Lent Day 16: ?Thou Shalt Nots” In An Age Of Grace
The Algonquin chiefs are gathered in solemnconclave. They make a wild and striking and picturesquegroup. They are assembled under thewide-spreading branches of a giant elm, not farfrom the banks of the Delaware. It is easy to seethat something altogether unusual is afoot. Rangingthemselves in the form of a crescent, these menof scarred limbs and fierce visage fasten their eyescuriously upon a white man who, standing againstthe bole of the elm, comes to them as white mannever came before. He is a young man of abouteight and thirty, wearing about his lithe and well-knitfigure a sash of skyblue silk. He is tall, handsomeand of commanding presence. His movementsare easy, agile and athletic; his manner iscourtly, graceful and pleasing; his voice, whilstdeep and firm, is soft and agreeable; his face inspiresinstant confidence. He has large lustrous eyeswhich seem to corroborate and confirm every wordthat falls from his lips. These tattooed warriorsread him through and through, as they have trainedthemselves to do, and they feel that they can trust[Pg 10]him. In his hand he holds a roll of parchment. Forthis young man in the skyblue sash is William Penn.He is making his famous treaty with the Indians.It is one of the most remarkable instruments evercompleted. 'It is the only treaty,' Voltaire declares,'that was ever made without an oath, and the onlytreaty that never was broken.' By means of thistreaty with the Indians, William Penn is beginningto realize the greatest aspiration of his life. ForWilliam Penn has set his heart on being the Conquerorof the World!
Lent Day 16: “Thou shalt nots” in an age of Grace
'Stand true to God!' cried the dying Quaker,as he clasped the hand of his most notable convert.'Stand faithful for God! There is no other way!This is the way in which the holy men of old allwalked. Walk in it and thou shalt prosper! Livefor God and He will be with you! I can say nomore. The love of God overcomes my heart!'
'Suddenly,' he says, 'it occurred to my thoughtthat the Brazilians take no physic but tobacco forall their distempers, and I remembered that I had aroll of tobacco in one of the chests that I had savedfrom the wreck. I went, directed by heaven nodoubt; for in this chest I found a cure both for souland body. I opened the chest and found the tobaccothat I was looking for; and I also found a Bible[Pg 22]which, up to this time, I had found neither leisurenor inclination to look into. I took up the Bibleand began to read. Having opened the book casually,the first words that occurred to me were these:"Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliverthee, and thou shalt glorify Me." The wordswere very apt to my case. They made a great impressionupon me and I mused upon them veryoften. I left my lamp burning in the cave lest Ishould want anything in the night, and went to bed.But before I lay down I did what I never had donein all my life--I kneeled down and prayed. I askedGod to fulfil the promise to me that if I called uponHim in the day of trouble He would deliver me.'
'Now,' says Crusoe, 'I began to construe thewords that I had read--"Call upon Me in the dayof trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shaltglorify Me"--in a different sense from what I haddone before. For then I had no notion of any deliverance[Pg 23]but my deliverance from the captivityI was in. But now I learned to take it in anothersense. Now I looked back upon my past life withsuch horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful,that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverancefrom the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort.As for my lonely life, it was nothing. I didnot so much as pray for deliverance from my solitude;it was of no consideration in comparison withdeliverance from my sin.'
'Lying in my bed,' he says, 'filled with thoughtsof my danger from the appearance of savages, mymind was greatly discomposed. Then, suddenly,these words of Scripture came into my thoughts:[Pg 24]"Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliverthee, and thou shalt glorify Me." Upon this,rising cheerfully out of my bed, I was guided andencouraged to pray earnestly to God for deliverance.It is impossible to express the comfort this gave me.In answer, I thankfully laid down the Book and wasno more sad.'
Robinson Crusoe was written in 1719; exactly acentury later The Monastery was published. And,[Pg 25]significantly enough, the text which shines with suchluster in Daniel Defoe's masterpiece forms also thepivot of Sir Walter Scott's weird story. MaryAvenel comes to the climax of her sorrows. Sheseems to have lost everything and everybody. Herlife is desolate; her grief is inconsolable. Herfaithful attendant, Tibbie, exhausts herself in futileattempts to compose and comfort the mind of heryoung mistress. Father Eustace does his best toconsole her; but she feels that it is all words, words,words. All at once, however, she comes upon hermother's Bible--the Bible that had passed throughso many strange experiences and had been so wonderfullypreserved. Remembering that this littleBook was her mother's constant stay and solace--hercounselor in time of perplexity and her comfortin the hour of grief--Mary seized it, Sir Waltersays, with as much joy as her melancholy situationpermitted her to feel. Ignorant as she was of itscontents, she had nevertheless learned from infancyto hold the Volume in sacred veneration. On openingit, she found that, among the leaves, there weretexts neatly inscribed in her mother's handwriting.In Mary's present state of mind, these passages,reaching her at a time so critical and in a mannerso touching, strangely affected her. She read onone of these slips the consoling exhortation: 'Callupon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliverthee, and thou shalt glorify Me.' 'There are those,'Sir Walter says, 'to whom a sense of religion has[Pg 26]come in storm and tempest; there are those whomit has summoned amid scenes of revelry and idlevanity; there are those, too, who have heard itsstill small voice amid rural leisure and placid contentment.But perhaps the knowledge which causethnot to err is most frequently impressed uponthe mind during seasons of affliction; and tears arethe softened showers which cause the seed ofheaven to spring and take root in the human breast.At least, it was thus with Mary Avenel. She readthe words--"Call upon Me in the day of trouble,and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me"--andher heart acquiesced in the conclusion: Surelythis is the Word of God!'
