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Is It Well With the Child? It is well: A Sermon Preached in North Bute Parish Church, on September 27th, 1896

Author(s): Dewar, Reverend Peter

Text

Is it well with the child? It is well."
SERMON
PREACHED IN NORTH BUTE PARISH CHURCH
ON SEPTEMBER 27th, 1896
BY
REV. PETER DEWAR, M.A.
MINISTER OF NORTH BUTE
GLASGOW
Printed at the University Press by
ROBERT MACLEHOSE & CO., 153 WEST NILE ST.
1896
In Memoriam
" Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband ? is
it well with the child ? And she answered, It is well."
2 Kings iv. 26.
ONE of the most beautiful incidents
in the gracious, beneficent career
of the prophet Elisha is the story of his
relations with the Lady of Shunem, a
story which gives us a charming glimpse
into the domestic life of Israel, with its
anxieties, sorrows, and sweetness. It is
a story that speaks not to the hearts of
Hebrews only, but to the heart of universal
man ; for it brings vividly before
us the universality and identity of human
affection and human suffering. Elijah
had been the prophet of wrath and judgment.
Elisha came with a gentler mission.
He was not secluded in mountain fastnesses,
but dwelt in his own house in
the Royal City, and his deeds were not
of wild terror, but of " gracious, soothing,
homely beneficence, bound up with the
tenor of human life." Like Samuel, he
seems to have made circuits over the
whole country, rousing and instructing the
people at large. So continually did he
pass by Shunem, the present village of
Salem, that a rich lady there prepared
a special chamber for his accommodation
at successive visits. This woman had a
kind heart, whose sympathies centred at
home, but reached out to all who needed
her care ; and this heart, which royally
ruled her whole being, had servants in
eyes that were quick to see, and hands
that were swift to bless. She saw and
noted the prophet's worn face, and appreciated
the chance that came to her of
offering him refreshment. For his rich
and childless hostess at Shunem Elisha
obtains the gift of a son, the honour
most highly prized by Hebrew women.
How proud she must have been of her
only boy, who would one day inherit
his father's great wealth and perpetuate
his name ! What a pleasure she must
have taken in moulding his mind, in
forming his character, in bringing him
up in the nurture and admonition of
the Lord, in teaching him to believe
that there was an all-loving, all-good,
all-mighty Friend, who was seeking, by
a thousand gentle touches, to fold him
in His arms, and carry him in His
bosom, and make him the child of truth,
the soul of honour, the heir of glory !
No age is provided with a prophylactic
against death and disease ; and so a life
of untroubled serenity and of unclouded
sunshine is on this earth impossible.
The home of the Shunammite, which had
been the sanctuary of domestic felicity
and of sunny serenity, is suddenly transformed
into an abode of sorrow and woe.
It is harvest-time—a season everywhere
associated with the sunshine of joy
and gladsomeness. In the blue and
cloudless oriental heaven there shone
the morning sun, and the child is sent
out to play in the harvest field. The
fond mother watches him depart, thinks
of the pleasant day he would spend
among the reapers, and how he would
minister to the general gladsomeness,
and looks forward with pleasure to the
delightful evening that would be spent
in the home circle, when the reapers
returned with rejoicing, bringing their
sheaves with them.
But glad anticipation is swiftly changed
into crushing solicitude ; for, in the harvest
field, the child suddenly cries to his
father, " My head, my head," and is
carried, prostrate and moaning, to his
mother. She nurses him most tenderly
and assiduously. He sits on her knees
until noon, and then death mercifully
intervenes and terminates his excruciating
sufferings. The beauteous bud was
cut down and withered before it had
blossomed into flower, or before the
flower had ripened its promise of fruit.
The beautiful boy, whom God had given
her, as Isaac was given, to light up her
life with joy and hope, was gone. The
hope that lent to life its richest value
was cruelly frustrated. The cup of the
purest joy that she had ever tasted was
suddenly dashed, when she had but tasted
it, dashed seemingly for ever from her
lips. How did she bear her terrible
loss ? Did she allow her life to be
hopelessly darkened by this awful bereavement
? Was she resentful against
God for raising infinite hopes seemingly
only to overwhelm them with misery and
anguish ? Did she abandon herself to
despondency and despair? No. She exhibited
marvellous self-control, rare force
of character, beautiful piety.
She carried her dead boy to the
prophet's room. And there she must
have seen in spirit, standing by the bier
