The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

To a Friend, Oct. 21, 1871.

Mr. Prentiss sent in his resignation last evening, and the church refused unanimously to let him go. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" penetrated the walls of the parsonage, as they sang it when the decision was made, and so we knew our fate before a whole parlorful rushed in to shake hands, kiss, and congratulate. You would have been delighted had you been here. Prof. Smith, who took strong ground in favor of his going, takes just as strong ground in favor of his staying. I feel that all this is the result of prayer. I never got any light on the Chicago question when I prayed about it; never could see that it was our duty to go; but I yielded my judgment and my will, because my husband thought that he must go. I think our very reluctance to it made us shrink from evading it; we were so afraid of opposing God's will. Now the matter is taken out of our hands and we have only to resume our work here. God grant that this baptism of fire may purge and purify us and prepare us to be a great blessing to the church. It is a most awe-inspiring providence, God's burning us out of Chicago, and we feel like putting our shoes from off our feet and adoring Him in silence.... Pray that the lessons we have been learning through so many trying months may help us to be helping hands to those who may pass through similar straits. One of my brothers was burnt out, and his own and his wife's letters drew tears even down to the kitchen. For two days and a night they lost their baby, five months old, in addition to all the other horrors. But they found refuge with a dear cousin, who has filled his house to overflowing. I may have spoken of this cousin to you: he has a foundling home on Mueller's trust system.

Before taking leave of the call to Chicago a word should be added to what she says concerning it in her letters. The prospect of her husband's accepting the call rendered the summer a very trying one; but it was far from being all gloom. She had a marvellous power of extracting amusement out of the most untoward situation. In 1843 she wrote from Richmond, referring to Mr. Persico's troubles: "I never spent such melancholy weeks in my life; in the midst of it, however, I made fun for the rest, as I believe I should do in a dungeon." It was so in the present case. She relieved the weariness of many an anxious hour by "making fun for the rest." As an illustration, one evening at Dorset, while sitting at the parlor-table with her children and a young friend who was visiting her, she seized a pencil and wrote for their entertainment a ludicrous version of the Chicago affair in two parts. The paper which was preserved by her young friend, illustrates also another trait which she thus describes at the close of a frolicsome letter to Miss E. A. Warner: "It is one of the peculiar peculiarities of this woman that she usually carries on, when she wants to hide her feelins." Part I. begins thus:

Where are the Prentisses? Gone to Chicago, Gone bag and baggage, the whole crew and cargo. Well, they would go, now let's talk 'em over, And see what compensation we can discover.

They are all "talked over" and then in Part II. the scene changes to Chicago itself:

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, Here's the tribe of Prentisses just agoing by; Dr. Prentiss he, Mrs. Prentiss she, And a lot of young ones that all begin with P. Well, let us view them with our eyes, And then begin to criticise. And first the doctor, what of him?

The doctor having been fully discussed, the criticism proceeds:

Now for his wife; well, who would guess She had set up as authoress! Why, she looks just like all of us, Instead of being in a muss Like other literary folks. They say she likes her little jokes, As well as those who've less to say Of stepping on the heavenward way.

Mrs. P. having been disposed of:

Next comes Miss P.; how she will make The hearts of all the students quake! She'll wind them round her fingers' ends, And find in them one hundred friends. They'll sit on benches in a row And watch her come, and watch her go; But they'll be safe, the precious rogues, Since she don't care for theologues.

The other children next pass in review and the whole closes with the remark:

Time, and Time only, will make clear Why the poor geese came cackling here.

To a young Friend, New York, Nov., 1871.

My heart is as young and fresh as any girl's, and I am almost as prone to make idols out of those I love, as I ever was; and this is inconsistent with the devotion owed to God. I do not mean that I really love anybody better than I do Him, but that human friendships tempt me. This easily-besetting sin of mine has cost me more anguish than tongue can tell, and I deeply feel the need of more love to Christ because of my earthly tendencies. I know I would sacrifice every friend to Christ, but I am not always disentangled. How strange this is, how passing strange!... In a religious way I find myself much better off here than at Dorset. But there is yet something apparently "far off, unattained and dim" that I once thought I had caught by the wing, and enjoyed for a season, but which has flown away. I am afraid I am one who has got to be a religious enthusiast, or else dissatisfied and restless. When I give way to an impulse to the first, I care for nothing worldly, and am at peace. But I am unfitted for daily life, for secular talk and reading. Is it so with you? Does it run in our blood? I do long and pray for more light; and I will pray for more love, cost what it may. Sometimes I long to get to heaven, where I shall not have to be curbing my heart with bit and bridle, and can be as loving as I want to be—as I am.

