THE MINISTRY OF HOME
Expository Lectures on Divine Truth"
by Octavius Winslow
The Bereaved Home
"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died." John 11:21
If ever home was honored and blest it was the home of
Bethany. "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." There, sad and
weary, He would often repair- gently lift the latch and enter. No guest more
welcome; for none was the humble repast more cheerfully laid- for none was
so loved as He. And, as He stepped across its lowly threshold we almost hear
Him say, "No unkindness, no rebuke, no upbraiding here!" But the home of
Bethany was bereaved. Death had entered its domestic circle: had disturbed
its center, removed its head, and quenched its brightest light. Lazarus, the
beloved brother, was dead- and Bethany was truly a house of mourning. But
Jesus was there- and there too as the chief mourner. His friend Lazarus was
dead. It was a common bereavement. The sisters had been bereaved of a
brother, Jesus of a friend. The sorrow of one was the sorrow of each:
towards one center their sad thoughts and their bereaved affections
converged: theirs was a mutual grief.
And yet we trace a dissimilarity. The sorrow of each partook of the
different features of each character. The sorrow of Martha was impassioned
and reasoning; that of Mary was shrinking and meditative; that of Jesus was
profound and still. Martha gave vent to grief in words, Mary in retirement,
Christ in sympathy. I have said that Jesus was the chief mourner in this
bereaved home. He was so because his sensibility as man was of a deeper
cast; more pure and therefore more intense. His human sympathies, free from
all the taint of sin and selfishness, were more exquisitely keen and tender
than throbbed in any other breast. And yet with the emotions of both- the
grief of Martha which found expression in words, and with that of Mary which
found vent in tears -Jesus sympathized. With the one sister He calmly
discoursed, with the other He silently wept, burying His own grief in the
deep, silent cloisters of His loving heart.
We now turn now to the subject suggested by this touching narrative. Our
homes are often BEREAVED HOMES! Where is there one exception? In the course
of time it must be so. Our domestic circle cannot always remain unvisited,
the family ties cannot always exist unbroken by death. At one time or
another the pale messenger enters our roof, and, bowing to his inexorable
summons, we are borne away to the house appointed for all living.
Funerals must darken our doors. How hard often to believe that this will
be so! We cannot force upon ourselves the thought that these precious links
will ever be sundered. Separation from them seems the last reflection that
we indulge, the last idea that crosses our minds. They seem too lovely and
too loved ever to die! The home seems too bright ever to be draped with the
shadow of death; the family circle too united ever to be sundered by the
ruthless messenger; the dwelling too joyous and vocal with the loud and
merry laugh ever to become a house of mourning!
But, alas! what household, ever so bright or united or happy, but, sooner
or later, is called to yield some loved member of its circle to the
irresistible demand of the enemy? How often, too, in the all-wise providence
of God, that the one chosen is the last we had thought would leave us! The
one we felt we could the least spare -the one that seemed so essential to
the unity of the family, who so knitted and bound together all the rest, our
heavenly Father sees fit to call.
Such must, necessarily, be the history of our families. And since no home
is so strongly fortified by youth or manhood, by rank or wealth, by
loveliness or piety, as effectually to resist the invasion of the last
enemy, let us have wisdom to learn the lessons our God- the God of the
families of the whole earth would teach us, and glean the consolations He
would convey to us in the family bereavements, with which, in the righteous
administration of His government, He sees fit to visit us.
Is not the first and most obvious lesson that of submission? This is,
perhaps, the most difficult one of all, we are such self-willed, wayward
children. The moment the human will is crossed there is rebellion. Whether
it be the will of a child under the restraint of parental authority, or the
will of a people under the government of a sovereign, or the will of God's
saints under the higher and diviner rule and discipline of their Heavenly
Parent, there is a natural and powerful tendency to rebel. But the lesson
which the bereaved child of God is to learn is that which David so
beautifully and touchingly exemplified- "Surely I behaved and quieted
myself, as a child that is weaned of its mother: my soul is even as a weaned
Higher still is the example of our true spiritual David- David's Lord and
Christ- "The cup which my Father path given me, shall I not drink it? O my
Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Your will
be done." The moment the will is thus brought into a perfect, and even
cheerful, acquiescence with the Divine will, all rebellion ceases, and the
bereaved heart lies passive in God's hands. And this is more than half the
comfort we receive in our domestic calamities. There is no comfort, no
peace, no quietness, so long as there is the slightest collision of our will
with God's will. The least vibration of hostility jars the music that
breathes from the holy blending. But, the moment we recognize the truth, "He
Himself has done it," so fully convinced are we that He has done all things
well-that His decision is the result of infinite wisdom, of parental love,
of Divine faithfulness, of unimpeachable righteousness, we lay down our
stricken hearts upon the heart of God, and all is peace.
