At length, however, such was the rapid increase of trade, and the importance of devoting every possible moment to his customers, that he began to think whether family prayer did not occupy too much time in the morning. Pious scruples indeed there were against relinquishing this part of his duty; but soon wordly interests prevailed so far as to induce him to excuse the attendance of his apprentices; and it was not long before it was deemed advisable for the more eager prosecution of business, to make praying in the morning when he first arose, suffice for the day.
Notwithstanding the repeated checks of conscience that followed this sinful omission, the calls of a flourishing business concern and the prospect of an increasing family appeared so pressing, that he found an easy excuse to himself for this unjustifiable neglect of an obvious family duty. But when his conscience was almost seared as with a hot iron, it pleased God to awaken him by a peculiar though natural providence. One day he received a letter from a young man who had formerly been an apprentice, previous to his omitting family prayer. Not doubting but that domestic worship was still continued in the family of his old master, his letter was chiefly on the benefits which he had himself received through its agency.
"Never," said he, "shall I be able to thank you sufficiently for the precious privilege with which you indulged me in your family devotions! O, sir, eternity will be too short to praise my God for what I have learned. It was there I first beheld my lost and wretched estate as a sinner; it was there that I first found the way of salvation, and there that I first experienced the preciousness of Christ in me the hope of glory. O, sir, permit me to say, Never, never neglect those precious engagements. You have yet a family and more apprentices. May your house be the birth-place of their souls!"
The conscience-stricken tradesman could proceed no further, for every line flashed condemnation in his face. He trembled, and was alarmed lest the blood of his children and apprentices should be demanded at his hands. "Filled with confusion, and bathed in tears, I fled," said he, "for refuge in secret. I spread the letter before God. I agonized in prayer, till light broke in upon my disconsolate soul, and a sense of blood-bought pardon was obtained. I immediately flew to my family, presented them before the Lord, and from that day to the present, I have been faithful, and am determined, through grace, that whenever my business becomes so large as to interrupt family prayer, I will give up the superfluous part of it and retain my devotion. Better lose a few dollars than become the deliberate moral murderer of my family and the instrument of ruin to my own soul."
Now this experience is highly instructive and admonitory. It proves how much good may be doing by family worship faithfully observed when we little know it, and the importance, therefore, of always maintaining it. It proves the goodness of God in reproving and checking his children when they neglect duty and go astray. And it shows the insidious way in which backsliding begins and grievous sin on the part of God's people. May the engagements of business never tempt any parent that reads this article to repeat the tradesman's dangerous experiment! But if there be any that have fallen into the same condemnation, as it is to be feared some may have done, may God of his mercy admonish them of it, and bring them back before such a declension, begun in the neglect of family religion, shall be consummated in the decay and loss of personal religion, and the growing irreligion both of your family and your own soul.
* * * * *
THE BONNIE BAIRNS.
This exquisitely touching ballad we take from the "Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern," edited by Allan Cunningham. He says, "It is seldom indeed, that song has chosen so singular a theme; but the superstition it involves is current in Scotland."
The ladie walk'd in yon wild wood, Aneath the hollow tree, And she was aware of twa bonnie bairns Were running at her knee.
The tane it pulled a red, red rose, Wi' a hand as soft as silk; The other, it pull'd a lily pale, With a hand mair white than milk.
"Now, why pull ye the red rose, fair bairns? And why the white lily?" "Oh, we sue wi' them at the seat of grace, For soul of thee, ladie!"
"Oh, bide wi' me, my twa bonnie bairns! I'll cleid ye rich and fine; And a' for the blaeberries of the wood, Yese hae white bread and wine."
She sought to take a lily hand, And kiss a rosie chin— "O, naught sae pure can bide the touch Of a hand red—wet wi' sin"!
The stars were shooting to and fro, And wild-fire filled the air, As that ladie follow'd thae bonnie bairns For three lang hours and mair.
"Oh, where dwell ye, my ain sweet bairns? I'm woe and weary grown!" "Oh, ladie, we live where woe never is, In a land to flesh unknown."
There came a shape which seem'd to her As a rainbow 'mang the rain; And sair these sweet babes plead for her, And they pled and pled in vain.
"And O! and O!" said the youngest babe, "My mither maun come in;" "And O! and O!" said the eldest babe, "Wash her twa hands frae sin."
"And O! and O!" said the youngest babe, "She nursed me on her knee." "And O! and O!" said the eldest babe, "She's a mither yet to me."
"And O! and O!" said the babes baith, "Take her where waters rin, And white as the milk of her white breast, Wash her twa hands frae sin."
* * * * *
MY LITTLE NIECE, MARY JANE.
This little girl was doubtless one of those whom the Savior early prepares for their removal to his pure and holy family above. The sweet, lovely, and attractive graces of a sanctified childhood, shone with a mild luster throughout her character and manners, as she passed from one period of intelligence to another, until she had reached the termination of her short journey through earth to heaven.
Peace to thy ashes, gentle one! "Light lie the turf" upon thy bosom, until thou comest forth to a morning, that shall know no night!
After the birth of this their first child, the parents were continually reminded of the shortness and uncertainty of life, by repeated sicknesses in the social circle, and by the sudden death of one of their number, a beloved sister.
Whether it was that this had its influence in the shaping of the another's instructions, or not, yet such was the fact, that the subject of a preparation for early death, was not unfrequently the theme, when religious instruction was imparted. The mind of the mother was also impressed with the idea of her own responsibility. She felt that the soul of the child would be required at her hands, and that she must do all in her power to fit it for heaven. Hence she was importunate and persevering in prayer, for a blessing upon her efforts; that God would graciously grant his Spirit, not only to open the mind of her child to receive instruction, but also to set it home and seal it there.
Her solicitude for the spiritual welfare, of the child was such, as often to attract the notice of the writer; while the results forced upon her mind the conviction, that the tender bud, nurtured with so much care and fidelity, and watered with so many prayers and tears, would never be permitted to burst into full flower, in the ungenial soil of earth.
Mary Jane had hardly numbered three winters, when a little sister of whom she was very fond, was taken dangerously sick. Her mother and the nurse were necessarily confined with the sick child; and she was left very much alone. I would fain have taken the little girl home with me; but it was feared that a change of temperature might prove unfavorable to her health, so I often spent long hours with her, in her own home. Precious seasons! How they now come up to me, through the long vista of the dim and distant past, stirring the soul, like the faint echoes of melting music, and wakening within it, remembrances of all pleasant things.
I had been spending an afternoon with her in the usual manner, sometimes telling her stories, and again drawing forth her little thoughts in conversation, and was about taking leave, when I said to her, "Mary Jane, you must be sure and ask God to make your little sister well again." Sliding down from her chair, and placing her little hand in mine, she said with great simplicity, "Who will lead me up there?" Having explained to her as well as I could, that it was not necessary for her to go up to heaven; that God could hear her, although she could neither see him nor hear his answers, I reluctantly tore myself away. Yet it was well for the child that I did so; for being left alone, the train of her thoughts was not diverted to other objects; and she continued to revolve in her mind, as was afterwards found, the idea of asking God to make her sister well.
That night, having said her usual evening prayer, "Our Father," "Now I lay me down to sleep," &c., the nurse left her quietly composed to sleep, as she thought, but having occasion soon to pass her door, she found that Mary Jane was awake and "talking loud." On listening, she found that the little girl was praying. Her language was, "My dear Father up in heaven, do please to make my little sister well again."
Before her sister recovered, she was taken sick herself. A kind relative who was watching by her bedside one night, offered her some medicine which she refused to take. The watcher said, "I want to have you take it; it will make you well." The sick child replied: "The medicine can't cure me—the doctors can't cure me—only God can cure me; but Jesus, he can make me well." On being told that it would please God, if she should take the medicine, she immediately swallowed it. After this she lay for some time apparently in thought; then addressing the watcher she said, "Aunty B——, do you know which is the way to heaven?" Then answering the question herself she said, "Because if you don't, you go and ask my uncle H——, and he will tell you which is the way. He preaches in the pulpit every Sabbath to the people to be good,—and that is the way to go to heaven."
Were the dear child to come back now, she could hardly give a plainer or more scriptural direction—for, "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
Before Mary Jane had recovered from this sickness, a little brother was added to the number; thus making a group of infants, the eldest of whom could number but three years and one month.
