To Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, Friday, 16 March 1877.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter, want to make sure you receive a few words in Amsterdam. We’ll see each other Sunday, I hope, and it will be good for us to be together again.
My hearty congratulations to you on Willemien’s birthday, what a nice girl she’s become. From Pa and Ma she’s getting ‘de wijde wijde wereld’, and from me ‘het Kerstfeest aan de pool’ by Bungener. I’m glad for you that you left on your trip so soon, that makes for a good change.
I’m so sad and so alone, you say. ‘And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me’. ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’.
Holding fast in all places and in all circumstances to the thought of Christ, that is a good thing. ‘I set the Lord before me alway, the Lord is my keeper, He is the shade upon my right hand’, said David. What a hard life the farmers in Brabant have; Aarssen, for example, where does their strength come from? And those poor women, what is the support in their lives? Might it not be that image of Christ, the wondrous power and attraction of that name? Might it not be what the painter painted in his ‘Light of the world’?
I cannot tell you how much I sometimes yearn for the Bible. I do read something out of it every day, but I’d so much like to know it by heart and to see life in the light of that word of which it is said: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I believe and trust that my life will still be changed, and that that longing for Him will be satisfied. I, too, am sometimes sad and alone, especially when I walk around a church or a parsonage.
‘A poor man in the kingdom of heaven’, that is a name that attracts a man and is a gospel to him. Let us not give up and go on seeking meekness and longsuffering.
And be true to your own nature and be separate, distinguish between good and evil even if you don’t show it. Do it for yourself.
‘Do not leave this life without having given evidence in one way or other of your love for Christ’, says Claudius.
You’ve had an experience that can make you wise your whole life long, do hold that fast which thou hast.
Feed me with the bread of my tears, truth, teach me. And it also says: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken heart and a broken spirit; a broken heart, O God, thou wilt not despise’. HATE sin, be discerning, do you remember how Pa used to pray every morning ‘Preserve us from all evil, especially the evil of sin’? And he certainly knows. And it also says: he who hate not, yea his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
I’m longing for Sunday, I hope you’ll have a good trip, working is always a wonderful thing, and there is something good in all labour.
Am still busy until late at night, but glad it’s like this.
Be sure to give my regards to Uncle Cor and Aunt.
There are storks here already, but I haven’t heard any larks yet. It’s often stormy, and then one sees swarms of crows and starlings.
The photograph of Mater Dolorosa that you sent is hanging in my room, how beautiful it is. Do you remember it hanging in Pa’s study at Zundert?
Now Theo, I wish you the very best, we’ll be seeing each other soon, I’m longing to see the prints you wrote about, accept a handshake in thought, see you Sunday, adieu, and believe me
Your loving brother