Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
Parting of Friends
By John Henry Newman (18011890)
From Sermons on Subjects of the Day
WHAT are all these instances but memorials and tokens of the Son of Man, when His work and His labour were coming to an end? Like Jacob, like Ishmael, like Elisha, like the Evangelist whose day is just passed, He kept feast before His departure; and, like David, He was persecuted by the rulers in Israel; and, like Naomi, He was deserted by His friends; and, like Ishmael, He cried out, I thirst in a barren and dry land; and at length, like Jacob, He went to sleep with a stone for His pillow in the evening. And, like St. Paul, He had finished the work which God gave Him to do, and had witnessed a good confession; and, beyond St. Paul, the Prince of this World had come, and had nothing in Him. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. Heavily did He leave, tenderly did He mourn over the country and city which rejected Him. When He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. And again, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
A lesson surely, and a warning to us all, in every place where He puts His name, to the end of time; lest we be cold towards His gifts, or unbelieving towards His words, or jealous of His workings, or heartless towards His mercies . O mother of saints! O school of the wise! O nurse of the heroic! of whom went forth, in whom have dwelt, memorable names of old, to spread the truth abroad, or to cherish and illustrate it at home! O thou from whom surrounding nations lit their lamps! O virgin of Israel! wherefore dost thou now sit on the ground and keep silence, like one of the foolish women who were without oil on the coming of the Bridegroom? Where is now the ruler in Sion, and the doctor in the Temple, and the ascetic on Carmel, and the herald in the wilderness, and the preacher in the marketplace? where are thy effectual fervent prayers, offered in secret, and thy alms and good works coming up as a memorial before God? How is it, O once holy place, that the land mourneth, for the corn is wasted, the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth, because joy is withered away from the sons of men? Alas for the day! how do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture, yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down; Sharon is like a wilderness, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. O my mother, whence is this unto thee, that thou hast good things poured upon thee and canst not keep them, and bearest children, yet darest not own them? Why hast thou not the skill to use their services, nor the heart to rejoice in their love? how is it that whatever is generous in purpose, and tender or deep in devotion, thy flower and thy promise, falls from thy bosom and finds no home within thine arms? Who hath put this note upon thee, to have a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts, to be strange to thine own flesh, and thine eye cruel to thy little ones? Thine own offspring, the fruit of thy womb, who love thee and would toil for thee, thou dost gaze upon with fear, as though a portent, or thou dost loathe as an offence;at best thou dost but endure, as if they had no claim but on thy patience, self-possession, and vigilance, to be rid of them as easily as thou mayest. Thou makest them stand all the day idle, as the very condition of thy bearing with them; or thou biddest them be gone where they will be more welcome; or thou sellest them for nought to the stranger that passes by. And what wilt thou do in the end thereof .