As the little ones became capable of receiving impressions from religious truth, Mary Jane, though apparently but an infant herself, would watch over them with the most untiring vigilance. One thing she was very scrupulous about; it was their evening prayer. If at any time this had been omitted, she would appear to be evidently distressed. One evening while her mother was engaged with company in the parlor, she felt something gently pulling her gown. On looking behind her chair, she found little Mary Jane, who had crept in unobserved, and was whispering to her that the nurse had put her little brother and sister to bed without having said their prayers.
It was often instructive to me to see what a value this dear child set upon prayer. I have since thought that the recovery of her infant sister, and her own prayer for the same, were so associated in her mind, as to produce a conviction of the efficacy of prayer, such as few possess.
Being confined so much to the nursery, the mother improved the favored season, in teaching her little girl to read, to sew and spell; keeping up at the same time her regular routine of instruction in catechism, hymns, &c. She had an exercise for the Sabbath which was admirably adapted to make the day pass, not only pleasantly but profitably. In the morning, unless prevented by illness, she was invariably found in her seat in the sanctuary, with such of her children as were old enough to be taken to church. In the afternoon she gave her nurse the same privilege, but retained her children at home with herself. The moment the house was clear, Mary Jane might be seen collecting the little group for the nursery; alluring them along with the assurance that "now mother was going to make them happy." This meeting was strictly in keeping with the sacredness of the day. It was also a social meeting, each little one as soon as it could speak, being required to take some part in it, the little Mary Jane setting the example, encouraging the younger ones in the most winning manner; and always making one of the prayers. The Bible was not only the text book, but the guide. It furnished the thoughts, and from it the mother selected some portion which for the time, she deemed most appropriate to the state of her infant audience. Singing formed a delightful part of the exercises. The mother had a fine voice, and the little ones tried to fall in with it, in the use of some hymn adapted to their tender minds.
These meetings were also very serious, and calculated to make a lasting impression on the tender minds of the children. At the close of one, the mother who had been telling the children of heaven, turned to Mary Jane, and said, "My dear child, if you should die now, do you think you should go to heaven?" "I don't know, mother," was her thoughtful reply; "sometimes I think I am a good girl, and that God loves me, and that I shall certainly go to heaven. But sometimes I am naughty. J—— teazes me, and makes me unthread my needle, and then I feel angry; and I know God does not love me then. I don't know, mother. I am afraid I should not go to heaven." Then encouraging herself, she added in a sweet confiding manner, "I hope I shall go there; don't you hope so too, mother?"
Oh, who of our fallen race would ever see heaven, if sinless perfection only, were to be the ground of our admittance there? True, we must be free from sin, before we can enter that holy place; but this will be, because God "hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."[A]
How much of the great doctrine of Justification by Faith in Christ this little girl could comprehend, would be very difficult to tell. But, that she regarded him as the medium through which she must receive every blessing, there could be no doubt. He died that she might live; live in the favor and friendship of God here, and live forever in his presence hereafter.
Since commencing this simple narrative, I have regretted that more of her sweet thoughts respecting Jesus and heaven could not be recalled. Every thing relating to the soul, to its preparation for another and better state of existence; to the enjoyments and employments of the blessed, had an almost absorbing power over her mind; so that she greatly preferred to read of them, and reflect upon them, to joining in the ordinary sports of childhood. Yet she was a gentle and loving child, to her little companions, and would always leave her book, cheerfully and sweetly, when requested to join their little circle for play. But it was evident that she could not as easily draw back her thoughts from their deep and heavenly communings.
Whenever she witnessed a funeral procession, instead of lingering over the pageant before her, her thoughts would follow the individual into the invisible world. Was the person prepared for death? Had the soul gone to God? were questions which she pondered with the deepest interest.
A short time previous to her death, she was permitted at her urgent and oft repeated request, to witness the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Her mother was much affected to see the interest which the dear child manifested on the occasion, and also the readiness with which she entered into the meaning and design of the sacred ordinance.
The entire sixth year of Mary Jane was a period of unusual confinement. Several members of the family were sick during that time; her mother more than once; and she was often confined for whole days to the nursery amusing the younger children and attending to their wants. Hence, when a visit to the 'water-side' was talked of, the proposal was hailed with joy. The prospect of escaping from her confinement, of being permitted to go freely into the fresh air, to see the ocean, and gather shells and pebbles upon its beach, was hailed with joyous emotion. Yet all these delightful anticipations were destined to disappointment. The family did indeed go to the 'water-side'; but they had scarcely reached the place when their second daughter was taken alarmingly ill. When the dear child was told that she must return home with her little brother, not a murmur escaped her lips. Not that she cared nothing for the ocean, or the treasures upon its beach; but she had learned the great lesson of self-denial, although so young. A moment before, and she was exulting in prospect of the joyous rambles in which she should participate, amidst the groups of sportive children collected at the watering place. But when the carriage was brought to the door, and her little bonnet was being tied on, not even, 'I am sorry' was uttered by her, although her whole frame trembled with emotion. With a hurried, though cheerful, 'good bye, mother,' she leaped into the coach and was gone.
The two children were brought home to me; and as day after day passed and no favorable intimation reached us respecting the sick child, I had ample opportunity to see how she resorted to her old refuge, prayer. Often would the dear child return to me with the clear light shining in her countenance, after a short season of retirement for prayer. I feel my heart grow warm, now, after the lapse of a quarter of a century nearly, as I recall that look, and that winning request, 'Aunty, may I stay with you? the children plague me.' Her two little playmates were boys; and they could not understand why she refused to unite in their boisterous sports. She could buckle on their belts, fix on their riding caps, and aid them in mounting their wooden horses; but why she would not race up and down with them upon a cane, they could not comprehend. She was patient and gentle, towards her little brother. It was a great treat to her, to be permitted to take him out to walk. I have seldom seen more gratitude expressed by a child, than she manifested, when she found that 'aunty' reposed confidence enough in her, to permit her to take him out alone. And how careful she was not to abuse that confidence, by going beyond the appointed limits. Often since then I have found myself adverting to this scene, as furnishing evidence that a child who fears God can be trusted. I can see the dear little girl now, as she arrived at a particular corner of the street, from which the house could be seen, before turning to go back again, stopping and gazing earnestly at the window, if perchance she might catch a bow and smile from "aunty," expressing by her countenance more forcibly than words could, "you see I am here."
TO BE CONTINUED.
* * * * *
HOW EARLY MAY A CHILD BE CONVERTED TO GOD.
In conversation with some Christian friends, a few days since, one young lady remarked that she should never forget a sermon preached by her father several years before, in which he remarked that Christian biographers of the present day differed very much from those inspired of God to write for succeeding generations, for they did not fear to tell the faults and expose the sins of primitive Christians who were to be held up as examples, while those who now wrote took every possible pains to hide the faults and make the subjects of their memoirs perfection itself, not admitting they had a fault or flaw in their characters. "Since hearing these remarks from my pastor," said she, "I have never tried to cultivate a taste for memoirs and have seldom looked into one."
"Depend upon it, my dear friend," I replied, "you have denied yourself one of the richest means of growth in grace, and one of the most delightful pleasures afforded the Christian; and while your pastor's remarks may have been true of some, I cannot agree with him in condemning all, for I have read most that have come within my reach for ten years past, and have seen but two that I thought merited censure."
"But you will admit," continued my friend, "that those published of children are extravagant, and quite beyond any thing seen in common life."
"No; I can admit nothing of the kind, for let me tell you what I witnessed when on a visit to a friend missionary's family at Pairie du Chien: The mother of little George was one of the most spotless characters I ever saw, and as you witnessed her daily walk you could not but realize that she enjoyed intercourse with One who could purify and exalt the character, and 'keep staid on Him in perfect peace the soul who trusted in Him.' And should it have fallen to my lot to have written her memoirs, I am quite sure it would have been cast aside by those who think with you that memoirs are extravagant. I cannot think because David committed adultery, and the wisest man then living had three hundred wives, and Peter denied his Savior, that all other Christians living in the present enlightened age have done or would do these or like grievous sins. It has been my lot at some periods of my life to be cast among Christians whose confidence in Christ enabled them to rise far above the attainments made by the generality of Christians, indeed so far as to be almost lost sight of, who would shine as brightly on the pages of written Christian life.
"But, as I was going to say, little George was not yet four years old when his now sainted mother and myself stood beside his sick bed, and beheld the sweet child with his hands clasped over his eyes, evidently engaged in prayer, with a look of anguish on his face. We stood there by his side, watching him constantly for over an hour, not wishing to interrupt his devotions, and at last we saw that look of distress gradually disappear, and as silently we watched him we felt that the influence of God's Spirit was indeed at work in that young heart.
