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Shall stand when he appears ? Behold,
8 5 (c. III. 7-12).
and cause your vines
$ 6 (c. III. 13-18). Bold were your words against me, saith the Lord, And yet ye say, “What said we?” thus ye said, “ Tis vain to serve the Lord, and profitless To keep his laws, and mournfully to walk Before the Lord of Hosts, for, lo, the proud Are blest, and wicked men are builded upYea, tempt they God, and yet escape his wrath.” Then they who feared the Lord together spake, Yea, each man to his neighbour spoke of him. To this the Lord gave heed, and in the book Of his remembrance had the names inscribed Of those who feared and thought upon his name. They shall be mine, thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Mine, in the day when I my treasures count, To them will I be kind, e'en as a man
Is kind unto a loved and faithful son !
$ 7 (c. IV.)
the law which once I gave
“GETTING BETTER."-No, II.
“GETTING better !" what a ring there is in the words, as fresh and clear and joyous as morning bells across a summer lake. Oh, the joys of getting better, who can count them? First of all there is the gradual coming back of our senses—that is, of the full use of them; the ceasing to be simply an animal in pain, which is all that some of us can profess to be in times of severe illness; and the returning certainty that we are really something more than only body. There is the exquisite enjoyment of each new concession made to our growing powers by nurse and doctor; the pleasant anticipation of the first coming down stairs again; though the reality of that is often more pain than pleasure.
Then as life widens out itself again, after being contracted within the narrow compass of a bed of illness, there is the recommencement of an interest in persons and things outside our own room; and what pleasure that brings. Everything is so fresh and new, and yet so friendly and familiar; the dear old earth seems so home-like, and the common life so full of interest, that we wonder how we could ever look upon the one as dreary, or the other as commonplace. In a sense, “old things have passed away, and all things have become new," and we feel that we can understand something of the clearness and the crispness of feeling with which our first parents sang their duet about “The dew-dropping morn,” and “The breath of eve," as they stood side by side in Eden, looking at everything through the light of their own love and youth and beauty.
Ah! there are joys during this time of “getting better” as sweet and pure and tender as those in Eden; almost so, but not quite, for have we not eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ? and all the leaves of that tree are found to be rough and prickly, on the one side at least ; many are so on both, and poisonous enough withal.
And so this time of “getting better,” many as are its joys, and invaluable as are its teachings, is yet no exception to the universal mixture of evil with good. None can know the special trials of this time but those who have gone through them. One of the small troubles arises from the natural and wholly unavoidable relaxation of that extreme tenderness and forbearance which were so fully bestowed in the hour of danger and pain, and which give to that hour a charm all its own. The fondest heart, the most careful nurse, must undergo a reaction, and nerves and feeling braced up to such high tension must, after a while, relax. It is in the nature of things that it should be so; but to the patient, who does not at first feel any great difference between the “ being ill ” and the “getting better;" the change in manner, however slight, is most acutely felt. Another source of discomfort arises from the excess of nervous life over other life ; you feel as if you were all one nerve, which nerve is incessantly vibrating to the slightest touch of outward life. Your senses are in use again, it is true, but they do not seem suited to the world upon which you have to exercise them; they want to be rough-shod.
No one without actual experience can form any conception of the suffering which this state of the nerves and senses produces. Take, for instance, the extreme sensibility to sound and light which causes a strong light to give exquisite pain, renders all sounds much louder to the invalid than they are to persons in health, and makes the mingling of different sounds to be confusing and irritating to a distressing degree. But, undoubtedly, one of the most trying things to bear during the time of getting better" is the incessant self-warfare that has
to be maintained with the demon of irritability. The friends of an invalid have, of course, often to suffer from this restless and exacting demon, and most patiently do they bear with it, or seek to exorcise it with loving words and acts; but few are aware, unless indeed they have gone through the experience, either of the amount of suffering this irritability causes to the poor creature thus possessed, or how great the effort put forth to control its manifestation, or how bitter, unduly so, often, is the sense of shame and contrition after defeat.
