Conclusion Reflections And Experiences

The soul ought not to need it; but still it is conscious that what has happened in the midst of us has given a fresh sense of oneness with the Lord. The thought that one who had been my object for so many years is now in His company as His object, tells me that there is another link between the heart and heaven. One whom I so lately appropriated here, my Lord now appropriates in Paradise. In circumstances I am thus nearer to Him; and He is of a mind to have it so. The unjealous love of the blessed Lord allows this.

And this has been much prized by me lately. The Lord warrants our finding mere circumstances a help to our hearts, even in those cases in which He might have said to us, that He Himself was all-sufficient. He is a jealous God, I know, and will not allow us to have any other. He is a jealous Saviour, I also know, and will not allow us to have any other. But, in a great sense, He is not a jealous Friend. He allows other connections and affections to move our hearts as well as Himself. When Paul saw the brethren he took courage. (Acts 28:15.) Did the Lord resent this? Did He rebuke Paul’s experience at that moment as though it had done wrong to Him? Did He tell him that he had His presence before, and that that ought to have been enough for him? No. He warranted His servant thus finding refreshment in the countenance and companionship of brethren. And so to this hour, He is well pleased and only well pleased when our poor hearts are open to like influences.

“It was but a little question between my Lord and me,” said a Christian woman to a friend sympathizing with her in the loss of three little ones, “it was but a little question between my Lord and me, which of us should have the care of the children.”

Yes, He allows all this, and more than allows it. Prayer too, and the sweetness of being alone with Him, are more to the soul than ever. And this He also warrants, He gives our hearts liberty to determine the character of our communion with Him. Let it be, He says, according to your condition. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing Psalms.” This is not the way of a master, or a patron. The patron’s pleasure or humour must give colour to the scene around him. It was dangerous to sully the presence of the Persian King with sadness. There was danger of death if one had a heavy countenance there (Nehemiah 1, 2.) But God’s presence gives play to the heart and its conditions, whatever they be. If “such and such things have happened to us,” we need not eat the sacrifices. If we be in a strange land, the harp of God may be hung by our hand, which should have awakened it, on the willows. “Is any afflicted? let him pray.”

I have felt the grace of such a word as this. It indulges nature, and makes affliction welcome in the sanctuary. The full acceptableness of our communion with our Lord is not for a moment to be questioned, because the affections of nature are giving it its character.

Looking on my dear child as converted during his last illness, supposing there were no symptom of a quickened state in earlier days, yet, how truly may we say, what a common case is this! How often, times without number, has the Lord been sought and found in the day of nature’s weakness; when, perhaps, other objects could not have been sought, or, if sought, would not have been found! But He puts up with such treatment. He consents to be used as a last resort. And whether it be to show this excellent way of His grace, I will not say; but so it is, that a goodly number of the redeemed will have to say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.” Further, however, in the Lord’s dealing with my precious child, I notice the decisiveness and strength of the operation. In early days, he had betrayed the workings of an unbelieving spirit. And so recently as during our stay at Ventnor, on asking him if he did not own the need of being born again, he answered that he did, “when he was disposed to own or believe anything.” But after his election of God was made manifest to me, I never for a moment saw the trace of an infidel mind in him, no more than if there never had been such a spirit in himself or in any one at all. The truth of scripture was the full unquestioned conclusion and possession of his understanding and his faith. All its mysteries were delighted in by him; and their moral character and bearing were spiritually manifested to him. The persons of the Godhead, the election of the Father, the work of Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, the covenant relations and actings of each in the salvation of sinners, the perfectness and sovereignty of grace, together with the calling of the Church, and the coming days of millennial glory—none of these ever raised a question in his soul. With great decision did the Spirit lead him from nature’s uncertainty into the clear and steady light of faith.

I would specially bless the Lord for this. My darling boy had a mind formed for some of the deepest enjoyments of what was refined and tasteful. But, as he used it for years, it was a lust, “the lust of the mind.” And its liberty and exercise had induced many a misgiving within; not, however, of conscience as to his condition before God, but as to the verity of the divine revelation. But against all this, the Spirit lifted up a standard. And after his conversion not the faintest soil of such a mind was to be detected in him. Every trace of it was gone. The strength of the operation of God in his soul appeared also in the assurance of his faith, or his constant settled peace of conscience. It was perfect. It was no mere hope with him, or conflict of uncertainties. He never wronged his Saviour by any doubts or fears; but rested in the perfection of His work, and in the certainty of His grace and purpose, in giving him, a poor sinner, all the fruit of it.

