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Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 2 - The Wooing Lover - part 2

By S.D. Gordon

      The Forgotten Preacher.

      With a simplicity in sticking to his main point, John goes quietly on: "that he might be a witness of the light." That's rather interesting. It was of the light he was to bear witness; not of himself. It was not the technical accuracy of his work, not its scholarliness and skill that absorbed him, but that the crowd got the light. Rather striking that, when you break away from the atmosphere round about, and think into it a bit.

      Here's a man walking down a country road. It's a hot day. The road's dusty. He gets a bit weary and thirsty. He comes across a bit of a spring by the side of the road. Clear cool water it is. And some one has thoughtfully left a tin-cup on a ledge of rock near by. And the man gratefully drinks and goes on his way refreshed. He quite forgets the tin-cup.

      Sometimes the tin-cup seems to require much attention, up in the corner of the world where my tent is pitched. It has to be handled very carefully and considerately if one is to get what possible drops of water it may contain. The human tin-cup seems to bulk very big in the drinking process, sometimes, in my corner of the planet. It is silver-plated sometimes; just common tin under the plating. There's some fine engraving on the silver-plating, noble sentiment, deftly expressed, and done in the engraver's best style. But the water is apt to be scanty, the drops rather few, in this sort of tin-cup. It's a bit droughty.

      And sometimes even this has been known to occur: they have associations of these human tin-cups for self-admiration and other cultural purposes. And they have highly satisfactory meetings. But meanwhile, ah! look! hold still your heart, and look here. There's the crowd on the street, hot dusty street, exhausted, actually fainting for want of water, just good plain water of life. But there's none to be had; only tin-cups! John was eager to have men get a good drink. He was content as he watched them drink, and their eyes lighten. He was discontent and restless with anything else or less.

      Do you remember the greatest compliment ever paid John, John the Herald? John was a great preacher. He had great drawing power. To-day we commonly go where people are hoping they'll stay while we talk to them. But John did otherwise. He went down to the Jordan bottoms, where the spirit ventilation was better, and called the people to him. And they came. They came from all over the nation, of every class. Literally thousands gathered to hear John. He had great drawing power.

      And then something happened. Here is John to-day talking earnestly to great crowds down by the river-road. And here he is again to-morrow; but where are the crowds? John has lost his crowd. Same pulpit out in the open air, same preacher, same simple intense message burning in his heart, but--no congregation! The crowd's gone. Poor John! You must feel pretty bad. It's hard enough to fail, but how much harder after succeeding. Poor John, I'm so sorry for you.

      But if you get close enough to John to see into his eye you quit talking like that. And if you get near enough to hear you find your sympathy is not needed. For John's eye is ablaze with a tender light, and the sound of an inner heart music reaches your ear as you get near him. And if you follow, as you instinctively do, the line of the light in his eye you quickly look down the road.

      Oh! There's John's crowd. They're listening to Jesus.John's crowd has left him for his Master. And the forgotten preacher is the finest evidence of the faithfulness of the preacher. The crowd's getting the water, sweet cool refreshing water of life, direct from the fountain. They've clean forgotten the faithful common tin-cup. And John's so glad. John came that he might bear witness of the light. And he did. And the crowd heard. And they flocked to the light.

      Here's a man preaching. And the people are listening. The benediction is pronounced. And they go out. And as they move slowly out they're talking, always talking. We don't seem yet to have demitted our privilege of talking after service. Here are two. Listen to them. "Isn't he a great preacher? so scholarly, so eloquent, so polished; and all those classical allusions. I didn't understand half he said; he certainly is a great preacher. We're very fortunate in such a man."

      And the preacher, whoever he be, may know this for a bit of the certainty that occasionally will sift in. He may be a scholar. I wouldn't question it. And a polished orator. I wouldn't question that. But in the main thing, the one thing he's for, as a Jesus-witness, he is a splendid scholarly polished failure. Men are talking about him.

      They've forgotten his Master, if indeed--ah, yes, if indeed he have a Master! He has a Saviour, let us earnestly hope, and willingly believe. But a Master! One that sweeps and sways his mind and culture and life like the strong wind sweeps the thin young saplings in the storm--clearly he knows nothing of that. Men are talking of him.

