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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Spiritual Love
By Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)
 
From ‘The Minister’s Wooing’

WHAT Mary loved so passionately, that which came between her and God in every prayer, was not the gay young dashing sailor,—sudden in anger, imprudent of speech, and though generous in heart, yet worldly in plans and schemings,—but her own ideal of a grand and noble man; such a man as she thought he might become. He stood glorified before her: an image of the strength that overcomes things physical, of the power of command which controls men and circumstances, of the courage which disdains fear, of the honor which cannot lie, of constancy which knows no shadow of turning, of tenderness which protects the weak, and lastly, of religious loyalty which should lay the golden crown of its perfected manhood at the feet of a Sovereign Lord and Redeemer. This was the man she loved, and with this regal mantle of glories she invested the person called James Marvyn; and all that she saw and felt to be wanting she prayed for with the faith of a believing woman.  1
  Nor was she wrong; for as to every leaf and every flower there is an ideal to which the growth of the plant is constantly urging, so is there an ideal to every human being,—a perfect form in which it might appear, were every defect removed and every characteristic excellence stimulated to the highest point. Once in an age, God sends to some of us a friend who loves in us not a false imagining, an unreal character, but looking through all the rubbish of our imperfections, loves in us the divine ideal of our nature,—loves, not the man that we are, but the angel that we may be. Such friends seem inspired by a divine gift of prophecy,—like the mother of St. Augustine, who, in the midst of the wayward, reckless youth of her son, beheld him in a vision, standing, clothed in white, a ministering priest at the right hand of God; as he has stood for long ages since. Could the mysterious foresight unveil to us this resurrection form of the friends with whom we daily walk, compassed about with mortal infirmity, we should follow them with faith and reverence through all the disguises of human faults and weaknesses, “waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.”  2
 
 
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