The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke

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TheDiscipleMD

Henry Van Dyke’s masterpiece, “The Mansion” features one John Weightman, a man of fortune, a dispenser of political power, a successful citizen. The extended version of his story is preferred but below is the cryptic tale with an almost equally powerful message.

“One evening John sat in his library in a comfortable chair contemplating his wealth. Before him were spread descriptions and pictures of the Weightman wing of the hospital and the Weightman Chair of Political Jurisprudence, as well as an account of the opening of the Weightman Grammar School. John Weightman felt satisfied. He had built a large fortune, and when he gave, he wanted to be recognized. His philosophy toward giving could be summed up in his own statement: “No pennies in beggars’ hats! … Try to put your gifts where they can be identified.”

He picked up the family Bible which lay on the table, turned to a passage, and read to himself the words:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20). The book seemed to float away from him. He leaned forward upon the table, his head resting on his folded hands. He slipped into a deep sleep.

As he dreamed, John Weightman was transported to the heavenly city. A guide met him and others whom he had known in life and advised that he would conduct them to their heavenly homes.
A devoted husband of an invalid wife was shown a lovely mansion, as was a mother, early widowed, who reared an outstanding family. A paralyzed young woman who had lain for 30 years upon her bed—“helpless but not hopeless”—received a lovely mansion. She had succeeded “by a miracle of courage in her single aim, never to complain, but always to impart a bit of her joy and peace to everyone who came near her.”

Pausing before a beautiful mansion, the guide said, “This is [the home] for you, [Dr. McLean.] Go in; there is no more [sickness] here, no more death, nor sorrow, nor [pain]; for your old enemies are all conquered. But all the good that you have done for others, all the help that you have given, all the comfort that you have brought, all the strength and love that you bestowed upon the suffering, are here; for we have built them all into this mansion for you.”
One after another the travelers were led to their own mansions and went in gladly; and from within, through the open doorways, came sweet voices of welcome.

By this time, John Weightman was impatient to see what mansion awaited him. As he and the guide walked on, the homes became smaller. At last they reached an open field, bare and lonely looking. In the center of the field was a tiny hut. Said the guide, “This is your mansion, John Weightman.”

Shocked, John Weightman told the guide that he must have confused him with some other John Weightman. With resentment in his voice, he cried, “Is this a suitable mansion for one so well known and devoted? Why is it so pitifully small and mean? Why have you not built it large and fair, like the others?”

Replied the guide, “That is all the material you sent us.”

John Weightman was mortified. “Have you not heard that I have built a school-house; the wing of a hospital; … three … churches.”
“Wait,” the guide cautioned. “… They were not ill done. But they were all marked and used as foundations for the name and mansion of John Weightman in the world. … Verily, you have had your reward for them. Would you be paid twice?”
A sadder but wiser John Weightman posed a sincere question: “What is it that counts here?”
Came the reply: “Only that which is truly given. … Only that good which is done for the love of doing it. Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought. Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward. Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself.”

The voice trailed off as John Weightman was awakened by the sound of the clock chiming the hour. “Thin, pale strips of the city morning were falling into the room through the narrow partings of the heavy curtains.” He had slept the night through. Changed by the message of his dream, he yet had a life to live, love to share, and gifts to give.”

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