« FöregåendeFortsätt »
awaiting her. He had long threatened to remove from her their daughter, who, he said, should not stay to be spoiled by a moping, spiritless, whining woman. In vain she entreated, and prayed, and resisted. Her misery was his sport, and he tore the child away—whither to be borne, or by whom to be educated, she could not learn. Her
cup seemed now to be full. Every earthly solace was gone, every human hope destroyed. Alone, deserted, unfriended, nothing seemed left her but misery, and despair. “ For a long time," said she, “ I was stupified and amazed. These repeated blows appeared to have stunned me, and I sat and walked with vacant and bewildered stupidity. But at last it occurred to me that God had purposely withdrawn every earthly and visible good, that he might prove me whether I could be satisfied with beavenly and invisible good alone; whether I could trust him, as I had thought I could, in the darkness as well as in the light.” This reflection brought her to herself. She humbled herself, and asked for faith. She stretched her eyes upward, and looked steadfastly on the clouds and darkness of the eternal throne, until she discerned the righteousness and mercy which rest at its foundation. She thus found peace—but it was sad and trembling and alarmed. She was like the timorous dove, that, fleeing from the violence of the vulture, takes refuge in the bosom of a man; but for a long time flutters and trembles, unable to quell its agitation, though it knows that its hiding place is secure.
There is a point beyond which the heart of an abused wife and a desolate mother is unable to bear. It must be relieved, or it must break. To this point the ill fortunes of Mrs. Holden had nearly brought her, when the overruling Power wbich bad permitted her trial, interposed for her deliverance. Her husband died the miserable death of a drunkard, brutish, delirious, hopeless-without preparation or warning for himself, and with only horror and agony for his wife.
In the language of the world, this removal would be called a relief—and so it was, and so she could not but regard it. But what a relief! Only an exchange of sufferings. For when one has loved some object dearly and devotedly, been united with it for years, watched for it, prayed for it, suffered for it, there is nothing which can eradicate the affection from the beart. No unkindness can destroy it, no ingratitude or harsbness can cancel it. It may be wounded and blighted; it may seem so crushed and broken as never to revive again. But death awakens it to life. The early love of the young heart returns in all its strength; and sorrow for the friend whom we had once adored, is tenfold embittered by the thought that we must sorrow as those without hope.
When Mrs. Holden saw that life was departed, the feelings of former times rushed to ber bosom, and she remembered nothing but that he was the chosen and kind lover of her bappiest days. All wrong was forgotten and forgiven, and she indulged freely in that reverie of grief, which feasts on the images of days that are past, and the shadows of pleasures that are long gone by. But from this the reality soon called her. The hope of finding her daughter, occupied her whole mind, and the search for her became her only care. For a long time it was vain; and was successful at last, only by one of those strange turns of fortune wbich men call accident, but in which she was willing to recognise the band of Heaven. “I had once,” said she, “regarded the singular coincidences of life, as the mere accidental creations of chance; but my suffering and my faith had made me wiser. I had learned to trace them to the kindness of my Father. And when my dear child, so long lost, so long sought in vain, and at length unexpectedly restored, was again folded in my arms-ob, I am sure, that any one, who could know how the rapture of that moment was enbanced by a certainty that God had done it, would earnestly seek to increase the happiness of life by an habitual acknowledgment of an overruling Providence. It brightens joy as much as it comforts sorrow."
The basty outline which I have given of Mrs. Holden's history, is sufficient to explain the character of the woman, whose loneliness and sufferings drew the sympathy of the whole village. A life of disappointment, toil and privation, had made early inroads on her constitution, which was now slowly sinking in torture and pain, to a state of final exbaustion. But her spirit bore all cheerfully, and passed, with almost an angel's serenity, the fearful avenue to grave,
“I cannot be sufficiently grateful,” said sbe one morning, to the Providence which has cast my lot unexpectedly among so kind friends. I have every thing that I could wish; more than I need; and oh, how much more than I deserve! After a stormy and perilous passage, I am not suffered to be wrecked, but am led to this quiet baven. And yet,” she added, with a sigh, “there is one thing wanting to my peace-one duty that my soul longs to perform."
“ And what is that?" I asked.
“ To commemorate my Saviour's love,” she replied, “in his appointed ordinance."
I told her that I would willingly administer it in her chamber, if she wished; for although not customary, yet, as a means of comfort and faith, it should not be refused.
“ Alas,” said she, “ I have never made a profession of religion. I do not belong to any church.”
I expressed my surprise at this, having taken it for granted, from what I had heard of her story and perceived of her feelings, that she had long been a communicant in the church of Christ.
“ It is not my fault,” said she; “ at least I trust not, for God knows how earnestly I have desired it. I thought it my duty; I longed for it as my dearest privilege; I thirsted for it as essential to the peace of my soul. But I have been debarred—if through my own fault
, may God bave mercy on me.
