Page images
PDF
EPUB

character, however, it is unnecessary for me to expatiate, to you who have witnessed her practice as a district visitor, and recollect how her alms, and prayer, and counsel, and comfort, went hand in hand. You are well aware that she followed in the track of that Saviour who went about doing good, and that she aspired to nothing more than to be the channel of great mercies to all with whom she was connected.

But can you overlook the singular kindness of her disposition ? Some people are benevolent without being kind, and the absence of the latter quality detracts not a little from the value of the former. She was both. Her manifest solicitude to make all about her happy, gained every heart, and went far to accomplish: its object. “I found her always my friend,” said one of her domestics, “ as well as my mistress.” And this benignant temper shewed itself in a thousand ways. She was remarkable for sympathy with others, not in sorrow only, but likewise in joy: and to rejoice with the prosperous is a higher test of generous love, than to condole with the afflicted. Now this virtue was remarkably hers. Under sharp domestic trials she would please herself with the reflection that this and that person were exempt from it, and would exclaim with a smile of grateful joy, “ What a mercy it is that the burden we are bearing has not fallen on those dear friends!” I know those who can testify, from ample experience, that it were difficult to imagine her superior in the qualifications of a friend—such steady attachment, such disinterestedness, such equability of temper, such indulgent tenderness.

Another exercise of charity with which she was familiar—and which is always arduous, especially to females of a silent, timid disposition—was, the reconciling of persons who were at variance; she was eminently a peacemaker; and in this employment she would expose herself to ridicule, which is well known by whoever takes this walk of benevolence to be the usual recompense of pacific mediation. Still she persevered ; her blessed Lord hath enjoined it. Her abhorrence of strife, and her desire to see others happy, carried her throug! the labour of love, which was crowned in several instances with a success that must be mainly attributed to her unquestionable purity of purpose.

Now bear in mind, my brethren, that our sister was not a woman of brilliant parts and showy accomplishments. Excellent sense, and a clear, decisive judgment, arising very much from that singleness of heart and that absence of all petty feeling on which I have already dwelt, she did indeed possess; and her mind was stored with much valuable and well-adjusted knowledge. Still there was nothing in her general discourse and manner to dazzle and captivate, except what sprung from the exquisite charm of her moral character. It was the meekness of wisdom impersonated in her that gave her a peculiar facility of winning hearts to herself first, and then to God.

Now why am I at pains to exhibit her under this aspect? It is because I am most desirous to impress on you that nothing renders a person so amiable, so attractive, as religion; I mean, the pure religion of Jesus Christ, the religion of humility, of gentleness, and love. Where the spirit of our blessed Lord is produced, like a fragrant ointment, over the whole character-when it dwells in the heart, and is incorporated with all the words and actions, it will produce, not the manners of the world, indeed, but a more refined and noble result. Such a religion, so genuine and consistent, impresses those who come in connexion with it most beneficially. Perhaps they can hardly tell what it was that touched and overcame them : they cannot recal any striking words, or any remarkable action: yet the combined effect, the resulting influence is wonderful. The difference between such a mind and one of the ordinary stamp is strongly felt; and thus, perhaps, a service is rendered to the cause of the Gospel and of souls, beyond what is achieved by far higher endowments, and a more fervid zeal, where there is not the same entireness of Christian principle, and where the heart and the outward man are not equally bright with the lustre of holiness.

It were inconceivable that such a woman as I have been describing should not excel in the relations of a wife and a mother. On the former of these particulars, her conjugal virtues, I shall not, for obvious reasons, enter at large: but I am not apprehensive of being charged by my dear friend, her afflicted but rejoicing husband, with indelicacy or a breach of confidence, if I mention, that, both in her lifetime and since her decease, he has declared to me with many tears, that he deemed himself unworthy so saintly a wife, and that he deeply felt how much his responsibility to God was increased by the advantage he had many years enjoyed of having such a helpmate-one so kind and judicious, so dead to the world, so ripe in Christian knowledge and holiness, and whose spirit was so constantly in frame for heavenly feelings. How ardently she was attached to him was evinced throughout their union, and was testified in a way most affectingly gratifying to him on her death-bed. Yet much as she delighted in his society, she delighted more to go forth in the service of his Master, and to gird on (so to speak), by her counsels and encouragements, his spiritual armour ; and she would willingly consent to pass weeks and months from him when the higher claims of evangelical duty called him away.

In the management of her children I am told that she was singularly happy; and this I can easily believe of one whose

character is so appropriately described in that sentiment of Solomon, when speaking of a virtuous matron: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness. But this is not the place for detailing her plan of education; I would only say that it was begun, continued, and ended, in the Lord. Nothing more can be desired or asked for those dear children than to see them such as their mother's prayers and teaching would make them.

But our time, not our subject, is nearly exhausted, and I must hasten to the concluding stage of her pilgrimage. I will first inform you, however, that having been content in early youth with that superficial religion which is misnamed Christianity, she was mercifully led, by the perusal of one of Mrs. Hannah Moore's works, to a more scriptural view of her state before God, and her relation to him in Christ Jesus. Not long after this important change she was united to your dear minister—whose praise let the church speak, and not a private friend: and while shedding upon him the most benevolent influence, she grew up beneath his shadow to that proficiency in the divine life for which we have been glorifying God. Observe, my friends, for this is a capital point—she was from first to last of her religious profession, a diligent and progressive Christian. She walked closely with God by patient continuance in well-doing. In common with the faithful she took delight in her Bible, in public worship, in the communion of Christ's body, and in secret intercourse with him in prayer: but what she possessed in common with few Christians was, that predominant principle which led her uniformly, and one may say instinctively, to take the course pointed out by religion, when all human considerations were against it. She was of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.

