George Mylne, 1871
There is a tie — the closest of all earthly bonds — ordained of old by the Creator, when man was ushered into being (Genesis 2:24). By nature its connecting elements have no connection; therefore most fit is it to symbolize the union of Jesus and His Church (Ephesians 5:23-25). For what has fallen man to do with Heaven and the Lord — what union with the living God? Yet, in the mystery of the Covenant, the mystery of grace — sinners are joined to Jesus, and to God through Jesus, in a bond, compared with which all earthly unions are but poor indeed.
Yes, the bond of marriage, though an earthly bond, is one that surpasses knowledge. Ethereal in its origin, it defies the microscope to trace its first beginnings. What caused the latent goings forth of first attractions? How is heart insensibly was knit to heart, enchained by loving sensibilities, the charm of personalities profoundly winning? And this, though seen by others, yet by the hearts themselves unseen and disavowed. And thus it grew, striking its roots irretrievably into the soil of mutual attraction — it may have been in spite of dissimilar characters, and most discordant dispositions — until at last the vows were pledged, and marriage solemnized — not to be dissolved except by death.
[The more the pity that a bond so sacred should ever be entered into recklessly, without regard to circumstances — oft-times in plain contempt of virtuous decorum, and disregard of strict, time-honored rule — bringing foul dishonor on what was meant to be an honorable state. (Hebrews 13:4)]
The union thus begun, oft-times in spite of much which hindered it — (for what are bars and doors, to penetrating love? And what the frowns of friends, or all the force of adverse circumstances?) — that bond, I say, formed in the inner chamber of the soul, drawing its life-blood from the fountain-head of sensibility, fed by the subtle passion that will not be ignored, when strengthened and confirmed by matrimony, displays a wondrous field for unity.
Their interests, their cares, no longer separate, but combined — exhibit a wondrous spectacle if analyzed. Two hearts, two minds, two people, acting as though there were but one; each circumstance of life weaving them more and more into an undefined and undefinable oneness. Looking to each other for their mutual guidance — no plan arranged, no purpose carried out, but with their joint consent. They are dovetailed to one another by each passing care; cemented, in their offspring, each to a second self — it is no wonder that the bond is of the closest character. Less wonder still that, when a rupture comes, it should inflict a wound peculiar to itself, causing an unutterable blank, scattering to the winds the fond materials of that union, so wondrously begun, so delicately formed, so firmly put together, and which had hitherto defied each rude attempt to shake its permanence, until leveled by the unsparing hand of death.
And are you indeed a widow? That fearful word! Oft had you heard it — oft witnessed what it means in others. But now you have tasted for yourself its dread reality. What human hand is delicate enough to probe your wound, or weigh your present sorrow? I gladly would leave you to "Him who sits as King forever" (Psalm 29:10). Yet, as I have spoken to other mourners, say, could I pass by You? I feared to approach the page to be addressed to you, knowing my weakness to console. But I would fear still more to leave you unnoticed, unaddressed.
How long, then, had you lived together? A few short years? It may have been but months, or weeks, or even days or hours — for death respects not the thrilling happiness of a new-born pair. Or did you count your married days by tens or scores of years, as some have done by more than half a century? And how did it happen? Did a cloud, at first no bigger than a hand, portend that soon your sky would be obscured? Or, like a thunder-clap, dreadful and ominous, instant in action, electric in discharge — did sudden death leave you a widow, desolate indeed? And as that lightning flash illumined the retrospect of unbroken years and joys, it was but for a moment — and then darkness tenfold dark followed.
My widowed friend, can you cast your care on God? He cares for you — indeed He does (1 Peter 5:7). I have seen widows in their affliction (James 1:27) — in the very advent of their widowhood, when death had only just occurred. I have gone (when sent for) expecting to find them prostrate, oppressed, and speechless, unfit to exchange a word with God or man. But lo! in certain instances, I have found them, like statues, it is true — in icy stillness — yet calm, collected, and resigned, able to discourse of their departed one; though unable, it may have been, to weep (their tears too deep to flow), sublime amid their sorrow — and I have come away surprised and edified.