Mark that weaned infant enfolded within its mother's arms! How safely it
lies, how softly it breathes, how sweetly it slumbers, reclining upon that
gentle bosom! What a lovely image of innocence, confidence, and peace! So
let our sad and bleeding hearts, smitten of God and afflicted, repose upon
the bosom of Jesus. "And Aaron held his peace." "I was dumb, I opened not my
mouth, because You did it." "The beloved disciple who also leaned upon His
Where else can a weary child repose? To whom can we repair, with our
weight of sin, and our burden of sorrow, and rebelliousness of spirit, but
to Christ? He invites us to the repose of His loving heart, to the rest
which His atoning work imparts, to the sympathy which flows from His
"I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, you weary one,
lay down Your head upon my breast.
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad."
If submission to God in our domestic bereavements be the first lesson we
should learn, love to one another should be the second. God often sends
family afflictions, especially in the form of bereavement, in order to draw
more closely together the family ties. There is, alas! in many homes, a
great lack of family affection. The dissentions and broils that exist; the
lack of real love, with all the sad results of alienated feeling- cold,
unsympathizing address, selfishness, covetousness, unkindness, and wounding-
are sad blots upon the family escutcheon of many homes. But God sends
domestic adversity- sometimes in the form of a loss of temporal position-
sometimes it is the inroad of sickness. At other times, the home ties are
severed by distance of place; but, more stern and painful than all- is the
form of bereavement.
And what is a practical and holy lesson God would then teach us?- to
"love as brethren." As tie after tie of the home-circle is severed: as one
by one passes into eternity, God would have those who yet remain draw closer
and closer to one another, and nearer and nearer to Himself. O how passing
solemn are family afflictions, especially the visitation of death! To follow
to the grave a venerated parent- a loved husband- a fond wife- an
affectionate brother- a devoted sister- a promising child- O these are
terrible wrenches, heart-crushing sorrows. How closely it brings us to
eternity! Where are these loved ones gone? Their places at our hearths, and
at our tables are vacant- significantly, impressively vacant- and know them
no more. We enter their chambers- we search where we have been wont to meet
them, but we see them not, we call, but they answer not- we wait the meal,
as if they would appear - they come not! Where are they? Gone into eternity!
Soon we shall follow. What tie will next be ruthlessly severed? Who will
next be summoned! Seeing we know not which one, or how soon, let us love one
another more fervently; let us cherish the relations that remain more
fondly; and seek to promote each other's happiness and comfort and
well-being more sincerely. This will save us many an aching pang when they
Our own personal preparation for death surely is a lesson death itself
most imperiously and solemnly enforces. We must soon follow. We are like
sheep grazing in a field, waiting for the slaughter. Each day the messenger
enters, and drives one and another away to the butchers, until gradually all
are gone. And yet those which still remain for awhile graze on heedless of
the fact that tomorrow their turn may come.
So death enters our domestic enclosures, and marks one today and another
tomorrow, gradually lessening the house-hold number, until there are no more
to die. The great and momentous question is- Am I prepared to die? I wait my
turn- am I ready? Am I converted? Have I felt myself a sinner? Have I fled
to Christ? Am I safe in Him? Do I believe in Him with my whole heart? Is
Jesus precious to my soul, is He all my salvation, and all my desire? Do I,
in a word, love the Savior truly, devotedly, supremely? And am I living and
laboring and hoping as a disciple and follower of Christ- as one whose
treasure is in heaven, and whose heart, in sweet communion and longing
desire and growing holiness, is where its treasure is?
Our true, saving, sole preparation is alone in Christ. If we are washed
in the blood of Christ, and are justified by the imputed righteousness of
Christ, and are sanctified by the Spirit of Christ, and are living as the
regenerate children of God, and as new creatures in Christ Jesus, then death
will not be to us an unwelcome messenger. We may depart suddenly, but not
unpreparedly. Death will find us in Christ, accepted in Him, hid in Him,
saved in Him; and when we die, the blessedness will be ours of those "who
die in the Lord."
Admit the Savior to your bereaved home. The house of mourning had more
attraction to Him when on earth than the house of feasting. It is so with
Him now. He is by this very domestic bereavement, knocking at your door,
asking to be admitted. He condescendingly stands and asks to enter. O admit
Him to the home of woe. He comes to soothe and comfort and succor: He comes
to bless, to sanctify, to save. He comes with hands laden with gifts, with a
heart melting with compassion, with a nature overflowing with grace. Rise,
and bid Him welcome. With Martha prepare Him good entertainment. With Mary
sit humbly at His feet and hear His words.
The season of bereaved sorrow is a most favorable time to become
acquainted with Jesus, to form a friendship with the Son of God, to enter
into an alliance with the Savior. O allow not these golden hours to pass
unimproved. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Death has crossed your
threshold, Jesus quickly follows! He comes to repair the ravage, to supply
the void, to heal the wound, to soothe and sanctify the grief death has
made. O if out of this "eater " there shall come forth "meat,"- if from this
evil, good shall be evolved- if this dark cloud upon your household, this
shadow of death upon your heart, should be gilded with the "hope of glory,"
will you not through time and eternity bless God for a bereaved home?
