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“Ay, and more than the half o' the night, too, post!
And the blue hills here which he loved had vanished.” And that is life. It must needs be that we look back upon the old ways before we can see them with the perfect glory of evening on them. As age comes on, a sweet strange glamour comes creeping up behind us, until the old commonplace or even painful ways become lovely and wonderful; and no romance that you can ever weave, no drama that you can ever perform, will have the charm of this.
In age, too, faith and hope have a tendency to strengthen and clear. It is the young who are, as a rule, the despairful or the defiant unbelievers. They challenge everything, they question everything, they laugh, perhaps, at everything,—especially if they have found out something new, though it be only a new fossil in the earth or a new fold of the veil in the human brain. But the old man creeps back to the place from which he started, seeks out the old chimney corner, and there delights to nurse the old hopes, to dream the old dreams, to cherish the old faith. And so, age becomes clearer than noonday, lovelier than the morning, and Christ's words come true for the old man,—“Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and, when the night arrives, or that which seems night to those who stand around, it is sweet and beautiful to see the old man end as he began-like a child who, for rest, seeks his mother's arms:
“How blest is he whose tranquil mind,
When life declines, recalls again
And reaps delight from toil and pain !
The sudden gloom, the passing shower, -
The loveliest is the evening hour.” This leads me to that blessed advantage of age,—the gradual loosening from earth that comes with the finishing of tasks, the decline of strength, and the inevitable changes of life. As time goes on, the varied cups of life are drained one by one; the longed-for paths are trodden, and what is to be found there has been seen; the captivating experiments have been made; and now there is more behind than before. Then, too, so many have gone beyond the veil: the oldest friends are out of sight; and the tenderest affections, and the loveliest dreams, are not here but there: and so it comes to pass that “the silver cord” is gradually “loosed,” and the spirit finds it not hard to go. The very scars of the body and failings of the mind become looseners of the old man from earth.
“The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made.
And so it becomes true of the pilgrim with his journey done,—“Thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth; thou shalt be as the morning.”
And now that brings me, last of all, to the great advantage of age,—that it leaves us all the nearer home. When a traveller has journeyed long and far, and has come in sight of home, what could induce him to consent to be pushed back to his starting-place that he might begin it all over again? No! he has sailed his stormy seas, he has trudged through the miry streets, he has had his wanderings to and fro in the desert, and now all he thinks of is home. So when the earth-pilgrim has done his life's day's work, and comes home at eventide to die, it seldom happens that there is any longing to have it all over again. The story has been written, the work has been done, the battle has been fought; now hang up the weapons, put away the tools, and let me make a quiet ending. Then is age "clearer than the noonday," and more beautiful than the morning. Now, nothing is left but to go on: one more step in the mighty march of being, into the light and nearer to God.
These are some of the advantages of growing old, which, as time goes on, and we all become wiser and better, will be more manifest, till one day, perhaps, old men and women will even be congratulated, and will be dismissed with sweet and quiet music when they go. Meanwhile, our business is now to make the most of this great and beautiful experiment of living,—to leave behind us flowers for beauty and fruit for use,-to make our life a harmony, our ending a serenity, and our awaking an eternal joy.
NOT NOW; BUT THOU SHALT
HEN Jesus performed for his disciples a last lowly
act of service, and Peter shrank from it, the wise and loving master conquered him by telling him that it was necessary, and that what he knew not now he should know hereafter,—an inspiring thought which, if followed home, leads to the hope that for all who do their best there is reserved the compensating after-joy of seeing and comprehending results; and that for all there are reserved the wonder and the glory of the all-revealing world. And so homely, plain, and practical a truth is this, that we may begin anywhere in order to find proofs and illustrations of it. In truth, we are, all our life long, being pursued by it. In our earliest days, we have to do many things and to suffer many things that we are utterly unable to see the good of, or even the meaning of. Indeed, it is a perfect mercy that children, who have had so little experience, should have so little sense: life for them would otherwise be unbearable. Fancy a child, with a child's knowledge of life, and yet with a man's intellect! How insupportable would be the discipline, how painful the gathering of experience, how irksome the very love and culture needed wherever experience is wanting. The child has to take nearly everything on trust. It does not understand why it cannot have a holiday every day, and every hour: it does not see why it should be shut up in a school-room while the birds are on the wing, and the flowers are waiting for it: it blots the book with its tears, and wonders why, in this one matter, the good mother should be so unkind. Well for her if she, like Jesus in the midst of the children of a larger growth who composed his band of disciples, can instil this source of strength and comfort into the child's heart and mind : “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” And it will be so. In after-days, when that mother's face is only like the mist of a vanished dream, the child will know all about it,will perhaps think with profound emotion of that cruel school-house, and bless the gracious firmness that resisted foolish tears.
So the child does not see the need of a hundred other things ;-the firm restraint, the calm denial, the bitter medicine, the swift but sorrowful penalty. But it shall know all hereafter : and it is this reflection that is like balm to many a grieving parent's heart.
It is hard for a good mother or a good father to be thought unkind; it is a sad day when the baby eyes first flash anger, when the little hand is perhaps first raised against the breast that would willingly shield it even from the arrow of death : it is a sorrowful time when the girl first sneers at father or mother for their old-fashioned puritanical ways,—when the lad shows contempt for the sweet restraints of home. But the wise parent knows that all must come right,-unless indeed knowledge and experience come too late. Tens of thousands of mothers and fathers looking after their rebellious and foolish