      And here's another talking a bit It may be just a simple homely talk. Or he may likewise be scholarly and eloquent. A man should bring his best. The old classic is beaten oil for the lamps of the sanctuary. But there's the soft burning fire of the real thing in his message. And the people feel it. The air seems a-thrill with its quiet tensity. And the last amen is said. And again they go out.

      And here are two walking down the road together, and as they come to the cross-street, one says to his companion, "Excuse me, please, I have to go down this way." And the "have-to" is the have-to of an intense desire to get off alone. And as he goes down the side street he's talking, but--to himself. Listen to him: "I'm not the man I ought to be, I wonder if Jesus is really like he said. I wonder if the thing's really so. I believe--yes, I really think I'll risk it. My life isn't like it should be. I'll risk trying this Jesus-way. I'll do it."

      The man's clean forgotten the speaker. Oh, yes, he remembers the tone of the voice, and the look of the face, but indistinctly, far away. He's face-to-face with Jesus! And the forgotten speaker is the finest evidence of the faithfulness of his speaking. He is holding up the light. And men run into the light. They've clean forgot the little tin candlestick, they are so taken up with the light it holds.

      The One Thing to Aim At.

      And John keeps driving in on the point in his mind: "that all might believe through Him"; that they might listen, stop to think, agree as to the thing being believable, then trust it; then trust Him, the Light, risk something, risk, themselves to Him, then love, love with a passionate devotion. This was John's objective. It was the bull's-eye of his target never out of his keen Spirit-opened eye. Nothing else figured in.

      This is the thing in all our living and serving and doing and giving, that men may know Jesus to the trusting, risking, loving point, the glad point. Everything that we can bring of gold and learning and labour and skill is precious, it is as purest gold, if it lead men into heart-touch with Jesus. And it clean misses the mark if it does less.

      Who would be content to give a Belgian or Polish starveling a bare bit of bread, and a lonely stick of wood, and a rag of cloth. Bite and stick and cloth are good, but it's a meal and a fire, and some clothing, the man wants. And you have both ready at hand. Things are good, provided by money and skill and research and painstaking efforts. They do good. But it's Jesus men need. It's the warm touch that lets Him fully in with all of His human sympathy and all of His God-power, that's what they need.

      Given the sun and quickly come warmth and food and shelter, health and vigour and increase of life. Given Jesus, and the warm touch with Him, in His simple fullness, just as He is, and surely and not slowly, there come flooding in all the rest of an abundant life, physical and mental and of the spirit.

      John "was not the light." He was only the candlestick. And he was content to be that. He was a good candlestick. The light was held up. It could shine out. How grateful the crowd was. The road had been so dark. It is a bad thing when light and candlestick change places. The crowd seems to get the two confused sometimes. We get to thinking that the candlestick is the light, and the light is--lost sight of. We gather about the candlestick. It'll surely lead the way out through the dark night into day. It's such a good candlestick, so highly polished. And sometimes the human candlestick itself gets things a bit mixed. It thinks, then it feels, then it knows, with a peculiar quality of self-assertive certainty, that after all it is the light that lighteth every one that is so blessed as to come within the radius of its shining. And brass does take a high polish, and makes an attractive appearance. It does send out a sparkle and radiance if only it is somewhere within range of some real light, patient enough to keep on shining in the dark, regardless of non-appreciation or misrepresentation or misunderstanding.

      Is it any wonder the road is so full of people wandering in the night gathered about candlesticks? Is it surprising that the ditches are so full of men and candlesticks mixed up and mired up together? Yet it is always heart-breaking. There may be talent and training of the highest and best, and scholarship and culture, eloquence and skill, institutions and philanthropies. And there is so much of these. And these are good in themselves, and of priceless practical worth when seen and held in their right relation to the thing.

      But it needs to be said often and earnestly: these are not the light. They are given to point men better to the Light. They're road-signs, index-fingers. And they are seen at their best when they point to the Light so clearly that the crowd quite forgets them in hastening to the Light they point out. They serve their true purpose in being so forgotten. They are still serving and serving best even while forgotten.

      The Real Thing of Light.

      And John goes on to intensify yet more what he is thinking and saying: there was the true light, the real thing of light. They were bothered, in John's old age when he is writing, with false lights, make-pretend lights, that led people astray. Every generation seems to have been so bothered and confused. And even our own doesn't seem to have entirely escaped the subtle contagion. The ground is a bit swampy in places, boggy.

