desire is for constant
revelation? Who would see supernatural sights, and hear
supernatural sounds, and know all the realities towards which
they are drifting, as well as those in which they must work?
They would make this world a mount of perpetual vision;
overlooking the fact that it has its own purposes, to be
wrought out by its own light, and within its own limits. For
my part, I must confess that I do not share in this desire to
know all about the next world, and to see beforehand
everything that is going to be. I have no solicitude about
the mere scenery and modes of the future state. But this
desire to be in the midst of perpetual revelations argues
that there is not enough to fill our minds and excite our
wonder here; when all things around us are pregnant with
suggestion, and invite us, and offer unfathomed depths for
our curious seeking. There is so much here, too, for our
love and our discipline; so much for us to do, that we hardly
need more revelations just now; -they might overwhelm and
disturb us in the pursuit of these appointed ends. Moreover,
the gratification of this desire would foreclose that
glorious anticipation, that trembling expectancy, which is so
fraught with inspiration and delight, --the joy of the
unknown, the bliss of the thought that there is a great deal
yet to be revealed.

We do need some revelation; just such as has been given; --a
glimpse of the immortal splendors; an articulate Voice from
heaven --a view of the glorified Jesus; a revelation in a
point of time, just as that on the mount was in point of
space. We need some; but not too much, --not all revelation;
not revelation as a customary fact. If so, I repeat, we
should neglect this ordained field of thought and action. We
should live in a sphere of supernaturalism, --in an
atmosphere of wonder, --amid a planetary roll of miracles;
still unsatisfied; still needing the suggestion of higher
points to break the stupendous monotony.

And I insist that work, not vision, is to be the ordinary
method of our being here, against the position of those who
shut themselves in to a contemplative and extatic piety.
They would escape from the age, and its anxieties; they would
recall past conditions; they would get into the shadow of
cloisters, and build cathedrals for an exclusive sanctity.
And, indeed, we would do well to consider those tendencies of
our time which lead us away from the inner life of faith and
prayer. But this we should cherish, not by withdrawing all
sanctity from life, but by pouring sanctity into life. We
should not quit the world, to build tabernacles in the Mount
of Transfiguration, but come from out the celestial
brightness, to shed light into the world, --to make the whole
earth a cathedral; to overarch it with Christian ideals, to
transfigure its gross and guilty features, and fill it with
redeeming truth and love.

Surely, the lesson of the incident connected with the text is
clear, so far as the apostles were concerned, who beheld that
dazzling, brightness, and that heavenly companionship, apart
on the mount. They were not permitted to remain apart; but
were dismissed to their appointed work. Peter went to denial
and repentance, --to toil and martyrdom; James to utter his
practical truth; John to send the fervor of his spirit among
the splendors of the Apocalypse, and, in its calmer flow
through his Gospel, to give us the clearest mirror of the
Saviour's face.

Nay, even for the Redeemer that was not to be an abiding
vision; and he illustrates the purport of life as he descends
from his transfiguration to toil, and goes forward to
exchange that robe of heavenly, brightness for the crown of

What if Jesus had remained there, upon that Mount of Vision,
and himself stood before us as only a transfigured form of
glory? Where then would be the peculiarity of his work, and
its effect upon the world?

On the wall of the Vatican, untarnished by the passage of
three hundred years, hangs the masterpiece of Raphael, --his
picture of the Transfiguration. In the centre, with the
glistening raiment and the altered countenance, stands Jesus,
the Redeemer. On the right hand and on the left are his
glorified visitants; while, underneath the bright cloud, lie
the forms of Peter, and James, and John, gazing at the
transfigured Jesus, shading their faces as they look.
Something of the rapture and the awe that attracted the
apostles to that shining spot seems to have seized the soul
of the great artist, and filled him with his greatest
inspiration. But he saw what the apostles, at that moment,
did not see, and, in another portion of his picture, has
represented the scene at the foot of the hill, - the group
that awaited the descent of Jesus. . The poor possessed boy,
writhing, and foaming, and gnashing his teeth, -- his eyes,
as some say, in their wild rolling agony, already catching a
glimpse of the glorified Christ above; the baffled disciples,
the caviling scribes, the impotent physicians, the grief-worn
father, seeking in vain for help. Suppose Jesus had stayed
upon the mount, what would have become of that group of want,
and helplessness, and agony? Suppose Christ had remained in
the brightness of that vision forever, -- himself only a
vision of glory, and not an example of toil, and sorrow, and
suffering, and death, --alas! For the great world at large,
waiting at the foot of the hill -the groups of humanity in
all ages; -- the sin-possessed sufferers -- the caviling
skeptics; the philosophers, with their books and instruments;
the bereaved and frantic mourners in their need!

So, my hearers, wrapped in the higher moods of the soul, and
wishing to abide among upper glories, we may not see the work
that waits for us along our daily path; without doing which
all our visions are vain. We must have the visions., We need
them in our estimate of the world around us, --of the aspects
and destinies of humanity. There are times when justice is
balked, and truth covered up, and freedom trampled down; --
when we may well be tempted to ask, "What is the use of
trying to work?" --when we may well inquire whether what-we
are doing is work at all. And in such a case, or in any
other, one is lifted up, and inspired, and enabled to do and
to endure all things, when in steady vision he beholds the
everliving God, --when all around the injustice, and
conflict, and suffering of the world, he detects the Divine
Presence, like a bright cloud overshadowing. O! then doubt
melts away, and wrong dwindles, and the jubilee of victorious
falsehood is but a peal of drunken laughter, and the
spittings of guilt and contempt no more than flakes of foam
flung against a hero's breast-plate. Then one sees, as it
were, with the vision of God, who looked down upon the old
cycles, when a sweltering waste covered the face of the
globe, and huge, reptile natures held it in dominion; -- who
beholds the pulpy worm, down in the sea, building the pillars
of continents; --so one sees the principalities of evil
sliding from their thrones, and the deposits of humble
faithfulness rising from the deep of ages. Our sympathy, our
benevolent effort in the work of God and humanity, how much
do they need not only the vision of intellectual foresight,
but of the faith which, on bended knees, sees further than
the telescope!

And alas! for him who, in his personal need and effort, has
no margin of holier inspiration --no rim of divine splendor -
-around his daily life! Without the vision of life's great
realities we cannot see what our work is, or know how to do

But such visions must be necessarily rare and transient, or
we shall miss their genuine efficacy. We must work in
comparative shadow, without the immediate sight of these
realities; and only in the place of our rest, -- rest for
higher efforts and a new career, --only there may we have
their constant companionship, and build their perpetual


But we trusted that it had been he which should have
redeemed Israel. LUKE xxiv. 21.

In the accounts of the disciples, contained in the New
Testament, there is no attempt to glorify them, or to
conceal any weakness. From the first to the last, they
think and act precisely as men would think and act in their
circumstances; -they are affected just as others of like
culture would be affected by such events as those set forth
in the record. And the genuineness of their conduct argues
the genuineness of the incidents which excited it. The
divine, wonderworking, risen Jesus, is the necessary
counterpart of the amazed, believing, erring hoping,
desponding, rejoicing fishermen and publicans. This stamp
of reality is very evident in the instance before us. The
conduct and the feelings of the disciples are those of men
who have been involved in a succession of strange
experiences. For a little while they have been in communion
with One who has spoken as never man spoke, and who has
touched the deepest springs of their being. He has lifted
them out of the narrow limits of their previous lives. From
the Receipt of Customs, and the Galilean lake, he has
summoned them to the interests and awards, the thought and
the work, of a spiritual and divine kingdom. At first
following him, perhaps they hardly knew why,. conscious only
that he had the Words of Eternal Life, the terms of this
discipleship have grown into bonds of the dearest intimacy.
Their Master has become their Companion and their Friend,
and their faith has deepened into tender and confiding love.
But still, theirs has been the belief of the trusting soul,
rather than the enlightened intellect. From the fitness of
the teaching, and the wonder of the miracle, they have felt
that he was the very Christ; and yet, from this conviction
of the heart they have not been able to separate their
Jewish conceits. Sometimes, it may be, the language of the
Saviour has carried them up into a broader and more
spiritual region; but then, they have subsided into their
symbols and shadows; --only, notwithstanding the errors that
have hindered, and the hints that have awed them, they have
steadily felt the inspiration of a great hope, the
expectation of something glorious to be revealed in the
speedy coming of the Messiah's kingdom. And now, does not
the account immediately connected with the text picture for
us exactly the state of men whose conceptions have been
broken up by a great shock, and yet in whose hearts the
central hope still remains and vibrates with mysterious
tenacity? --men who have had the form of their expectation
utterly refuted and scattered into darkness, but who still
cherish its spirit? Christ the crowned King,-- Christ the
armed Deliverer, --Christ the Avenger, sweeping away his
foes with one burst of miracle,--is to them, no more. They
saw the multitude seize him, and no legions came to rescue;-
-they saw him condemned, abused, crucified, buried; and so,
in no sense of which they could conceive, was this he who
should have redeemed Israel. And yet the suggestion of
something still to come, --something connected with three
days, -- lingered in their minds. And, in the midst of
their despondency, striking upon this very chord, the
startling rumor reached them that Christ had risen from the
dead. It was in this mood that Jesus found the two
disciples whose words I have selected for my text; -- faith
and doubt, disappointment and hope, alternating in their
minds; their Jewish conceit laid prostrate in the dust, and
yet the expectation of something, they knew not what, now
strangely confirmed. See how these feelings mingle in the
passage before us. "What manner of communications," said
the undiscerned Saviour, "are these that ye have one to
another, as ye walk, and are sad?"-"Art thou only a stranger
in Jerusalem," says one of them, "and hast not known the
things which are come to pass there in these days?" What
things? "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth," replied they,
"which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and
all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers
delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified
him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have
redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to-day is the third
day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women
also of our company made us astonished, which were early at
the sepulchre; and when they found not his body, they came,
saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which
said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with
us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women
had said: but him they saw not."

