I am glad to know that not one earnest prayer, not one heartfelt alms-giving, not one kind word, ever goes unblessed. Among the mountains of Switzerland there is a place where, if your voice be uttered, there will come back a score of echoes. But utter a kind, sympathetic, and saving word in the dark places of the town, and there will come back ten thousand echoes from all the thrones of heaven.
There may be some one reading this who knows by experience of the tragedies enacted in the third watch of the night. I am not the man to thrust you back with one harsh word. Take off the bandage from your soul, and put on it the salve of the Saviour’s compassion. There is rest in God for your tired soul. Many have come back from their wanderings. I see them coming now. Cry up the news to heaven! Set all the bells a-ringing! Under the high arch spread the banquet of rejoicing. Let all the crowned heads of heaven come in and keep the jubilee. I tell you there is more joy in heaven over one man who reforms than over ninety-and-nine who never got off the track.
But there is a man who will never return from his evil ways. How many acts are there in a tragedy? Five, I believe:
ACT I.—Young man starting from home. Parents and sisters weeping to have him go. Wagon passing over the hills. Farewell kiss thrown back. Ring the bell and let the curtain drop.
ACT II.—Marriage altar. Bright lights. Full organ. White veil trailing through the aisle. Prayer and congratulation, and exclamations of “How well she looks!” Ring the bell, and let the curtain drop.
ACT III.—Midnight. Woman waiting for staggering steps. Old garments stuck into the broken window-pane. Many marks of hardship on the face. Biting of the nails of bloodless fingers. Neglect, cruelty, disgrace. Ring the bell, and let the curtain drop.
ACT IV.—Three graves in a very dark place. Grave of child who died from lack of medicine. Grave of wife who died of a broken heart. Grave of husband and father who died of dissipation. Plenty of weeds, but no flowers. O what a blasted heath with three graves! Ring the bell, and let the curtain drop.
ACT V.—A destroyed soul’s eternity. No light; no music; no hope! Despair coiling around the heart with unutterable anguish. Blackness of darkness forever.
Woe! Woe! Woe! I cannot bear longer to look. I close my eyes at this last act of the tragedy. Quick! Quick! Ring the bell and let the curtain drop.