THE ONLY DAUGHTER
"Fondly I prized that lovely mind
Where all was gentle, sweet, and mild;
A thousand blooming flowers entwined
The earth-bower of my sainted child!
Forth sped the doom—'Return to dust!'
In the cold grave my treasure lies;
I was a traitor to my trust,
I got it not to idolize!
Hush! breaking heart, that pines and weeps,
Laughing the holy word to scorn,
'The maiden is not dead but sleeps;'
You'll meet her on the Heavenly morn!"
"Then a man names Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came
and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with Him to come to his house because his
only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying." Luke 8:41, 42; Matt.
9:18-26; Mark 5:22-43.
The two last incidents we considered, were the Storm on
the Lake, and the more terrible picture on its eastern shore, of the
Gadarene Demoniac. "The Man Christ Jesus," oppressed with fatigue of
body and exhaustion of spirit, lay stretched, fast asleep, in the hinder
part of a fishing vessel, until roused by His disciples from His needed
repose, to allay the tempest. On landing, we found Him encountering a victim
of Satanic rage—a bosom more troubled than earth's most unquiet sea! But to
the moral storm, as to the natural, He had said, "Peace, be
still!" Then, as a strange sequel to this miracle, the Gadarenes "pled with
Jesus to leave their region." In obedience to their ungrateful wish, He has
taken ship, once more, to the western side, where the people are already
lining the beach, eager to welcome Him.
And what is the first recorded incident in connection
with the Lord and His disciples, as they again tread the streets of
Capernaum? They had left behind them a fearful monument of Sin. They
are called now to behold Sin's terrible consequences!
Ah! Death!—O unsparing Foe!—terrible
Invader!—Severer of the firmest of earthly bonds—causing, from the hour of
the fall, one loud wail of suffering to arise from the households you have
swept—converting the world itself into one vast sepulcher—its teeming
millions a long burial procession to the one long home!—every heart beating
its own "funeral march to the grave!" But the Prince and Lord of
Life now draws near. You are about to be stormed in your own
citadel—compelled to relinquish your prey; and to every bosom in all time
which you are crudely to rifle, there are consolatory words and lessons to
be gathered from this scene we are now to consider.
Let us first rehearse the narrative; and then endeavor to
gather up some of the more solemn and comforting truths which that narrative
We have no further light thrown in Gospel story, on the
principal personage in this scene. He was Ruler of the synagogue of
Capernaum; supposed to be one of those "elders of the Jews" we
previously found coming in a body or deputation, to intercede with Jesus in
behalf of the Centurion's servant, saying, that "he was worthy for whom he
should do this, for he loves our nation, and he has built us a synagogue."
This pious Israelite had urged his suit successfully for
another—the slave of a Gentile soldier who had been stretched on a couch of
sickness, "ready to die." The Divine philanthropist had listened to the
pleadings of faith and gratitude, and immediately accompanied him in the
direction of that soldier's abode. But a far tenderer case now engrosses
this Ruler's thoughts—a far tenderer sorrow weighs down his own heart. The
Grim Messenger is now standing at his own portal!
An only daughter, like the one Ewe lamb of the
prophet's parable, gladdened his home. She had arrived, too, just at that
age when a father's heartstrings are bound fastest and firmest around his
child's soul, and before the world had time to taint or stain her with its
corruptions. With that child had been doubtless interwoven every thought of
the future; she was the pride of the family, the prop of the present, the
promised solace of her parents' old age. Often perhaps, in the midst of
other trials, they would glance at the loving spirit at their side, and say,
"This child shall comfort us." But health and strength, youth and
intelligence, are unable to exclude the sleepless foe of human happiness.
The shadows of death are falling around that dwelling; and it is the one
they least dreamed of, that is marked out to fall!