My hearers, I think we see, in this instance the minds of
these disciples working as the minds of men might be
expected to work under like conditions. And to me this
casts a complexion of genuineness upon the transactions
which, as stated in the record, account for these mental
alternations. The entire passage is alive with reality.
The genuine emotions of humanity play and thrill together,
there, in the shadow of the cross and the glory of the

But, if these feelings are thus natural, the experience
itself indicated in that portion of this verse which
constitutes the text is not entirely removed from our
ordinary life. The incident which occasioned these sad words
was an extraordinary one; but its moral significance, as it
now comes before us, illustrates many a passage in man's
daily course. The language, as we read it, appears to be the
language of disappointment; ---it was under the shadow of
disappointment, though alternating with hope, that these
disciples spoke; and it is to the lessons afforded by
disappointment in the course of life that I now especially
invite your attention.

And the precise point in the text, bearing upon this subject,
is the fact, that while the disciples seemed to feel as
though all redemption for Israel was now hopeless, that
process of redemption for Israel, and for the world, was
going on through the agency of those very events which had
filled them with dismay. Even as they were speaking, in
tones of sadness, about the crucified Christ, the living
Christ, made perfect for his work by that crucifixion, was
walking by their side. Looking far this side of that shadow
of disappointment which then brooded over them, we see all
this, that then they did not see; but now is it with
ourselves, under the frequent shadows cast by more ordinary
events? This suggestion may afford us some profitable

I need hardly say, in the first place, that man is
continually inspired by expectation. Every effort he makes
is made in the conviction of possibility and the light of
hope. This is the heart of ambition and the spring of toil.
It is the balm which he applies to the wounds of misfortune.
It is the key with which he tries the wards of nature. And
from the morning of life to its last twilight he is always
looking. forward. The saddest spectacle of all--sadder even
than pain, and bereavement, and death --is a man void of
hope. The most abject people is a hopeless people, in whose
hearts the memories of the past, and the pulses of endeavor,
and the courage of faith are dead, and who crouch by their
own thresholds and the crumbling tombstones of their fathers,
and take the tyrant's will, without an incentive, and without
even a dream. The most intense form in which misery can
express itself is in the phrase, "I have nothing to live
for." And he who can actually say, and who really feels
this, is dead, and covered with the very pall and darkness of
calamity. But few, indeed, are they who can, with truth, say

But if hope or expectation is such a vital element of human
experience, so does disappointment have its part in the
mechanism of things, and, as we shall presently see, its
wise and beneficial part. For, after all, how few things
correspond with the forecast of expectation! To be sure,
some results transcend our hope; but how many fall below it,
--balk it, -- turn out exactly opposite to it.! Among those
who meet with disappointments in life, there are those who
are expecting impossibilities, -- whose expectations are
inordinate, -- are more than the nature of things will
admit; or who are looking for a harvest where they have
planted no seed. They carry the dreams of youth in among
the realities of the world, and its vanishing visions leave
them naked and discouraged. The light of romance, that
glorified all things in the future, recedes as they advance,
and they come upon rugged paths of fact --upon plain toil
and daily care, --upon the market and the field, and upon
men as they are in their weakness, and their selfishness,
and their mutual distrust. Or they belong, it may be, to
that class who are too highly charged with hope; whose
sanguine notions never go by induction, but by leaps; who
never calculate the difficulties, but only see the thing
complete and rounded in imagination; --men with plenty of
poetry, and no arithmetic; whose theories work miracles, but
whose attempts are failures. It is pleasant, sometimes, to
meet with people like these, who, clothed in the scantiest
garments, and with only a crust upon their tables, at the
least touch of suggestion, mount into a region of splendor.
Their poverty all fades away; -- the bare walls, the tokens
of stern want, the dusty world, are all transfigured with
infinite possibilities. Achievement is only a word, and
fortune comes in at a stride. The palace of beauty rises,
fruits bloom in waste places, gold drops from the rocks, and
the entire movement of life becomes a march of jubilee. And
they are so certain this time, --the plan they now have is
so sure to succeed! I repeat, it is pleasant, sometimes, to
have intercourse with such men, who throw bloom and
marvelousness upon the actualities of the world, from the
reservoirs of their sanguine invention. At least, it is
pleasant to think how this faculty of unfailing enthusiasm
enables them to bear defeat, and to look away from the cold
face of necessity; -- to think that, while so many are
trudging after the sounding wheels and the monotonous jar of
life, and lying down by the way to die, these men are
marching buoyantly to a tune inside. And yet this is
pleasant only from a hasty point of view. These people meet
with disappointment, of course; and it is sad to think how
many lives have come to absolutely nothing, and are all
strewn over, from boyhood to the grave, with the fragments
of splendid schemes. It is sad to think how all their
visionary Balbecs and Palmyras have been reared in a real
desert, -- the desert of an existence producing no
substantial thing. And among these vanishing dreams, and on
that melancholy waste, they learn, at last, the meaning of
their disappointment. And. from their experience, we too
may learn, that we are placed here to be not merely ideal
artists, but actual toilers; not cadets of hope, but
soldiers of endeavor.

But there are disappointments in life that succeed reasonable
expectation; and these are the hardest of all to bear. I say
the expectation is reasonable; and yet, very possibly, the
bitterness of the disappointment comes from neglecting to
consider the infirmity of all earthly things. It is hard
when, not dreaming, but trying our best, we fail. It is hard
to bear the burden and heat of the day, through all life's
prime, and yet, with all our toil, to earn no repose for its
evening hours. It is hard to accumulate a little gain,
baptizing every dollar with our honest sweat, and then have
it stricken from our grasp by the band of calamity or of
fraud. It is hard, when we have placed our confidence in
man's honor, or his friendship, to find that we are fools,
and that we have been led in among rocks and serpents. And
hard indeed is it to see those who were worthy our love and
our faith drop by our side, and leave us alone. This dear
child, the blossom of so many hopes, -- hard is it to see him
die -- to fold all our expectation in his little shroud, and
lay it away forever. We thought it had been he who should
have comforted and blessed us, --in whose life we could have
retraced the cycle of our own happiest experience, --whose
unfolding faculties would have been a renewal of our
knowledge, and his manhood not merely the prop but the
refreshing of our age. This companion of our lot, -- this
wedded wife of our heart, - why taken away now? She has
shared our early struggles, and tempered our anxiety with
cheerful assurance. She has tasted the bitterness; we
thought she would have been a partner of the joy. She has
borne our fretfulness, and helped our perplexity, and shed a
serene light into our gloom; We thought she would have been
with us when we could pay the debt of faithfulness; when the
cares of business did not press and disturb us so. We
thought it was she whose voice, sweet with the music of old,
deep memories, would have consoled us far along; and that, in
some calm evening of life, when all the tumult of the world
was still, and we were ready to go, we should go -- not far
apart -- gently to our graves.

Such are the plans that we lay out, saying of this thing and
of that thing, "We trusted that it would have been so." But
the answer has been disappointment. The old, ay, perhaps the
most common lesson of life, is disappointment.

