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As, except on rare occasions, our father left the whole task of family discipline to our mother's care, she often found difficulty in rendering herself mistress of the responsible position she was forced to occupy, especially as, far from being model children, we boys were high spirited, mischievous urchins. According to her usual plan, however, she committed all her ways to the Lord; and then, instead of desponding at the thought of all she could not do, set cheerily to work, determined to perform faithfully whatever lay in her power.
Her first principle in education was, to establish a marked distinction between mere failings and actual sins; and while we were promptly reproved and even punished for disorder, heedlessness, or unpunctuality, it was done in the way of discipline. But whenever an instance of deceit, ingratitude, or unkindness came to light, the whole character of her dealing was altered. It seemed to us that she then assumed the attitude of God's priests or prophets of the olden time. Deep solemnity accompanied her words, so that, as she represented the heinous nature of our offense, we felt them pierce our very joints and marrow, conveying such a terrible sense of guilt that we hardly knew how to bear it, and would have preferred ten beatings to one such "sermon," as we called it. A strong influence was exerted by her plan of telling us Bible stories at night. We looked forward with longing to these delightful hours, and listened entranced to her vivid pictures; which resulted in giving us an intimate acquaintance with Scripture, so that in subsequent public examinations, I, for my part, distanced all competitors in this branch, and astonished the examiners themselves.
But the most mighty secret power she gained over us was by the force of a holy life. We could not help seeing how free it was from all worldly principle; vanity, self indulgence or avarice. So simple and frugal were her personal habit, that even in after-years, when we tried to persuade her, for the sake of health, to take more care of herself, the invariable reply would be, "Leave me the food and clothes I am used to: they will do well enough for this world. All the ease I might enjoy here would fail to satisfy me in the end. There would always be something wanting still. So I will be content and wait till I get over yonder, where we shall wear garments which will never grow old, and our hunger and thirst will be satisfied forever."
Daily we saw her gaze directed above, to the things which are unfading and celestial. Her one aim was to sacrifice herself in order to serve others, and to act for eternity. All the striking proofs of blessing, strewn like stars across the dark night of her earthly struggle, show how God owned this singleness of purpose.
No sooner were we, lads, away from home, than, instead of joining the ranks of the steady and orderly, we made common cause with the most mischievous and daring among our schoolfellows; and it might have seemed as if all home-training had gone for nothing. But the seed so deeply sown in our hearts was only buried, not lost, and at last maintained its principle of life, in the face of adverse influences. At the age of fifteen, I was at the Seminary of Maulbronn, belonging to the most merry fun-loving set of boys there, when one day, there arose amongst us a great talk about pietism, some arguing in its favor, and others against it. At last, I spoke out boldly and said, "I don't know much about it, but they say my mother is a pietist. If that is true, and the others are like her, I can only say pietism is real goodness, and the straight way to heaven. After what I have seen and gone through at home, I am so sure of this, that I shall never be able to doubt the reality of it." "Well then," rejoined a schoolfellow, "why ever are you what you are? Why don't you set up for a pietist yourself, without more ado?"
"You are right," I answered, "but you see what has not happened yet may come to pass some day: and it shall, too!"
Some years later, several of us were visiting our uncle, a rationalist professor at Heidelberg. Knowing our mother's principles, he was anxious to find out how far they had taken root in our minds, and often tried to perplex us with religious inquiries.
Sister Beate was the grand champion of our party. He would ask her, "Come now, tell me, what do you take God to be? Is not God the universal principle of Goodness?" "No," she promptly answered; "God is the good One"— (not a vague principle, but a Person). My brother, who was studying medicine, he advised to direct his attention to the secrets of nature, which, he declared, would solve the mystery of many miracles. He surmised it would be very possible to discover some subtile tincture which might impart to water the color and flavor of wine, and such means had probably been used by our Lord at the marriage feast of Cana.4.1
"No indeed," my brother answered sturdily, "such tinctures are not to be found here among men; they are above in the hand of Him who created the whole world out of nothing."
At length, laying by his weapons, our uncle was fain to confess, "Well, after all, you are your mother's own children."
A few years later, suddenly, as in the spring time, the seed that had long lain sleeping in our hearts, having taken root, sprang up vigorously. Before the eldest of us had left the University, we had each and all made a free and individual choice, to walk with our mother in the narrow way which leads to life eternal.
