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A Story for Tears: Urgent Words for Apocalyptic Times No. 9

Edited by Robert V. Rakestraw

There come to most of us weak or wicked moments, when we are apt to regard our more brilliant brethren as our enemies. We forget that we are members one of another, and that we need each other. What a story for tears is that which Dr. Alexander Whyte has told us of Thomas Shepard! It is a tale to be read on our knees. Thomas Shepard, as we all know, was an English Puritan, a Pilgrim Father, and the Founder of Harvard. But we did not all know that Thomas Shepard was a poor wretch of like passions with ourselves. He had, it seems, a brilliant ministerial neighbour. And his neighbour’s sermons were printed on Saturdays in the New England Gazette. So, for that matter, were Shepard’s. But his neighbour’s sermons read well, and were popular. Shepard’s read but indifferently, and were despised. And on one memorable Saturday a particularly brilliant and clever sermon appeared in the Gazette. Everybody read it, everybody talked of it, everybody praised it. And the praise of his neighbour was like fire in the bones and like gravel in the teeth of poor Thomas Shepard. It was gall and wormwood to his very soul. That Saturday the spirit of the old Puritan passed through the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tears-with-Newspaper

When midnight came it found him still prostrate before God on the floor of his study. His whole frame was convulsed in an agony of sweat and tears, whilst his brilliant neighbour’s clever sermon was still crushed and crumpled between his clasped hands. He wrestled, like Jacob, until the breaking of the day. He prayed until he had torn all bitterness and jealousy and hatred and ill-will out of his heart. And then, with calm and upturned face, he craved a blessing on his neighbour and on his neighbour’s clever sermon. Thomas Shepard came to see that he and his neighbor belonged to each other. He was his neighbour’s better half. Time has taken good care to vindicate Shepard. He is the friend of all of us, whilst we do not even know his neighbour’s name.

From F. W. Boreham, The Luggage of Life (Kregel, 1995; originally published 1912; pp.221-222). This quotation, along with other items and essays, may be found on Dr. Rakestraw’s blog/website , gracequestministries.org. You may write to him at bob@gracequestministries.org.

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