And now I ask, is it not an intended lesson? Evidently it
comes in as an element in the Providential plan in which we
are involved. For we see its disciplinary nature, --its wise
and beneficial results in harmony with that Plan. Consider
whether it is not the fact, that the entire discipline of
life grows out of a succession of disappointments. That
youthful dream, in which life has stretched out like a sunny
landscape with purple mountain-chains --is it not well that
it is broken up, and we strike upon rugged realities? Does
not all the strength of manhood, and the power of
achievement, and the glory of existence, depend upon these
things which are not included in the young boy's vision of a
happy world. Welcome, O! disappointment of our hope that
life would prove a perpetual holiday. Welcome experience of
the fact that blessing comes not from pleasure, but from
labor! For in that experience alone was there ever anything
truly great or good accomplished. We can conceive no
possible way by which one can be made personally strong
without his own effort; --no possible way by which the mind
can be enriched and strengthened where it is lifted up,
instead of climbing for itself; --no way, therefore, in which
life could be at all a worthy achievement, if it were merely
a plain of ease, instead of holding every ward of knowledge
and of power under the guard of difficulty and the
requisition of endeavor.

And it is equally true that the greatest successes grow out
of great failures. In numerous instances the result is
better that comes after a series of abortive experiences than
it would have been if it had come at once. For all these
successive failures induce a skill, which is so much
additional power working into the final achievement. Nobody
passes at once to the mastery, in any branch of science or of
industry; and when he does become a master in his work it is
evident, not only in the positive excellence of his
performance, but in the sureness with which he avoids
defects; and these defects he has learned by experimental
failures. The hand that evokes such perfect music from the
instrument has often failed in its touch, and bungled among
the keys. And if a man derives skill from his own failures,
so does he from the failures of other men. Every
unsuccessful attempt is, for him, so much work done; for he
will not go over that ground again, but seek some new way.
Every disappointed effort fences in and indicates the only
possible path of success, and makes it easier to find. We
should thank past ages and other men, not only for what they
have left us of great things done, but for the heritage of
their failures. Every baffled effort for freedom contributes
skill for the next attempt, and ensures the day of victory.
Nations stripped and bound, and waiting for liberty under the
shadow of thrones, cherish in memory not only the
achievements of their heroes, but the defeats of their
martyrs; and when the trumpet-voice shall summon them once
more, as surely it will, --when they shall draw for the
venture of freedom, and unroll its glittering standard to the
winds, -- they will avoid the stumbling blocks which have
sacrificed the brave, and the errors which have postponed
former hopes. In public and in private action, it is true
that disappointment is the school of achievement, and the
balked efforts are the very agents that help us to our

And, if life itself --life as a whole --seems to us but a
series of disappointments, is not this the very conviction we
need to work out from it, through our own experience? Do we
not need to learn that this life itself is not sufficient,
and holds no blessing that will fill us completely, and with
which we may forever rest? The baffled hopes of our mortal
state; --what are they but vain strivings of the human soul,
out of the path of its highest good? The wandering bird,
driven against the branches, and beaten by the storm,
flutters at last to the clear opening, by which it mounts
above the cloud, and finds its way to its home. This life is
not ordained in vain; --it is constituted for a grand
purpose, if through its lessons of experience we become
convinced that this life is not all. In the outset of our
existence here, and merely from the teaching of others, we
cannot comprehend the great realities of existence.

How the things that have grown familiar to our eyes, and the
lessons that have sounded trite upon our ears, become fresh
and wonderful, as life turns into experience! How this very
lesson of disappointment lets us in to the deep meanings of
Scripture, for instance! The Christ of our youth, -- a
personage standing mild and beautiful upon the Gospel-page, -
- a being to admire and love; how be develops to our later
thought! how solemnly tender, how greatly real, he becomes to
us, when we cling to him in the agony of our sorrow, and he
goes down to walk with us on the waters of the sea of death!
As traditional sentiment, --as a wholesome subject for
school-composition, --we have spoken and written of the
weariness of the world-worn heart, and the frailty of earthly
things. But, O! when our hearts have actually become worn,
and tried; when we begin to learn that the things of this
life are evanescent, --are dropping away from us, and we
slipping from them, -- what inspiration of reality comes to
us in the oft-heard invitation, " Come unto me, all ye that
labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest"! What a
depth of meaning flowing from the eternal world, in the
precept we have read so carelessly, -- "Lay not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth
corrupt, and thieves break through and steal"! Thus the best
results of life come from the defeats and the limitations
that are involved with it.

And, in all this, observe how disappointment is the
instrument of higher blessings. See how thus life itself
suggests a higher good than life itself can yield. And so
the attitude of the disciples, after the crucifixion,
illustrates many experiences of our earthly lot. Those
incidents which perplexed and grieved them were securing the
very results they seemed to prevent. So, in our ordinary
life, the things that appear most adverse to. us are often
the most favorable.

I may say, indeed, that to any man who is rightly exercised
by it, disappointment always brings a better result. But
this statement requires that I should say, likewise, that the
result of disappointment depends upon the level and quality
of a man's spirit. "One thing happens alike to the wise man
and the fool." But how different in texture and substance is
the final result of the event! Disappointment breaks down a
feeble and shallow man. There are those, again, whom it does
not make better, -- in fact, whom nothing, as we can see,
makes better. Everything glides easily off from them. Now,
it is a noble thing to see a man rise above misfortune, - a
moral Prometheus, submissive to the actual will of God, but
defying fate. But there are men whose very elasticity
indicates the superficiality of their nature. For it is good
sometimes to be sad, -- good to have depth of being
sufficient for misfortune to sink into, and, accomplish its
proper work. But the man who rightly receives the lesson of
disappointment, and improves by its discipline, bent as he is
on some great or good work, is impelled by it only to a
change of method, -- never to a change of purpose; and the
disappointment effectually serves the purpose. But the fact
before us is most clearly seen when we contemplate the
results of disappointment upon a religious and un-religious
spirit. A man is not made better by disappointment to whom
this world is virtually everything;--to whom spiritual things
are not realities. To him life is a narrow stream between
jutting crags, and its substance flows away with the objects
before his eyes. Nay, some men of this sort are made worse
by the failure of earthly hopes, and their natures are
compressed and hammered by misfortune into a sullen and
granitic defiance. But he who sees beyond these material
limits, looking to the great end and final relations of our
being, always extracts from mortal disappointment a better
result. In the wreck of external things he gathers that
spiritual good which is the substance of all life; -- that
faith, and patience, and holy love, which, when all that is
mortal and incidental in our humanity passes away, constitute
the residuum of personality.

Our hopes disappointed, --our plans thwarted and overthrown;
but out of that disappointment a richer good evolving than we
had conceived; something that tends more than all our effort
to produce the real object of life. My friends, what do we
make out of this fact? Why, surely this, that life is not
our plan, but God's. Consider what we, often, would have
made out of life, and compare this with what Providence has
made out of it. Contrast the man's achievement with the
boy's scheme; the dream of care with the moral glory that has
sprung from toil and trouble. Contrast the idea of the
Saviour in the minds of those disciples with the actual
Saviour rising victorious from the conditions of shame and

Life is God's plan; not ours. We may find this out only by
effort; but we do find it out.

We are responsible for the use of our materials, but the
materials themselves, and the great movement of things, are
furnished for us. Let us fall into no ascetic view of life.
Out of our joy and our acknowledged good the Supreme Disposer
works his spiritual ends. But, especially, how often does he
do this out of our trials, and sorrows, and so-called evils!
Once more I say life is God's plan; not ours. For often on
the ruins of visionary hope rises the kingdom of our
substantial possession and our true peace; and under the
shadow of earthly disappointment, all unconsciously to
ourselves, our Divine Redeemer is walking by our side.

Life a Tale

We spend our years as a tale that is told. Psalm xc.9.

We bring our years to an end like a thought, is the proper
rendering of these words, according, to an eminent
translator. But as the essential idea of the Psalmist is
preserved in the common version, I employ it as peculiarly
illustrative and forcible. It will be my object, in the
present discourse, to show the fitness of the comparison in
the text; --to suggest the points of resemblance between
human life and a passing narrative.