Now this I take to be the secret of that unclouded peace which illumined her chamber. It is not so much, I have been led to believe it is not so much those who have achieved the greatest feats, and made the most notable sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel, that assurance is granted on their death-bed. As to those, perhaps humbler individuals, who have trod the narrow way with the fewest deviations, and with most of that simplicity of spirit, that singleness of love, which in God's sight is of great price; these are the Christians who are enabled to say,'as our sainted friend did to one who inquired whether she was happy, “O! perfectly happy ; no fear, no cáre, no doubt.”

I find, that from the time of her severe attack in the winter, she felt persuaded that her life was drawing to its close ; and nothing

*11

her from praying that it might be so. Yes, truly, she had a desire to depart and to be with Christ, as better far than remaining here; though her journey, as she gratefully owned, was sweetened with many mercies. She had been long concerned about the welfare of sinners; but now, when she experienced the unspeakable importance of having “ a good hope through grace,” this holy passion of her soul flamed forth with redoubled energy.

While resident in a country village, to which the physician had sent her, to try what the pure

air would do to revive the expiring ashes, she was continually addressing herself to one and the other on the things that accompany salvation, explaining the grounds of her own confidence, and exhorting them not to postpone the preparation for a dying hour. Here, also, she wrote very faithful and touching letters to some of her nearest kindred, for whose spiritual improvement she was deeply solicitous. Having been accustomed to put herself in the lowest place, she was quite overcome with the assiduities of the friend under whose roof she spent a few weeks after her removal from Dorking, and would shed tears at the many tokens of affection which she received. But her heart yearned for home, and she earnestly desired that it might be her last earthly resting-place before her flight to heaven. This desire was granted, and nothing could be more beautiful than the simple, easy, cheerful manner, in which she gave herself to household duties, and to making provision for the comfort of her family, so soon to be deprived of her maternal superintendence: the welfare of others still engrossed her then. Do you wonder at her being able, when standing on the verge of eternity, to busy herself with her ordinary duties, and with the utmost calmness to make arrangements which all hinged on the fact that a few weeks or days must terminate her earthly course? Is this a mystery that you cannot solve ? I will give you the solution. Death was not strange or terrible to her: at the outset of her Christian life, the thought of death used to agitate her ; but having found the perfect peace that is hid in Christ Jesus, she came at length to regard death as the friend who was to usher her into the presence of her God and Saviour. It was not on her own virtues and graces that she rested ; she was fixed by faith on the foundation laid in Zion, the atonement of the cross.

Dear brethren, if I have enlarged on her excellences in this discourse, it has not been for the purpose of clothing a fellow-sinner with unmerited honours, but to show what a mighty efficacy resides in true religion, and what dignity God imparts to frail earthen vessels by the spirit of his Son. Our dear sister saw herself to be nothing; she loathed whatever savoured of self-righteousness: her rejoicing was that in Christ, and him crucified, she had found

One word on the closing scene. When she perceived herself actually dying, her joy was very great. Her Father's purpose to receive her to himself he now certified, and it was now observed he filled her soul with the blissful prospect. Not many hours previous to her dissolution, she inquired whether she might count on being in heaven before night, and seemed rather disappointed on being told that her release could not be looked for so soon. But God was more gracious to her than appearances allowed us to expect. And now occurred a circumstance extremely affecting, and that invests with a sort of sacredness the death-bed of this eminent Christian. About a quarter past six on Friday, the thirtieth of last month, she suddenly turned to her attendants, and with an earnest look, and with all the power of voice she could summon, exclaimed, “Sing; w sing; why don't you begin to sing ?” In compliance with her repeated desire they began the hymn,

“ Come, let us join our cheerful songs,

With angels round the throne :" and though herself no singer, yet she made almost supernatural efforts to articulate the words, and to give out that melody of her voice with which her heart was overflowing. Brethren, what shall we say? Can we help supposing that an angel's voice had already reached her ears, a note of those blessed anthems in which she was just about to join? I presume not to dogmatize on this mysterious subject; but my soul owns little communion with those who scoff at the opinion, that God does, on some rare occasions, stoop very near to his dying children, indulge them with a glimpse of that world to which they are in the act of transition, and grant them before they are quite delivered from the burden of the flesh to enter the porch of heaven. So many accounts have been handed down to us of saints who are said to have been favoured with similar manifestations, that I cannot assent to that unkind philosophy which rejects them all as fables and delusions. The result, however, in the case before us, of this remarkable effort to sing the praises of God, was most happy, and you will recognise in it the tender loving-kindness of the Lord. Great fears had been entertained that our dear friend's last struggle might prove very protracted and painful ; but after singing two stanzas of the hymn she had called for, she seemed quite exhausted: the music ceased; she turned her head on the pillow, and her hand was clasped in her husband's, when a gentle sigh escaped her, and in that sigh her spirit mounted up to God. Happy saint! Thy struggle was finished, thy heavenly rest attained! With thy last breath, and in the final agony of nature, thou hadst been sending up hosannahs to the Lamb; and in a moment thou

« PreviousContinue »