Has it pleased God to remove from yours its head of power, its center of
influence- its source of supply? Remember that He has not withdrawn Himself.
He may have written you a widow, or fatherless, or an orphan; but He is the
widow's God, and in Him the fatherless finds mercy. His precious promise is-
"Leave your fatherless children, and let your widows trust in Me." What a
legacy for a Christian man to bequeath to God- a helpless widow, a father
less family! He will prove kind and faithful to the trust. Only believe in
Him. He has never yet falsified Himself, has never violated His word of
promise, and you shall not be the first to charge Him with having proved
unfaithful to the confidence reposed in Him; reposed in Him by a poor and
desolate widow, by a bereaved and helpless orphan.
How appropriate and precious in the home bereavement is the sympathy of
Jesus! Perhaps the most touching attitude of our Lord in the domestic grief
of Bethany- or the most sublime spectacle of His life is His weeping at the
grave of Lazarus. "Jesus wept." The Son of God, the Creator of heaven and
earth, the Maker of all things, the upholder of all worlds, in tears!
Marvellous spectacle! Such is the sympathy of Christ with our human race. It
is a great boon for us to have- a precious truth for us to receive- a
priceless blessing for us to experience. There is nothing that can possibly
be its substitute. Human sympathy is inexpressibly sweet, and gratefully
welcome; but the grief of bereavement is often too fathomless for its line
of compassion to sound, the pain too deep for its tenderness to soothe.
We must have Christ, and we do have Him! Yes; that very same Savior whose
tears fell fast and warm upon the grave of His buried friend, who had tears
for the mourning sisters, tears for the saddened disciples, tears for the
unbelieving Jews, and tears for Himself- for, as I have said, He stood the
Chief Mourner at that grave- even He has tears, bereaved one, for you. The
sympathy of Christ with our sorrows is not a mere sentiment, a transient
emotion, a passing tear quickly shed, and as quickly dried. O no! His are
the tears of a love that once wept tears of blood for us. His is a
compassion that sustains, as well as comforts, that sanctifies as well as
soothes. The sympathy of Christ has a soul-transforming effect, a Divinely
assimilating power, it makes us Godlike.
And, oh! to be Godlike- to be changed into the same image from glory to
glory! what though "friend after friend departs," -what though tie after tie
of domestic love is broken- if this be but the hallowed, the blessed result!
Cling to the sympathy of Christ. Nestle beneath His soft wing-it will enfold
and shelter you until these calamities be overpast.
Let us be comforted by reflecting upon the glory into which our departed
ones who died in the faith of Jesus have entered; and let us strive to gain
that heaven of glory where they are gone. They are not here, they are with
the Lord. All their sins and sorrows and trials and infirmities and
temptations are passed, and they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any
more, nor battle more with sin, or Satan, or the world. They are with Christ
the Lord. With Him they will come when He shall appear in the clouds of
heaven with all the saints; for He will bring with Him all them who sleep in
Him. Let us comfort one another with this glorious prospect.
Until then, He who mourned with the loved ones in the home of Bethany,
and wept over the grave of Lazarus, mourns and weeps with you. Turn from the
gloom and mystery of your bereavement, and lose yourself and it in the
loving, sympathizing Savior.
"You! who are touched with feeling of our woes,
Let me on You my heavy burden cast,
My aching, anguished heart on You repose,
Leaving with You the sad mysterious past!
Let me submissive bow, and kiss the rod;
Let me 'be still, and know that You are God.'
"Why should my harassed, agitated mind,
Go round and round this terrible event;
Striving in vain some brighter side to find
Some cause why all this anguish has been sent?
Do I indeed that sacred truth believe,
You do not willingly afflict and grieve?
"Infinite wisdom! can it ever err?
Infinite love! can it to us work ill?
Good, only good, do You, my God, confer,
Though it to me, alas! seem evil still;
Oh! let not finite, frail, presumptuous man,
Your acts arraign- Your hidden purpose scan.
"Oh! pity me, all crushed beneath the blow,
Thus weeping over this sad, mysterious blight;
My garden's richest, fairest plant laid low,
Gemmed with its dewy blossoms sparkling bright;
Just when its roseate blooms were set for fruit,
Stricken and shattered at the very root.
"There are none like it left, and earth appears
So stripped, so desolate, without its charms,
A barren waste, a mournful vale of tears,
That, were I not supported by Your arms,
My pitying Savior! this poor heart would break!
Oh! shield-oh! comfort, for Your mercy's sake.
"My lovely gourd is withered in an hour!
I droop, I faint, beneath the scorching sun
My Shepherd, lead me to some sheltering bower
There, where Your little flock 'lie down at noon;'
Though of my dearest earthly joy bereft,
You are my portion still-You, You, my God, are left!"