I observe, then, in the first place, that the propriety of
this simile is seen in the brevity of life. What more rapid
and momentary than a story? It is heard, and passes. Though
it beguiles us for the time, it dies away in sound, or melts
from before, the eye. And this I say, strikingly illustrates
the brevity of life. The brevity of life! It is a trite
truth, and yet how little realized! Probably there is
nothing, more common, and yet there is nothing, more
pernicious, than the habit of virtual dependence upon length
of days. Thus the best ends of our mortal being are lost
sight of; the solemn circumstances, the suggestive mysteries
of life, are misconstrued. The heavens, which give a myriad
hints of worlds beyond the grave, are, to many, impenetrable
walls, shutting them in to mere pursuits of sense, -- the
upholstery of a workshop or bazaar; and this earth, which is
but a step, --a filmy platform of our immortal course, --is
to them the solid abiding place of all interest, and of all

It is well, then, to break in upon this worldly reliance, --
to consider how fleeting and uncertain are the things in
which we garner up so much. Therefore, in order that we may
more vividly realize the brevity of life,--how like it is to
a passing tale,--let us consider the rapidity of its changes,
even in a few short years. We are, to some degree, made
aware how fast the current of time bears us on, when we pause
and remark the shores; when we observe how our position to-
day has shifted from what it was yesterday; how the sunny
slopes of youth have been changed for the teeming uplands of
maturity; yea, perhaps, how already the stream is narrowing,
and rushing more swiftly as it narrows, towards those high
hills that bound our present vision, upon whose summits
lingers the departing light, and around whose base thickens
the solemn shadow.

This rapidity of change is most strikingly illustrated when,
after a few years' absence, we return to the scenes of our
youth. We plunged into the current of the world, buoyant and
vigorous; our thoughts have been occupied every hour, and we
have not noticed the stealthy shadow of time. But we come
back to that early spot, and look around. Lo! The companions
of our youth have grown into dignified men,--the active and
influential citizens of the place. Care has set

"Busy wrinkles round their eyes."

They meet us with formal deportment, or with an ill-concealed
restlessness, as though we hindered them in their work,--
work! Which, when we parted with them, would have been flung
to the winds for any idle sport. How quickly they have
changed into this gravity and anxiety! On the other hand,
those who stood where they stand now,--whose names occupied
the signs and the records which theirs now fill,--have passed
away, or, here and there, come tottering along, bent and
gray-headed men. Those, too, who were mere infants-those
whom we never saw-take up our old stations, and inspire them
with the gladness of childhood. And exactly thus have we
changed to others. We are a mirror to them and they to us.

From this familiar experience, then, let us realize that the
stream of life does not stop, nor are we left stationary, but
carried with it; though our condition may appear unchanged,
until we lift up our eyes, and look for the old landmarks.
The brevity of our life! my friends. Amid our daily
business,--in the sounding tumult of the great mart, and the
absorption of our thoughts,--do we think of it? Do we
perceive how nearly we approach a goal which a little while
ago seemed far before us? Do we observe how quickly we shoot
by it? Do we mark with what increasing swiftness the line of
our life seems reeling off, and how close we are coming to
the end? Time never stops! Each tick of the clock echoes
our advancing footsteps. The shadow of the dial falls upon
it a shorter and shorter tract, which we have yet to pass
over. Even if a long life lies before us, let us consider
that thirty-five years is high noon with us,--the meridian of
that arc which comprehends but threescore years and ten!

But we may be more vividly impressed with the fact of the
brevity of life, if we adopt some criterion wider than these
familiar measurements. The narrative, the story, engages our
ears, in the pauses of care and labor. We listen to it in
the noonday rest, and around the evening fire. It is a
slight break in the monotony of our business,--an interlude
in the solemn march of life. And thus, in some respects, is
life itself. It is so, if we take into view a long series of
existence, such as the succession of human generations, or,
still more, the periods of creative development, and the
computations of time as applied to the forms and changes of
the material universe. In this vast train of being, our
individual existence, however important to ourselves, is but
an interlude-a tale. Let us, then, for a while, lay aside
any conventional method of estimating our life,--a method in
which that life fills a large space, simply because it is
brought near to the eye, --and let us endeavor to take a view
of it, as it were, from the fixed stars, or from the
elevation of the immortal state.

Compare, then, if you will, this life of yours or mine, not
with the personal standard of threescore years and ten, but
with the whole course of human history; and instantly we
appear but as bubbles in the stream of ages. But, again,
consider how history itself is as "a tale that is told;" and
then, indeed, what a mere incident in it all is your life and
mine! If we stand off at the distance of a few centuries, so
that we have no present interest in them, it is strange how
the proudest empires assume an empty and spectral aspect.
Their growth and decline occupied ages; but what a brief
achievement it appears now! Why puzzle ourselves about their
origin, or seek to disengage the true from the fabulous in
their history? Why strain laboriously to settle names, and
dates, and dynasties? What mere point they have occupied in
the processes of the great universe! Their hieroglyphic
pillars, their gray old pyramids;--what are they to the age
of Uranus, or the new planet? Each of these empires
fulfilled its mission, and relatively that mission was a
great one; but in the long sweep of God's providence, and
among the phenomena of absolute being, what a brief link, a
subordinate climax, it was! The huge ribs of the earth, and
the coral islands of the sea were longer in building; and
even these are transitory manifestations of God's purposes,
which stream around us through constant change and
succession. And what, then, are these nations-these epochs
of humanity-but waves rising and breaking on the great sea of
eternity? Mysterious Egypt, haughty Assyria, glorious
Greece, kingly Rome;--how spectral they have become. They
stand out in no relief. As we recede from them, they sink
back, flat and inanimate on the horizon. Each is a tale that
has been told. Surely, then, if such is the life of nations,
I need not labor to impress upon you a sense of the brevity
of our individual existence.

But, for a moment, turn your thoughts to estimates that far
exceed the periods of history, and confound all our ordinary
measurements. What is our mortal existence, into which we
crowd so much interest,--over the anticipated length of which
we slumber,--into whose uncertain future we project our lithe
plans so confidently,--compared to the age of the heavens,--
the lifetime of worlds?--compared to their march, from the
moment when they obeyed the creative fiat to that when they
shall complete their great cycle? It takes three years for
light to travel from the nearest fixed star to the earth;
from another it takes twelve years; while, on its journey
from a star of the twelfth magnitude, twenty four billions of
miles away, it consumes four thousand years. And yet we
speak of long life! Why, when the light that wraps us now
shall be changed for the light that is just leaping from that
distant star, where in the gray bosom of the past shall we
be? Sunken, forgotten, crumbled to imperceptible atoms; the
ashes of generations-the dust of empires-heaped over us! And
when we compare those wide estimates to that divine eternity
that evolves and limits all things, how does our individual
existence on the earth dwindle and vanish!--a heart-throb in
the pulses of the universal life,--a quivering leaf in the
forest of being,--"a tale that is told"!

And yet, my friends, our realization of existence is so
intense,--the horizon of the present shuts us in so
completely,--that it really requires an effort for us to
pause and remember that we are such transitory beings. It
cannot be (we may unconsciously reason), that we to whom this
earth is bound with ligaments so intimate and strong; whose
breathing and motion-whose contact and action here-are such
realities; whose ears hear these varying sounds of life;
whose eyes drink in this perpetual and changing beauty; to
whom business, study, friendship, pleasure, domestic
relations, are such fresh and constant facts; to whom the
dawn and the twilight, the nightly slumber and the daily
meal, are such regular experiences; to whom our possessions,
our houses, lands, goods, money, are such substantial
things;--it cannot be that we are not fixed permanently
here,--that the years like a swift river, sweep us nearer and
nearer to a point where we must sink and leave it all,--that
the corridors of the earth echo our footsteps only as the
footsteps of a successive march-myriads going before, and
myriads coming after us-and soon they will catch no more
murmurs of our individual life; for that will be as "a tale
that is told."

The whole train of thought I am now pursuing strikes us with
peculiar force, in reading the biographies of men who have
lived intensely, who have realized the fulness of life, who
have mingled intimately with its varied experiences, and
occupied a large place in it. We see how to them life was,
as it is to us, an absorbing fact,--how they have planned,
and thought, and acted, as though they were to live forever;
and yet we have noticed the premonitions of change, the
dropping away of friends, the failing of vigor, the deepening
of melancholy shadows, and the coming of the end; the
business closed, the active curiosity and intermeddling
ceased, the familiar haunts abandoned, the home made
desolate, the lights put out, the cup fallen beneath the
festal board, and all the earnest existence stopped forever.
And this, too, so quick,--filling so small a space in
absolute time! From their illustration let us, then, realize
that our life, too, amid all these real conditions, is
unfolding rapidly to an end, and is "as a tale that is told."