But I trust not. I tried to remove the obstacle. I would have done it if I could, but I was unable. My conscience does not reproach me.
“ What has this obstacle been?” I inquired.
“ It has arisen from my religious opinions,” said she. “When I received my first permanent impressions of religion after the death of my dear children, they were owing, under God, to the sympathy and instructions of the worthy minister who visited me. At that time, when all was borror and despair within me, be showed me the character and providence of God, explained his dealings, pointed me to his revelation in Christ, and thus led me to that trust and peace in which I have since rejoiced. But before I could feel myself at liberty to profess my faith, the interference of my cruel husband had cut me of from all religious privileges. After his death I removed to another place. And there I hoped to testify and strengthen my religious purposes, by a profession before the world and communion with the church. But my
desire to do so was rejected.”
“ I will relate the circumstances at length," said Mrs. Holden. “ After residing in the village nearly a year for in a situation of poverty and obscurity I could not sooner be sufficiently known to the inhabitants—I made known to the minister my bistory, and especially my religious convictions, concerning which he inquired minutely, and appeared to be satisfied. But I found, that, in order to admission to the church, I must give my assent to a particular list of doctrines, which were contrary to my convictions. This was a severe disappointment. Is there no dispensation?' I asked. Can I be admitted to my Master's table on no other conditions?'
«« On none other, certainly,' replied be. It is Christ's church, and I can dispense with nothing which he requires.'
“. And does he require all these articles to be believed?' said I. • Some of them appear contradictory, some un. reasonable, and some I do not remember in the Scriptures.'
“ Mr. Welston seemed surprised, and endeavoured to convince me of my error. But the truths which bad consoled and supported me, in which I bad rejoiced and hoped, were not the doctrines of a depraved nature, election and reprobation, and the saving of only a few by the suffering in their stead of the second person in the Trinity. I had not so learned Christ, and was unable to assent to his expostulations. He at length told me that I needed to be humbled; that my pride of reason must be rebuked ere I could receive the testimony of God.
“ This cut me to the heart. I had been humbledthoroughly, bitterly humbled; and if I knew myself at all, I was willing and glad to cast myself unreservedly on God's word. What else had I? Where else could I go? That word was every thing to me.
I had not a desire or wish or hope, except what rested there. To be thus suspected of proudly opposing it, to be accused of trusting to myself when my whole heart leaned on God seemed cruel. I felt it deeply, and wept bitterly.
“ Here was a new trial. It seemed as if my faith must be in every possible way exposed, that it might be proved what it could endure. I found myself looked upon with an evil eye, and regarded as an enemy to that religion which was my only friend, and for which I was ready to sacrifice every thing. I was treated as dishonouring my dear Lord, whose name was a precious balm to my spirit, and rebelling against the authority of God to whom it was
my first desire and study to be submissive. For the first time in my life, I found religious truth made the subject of controversy. I had got where the Christian standard was composed of party materials. I found that devotion, meekness, humility, charity, and good works, love to God, love to man, and an unspotted life, were not thought to constitute a disciple; and that men judged of the Christian, not by the graces that he exhibits, but by the articles of faith he subscribes. My own case therefore was hopeless. I had been mainly anxious for the Christian heart and life, and my articles were of a different complexion. Unhappy as I was made by being obliged to defend them, I yet could not renounce them; unhappy as I was to be denied the privilege of owning and bonouring my Lord, yet I had no alternative, for I could not assent to a confession which he had not taught me.
“ Under this disappointment I have lived year after year. Wretched, indeed, bas it sometimes made me; more wretched now, as the end of life approaches, for my soul longeth, yea panteth, for the consolation of this communion with Jesus. I trust that it is not an act essential to my salvation; but I feel that it would greatly conduce to my peace. And all that I desire on earth would be complete, if this one further blessing could be allowed me before I
bence.” It was one of the happy moments of my life, when I assured this pious sufferer that her desire should be granted. I had had abundant evidence to satisfy me that she exercised an acceptable faith; and the church did not hesitate to welcome to their communion one who was evidently to be, in so short a period, admitted to the higher communion of the church in beaven.
It was on the bright afternoon of a beautiful Sabbath, that, accompanied by a few friends, I visited the lowly abode of the dying believer, to administer this token of her faith and instrument of her consolation. Her wasted form was supported by pillows on the low bed. Her wan cheek was flushed slightly with the excitement of expectation, and her eye lighted up with a peculiar and animated lustre. Her trembling daughter stood over ber, and the silent company gazed with sympathy and admiration, till the holy service commenced, and then I trust that all hearts were absorbed in the act of devotion. It was a poor hovel, and a passenger might have cast upon it a look of