"At last he looked up at his mother, and a sweet smile lighted up his little face as he said, 'Mother, I am going to die; but don't cry, for I am going straight to Jesus; my sins are all forgiven, mother.'"
"How do you know that, my sweet child?"
"Why, Jesus said so, ma."
"Said so; did you, indeed, hear any voice, my son?"
"O no, mother; but you know how it is. He speaks it in me, right here, here, mother," laying his little hand on his throbbing breast. "I don't want to live; I want to go where Jesus is, and be His own little boy, and not be naughty any more; and I hope I shan't get well, I am afraid if I do I shall be naughty again. O, mother, I have been a great sinner, and done many naughty things; but Jesus has forgiven me all my sins, and I do wish sister would go to Him and be forgiven for showing that bad temper, and all her other sins; don't you, ma?"
"Contrary to expectation this lovely boy recovered, and a few days after he got well I saw him take his sister's hand and plead with her to come and pray. 'O, sister,' he said, 'you will lose your soul if you don't pray. Do, do ask Jesus to forgive your sins, He will hear you, He will make you happy; do, do come right to Him, won't you, sissy?' But his sister (who was six years old) turned a deaf ear to his entreaties, and it grieved him so, that he would go away and cry and pray for her with exceeding great earnestness.
"Months after, he had the happiness of seeing his sister converted to Jesus, and knowing that his infant prayer was answered, and great indeed was the joy of this young saint, as well as that of the rest of the household as they saw these two of their precious flock going off to pray together, not only for themselves, but for an older brother, who seemed to have no sympathy with them."
"Well," said my friend, "this is indeed as remarkable as any thing I ever read, and I must say, hearing it from your own lips, has a tendency to remove that prejudice I have felt toward reading children's conversion. Did this child live?"
"O, yes, and remains a consistent follower of Jesus; he is now twelve years old."
"This is a very remarkable case," continued my friend; "very rare precocity. I have never met with any thing of the kind in my life."
"Yet, I have known several such instances in my short life, one more of which I must detain you to relate."
TO BE CONTINUED.
* * * * *
REPORT OF THE MATERNAL ASSOCIATION, PUTNAM, OHIO.
Time, in its rapid flight, my dear sisters, has again brought us to another anniversary of our Association. It seems but yesterday since we held our last annual meeting, but while we have been busy here and there, the fugitive moments have hurried us along almost with the celerity of thought through another year. Were it not an established usage of our society, that something like a report be rendered of the past, the pen of your secretary would have remained silent. The thought has often arisen, what foundation have I for giving that which will be of any interest to those who may come together? It is true that each month has witnessed the quiet assembling of a little band in this consecrated place, but how small the number! Have we all been here, with united hearts, glowing with love for the souls of our children, and feeling that we had power with God, that we had in our possession that key which is said to unlock heaven, and bring down precious blessings upon those committed to our charge? Have not family cares been suffered, too often, to detain some from the place of meeting? and their absence has thrown the chill air of despondency over those who were here. The average attendance during the year has been but five, while fourteen names are upon the record as members. Are we manifesting that interest in this important cause which those did who were the original founders of this society? Almost all of those are now absent, several have removed to other places; two, we trust, have long since been joining in the praises, and participating in the enjoyments, of heaven; and others, by reason of illness or the infirmities of age, are usually detained from the place of prayer. But we trust their hearts are with us; and shall we not endeavor to be faithful representatives of those whose places we now occupy? Have we not motives sufficient to stimulate us to a more diligent discharge of duty? God has given to us jewels of rare beauty, no gem from mountain or mine, no coral from the ocean's flow, can compare with them. And they are of priceless value too; Christ's blood alone could purchase them, and this He gave, gave freely too, that they might be fitted to deck His diadem of glory. He has encased these gems in caskets of exquisite workmanship, and given them to us, that we may keep them safely, and return them to Him when He shall ask them of us. Shall we be negligent of this trust? Shall we be busy, here and there, and suffer the adversary of souls to secure them to himself? We know that God is pleased to accept the efforts of the faithful mother; his language to us is, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." But on this condition alone, are we to receive the reward promised that they be trained for His service. And have we not the evidence, even now, before us of the fulfillment of His precious promise? Those of us who were privileged on the last Sabbath to witness the consecration of that band of youthful disciples to the Savior, felt that the efforts of faithful mothers had been blessed, their prayers had been answered, and when we remembered that six of those loved ones were the children of our little circle, and others were intimately connected with some of our number, we felt our confidence in God strengthened, and I trust all gained new encouragement to labor for those who were yet out of the ark of safety. There are others of our number with whom God's Spirit has been striving, and even now His influences are being felt. Shall they be resisted, and those thus influenced go farther from Him who has died that they might live?
Not many years since I was permitted to stand by the death-bed of a mother in Israel. Her sons were there, and as she looked at them with eyes in which we might almost see reflected the bright glories of the New Jerusalem, she exclaimed, "Dear sons, I shall meet you all in heaven." Why, we were led to ask, does she say this? Two of them had already reached the age of manhood, and had as yet refused to yield obedience to their Heavenly Father. But she trusted in her covenant-keeping God, she had given them to Him; for them she had labored and prayed, and she knew that God delighted to answer prayer. We realized the ground of her confidence, when tidings came to us, ere that year had expired, that one of those sons, far away upon the ocean, with no Sabbath or sanctuary privileges within his reach, had found the Savior precious to his soul. The other, ere long, became an active member of the church on earth. Is not our God the same in whom she so implicitly trusted, and will He not as readily bless our efforts as hers, if we are truly faithful?
We are all, I trust, prepared to-day to render a tribute of praise to our Heavenly Father, who has so kindly preserved us during the year now passed. As we look around our little circle we find no place made vacant by death, I mean of those who have been the attendants upon our meeting. We do not forget that the messenger has been sent to the family of our eldest sister, and removed that son upon whom she so confidently leaned for support. He who so assiduously improved every opportunity to minister to her comfort and happiness, has been taken, and not only mother and sisters have been bereaved, but children, too, of this association have, by this providence, been made orphans. We trust they have already realized that precious promise, "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up;" and may He whose judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out, enable that sorely afflicted mother to say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
What the events of the coming year are to be, as it regards ourselves, we know not. We would not lift the curtain to gaze into futurity; but may we each have strength and wisdom given us to discharge faithfully every duty, that whether living or dying we may be accepted of God!
SARAH A. GUTHRIE, Secretary.
* * * * *
THE EDITOR'S TABLE.
The steamer Humboldt, after a long passage, having encountered heavy seas, and been obliged to put into port for repairs, has just arrived. She has proved herself a stanch vessel, thoroughly tested her sea-going qualities, and escaped dangers which would have wrecked an ordinary steamer. Her passengers express the utmost confidence in the vessel and her officers, and advise travelers to take passage in her.
Our bark has now accomplished a voyage, during which it met many dangers and delays which as thoroughly tested its power and capacity; and we too meet with expressions of kindness and confidence, some of which we venture to extract from letters which the postman has just laid on our table.
A lady, residing near Boston, writes thus: "Permit me to assure you, my dear Madam, of my warmest interest in you and your work, and of my earnest desire that your enterprise may prove a successful one. Your work certainly deserves a wide circulation, and has in my opinion a stronger claim upon the patronage of the Christian public than any other with which I am acquainted. You must have met with embarrassments in commencing a new work, and hence, I suppose, the occasional delays in the issuing of your numbers."
A lady from Michigan writes: "My dear Mrs. W., we rejoice in the success which has thus far attended your efforts in the great work of your life. May their results, as manifested in the lives and characters of the children of the land, for many many years, prove that your labors were not in vain, in the Lord. We were beginning to have some anxiety as to the success of your Magazine from not receiving it as early as we expected; no other periodical could fill its place. May you, dear Madam, long be spared to edit it, and may you have all the co-operation and patronage you need."