The unreason of such irritation is fully acknowledged, and the humiliation of being mastered by so seemingly paltry a foe keenly felt; and yet oftentimes the utmost efforts can only suffice to prevent us from hurting others by showing it, and cannot rid us of the evil itself. How often are we obliged to remind ourselves that the loud noise is not actually loud to others, only so to us—that the fun and laughter are not really outrageous, but only beyond our weakened powers to bear with and enjoy--that the food is not to blame, but our want of appetite, and that to find fault or to complain would be as unjust as it would be disheartening and unkind.
One most distressing form that this irritation takes is the insane desire to say something sharp or bitter with or without much provocation. It seems as if it would be such a relief, as if the demon would fly at once if we would but give it leave to say a few cutting words. Woe to us if we let it gain its way; the remorse that is sure to follow will be greater punishment than our worst enemy could wish to inflict. This phase of excessive irritability is, of course, known also to persons in moderate health whose nervous life is stronger in proportion than their other powers; but then they can, and will if they are wise, meet and overcome it by change of place and occupation, and especially by a good draught of out-door air and a pleasant walk. It is astonishing how quickly these medicines will restore the tone of the system. But to an invalid these helps are not unfrequently denied, and then the victory has to be won by the deliberate exercise of moral and religious forces. A hard battle reason and religion have with these infirmities of nerve and flesh, and wearying, past description wearying, is the conflict. Well is it for all thus tried that the One whose help is most ready when most needed, and whose sympathy is as discriminative as it is tender, is One who once knew what exhaustion meant as well as pain, and who forgets not even now, though He has entered in to rest, that He was once" weariedwith His journey.”
Then another great source of trial is to be found in the antagonism between the will to do and the power to do. “To be weak is to be miserable,” said Satan, (vide Milton); and there are occasions in which we feel inclined to endorse the sentiment. To persons of energetic mind and will, the inability to execute that which they plan is always a source of pain. They cannot bear the check and curb. There are times, as every invalid knows, when compelled inactivity is more than usually galling-times when physical powers are perfectly prostrate; when to speak or be spoken to, to move or to be moved, or even to have any movement going on around, is all but unbearable; when weakness and exhaustion seem to be not mere negations, but positives, that come like rapid-rolling waves, which knock you down with their force, rush recklessly over you, and you can do nothing but lie still and let them go over you. It is this lying still, absolutely still, that is so hard to bear. If one could but do something to help oneself, no matter how disagreeable ;-but no, only time and perfect rest can restore us; and though we know this, and know how useless it is to struggle, yet we are conscious that a part of the spirit within us is kicking against the pricks, is disdainful of the demand for submission, is rebelling against the required rest, is feeling that it is “miserable to be weak.”
It requires high Christian culture to be able to give up our own will unreservedly in the greatest matters; it needs still higher to be able to do so cheerfully in the lesser ones. We must have learnt to love God very much, and to know a great deal of the tenderness and grandeur of His strength before we can rejoice in the weakness by means of which that strength is perfected in us. Our human wills may be made to bend in reverence to the Divine, long before we feel that they rise and blend with that will because they are become of like nature. The first result is accompanied with struggle and sorrow; the second with joy and peace-nay, sometimes with triumph and exultation.
But we are getting into subjects needing a stronger and graver pen than ours; therefore let us hasten back to the surface.
Sometimes this "getting-better” time is a very prolonged period, and then there comes in, for the benefit of the patient, the beneficent help of habit, the useful crutch of custom. We find out the hidden dangers and roughnesses of the road; become also better acquainted with our own moods and tenses ; know when to expect, and how to prepare for small troubles
, and learn to bear with ourselves as well as with others. “Patience," says John Howe, “is the ability to suffer." "He who can suffer hath the mastery over himself, and remains in self-possession.” And, “ Long-suffering worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope."
* Critics will, of course, object to this use of the English word " longsuffering."