« PreviousContinue »
Such a topic, led by a sweet and holy transition to that rest of the soul which, lost in the first, is found only, and supremely in the second, Adam, the Lord from heaven. 1 Cor. xv. 47.
There was something very sweet in our desultory employment, as we sometimes read, conversed together, or prattled with the children. It was the occupation of idleness, life without labour, enjoyment brought home to the heart unsonght for: a delightful complacency in the works of God spread out before us, and above us, and around us; and of that yet higher work of his, unfolded and illustrated by many an image of infinite beauty, in the open Volume which our companion held in her hand.
Another passage was read, and another series of question and reply, commendation and emendation, followed, accompanied occasionally by remarks, or rather interjections, such as fine, beautiful, true, or the reverse; while another, and another interruption came in its turn from another quarter ; all meekly submitted to,--all patiently and gently entertained and disposed of -as, “mamma, what flower is this a mamma, what shell is that? mamma, what plant is here?"-was asked and answered by the dear and affectionate interlocutors, with mutual interest, and anwearied love.
The scene hefore us presented a dead calm, low water, a sloop stranded upon the beach, not by a storm but by the ebbing of the tide, a boat turned upside down, with a group of men and boys caulking her keel; beside them stood a pot of boiling tar, the smoke of which rose upon the air, not anfragrant. The figures and attitudes of the men fell in finely with the rest of the scene ; it was a subject for a Powell; he could not have found one more suited to his pencil. There was a beautiful effect of light at the moment, which shone with peculiar brightness on the bow and rigging of a ship, lying at anchor at a short distance from the shore. The only sounds that were heard amid this calm of nature and of the soul—this peace, placidity, and repose, of matter and of mind; were the pattering of the children's feet upon the hard sand or among the shingle, and the sweet tones of their voices as they ran from shell to pebble, or chased “cancer the crab,” in his backward progress among the rocks; or gathered the beautiful
weeds of the sea which, like the locks of the fabled mermaid, lave their brown tresses in the deep.-All was sweet, most sweet!
The children again interrupting our reading, Mrs. Neville closed her book, and pointing to an opening in the sky fringed with dark clouds, which partly revealed and partly concealed what was beyond: “ Is it not," said she,“ just like our views of heaven? we see a certain length, much that is fair, and bright, and calm, but we can penetrate no further." shall know all things," said I, ere long. We shall soon see the heavenly country no more through the dim and dusky vista of time, but shall view the tree of life and the river of water clear as crystal, as near us, and our own; and under the sacred shade of that tree, and amid the perpetual freshness of those waters, we shall delight to live for ever.”
While thus speaking we rose up, and looking round for the two little girls, we saw they had wandered from their amusements on the beach, to pick moss and lichens from the trees. As one pathway homeward was quite as pleasant as another and we had often gone by the village before, we this evening followed the children through the fragrant labyrinths of the forest, and in its opening glades had a beautiful view of a herd of deer brousing their evening fare. We followed the devious footsteps of our beloved conductors till arrested by Mrs. Neville, who requested us to turn a little out of our way to shew
my friend's children a small cottage now silent and shut-up, which was once inhabited by the widow of a woodcutter; who, having no children of her own, had adopted a poor parish child, fed it, nourished it, and brought it up to womanhood. They are now both happy,” said Mrs. Neville, “ in the presence of Him whom they loved and served on earth, and their joy will have no epd."
Here we tạrned round an old oak whose magnificent branches spread out like a tent to dwell in. The cottage appeared beyond it covered with ivy and wild wall-flowers, ruined and dilapidated, yet highly picturesque even in its desolation, Why it had been thụs neglected, Mrs. Neville did not relate; but turning to Elizabeth and Emma, she said, “How often have I listened with delight to my dear mother, when on such an
evening as this, she has leant one hand on my arm, and resting the other on my brother's, has walked (and it was the utmost extent of her walks in her latter years) to this cottage, and with the garrulity of age, related to me again and again the pleasure with which she had so often visited its humble and pious inhabitants! And you, my dear children," continued she, “ would have loved to bave seen what my dear mother has so often described to me; to have seen little Mary sitting at the feet of her humble instructress, listening with rapt yet infantine attention and delight, as she spake to her out of the best of books, telling her at one time of the love of God to his people; how be led them through distant countries, and carried them from land to land as they travelled in the desert or in the wilderness, or passed through the sea or the rivers, leading them, feeding them, and preserving them. Sometimes she would endeavour to imprint upon her memory the words spoken by holy men of old when they offered up prayer to God. • Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths: guide me in thy paths and teach me.' And then she would lead her a step still higher, and tell her of One who loved us to the death; whose infinite compassions brought him down from heavon to seek and to save that which was lost, and to give his liso a ransom for many. Then she would tell ber how this Friend of mau still liveth, and ever liveth ; still loveth his people, careth for them, feedeth them, and protecteth them.