A friend says: "Our pleasant interview, after a lapse of years, and those years marked by many vicissitudes, has caused the tide of feelings to ebb and flow till the current of my thoughts is swollen into such a stream of intensity as to lead me, through this channel of communication, to assure you of my warmest sympathy and my deep interest in the important work in which you have been so long engaged. It was gratifying to learn from your lips that amid the varied trials which have been scattered in your pathway God has been your refuge and strength—a very present help in trouble, and cheering to hear your widowed heart sing of mercy and exult in the happiness of that precious group who have gone before you into the eternal world." * * *
"My dear friend, may the sentiments and doctrines inculcated in your work drop as the rain, and distill as the dew, fertilizing and enlivening the sluggish soul, and encouraging the weary and heavy-laden. I know you need encouragement in your labor of love, and as I expect soon to visit M——, when I shall greet that precious Maternal Association to which I belonged for so many years, and which has so often been addressed by you, through the pages of your Magazine, as well as personally, I shall hope to do something in increasing the circulation of the work there. * *
"E. M. R."
We have many other letters from which we might make similar extracts, but our purpose in making the above was to give us an opportunity to say to our friends, that our bark is again ready for sea, with the flattering prospect of making a pleasant voyage, and that our sails are trimmed and need but the favoring breeze to speed it on its way.
* * * * *
COUSIN MARY ROSE; OR, A CHILD'S FIRST VISIT.
BY GEORGIANA MAY SYKES.
How capricious is memory, often retaining through life trivial and transient incidents, in all the freshness of minute details, while of far more important events, where laborious effort has been expended to leave a fair and lasting record, but faint and illegible traces frequently remain!
Far back in my childhood, so far that I am at a loss where to place it, is a little episode, standing so far apart from the main purport of its history, that I do not know how it happened, or whether the original impression was deepened by its subsequent recurrence. This was a visit to the village of W——, the home of my Cousin Mary Rose.
I remember distinctly the ride; short it must have been, since it was but four or five miles from home, but it seemed long to me then. There was great elation of spirits on my part, and no particular excitement; but a very sedate pace on the part of our old horse, to whose swinging gait a monotonous creaking of the old-fashioned chaise kept up a steady response, not unharmonious, as it was connected in my mind with the idea of progress. I remember the wonders of the way, particularly my awe of a place called Folly Bridge, where a wide chasm, filled with many scattered rocks, and the noisy gurgle of shallow water, had resulted from an attempt to improve upon the original ford. Green fields, and houses with neat door-yards, thickened at last into a pretty village, with a church and school-house, stores and workshops. Then, turning from the main street, near the church, we took a quiet lane, which soon brought us to a pause, where our wheels indented the turf of a green slope, before the gate of a long, low dwelling, half buried in ancient lilac trees. This was the home of Aunt Rose, who, though no veritable aunt of mine, was one of those choice spirits, "to all the world akin," around whose memory lingers the fragrance of deeds of kindness. Here, by special invitation, I had come on a visit—my first visit from home. I had passed through no small excitement in the prospect of that event. I had anxiously watched every little preparation made for it, and my own small packing had seemed momentous. I felt to the full the dignity of the occasion. The father and mother, the brothers and sisters, the inseparable and often tedious nursery-maid, Harriet, were all left behind.
I stood for the first time on my individual responsibility among persons of whom I had known but little. The monotony of home-life was broken in upon, and my eyes and ears were both open to receive new impressions. Doubtless, the careful mother, who permitted me to be placed in this new situation, was well satisfied that I should be subjected only to good influences, but had they been evil, I should certainly have been lastingly affected by them, since every thing connected with the house and its inmates, the garden, the fields, the walks in the village, lives still a picture of vivid hues.
What induced the family to desire my company, I do not know; I have an idea that I was invited because, like many other good people, they liked the company of children, and in the hope that I might contribute to the element of home-cheerfulness, with which they liked to surround their only daughter, my Cousin Mary Rose, whose tall shadowy figure occupies in my recollections, as it did in reality, the very center of this household group. That she was an invalid, I gather from many remembered trifles, such as the constant consideration shown for her strength in walks and rides, the hooks in the ceiling from which her swing-chair had formerly hung (at which I used to gaze, thinking it such a pity that it had ever been removed); her quiet pursuits, and her gentle, and rather languid manner. She must have been simple and natural, as well as refined in her tastes, and of a delicate neatness and purity in her dress. If she was a rose, as her name would indicate, it must have been a white rose; but I think she was more like a spotted lily. There was her father, of whom I remember little, except that he slept in his large arm-chair at noontide, when I was fain to be quiet, and that he looked kindly and chatted pleasantly with me, as I sat on his knee at twilight. I found my place at once in the household. If I had any first feelings of strangeness to be overcome, which is probable, as I was but a timid child, or if I wept any tears under deserved reproof, or was in any trouble from childish indiscretions, the traces of these things have all vanished; nothing remains but the record of long summer-days of delight. Up and down, in and out, I wandered, at will, within certain limits.
An old cider mill (for such things were in New England) in the orchard was the remotest verge in one direction; to sit near it, and watch the horse go slowly round and round, and chat with Chauncey, the youngest son of the house, who was superintending it, was a great pleasure; but most of my out-of-doors enjoyments were solitary. I think this must have given a zest to them, for at home I was seldom alone. I was one of a little troop of brothers' and sisters, whose pleasures were all plays, gregarious and noisy. It was a new thing to be so quiet, and to give my still fancies such a range. I was never weary of watching the long processions of snow-white geese, moving along the turfy sides of the road, solemn and stately, each garnished with that awkward appendage the "poke," which seemed to me very cruel, since, in my simplicity, I believed that the perpendicular rod in the center passed, like a spit, directly through the bird's neck. Then, how inexhaustible were the resources of the flower garden, on the southern side of the house, into which a door opened from the parlor, the broad semicircular stone doorsteps affording me a favorite seat.
What a variety of treasures were spread out before me: larkspurs, from whose pointed nectaries I might weave "circles without end," varying the pattern of each by alternate proportions of blue, and pink, and white. There were foxgloves to be examined, whose depths were so mysteriously freckled; there were clusters of cowslips, and moss-pinks to be counted. There were tufts of ribbon-grass to be searched as diligently as ever merchandise in later days, for perfect matches; there were morning-glories, and moon-sleeps, and four o'clocks, and evening primroses to be watched lest they might fail to be true to their respective hours in opening and shutting. There were poppies, from whose "diminished heads" the loose leaves were to be gathered in a basket, (for they might stain the apron,) and lightly spread in the garret for drying. There were ripe poppy-seeds to be shaken out through the curious lid of their seed-vessel, in which a child's fancy found a curious resemblance to a pepper-box; I often forced it to serve as one in the imaginary feasts spread out on the door-step, though there were no guests to be invited, except plenty of wandering butterflies, or an occasional humming-bird, whizzing about the crimson blossoms of the balm. Oh, the delights of Aunt Rose's flower-garden!
Then, there were the chickens to be fed, and the milking of the cows to be "assisted at," and a chat enjoyed, meanwhile, with good-natured Nancy, the maid, to stand beside whose spinning-wheel when, in an afternoon, she found time to set it in motion, herself arrayed in a clean gown and apron, was another great delight.
But my greatest enjoyments were found in Cousin Mary Rose's pleasant chamber, which always seemed bright with the sunshine. From its windows I looked out over fields of grain, and fruitful orchards, and green meadows, sloping all the way to the banks of the blue Connecticut. I doubt if I had ever known before that there was any beauty in a prospect. There was plenty of pleasant occupation for me in that chamber. I had my little bench, on which I sat at her feet, and read aloud to her as she sewed, something which she had selected for me. Though I never had an opportunity of knowing her in years when I was more capable of judging of character (for we were separated, first by distance, and now, alas, by death), I am sure that she must at that time have been of more than the average taste and cultivation among young ladies. Sure I am that she opened to me many a sealed fountain. My range of reading had been limited to infant story-books and easy school-lessons. She took from her book-shelves Cowper, and made me acquainted with his hares, Tiny and Bess, and enlisted my sympathies for his imprisoned bullfinch. She turned over many leaves of the Spectator and Rambler, till she found for me allegories and tales of Bagdad and Balsora, and showed me the Vision of Mirza, the Valley of Human Miseries, and the Bridge of Human Life; I caught something of their meaning, though I could not grasp the whole, and became so enamored of them that when I returned home nothing would satisfy me but the loan of my favorites, that I might share the great pleasure of these wonderful stories with my friends there. How great was my surprise to find that the same books held a conspicuous place in the library at home!
The little pieces of needlework, too, which filled a part of every day, unlike the tedious, never-ending patchwork of school, were pleasant. Cousin Mary Rose well understood how to make them so, when she coupled the setting of the delicate little stitches with the idea of doing a service or giving a pleasure to somebody. This was a bag for Nancy. To-morrow, it was a cravat for Chauncey. Now, this same Chauncey was my special delight, he being a lively youth of eighteen, the only son at home, with whom, after tea, I had always a merry race, or some inspiriting game of romps. And then, feat of all, came the hemming of a handkerchief for Mr. Williams.