What, do you think was the reason of their calmness, their dignified submission, and wondrous peace? Simply, that they looked to Jesus. They had walked with Him in their prosperity, before clouds obscured their sky, and in their darkness He left them not to walk alone — His arm upheld them still. I only tell it as I have seen and known it. And this I also know, that what Jesus did for them — He can likewise do for you.
Do you ask me how fared it with those widowed ones, as time rolled on? Did they soon forget their dead ones, and return to active life, as though no blast of sorrow had swept over them? Did it thus appear as if their wound was slight and their affection transitory? Quite the reverse. As months went by, their sorrow seemed to deepen, and the blank to grow more void. Their earthly prop was taken, and though the Lord came in to fill the empty space, yet ever and always it opened up afresh, and they were made to feel their daily need of Jesus, for daily smarting wounds. Believe me, they felt their desolation, not unmindful of the days when the marital union was unbroken, and when fond affection, not anticipating death, lived on as though it would be always so. Yet, leaning on Him who is invisible, and finding in His arm a sure support — meekly they returned to active duties, resolved that none should suffer at their hands, by their indulging in selfish grief.
My friend, go and do likewise. An effort it may cost you, neither light nor short; yet, an effort that God can give you strength for, if you seek it at His hand. Weak human nature can never suffice you for the task. It must be sought and found in Christ alone. Have you, then, fled to Jesus for pardon and for peace — resolved to know no righteousness but His — no other name whereby you can be saved? Then only can you walk, blessed in your widowhood; then only can you weep in comfort for your dead; then only can you be supported in all you have to do.
Have you a family — children to educate and embark
in life? How does your hear sink within you! All the charge now falls on you
alone. What other cares you have, I cannot tell. Perhaps their name is
legion. But for them all there is one only remedy, "Have faith in God!"
(Mark 11:22). He alone can . . .
fill your blank,
give strength in your weakness,
give light in your darkness,
and sweeten your care.
Poor widow! Do not hide your tears from Jesus. Go weeping to His bosom. He will welcome you the more — the broken-hearted are His special charge. He loves to see them come. He knows what you feel — that your wound is deep, your spirit broken, your courage gone. He knows your desolation, the aching void within you, refusing to be filled. None is so tender, none so kind as Jesus. When He invites you to come for life eternal — when He reminds you of your sins and need of pardon — when He makes this the only door of consolation for your earthly woes — it is because He knows the value of your precious soul, and how little it would help you, in the end, to have great grief for a season — only to have endless woe.
But, while He points you to the greater blessing, He does not disregard the lesser consolation, but, in giving you salvation, He would also dry your tears. Then look to Jesus! Then come to Jesus! He will not reject you because you ask for pardon in your earthly woe. Come in your "mourning clothes" — come as a widow — come with your torn affections, with your bleeding heart. Tell Him you want a Savior and a Comforter, all in One. Call on Him in your day of trouble. Surely He will hear you, and fail not you to glorify His name.
There is something deeply touching in the sight — a widower with his children! See how he leads that little one along, clothed in its tiny mourning clothes, the whole presenting a walking-group of desolation. Poor widower! The wife of his bosom gone — the light of his eyes withdrawn! His hearth left desolate! His home deprived of her who graced it! The light of his dwelling, turned to darkness! His earthly comfort broken! A blight upon his tenderest sensibilities!
A very wreck of what he was before this visitation — how can he but be desolate! See how he goes from room to room, as ever looking for, and ever missing his loved and absent one! He can scarcely believe she never will return — that it was possible for all that marital bliss so soon to pass away! He had thought she was his own for many, many years. Perhaps he had scarcely sipped the cup of married bliss, when it was dashed from out his hand with awful suddenness. It may have been, literally, by the lightning's stroke, as we have known it — or by some other form of accident or instantaneous death.
"Nay, 'tis not what we imagined it,
This magic world of ours;
We thought its skies were only blue,
Its fields all sun and flowers!
But clouds came up with gloom and shade;
Our sky was overcast;
The hot mist threw its blight around,
Sunshine and flowers were past!
Hopes perished which had hung like wreaths
Around youth's joyous brow,
And joys, like withered autumn leaves,
Hung from the broken bough"
And who is sufficient for these things? We see in this, man's heavenly origin — to have a heart painfully tuned to sorrowing sensibilities, a mind susceptible of such racking grief.
