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Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 12315

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Mother's Story.

I do not think there is another old man and woman in Christendom who ought to be so thankful as my husband and I.

No doubt all parents are inclined to look at the best side of their own children; but with ours there is really no other side to look at, it seems to me. Perhaps Elsè has sometimes a little too much of my anxious mind; but even in her tender heart, as in all the others, there is a large measure of her father's hopefulness. And then, although they have, perhaps, none of them quite his inventive genius, yet that seems hardly a matter of regret; because, as things go in the world, other people seem so often, at the very goal, to step in and reap the fruit of these inventions, just by adding some insignificant detail which makes the invention work, and gives them the appearance of having been the real discoverers.

Not that I mean to murmur for one instant against the people who have this little knack of just putting the finishing touch and making things succeed; that also, as the house-father says, is God's gift, and although it cannot certainly be compared to these great, lofty thoughts and plans of my husband's, it has more current value in the world. Not, again, that I would for an instant murmur at the world. We have all so much more in it than we deserve (except, perhaps, my dearest husband, who cares so little for its rewards!) It has been quite wonderful how good every one has been to us. Gottfried Reichenbach, and all our sons-in-law, are like sons to us; and certainly could not have prized our daughters more if they had had the dowry of princesses! although I must candidly say I think our dear daughters without a kreutzer of dowry are worth a fortune to any man. I often wonder how it is they are such housewives, and so sensible and wise in every way, when I never considered myself at all a clever manager. To be sure their father's conversation was always very improving; and my dear blessed mother was a store-house of wisdom and experience. However, there is no accounting for these things. God is wonderfully good in blessing the humblest efforts to train up the little ones for him. We often think the poverty of their early years was quite a school of patience and household virtues for them all. Even Christopher and Thekla, who caused us more anxiety at first than the others, are the very stay and joy of our old age; which shows how little we can foresee what good things God is preparing for us.

How I used at one time to tremble for them both! It shocked Elsè and me so grievously to see Christopher, as we thought, quite turning his back on religion, after Fritz became a monk; and what a relief it was to see him find in Dr. Luther's sermons and in the Bible the truth which bowed his heart in reverence, yet left his character free to develop itself without being compressed into a mould made for other characters. What a relief it was to hear that he turned, not from religion, but from what was false in the religion then taught, and to see him devoting himself to his calling as a printer with a feeling as sacred as Fritz to his work as a pastor!

Then our Thekla, how anxious I was about her at one time! how eager to take her training out of God's hands into my own, which I thought, in my ignorance, might spare her fervent, enthusiastic, loving heart some pain.

I wanted to tame down and moderate everything in her by tender warnings and wise precepts. I wanted her to love less vehemently, to rejoice with more limitation, to grieve more moderately. I tried hard to compress her character into a narrower mould. But God would not have it so. I can see it all now. She was to love and rejoice, and then to weep and lament, according to the full measure of her heart, that in the heights and depths to which God led her, she might learn what she was to learn of the heights and depths of the love which extends beyond all joy and below all sorrow. Her character, instead of becoming dwarfed and stunted, as my ignorant hand might have made it, was to be thus braced, and strengthened, and rooted, that others might find shelter beneath her sympathy and love, as so many do now. I would have weakened in order to soften; God's providence has strengthened and expanded while softening, and made her strong to endure and pity as well as strong to feel.

No one can say what she is to us, the one left entirely to us, to whom we are still the nearest and the dearest, who binds our years together by the unbroken memory of her tender care, and makes us young in her child-like love, and brings into our failing life the activity and interest of mature age by her own life of active benevolence.

Elsè and her household are the delight of our daily life; Eva and Fritz are our most precious and consecrated treasures, and all the rest are good and dear as children can be; but to all the rest we are the grandmother and the grandfather. To Thekla we are "father" and "mother" still, the shelter of her life and the home of her affections. Only, sometimes my old anxious fears creep over me when I think what she will do when we are gone. But I have no excuse for these now, with all those promises of our Lord, and his words about the lilies and the birds, in plain German in my Bible, and the very same lilies and birds preaching to me in colours and songs as plain from the eaves and from the garden outside my window.

Never did any woman owe so much to Dr. Luther and the Reformation as I. Christopher's religion; Fritz and Eva's marriage; Thekla's presence in our home, instead of her being a nun in some convent-prison; all the love of the last months my dear sister Agnes and I spent together before her peaceful death; and the great weight of fear removed from my own heart!

And yet my timid, ease-loving nature, will sometimes shrink, not so much from what has been done, as from the way in which it has been done. I fancy a little more gentleness might have prevented so terrible a breach between the new and the old religions; that the peasant war might have been saved; and somehow or other (how, I cannot at all tell) the good people o

n both sides might have been kept at one. For that there are good people on both sides, nothing will ever make me doubt. Indeed, is not one of our sons-our good and sober-minded Pollux-still in the old Church? And can I doubt that he and his devout, affectionate little wife, who visits the poor and nurses the sick, love God and try to serve him?