But who was Mr. Williams? I had no manner of idea who he was, or what relation he held to the family, which entitled him to come in unceremoniously at breakfast, dinner or tea-time, and gave him the privilege of driving my Cousin Mary Rose over hill and valley for the benefit of her health. In these rides I often had my share, for my little bench fitted nicely into the old-fashioned chaise, where I sat quietly between the two, looking out for wonders with which to interrupt the talk going on above my head. Not that the talk was altogether unintelligible to me. It often turned on themes of which I had heard much. It spoke of God, of heaven, of the goodness and love of the blessed Savior, of the hopes and privileges of the Christian. I liked to hear it; there was no constraint in it. They might have talked of any thing else; but I knew they chose the topic because they liked it,—I felt that they were true Christians, and that it was safe and good to be near them. Sometimes the conversation turned on earthly hopes and plans, and then it became less intelligible to me.
One ride, I remember, which occupied a long summer afternoon. We left home after an early dinner, and wound our way over hills rocky and steep, from which we would catch views of the river, keeping always near its bank, till we came to Mr. Williams's own home, or rather that of his mother. What a pleasant visit was that! How Mr. Williams's mother and sisters rejoiced over our coming! What a pet they made of me! and how much they seemed inclined to pet my Cousin Mary Rose. I have an indistinct idea of a faint flush passing now and then over the White Rose. What a joyous, bountiful time it was! Such pears, and peaches, and apples as were heaped up on the occasion! How social and cheerful was the gathering around the teatable, lavishly spread with dainties!
How golden and glorious looked the hills, the trees, and the river in the last rays of the setting sun, as we started from the door on our return! How the sunset faded to twilight, and the dimness gave place to the light of the rising moon, long before we reached the door, where anxious Aunt Rose was watching for us! How much talk there was with the old people about it all; for I suspect that, in their life of rare incidents, it was the custom to make much of every thing that occurred. What an unlading there was of the chaise-box, and bringing to light of peaches and pears, which kept the journey in remembrance for many days after!
That night, as on every other night of my stay, my kind cousin saw me safely placed in my bed, after I had knelt beside her to repeat my evening prayer. Then, as she bent to kiss me, and gently whispered, "God bless thee, child," she seemed to leave her serene spirit as a mantle of repose.
When the Sabbath came, I walked hand in hand with her to the village church. There was much there to distract my attention, particularly in that rare sight, the ample white wig (the last of the wigs of Connecticut!) on the head of the venerable minister, who, though too infirm for much active service, still held his place in the pulpit; but I listened with all my might, intent on hearing something which I might remember, and repeat to please Cousin Mary Rose; for I knew that she would expect me to turn to the text, and would question me whether I had understood it. I have pleasant hymns too, in recollection, which date back to this very time. They have outlived the beautiful little purse which was Mr. Williams's parting gift to me, and the tortoise-shell kitten, with which Aunt Rose sought to console me, in my grief at seeing myself sent for to return home. The summons was sudden but peremptory, and I obeyed it with a sad heart.
I cannot tell how long afterwards it was, for months and years are not very different in the calendar of childhood, when I was surprised with the announcement that a change had come over Cousin Mary Rose. She was changed to Mrs. Williams, and had gone with him, I think, to the South.
I doubt if any trace of the family is still to be found in the pleasant village which was their home. The parents have gone to their rest. The younger members removed long ago to the distant West.
My Cousin Mary Rose, for many years a happy and useful wife, has at last found, in some part of the great western valley, a peaceful grave. I do not know the spot where she lies, but I would fain twine around it these little blossoms of grateful remembrance.
There is a moral in this slight sketch which I wish to impress on the daughters who read this Magazine. It is that their influence is greater than they may suppose. Children read the purpose, the motive of conduct, and understand the tenor of character; they are attracted by feminine grace and refinement; they are keen admirers of personal beauty, and they can be won by goodness and gentleness. Never, dear young friends, overlook or treat with indifference a child thrown in your way. You may lose by it a choice opportunity of conferring happiness and lasting benefit.
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MY LITTLE NIECE, MARY JANE.
When the sick child had recovered, and the family were again collected, Mary Jane was sent to school. This was a delightful change to her—she loved her teacher, she loved the little girls, she loved her book, but more than all, her needle. The neatly folded patchwork made by her little fingers, is kept as a choice relic to this day.
She had been in school just one month when she was taken sick. Whether this was owing to the confined air of the school-room, or to a too close application to her studies and work, is not known.
She returned from school one evening, and having sat with the family at the table as usual, she went to her mother, and with rather unusual earnestness requested her to take her in her lap and tell her a story. To be told a story in mother's lap was regarded as a great indulgence by the children. The little ones on hearing her request, ran to mother and insisted on being attended to first. "Take me up, mother, and do take me up." At length Mary Jane with her usual self-denial restored quiet by requesting her mother to begin with the youngest first. When a short story had been told her little brother, and she was about occupying the desired position, she again yielded her right to the importunities of her younger sister. A longer story was now told, in which she became quite interested herself, so that when her turn came, she appeared somewhat exhausted. As her mother took her in her arms, she laid her head upon her shoulder, saying it ached very hard. It was thought that sleep would restore her, so she was placed in bed.
At midnight the mother was aroused by the ineffectual efforts of Mary Jane to awaken her nurse. On entering the chamber, she found that the dear child had not slept at all. Her head was throbbing with pain, and she was saying in a piteous manner, "I can't wake up Nancy." Her mother immediately carried her to her own bed, and having placed her there, perceived that from an almost icy coldness, she had suddenly changed to an intense and burning heat.
Her father was standing by the bed uncertain whether or not to call a physician, when in a pleased but excited manner she called out to him "to see all those little girls." She imagined that little girls were all around her, and although somewhat puzzled in accounting for their presence, yet she appeared greatly delighted to see them.
After this she lay for some time in a dozing state, then she became convulsed. During her short but distressing sickness, she had but few lucid intervals. When not lying in a stupor her mind was usually busied amidst past scenes.
At one time as I was standing by her pillow, bathing her head, she said in a piteous tone, "I can't thread my needle." Then in a clear sweet musical voice she called "Nancy" to come and help her thread it.
At another time her father supposing her unconscious said "I fear she will never get well." She immediately opened her eyes, clasped her little hands and laying them upon her bosom, looked upward and with great earnestness commended herself to God: "My dear Father up in heaven," she said, "please to make me well, if you think it is best; but if you do not think best, then please to take me up to heaven where Jesus is." After this, she continued for some time in prayer, but her articulation was indistinct. One expression only was audible. It was this, "suffer little children to come."
What gratitude is due to the tender and compassionate Savior for this rich legacy of love, to the infant mind! How often has it comforted the dying, or drawn to the bosom of everlasting love, the living among little children. "Suffer little children to come unto me." The preciousness and efficiency of this touching appeal seem to be but little realized even among believing parents. Were it otherwise, should we not see more of infant piety, in the families of professing Christians?
Once as the gray dawn approached, she appeared to wake as from a quiet sleep, and asked if it was morning. On being told that it was, she folded her hands and commenced her morning prayer. Soon, however, her mind wandered, and her mother finished it for her.
From this time she lay and moaned her little life away. But whenever prayer was offered, the moaning would cease for a short interval, indicating that she was conscious, and also interested.
During the last night of her life, her mind appeared perfectly clear. She spoke often of "heaven" and of "Jesus"; but little is recollected, as her mother was not by. Not apprehending death to be so near, she had been persuaded to try to get some rest. Suddenly there was a change. The mother was called. Approaching the bed she saw that the last struggle had come on. Summoning strength, she said, "Are you willing to die and go to heaven where Jesus is?" The dear dying child answered audibly, "Yes." The mother then said, "Now you may lay yourself in the arms of Jesus. He will carry you safely home to heaven." Again there was an attempt to speak, but the little spirit escaped in the effort, and was forever free from suffering, and sorrow, and sin.
In the morning I went over to look upon my little niece, as she lay sleeping in death. "Aunty B——" was there standing by the sofa. Uncovering the little form she said, "She has found the way to heaven now;" alluding to the conversation she had with Mary Jane, more than three years before.