Reader, are you a widower? I gladly would comfort you; yet, stranger as I am, gently would I tread, not to intrude too harshly on your privacy. Had you been taken, and she been left to buffet with the world — her loss in this respect had been still worse than yours — to lack the head she looked to, and the arm she leant upon — a woman's grief imparting tenfold force to what she suffered. But you must have found that woman's powers of endurance exceed the man's; and though her grief had been at first more passionate, yet in the end she would have endured more patiently.
Besides, in some respects, the home is more disorganized when the wife is taken — domestic hospitality is more disabled — household concerns are more thoroughly disjointed — the care of the children more needed — and other issues too many to be numbered. Happy, when these ills are more than tempered, and the widower's heart is cheered, by the presence of some kindly relative to keep his house and home! This is indeed a blessing among the choicest — a blessing from God himself — sweet sunlight shed upon the clouds, which even then require the illumining of grace!
Poor widower! you have indeed sustained a loss — a crushing loss. You feel now, more than ever, that woman's presence, as wife and mother, transforms the house and home — makes it a living comfort; and that her loss drapes the whole household in dreariness and chilling gloom. At every turn you miss her. Life seems not life without her. In how many ways she ministered, sensibly or imperceptibly, to a thousand little needs, daily and hourly besetting you — such service as a wife alone can yield! But now she is gone — and you are left to the dreary mockery of waiting on yourself, or leaving a thousand things undone.
The very texture of your life seems broken up, the warp and woof bitterly wrenched and torn, yet by no means disentangled — that they never could be — but fragments of both together still interwoven in their seeming separation — thoughts of the present refusing to be sundered from the past — the life that is gone, re-lived and lived again in memories unceasing, present existence merged in many a bygone passage of your married life, in fond associations flitting before the mind with loving importunity.
You had not realized, as now you do, how truly you were not twain, but one (Genesis 2:24), and not "one flesh" alone — one heart, one mind, one taste, one feeling, one end in life — one everything. It is bad enough to be alone when nothing else has been experienced. But to have been no longer single in the world, and then to be reduced to widowed solitude — is indeed sad and withering. Such separations involve a world of suffering, known only to the sufferers, and to those who have experienced the same; and nothing so plainly shows the wisdom and benevolence of God's decree, that man should not "be alone" (Genesis 2:18) as when we lose our treasure.
My widowed friend! God lent her to you for a time, a loan to be recalled at His will. Not less you owe Him thanks, than if He had lent her for a longer season. I have heard of a husband charging God with cruelty for having snatched a darling wife away. A cutting dispensation, I allow — crushing to the spirit, grating to the flesh, clothing the man with unutterable grief.
Yet, say, can God be charged with cruelty? Think who He is, my friend — God, the wise, the holy, and the good. Can we contend with Him, and say He deals unjustly? It is written, "He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lam. 3:33). To the natural heart, I know, it is hard to credit this, and so to reconcile what seems irreconcilable. Again, it is written, "Why do you strive with Him? for He gives no account of any of His matters" (Job 33:13). Not that this truth alone will heal the wound, and make men suffer meekly — friend, you need something more — Grace to receive the message — Grace to see that love is wrapped in it — Grace to "trust God, though He slays you" — Grace to experience that God takes nothing away, but what He is able, yes, and willing too, to give much more than He has taken.
Do you say, "He has taken what was dearer to me than life itself. How can He give me what is better?" My friend, the matter rests with God, and not with you or I. Ask Him to explain His meaning. Ask God to be "His own interpreter — and He will make it plain." Ask Him to solve the difficulty, that He can chasten, and yet love all the while. He has promised to give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13). Can you do better than take Him at His word? You little know what worlds of light and joy and peace might thereby open to you. Oh! Taste and see, and you shall find that "the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). Believe me, God is gracious. He waits to bless you, to turn your sorrow into joy, and gild your desolation with transcendent brightness.
Go to the Cross, poor widower, and see how sweet it is to be forgiven of all your sins; how surpassing sweet to be at peace with God through Christ, how glorious that God Himself should be your Comforter!