      Low-lying land runs to bog and swamp. And the air gets thick with heavy vapours. And strange will-of-the-wisp lights form out of the foul damp gasses, and they flit about in the gloom this way and that. And people are led astray by them deeper into swamp and bog. It's surprising to find how many, that grow up in well-lit neighbourhoods, wander off after the swamp lights, and even follow them so contentedly. That's partly due, without doubt, to the false lights borrowing so much of the mere outer incidentals from the true. And they succeed in producing a make-up that easily deceives the unwary and untaught.

      There's a teaching to-day, for instance, that magnifies bodily healing. The name of Christ is freely used. And the old Book of God freely quoted. And men are really healed. There can be no question of that. There are sufficient facts at hand to make that incontestably clear.

      But bodily healing does not necessarily argue divine power. There are results secured through the operation of unfamiliar mental powers that seem miraculous. And clearly there are devilish miracles as well as divine. Miracles simply reveal a supernatural power, that is, a power above the ordinary workings of nature. Then one must apply a touchstone, a test, to learn what that power is.

      It is striking that in this teaching I speak of now there is never mention of the atoning blood of Christ. And this is the sure touchstone by which to detect the real thing of light and the make-believe. The outstanding thing in the life of Christ is His death, and the tremendous meaning which His own teaching put into that fact of His death.

      There is none of the red tinge to this make-believe light. It has the unwholesome unnatural tingeing of swamp lights. And those who are healed through this teaching will find themselves in a bondage the more terrible because so subtle. And only the power of the blood of Christ can ever break that bondage.

      There was the real thing of light. Here is the real thing of light. There's a distinct tingeing of red in it. It's the only light. It only is the light. Every other is a make-pretend light, however subtle its imitations and reflections: it will lead only into swamp and bog and ditch and worse.

      And then John goes on to add a very simple bit that has not always been quite understood in its simplicity. There was the real thing of light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. There is a little group of varied readings into the English here, found in the margin of the various revisions. But the central statement remains the same. Whether John is saying that the light, that lighteth every man, was now coming down into the world in a closer way. Or, that every man is lighted as he comes into the world, the chief thing being told is the same. Every man in the world is lighted by this Light.

      Through nature, the nightly twinklers in the wondrous blue overhead, the unfailing freshness of the green out of the brown under foot; through the never-ceasing wonders of these bodies of ours, so awesomely and skilfully made, and kept going; through that clear quiet inner voice that does speak in every human heart amidst all the noises of earth and of passion; through these the light is shining, noiselessly, softly, endlessly, by day and night.

      It is the same identical light that John is telling us of here that so shines in upon every man, and always has. There is no light but His. His later name is Jesus. From the first, and everywhere still, it is the light that shines from Him that lights men. He was with the Father in the beginning. He acted for the Father in that creation week. He gave and sustained all life of every sort everywhere, and does, though only a third of us know His later, nearer, newer Name--Jesus.

      But the light was obscured, terribly beclouded and bedimmed, hindered by earth-fogs, and swampy clouds rising up, until we are apt to think there was no light, and is none; only darkness. Then He came closer, and yet closer. He came in nearer form so as to get the light closer, and let it shine through fog and cloud, for the sake of the befogged, beswamped crowd.

      And then--ah! hold your heart still--then He let the Light-holder, the great human Lantern, be broken, utterly broken, that so the light might flash out through broken lantern in its sweet soft wondrous clearness into our blinded blinking eyes, and show us the real way back home. It was in that breaking that it got that wondrous exquisite red tingeing that becomes the unfailing hall-mark, the unmistakable evidence of the real thing of light.

      And it's only as men know of this latest coming of the light, this tremendous tragic Jesus-coming of the light, that they can come into the full light. That's the reason He came in the way He did. That's the reason when He gets possession of us there's the passion to take the full Jesus-light out to every one. And this passion burns in us and through us, and ours, and sweeps all in the sweep of its tender holy flame. In this way every man may be fully lit, and so in following the Jesus-light he shall not walk in the darkness where he has been, but in the sweet clear light of life.

      Looking for Recognition.

      Then we come to the first of John's heart-breaking sentences. John had a hard time writing his Gospel. He was not simply writing a book. That might have been fairly easy for him with his personal knowledge and all the facts so familiar. But he is telling about his dearest Friend. And the telling makes his heart throb harder, and his eyes fill up, and the writing look dim to him, as he tries to put the words down.

