The First Break in the Family
George Mylne, 1871
A break in the family! Did I say the first? Yes; for there are families where death, as yet, has never entered — no breach has occurred in the fair circle of domestic happiness — children and parents, parents and children, in full enjoyment of each other's company. How gladsome thus to see it! We feel inclined to say, "Enjoy it while you have it, and quaff the cup of family endearment with meekness and a thankful heart, remembering from whence the mercy comes — that the Giver be not forgotten in His gifts.
It is sweet to see a family unbroken. But, watch it long enough, and a break is sure to come At last — sooner or later must their domestic sky be overcast. Sickness may enter (if not some fatal accident), sickness not curable — but unto death. Oh, what a chill follows — what dread forebodings when the worst is feared, and apprehensions prove too true — when that once happy circle has been found no longer armored against the inroads of the last enemy! Then desolation reigns — where all before was gladness:
the darkened rooms,
the silent step, as though the softest footfall might disturb the slumbering dead,
the muffled voice,
the utterance choked with tears,
the look of anguish,
the chastened deportment of deep yet noiseless sorrow,
directions given, needful, yet harrowing to the soul,
activity that goes against the grain, costing unutterable pains.
Oh, who can paint the change where all appears disjointed, turned from its former course of unclouded and serene happiness! The little ones scarcely realize the fact, the infant mind not understanding the sad reality. Yet, from . . .
the mournful preparations,
the putting on of dark apparel,
and the funeral procession —
they gather glimpses of the truth; and in their romps (how hard to be restrained!) they move about as half ashamed.
In the youthful members of the family, advanced a stage in the ability to understand — how subdued the light that shines upon them, like the lurid beams of an eclipse. They sadly feel their loss, and struggle with sorrowful restraint! How touchingly Cowper describes his feelings, as a child, on the occasion of his mother's death!
"I heard the bell toll'd on your burial day;
I saw the hearse that bore you slow away —
And, turning from my nursery-window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu."
But with the older ones of the family, how different! Their sorrow is realized in all its fullness — present is compared with past — weighed in the balances of serious and mature thought. Outbreaks of sorrow are curiously met with arguments for resignation — a truthful picture of unvarnished woe.
Reader, is it thus with you? Are you one of a family newly broken? Full well I know your feelings, the shock experienced in your inmost soul.
What deep emotions are occasioned by that empty chair!
How eloquent the death-like stillness of that now untenanted chamber!
That congenial voice no more will greet your ear.
That once familiar face no more be seen.
When the family meets together in the morning — what a blank pervades all!
When at night you separate, one well-known "good-night" is listened for in vain!
Oh, what a desolator is Death! The fairest form, the sweetest disposition, the finest mind, the most useful character — is often the first to go — the choicest treasure of your garden nipped in the bud of fond enjoyment.
"One flower may fill another's place,
With breath as sweet, with hues as glowing;
One ripple in you ocean's space,
Be lost amid another's flowing.
One star in you bright azure dome
Might vanish from its sparkling cluster,
Unmiss'd, unmourn'd, and in its room
Some rival orb eclipse its luster.
But who shall fill a brother's room?
Or who shall soothe the bosom's grieving?
Who heal the heart, around his tomb
Too faithfully, too fondly cleaving?"
Poor mourner, do you ask for consolation? Gladly would I give it, If you are able to receive the only consolation I can offer. I might listen for hours to your tale of grief — telling the virtues of the dead, opening afresh the sorrows of your soul. I might attend you to all the haunts of the deceased, bend over the relics that you love to show, go with you to the grave, and there weep with you sob for sob, and tear for tear. But say, would that alone suffice to comfort you? It would help to nurse your sorrow — and give a fresh impulse to your morbid strain; it might tie you down more strongly to earth's regrets and unavailing musings. But would it indeed console you? Would it turn your bitterness to sweetness? Would it give you "the oil of joy — for mourning, the garment of praise — for the spirit of heaviness?" (Isaiah 61:3.)
Oh no I my friend, oh no! Elsewhere must you seek it. Do you ask me where?
Where, but in God?
Where, but in Jesus?
Where, but in The Holy Spirit, the Comforter?
Fond recollections of the dead are not forbidden you. It is allowed to trace the haunts and love the relics of their earlier days, in fond association with their memory. But then, do you take Jesus with you in your musings? As much as you loved your friend — do you love Jesus better still? And, as you gaze on fond mementoes, is it with the reserve of grace, lifting your heart all the while, as though to say, "Lord, let not this keep my heart from You! Through You I wish to see them all! Lord, sanctify my recollections — may I indulge them in deference to You!"
But now permit me, reader, to ask a question. Do not think me rude. Do not think it out of place. It underlies the matter both of your duty and your consolation. I ask you then, Do you feel yourself to be a sinner?
And why this question? Because nothing else will bring you to the Cross of Jesus.
You say, "How will that comfort me?" Simply because true comfort comes from God alone; and nothing can be received from God, except through the Cross and Him who hung thereon.
No God — No Comfort.
No Christ — No God.
No Sense of Sin — No Christ.
No Christ — No Savior.
No Christ — No Holy Spirit The Comforter.
No Comforter — No true Friend.
Do you doubt me? Then speak about it to God Himself. Tell Him your sorrow. Tell Him that you sigh for consolation. Ask Him to put you in the way of finding it. Take with you words (Hosea 14:2). Speak to Him as a little child.
Confess Your Sins.
Entreat His Pardon, through the Blood Of Christ.
Pray for the teaching of the Spirit.
Commit your cause to God fully and unreservedly, prepared to follow His leadings fully. And if you feel your heart melting, and thoughts arising in you of God and Christ, of Sin and Pardon, of Penitence and Prayer — then give yourself to the meditation. It is as though He said, "Seek My face!"
And may your heart say unto Him, "Your face, Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).
Who knows but that this day of your bereavement, may be the day of saving grace — the dawning of Christ in your heart; the day of true consolation!