Soon, the person whose office it was to prepare the last narrow receptacle for the little body, entered the room and prepared to take the measurement. Having finished his work, he seated himself at a respectful distance, and gazed on the marvelous beauty of the child. At length turning to the father he asked, "How old was she?" "Six years and eight months," was the reply. "So young!" he responded; then added that he had often performed the same office for young persons, but had never seen a more intelligent countenance, at the age of fifteen. Yet notwithstanding the indications of intellect, and of maturity of character, so much in advance of her tender age; her perfectly infantile features, and the extreme delicacy of their texture and complexion, bore witness to the truthfulness of the age, beneath her name on the little coffin: "six years and eight months."
And now as my thoughts glance backwards and linger over the little sleeper upon that sofa, so calm and beautiful in death, a voice seems sounding from the pages of Revelation that she shall not always remain thus, a prey to the spoiler. That having accomplished his work, "ashes to ashes," "dust to dust," Death shall have no more power, even over the little body which he now claims as his own.
But it shall come forth, not as then, destined to see corruption, but resplendent in beauty, and shining in more than mortal loveliness; a fit receptacle for its glorified inmate, in the day of the final resurrection of the dead.
Let all Christian parents who mourn the loss of pious children, comfort themselves with the words of the apostle, "Them also that sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him," "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe."
It was in the month of November that Mary Jane died, and was buried; reminding one of those lines of Bryant:
"In the cold moist earth we laid her, When the forest cast his leaf; And we mourn'd that one so lovely, Should have a life so brief. Yet not unmeet it was, that one, Like that young child of ours, So lovely and so beautiful, Should perish with the flowers."
On the return of her birth-day, February 22, when if she had lived, she would have been seven years old, the following lines were sent to the bereaved mother by Mrs. Sigourney.
THE BIRTH-DAY OF THE FIRST BORN.
Thy first born's birth-day,—mother!— That cold and wintry time, When deep and unimagined joy Swell'd to its highest prime.—
Thy little daughter smileth,— Thy son is fair to see,— And from its cradle shouts the babe, In health and jollity:
But still thy brow is shaded, The fresh tear trickleth free, Where is thy first born darling? Oh, mother,—where is she?
And if she be in heaven, She, who with goodness fraught, So early on her Father—God Repos'd her bursting thought:—
And if she be in heaven, The honor how divine, To give an angel to His arms, Who gave a babe to thine!
L. H. S.
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Human improvement must begin through mothers. It is through them principally, as far as human agency is concerned, that those evils can be prevented, which, age after age, we have been vainly endeavoring to cure.
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He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; vice, virtue, and time, are three things that never stand still.
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It is a time of solemnities in Jerusalem—"a feast of the Jews"—and crowds throng the sacred city, gathered from all parts of Judea, mingling sympathies and uniting in the delightful services which the chosen people so justly prize. The old and young, the joyful and the sad, all classes and all conditions are there, not even are "the impotent, the blind, the halt, the withered," absent. Through the aid and kindness of friends they have come also, cheered and animated by the unwonted excitement of the scene, and doubtless hoping for some relief in known or unknown ways, from their various afflictions. Among these, a numerous company of whom are lying near the sheep-gate, let us spend an hour. By God's help it shall not be wasted time. How many are here who for long years have not beheld the sun, nor looked on any loved face, nor perused the sacred oracles. A lesson of resignation we may learn from them, in their proverbial peacefulness under one of the severest of earth's trials, for "who ever looked on aught but content in the face of the born-blind?" Here also are those who have felt the fearful grasp of pain, whose nerves have been shocked, and the whole frame tortured by untold sufferings; and those who cannot walk forth on God's earth with free elastic step, nor pursue any manly toil—the infirm, the crippled, the helpless. How it saddens the heart to look upon them, and hear their moans! Yet they all have a look of hope on their faces. The kind angel who descends to ruffle the hitherto calm waters of the lake may be near at hand. Soon sorrow to some of these will give place to proportioned gladness. He who can first bathe his limbs in the blessed wave, says the sacred oracle, shall find relief from every infirmity. First: It is a short and simple word, yet how much of meaning it contains, and in its connection here how much instruction it affords! It is ever thus under the moral and providential government of God. The first to ask his blessing are those who gain it. "Those who seek Him early are the ones to find Him." The prompt and active are the successful competitors. To those who with the dawning day are found offering their daily sacrifice, He vouchsafes most of his blessed presence. "Give Him thy first thoughts then; so shalt thou keep Him company all day, and in Him sleep."
It is those who dedicate to Him the freshness of youth, that thrive most under His culture, and still bring forth fruit in old age. Their whole lives are spent beneath the shadow of his wings, and they know not the doubts and fears of those who long wandered before they sought that sheltering spot. They who are on the watch, who see the cloud as big as a man's hand, are the largest recipients of the blessing when the Spirit is poured out from on high. The lingerers, who think they need not bestir themselves, for the blessing is sure, may nevertheless fail, for though there was a sound of rain, the clouds may scatter, when but a few drops have fallen, and the first be the only ones who are refreshed.
But we are wandering. In this porch lies one who scarce bears any resemblance to living humanity, and from his woe-worn countenance has departed the last glimmering of hope. "Thirty and eight years" a helpless being! a burden to himself and all around him! Alas, of what untold miseries has sin made human flesh the inheritor! He came long since to this healing pool, with cheerful anticipations, perhaps undoubting faith, that he should soon walk forth a man among men. But he has been grievously disappointed. He seems friendless as well as impotent. Listen while he answers the inquiry of one who speaks kindly to him: "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but while I am coming another steppeth down before me." This is indeed hopeless wretchedness. But who is it thus asking, "Wilt thou be made whole?" Little didst thou dream, unfortunate, yet most fortunate, of sufferers, who it was thus bending tenderly over thy painful couch! Said we that thou wert friendless; that none knew thy woes? Blessed be God, there is ever One eye to see, One ear to hear, One heart to pity.
"When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path." "He is not far from every one of us." But, though He is ever near, yet God often waits long before he relieves. Why is it thus? We do not always see the reason, but we may be sure it is infinite wisdom that defers. He would have us feel our dependence on Him, and when we do feel this, when we hope no more from any earthly source, and turn a despairing eye to Him, then he is ever ready to rescue. Even toward those who have long withstood his grace, and rebelled against his love, is he moved to kindness "when He seeth that their power is gone." "We must sometimes have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead."
Even where we would accomplish most, when we would fain secure the salvation of those dearest to us, when we would win eternal life for our children, we must be made to rely on Him who, as he can raise the dead, even call life from nothing, can also revive the spiritually dead, and break the sleep which threatens to be eternal.
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He is gone—while we looked, suddenly he rose in the full vigor of manliness, and now, exulting in his new-found faculties, he is walking yonder among the multitude, carrying upon his shoulders the couch which has so long borne his weary, helpless frame. See, one with frowning countenance and harsh words arrests his steps, and wholly unmindful of the joy which lights his pale face, reproves him with severe and bitter words: "It is the Sabbath day. It is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed." The command indeed is, "Thus saith the Lord, take heed to yourselves and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day; neither do ye any work; but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers." He stands dismayed and troubled. In his new-found happiness he has forgotten the solemn mandate. Timidly he answers, "He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk." Thou hast answered well. Only the Lord of the Sabbath could have done on thee this work of healing. Go on thy way rejoicing. Return not to seek Him, He was here, he spoke to thee; but he is gone. None saw him depart. Everywhere present, He is, yet, when He will, invisible to mortal eyes.
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REPORTS OF MATERNAL ASSOCIATIONS.
SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF DETROIT.
Another year has passed over us, and we, a little band, have met to recount, and gratefully to acknowledge, God's goodness and loving-kindness to us and our families. Our Association, commencing as a small stream, has not yet grown to be a mighty river; yet it has flowed steadily in its course, and we confidently believe, has sent forth sweet and hallowed influences, refreshing some thirsty souls with pure and living waters.