      Listen: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world recognized, or rather acknowledged, Him not. It was His world, His child, His creation. He had made it. But it failed to acknowledge Him. He came walking down the street of life. He met the world going the other way. And He gave it a warm good-morning greeting. And it knew Him full well. It knew who He was. But it turned its face aside and walked by with no return greeting. This is what John is saying. It recognized, it acknowledged Him not.

      You mothers know the glad hour that comes in a mother's life when her little babe of the wee weeks knows her for the first time. She's busy bathing or nursing, or, she's just hovering over the precious morsel of humanity when there's really nothing needing to be done. And the babe's eyes catch her own and a smile comes, the first smile of recognition. And the mother-heart gives a glad leap. She murmurs to herself, "Oh, baby knows me!"

      And when the father comes home that night she greets him with, "Baby knew me to-day." And there's a soft bell-like tender ring in her voice that vibrates on the strings of his heart. And all the folks within range are advised of the day's event. And the mother clear forgets all the sharp-cutting pain back there just a little before, in this joy, this look of recognition.

      I knew of a woman. She was of an old family, of unusual native gift, and rare accomplishment. And her babe came. And the time came when ordinarily there would be that first sweet look of recognition, but--it didn't come. There was a defect; something not as it should be. And you mothers all know how she felt, yes, and you true fathers, too. She was heart-broken. And she turned aside from all the busy round of activity in which she had been the natural leader. And for years she devoted all her splendid talents, her strength and time, to just one thing, a very simple thing; only this,--getting a look of glad recognition out of two babe-eyes.

      He looked into the face of His child, His world, for the look of recognition. But there was none. And He was heart-broken. And He devoted all His strength and time, Himself, for those human years to--what? One thing, just one thing, a very simple thing, only this: to getting a look of recognition out of the eyes of His child.

      Aye, there's more yet here. He looks into our faces, eager for that simple direct answering look into His face and out of our eyes, yours and mine. And we give Him--things, church-membership, orthodox belief, intense activity, aggressive missionary propaganda, money in good measure, tireless, and then tired-out service--things! And all good things. But the thing, the direct look into His own face answering His own hungry searching look, that look in the face that reveals the inner heart that He waits for so often, and waits, a bit sore at heart.

      For you know the eye is the face of the face. It's the doorway into the soul, out through which the soul, the man within, looks. I look at you, the man inside here looks out at you through my eye. And I look at the real you down through your eye. The real man is hidden away within, but looks out through the eye and is looked at only through the eye. We really give ourselves to Jesus in the look direct into His face which tells Him all, and through which He transforms us.

      A Heart-breaking Verse.

      Then comes John's second heart-breaking verse; but it is just a bit more heart-breaking in what it says. Listen: He came to His own home, and they that were His own kinsfolk received Him not into the house but kept Him standing out in the cold and storm of the wintry night.

      One of you men goes home to-night. It's your own home, shaped on your own personality through the years. It's a bit late. You've had a long hard day. You're tired. It's stormy. The wind and the rain chill you as you turn the corner. And you pull your coat a bit snugger as you quicken your steps and think of home, warmth and comfort, loved ones, and rest for body and spirit, too.

      As you come to the door you reach for your latch-key, and find, in the busy rush, you seem to have forgotten it, somehow. So you ring the bell or knock. And suppose--be patient with me a bit, please. Suppose your loved ones know you're there. You even see a hand drawing aside the edge of the window shade, and two eyes that you know so well peer out through the crack at you; then the shade goes to again. Yes, they know you're there. But the door, your own door, doesn't open. How would you feel?

      And some one says to himself, "That's not a good illustration. That thing couldn't happen. It isn't natural." No: you're right. It isn't natural. It could not happen to you. I am sure it could not happen to me. If it could I'd be heart-broken. But this is what happened to Him! This is what John is saying here. He came to His own front door, and they whose very image revealed their close kinship to Him, received Him not into the home, but kept the door fast in His face.

      Then there's a later translation. This old King James version bears the date of 1611, I think. And the English Revision is dated 1881, I believe. And this American Standard Revision I am using has 1901 on its title page. But there's a later revision. It bears a yet later date, 1915, April 27. But it is a shifting date. Each translator fixed his own date.

