To Henry Cecil (1)
Dear Old Friend,
What can I say to you, for the hand of the Lord is heavy upon you. But it is his hand, and the very heaviness of it is good…. There is but one thought that can comfort, and that is that God is immeasurably more the father of our children than we are. It is all because he is our father that we are fathers…. It is all well – even in the face of such pain as yours – or the world goes to pieces for me.
It is well to say “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away,” but it is not enough. We must add, And the Lord will give again: “The gifts of God are without repentance.” He takes that he may give more closely – make more ours…. The bond is henceforth closer between you and your son….
To give a thing and take again
Is counted meanness among men ;
Still less to take what once is given
Can be the royal way of heaven!
But human hearts are crumbly stuff,
And never, never love enough;
And so God takes and, with a smile,
Puts our best things away awhile.
Some therefore weep, some rave, some scorn;
Some wish they never had been born.
Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.
~ George MacDonald
(1) This letter was written on the occasion of the death of Cecil’s eldest son.