But life is like a tale that is told, because of its
comprehensiveness. It is a common characteristic of a
narrative that it contains a great deal in a small compass.
It includes many years, and expresses many results.
Sometimes it sweeps over different lands, and exhibits the
peculiarities of various personages. In one word, it is
characterized by comprehensiveness. And this, I repeat, is
also a characteristic of human life. When the consideration
of the brevity of our mortal existence excites us to
diligence it is well; but when we make it an argument for
indolence, disgust, and despair, we should be reminded of the
fact I am now endeavoring to illustrate,--the fact that even
the briefest life contains a great deal, and means a great
deal; and that, if we estimate things by a spiritual
standard, a man's earthly being may contain more than all the
cycles of the material world. From the best point of view,
life is not merely a term of years and a span of action; it
is a force, a current and depth of being. Indeed, considered
in its most literal sense, as the vital spark of our animal
organism, it is something more than a measurement of time;--
it is a mysterious, informing essence. No man has yet been
able to tell us what it is, where it resides, or how it acts.
We only know that when we gaze upon the features of the dead
we see there the same organs that pertained to the living;
but something has gone,--something of light, power, motion;
and that something we call life.

But it is chiefly in a moral sense that I make the remark
that life is something more than a term of years or a span of
action. In fact, life is a sum of spiritual experiences; and
thus one act, or result, often contains more than a century
of time. Who does not understand the fact to which I now
refer? Who has not felt something of it? Has not each one
of us, at times, realized that he lived a year in a single
day,--in a moment,--in an emotion or thought? Nay, could
that experience be measured by any estimate of time? And if
we should compute the length of any life by such experiences,
and not by a succession of years, would it not be a long
life? At least, would it not be a full and immeasurable

But, while every man's history will furnish instances of what
I mean, let us, for the sake of clearer illustration,
consider some of the experiences which are common to all.
Defining life to be depth and intensity of being, then,--a
current of spiritual power, and not a mere succession of
incidents,--how much we live when we acquire the knowledge of
a single truth! What an inexhaustible power!--what an
immeasurable experience it is! We are made absolutely
stronger by it; we receive more life with it,--a new and
imperishable fibre of being. Fortune cannot pluck it from
us, age cannot weaken it, death cannot set limits to it. And
now, with the fulness of this one experience as a test, just
consider our whole mortal experience as filled up with such
revelations of truth. Suppose we improve all our
opportunities; into what boundless life does education admit
us, and the discoveries of every day, and the ordinary
lessons of the world! Tell me, is this life to be called
merely a brief and worthless fact, when by a little reading,
for instance, I can make the experience of other men, and
lands, and ages, all mine? When in some favored hour, I can
climb the starry galaxy with Newton, and pace along the
celestial coast to the great harmony of numbers and unlock
the mighty secret of the universe? When of a winter's night,
I can pass through all the belts of climate, and all the
grades of civilization on our globe; scan its motley races,
learn its diverse customs, and hear the groaning of lonely
ice-fields and the sigh of Indian palms? When, with Bacon, I
can explore the laboratory of nature, or with Locke, consult
the mysteries of the soul? When Spenser can lead me into
golden visions, or Shakespeare smite me with magic
inspiration, or Milton bathe me in immortal song? When
History opens for me all the gates of the past,--Thebes and
Palmyra, Corinth and Carthage, Athens with its peerless
glory, and Rome with its majestic pomp?--when kings and
statesmen, authors and priests, with their public deeds and
secret thoughts are mine? When the plans of cabinets, and
the debates of parliaments, and the course of revolutions,
and the results of battle, are all before my eyes and in my
mind? When I can enter the inner chamber of sainted souls,
and conspire with the efforts of moral heroes, and understand
the sufferings of martyrs? Say, when all these deep
experiences-these comprehensive truths-may be acquired
through merely one privilege, is life but a dream, or a
breath of air? Thus, too, do immeasurable experiences flow
in to me from nature,--from planet, flower, and ocean. Thus,
too, does more life come to me from contacts in the common
round of action. And, I repeat, every truth thus gained
expands a moment of time into illimitable being,--positively
enlarges my existence, and endows me with a quality which
time cannot weaken or destroy.

Consider, again, how much we really live in cherishing good
affections, and in performing noble deeds. We have the
familiar lines of the poet, to this point:

"One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
Of stupid starers and of loud huzzas."

It is true. There is more life in one "self-approving
hour,"-one act of benevolence,-- one work of self-
discipline,--than in threescore years and ten of mere sensual
existence. Go out among the homes of the poor, lift up the
disconsolate, administer comfort to the forlorn; in some way,
as it may come across your path, or lie in the sphere of your
duty, do a deed of kindness; and in that one act you shall
live more than in a year of selfish indulgence and indolent
ease,--yea, more than in a lifetime of such. The poet, with
his burning, immortal lines, while doing his work, lives all
the coming ages of his fame. From every marble feature he
chisels, the sculptor draws an intensity of being that cannot
be imparted by a mere extension of years. The
philanthropist, in his walks of mercy and his ministrations
of love, lives more comprehensively than another may in a
century. His is the fathomless bliss of benevolence,--the
experience of God. The martyr, in his dying hour, with his
face shining like an angel's, does not live longer, but he
lives more than all his persecutors.

Consider, too, the experiences of religion, of worship, of
prayer. In the act of communion with God, in the realization
of immortality, in the aspirations and the idea of
perfection, there is a depth and scope of being from which
all sensual estimates of time drop away.

Our mortal life, then, is very comprehensive. If we measure
it, not by its length of years, but by its spiritual results,
be they good or evil, it is a full and large life. It then
appears, like the immortal state, not as a fact of
succession, but of experience. Christ has defined eternal
life as such a fact. "Eternal life," he says, "is to know
thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast
sent." The life of the blessed in heaven is not marked by
years and cycles; it is not so much protracted being, as a
power of knowledge,--a depth of glad and holy consciousness,-
-a constant pulsation of harmony with God.

Again, every life may be compared to "a tale that is told,"
because it has a plot. In the narrative there is a
combination of agencies working to a crisis. There is a
main-point with which all the action is involved. And so
every human life has its main-point.. I will not now take up
time to carry out this illustration minutely. The mere
suggestion that each one is working out a peculiar destiny
invests even the meanest life with a solemn dignity, and
counteracts any disparaging argument drawn from its brevity.

But still I would urge, that the propriety of this comparison
between the peculiar tendency of an individual life and the
plot of a story, is seen in the fact that every man is
accomplishing a certain moral result in and for himself.
This is inevitable. We may be inactive, but that result is
forming; the mould of habit is growing, and the inward life
is unfolding itself, after its kind. We may think our career
is aimless, but all things give a shape to our character.
And does not this consideration make our mortal life of deep
consequence to us?

All circumstances and experiences are chiefly important as
affecting this result. One of the highest views we can take
of the universe is that of a theatre for the soul's
education. We are placed upon this earth not to be absorbed
by it, but to use it for the highest spiritual occasions. We
are placed among the joys and sorrows of our daily lives to
be trained for immortal issues. Our business, our domestic
duties, and all our various relations, constitute a school
for our souls. Here our affections and our powers are acted
upon for good or for evil. Grief strengthens our faith and
elevates our thoughts; joy quickens our gratitude, our
obedience, and our trust; temptation forms in us an exalted
and spontaneous virtue, or enfeebles and enslaves us.
Chiefly, then, should we be solicitous about character, the
plot of our life; and in this solicitude our earthly
existence rises to the highest importance.

Let us, then, feel that our mortal career is not vague and
aimless. Let us realize that each life is a special history.
The poorest, the most obscure, has such a history; and
although it may be unnoticed by men, angels regard it with
interest. The merchant, every day, in the dust, and heat,
and busy maze of traffic, unfolds a history. The beggar by
the way-side, it may be, outrivals kings in the grandeur and
magnitude of his history. In sainted homes,--in narrow nooks
of life,--in the secret heart of love, and prayer, and
patience,--many a tale is told which God alone sees, and
which he approves. The needy tell a tale, in their
unrelieved wants and unpitied sufferings. The oppressed tell
a tale, that goes up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
The vicious tell a tale of wo, and misspent opportunity, and
wasted power. Let us think of it, I beseech you! Each one
of us in his sphere of action is developing a plot which
surely tells in character,--which is fast running into a
great fixed fact.