      This latest translation runs something like this: He comes to His own. That's you and myself. We belong to Him. He gave His breath to us in Eden. He gave His breath to you and me at our birth. He gave His blood for us on Calvary. We belong to Him. The image of His kinship is stamped upon us. We may not acknowledge it, but that can't change the fact.

      He comes to His own, and His own--and here, as the scholars would say, there are variant readings. Let me give you one or two I have found. Here is one: He comes to His own, and His own--puts a chair outside the door on the top-step. It's a large armchair with a cushion in, perhaps. And then His own talks about Him through the crack of the door, or likelier, the window. It's reckoned safer to keep the door fast.

      Listen to what he says: "He's a wonderful man this Jesus; great teacher, the greatest; the greatest man of the race; His philosophy, His moral standards are the ideals; wonderful life; great example." They fairly exhaust the language in talking about this Man. But notice. It seems a bit queer. The man they're talking about is outside the door. His own claim is left severely outside.

      Some make it read like this: He comes to His own, and they who are His own open the door a crack, maybe a fairly respectably wide crack. We all like the word Saviour. Yes, we cling tenaciously to that. Selfishly, would you say? We want to be saved from a certain place we think of as down, that we've been taught about, and don't want to go to--if it's there; the way men talk about it to-day.

      And we want to be saved into another certain place we think of as up, and where we surely want to go after we get through down on the earth, and must go away somewhere else; with that "after" and "must" carefully underscored. And we want to be saved from all the inconveniences possible along the way, and to secure all the advantages and help available: yes, yes, open the door a crack.

      But be careful about the width of the opened crack. Let it be just the proper conventionalized width. Let there be no extremeism about the wideness of that opening. Things must be proper. For what would the other crack-open-door-owners think?

      And then, too, yet more serious, this Jesus has a way, a most inconsiderate way of coming in as far as you let Him, and of taking things into His own hands. Certain people use that word "inconsiderate"--to themselves, in secret. Jesus changes some things when He is allowed all the way in. He might change your personal habits, your home arrangements, some of your social customs and your business plans.

      Of course He changes only what needs changing, as He sees it. But--then--you--well, some things can be carried too far--to suit you. This Jesus has the all habit. He contracted it when He was down on the earth. Our needs grew the habit. He gave all. And He has a way of coming in all the way, and of reaching in His pierced hand and taking all.

      He might even put His hand in on that most sacred thing, that holiest of all, that you guard most jealously--that box. It has heavy hinges, and double padlocks, and the keys are held hard under the thumb of your will. Of course there may really not be much in it; and again there may be very much. But much or little, it is securely kept under that thick broad thumb of yours.

      Oh! you give; of course; yes, yes, we're all good proper Christian folk here. We give a tenth, and even much more. We support an aggressive missionary propaganda. That's the thing, you know, in our day, for good church people. We give to all the good things. Ye-es, no doubt. And we are very careful, too, that that inconsiderate Hand shall not disturb the greater bulk that remains between hinge and lock. That's yours. Of course you are His, redeemed, saved by His blood.

      Well, well, how these pronouns, "His," "ours," do get mixed up! How lovely some things are to sing about, in church, and special services, at Keswick and Northfield. But through it all we hold hard to that key, we don't let go--even to Him, though it is He who entrusts all to our temporary keeping. We do guard the width of that opening crack, do we not?

      One day I looked through that crack and caught a glimpse of His face looking through full in my own, with those eyes of His. And at first I wanted to take the door clear off of its hinges and stand it outside against the bricks, and leave the whole door-space wide for Him.

      But I've learned better. No man wants to leave the doorway of his life unguarded. He must keep the strong hand of his controlling purpose on the knob of the front door of his life. There are others than He, evil ones, cunningly subtle ones, standing just at the corner watching for such an opportunity. And they step quickly slyly in under your untaught unsuspicious eyes, and get things badly tangled in your life. There's a better, a stronger way.

      Here's the personal translation that I try now, by His help, to work out into living words, the language of life. He comes to His own, and His own opens the door wide, and holds it wide open, that He may come in all the way, and cleanse, and change, readjust, and then shape over on the shape of His own presence.

      But every one must work out his own translation of that; and every one does. And the crowd reads--not this printed version. It reads this other translation, the one nearest, in such big print, the one our lives work out daily. That's the translation they prefer. And that's the translation they're being influenced by, and influenced by tremendously.

