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- Thomas Wingfold, Curate - 40/90 -


any direction for its confirmation or dissolution. He would not look in at her windows, but what seeds of comfort he could find, he would scatter wide, and hope that some of them might fall into her garden.

When he raised his head on the Sunday from kneeling, with heart honest, devout, and neighbourly, in the pulpit before the sermon, and cast his eyes round his congregation, they rested first, for one moment and no more, upon the same pallid and troubled countenance whose reflection had so often of late looked out from the magic mirror of his memory; the next, they flitted across the satisfied, healthy, handsome, clever face of her cousin, behind which plainly sat a conscience well-to-do, in an easy chair; the third, they saw and fled the peevish autumnal visage of Mrs. Ramshorn; the next, they roved a little, then rested on the draper's good-humoured disc, on the white forehead of which brooded a cloud of thoughtfulness. Last of all they sought the free seats, and found the faces of both the dwarfs. It was the first time he had seen Rachel's there, and it struck him that it expressed greater suffering than he had read in it before. She ought rather to be in bed than in church, he thought. But the same seemed the case with her uncle's countenance also; and with that came the conclusion that the pulpit was a wonderful watch-tower whence to study human nature; that people lay bare more of their real nature and condition to the man in the pulpit than they know--even before the sermon. Their faces have fallen into the shape of their minds, for the church has an isolating as well as congregating power, and no passing emotion moulds them to an evanescent show. When Polwarth spoke to a friend, the suffering melted in issuing radiance; when he sat thus quiescent, patient endurance was the first thing to be read on his countenance. This flashed through the curate's mind in the moments ere he began to speak, and with it came afresh the feeling--one that is, yet ought not to be sad--that no one of all these hearts could give summer-weather to another. The tears rose in his eyes as he gazed, and his heart swelled towards his own flesh and blood, as if his spirit would break forth in a torrent of ministering tenderness and comfort. Then he made haste to speak lest he should become unable. As usual his voice trembled at first, but rose into strength as his earnestness found way. This is a good deal like what he said:

"The marvellous man who is reported to have appeared in Palestine, teaching and preaching, seems to have suffered far more from sympathy with the inward sorrows of his race than from pity for their bodily pains. These last, could he not have swept from the earth with a word? and yet it seems to have been mostly, if not indeed always, only in answer to prayer that he healed them, and that for the sake of some deeper, some spiritual healing that should go with the bodily cure. It could not be for the dead man whom he was about to call from the tomb, that his tears flowed. What source could they have but compassion and pitiful sympathy for the sorrows of the dead man's sisters and friends who had not the inward joy that sustained himself, and the thought of all the pains and heartaches of those that looked in the face of death--the meanings of love--torn generations, the blackness of bereavement that had stormed through the ever changing world of human hearts since first man had been made in the image of his Father? Yet are there far more terrible troubles than this death--which I trust can only part, not keep apart. There is the weight of conscious wrong being and wrong doing--that is the gravestone that needs to be rolled away ere a man can rise to life. Call to mind how Jesus used to forgive men's sins, thus lifting from their hearts the crushing load that paralyzed all their efforts. Recall the tenderness with which he received those from whom the religious of his day turned aside--the repentant women who wept sore-hearted from very love, the publicans who knew they were despised because they were despicable. With him they sought and found shelter. He was their saviour from the storm of human judgment and the biting frost of public opinion, even when that opinion and that judgment were re-echoed by the justice of their own hearts. He received them, and the life within them rose up, and the light shone--the conscious light of light, despite even of shame and self-reproach. If God be for us who can be against us? In his name they rose from the hell of their own hearts' condemnation, and went forth to do the truth in strength and hope. They heard and believed and obeyed his words. And of all words that ever were spoken, were ever words gentler, tenderer, humbler, lovelier--if true, or more arrogant, man-degrading, God-defying--if false, than these, concerning which, as his, I now desire to speak to you: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light'?