During the year now past, our meetings have been continually sustained, although sickness and absence from the city, especially during most of the summer, have deprived us of the attendance of a large proportion of our members. Notwithstanding our meetings have been much smaller than we could desire, and sometimes tempted us to be "faint and weary in well-doing," still we believe that our prayers and consultations have been a source of blessing to ourselves and to our offspring. We are told that "the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much." We feel assured that we can testify to the faithfulness of the promise, for not only can we gratefully acknowledge the love of God in shedding more grace upon our hearts; but the gracious call of the gospel of salvation has been accepted by some of our precious children, and we trust that they are now in the "narrow way that leadeth unto life." Oh, may the Spirit of all truth guide their youthful steps through all the thorny mazes of life, preserve them from the alluring and deceitful charms that surround them, and bring them at last to those blissful mansions prepared for those who love and serve God. We do indeed rejoice with those dear mothers who have been made the recipients of so large a blessing—that of seeing the precious lambs of the flock gathered into the fold of the Good Shepherd. Oh, may the prayer of faith ever encircle them in this only safe retreat from the ravening wolves and the hungry monsters of sin!
But whilst we rejoice with those of our number who have been so greatly blessed, we turn with heartfelt sympathy toward those whose hearts have been wrung by the loss, to them, of the objects of their hopes and affections. Three of the children of members of this Association have died during the past year. Thus we believe so many sweet angels of God have gone from our midst and escaped the sorrows of this evil world. Let the dear parents think of them as already far surpassing their own best attainments, and praising the blessed Savior, in the heavenly paradise, and turn their more anxious and diligent thoughts to the living. Two children have been added by birth to the number of those connected with the Association.
Our membership has not greatly changed within the past year. Three mothers have united with the Association since the last Annual Report, and three have left us, making the number the same that it was one year since.
While we regret the loss of each and all of those who have departed from our midst, we think it would not be deemed invidious to express our deep sense of the loss we have sustained by the removal from the city of Mrs. Parker, the former secretary. Her devotion and faithfulness in every sphere of duty, afforded us all an example well adapted to stimulate us in the discharge of our obligations, as well as to guide us in the paths of usefulness. We hope and pray that she may long be spared to shed a hallowed influence around her wherever her lot may be cast.
Our quarterly meetings have been sustained with interest and profit. Portions of Scripture have been committed by the children, and the instructions and truths contained in them have been enforced by appropriate remarks from the Pastor. We consider this an invaluable means of instilling saving truth into the tender minds of our children, and would urgently request that it be accompanied by the constant and believing prayers of all parents. Upon a full review of the past year, we see abundant cause for gratitude and encouragement. We have especial occasion for thankfulness that none of our number have been removed by death. Since we know that the Lord has thus prolonged our stewardship, that we may work in his vineyard, let us be the more diligent, that we may be prepared to render our account with joy at the last day. Amongst the means for preparing ourselves for the faithful discharge of our duties to our own families, and as members of this Association, we take pleasure in acknowledging the pre-eminent merits of Mrs. Whittelsey's Magazine, and would urgently recommend its more general perusal and circulation. During the past summer some of us enjoyed the inestimable privilege of hearing her experienced counsel, and fervent exhortations. We believe that her visit to this city resulted in much good, and we wish her abundant success in her noble calling.
Dear Mothers, let us persevere, looking unto the covenant-keeping God for the salvation of our children, as well as for the triumph of the Gospel throughout the community and this sin-ruined world.
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We have been brought, through the kindness of our Heavenly Father, to this the first anniversary of our Maternal Association. We meet to-day that we may together look back upon the year just closing, and recall the mercies and judgments of our God, in which I think we cannot fail to recognize the guiding hand of our Heavenly Father, who we believe has presided over and defended the dearest interests of this our little society. We bless his name that a few individuals, sustaining the sacred name of mother, and upon whom consequently devolve important duties, were led to roll their burden, in all its magnitude, upon an Almighty arm, and in a united capacity to plead for promised grace. We rejoice that this feeling has been perpetuated, and that there have been those who have not "forsaken the assembling of themselves together," but who have been drawn to the place of prayer by an irresistible influence, esteeming it a privilege thus to resign their numerous anxieties into the hands of an all-wise God. And may we not rejoice, dear sisters, that as each returning fortnight has brought its precious opportunity for prayer and instruction, our hearts have cheerfully responded to its call, and that we have hailed these seasons as acknowledged and well-tested sources of profit. If they have not proved so to us, have we not reason to fear that our guilt will be greatly increased, and that we shall share the condemnation of those who have been frequently and faithfully reminded of duty, but who have failed in its performance? During the past year we have had twenty-two meetings, the most of which have been attended by from six to ten mothers. A small number, indeed; yet God, we remembered, promised that where two or three are met together in His name, He would be in their midst to bless them. On the 7th of May the Rev. Mr. Harris preached to the children, from the text, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." Sixteen ladies were present, and twenty-three children. On the 28th of September, Professor Agnew addressed mothers on their various important duties. At the commencement of the year we numbered twelve mothers and twenty-three children, under the age of fifteen. We now number sixteen mothers and thirty-three children; one little one has been added to our number. God, in wise providence, and for some wise purpose, has seen fit to lay his afflicting hand upon us. Early in the year it pleased Him to call an aged and beloved father of one of our sisters from time to eternity. With our sister we do most sincerely sympathize; may it truly be said of us, as an Association:
"We share each other's joys, Each other's burdens bear, And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear."
But God has come nearer still unto us as an Association, and has taken one of our little number, dear sister Elizabeth C. Hamilton, who was one of the four mothers who met together to converse and to ask counsel of our pastor on the subject of forming this Association. On the 11th of October, her spirit took its flight from this frail tenement of clay, as we humbly trust to the mansions of the blest. With her bereaved and afflicted companion and infant daughters, we do most sincerely sympathize. May we remember that we have promised to seek the spiritual and eternal interests of her children as we do that of our own! Let us not cease to pray for her children until we shall hear them lisping forth the praises of the dear Redeemer. As we commence a new year, shall we not commence anew to live for God? Ere another year has gone, some one of this our little number may be called from time to eternity; and shall we not prove what prayer can do; what heavenly blessings it will bring down upon our offspring? But perhaps some mother will say, I should esteem it the dearest of all privileges, if I could lay hold in faith on God's blessed promises, but when I would do so a sense of my own unworthiness shuts my mouth. But which of God's promises was ever made to the worthy recipient? Are they not all to the unworthy and undeserving? And if "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees," shall we not take courage, and claim God's blessed promises for ours, and often in silence and in solitude bend the knee for those we love most dear?
While memory lasts I shall never forget my mother's earnest, supplicating, trembling voice, as she pleaded with God for Christ's sake to have mercy on her children. And shall our children forget ours? No, dear sisters, let our entreaties with our God be as they will, I think they will not be forgotten. Therefore, let us be more awake to this subject, let us sincerely endeavor to train our children up for God, that they may be useful in his service while they live, and that we may be that happy band of mothers that may be able to say in God's great day: Here, Lord, are we, and the children which thou hast given us.
A. HAMILTON, Secretary. Salem, Wash. Co., Michigan, Dec. 31, 1851.
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BY REV. MANCIUS S. HUTTON, D.D.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another."
In no system of morals or religion, except the Bible, can such a precept be found. It at once proclaims its divine author. We feel as we read it—here speaks that God and Almighty Father who so loved the world as to give his Son to die to save it. We feel that none but a being who regards himself as the Father of all, and who would unite his children in the bonds of family affection, would think of urging upon a company of men and women, gathered from all classes and conditions of life, the duly regarding each other with the same sincerity, tenderness, respect and kindness as if they were the nearest relatives. Such is the force of the expression, "Be kindly affectioned one to another." The word expresses properly the strong natural affection between parents and children; but the apostle is not satisfied with this, and uses the word to qualify that brotherly love which our Lord has made the badge of discipleship. It should be with the tenderness and the unselfishness which characterize the filial and paternal relation, blending love with natural affection, and making it manifest in common intercourse. Oh, how different this from the spirit of the world, the spirit which seeks not to bless others, but self; not to confer honor but to obtain it; which aims not to diffuse respect, but to attract all others to give honor to ourselves.
I design at present to use this divine injunction as conveying the Holy Spirit's direction and description of proper family intercourse, in reference, particularly, to children in the family circle.
