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Memories Of Bethany by John Ross Macduff

X. THE MASTER.

Martha can withhold no longer from her sister the joyful tidings which she has been the first to hear. With fleet foot she hastens back to the house with the announcement, |The Master is come, and calleth for thee.| Mary hears, but makes no comment. Wrapt in the silence of her own meditative grief, |when she heard that, she arose quickly and came unto Him.|

|To her all earth could render nothing back
Like that pale changeless brow. Calmly she stood
As marble statue.

In that maiden's breast
Sorrow and loneliness sank darkly down,
Though the blanch'd lips breathed out no boisterous plaint Of common grief.|

The formal sympathisers who gathered around her had observed her departure. They are led to form their conjectures as to the cause of this sudden break in her trance of anguish. She had up till that moment, with the instinctive aversion which mourners only know, and which we have formerly alluded to in the case of Martha, been shrinking from facing the gladsome light of heaven, caring not to look abroad on the blight of an altered world. But the few words her sister uttered, and which the other auditors manifestly had not comprehended, all at once rouse her from her seat of pensive sadness, and her shadow is seen hurrying by the darkened lattice. They can form but one surmise: that, in accordance with wont, she has betaken herself to the burial-ground to feed her morbid grief |She goeth unto the grave to weep there.| Ah! little did they know how much nobler was her motive -- how truer and grander the solace she sought and found.

There is little that is really profitable or hallowed in visiting the grave of loved ones. Though fond affection will, from some false feeling of the tribute due to the memory of the departed, seek to surmount sadder thoughts, and linger at the spot where treasured ashes repose, yet -- think and act as we may -- there is nothing cheering, nothing elevating there. The associations of the burial-place are all with the humiliating triumphs of the King of Terrors. It is a view of death taken from the earthly entrance of the valley, not the heavenly view of it as that valley opens on the bright plains of immortality. The gay flowers and emerald sod which carpet the grave are poor mockeries to the bereft spirit, shrouding, as they do, nobler withered blossoms which the foot of the destroyer has trampled into dust, and which no earthly beauty can again clothe, or earthly spring reanimate. They are to be pitied who have no higher solace, no better remedy for their grief, than thus to water with unavailing tears the trophies of death; or to read the harrowing record which love has traced on its slab of cold marble, telling of the vanity of human hopes.

Such, however, was not Mary's errand in leaving the chamber of bereavement. That drooping flower was not opening her leaves, only to be crushed afresh with new tear-floods of sorrow. She sought One who would disengage her soiled and shattered tendrils from the chill comforts of earth, and bathe them in the genial influences of Heaven. The music of her Master's name alone could put gladness into her heart -- tempt her to muffle other conflicting feelings and hasten to His feet. |The Master is come!| Nothing could have roused her from her profound grief but this. While her poor earthly comforters are imagining her prostrate at the sepulchre's mouth, giving vent to the wild delirium of her young grief, she is away, not to the victim of death, but to the Lord of Life, either to tell to Him the tale of her woe, or else to listen from His lips to words of comfort no other comforter had given. Is there not the same music in that name -- the same solace and joy in that presence still? Earthly sympathy is not to be despised; nay, when death has entered a household, taken the dearest and the best and laid them in the tomb, nothing is more soothing to the wounded, crushed, and broken one, than to experience the genial sympathy of true Christian friendship. Those, it may be, little known before (comparative strangers), touched with the story of a neighbour's sorrow, come to offer their tribute of condolence, and to |weep with those that weep.| Never is true friendship so tested as then. Hollow attachments, which have nothing but the world or a time of prosperity to bind them, discover their worthlessness. |Summer friends| stand aloof -- they have little patience for the sadness of sorrow's countenance and the funereal trappings of the death-chamber; while sympathy, based on lofty Christian principle, loves to minister as a subordinate healer of the broken-hearted, and to indulge in a hundred nameless ingenious offices of kindness and love.

But |thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.| The purest and noblest and most disinterested of earthly friends can only go a certain way. Their minds and sympathies are limited. They cannot enter into the deep recesses of the smitten heart -- the yawning crevices that bereavement has laid bare. But JESUS can! Ah! there are capacities and sensibilities in that Mighty Heart that can probe the deepest wound and gauge the profoundest sorrow. While from the best of earthly comforters the mind turns away unsatisfied; while the burial-ground and the grave only recall the deep humiliations of the body's wreck and ruin -- with what fond emotion does the spirit, like Mary, turn to Him who possesses the majesty of Deity with all the tenderness of humanity. The Mighty Lord, and yet the Elder Brother!

The sympathy of man is often selfish, formal, constrained, commonplace, coming more from the surface than from the depths of the heart. It is the finite sympathy of a finite creature. The Redeemer's sympathy is that of the perfect Man and the infinite God -- able to enter into all the peculiarities of the case -- all the tender features and shadings of sorrow which are hidden from the keenest and kindliest human eye.

Mary's procedure is a true type and picture of what the broken heart of the Christian feels. Not undervaluing human sympathy, yet, nevertheless, all the crowd of sympathising friends -- Jewish citizens, Bethany villagers -- are nothing to her when she hears her Lord has come!

Happy for us if, while the world, like the condoling crowd of Jews, is forming its own cold speculations on the amount of our grief and the bitterness of our loss, we are found hastening to cast ourselves at our Saviour's feet; if our afflictions prove to us like angel messengers from the inner sanctuary -- calling us from friends, home, comforts, blessings, all we most prize on earth -- telling us that ONE is nigh who will more than compensate for the loss of all -- |The Master is come, and calleth for thee!|

It is the very end and design our gracious God has in all His dealings, to lead us, as he led Mary, to the feet of Jesus.

Yes! thou poor weeping, disconsolate one, |The Master calleth for thee.| Thee individually, as if thou stoodest the alone sufferer in a vast world. He wishes to pour His oil and wine into thy wounded heart -- to give thee some overwhelming proof and pledge of the love he bears thee in this thy sore trial. He has come to pour drops of comfort in the bitter cup -- to ease thee of thy heavy burden, and to point thee to hopes full of immortality. Go and learn what a kind, and gentle, and gracious Master He is! Go forth, Mary, and meet thy Lord. |Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!|

We may imagine her hastening along the foot-road, with the spirit of the Psalmist's words on her tongue -- |As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God -- for the living God!|

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