      He Came to His Own.

      In certain circles in England, they tell of a certain physician years ago. He came of a very humble family. His father was a gardener on a gentleman's estate. And the father died. And the mother wasn't able to pay her son's schooling. But a storekeeper in the village liked this little bright boy and sent him to school. And he went on through the higher schooling, became a physician, and began his practice in London. He became skilled, and then famous, and then wealthy.

      He remembered his dear old mother, of course. He sent her money, and fabrics for dresses, and wrote her. But for a long time, in the busy absorption of his life, he had not been to see her. And the dear old mother in the little cottage in the country lived in the sweet consciousness that her son was a great physician up in the great London. He was her chief topic of conversation. When the neighbours were in she would always talk of her son, her Laddie, she called him.

      "He's so good to me, my Laddie is. He sends me money. I put it in the bank. He sends me cloth for dresses; it's quite too good for a plain body like me. And he writes me letters, such good letters, wonderful letters. But he's so busy up there, that he hasn't been to see me for a long time now. You know he's a great doctor now, and he has great skill, and there are so many needing him. And he's no time at all, even for himself, I expect. But"--she would always finish her talk as they sat over the tea by saying, half to herself, really more to herself than to the little group, with a half-repressed longing sigh, "but, I wish, I just wish I could see my Laddie."

      Then some changes took place on the estate. And the cottage where she had lived so long must be given up. And the dear old woman had to make new plans. And she cudgeled her old head, and thought, and at last she said to herself, "I know what I'll do. I'll go-up to London, and I'll live with Laddie. He'll be so glad to have me." And bright-coloured visions flitted through her mind, as she sat over her tea by the open grate. But she wouldn't send him word; no, no, she would surprise him, and add to his pleasure.

      And the dear old soul, in her fine simplicity, did not think into what this would mean, nor of the difference that had grown up with the years, in manner of life, between her son and herself. He was a cultured gentleman, with his well-appointed city home, and the circle of friends that had grown up about him. And she was a simple uncultured country woman with a broad provincial twist on her tongue. But she was blissfully unconscious of this. She would go and live with her Laddie. It would be so delightful for them both.

      And so she went. It was her first train journey, and quite a time of it she had finding the house. But at last she stands looking up at the house. "Ugh! does my Laddie live here! in this great mansion?" But there was the name on the door-plate. There was no mistaking that. And so she rang the bell. "Is the doctor in?" She could hardly get the word "doctor" out. She had never called him that before, just Laddie. But now she must say it. "Is the doctor in?" And the word almost stuck in her throat as she thought to herself, "This poor man opening the door doesn't know that the 'doctor' really belongs to me."

      But in a hard voice the servant said that it was past the hours. She couldn't see the doctor.

      "Ah! bat," she said, quite taken by surprise at being held there, "I must see him."

      "But, I tell you, it's quite too late to see him to-day."

      But she resolutely put her stout country-boot in the crack of the door, and her English jaw set in true English fashion, and she said with that quietness that has the subtle touch of danger in it, "I'll see the doctor."

      And the servant looked puzzled and went to report about this strangely insistent woman. And the doctor was annoyed by the interruption in the midst of something that was absorbing him. He said sharply, "It's past the hours; I can see no one."

      "I told her so, sir," replied the man deferentially, "but she insists in a strange way, sir."

      "What's she like?"

      "Oh, just a plain country body, sir."

      "Well, show her up."

      And I am glad to remember that she had a warm embrace of his strong arms, as he instantly recognized her in the doorway, while the servant stared. Then he said rather nervously as the servant discreetly withdrew, "How did yon happen to come? Why didn't you send word? Has anything happened?" And then as she sat by the fire sipping a cup of tea, she told the story, in her own simple slow way, and ended up with, "And now I'm coming to live with you, Laddie." And the old eyes behind the spectacles beamed, and the dear old wrinkled face glowed.

      And he poked the fire, and tried to think You know, our English friends depend almost wholly on the open grate fire, as we do so largely in the South. And it's a great thing, is the open grate fire. It's a fire. It warms your body, at least in front in extreme weather. But it's more than a fire. It's a stimulus to thought. It refreshes your spirit, and rests your tired nerves, and it is a wonderful thing to help you unravel knotty problems. So he poked the fire and thought, while she, quite unconscious of his embarrassment, went on sipping her tea and talking.