In these ways the operation of God in him was sweetly manifested and magnified. But nature had not done with him. I cannot speak, as is common in these little histories, of the patience he exercised in his sufferings. No. Through the progress and stages of this illness there was the betraying of an impatience beyond, I may say, what I had ever witnessed. Occasional irritabilities of temper were deeply painful to us all. Certain seasons, as when the poor wounded arm was dressing, specially produced them.54

But I may add, the kingdom of God in him was not disturbed by all this. “Will that be admitted? Am I too bold in thus speaking? I think I witnessed this in my dear and suffering child. These occasional bursts of impatience never brought a cloud over the sunshine of his conscience before God. When told of them, if with tenderness and consideration, he would own them and lament them; but if reminded of them in order to awaken uneasiness, he would resent.

The recollection of him is one of great delight to me, as a witness of the way of God with the soul. And in that recollection (vivid as it will be, I doubt not, for the rest of my days) what a companion for my journey onward has my God given me! But the loss of his presence and his voice is what the like trial alone can teach any to understand. Nothing remains to our hearts now of this joy from our child, but “the echo of it in memory’s land.” But I ask myself, what is the comfort that I desire to enjoy under this? I believe I can somewhat feel that it is this—that my heavenly Father still enjoys that cry of conscious adoption from my lips, as from thousands beside. Our God delights to have His house and His ear filled with the living witness that it is children who are under His roof and at His side.

Was not God’s hand known in giving Job a family at the beginning? Was not the same hand seen in taking them away as with a stroke? And was not the same hand still traced in giving him another family, and in making his latter end better than his beginning? And so in our little history. It was the Lord who gave us our child some twenty years ago; it was His hand that lately took him from the midst of us; and it was the precious power of His Spirit that has left with us the remembrance of such a work in his soul, as in a great sense makes our latter end, as parents, better than our beginning.

And I have learned with a fresh witness how dear to the Lord is a spirit of entire dependence. For there is nothing in the recollections of my child which so affects me as his state of dependence upon me, and the freedom with which at all times he used me. He wanted me by night and by day. He wanted me to do the smallest and meanest services for him. His helplessness, from the loss of one arm and the disease of the other, was such that I was as a nail or a finger to him, as well as an arm or a hand. But let the service be as trivial or as menial as it could be, he knew his heartiest welcome to it; and without apology used it at all times.

There is nothing to my heart like the recollection of this. I am sure that I can say that. It teaches me afresh to think of my Heavenly Father. How sure am I at this moment that nothing in His saints is more acceptable with Him than this same ready and confiding use of Him. The recollection that my child needed me in all things, and used me in all things, is the sweetest and tenderest possession of my heart. And if we that are evil understand these affections and joys, how much more our Heavenly Father! Our services are due to our Divine Master, were they immeasurable in their devotedness and zeal, and acceptable with Him they are. But they are not to His heart what our confidence and use of Him is. To rest in His everlasting, personal love is the highest joy we can afford Him. To know that if He were suddenly to awake in the majesty and strength of His revealed glories, to find us by faith assuming the nearest place to Him, would be the occasion of His most prized dignity and joy in the midst of it all.

His love needs no watching from us. It will be faithful to us while we are asleep. It will wait on us when we neither cry for it, nor labour for it. Jesus intercedes for us, as another once said, not when we ask Him, but when we need Him. We may trust every motion, every word, every purpose behind our back, as it were, or within the vail of the heavens.

I was sitting the other day in a large assembly, where a sense of duty and not choice had taken me; and looking round upon it, I felt, in some measure, the pain of being a stranger, exposed, it might be, to notice and enquiry. My thoughts soon turned to my loved and deeply-remembered child; and I fancied I saw him enter the room, and like myself suffer under the uneasiness of beholding a large unknown assembly. But then, following my fancy, I thought of his suddenly turning his eye on me, and at once, without asking leave, taking part of my chair, and using my side as a shelter from all that was paining and disturbing him; and finding there more than a shelter, a loophole and calm retreat, from whence to look on the scene rather with delight than with painful amazement.

This parable was very sweet to my mind. It told me that such was the side of my Lord to me, and that such it would be to me, though the bright assemblage of unknown glories were all to open on my view in a moment. This was happy; but from this parable I drew more.

