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If at last we are to reap
Then we must, in season due,
Tillage first of sorrow deep,
Seed-time next, of faith divine,
Tilling, sowing, thus go on
In the blessed work of God,
He on all who serve Him thus,
Unto them at last will come
The Estranged Brothers.
OME little time since I had a call from a gentleman who lived in the neighbourhood of a town in which, when I was a young man, I spent five years of my life.
When our business was over, I made various inquiries about local matters and old friends. Amongst the latter was one at whose house I had been a frequent visitor, and who had always given me a cordial welcome.
"Have you seen or heard anything lately," I asked, “of John Duff?"
"Dead!" I exclaimed.
"I am very sorry; I never heard
of it. What did he die of? And was he long ill?" "Ah!" he said, "it was a sad business." He then proceeded to tell me that Mr. Duff had had a serious quarrel with his younger and only brother, Alexander, whom I had also known very well. From their childhood till long past middle life they had been fast friends. They were natives of Scotland, and it was through John, who was the first to settle in England, that Alexander had also crossed the border. Indeed, John had given his brother a home on his arrival, and they had lived together for some years. They then separated, quite amicably, and Alexander set up a house of his own.
Unhappily, in their later years they had a bitter quarrel, most likely about money, for, sad to say, that does cause more heartburnings and separations between relatives and friends than anything else. I never heard any particulars of the quarrel, nor have I any idea which of them was the more in fault about it. Enough that they were completely
The breach continued, and now they were both far advanced in life, John being at least seventy years old, whilst Alexander was perhaps three or four years younger.
One day, however, John received a message from his brother. Alexander was very ill; would John go and see him?
What Alexander wanted was, whether he said in so many words or not, that he and his brother might be friends again; and so John understood the message.
But John refused to go. He could scarcely have believed that Alexander was so near his end as he really was, and it might be, too, that he thought he should first receive from him some definite acknowledgment of wrong. Whatever might be his reasons, he refused to go.
The very next day Alexander died-died without the
comfort which would have been afforded him by his brother's forgiveness. There is reason, however, to hope that he had sought and found a higher forgiveness.
The news was sent to John without delay. What his feelings were may be better imagined than described; but this may help us to imagine them. He was so shocked by the thought of what he had done, and yet further by the thought that it was beyond recall, that he too was struck by fatal illness, from which he never rallied, and before another day had passed he died.
The bitter grief which wrought such a result may surely be regarded as a token that, though his repentance came so late, he had truly repented his great mistake; and we may hope that, casting himself entirely on God's mercy by faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was freely forgiven. Let us hope that by this time they may have met in their "Father's house," and have exchanged with each other there the assurances of mutual forgiveness. Still, was it not a grievous thing-grievous beyond all expression-that a life which had been in the main an upright and consistent one, should terminate thus?
It can scarcely be, considering the imperfection of human nature, that misunderstandings will not from time to time arise, even between the nearest relations and between Christian men. Truly, good men do not always exercise that control which they ought over temper and speech; and hurried away by passion, they say and do things which are very unwise, and which give great offence to those to whom they are said or done. We often fail to satisfy the claims which others make upon us for respect and service, being all the time fully persuaded that we have done our duty. And then, what quarrels arise about money! Who does not know men, who were once close friends, but who, for one or other of the reasons we have given, are now completely estranged?
Now we cannot by any means say that in every such case there should be the restoration of mutual confidence