We have not detailed to us, as in the case of Lazarus,
the circumstances of that hour of anxiety and sorrow; whether disease had
crept imperceptibly upon her; the King of terrors coming with noiseless
step—velvet footfall; the candle of decaying life burning down slowly until
it reached its socket; or whether, with appalling suddenness, the arrow had
sped—the sun, which perhaps that morning rose on a cheerful home, setting
over the valley of death, amid weeping clouds. All the entry we have in the
inspired Record is, "She was dying." She had reached that terrible
crisis-hour when hope's last glimmerings were being extinguished—the last
tides of life were slowly ebbing—that sun was "going down while it was yet
Can nothing be done to arrest the death-arrow in its
course—to stop that sun from so premature a setting? The anguished father
thinks of ONE, and ONE alone, who can say, "Sun, stand still!" "Can that
same Jesus" (he might think to himself), "who cured a humble slave, who gave
back to a fond Master the life of a faithful servant"—can He not (will
He not) pity "one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel?" Will
He, can He, if I rush to Him in this hour of my sorrow, deny me His
pitying love, and the exercise of His wondrous power?"
There is no time for delay. With fleet footstep he rushes
to the feet of the Prophet of Galilee, and in an agony of prayer beseeches
Him to follow him to his dwelling. The Savior obeys; accompanied by a mixed
crowd, among whom deeper and holier feelings and sympathies mingle with vain
curiosity. As He hurries in the direction of this home of death, we may
mark, in passing, the individualizing tenderness of the Redeemer's
sympathy in all the three recorded cases of His raising from the dead—at
Capernaum, at Nain, at Bethany; an only Daughter,
an only Son, an only Brother!
An incident, meanwhile, takes place by the way, which for
a time impedes His progress. A woman, "who had been subject to bleeding for
twelve years," slips unobserved through the thronging crowd, touches the
blue fringe of the Lord's garment, and receives an instantaneous cure. But
instead of passing, as we might expect, with all haste to the more urgent
case, Jesus pauses and dwells on this intermediate one. He summons into His
presence the subject of His healing power, in order that He may manifest to
others the victory of faith, and utter in her own ear, words of
encouragement and peace.
Hard, untimely interruption, we are apt to
think! Each moment was precious to that trembling parent. The sand-glass of
that loved one's life was hurrying to its last grain. He might have reached
her in time, had it not been for this. But the likelihood is that the
golden opportunity is past and gone; these few minutes' delay have cost
the father his child—locked her fast in a sleep too deep to be
And yet, we may well believe, there were gracious
purposes in this, as there ever are in much which our blindness is apt to
regard as adverse and unfavorable. The smaller miracle—(the
intermediate cure)—would prepare the crowd for receiving the greater
one. Above all, it would strengthen and confirm the faith of the witnessing
parent—lead him to hope against hope, and, in the extremity of his anguish,
make him "strong in faith, giving glory to God." We hear from his lips no
fretful and impatient utterances—no insinuations against his Lord, or
against the other suppliant, regarding the delay. Meekly he waits the
Redeemer's time and will; and before long he shall have the promise
fulfilled in his experience: "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to
the soul that seeks Him." "It is good for a man that he both hope and
quietly wait for the salvation of God."
But just at the moment when faith has got its pledge
of Divine power—when the procession is again in motion, and joyous visions
of the past are beginning to fill the future, messengers from his homestead
are the bearers of heavy tidings: "Your daughter is dead, do not trouble
the master!" "Fatigue not (as the word means), that weary, toil-worn
Savior—add not to his journey or exhaustion. Let Him have the rest He so
much requires; His presence could be of no avail now, for death has put his
impressive, irrevocable seal on these lips."
Ah! bitter news! Just when hope was rising—when the
future was beginning again to have its rainbow hues spanning a dark
sky—these tints melt and merge into a deeper darkness than before. The torch
is quenched. The great dreaded blight of existence has passed over the
Now is the time for Jesus' utterances of comfort; for now
was the moment when doubt and misgiving were most likely to rise and eclipse
the hitherto triumphant actings of faith. Now was the time for those harsh
thoughts of rebellious nature, we have already hinted at, which so often, at
such seasons, overmaster our nobler feelings. "If it had been but a few
moments sooner, my child might have been spared! If the Lord had only
postponed the performance of that other act of love until He had left my
threshold, I might still have had my precious gourd blossoming around me! It
was these moments of delay that bereft me of my household treasure.
By stopping to give peace to one sufferer, He has done so at the sacrifice
of all that most fondly bound me to earth!"