"Surely these words, could they but be heartily believed, are such as every human heart might gladly hear! What man is there who has not had, has not now, or will not have to class himself amongst the weary and heavy-laden? Ye who call yourselves Christians profess to believe such rest is to be had, yet how many of you go bowed to the very earth, and take no single step towards him who says Come, lift not an eye to see whether a face of mercy may not be looking down upon you! Is it that, after all, you do not believe there ever was such a man as they call Jesus? That can hardly be. There are few so ignorant, or so wilfully illogical as to be able to disbelieve in the existence of the man, or that he spoke words to this effect. Is it then that you are doubtful concerning the whole import of his appearance? In that case, were it but as a doubtful medicine, would it not be well to make some trial of the offer made? If the man said the words, he must have at least believed that he could fulfil them. Who that knows anything of him at all can for a moment hold that this man spoke what he did not believe? The best of the Jews who yet do not believe in him, say of him that he was a good though mistaken man. Will a man lie for the privilege of being despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? What but the confidence of truth could have sustained him when he knew that even those who loved him would have left him had they believed what he told them of his coming fate?--But then: believing what he said, might he not have been mistaken?--A man can hardly be mistaken as to whether he is at peace or not--whether he has rest in his soul or not. Neither I think can a man well be mistaken as to whence comes the peace he possesses,--as to the well whence he draws his comfort. The miser knows his comfort is his gold. Was Jesus likely to be mistaken when he supposed himself to know that his comfort came from his God? Anyhow he believed that his peace came from his obedience--from his oneness with the will of his Father. Friends, if I had such peace as was plainly his, should I not know well whence it came?--But I think I hear some one say: 'Doubtless the good man derived comfort from the thought of his Father, but might he not be mistaken in supposing there was any Father?' Hear me, my friends: I dare not say I know there is a Father. I dare not even say I think, I can only say with my whole heart I hope we have indeed a Father in heaven; but this man says HE KNOWS. Am I to say he does not know? Can I, who know so much I would gladly have otherwise in myself, imagine him less honest than I am? If he tells me he knows, I am dumb and listen. One I KNOW: THERE IS--outweighs a whole creation of voices crying each I KNOW NOT, THEREFORE THERE IS NOT. And observe it is his own, his own best he wants to give them--no bribe to obedience to his will, but the assurance of bliss if they will do as he does. He wants them to have peace--HIS peace--peace from the same source whence he has it. For what does he mean by TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN OF ME? He does not mean WEAR THE YOKE I LAY UPON YOU, AND OBEY MY WORDS. I do not say he might not have said so, or that he does not say what comes to the same thing at other times, but that is not what he says here--that is not the truth he would convey in these words. He means TAKE UPON YOU THE YOKE I WEAR; LEARN TO DO AS I DO, WHO SUBMIT EVERYTHING AND REFER EVERYTHING TO THE WILL OF MY FATHER, YEA HAVE MY WILL ONLY IN THE CARRYING OUT OF HIS: BE MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART, AND YE SHALL FIND REST UNTO YOUR SOULS. With all the grief of humanity in his heart, in the face of the death that awaited him, he yet says, FOR MY YOKE, THE YOKE I WEAR, IS EASY, THE BURDEN I BEAR IS LIGHT. What made that yoke easy,--that burden light? That it was the will of the Father. If a man answer: 'Any good man who believed in a God, might say as much, and I do not see how it can help me;' my reply is, that this man says, COME UNTO ME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST--asserting the power to give perfect help to him that comes.--Does all this look far away, my friends, and very unlike the things about us? The things about you do not give you peace; from something different you may hope to gain it. And do not our souls themselves fall out with their surroundings, and cry for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?

"But some one will perhaps say: 'It is well; but were I meek and lowly in heart as he of whom you speak, it could not touch MY trouble: that springs not from myself, but from one I love.' I answer, if the peace be the peace of the Son of man, it must reach to every cause of unrest. And if thou hadst it, would it not then be next door to thy friend? How shall he whom thou lovest receive it the most readily--but through thee who lovest him? What if thy faith should be the next step to his? Anyhow, if this peace be not an all-reaching as well as a heart-filling peace; if it be not a righteous and a lovely peace, and that in despite of all surrounding and opposing troubles, then it is not the peace of God, for that passeth all understanding:--so at least say they who profess to know, and I desire to take them at their word. If thy trouble be a trouble thy God cannot set right, then either thy God is not the true God, or there is no true God, and the man who professed to reveal him led the one perfect life in virtue of his faith in a falsehood. Alas for poor men and women and their aching hearts!--If it offend any of you that I speak of Jesus as THE MAN who professed to reveal God, I answer, that the man I see, and he draws me as with the strength of the adorable Truth; but if in him I should certainly find the God for the lack of whose peace I and my brethren and sisters pine, then were heaven itself too narrow to hold my exultation, for in God himself alone could my joy find room.

"Come then, sore heart, and see whether his heart cannot heal thine. He knows what sighs and tears are, and if he knew no sin in himself, the more pitiful must it have been to him to behold the sighs and tears that guilt wrung from the tortured hearts of his brethren and sisters. Brothers, sisters, we MUST get rid of this misery of ours. It is slaying us. It is turning the fair earth into a hell, and our hearts into its fuel. There stands the man, who says he knows: take him at his word. Go to him who says in the might of his eternal tenderness and his human pity--COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY-LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN OF ME; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART: AND YE SHALL FIND REST UNTO YOUR SOULS. FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT."

CHAPTER XIV.

A SERMON TO HIMSELF.

Long ere he thus came to a close, Wingfold was blind to all and every individuality before him--felt only the general suffering of


Thomas Wingfold, Curate - 40/90

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