Once more, we may compare every life to "a tale that is
told," because it has a moral. Any story, good or bad,--the
most pernicious work of fiction, the most flimsy narrative,
as the grandest history,--has its significance. So it is
with the life of a man. As all his conduct he is building up
the intrinsic results of character for himself,--establishing
in his own soul a fabric of welfare or of wo,--so is he
furnishing a lesson for others, and accomplishing an end by
which they are affected. The purpose for which any one has
lived, the point which he has attained, the personal history
which he has unfolded, constitute the moral of his life.

For instance, here is a man whose life is frivolous,--divided
between aimless cares and superficial enjoyments. He has no
resources in himself, no fountain of inward peace and joy.
His spirit leaps like new wine in the whirl of exciting
pleasure, but in the hour of solitude and of golden
opportunity, it is "flat, stale, and unprofitable." He marks
off the year by its festivals, and distributes the day into
hours of food, rest, and folly. In short, he holds no
serious conception of life, and he is untouched by lofty
sentiment. The great drama of existence, with its solemn
shifts of scenery and its impending grandeur, is but a
pantomime to him; and he a thoughtless epicurean, a grinning
courtier, a scented fop, a dancing puppet, on the mighty
stage. And surely, such a life, a life of superficiality and
heartlessness, a life of silken niceties and conventional
masquerade, a life of sparkling effervescence, has a moral.
It shows us how vain is human existence when empty of serious
thought, of moral purpose, and of devout emotion.

Another is a skeptic. He has no genuine faith in
immortality, in virtue, or in God. To him, life is a sensual
opportunity closing up with annihilation and to be enjoyed as
it may. It is a mere game, and he who plays the most
hand will win. Virtue is a smooth decency, which it is well
to assume in order to cover and artful selfishness; and it is
a noteworthy fact, too, that, in the long run, those who have
trusted to virtue have made by it. At least, vice is
inexpedient, and it will not do to make a public profession
of it. Religion, too, he says, is well enough; it does for
the weak and the ignorant; though shrewd men, like our
skeptic know that it is all a sham, and, of course, scarce
give it a serious thought. What is religion to a keen-
minded, hard-headed, sagacious man of the world? What has it
to do with business, and politics, and such practical
matters? Pack it away for Sunday, and then put it on with
clean clothes, out of respect for the world; but if it lifts
any remonstrance in the caucus or the counting-room, why,
like a shrewd man, laugh it out of countenance. What has our
skeptic to do with the future world or with spiritual
relations? Keep bugbears to frighten more timid and
credulous persons. But only see how he uses the world, and
plays his scheme, and foils his adversary and twists and
bends his plastic morality, all because he is not troubled
with scruples, and has no faith in God or duty!

And yet, to the serious eye, that scans his spiritual mood,
and looks all around his shrewd, self-confident position,
there is a great moral in the skeptic's life. It teaches us,
more than ever, the value of faith, and the glory of
religion. That flat negation only makes the rejected truth
more positive. The specimen of what existence is without God
in the world, causes us to yearn more earnestly for the
shelter of His presence, and the blessedness of His control.
From the dark perspective of the skeptic's sensual view, the
bleak annihilation that bounds all his hopes, we turn more
gladly to the auroral promise of immortality, to the
consolations and influences of a life beyond the grave. Yes,
in that tale that is told, in that skeptic history, there is
indeed a great moral. It shows how meaningless and how mean,
how treacherous and false, is that man's life who hangs upon
the balance of a cunning egotism, and moves only from the
impulses of selfish desire-without religion, without virtue,
repudiating the idea of morality, and practically living
without God.

Or, on the other hand, suppose we call up the image of one
who has well kept the trusts of family, and kindred, and
friendship;--one who has made home a pleasant place; who has
filled it with the sanctities of affection, and adorned it
with a graceful and generous hospitality;--before whose
cheerful temper the perplexities of business have been
smoothed, and whose genial disposition has melted even the
stern and selfish;--who, thus rendering life around her
happier and better, attracting more closely the hearts of
relatives, and making every acquaintance a friend, has, chief
of all, beautifully discharged the sacred offices of wife and
mother; encountering the day of adversity with a noble self-
devotion, enriching the hour of prosperity with wise counsel
and faithful love; unwearied in the time of sickness, patient
and trustful beneath the dispensation of affliction; in
short, by her many virtues and graces evidently the bright
centre of a happy household. And now suppose that, with all
these associations clinging to her, in the bloom of life,
with opportunities for usefulness and enjoyment opening all
around her, death interferes, and suddenly quenches that
light! Is there not left a moral which abides a sweet and
lasting consolation? That moral is-the power of a kind
heart; the worth of domestic virtues; the living freshness of
a memory in which these qualities are combined.

Thus, then, in its brevity and its comprehensiveness, with
its plot and its moral, we see that each human life is like
"a tale that is told." To you, my friends, I leave the
personal application of these truths. Surely they suggest to
each of us the most vital and solemn considerations. Surely
they call us to diligence and repentance,--to introspection
and prayer. What we are in ourselves,--what use we shall
make of life;--is not this an all important subject? What
lesson we shall furnish for others,--what influence for good
or evil;--can we be indifferent to that? God give us grace
and strength to ponder and to act upon these suggestions!

Finally, remember under whose dominion all the sorrows and
changes of earth take place. Let your faith in Him be firm
and clear. To Him address your grief;--to Him lift up your
prayer. Of Him seek strength and consolation;--of Him ask
that a holy influence may attend every experience. And while
all the trials of life should quicken us to a loftier
diligence, and inspire us with a keener sense of personal
responsibility, surely when our hearts are sore and
bleeding,--when our hopes lie prostrate, and we are faint and
troubled, it is good to rise to the contemplation of the
Infinite Controller,--to lean back upon the Almighty Goodness
that upholds the universe; to realize that He does verily
watch over us, and care for us; to feel that around and above
all things else He moves the vast circle of his purpose, and
carries within it all our joys and sorrows; and that this
mysterious tale of human life-this tangled plot of our
earthly being-is unfolded beneath His all-beholding eye, and
by His omnipotent and paternal hand.

The Christian View of Sorrow

"A man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief" Is. Iii. 3.

There is one great distinction between the productions of
Heathen and of Christian art. While the first exhibits the
perfection of physical form and of intellectual beauty, the
latter expresses, also, the majesty of sorrow, the grandeur
of endurance, the idea of triumph refined from agony. In all
those shapes of old there is nothing like the glory of the
martyr; the sublimity of patience and resignation; the
dignity of the thorn-crowned Jesus.

It is easy to account for this. In that heathen age the soul
had received no higher inspiration. It was only after the
advent of Christ that men realized the greatness of sorrow
and endurance. It was not until the history of the Garden,
the Judgment-Hall, and the Cross had been developed, that
genius caught nobler conceptions of the beautiful. This fact
is, therefore, a powerful witness to the prophecy in the
text, and to the truth of Christianity. Christ's
personality, as delineated in the Gospels, is not only
demonstrated by a change of dynasties,--an entire new
movement in the world,--a breaking up of the its ancient
order; but the moral ideal which now leads human action,--
which has wrought this enthusiasm, and propelled man thus
strangely forward,--has entered the subjective realities of
the soul,--breathed new inspiration upon it,--opened up to it
a new conception; and, lo! The statue dilates with a diviner
expression;--lo! The picture wears a more lustrous and
spiritual beauty.

The Christ of the text, then,--"A man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief,"-has verily lived, for his image has
been reflected in the minds of men, and has fastened itself
there among their most intimate and vivid conceptions.
Sorrow, as illustrated in Christ's life, and as interpreted
in his scheme of religion, has assumed a new aspect and
yields a new meaning. Its garments of heaviness have become
transfigured to robes of light, its crown of thorns to a
diadem of glory; and often, for some one whom the rich and
joyful of this world pity,--some suffering, struggling, over-
shadowed soul,--there comes a voice from heaven, "This is my
beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."

I remark, however, that Christianity does not accomplish this
result by denying the character of sorrow. It does not
refuse to render homage to grief. The stoic is as far from
its ideal of virtue as the epicurean. The heart of the true
saint quivers at pain, and his eyes are filled with tears.
Whatever mortifications he may deem necessary as to the
passions of this poor flesh, if he imitates the example of
Christ he cannot deny those better affections which link us
even to God; he cannot harden those sensitive fibres which
are the springs of our best action,--which if callus we
become inhuman. He realizes pain; he recognises sorrow as
sorrow. Its cup is bitter, and to be resisted with prayer.