To a young Friend abroad—New York, Dec. 8, 1871.

There never will come a time in my life when I shall not need all my Christian friends can do for me in the way of prayer. I am glad you are making such special effort to oppose the icebergs of foreign life; God will meet and bless you in it. Let us, if need be, forsake all others to cleave only unto Him. I don't know of any real misery except coldness between myself and Him.

I feel warm and tender sympathy with you in all your struggles, temptations, joys, hopes and fears. As you grow older you will settle more; your troubles, your ups and downs, belong chiefly to your youth. Yes, you are right in saying that Mr. P—— could go through mental conflicts in silence; he does not pine for sympathy as you and I do. You and I are like David, though I forget, at the moment, what he said happened to him when he "kept silence." (On the whole, I don't think he said anything!)

I think the proper attitude to take when restless and lonesome and homesick for want of God's sensible presence, is just what we take when we are missing earthly friends for whom we yearn, and whose letters, though better than nothing, do not half feed our hungry hearts, or fill our longing arms. And that attitude is patient waiting. We are such many-sided creatures that I do not doubt you are getting pleasure and profit out of this European trip, although it is alloyed by so much mental suffering. But such is life. It has in it nothing perfect, nothing ideal. And this conviction, deepened every now and then by some new experience, tosses me anew, again and again, back on to that Rock of Ages that ever stands sure and steadfast, and on whom our feet may rest. It is well to have the waves and billows of temptation beat upon us; if only to magnify this Rock and teach us what a refuge He is.

I went, last night, with Mr. Prentiss and most of the children, to hear the freedmen and women in a concert at Steinway Hall. It was packed with a brilliant, delighted audience, and it was most interesting to see these young people, simple, dignified, earnest, full of love to Christ, and preparing, by education, to work for Him. They sang "Keep me from sinking down" most sweetly and touchingly. I see you have the blues as I used to do, at your age, and hope you will outgrow them as I have done. I suffer without being depressed in the sense in which I used to be; it is hard to make the distinction, but I am sure there is one. I do not know how far this change has come to me as a happy wife and mother, or how far it is religious.

Aunt Jane's Hero was published in 1871. It is hardly inferior to Stepping Heavenward in its pictures of life and character, or in the wisdom of its teaching. The object of the book is to depict a home whose happiness flows from the living Rock, Christ Jesus. It protests also against the extravagance and other evils of the times, which tend to check the growth of such homes, and aims to show that there are still treasures of love and peace on earth, that may be bought without money and without price.

* * * * *


"Holiness and Usefulness go hand-in-hand." No two Souls dealt with exactly alike. Visits to a stricken Home. Another Side of her Life. Visit to a Hospital. Christian Friendship. Letters to a bereaved Mother. Submission not inconsistent with Suffering. Thoughts at the Funeral of a little "Wee Davie." Assurance of Faith. Funeral of Prof. Hopkins. His Character.

She entered the new year with weary steps, but with a heart full of tenderness and sympathy. A circle of young friends, living in different parts of the country, looked eagerly to her at this time for counsel, and she was deeply interested in their spiritual progress. She wrote to one of them, January 6, 1872:

Your letter has filled my heart with joy. What a Friend and Saviour we have, and how He comes to meet us on the sea, if we attempt to walk there in faith! I trust your path now will be the ever brightening one that shall shine more and more unto the perfect day. Holiness and usefulness go hand in hand, and you will have new work to do for the Lord; praying work especially. Pray for me, for one thing; I need a great deal of grace and strength just now. And pray for all the souls that are struggling toward the light. O that everybody lived only for Christ!

A few weeks later, writing to the same friend, she thus refers to the "fiery trials" through which she was passing:

This season of temptation came right on the heels, if I may use such an expression, of great spiritual illumination. Of all the years of my life, 1869-70 was the brightest, and it seems as if Satan could not endure the sight of so much love and joy, and so took me in hand. I have not liked to say much about this to young people, lest it should discourage them; but I hope you will not allow it to affect you in that way, for you must remember that no two souls are dealt with exactly alike, and that the fact that many are looking up to me may have made it necessary for our dear Lord to let Satan harass and trouble me as he has done. No, let us not be discouraged, either you or I, but rejoice that we are called of our God and Saviour to give Him all we have and all we are.... If we spent more time in thanking God for what He has done for us, He would do more.