If these, and thoughts like these, were about to arise,
Christ in mercy interposes. We read, "Jesus answered," (not that Jairus
spoke aloud his own feelings, but He who reads the secret heart answered to
what was passing in the heaving depths of that soul)—"Hush! hush!" He seems
to say, "do not allow these thoughts to arise in your heart; dismiss all
such unworthy doubts." "Do not be afraid, only believe."
And now He has reached the house. The trappings and
outward pageantry of death too truthfully verify the tidings of the
messengers. In accordance with oriental custom, hired mourners and hired
minstrels were already filling that silent chamber with dirges; while with
these mingled the deeper and truer wailings of the smitten hearts.
"Go away!" said Christ, as in a tone of authority He
rebuked these vehement demonstrations of mimic sorrow—"Why all this
commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, but ASLEEP." An enigmatic
expression to the tumultuous mob around, but to the father, it was the
renewal and repetition under a lovely figure of the former pacifying
utterance, "Do not be afraid, only believe." The word "dead"—the
utterance of the human messengers, too well calculated to annihilate the
last spark of hope—is replaced by the rekindling word, "she sleeps."
Man has put the terrible extinguisher on that lamp. But Jesus says, "Do
not be afraid." What is that message of death, when I, the Lord
of life, have been summoned by you? You have seen my power on a suffering
woman—"only believe, and I will show you greater things than
The irreverent thronging crowd are kept outside. The
mimic mourners are all excluded. His three favored disciples (afterwards the
witnesses of His transfiguration on the Mount, and of His agony in the
garden), are alone allowed to enter the chamber sacred to sorrow. In dumb
emotion the two parents are bending over their withered flower. But so also
is He who gave it—who planted it—who plucked it and who is to give it back
again. In the might of His own omnipotence—in His own name (without
invoking, like His prophets or apostles under similar circumstances, any
higher power), death is summoned to yield his victim. He took her by the
hand and said to her, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" The sleeper
awoke! The prostrate lily raises its drooping head, and sheds once more its
fragrance in that joyous home. That happy Israelite might well take up the
words of his great ancestor, which he had so often read in the synagogue
service, but perhaps without being ever before touched by them: "You have
turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of
mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not
be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!"
Let us now seek to ponder one or two of those
practical lessons with which this scene and passage are replete.
I. The first lesson we may gather from the text is, that
all are exposed to domestic bereavement.
It may seem unkind to break the trance of earthly bliss
by referring to the possibility, far less the certainty, of trial. And yet
it is needful, now and then, solemnly to repeat the warning that you and
yours "will not always live."
If God has up to now put upon your household the
exempting mark—if the destroying angel has passed by your door unscathed—if
you have no vacant chair at your home-hearth, no yawning chasm in your heart
of hearts—you are the exception, not the rule. God knows we have no gloomy
pleasure in being prophets of evil. It is a poor gospel to dwell on
harrowing thoughts of death—the shroud—the grave! But I would take these as
preachers, to enforce the lesson daily taught us, "You also be
ready." Yes, sooner or later, each one of us, parents and children,
shall be brought to learn the solemn truth, "I am about to die." And
if there be one who peruses these pages, who, like the minstrels of whom we
have been speaking, is ready to have a smile on his lips, and to "laugh to
scorn" a trite commonplace which everyone knows and many care not to hear—if
youth in its strength, or manhood in its prime, is saying inwardly, "No fear
for me," "My mountain is standing strong"—we would say to him with deep
solemnity, "You fool, this night your soul may be required of you!"
Parents may well listen to a special word of solemn
admonition. The death spoken of in the text was that of a child "twelve
years of age." While this tells that your children may, at any age or at any
time, be taken from you, it ought to urge upon you fidelity to your immortal
trust. If you would wish the richest of all solaces when you are bereft of
them, deal faithfully with their souls now. Do not allow any false
shame to prevent you in all seriousness speaking to them of the things which
belong to their everlasting peace. If you should ever come to mourn over an
early grave, to you it will be the sweetest of all consolations if you can
think that that "buried treasure of yearning hearts" was the subject of a
mother's prayers and a father's counsels—that under that grassy sod there
sleeps the child who from earliest years you had "lent to the Lord." On the
other hand, it will be the bitterest of reflections (the iron truly will
enter into your soul), if you have to weep burning tears of anguish over
parental unfaithfulness and neglect. Bereft of that hope, "My child
is in glory," you will be bereft indeed!