There is nothing more wonderful in the history of Jesus than
his keen sense of sorrow, and the scope which he allows it.
In the tenderness of his compassion he soothed the
overflowing spirit, but he never rebuked its tears. On the
contrary, in a most memorable instance, he recognized its
right to grieve. It was on the way to his own crucifixion,
when crowned with insult, and lacerated with his own sorrows.
"Daughters of Jerusalem," said he, to the sympathizing women,
"weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your
children." As though he had said, "You have a right to weep;
weep, then, in that great catastrophe which is coming, when
barbed affliction shall pierce your hearts, and the dearest
ties shall be cut in sunder. Those ties are tender; those
hearts are sacred. Therefore, weep!"

But Christ did more than sanction tears in others. He wept
himself. Closest in our consciousness, because they will be
most vivid to us in our darkest and our last hours, are those
incidents by the grave of Lazarus, and over against
Jerusalem; the sadness of Gethsemane, and the divine pathos
of the last supper. Never can we fully realize what a
tribute to sorrow is rendered by the tears of Jesus, and the
dignity which has descended upon those who mourn, because he
had not where to lay his head, was despised and rejected of
men, and cried out in bitter agony from the cross. He could
not have been our exemplar by despising sorrow-by treating it
with contempt; but only by shrinking from its pain, and
becoming intimate with its anguish,--only as "a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

But, on the other hand, Christianity does not over-estimate
sorrow. While it pronounces a benediction upon the mourner,
it does not declare it best that man should always mourn. It
would not have us deny the good that is in the universe.
Nay, I apprehend that sorrow itself is a testimony to that
good,--is the anguish and shrinking of the severed ties that
have bound us to it; that it clings closest in hearts of the
widest and most various sympathies; that only souls which
have loved much and enjoyed much can feel its intensity or
know its discipline. In the language of another, "Sorrow is
not an independent state of mind, standing unconnected with
all others...It is the effect, and, under the present
conditions of our being, the inevitable effect, of strong
affections. Nay, it is not so much their result, as a
certain attitude of those affections themselves. It not
simply flows from the love of excellence, of wisdom, of
sympathy, but it is that very love, when conscious that
excellence, that wisdom, that sympathy have departed." They,
then, who deem it necessary for man's spiritual welfare that
he should constantly feel the pressure of chastisement, and
be engirt with the mist of tears, do not reason well. Jeremy
Taylor reasons thus, when he says in allusion to certain
lamps which burned for many ages in a tomb, but which expired
when brought into open day: "So long as we are in the
retirements of sorrow, of want, of fear, of sickness, we are
burning and shining lamps; but when God lifts us up from the
gates of death and carries us abroad into the open air, to
converse with prosperity and temptations, we go out in
darkness; and we cannot be preserved in light and heat but by
still dwelling in the regions of sorrow." "There is beauty,
and, to a certain extent, truth in this figure," says a
writer, in reply; "but it by no means follows that continuous
suffering would be good for man; on the contrary, it would be
as remote from producing the perfection of our moral nature
as unmitigated prosperity. It would be apt to produce a
morbid and ghastly piety; the 'bright lamps' of which Taylor
speaks would still be irradiating only a tomb." (Edinburgh
Review No 141 The article on Pascal) We may doubt whether
there is more essential religiousness in this seeking of
sorrow as a mortification,--in this monastic self-laceration
and exclusion,--than in the morbid misery of the
hypochondriac. Neither comprehends the whole of life, nor is
adapted to its realities. Christ was "a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief;" but he was also full of sympathy with
all good, and enjoyed the charm of friendship, and the light
of existence. Around that great Life gather many amenities.
Below that face of agony beats a heart familiar with the best
affections of human nature; otherwise, we may believe, the
agony would not appear. The sadness of that last supper
indicates the breaking up of many joyful communions and the
history which closes in the shadow of the cross mingles with
the festival of Cana, and lingers around the home at Bethany.

But I remark, once more, that while Christianity neither
despises nor affects to desire sorrow, it clearly recognizes
its great and beneficial mission. In one word, it shows its
disciplinary character, and thus practically interprets the
mystery of evil. It regards man as a spiritual being, thrown
upon the theatre of this mortal life not merely for
enjoyment, but for training,--for the development of
spiritual affinities, and the attainment of spiritual ends.
It thus reveals a weaning, subduing, elevating power, in

The origin of evil may puzzle us;--its use no Christian can
deny. A sensual philosophy may shrink from it, in all its
aspects, and retreat into a morbid skepticism or a timid
submission. If we predicate mere happiness as "our being's
end and aim," there is no explanation of evil. From this
point of view, there is an ambiguity in nature,--a duality in
every object, which we cannot solve. The throne of infinite
light and love casts over the face of creation an
inexplicable shadow. If we were made merely to be happy, why
this hostility all around us? Why these sharp oppositions of
pain and difficulty? Why these writhing nerves, these aching
hearts, and over-laden eyes? Why the chill of
disappointment, the shudder of remorse, the crush and blight
of hope? Why athwart the horizon flicker so many shapes of
misery and sin? Why appear these sad spectacles of painful
dying chambers, and weary sick-beds?--these countless tomb-
stones, too-ghastly witness to death and tears? Explain for
me those abrupt inequalities,--the long train of necessities,
poverty and its kindred woes, those fearful realities that
lie in the abysses of every city,--that hideous, compressed
mass which welters in the awful baptism of sensuality and
ignorance,--the groans of inarticulate woe, the spectacle of
oppression, the shameless cruelty of war, the pestilence that
shakes its comet-sword over nations, and famine that peers
with skeleton face through the corn-sheaves of plenty. Upon
this theory of mere happiness no metaphysical subtlety can
solve the fact of evil;--the coiled enigma constantly returns
upon itself, inexplicable as ever.

But when we take the Christian view of life, we discover that
not happiness merely, but virtue, holiness, is the great end
of man; though happiness comes in as an inevitable
consequence and accompaniment of this result. And in the
light reflected from this view, evil assumes a powerful, and,
I may say, a most beautiful office. It is just as necessary
for the attainment of virtue as prosperity, or any blessing.
Nay, in this aspect, it is itself a great blessing, and

"Every cloud that spreads above
And veileth love, itself is love."

It is evident that, without the contact of sin and the
pressure of temptation, there might be innocence, but not
virtue. Equally evident does it seem that, without an
acquaintance with grief, there would soon be but little of
that uplifting tendency-that softening of the heart, and
sanctifying of the affections-which fit us for the
dissolution of our earthly ties, and for the communions of
the spirit world. Beautiful is this weaning efficacy of
sorrow. By the ordinance of God, youth is made to be content
with this outward and palpable life. The sunshine and the
air-the flow of animal pleasures, encircled mysteriously with
the guardianship of parents, and the love of friends-are
sufficient for the child. But as we grow in years, there
springs up a dissatisfaction, a restlessness, of which we may
be only half conscious, and still less know how to cure.
With some, this may subside into merely a fearful and worldly
discontent; others may heed the prophecy and lay hold on a
celestial hope, an immortal possession as the only remedy.
In this secret sense of want, which neither nature nor man
can fill they will hear already that low, divine voice,--
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest." But generally another and more emphatic
missionary is necessary. It is the veiled angel of sorrow,
who plucks away one thing and another that bound us here in
ease and security, and in the vanishing of these dear objects
indicates the true home of our affections and our peace.
Thus, by rupture and loss we become weaned from earth, and
the dissatisfaction and discontent which sorrow thus induces
are as kind and providential as the carelessness of youth.

Who does not see that it is so,--that as we journey on in
life there are made in our behalf preparations for another
state of being,--unmistakable premonitions of that fact which
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews so eloquently
states, that "here have we no continuing city"? The gloss of
objects in which we delighted is worn off by attrition,--is
sicklied o'er by care; the vanity of earthly things startles
us suddenly, like a new truth; the friends we love drop away
from our side into silence; desire fails; the grasshopper
becomes a burden; until, at length, we feel that our only
love is not here below,--until these tendrils of earth aspire
to a better climate, and the weight that has been laid upon
us makes us stoop wearily to the grave as a rest and a
deliverance. We have, even through our tears, admired that
discipline which sometimes prepares the young to die; which,
by sharp trials of anguish, and long days of weariness, weans
them from that keen sense of mortal enjoyment which is so
naturally theirs; which, through the attenuation of the body,
illuminates the soul, and, as it steals the bloom from the
cheek, kindles the lustre of faith in the eye, and makes even
that young spirit look, unfaltering, across the dark river,
and, putting aside its earthly loves and its reasonable
expectations, exclaim, "Now I am ready!" But it would appear
that equal preparation, though in different forms, is
provided for most of us, in the various experiences of sorrow
which we are called upon to know, and which, if we would but
heed them, have a celestial mission, seeking to draw us up
from this lower state, to induce us to lay up our treasure
where neither moth nor rust corrupts. And in the Christian
view of man as an heir of the spiritual word, does not
sorrow, in this its weaning tendency, receive a most
beautiful explanation?

