Amsterdam, 27 Aug. 1877.
My dear Theo,
It’s nearing Ma’s birthday,1 so I’m sending you herewith a money order for 1.23 1/2 guilders, because I’d very much like to give something together with you. It isn’t much, but it’s all I have; if you add the same amount to it then we can nonetheless get a good photograph.
You may certainly choose one yourself. Christ walking on the sea by Jalabert is more expensive still,2 otherwise I’d have suggested it, and even much more expensive is Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt.3 Enfin, you know it too and will surely make a good choice, but write the title of what you’ve chosen, on a postcard if necessary.
Thanks for your letter, which I was very4 happy to get, as also with a cheerful letter from home that arrived yesterday.
Yesterday morning was rainy, so I put on my overcoat to go to the early sermon in the Noorderkerk. The Rev. Posthumus Meijjes (that is, the young minister) was preaching there on Acts 4:12 and 12a,5 This is the stone which was set at nought of the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The Rev. Meijjes preaches very well, it’s also a treat to see his sons6 sitting with him in church. He has a very beautiful voice, though it’s almost too powerful, it sounds good, however, in a very large church, and his appearance is very striking, already wrote to you about how it moved me to see him come down from the pulpit once. It seems to me that he must be able to speak well on the ‘sycamore trees’7 and the Mount of Olives8 and, for example, on a text like ‘bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance and reform’,9 or ‘godly sorrow worketh a choice of salvation not to be repented of’,10 or on Zacchaeus.11 You surely understand what I mean, one can tell where his heart and thoughts always are and of what mind he is; when one looks at him one immediately thinks of a priest and a saint. His son came here yesterday and spent a while in the little study, he came in fact to ask if I would visit them at home this evening,12 which I gladly agreed to. Went again last week to see the old minister, his father.13
Also went yesterday morning to the Eilandskerk to hear Uncle Stricker,14 who spoke on Luke XI:28. But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it, mentioning the example of Mary the mother of Jesus who kept all these things, pondering them in her heart,15 and on Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet and had chosen that good part, which would not be taken away from her.16 I spent the afternoon and part of the evening at Uncle Stricker’s and so had a good Sunday, often thinking of what you were doing. Pa wrote that Anna had written a good letter home, she was busy because there were so many people staying, but seemed to be very happy, and Ma is already busy putting together her trousseau.17
Will you be making the trip18 in the autumn and come to Amsterdam then as well? I sincerely hope so, write as soon as you hear anything about it. And we must arrange for you to come and stay here, there is room enough in the house and you only have to let Uncle know, we must make the most of the time and opportunity to be together. Still have a lot of work to do today, are you busy in the gallery?
Last week at the dockyard a ship (monitor the Draak) was launched;19 that was interesting to see and a great joy for the workers. There are also a lot of shipyards on Bickerseiland, but for smaller craft; whenever I go there I take a good look at them, if one wants to learn how to work oneself one must pay attention to the workers, and to the workshops if one has a little study, for just as in a shipyard there are smaller and larger ships that are eventually finished and launched, in a study there are larger and smaller works planned and carried on ‘by patient continuance in well doing’20 and completed with God’s blessing.21 And it is also written ‘Forsake not the works of thine own hands,22 be patient, behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts’.23
There is something good in all labour.24
This is also a beautiful text: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, ‘wanting nothing’.25
If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.26 Let us therefore fix our hearts, our desires and our minds on one good thing or another, for life, and ask that of the Lord.27 For my part I desire so much to have the wisdom we see in our Father and Mother, in them to a greater extent than anywhere else, there is no family like ours, even, it seems to me, among good and noble people, among ‘the men of good will’, like many painters and writers, none better than our Father.
Let us but continue to seek and see whether we may also find something of it, ‘do well what you do’28 and all work is the work of God,29 practice makes perfect,30 and ‘polish it and repolish it unceasingly’,31 work, take pains, dig, burrow, turn over, let there be no place your hand has not touched and retouched,32 keeping these words in mind and acting on them will make some of it turn out right.
Old boy, I long for you so, do come soon with the nouveautés, and make sure to arrange it so that we can spend some time together.
Will we perhaps be able to have another Sunday here together? I’d be so happy if you could see the Oudezijdskapel sometime and hear one of the ministers like the Rev. Laurillard or Uncle Stricker. Do try to arrange it.
I don’t know that book by Daudet you wrote about, but have you ever read ‘A life for a life’ by the woman who wrote John Halifax?33 If you can get it sometime, do read it, it’s full of faith and also of nature, of the heath and of cities like Liverpool, and each page is spirit and life.34 Now I must work on the Greek themes, give my regards to your housemates, and also to Mauve and Jet35 if you go there. Have finished the text with the parables and miracles in French, and must finish it in English this evening. Adieu, dear brother, a hearty handshake in thought, I’d gladly send you more for Ma’s birthday but can’t, I wish you the very best, it seems very good to me that you spent those days at Mr Tersteeg’s.36 Believe me ever
Your most loving brother
Uncle Jan is planning to go to Helvoirt for a week on 1 Sept., I hope to profit by it by sitting downstairs for a long time in the evening in the living room and writing, I could do it anyway, but Uncle’s bedroom is nearby, so I have to be quiet. Can go and sit in my bedroom, but there the temptation to rest is too great when it’s late, and there’s no gas in my little study.
You know that old Father Lips died.37 At the funeral Pa spoke about The burial in the cornfield by Van der Maaten38 and also about I Thess. IV:13-18, V:1-10, that is surely it,39 as is Mark IV:26-29 and John XII:24 and I Cor. XV:35-38, 40-58.
Just had a good letter from Anna. Her letters are quite rare, so I’m sending you this one to read.