II. We learn from this passage that we need trials to
bring us near to God.
It was his child's sickness that drove Jairus to the feet
of Jesus. But for that home-trial his faith would never have been exercised,
nor his love and gratitude evoked. While in health and prosperity, we are
apt to take God's gifts as matters of course. It is not until the storm
rises, that, with these atheist hearts of ours, (like the heathen sailors in
Jonah's vessel), we fall upon our knees and feel that our only safety is in
Him "who rules the raging of the seas." Yes! when God makes breaches in our
households—when He brings home to us the truth that our existence, and the
existence of our children, is a perpetual miracle—when we discover that
those little lives, pillars in our households, which we have vainly thought
were pillars of iron, turn out to be pillars of dust—when the
solid ivory discovers itself to be the melting snow wreath—then are
we driven to discover what is the sole imperishable Portion!
If God is visiting any one of you with the deep
experience of trial, it is that He may speak home to you. Never does
He speak so gently, so wisely, so loudly, so solemnly, as when He asserts
His right to take away what He originally gave. See, in the text, the
unbelieving, laughing, mocking crowd, are disqualified to hear Jesus. They
have "passed at a bound" from their mimic sorrow to heartless mirth;
simulators—actors—they are thrust out of that Holy Presence. But the
stricken Parents are taken into the favored circle. They gaze upwards
from the face of the dead on Him who is "fairer than the children of
men." In such a Presence unbelief is hushed, and faith is ready to hear
"what God the Lord has to say to their souls." How many can tell, "But for
the death of that Parent, that Brother, that Sister,
that Child, I would have been to this hour without God and with out
III. Let us learn, from the incident of the text,
the comfort of Prayer in the hour of sickness and death.
This Ruler, we read, came and fell down before him,
pleading with him to heal his little daughter. "She is about to die," he
said in desperation. "Please come and place your hands on her; heal her so
she can live." Trial drove Jairus in his hour of dreaded bereavement to
prayer, and "the effectual fervent prayer of this righteous man availed
The same blessed refuge is open for us in times of
sickness. When our friends or our children are stretched on beds of
suffering and death, we can take their cases to God, and plead with Him
in their behalf at the Mercy Seat. We must not indeed dream that our prayers
(as they were in the case of the Jewish ruler) must necessarily be answered,
and that at our earthly bidding a miracle should follow. This would
be presumption, not faith; this would be to usurp the
Sovereignty of God—to substitute our own wisdom for His—it would
be to make our will and not His paramount. If we had only to
speak and it was accomplished, it would make man God, and degrade God
to the level of man. It would be to dishonor the Almighty, making Him
the servant of the creature—not the creature waiting on in loving
trustfulness as the servant of the Creator. Far, far better is it for the
lowly suppliant to endorse every petition with the words, "Father, not my
will but Yours be done."
And yet, let us remember for our comfort, that prayers at
a deathbed (apparently unheard and unanswered) are not in vain. They may
smooth the death-pillow. They may remove from it its thorns, and put the
promises of Christ in their stead. They may lead sorrowing survivors to
lowly resignation, and disarm earthly reflections of their poignant sting.
Yes! do not forget this, when seasons of family trial overtake you—when the
best of earthly means and instrumentality prove ineffective, and those near
and dear to you are hovering on the confines of the grave. Do not sit down
wringing your hands in despair, as if Jehovah were like Baal, asleep or on a
journey, and His ear deaf, when you most need His intervention. Arise, call
upon Your God! Plead the assurance that if in accordance with that
better will and wisdom "the prayer of faith SHALL save the
The Patriarch David of old, is a rebuke in this respect
to the lack of faith in many a Christian parent now. For seven whole days
was he stretched on the bare earth importunate for his infant's life.
"Who can tell," said he, "whether God may be gracious to me that my child
may live?" Not until the little spark had fled, and the sad accents fell on
his ear, "Your child is dead," did the prayer melt into the bright
hope full of immortality—" I shall go to him, but he shall not return to
IV. Learn the nature of real sorrow.
He who wept at the grave of Lazarus does not forbid
Tears. They are holy things, consecrated by Incarnate tenderness.