of her darling, the angels of faith and
hope and love — a vision which rolled away
the stone from the door of her heart and
pointed her thoughts heavenwards. The
anguish of her thoughts was still as she
recalled the long succession of centuries
through which God had been faithful to
her fathers; as she mused over the immortal
words of ancient saints and psalmists
which told " how God's compassions
fail not " : how "the thoughts He thinks
towards us are thoughts of peace and
not of evil, to give us a future and a
hope" : how " His mercy endureth for
ever" : how "with Him is the fountain
of life, and in His light we shall see
light " : how " weeping may endure for
a night but joy cometh in the morn."
Accordingly, when Elisha despatched a
messenger to inquire, " Is it well with
thee ? is it well with thy husband ? is
it well with the child ?" she nobly
answered, " It is well."
Could it be well with her, when the
light had been quenched in her home ?
Could it be well with her husband, when
he had now no heir to his property,
no son to come after him ? Could it be
well with the child, when he lay cold
and stiff in death ? Yes ; for " as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are
God's ways higher than our ways, and
God's thoughts than our thoughts." It
was well with the life which seemed to
go away; for, through ways unknown to
her, the God of tenderness and love would
lead her child into higher realms of life,
and bring him nearer and nearer to
Himself.
A gifted woman of our own day, who
drifted from Christianity into atheism,
but who, a few years ago, emerged out
of atheism, by way of spiritualism, into
that strange, shadowy dreamland called
the realm of Theosophy, has left on
record an account of what moved her
to abandon faith in God. Her child
became ill, and for weeks hovered between
life and death, but at last happily
recovered. But the mother did not,
strange to say, adoringly fall on her
knees and praise the Author of every
good and perfect gift for His unspeakable
goodness. " There had grown up
in my mind," she says, " a feeling of
angry resentment against God, who had
been for weeks, as I thought, torturing
my helpless baby. For some time a
stubborn antagonism to the Providence
who ordains the sufferings of life had
steadily been increasing in me, and this
sullen challenge, 'Is God good ? ' found
voice in my heart during these silent
days and nights. My mother's sufferings
and much personal unhappiness had been
intensifying the feeling ; and, as I watched
my baby in its agony, and felt so helpless
to relieve, more than once the indignant
cry broke from my lips, ' How canst Thou
torture a baby so ? What has she done
that she should suffer so ? Why dost
Thou not kill her at once, and let her
be at peace ?' More than once I cried,
0 God, take the child, but do not
torment her 1' All my personal belief in
God, all my intense faith in His constant
direction of affairs, all my habit of continual
prayer and of realization of His
presence were against this person in whom
I believed, and whose individual finger I
saw in my baby's agony."
How infinitely more grand — how infinitely
more noble is the temper of the
soul of the Shunammite than that of the
English woman ! The one lived in an
age in which the idea of immortal life
was indeed descried and apprehended,
but it was but dimly descried and imperfectly
apprehended, like some object
indistinctly seen in the morning twilight
The other lived in an age which has
been gloriously illuminated and ennobled
by the new light shed on human life
and destiny by Jesus Christ, who has
revealed to us an existence beyond
death, which is not severed at all from
anything that is pure and holy and
beautiful in this present life : who has
told us of an eternal manhood, of which
this is the infancy: of an eternal harvest,
of which this is the seed-time : of a
family, embracing all the good and holy
and pure who have ever lived or whom
we have ever known. The one woman,
under the strain of affliction, instinctively
felt that God was all-good, all-loving, all-merciful
; that behind the blackest cloud
of her sorrow there shone the light of
infinite, eternal, and unchangeable love,
and when asked " Is it well with thee ? is
it well with thy husband ? is it well with
the child ?" answered " it is well." The
other woman, under the stress of trouble,
surrendered herself to despondency and
despair, blasphemously threw it in God's
face that He had tortured her child, and,
in a spirit of intellectual arrogance, virtually
cried out, " Henceforth I cease to
believe in God and in Christ ; let me
now break their bands asunder, and cast
their cords from me."
The choice between faith and infidelity
is a choice that we are sooner or
later called to make. God help us to