And, because it accomplishes this work, may be the reason why
sorrow always wears a kind of supernatural character. It is
true that blessings, equally with afflictions, come from
Heaven; but this truth is not so generally felt. A sharp
disappointment will suddenly drive us to God. The mariner of
life sails, unthinking, over its prosperous seas, but a flaw
of storm will bring him to his prayers. And religion, reason
as we will, is peculiarly associated with affliction. And
does not sorrow possess this supernatural air, not merely
because it interrupts the usual order of things, but because,
more than joy, it has a weaning and spiritual tendency,--is
sent, as it were, more directly from God for this specific
purpose? At least, after the sanctifying experience of
sorrow, we hold our joys more religiously.

There are other tendencies of sorrow akin to this, upon which
I might dwell, and which show the explanation that it
receives in the Christian light. The humbling effect that it
has upon the proud and hard-hearted; the equalizing result
which it works, making the rich and poor, the obscure and the
great, stand upon the level of the common humanity,--the
common liability and dependence. I might, expanding the
topic already touched upon, speak of the influence which
sorrow sheds abroad, chastening the light, at tempering the
draught of joy, and thus keeping our hearts better balanced
than otherwise. But I have sufficiently illustrated its
mission. I have shown its use, even its beauty, in the
Christian view. I have shown why Christianity, as the
universal religion, is rightly styled the "religion of
sorrow," and why Christ, as the perfect teacher and example,
was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Let us all, then, recognize the fact that life itself is a
discipline. That for each of us sorrow is mingled with joy
in order that this discipline may be accomplished. No one
reaches the noon of life without some grief, some
disappointment, some sharp trial, which assures him, if he
will but heed it, that life is already declining, and that
his spirit should train itself for a higher and more
permanent state. In the failure of mortal excellence let him
recognize the proof of an immortal good, and from the
bitterness that mingles with these earthly waters, turn to
drink of the celestial fountain. Of all things, let us not
receive sorrow indifferently, or without reflection. Its
mission is for discipline, but we feel it to be discipline
only by recognizing its source and its meaning; "it yieldeth
the peaceable fruits of righteousness" only "to them that are
exercised thereby." Otherwise, it may come and go as the
storm that rends the oak, or the drenching tempest that
glides off as it falls. It may startle us for a moment,--it
may hurt us with a sense of pain and loss,--it may awe us
with its mystery; but unless it rouses us to solemn thought
upon the meaning of life, to self-communion and prayer, to
higher and holier action, it availeth little. It should not
smite the heart's chords to wring from them a mere shriek of
distress, but to inspire it with a deeper and more elevated
tone, and by the element of sadness which it infuses make a
more liquid and exquisite melody.

But while we are thus taught to chasten our views of life,
and to hold even our joys with seriousness, and with wise
forethought, let us not look upon things with any morbid
vision, or cast over them a monotonous hue. Let us not live
in gloom and bitterness. The Christian, of all others, is
the best fitted for a cheerful and proper enjoyment of life,
because he wisely recognizes the use of things, understands
their evanescent nature, and sees the infinite goodness that
has so ordained it. He is not surprised by sudden terrors.
He is prepared for sorrow, and thus can rest in peace with
the good that he has; while those who bury heart and soul in
the present enjoyment, and know nothing but sensual good, are
broken down by calamity. The sudden change, like a thunder-
gust, puts out their light, and darkens all their life; and
it is they who are apt to fall from the summit of delight
into a morbid gloom; while the Christian, with his balanced
soul, inhabits neither extreme.

Finally, let us remember that it is not the object of sorrow
to overcome, but to elevate; not to conquer us, but that we,
by it, should conquer. It converts the thorns that wound us
into a crown. It makes us strong by the baptism of tears.
The saint is always a hero. This explains that grand
distinction between Heathen and Christian art, of which I
spoke in the commencement; that expression of power blended
with agony,--of celestial beatitude refining itself upon the
face of grief. Christianity has made martyrdom sublime, and
sorrow triumphant. Christ is "the Captain of our
salvation,"-the leader of "many sons unto glory;" for he was
"a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Christian Consolation in Loneliness

"And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." John

These words are found in the farewell address of Jesus to his
disciples. They were uttered in the dark hour of coming
agony, and in the face of ignominious death. Because Christ
was divinely empowered, and possessed the spirit without
measure, let us not suppose that to him there was no pain or
sorrow, in that great crisis. With all his supernatural
dignity, he appears to us far more attractive when we
consider him as impressible by circumstances,--as moved by
human sympathies. He is thus not merely a teacher, but a
pattern for us. In all our trials he not only enables us to
endure and to triumph, but draws us close to himself by the
affinity of his own experience. We see, too, how the best
men, men of the clearest faith, may still look upon death
with a shudder, and shrink from the dark and narrow valley;
not because they fear death as such, but because of the agony
of dissolution, the rupture of all familiar ties, and the
solemn mystery of the last change.

But death and suffering, as Jesus was now to meet them,
appeared in no ordinary forms. He was to bear affliction
with no friendly consolations around him; but alone!--alone
in the wrestling of the garden, and amid the cruel mockery.
Not upon the peaceful death-bed, but upon the bare and rugged
cross, torn by nails, pierced with the spear, crowned with
thorns, taunted by the revilings of the multitude, the
vinegar and the gall. He must be deserted, and encounter
these trials alone. He must be rejected, betrayed, crucified
alone. And as he spoke to his disciples those words of
affection and holiness-those words so full of counsel and
sublime consolation-he remembered all this; he remembered
that they who now clung to him, and listened in sorrow to his
parting accents, would soon be scattered as sheep without a
shepherd, and leave him to himself in all that shame and
agony. But even as he foretold it there gleamed upon his
spirit the sunshine of an inner consciousness,--a comfort
that no cloud could darken; and instantly he added, "And yet
I am not alone, because the Father is with me."

Having thus considered the circumstances in which these words
were spoken, I now proceed to draw from them a few

I would say, then, in the first place, that the great test
which proves the excellence of the religion of Christ is its
adaptation to man in solitude,--to man as a solitary being;
because it is then that he is thrown upon the resources of
his own soul,--upon his inner and everlasting life. In
society he finds innumerable objects to attract his attention
and to absorb his affections. The ordinary cares of every
day, the pursuit of his favorite scheme, the converse of
friends, the exciting topics of the season, the hours of
recreation, all fill up his time, and occupy his mind with
matters external to himself. And looking upon him merely in
these relations, if we could forget its great social
bearings, and the harmonies which flow from its all-pervading
spirit out into every condition of life, we might, perhaps,
say that man could get along well enough without religion.
If this world were made up merely of business and pleasure,
perhaps the atheist's theory would suffice, and we might feel
indifferent whether controlled by plastic matter or
intelligent mind. We will admit that happiness, in one sense
of the term, does not essentially depend upon religion. Nay,
we must admit this proposition. A man may be happy without
being religious. Good health, good spirits;--how many,
possessing these really enjoy life, without being devout, or
religious according to any legitimate meaning of that term.

But change the order of circumstances. Remove these external
helps,--substitute therefor sorrow, duty, the revelations of
our own inner being,--and all this gayety vanishes like the
sparkles from a stream when a storm comes up. The soul that
has depended upon outward congenialities for its happiness
has no permanent principle of happiness; for that is the
distinction which religion bestows. He who cannot retire
within himself, and find his best resources there, is fitted,
perhaps, for the smoother passages of life, but poorly
prepared for all life. He who cannot and dare not turn away
from these outward engrossments, and be in spiritual
solitude,--who is afraid or sickens at the idea of being
alone,--has a brittle possession in all that happiness which
comes from the whirl and surface of things. One hour may
scatter it forever. And poorly, I repeat, is he prepared for
all life,--for some of the most serious and important moments
of life. These, as I shall proceed to show, we must meet
alone, and from within; and therefore, it constitutes the

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