I notice very briefly (for the direction must commend itself to the heart of every child) its application to parents: "Be kindly affectioned toward your father and mother." It is indeed hardly necessary to urge this duty, for God has in his wisdom so constituted us, as in a good degree to insure the duty of filial love even in those who do not regard his own authority over their spirits. No child can for a moment reflect upon the love and care which he has received from his parents, without a moved heart, although he can never know their full power until he himself becomes a parent; but here indeed lies the difficulty, and here do I find the necessity of dwelling for a moment upon this point. Children do not reflect upon this. Few ever sit down, calmly and consecutively, to recall the parental kindness, and therefore, would I ask each of you, my young friends, that you may obey this injunction, and be kindly affectionate towards father and mother, to consider their kindness to you. Why, if you look at it, you will hardly be able to find that they have any other care in the world, or any other object, than yourselves. What does that kind mother of yours do which is not for her children? does she not seem always to be thinking of you? have you never noticed how her eye brightens with delight when you or any of your brothers or sisters do right, or even when she looks around on the health and happiness of her children? and, when you or any of her dear ones are ill, how sad she looks, how her cheek will become pale, and how she will watch and wait at the bed-side of her child, how her own hand gives the medicine, how nothing can call her away from home, no friends, no amusements, often not even the church and Sabbath-day, and if she did go to church while you were ill, she went there to pray that God would make you well. And I would have you also think of the large surrenders of ease, time and fortune which your father is daily making for the benefit and comfort of his children. How many fathers will compass land and sea in quest of provision for them, and in order to give them name and station in society? How many adventurously plow the ocean in their behalf? How many live for years in exile, and in the estrangement of a foreign land, with nothing to soothe them in the midst of their toil and fatigue, but the image of their dear and distant home? How many toil and plan, day after day, and year after year, from early morn until late at night, for no other object than to gather wealth, which in their love they expect and intend their children to enjoy, when they themselves have gone down to the grave! Oh, my young friends, though ye have not perhaps thought of it, yet the devotedness of a parent to his children, in the common every-day duties and comforts of life, often equals and surpasses that which history has recorded for us of the sublimest heroism.
It would often seem utterly impossible to wear out a father's affection or a mother's love, and many a child, after the perversities and losses of a misdirected manhood, has found himself welcomed back again to the paternal home, with all the unquenched and unextinguishable kindness of his early and dependent childhood; welcomed even amid the hardships of poverty, with which declining years and his own hand, perhaps, have united to surround the whitening heads of the authors of his being.
Now, it is in view of the reality and strength of these parental regards, thus flowing from a father's or a mother's heart upon their children, that we bid you see the force, the reason, and the right of the direction, Be kindly affectionate in all your intercourse with them. And it is in the same view that we appeal to your own hearts, and ask whether it be not most revolting and wrong for a son or daughter to utter the word, or dart the look, or feel the feeling which is prompted by wickedness; a disdainful son or disrespectful daughter is a sight most painful to every right-minded man.
But while I mention this as the rule which should govern the family in their treatment of those who stand at its head, I would also beg leave to remark, that this same law should govern the heads of the family towards each other and all the members. This is the only way by which reciprocal affectionate regard and treatment can be inculcated and insured. The Holy Spirit has deemed this so important, that He has given the express injunction to parents: "Fathers, provoke not your children;" and it is an injunction which parents need constantly to remember. The natural and necessary subjection of the children to parental authority, unless the hearts of the parents be guided by religious principle, will often induce an arbitrary and enforced obedience, which, unless guided and controlled by affection, will have only the appearance of harshness, and will only produce unpleasant feeling. Parents should never forget that it is always as unpleasant to a child to have his will and plans crossed as it is to themselves, and that, therefore, it is their own obedience to the injunction, Be kindly affectioned, which alone can make their authority both strong and pleasant. There are again so many cares and anxieties connected with the details of family arrangements, and there are so much thoughtlessness and perversity in the depraved hearts of the most amiable and properly disposed children, that the patience of even the all-enduring mother will often be tried in a manner which nothing but divine grace can sustain. Ill health and natural irritability, so constantly exposed to attack, will often increase the difficulty, and thus make the injunction, Be kindly affectioned, one of the most arduous duties of life. But the triumph of principle will always be accompanied with corresponding valuable results in the happiness and comforts of the whole family circle.
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Many instructive lessons may be conveyed to the minds of children in story and in verse. We do not now remember who is the author of the story we are about to relate. It may be familiar to many of our readers. We venture, however, to repeat it in our own words, as it has an important moral worthy the attention of the old as well as the young:—
A man and his wife were hard at work in a forest, cutting down trees. The trees were very hardy and tall, and their axes were dull; the weather was cold and dreary, they were but poorly clad, and they had but little to eat.
At length, the woman, in her despondency, fell to crying. Her husband very kindly inquired, "What is the matter, my dear wife?"
"I have been thinking," said she, "of our hard fate, and it does seem to me a hard case that God should curse the ground for Adam's sake, just because he and his wife had eaten a green apple; and now all their descendants must earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, all their days."
The man replied, "Do not, my dear wife, distress yourself thus, seeing it will do no good."
She continued, "I do think that Adam and Eve were very foolish to listen to any thing that a serpent had to say. If I had been in the place of Eve I am sure I should have done otherwise."
To this her husband replied, "True, my dear wife, Eve was a very silly woman. I think, if I had been in Adam's place, before I would have listened to her foolish advice, and run such a hazard, I would have given her a smart box on the ear, and told her to hold her tongue, and to mind her own business."
This remark made his wife very angry, and here followed a long dialogue on this topic till they began mutually to criminate each other as well as the serpent.
Now, a gentleman, who had all this time been concealed behind the trees, and had heard their complaints, and listened with grief to their fault-finding disposition, came forward and spoke to them very kindly.
He said, "My friends, you seem to be hard at work, and very unhappy. Pray tell me the cause of your misery, and whether I can do anything to comfort you?"
So they repeated to this gentleman what they had been saying.
He replied to them thus: "Now, my dear friends, I am truly sorry for you, and I desire to make you more comfortable. I have a large estate, and I wish to make others as happy as I am myself. I have a fine house, plenty of servants, and every thing desirable to eat and to drink. I have fine grounds, filled with shrubbery and fruit trees. If you will go and live with me you have only to obey the regulations of my house, and as long as you do this and are contented, you shall be made welcome."
So they went with this gentleman. At once he took off their rough and ragged garments, and clad them in a fine suit of clothes, suited to the place, and put them into a spacious apartment, where for a time they lived very happily.
One day this gentleman came to them, and said business of importance would call him from home for some days. In the mean time he hoped they would be happy and do every thing in their power to reflect honor upon his hospitality till his return. He said he had but one other suggestion to make, and that was, that for his sake they would be very careful to set a good example before his servants, and do every thing cheerfully that they should direct, for up to this hour not one of his servants had ever questioned the reasonableness of his commands.
They thanked him kindly for his generous supply of all their wants, and promised implicit obedience.
They now had, if possible, more sumptuous meals, and in greater variety than ever, and for a few days every thing went on well. At length, a servant placed a covered dish in the center of the table, remarking that he always had orders from his master, when that particular dish was placed upon the table, that no one, on pain of his displeasure, should touch it, much less lift the cover.
For a few days these guests were so occupied in examining the new dishes that this order was obeyed.
But the woman at length began to wonder why that dish should be placed on the table if it were not to be touched; she did not for her part see any use in it.
Every meal she grew more and more discontented. She appealed to her husband if he did not think such a prohibition very unreasonable. If it were not to be touched, why was it placed on the table?
Her husband at length grew very angry; she would neither eat herself nor allow him to eat in peace. She at length remonstrated, she threatened; she used various arguments to induce him to lift the cover; said no one need to know it, &c. Still her good-natured husband tried to reason her out of this notion. She now burst into tears, and said her life was miserable by this gentleman's singular prohibition, which could do no one any good; and she was still more wretched by reason of her husband's unkindness,—she really believed that he had lost all affection for her.
This remark made her husband feel very badly. He lifted the cover and out ran a little harmless mouse. They both ran after it, and tried their best to catch it, but in vain.
While they were feeling very unhappy, and were trembling with fear, the gentleman entered, and seeing their great embarrassment, inquired if they had dared to lift the cover?
The woman replied that she did not see what harm there could be in doing so. She did not think it kind to place such a temptation before them; it could do no one any good.
The man added that his wife teazed him so that he had no peace, and rather than see her unhappy he had lifted the cover.
The gentleman then reminded them of their fault-finding while in the forest, their hard thoughts of God, of the serpent, and of Adam and Eve. Had it been their case they should have acted more wisely! But, alas! they did not know themselves!
He immediately ordered his servants to take off their nice new clothes and to put on their old garments, and he sent them back to the forest, ever after to eat their bread by the sweat of their brow.
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Many years since, I took into my service an old colored woman by the name of Juda. She was a poor, pitiful object, almost worn out by hard and long service. But I needed just such services as she could render, and intrusted to her the general supervision of my kitchen department.