make the nobler choice. God help us to
choose the better part ; to hold fast to
faith, and master the reasons for despondency
and despair. If in this life
only we had hope in Christ we would
indeed be of all men most miserable.
If an appalling gloom enshrouded the
tomb, if there were nothing beyond
death, life would crush us by its
mockery and grotesqueness, as well as
by its intolerable burdens and mysteries.
That our whole life is not darkened by
the projected gloom of the future is due
entirely to the religion of Christ, who
has destroyed death, and brought life
and immortality to light. Death, whose
power has been broken, whose sting has
been extracted, is no longer, as heathenism
said, " the King of terrors," but an
Angel from heaven whom our Father
sends to unbar our prison door, to usher
us into the glorious liberty of the
children of God, to reunite us, in glory
and joy, to the loved ones who have
gone before.
"There is a reaper whose name is death,
And with his sickle keen
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.
" Shall I have nought that is fair ?' saith he :
' Have nought but the bearded grain ?
Though the breath of these flowers is sweet to me,
I will give them all back again.'
" He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes :
He kissed their drooping leaves.
It was for the Lord of Paradise
He bound them in his sheaves.
" My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,'
The reaper said and smiled,
" Dear tokens of the earth are they,
Where He was once a child.
" ' They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care ;
And saints, upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear.'
"And the mother gave in tears and pain
The flowers she most did love,
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.
"Oh ! not in cruelty, not in wrath,
The reaper came that day.
'Twas an Angel visited the green earth
And took the flowers away."
Did not Christ utter words of supreme
hope and consolation when He said ? -
" Not a sparrow falleth to the ground
without your Father. But the very hairs
of your head are all numbered. Fear ye
not therefore, ye are of more value than
many sparrows." " Let not your hearts
be troubled : ye believe in God, believe
also in Me. In My Father's house are
many mansions : if it were not so, I
would have told you. I go to prepare
a place for you. And if I go and prepare
a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto Myself ; that where
I am, there ye may be also." " I am the
resurrection, and the life : he that believeth
in Me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live : and whosoever liveth and
believeth in Me shall never die." "Father
I will that they also whom Thou hast
given Me be with Me where I am, that
they may behold My glory which Thou
hast given me."
The splendour of our Father's house
on high can be painted by no artist or
described by no poet ; for, as yet, " we
see through a glass darkly" ; we walk
by faith not by sight. Earth has no
measure ; imagination no conception ;
arithmetic no calculus. " Eye hath not
seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered
into the heart of man to consider what
things God has prepared for them that
love him." But this much we may
believe, that the Father's house is immeasurably
large, indescribably beautiful,
seeing that it is the dwelling-place of
the Most High, the temple of the all-mighty,
all-wise, all-good Architect of
the universe. If, in the different domains
of terrestrial nature, we have such marvellous
displays of God's omnipotence,
wisdom, and goodness, such gracious
illustrations of His delight in beauty,
what treasure-houses of His wisdom, what
regal chambers of His majesty, what peaceful
abodes of His grace, what luminous
plains of His glory, what wondrous ways
of His love must burst in full orbed
splendour on the enraptured vision of His
children in the home on high ! Is it
not a source of infinite solace for us to
know that those who have fallen asleep
in Jesus live where He lives : that His
home is their home : that they share its
peace as well as its splendour, its eternal
glory and happiness as well as its dignity
and activities ? Is it not a source of
infinite joy for us to believe that Jesus
is preparing a place for each of us in
that heavenly home : a place fitted to
our distinct character : a separate work
fitted to develop that character to perfection
: and that the dearest dreams of
home-life shall find their happy fulfilment
in a perfect society "where youth never
grows old and life never dies : where
beauty never pales and love never cools:
where health never languishes : where
joy never wanes : where no sigh is heard,
and no tear is seen."
When we think on the splendour of the
Father's house that awaits us, can we be