Let the world, if they may, condemn it as unmanly to grieve—or worse, let
them seek oblivion for their trials in the giddy round of its pleasures and
follies, and make the grave of their dead as soon as they can, be "the land
of forgetfulness." He encourages no such cold and stern stoicism. But, on
the other hand, neither does He countenance excessive sorrow. True
Christian grief is calm, tranquil, chastened. The noisy, wailing, mimic
crowd are spurned from the scene. If they had been the tears of a Martha or
Mary, He would have held them as sacred; but being the hollow echoes of
unfeeling hearts, He says, "Why all this commotion and wailing?"
Jesus, on every occasion in His public ministry, stamps
with His abhorrence all pretense. He dislikes unreality, what
is made to appear gold which is tinsel—whether it be simulated joy,
or simulated piety, or simulated tears. That is a poor sorrow which expends
itself in funeral trappings—which is measured by doleful looks, and
passionate words, and mourning clothes. True grief is not like the stream
which murmurs and frets because it passes over a shallow bed—that which is
deepest makes least noise. Inconsolable sorrow is
inappropriate the Christian. To abandon one's self to sullen gloom, moping
melancholy and discontent, is sadly to miss and mistake the great design of
trial. God sends it to wake us up to a sense of life's realities—not
to fold our hands, but to be more in earnest than ever in our work and
Oh! when He sees fit to enter our households, and, as the
Great Proprietor of life, to resume His own, be it ours to thank Him for
the precious loan, to acknowledge His right and prerogative to recall
the grant. "The Lord loves a cheerful giver." Although it was in a trial, of
which, God forbid, either you or I should ever know the bitterness, I know
not in all Scripture a more touching picture of this silent acquiescence
in God's sovereign will than we have in the case of a parent who had
seen his two worthless children smitten down before his eyes, and yet of
whom we only read that "Aaron held his peace."
V. Finally, let us learn from this passage that Christ
is the Great Vanquisher of DEATH.
Previously we have traced His footsteps of mercy and
power as the Healer of diseases—the Savior of the body—the
Lord of nature—the Ruler of the spirit. We have seen Pain
crouching importunate at His feet; Penitence creeping meekly at His side
bedewing Him with tears; Sickness at His summons taking wings and fleeing
But now he has reached a new era in His life of marvels.
He has broken the bands of Death. He has gathered in the first sheaf of that
mighty Harvest of life, of which the angels are to be the Reapers in the
He gives us here a comforting assurance; first, regarding
the Dying, and second, regarding the Dead.
(1.) He tells us regarding every death-bed—that
the thread of existence is in His hands—that He quickens and
restores whom He will—that to Him as "God the Lord, belong the issues of
life and death."
"Your daughter is dead;" (said bold human unbelief)
"trouble not the Master." But the message is premature. He has
inverted the sand glass. He has made the shadow as in Hezekiah's dial to go
Oh, glorious assurance! Our lives and the lives of all
near and dear to us are in His keeping. It is He who sends the
death-messenger. It is He who marks every tree in the forest—plucks every
flower in the garden. My health and sickness, my joys and sorrows, my
friends, my children, are in the hands of the Christ of Calvary! We, in
our blind unbelief, may regard Death as some arbitrary tyrant lording
it, with iron scepter, over hapless victims. But the Gospel teaches a nobler
philosophy. It tells of One in heaven who has in His hands "the keys of the
grave and of death," and who, at the time He sees best, but not one moment
sooner, "turns man to destruction, and says, Return, you children of men!"
(2.) He gives us a comforting word regarding the
DEAD. Christian, He says of your dead (the dead in Christ),
"Do not be afraid, only believe." "Weep not; she is not dead,
but sleeps." Yes, weep not! she is not dead, but LIVES! Death is but
a quiet sleep. Soon the morning hour shall strike—the waking time
of immortality arrive, and the voice of Jesus will be heard saying—"I go
that I may awake them out of sleep."
