No Hope Sight For The Blind Chaplain
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHEN Dr. W. H. Milburn, the blind Chaplain of the United States Senate, was in London, he consulted the leading oculists as to the possibility of regaining his sight. He was told that there was but one oculist, however, and that man Dr. Graef, of Berlin, who might effect a cure. He went to Paris to consult the French oculists. They concurred in the opinion that the only man who could treat him successfully was Dr. Graef, of Berlin, and congratulated him on the fact that Dr. Graef happened then to be in Paris, and so Dr. Milburn consulted him. The great German specialist said to the blind chaplain, You must come to my hospital and remain there six weeks, before you receive the first part of the treatment." Dr. Milburn consented. He went to Berlin, and entered Dr. Graef's hospital. The oculist told him that he probably would find his sojourn very tiresome and tedious, and he would do well to advertise for somebody to read to him. Dr. Milburn advertised for an educated German woman who, for reasonable compensation and for the sake of Christ, would read to a blind chaplain. In response to this advertisement, Fri. von Forstner applied for the position. She happened to be peculiarly adapted to the requirements, being a niece of the famous theologian and preacher Schleiermacher. The day she was installed, Dr. Milburn asked her to take down Carlyle's Frederick the Great, Vol. V., to turn to page 119, and begin to read to him. He was such a quiet listener that Fri. Forstner several times thought he was asleep, and finally she stopped, thinking that he was no longer listening. He roared, " Why do you stop? Why do you not proceed?" In response, she asked him the question. " Why did you get a German and not an English or an American lady to read from the English historian's work to you?" He replied, " What do English women know about Frederick the Great? I wanted to know all about him, and I knew that an educated German woman could tell me more on this subject than any English woman I know.
After six weeks, the oculist made the initial operation, and was delighted with its success. He told the chaplain he would have to wait several months before the next operation could take place, and in the meantime it would be just as well for him to return to America, where he would no doubt enjoy life more than in a strange country. Two months and a week after his return to this country, Chaplain Milburn was informed of the death of Dr. Graef. He could find no oculist who would undertake the delicate operation which Dr. Graef was willing to perform, and so, with the life of the great specialist, the chaplain's hopes of recovering his sight vanished.
It is a joy to know that, in our spiritual blindness, there is a Physician to whom we can go with a certainty of relief, who never failed to restore sight to the patient who had committed himself to Him for treatment, and who never will. Death shall never remove this Physician from his beneficent work. " I am he that liveth and was dead ; and behold, I am alive for evermore."