Christians if our hearts are not filled with
an inconquerable hope, an unutterable
thankfulness ? Ought we not to long to
be clothed upon with the white raiment of
a spiritual and imperishable life and to
have the frail tenement of our mortality
replaced by " the building of God, the
house not made with hands, eternal in
the heavens " ? Ought we not to long
for possession of the swift dove-wings
that would carry us far away beyond
reach of the sin and misery, the toil and
unrest of earth, into that fair land of
unbroken rest, perpetual peace, and unfading
joy ? Ought we not to long to
escape from this loveless and impure and
hostile world into that blessed communion
of holy and good and pure spirits, where
"with the morn those angel faces smile
which we have loved long since and lost
awhile" ? Can we mourn for those dearer
to us than life itself when they pass
out of this troubled world into the peace
and blessedness of the Father's house
and "are crowned with eternal gladness" ?
"Those whom the gods love die young"
was a saying of the ancients, and has
it not a beautiful meaning to those
familiar with the tender and loving
associations with which Jesus Christ has
surrounded our heavenly home. Unstained
by sin, unworn by toil, unscarred
with wounds, unwrung with remorse, they
have " passed from the sea to the shore,
from exile to their country, from prison
to the palace," and now they live before
their Father's face in the strength and
beauty of immortal youth.
There are present with us this afternoon
dear friends, whose hearts ache with
the terrible blow which so recently and
so suddenly laid low to human eyes a
young life which was opening with
splendid promise under the hand of their
cherishing care and love. A voice, which
made sweet music in their home, is
silent ; a form, which was as an angel's
presence there, has vanished ; a fair
young girl — whose heart was so loving
and devout, whose intelligence was so
bright and cultivated, whose feelings were
so pure and refined, whose susceptibilities
for " whatsoever things are true and
honest and just and pure and lovely
and of good report " were so quick and
tender that she endeared herself to all
with whom she was brought into contact —
has passed away into the brightness which
is beyond ; and never, till death, will they
forget " the touch of that vanished hand
and the sound of that voice which is
still."
As there rises up before my mind's
eye that gracious, radiant, youthful form,
who so often, in bygone years, worshipped
God with us in this place in the
beauty of holiness, and who now peacefully
reposes in our romantically-situated
churchyard, surrounded with the flowers
she loved so well, I cannot help recalling
the beautiful lines in which
Wordsworth sings of a heaven that lies
about infancy, of an earth apparelled in
celestial light that lies around the child :
" Our birth is but a sleeping and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us — our life's sta r—.
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar :
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home :
Heaven lies about us in our infancy."
What a comfort it must be for parents,
when their hearts are bleeding with sorrow
and love, to repose faith in the beautiful
words of the Lord Jesus, which tell us
of a Father's house on high : that it is
not the will of our Father in heaven that
one of these little ones should perish :
that in heaven their angels do always
behold the face of His Father which is
in heaven : that of such is the kingdom
of heaven. May these words breathe
comfort into the troubled hearts of the
sorrowing family present with us this
afternoon, and dwell richly in them in
all wisdom. May they believe that it
is well with the dear child, the sweet
blossom of their earthly hopes, whose
beloved form is now clothed with angelic
beauty, and whom they shall see again
blooming in a happier land. To her,
death indeed has been the beginning of
a life of honour and glory and immortality
; and, " when the day breaks and
the shadows flee away," she will clasp
them in an embrace of immortal tenderness
when their footsteps press the blessed
shore.
" One less at home : the charmed circle broken,
A clear face missed day by day from its accustomed
place,
Cleansed and saved and perfected by grace.
" One more in heaven : one less at home :
One voice of welcome hushed for evermore :
One farewell word, unspoken on the shore
Where parting comes not — one soul landed more.
" One more in heaven : one less on earth ;
Its pains, its sorrows, and its toils to share :
One less the pilgrim's daily cross to bear,
One more the crown of ransomed saints to wear.
" One more in heaven : one more at home,
That home where separation cannot be,
That home where none are missed eternally."
" Now our Lord Jesus Christ and God,
