|Let us for a moment imagine what would have
happened on the Galilean hillside, when our Lord
fed the five thousand, if the Apostles had acted
as some act now. The twelve would be going
backwards, helping the first rank over and over
again, and leaving the back rows unsupplied. Let
us suppose one of them, say Andrew, venturing to
say to his brother Simon Peter, 'Ought we all to
be feeding the front row? Ought we not to divide,
and some of us go to the back rows?' Then suppose
Peter replying, 'Oh no; don't you see these front
people are so hungry? They have not had half
enough yet; besides, they are nearest to us, so we
are more responsible for them.' Then, if Andrew
resumes his appeal, suppose Peter going on to say,
'Very well; you are quite right. You go and feed
all those back rows; but I can't spare anyone
else. I and the other ten of us have more than we
can do here.'
|Once more, suppose Andrew persuades Philip to go
with him; then, perhaps, Matthew will cry out and
say, 'Why, they're all going to those farther
rows! Is no one to be left to these needy people
|Let me ask the members of Congress, Do you
recognise these sentences at all?|
Eugene Stock, at Shrewsbury Church Congress.
IT was only a common thing. A girl, very ill, and in terrible pain, who turned to us for help. We could do nothing for her. Her people resorted to heathen rites. They prepared her to meet the fierce god they thought was waiting to snatch her away.
We went again and again, but she suffered so that one could not say much, it did not seem any use. The last time we went, the crisis had passed; she would live, they told us with joy. They were eager to listen to us now. |Tell us all about your Way!| clamoured the women, speaking together, and very loud. |Tell us the news from beginning to end!| But, alas! they could take in very little. One whole new Truth was too much for them. |Never mind,| they consoled us, |come every day, and then what you say will take hold of our hearts.| And I had to tell them we were leaving that evening, and could not come |every day.|
[Illustration: Is not the contrast good? The old woman so intelligent, the baby so inane. She made a picture sitting there, in her crimson edged seeley, with her dark old face showing up against the darker wall. She is one of the many we have missed by coming so slowly and so late. |How can I change now?| she says.]
The girl turned her patient face towards us. She had smiled at the Name of Jesus, and it seemed as if down in the depths of her weakness she had listened when we spoke before, and tried to understand. Now she looked puzzled and troubled, and the women all asked, |Why?|
There, in that crowded, hot little room, a sense of the unequal distribution of the Bread of Life came over us. The front rows of the Five Thousand are getting the loaves and the fishes over and over again, till it seems as though they have to be bribed and besought to accept them, while the back rows are almost forgotten. Is it that we are so busy with the front rows, which we can see, that we have no time for the back rows out of sight? But is it fair? Is it what Jesus our Master intended? Can it be really called fair?
The women looked very reproachful. Then one of them said, looking up at me, |You say this is very important. If it is so very important, why did you not come before? You say you will come back again if you can, but how can we be sure that nothing will happen to stop you? We are, some of us, very old; we may die before you come back. This going away is not good.| And again and again she repeated, |If it is so very important, why did you not come before?|
Don't think that the question meant more than it did. It was only a human expression of wonder; it was not a real desire after God. But the force of the question was stronger far than the poor old questioner knew; it appealed to our very hearts.
The people saw we were greatly moved, and they pressed closer round us to comfort us, and one dear old grandmother put her arms round me, and stroked my face with her wrinkled old hand, and said, |Don't be troubled; we will worship your God. We will worship Him just as we worship our own. Now, will you go away glad?|
The dear old woman was really in earnest, she wanted so much to comfort us. But her voice seemed to mingle with voices from the homeland; and another -- we heard another -- the Voice I had heard on the precipice-edge -- the voice of our brothers', our sisters' blood calling unto God from the ground.
Friends, are these women real to you? Look at this photo of one of them. Surely it was not just a happy chance which brought out the detail so perfectly. Look at the thoughtful, fine old face. Can you look at it and say, |Yes, I am on my way to the Light, and you are on your way to the Dark. At least, this is what I profess to believe. And I am sorry for you, but this is all I can do for you; I can be very sorry for you. I know that this will not show you the way from the Dark, where you are, to the Light, where I am. To show you the way I must go to you, or, perhaps, send you one whom I want for myself, or do without something I wish to have; and this, of course, is impossible. It might be done if I loved God enough -- but I love myself better than God or you.|
[Illustration: A Brahman widow, the only Brahman woman who would let us take her photo. Brahman women wear their seeleys fastened in a peculiar way, and never cut their ears. Brahman widows are always shaven, and wear no jewels. This one is a muscular character, strong and resolute, an ordinary looking woman, but there must be an under-the-surface life which does not show. A widow's fate is described in one word here, |accursed.|]
You would not say such a thing, I know, but |Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?|