It has been often noted that there is a beautiful and
striking progression in our Lord's three miraculous raisings from the
dead. This instance, we have been considering, was the first in point
of time. The daughter of Jairus was raised immediately after death had taken
place, when the body was still laid on its death-couch. Her soul had but
taken its flight to the spirit-world, when the angels that bore it away were
summoned to restore it. The second, in order of time, was the raising
of the son of the widow of Nain. Death had in this case achieved a longer
triumph. The usual time for lamentation had intervened—he was being borne to
his last home when the voice of Deity sounded over his casket. The
third and last of this class of miracles, was the raising of Lazarus of
Bethany. In his case, death had attained a still more signal mastery. The
funeral ceremonies were over—the sepulchral grotto held in its embrace the
loved and lost; four days had these lips been sealed before the
life-giving and life-restoring word was uttered. There is one other
gigantic step in this progression. "The hour is coming when all
that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall
In the first case we have cited, the time elapsing
between the dismissal of the spirit and its recall, was measured by
moments, the second by hours, the third by days; the
fourth is measured by ages—centuries—A millennium! But what of that?
What though we speak of the tomb as the "long home," and death as the long
sleep? By Him (with whom a thousand years is as one day) that precious,
because redeemed dust, shall be gathered together, particle by particle.
"I will ransom them," He says, as he looks forward through the vista of
ages to this glorious consummation—"I will ransom them from the power of
the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be Your plague! O
grave, I will be Your destruction."
Blessed, thrice blessed time! As in the case of Jairus,
it was his own loved daughter who, in form and feature, was again restored:
as the widow of Nain gazed on the unaltered countenance of her own cherished
boy: as the sisters of Lazarus saw in him who came forth from the grave, no
alien form strangely altered, but the Brother of their hearts—so, we
believe, on that wondrous Morning of immortality, shall the beloved on earth
wear their old familiar smiles and loving looks. They shall retain their
And further, as in the case of the daughter in the text,
her Parents received her once more into their arms—as in the case of
the widow's son, it is expressly said, "they delivered him to his mother"—as
in Bethany, we are allowed to look into the home circle again reunited,
Jesus once more loving "Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus," and they loving one
another—so may we believe that, on the Resurrection day, the affections
which hallowed homes on earth, shall not be dulled, quenched, annihilated,
but rather ennobled and purified. Brothers, sisters, parents, children,
shall be linked once more in the fond ties and memories of earth,
gathering in loving groups around the living fountains of waters, and
singing together the twofold anthem of Providence and Grace—"the song of
Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb!"
If we descend for a moment from these lofty
contemplations, it is to utter a brief word, in conclusion, to those who
know nothing of such glorious hopes—who are locked in the slumbers of a far
sadder Death. Yes! there is a more dreadful sleep—a more dreadful
death—than that of the Grave! They are rather to be envied who have
"fallen asleep" (or as the word means) who have been "laid asleep by
Jesus." Faith, in her noblest musings, would not weep them back from their
crowns, and deprive them of their bliss! But they are to be pitied
who are still slumbering on in the deep sepulchral stillness of spiritual
death—that death from which there can only be a waking up in anguish!
With deep solemnity would I say, "Awake, you who sleep, and arise from
the dead, and Christ shall give you life!"
When we are called, as at times we are, to hear of
deathbeds in every phase of life—in every stage of the chequered journey—manhood
in the sere and yellow leaf—youth in its prime—childhood in
its innocence—infancy in its tenderest bud; or when these truths come
home to us as arrows feathered from our own bosoms—solemn thoughts welling
up from the very deeps of our being; I know not what will make a man serious
if such impressive lessons fail to do so! Reader! If God were to meet you
tonight, could you meet Him? Would you be ready for the Opened
Books and the Great Judgement? Nothing—nothing will be of any avail
at that hour, but the life of faith in the Son of God; not the wretched
possibility of a deathbed repentance, but an honest, loving,
cordial closing NOW, with that great Salvation.
It is but a slender thread that binds us to existence;
every moment, "Truly there is but a step between us and death." Oh, that we
may so live, that that step may be regarded as a step between us and Glory;
and that, when the final summons comes, it may be to us—what weeping friends
cannot see—the Chariots of Salvation and the Horses of fire, waiting to bear
us to Paradise!