by Susannah Spurgeon,
On the death of her husband, C. H. Spurgeon, (Excerpts)
Part Three – Parting Company
I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”
But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.
But the “goodness and mercy” which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord “lead on softly,” and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others.
“With Christ—which is far better!” Philippians 1:23.
Ever since the solemn midnight hour when God took to Himself my most precious treasure, “the desire of my eyes,” my loving and dearly-beloved husband—the above inspired words have been a wellspring of solace and comfort to my desolate heart. In the first anguish of my grief, I wrote them on the “farewell” card, and the palm-branches, which waved over his dead body in token of everlasting victory, bore their grand message of consolation to the thousands of weeping mourners.
Now, as the days go by, and the sense of loss deepens, and is still more acutely realized, the blessed fact set forth by these words comes again with Divine power of healing to my sorrowing soul. It is because it is far better for him to be with Christ—that I can patiently and even cheerfully endure my lonely life. I can sometimes dwell with such joy on the thought of his eternal glory “with Christ,” that I forget to sorrow over my own great and unspeakable loss.
A dear friend wrote thus to me, the other day—”Oh, when I think of him, as able to praise his Savior, and preach without fatigue or pain—no longer limping, or leaning on his staff—with no cough, no faintness—no swollen fingers or ankles—away from the fogs and mists; where no heresies distress his heart; when I think of him thus, my heart fairly leaps for joy!”
Yes, faith can truly exult in our beloved’s glory.
After his translation, I had time and opportunity further to realize the consolation enfolded in my text, and to prove the comforting power of the assurance that, even though my precious husband had bidden adieu to the best that earth could give, his being “with Christ” was “far better.”
Sometimes, my thoughts would recall those glorious drives up the mountains, which we had so lately enjoyed together; when every turn in the road revealed some new beauty of prospect, and a perfect climax of delight was reached when, after long, steady climbing, the horses drew the carriage triumphantly into the “place” of the quaint mountain village or town where we were bound. Here, some eight or nine hundred feet above the level of the sea, the houses were crowded together among the rocks like swallows’ nests, and the view before us was enchanting beyond description; and my beloved would, with childlike eagerness, turn to me, and say, “There, wifey, isn’t that worth coming all the way to see?” Yes, truly; and if there had been nothing else to see than his exultant happiness at my long-desired presence with him, this would have well repaid any effort of love on my part.
But, good and precious as all that was—and, oh! how sweet is the memory now!—my heart understands that it was only a poor earthly joy—fading and shadowy; and again I have to say, “He is with Christ, which is far better!”
Mr. Hanbury’s “marble halls” were full of all art-treasures and riches collected from many lands. Everything that the most perfect taste could desire was there in lavish abundance, and the rooms were filled with all the choice and precious things that earth and wealth could furnish. I made discoveries, every day, of something more rare and costly, or more beautiful than I had seen before; and my first impulse was to go and tell my husband about it, or bring him to share my pleasure and admiration.
But, alas! he was gone, and my heart would bleed afresh, and my grief awaken to a terrible intensity, until, in soft accents within my soul, the blessed Spirit would whisper, “He is with Christ—which is far better!”
Down by the sea-shore, with the clear blue waters kissing the shingle at my feet, and making even the stones to sing a constant song of joy, I used to sit and think of my beloved’s eternal bliss, until I could almost join in the universal melody around me, though the tears were blinding my eyes, and my heart ached with an unspeakable grief. I could not see to the other side of the bright Mediterranean waters—the light was too dazzling, and my vision was bounded; but I knew that, beyond the horizon, there lay a beautiful summer-land, where the rigors of winter are unknown, and the icy winds of the North never blow.
Even so, I could not, with my bodily eyes, see to the other shore of that separating sea which my precious husband had so lately crossed; but faith knew that the Celestial City was there, and that he was even then walking the golden streets, rejoicing in the fullness of joy at God’s right hand! Better, ay, far better, to be with Christ—than to be with me! With me remained tears, and grief, and pain, and sin; but there, God Himself had wiped all his tears away; and neither sorrow, nor sin, nor evil of any kind, could ever again hurt his gentle spirit, or vex his loving heart!
Many such ponderings were in my heart during those sad and sacred days; but the conclusion to them all was this—that there was no earthly bliss, no ravishing prospect, no precious ties of wedded love, no “best” that this world or its relationships could give, which was not silenced, and surpassed, and beyond measure outweighed—by the blessed fact that to be “with Christ was far better!”