One of her most common practices in daily life was, to direct our attention to the parables God has laid up for us in His wonderful book of Nature. In the garden, the field and the house, she reminded us in a few simple words of these lessons. The weeds, the green trees, the blights on our plants, as well as our daily tasks and interests, were all examined, and the hidden meaning and type in each clearly noted, with a freshness and originality that worked them forcibly upon our memories. Sometimes, without any seeming reason, she would tell us many of the wise, happy thoughts with which her mind seemed to overflow; it was the lips running over out of "the fulness of the heart."
Coming home one day from an expedition in which she had vainly attempted to borrow a sum of money for the pressing claims of her sons' education, Beate met her, and imagined from her cheerful looks that the money had been forthcoming, for she had left home sad and downcast. "No," said she, "but God has comforted me. As I turned away sorrowfully, after having been refused, I felt so weak and wretched, that I could hardly walk. All at once, there came into my mind that verse in the story of Abraham and Isaac: 'And they went, both of them together.' Then I thought; these words were not put into the Bible without a reason, especially as they are repeated twice: Genesis xxii.6, 8. God saw what was passing in the heart of Abraham as he climbed that mountain with his son. And indeed it is evident that Abraham's distress had then reached the highest pitch. He was to sacrifice the life of his only son. With me, the question relates not to the temporal, but to the spiritual life of my six boys; for that will be endangered if their studies are given up. But now I am sure God sees, and has noted it in His book; and this comforts me."
The sense of consolation was so lively and strong within her, that for weeks after, she called the attention of everyone she met to this passage, adding, "Thus we often have to go a weary pilgrimage, but God sees it. He knows how our hearts are feeling, and writes it in His book." Another time she had a letter from a beloved and honored uncle, in which he reproached her bitterly for persisting in the education of the boys, when she had not sufficient means to carry it out. This grieved her so deeply, that she became quite ill, took to her bed, and could do nothing but weep. Her daughter wondered to see her so unnerved, because, in a general way, she troubled herself little as to other peopled opinions, and often used to say, "Never mind, I can wait until God justifies me." Now however, she exclaimed: "If it only had been some one else I should not care. But this uncle is just the one friend I need, and who has always stood by me till now!" No comfort seemed to find its way to her heart, till the next morning, when, rising again calm and happy, she told Beate, "I have examined myself as to whether there is any truth In what they say— that pride and self-will have been actuating me, but it is not so. My reason for persevering with the boys is the good of their souls. All persons, especially young ones, must have some ruling interest and enjoyment in life. If our lads cannot pursue the studies they care for, they will soon find out other pleasures, those of sense; and such will quickly lead them into sin. Besides, now I see them twice a year, and am able to exert a strong influence over them still, whereas, if they left home to learn a trade, they would be taken quite out of my reach. Then again, I should be positively ashamed to meet my Father in Heaven, unless I had done everything in my power to raise and ennoble my children, both in body and soul. He denied himself so sternly in order to bring us up to a good standing; and how could I look into his face with joy if I had failed in forwarding the best interests of his grandchildren? I know I am justified before God, so now I can feel quiet, for the Bible says, 'If a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even His enemies to be at peace with him.'"4.2
Scarcely ten years had gone by, before all her friends, and this uncle most especially, were ready to own and honor the triumph of her faith, so that she could remind them of this occasion with the words: "Did I not say so? God keeps all his promises. Every jot and tittle is fulfilled to those whose ways please Him."
Little time had she for reading, even the Bible; and yet although perfectly simple and unaffected in her discourse, which was peculiarly free from religious phrasealogy [sic], her daily life was a clear and constant witness against worldliness of form or practice. Each morning she awoke with some text or holy verse upon her mind, and this she appointed as a subject and motto for the day, and it furnished her with light, strength and spiritual food.
Once in going a journey, instead of taking the comfortable place behind, she insisted on sitting in front of the small conveyance in which a farmer was driving her. Years afterwards the man would speak of that drive and the long talk that lasted through it. "It was the most delightful journey I ever went in my life," said the honest fellow, a firm friend of my mother; "it was a distance of thirty-six miles, but the time passed like nothing, and I could hardly believe my eyes when we reached the end." It was her daily verse that furnished the whole topic of this conversation.
4.2 Proverbs xvi.7.
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