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To those who love God, friendship and love come as blessed gifts to open the heart and teach it all tender affections. Human love becomes divine love when thus received. The parents receive their child as from God, and they see in him a promise of God for the future, as well as a joy in the present. The family becomes a sacred place ; the parlor is a church, the daily meal is a communion table to those who love God. God's love comes out of human eyes to bless us, and an ineffable tenderness speaks to us in each word and act and look of good will. We find a deeper meaning and a higher purpose in every friendship, because God has sent it to us; and we cease to fear that it will prove transient, because we know that what God gives he gives forever.
When, in his providence, God takes away our friends and leaves us alone, then, also, we find that this bereavement works for our good if we love God. We are alone, but not lonely. Our friends come to us when they go away. They stay with us when they ascend to heaven. The love which was no mere earthly tie of convenience or pleasure, which loved what was best in the friend, and sought to impart good, as well as to receive it, does not die — it lives. As the disciples, after Jesus left them, grew much more intimate with him, and understood him far better than before, and had him really nearer to them than when they saw him ; so our friends who have gone away often seem nearer, and they bless us by lifting our hearts to the heavens which are their home, and we commune with their interior nature as we never did while we had them nearer to us.
So, also, errors and mistakes work for good to those who love God. I once lost my way in Venice, which is the most intricate of all cities when you try to walk through it by the narrow streets, though it is the simplest of all when
you go from place to place in a gondola. But I spent hour after hour wandering to and fro, too proud to ask my way, till at last pride had a fall, and I was obliged to give a little fellow some baiocchi to "show me the way to San Marco. But I recollect how, in that walk, I saw many things which I should never have noticed except I had lost myself. The faculties wake up and are full of alertness in difficulty, and we find ourselves in strange relations, and learn fast. So the man lost in the woods becomes acquainted with the looks and habits of the trees and birds and living creatures. And so, when we are lost in the great maze of life, and wander through the streets of this world, feeling that the familiar path is gone: when we see no landmark of duty, no inspiring light of attractive work, and know not where we are; then, if our trust in God does not fail us, we learn lessons we should never otherwise gain. We learn self-direction or humility ; we learn to cast our care on him who cares for us; we learn to be grateful for every kindness that others can do us, and to respect all forms of human life, and call no man common.
I sometimes think that a nation, like individuals, has a soul, and that this soul is either turned in the main to good or to evil. The soul of a nation is either a worldly soul, absorbed in selfish pleasure and gain, or it is a generous soul, which cares for the great interests of justice and humanity. Nations, like individuals, are put on trial. Some do not bear the trial, and they come to an end.
Shakspeare wrote “A Comedy of Errors," but there are tragedies of errors in the world, perhaps more common. People make mistakes which seem irreparable. Take one step in the wrong direction, and return sometimes becomes hopeless. We are dragged along by the chain of destiny. In the novel of “Deronda,” we see how a single misstep taken by the young girl, Gwendolen, destrovs her whole
life. The same things happen around us here. But the novelist shows that, while her outward life and happiness were ruined, she began to grow inwardly into something far nobler than prosperity could have given. She learned penitence and generosity, she learned to know herself, she became capable of making sacrifices. And this also we see in daily reality. This also happens here. Men and women can be educated by wrong and sin into something admirably good ; as the lava fires of geologic periods have metamorphosed dull clay into adamantine gems. All this if they love God that is, if their main purpose in life is good and right.
We can often see, ourselves, how evils work together for good. As we look back over our lives, we see how disappointments, which seemed at the time most bitter and intolerable, turned out at last to be the best things we could have had. And so we may believe that when we cannot see the good, good may yet be there. The child cannot see the good of his having to go to school and study when he wishes to play. He cannot look forward ten and twenty years, and see how his present studies are to help him. And, if we are immortal beings, our present trials and disappointments are perhaps a part of the discipline we need for some great result preparing for us hereafter. Whether we feel this, or not, depends on whether we love God, and believe really in him. If God is our father, then it must be right, whether we see it or not.
All as God wills, who wisely heeds
To give, or to withhold,
Than all my prayers have told. The most terrible tragedies of life are not usually those which appear, but those which are hidden. Under the smooth and smiling surface of social life what dark. myste
ries of sorrow are concealed ! The heart knows its own bitterness, and does not talk about it.
I once had a friend whose mind was well balanced ; taking its steps slowly but surely, and it ever looked at the highest as well as the broadest and deepest truth. One always felt, when she had added her few well-considered words to the discussion, that no more need be said. There was a judicial equipoise in her statement, as when the judge delivers his charge at the close of a well-argued case. She aimed only at perfect justice and exact truth. She never said much, but what she said lifted us out of all narrow limitations into the serene atmosphere of impartial, unsectarian, unprejudiced and crystalline truth. This all saw; but what many did not see was, that her whole life was centred in aspiration for the highest possible religious state. During the thirty years that I knew her, her mind had but one purpose, to which it clung with unexampled tenacity, the purpose of rising into the highest religious state. Her continual longing was to become perfect in love to God, and love to man. This purpose so completely dominated and controlled all her mind, that she only gave the outside of her thoughts to other things. No Catholic saint, living in a perpetual round of devotion, ever led a life more fixed on the one thing needful. No one ever more entirely fulfilled the apostolic command, " to pray without ceasing." For, this great state of perfect love she did not expect to attain by any effort of her
own, but only to receive it as a gift of God. Therefore her life was a perpetual prayer. All outward things, the world and its ways, the doings of men and women, politics, business, daily duty, grew pale, dim, and unsubstantial, while she looked ever at things which are unseen, but eternal. She never neglected willingly a single outward duty, but she did it with her hand rather than with her mind. Ab
sorbed in the contemplation of the grace of God, which brings salvation, she did all her outward work with a somewhat mechanical fidelity, not putting into it all her heart,
During many years she lived in perfect mental solitude, except that usually once a week she wrote a letter, which was a resumé of her inward state, her spiritual hopes and disappointments, an analysis of her soul's history. This was the only sufficient outlet she had during twenty or thirty years; the only relief from her perpetual introspection No doubt it was bad for her, this continual analysis of her own state of mind. It helped a malady of which neither she nor others for a long time suspected the exist
which showed itself by an occasional access of terrible depression and gloom. But her mind was in such just equipoise, so sensible, so clear, at other times, that this temporary darkening of her soul was attributed by her to moral causes only. She thought it a trial sent by God, which he would take away, and replace by a perfect peace. But from time to time the darkness and suffering were so intense that she was driven to thoughts of suicide.
But as this depression would pass entirely away, and not return for long periods, she did not understand it to be occasioned by cerebral disease.
But no one could know what heroism she showed during all these years in her lonely struggle against these tendencies to despair. She fought a long fight, and fought it alone, praying to God for strength and receiving it. Do not
say that all these prayers and efforts were for nothing. While the outward man perished, the inward man was renewed day by day. I cannot believe that such patient continuance in well-doing, through long and weary years, such perpetual aspiration, this ceaseless prayer for life and strength, were to be all in vain. No holy saint, no consecrated martyr, ever lived a more devoted life. She died,