      It would never do to have her come there, he thought. And his thoughts went to the circle of friends at the dinner table in the evening, and to the critical city servants that ran his bachelor establishment. And just then his ear caught anew the broad provincial twist on her tongue. He had never noticed it so broad, so decided, before. And she was talking the small countryside talk, chickens and an epidemic among them. And that grated strangely. It certainly wouldn't do to have her come there.

      Then the tide began to rise gently on the beach of his heart. He thought, "She's my mother. And if mother wants to come here, here she comes." And he straightened up in his chair, as he gave a gentler touch to a blazing lump of coal. Then the tide ebbed. It began running out again. "No, it would hardly do." And he poked and thought. Finally he broke into her run of talk.

      "Mother, you know it is not very healthful here. We have bad fogs in London. And you're used to the wholesome country air. It wouldn't agree with you here, I'm afraid. I'll get a little cottage on the edge of town, and I'll come and see you very often."

      And the dear old woman sensed at once just what he was thinking. She was not stupid, if she was just a plain homely body. He got his brains from his simple country mother, as many a man of note has done. But she spoke not of what she felt. She simply said, with that quietness which grows out of strong self-control:

      "It's a bit late the night, Laddie, I'm thinking, to be talking about new plans."

      And he said softly, "Forgive me, mother: it is late, I forgot." And he showed her to her sleeping apartment.

      "And where do you sleep, Laddie?"

      "Right here, mother, this first door on the left. Be sure to call me if you need anything."

      And he bade her a tender "good-night," and went back to his study to do some more thinking and planning. And very late he came up to his sleeping-chamber. And he was just cuddling his head into the soft pillow for the night, when the door opened, so softly, and in there came a little body in simple white night garb, with a quaint old-fashioned nightcap on, candle in hand. She came in very softly. And he started up.

      "Mother, are you ill? What's the matter?"

      And she came over very quietly, and put down the candle on the table before she answered. And then softly:

      "No, no, Laddie, I'm not ill. I just came to tuck you in for the night as I used to do at home. ... Lie still, my Laddie."

      And she tucked the clothes about his neck, and smoothed his hair, and patted his cheek, and kissed his face. And she crooned over him as mother with little child. The years were quite forgot. She had her little son again. And she talked mother's love-talk to a child. "Good-night, Laddie ... good-night ... good-night ... mother's own boy." And a little more tucking and smoothing and patting and kissing, and then she turned so quietly, picked up the candle, and went out, closing the door so softly, her great strength revealed in her gentleness.

      And he was just on the point of starting up and saying, "Mother, you must stay with me, right here"--no, the morning will do, he thought. But when the morning came she wasn't down for breakfast. And when he went to her room she wasn't there. It turned out afterwards that she had said to herself, "It doesn't suit my Laddie's plans to have me here. I don't understand why. It isn't his fault at all. It just doesn't suit. And I'll never be a trouble to my Laddie."

      And so with that rare characteristic English trait of independence, she had quietly gone off early that morning before the house was astir. And he broken-hearted--I'm always glad to remember that--he searched through the wilderness of London for more than a year, searched diligently, but could find no trace of her. And then he was graciously permitted to minister to her last hours in a hospital where a street accident had sent her unconscious, and where he was chief of the medical staff.

      She came to her own and her own received her not. He loved her, but it didn't suit his plans. He, Jesus, came to His own, and His own received Him not; it didn't suit their plans. Ah! listen yet further: He comes to His own, you and me, and His own--you finish it. Have we some plans, too, set plans, that we don't propose to change, even for--(softly) even for Him? Each of us is finishing that sentence, not in words so much if at all, in the words of our action. And the crowd reads our translation.

Back to S.D. Gordon index.

See Also:
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel - Preface
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 1 - John's Story
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 2 - The Wooing Lover - part 1
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 2 - The Wooing Lover - part 2
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 2 - The Wooing Lover - part 3
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 3 - The Lover Wooing - part 1
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 3 - The Lover Wooing - part 2
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 3 - The Lover Wooing - part 3
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 4 - Closer Wooing
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 5 - The Greatest Wooing
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 6 - An Appointed Tryst Unexpectedly Kept
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 7 - Another Tryst
   Quiet Talks on John's Gospel 8 - Footnotes


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