I am currently reading The Life and Letters of Robert Louis Dabney by T. C. Johnson. In reading this biography, I was shocked to learn that Dabney was bereaved of his two oldest children only two weeks apart from one another. Why would the Lord bring such hard providences upon his faithful servant? As I read on, I learned of the good fruit which was born through these difficulties, and I want to share them.
One of his seminary students at the time writes:
[H]e emerged from the gloom of this afflictive dispensation, and resumed his duties with quickened zeal and impressive unction. In his prayers, thereafter, in class-room and chapel, his pupils felt and saw, what is to be but rarely seen, how one of the most imperial of human wills may humbly bow, pass under the rod, and caress with filial affection, the fatherly hand that chastises. In these prayers, he repeated, with notable frequency and characteristic unction words like these, as if he had newly awakened to their import, and was desirous that we all, gathered about him as learners, should realize their consoling influence, and be prepared to comfort others with the comfort wherewith he himself was comforted, in the supreme sorrow of his eventful life: “May we not despise thy chastening, O Lord, nor faint whenever we re rebuked by thee,” etc.
[Some] of our neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Offutt and their little boy, and only child. This child was ill with fever. One morning, I told Dr. Dabney of their grief, and my fears that he would die, asking him if he would not go over with me … He, without hesitation, granted my request. Without ringing, we gently walked through the house to the back parlor, where the child was lying. Mrs. Offutt was on her knees near her child; Dr. Dabney stood erect, between the wide folding-doors, with his arms crossed, silently taking in the whole scene. Soon he walked to the bed, and kneeling near the mother, gave way to a flood of tears such as I then thought I had never seen a man weep. Then he offered such a prayer as you can well imagine that great tender heart, so recently bereaved, would offer for the afflicted parents, and the precious child then almost in the Saviours’s arms. When we arose, he repeated some suitable tender words of the Saviour to the mother, and departed. Mrs. Offutt told me afterwards that that visit of Dr. Dabney did her more good that all the visits and prayers of all her other friends… [T]he dear child was buried in the beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery in a few days.