I concluded how important I and my confidence were to my Lord, if He and His presence were thus important to to me. Because I was assured that, in the case assumed, my child was imparting more to me than I was to him. He was finding a shelter at my side; and in an instant a strange place, full of painful surprise to him, became more than a mere home to him. He was at ease, and I alone had made him so. This was my value to him. But then he was using my side and my presence without asking, or even thinking of asking, my leave, and this confidence, I was assured, made me far happier than my presence and shelter made him. And this was his value to me.

Did I not taste that it was more blessed to give than to receive? Did I not rejoice with joy of a higher order? How was the value and sufficiency of my presence set off under my own eye! I was everything, as I saw in my fancy, to my startled child; and he took everything at my hand without reserve or question. What value was he in all this to the purest happiness of my heart! And in the parable, I am the same to the Lord in whom I trust. I claim anchorage at His side in full conscious safety; let the scene around, or without, be what it may. It may be altogether strange to me; but that is nothing. It may have splendours to dazzle me with, and even terrors and judgments to alarm; His side is enough for me. But all the while He is in a wealthier place than I am, and sits at a richer feast. For, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

My fond thoughts turning thus to my dear departed child, have led my heart this way for a little moment; and Jesus, “my sweet retreat,” has thus been reached through the musings of natural affections.

I have observed that in earlier days Scripture suggested subjects to our child for the exercise of his mind and taste. We have many things of such a character in his own handwriting; but I will give only the following as an instance of what I mean. It was written hastily after returning from our meeting-room one Sunday, when perhaps he was fourteen years old, and when the subject had been spoken on.

The Cloudy Pillar.

Ye wilds and desert glens, upraise your heads!
Thou barren mountain, bend thy clouded brow,
See where Jehovah favour’d Israel leads;—
In grandeur stalks the wilderness below.

Disperse, ye clouds! depart, thou misty rain!
Let Sinai see its Maker walk with men.
Behold how nature owns Him and obeys,
Prepares His path, makes straight the crooked ways.
And who shall dare that Israel to offend,
Whose God declares Himself their prince and friend?
His promise still He pledges every morn,
And proves His love at every eve’s return.
But lo! the sun His hand has form’d doth set,
And sinks in splendour in the gorgeous west.
Lo! at his rays each desert golden glows;
On Sinai’s heights his glorious beams he throws.
The night comes on—the wearied creatures rest.
Is it the light still glimmering in the west
That tints the pillar with a brilliant flame
While Israel blesses his great guardian’s name?
No! glorious cloud! no borrower art thou,
No base reflector of another’s alow;
’Tis thine own glory giving Israel light,
And they, adoring, bless thee for the sight.
Still lead them onward, cloud of promise, lead
To Jordan’s fruitful banks and Canaan’s mead.

There is a knowledge of God’s ways and purposes conveyed through some other lines, as well as the expression of just religious sentiment. But, as I have noticed, in earlier days we had also occasional evidence of this, that the Lord was graciously interfering with the easy current of his life, and giving him a sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction. This is confirmed by some little manuscripts he has left behind him.

I cannot but judge, that if we had had more spiritual energy, we might have ripened the manifestation of the kingdom in him long before. A larger measure of power in addressing the conscience would have led to the confession of sin, and through that to the peace which he afterwards so richly enjoyed. But we failed. The work was too great for the grace and power in which we were walking. The manifestation of his election had to wait for other ministry. We are humbled, but the purpose of grace stands and is accomplished. The Lord is glorified in the end and in the means, and another poor sinner, redeemed from destruction, has been crowned with loving-kindness and tender mercies. Our own child, whose memory will live in our hearts while there is a pulse there, is enrolled for that company that is both to enjoy and reflect the glory of the Lamb for ever and ever.

The heart is deeply bereaved. But it is also borne a little upward and onward. The tenderest affections are wounded. But faith and hope are fed. “The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more”—“neither shall his place any more behold him.” But why make we this ado and weep? our child is not dead but sleepeth. “In the morning he shall have dominion among the upright,” and till then his spirit is received of Jesus the Lord. “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

A. S. Rousf, 15 and 16, Paternoster Square.

54 Some comforted us, as I said in one of the letters, by saying that these irritations were almost incidental to the disease; rather to be interpreted as something physical than moral. It may be so. But I speak of the fact simply, remembering too, with shame and sorrow, the way in which I often rebuked this impatience.