even our Father, who hath loved us and
given us everlasting consolation and good
hope through grace, comfort your hearts
and stablish you in every good word and
work."
" Unto Him that loved us and washed
us from our sins in His own blood, and
made us kings and priests unto God
and His Father — to Him be glory and
dominion for ever and ever. AMEN."
LEAD, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on ;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on :
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene ; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on :
I loved to choose and see my path ; but now
Lead Thou me on !
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will : remember not past years.
So long Thy power has blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel-faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
BRIEF life is here our portion ;
Brief sorrow, short-lived care ;
The life that knows no ending,
The tearless life is there.
O happy retribution !
Short toil, eternal rest ;
For mortals and for sinners
A mansion with the blest !
There grief is turned to pleasure,
Such pleasure, as below
No human voice can utter,
No human heart can know.
And now we fight the battle,
But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
And passionless renown.
And now we watch and struggle,
And now we live in hope,
And Sion in her anguish,
With Babylon must cope.
But He whom now we trust in
Shall then be seen and known,
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.
The morning shall awaken,
The shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day :
Yes ; God, our King and Portion,
In fulness of His grace,
We then shall see for ever,
And worship face to face.
O sweet and blessed country,
The home of God's elect !
O sweet and blessed country,
That eager hearts expect !
Jesus, in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest ;
Who art, with God the Father,
And Spirit, ever blest.
ART thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distrest ?
"Come to Me," saith One, "and coming,
Be at rest."
Hath He marks to lead me to Him,
If He be my guide?
" In His feet and hands are wound-prints,
And His side."
Is there diadem, as monarch,
That His brow adorns?
"Yea, a crown, in very surety
But of thorns !"
If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?
" Many a sorrow, many a labour,
Many a tear."
If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
"Sorrow vanquished, labour ended,
Jordan past !"
If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
"Not till earth, and not till heaven
Pass away !"
Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless ?
"Angels, martyrs, saints, and prophets,
Answer, Yes !"
SAFELY, safely gathered in,
No more sorrow, no more sin,
No more childish griefs or fears,
No more sadness, no more tears ;
For the life, so young and fair,
Now hath passed from earthly care,
God Himself the soul will keep,
Giving His beloved — sleep.
Safely, safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
Passed beyond all grief and pain,
Death, for thee, is truest gain ;
For our loss we must not weep,
Nor our loved one long to keep
From the home of rest and peace,
Where all sin and sorrow cease.
Safely, safely gathered in,
No more sorrow, no more sin ;
God has saved from weary strife,
In its dawn, this young fresh life
Which awaits us now above,
Resting in the Saviour's love.
Jesus, grant that we may meet
There, adoring at Thy feet.
GLASGOW: PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO.
1

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Is It Well With the Child? It is well: A Sermon Preached in North Bute Parish Church, on September 27th, 1896. 2021. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved December 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=688.

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"Is It Well With the Child? It is well: A Sermon Preached in North Bute Parish Church, on September 27th, 1896." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2021. Web. December 2021. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=688.

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Is It Well With the Child? It is well: A Sermon Preached in North Bute Parish Church, on September 27th, 1896

Document Information

Document ID 688
Title Is It Well With the Child? It is well: A Sermon Preached in North Bute Parish Church, on September 27th, 1896
Year group 1850-1900
Genre Religious prose
Year of publication 1896
Publisher Glasgow University Press
Place of publication Glasgow
Wordcount 4143

Author information: Dewar, Reverend Peter

Author ID 474
Title Reverend
Forenames Peter
Surname Dewar
Gender Male
Occupation Minister
Education University
Locations where resident Bute