'The joyful news that Halbert Glendinning--Mary'slover--still lived was quickly communicatedthrough the sorrowing family. His mother weptand thanked heaven alternately. On Mary Avenelthe impression was inconceivably deeper. She hadnewly learned to pray, and it seemed to her that herprayers had been instantly answered. She felt thatthe compassion of heaven, which she had learned toimplore in the very words of Scripture--"Call uponMe in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,and thou shalt glorify Me"--had descended uponher after a manner almost miraculous, and recalled[Pg 27]the dead from the grave at the sound of her lamentations.'
4. It was the Absence of Technicality. 'Call!'--thatis all. 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble,and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me!'Call!--as a little child calls for his mother. Call!--asa drowning man calls for help. Call!--as afrenzied woman calls wildly for succor. There aregreat emergencies in which we do not fastidiouslychoose our words. It is not the mind but the heartthat, at such moments, gives to the tongue its noblesteloquence. The prayer that moves Omnipotenceto pity, and summons all the hosts of heavento help, is not the prayer of nicely rounded periods--Faultilyfaultless, icily regular, splendidly null--but[Pg 29]the prayer of passionate entreaty. It is a call--acall such as a doctor receives at dead of night; acall such as the fireman receives when all the alarmsare clanging; a call such as the ships receive inmid-ocean, when, hurtling through the darkness andthe void, there comes the wireless message, 'S.O.S.''Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliverthee, and thou shalt glorify Me.' Had the textdemanded a tinge of technicality it would have beenuseless to Robinson Crusoe; it would have mockedthe simple soul of poor Mary Avenel. But a call!Robinson Crusoe can call! Mary Avenel can call!Anybody can call! Wherefore, 'call,' says the text,'just call, and He will deliver!'
And what was going on at the inner heart ofthings? Early that Sunday morning, the Princess--afterwardsQueen Alexandra--opened her Bibleand was greeted with these words: 'Call upon Mein the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, andthou shalt glorify Me.' A little later, just as theVicar of Sandringham, the Rev. W. L. Onslow,was preparing to enter his pulpit, he received anote from the Princess. 'My husband being, thankGod, somewhat better,' she wrote, 'I am coming tochurch. I must leave, I fear, before the service isconcluded, that I may watch by his bedside. Canyou not say a few words in prayer in the early partof the service, that I may join with you in prayerfor my husband before I return to him?' The congregationwas deeply affected when the Princessappeared, and the rector, with trembling voice, said:'The prayers of the congregation are earnestlysought for His Royal Highness, the Prince ofWales, who is now most seriously ill.' This was on[Pg 31]December the tenth. For the next few days thePrince hovered between life and death. The crisiscame on the fourteenth, which, ominously enough,was the anniversary of the death of the Prince Consort.But, whilst the superstitious shook theirheads, the Princess clung desperately and believinglyto the hope that the text had brought her. And thatday, in a way that was almost dramatic, the changecame. Sir William Gull, the royal physician, haddone all that the highest human skill could suggest;he felt that the issue was now in other hands thanhis. He was taking a short walk up and down theterrace, when one of the nurses came running tohim with pallid face and startled eyes. 'Oh, come,Sir William,' she said, 'there is a change; the Princeis worse!' And, as doctor and nurse hurried togetherto the sick room, she added bitterly, 'I donot believe God answers prayer! Here is all Englandpraying that he may recover, and he's going todie!' But Sir William Gull's first glance at theRoyal patient showed him that the change was forthe better. From that moment there was a surehope of the Prince's recovery, and, by ChristmasDay, he was out of danger. Later on, when herhusband's restoration was complete, the Princessraised a monument to the deliverance that she hadexperienced. She presented to the SandringhamChurch a brass lectern bearing this inscription:'To the glory of God; a thank offering for Hismercy; 14th December, 1871.--Alexandra. When[Pg 32]I was in trouble I called upon the Lord, and Heheard me.' 350c69d7ab