In truth, I cannot help half counting it among our mercies that we have one son still adhering to the old religion; although my children, who are wiser than I, do not think so; nor my husband, who is wiser than they; nor Dr. Luther, who is, on the whole, I believe, wiser than any one. Perhaps I should rather say, that great as the grief is to us and the loss to him, I cannot help seeing some good in our Pollux remaining as a link between us and the religion of our fathers. It seems to remind us of the tie of our common creation and redemption, and our common faith, however dim, in our Creator and Redeemer. It prevents our thinking all Christendom which belongs to the old religion quite the same as the pagans or the Turks; and it also helps a little to prevent their thinking us such hopeless infidels.

Besides, although they would not admit it, I feel sure that Dr. Luther and the Reformation have taught Pollux and his wife many things. They also have a German Bible; and although it is much more cumbrous than Dr. Luther's, and, it seems to me, not half such genuine, hearty German, still he and his wife can read it; and I sometimes trust we shall find by-and-by we did not really differ so very much about our Saviour, although we may have differed about Dr. Luther.

Perhaps I am wrong, however, in thinking that great changes might have been more quietly accomplished. Thekla says the spring must have its thunder-storms as well as its sunshine and gentle showers, and that the stone could not be rolled away from the sepulchre, nor the veil rent in the holy place without an earthquake.

Elsè's Gottfried says the devil would never suffer his lies about the good and gracious God to be set aside without a battle; and that the dear holy angels have mighty wars to wage, as well as silent watch to keep by the cradles of the little ones. Only I cannot help wishing that the Reformers, and even Dr. Luther himself, would follow the example of the archangel Michael in not returning railing for railing.

Of one thing, however, I am quite sure, whatever any one may say; and that is that it is among our great mercies that our Atlantis married a Swiss, so that through her we have a link with our brethren the evangelical Christians who follow the Zwinglian Confession. I shall always be thankful for the months her father and I passed under their roof. If Dr. Luther could only know how they revere him for his noble work, and how one they are with us and him in faith in Christ and Christian love!

I was a little perplexed at one time how it could be that such good men should separate, until Thekla reminded me of that evil one who goes about accusing God to us, and us to one another.

On the other hand, some of the Zwinglians are severe on Dr. Luther for his "compromise with Rome," and his "unscriptural doctrines," as some of them call his teaching about the sacraments.

These are things on which my head is not clear enough to reason. It is always so much more natural to me to look out for points of agreement than of difference; and it does seem to me, that deep below all the differences good men often mean the same. Dr. Luther looks on holy baptism in contrast with the monastic vows, and asserts the common glory of the baptism and Christian profession which all Christians share, against the exclusive claims of any section of priests or monks. And in the holy Supper, it seems to me simply the certainty of the blessing, and the reality of the presence of our Saviour in the sacrament, that he is really vindicating, in his stand on the words, "This is my body." Baptism represents to him the consecration and priesthood of all Christians, to be defended against all narrow privileges of particular orders; the holy Supper, the assured presence of Christ, to be defended against all doubters.

To the Swiss, on the other hand, the contrast is between faith and form, letter and spirit. This is, at all events, what my husband thinks.

I wish Dr. Luther would spend a few months with our Atlantis and her Conrad. I shall always be thankful we did.

Lately, the tone of Dr. Luther's preaching has often been reproachful and full of warning. These divisions between the evangelical Christians distress him so much. Yet he himself, with that resolute will of his, keeps them apart, as he would keep his children from poison, saying severe and bitter things of the Zwinglians, which sometimes grieve me much, because I know Conrad Winkelried's parish and Atlantis' home.

Well, one thing is certain: if Dr. Luther had been like me, we should have had no Reformation at all. And Dr. Luther and the Reformation have brought peace to my heart and joy to my life, for which I would go through any storms. Only, to leave our dear ones behind in the storms is another thing!

But our dear heavenly Father has not, indeed, called us to leave them yet. When he does call us, he will give us the strength for that. And then we shall see everything quite clearly, because we shall see our Saviour quite clearly, as He is, know his love, and love him quite perfectly. What that will be we know not yet!

But I am quite persuaded that when we do really see our blessed Lord face to face, and see all things in his light, we shall all be very much surprised, and find we have something to unlearn, as well as infinitely much to learn; not Pollux, and the Zwinglians, and I only, but Dr. Philip Melancthon, and Dr. Luther, and all!

For the Reformation, and even Dr. Luther's German Bible, have not taken all the clouds away. Still, we see through a glass darkly.

But they have taught us that there is nothing evil and dark behind to be found out; only, much to be revealed which is too good for us yet to understand, and too bright for us yet to see.

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