“ She would then direct her eye to the scenes around her, and teach her to know who made the sun to rise, and the rain anıl the dews to descend on the evil and on the good; who laid the foundations of the earth, who covered it with the deep as with a garment, and spread out the heavens as a curtain. And she would assist her to commit to memory many of those beadtiful psalms descriptive of the works of God in creation, where in holy men of old expressed their gratitude to God for his goodness, and their adoration of the majesty of his power. While such subjects as these engaged the attention of the child and affected the heart of her humble instructress, a flower out of the coppice, or a shell from the sea-shore, would give rise to some sweet and pious observation, leading the youthful mind to behold in every thing around her that wisdom, and bounty, and beauty, which so many of the wise and learned never see at all; and sending up as it were, a hymn of praise to God, which ministering spirits well pleased might carry, as the simple thank-offering of holy love.
“But if thus pleased with the knowledge of God in his word and works, as hitherto unfolded to her, how would you have loved to have seen her, my dear children,"continued my friend, as we walked slowly over the soft short sward that now spread out like a carpet under our feet," how would you have loved to have seen her, as her eyes filled with tears of sorrow, when she heard that He who was so good and kind, was despised and rejected of men, hated of the world, had no place where to lay his sacred head; calumniated by his enemies, betrayed by his followers, forsaken of his friends! Again the tears passed away, and a smile of joy replaced them when she heard, that He who on earth said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven,' and took them in his arms and blessed them, was even now in heaven, as ready and willing to receive them as while on earth. But," added our beloved friend, as Elizabeth and Emma pressed nearer her to listen, “ if it was sweet to see this child sitting at the feet of the widow, imbibing the instruction which causeth not to err, you will allow it was no less beautiful afterwards to see her as my dear and venerable mother used to describe her to me, watching over her aged benefactress, when feeble and infirm, ministering to her wants; above all, fetching comfort to her out of those same wells of salvation to which she had guided her infant feet: out of that same book from whose sacred pages she had been early impressed by the Spirit of God, with the love of the truth. She then conveyed to her aged friend many a word of strong consolation, reminding her of all the way by which the Lord had led her, saying, 'when I was an orphan you' took me in; when father and mother had forsaken me, you brought me up. He that was the God of my youth, will be the God of your age; for is it not written, even to your old age
I am He, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you.' “ It was love in the person of pity,"continued Mrs. Neville, drawing the conversation to a close, as we entered
the gravel walks leading towards the gardens of Neville Park. " It was love in the character of pity, that received into its oottage, and into its bosom, the poor little orphan, nourished and cherished her, and brought her up to God and holiness; and through grace fitted her, in the use of means, for the enjoyment of blessedness. It was love in the form of gratitude that afterwards led the child to repay not the debt, for that was impossible, it never could be cancelled or diminished; but no express a sense of thankfulness for benefits so long enjoyed, so richly bestowed, by rendering back not what was its own, but that which it had received.
“ And now," said Mrs. Neville, with a softened yet deeply serious air and manner, addressing herself affectionately to Elizabeth, as the eldest of the children and best able to understand her. “ And now, my dear Elizabeth, have you ever considered what it is to render back what you have received ? There is One who has been kinder to you than any earthly parent, or any human friend could be. What would you be but an orphan or an out-cast in such a world as this, were it not for the love of a Father and a Friend in heaven? What would become of you, my beloved children, if left to mere human care or keeping, without the care and keeping of God? Oh, what has not He done for you! Who is it that puts love into the heart of your mother, or kindness into the heart of your friend? Who is it that gives to your dear parent wisdom to bring you up in the fear of the Lord, grace to walk before you as an holy example unto all pleasing ? tenderness to watch over you in sickness, patience to bear with your faults, and firmness and resolution to correct them? Who is it that by his own Spirit nightly and daily inspires her ardent prayers in your behalf, hears, yea, and answers her sometimes unuttered and, oftentimes, unutterable supplications?"
A tear stole into the eye of Elizabeth as Mrs. Neville made this appeal to her affectionate heart; for Elizabeth loved her mother above all things on earth, and she loved God because her mother loved Him, I know not that she had any feeling on things sacred, more definite than this. “ It is God," answered Elizabeth, pressing the hand of Mrs. Neville, ånd clinging closer to her side. While Emma affected, chiefly by the tears on her sister's cheek, looked up in the face of her mother's