Malignant scarlet fever and other diseases, had invaded and isolated the household mentioned in the following letter. Their gratitude to Mrs. Prentiss was most touching; it was as if she had been to them an angel from heaven. The story of her visits and loving sympathy became a part of their family history.

To Mrs. Humphrey, New York, Jan. 26, 1872.

I came home half frozen from my early walk this morning, to get warm not only at the fire, but at your letter, which I found awaiting me. I am glad if you got anything out of your visit here. I rather think you and I shall "rattle on" together after we get to heaven.... You say, "How skilfully God does fashion our crosses for us!" Yes, He does. And for my part, I don't want to rest and be happy without crosses—for I can't do without them. People who set themselves up to be pastors and teachers must "learn in suffering" what they teach in sermon and book. I felt a good deal reproved for making so much of mine, however, by my further visits to the house of mourning of which we spoke to you. The little boy died early on the next day, and before his funeral his poor mother, neglected by everybody else, found it some comfort to get into my arms and cry there. It made no difference that twenty years had passed since I had had a sorrow akin to hers; we mothers may cease to grieve, outwardly, but we never forget what has gone out of our sight, or ever grow unsympathetic because time has soothed and quieted us. But I need not say this to you. This was on Saturday; all day Monday I was there watching a most lovely little girl, about six years old, writhing in agony; she died early next morning. The next eldest has been in a critical state, but will probably recover a certain degree of health, but as a helpless cripple. Well, I felt that death alone was inexorable—other enemies we may hope and pray and fight against—and that while my children lived, I need not despair. The tax on my sympathies in the case of those half-distracted parents has been terrible, and yet I wouldn't accept a cold heart if I had the offer of it.

To give you another side of my life, let me tell you of a pleasant dinner party one night last week, when we met Gov. and Mrs. C——, of Massachusetts, and I fell in love with her then and there.... Well, this is a queer world, full of queer things and queer people. Will the next one be more commonplace? I know not. Good-bye.

Word has come from that afflicted household that the grandfather has died suddenly of heart disease. His wife died a few weeks ago. Mr. Prentiss saw him on Saturday in vigorous health.

To Miss Rebecca F. Morse, New York, March 5,1872.

Can you tell me where the blotting-pads can be obtained? I have got into a hospital of spines; in other words, of people who can only write lying on their backs, one of them an authoress, and I think it would be a mercy to them if I could furnish them with the means of writing with more ease than they do now. I was sorry you could not come last Friday, and hope you will be able to join us Saturday, when the club meets here.... How you would have enjoyed yesterday afternoon with me! I went to call on a lady from Vermont, who is here for spinal treatment, and found in her room another of the patients. Two such bright creatures I never met at once, and we got a-going at such a rate that though I had never seen either of them before, I stayed nearly three hours! I mean to have another dose of them before long, and give them another dose of E. P. I have been reading a book called "The Presence of Christ" [9]—which I liked so well that I got a copy to lend. It is not a great book, but I think it will be a useful one. It says we are all idolaters, and reminds me of my besetting sins in that direction. I feel overwhelmed when I think how many young people are looking to me for light and help, knowing how much I need both myself.... Every now and then some Providential event occurs that wakes us up, and we find that we have been asleep and dreaming, and that what we have been doing that made us fancy ourselves awake, was mechanical.

I must be off now to my sewing society, which is a great farce, since I can earn thirty or forty times as much with my pen as I can with my needle, and if they would let me stay at home and write, I would give them the results of my morning's work. But the minute I stop going everybody else stops.

To Mrs. Condict, April 7, 1872.

How I should love to spend this evening with you! This has been our Communion Sunday, and I am sure the service would have been very soothing to your poor, sore heart. And yet why do I say poor when I know it is rich? Oh, you might have the same sorrow without faith and patience with which to bear it, and think how dreadful that would be! Your little lamb has been spending his first Sunday with the Good Shepherd and other lambs of the flock, and has been as happy as the day is long. Perhaps your two children and mine are claiming kinship together. If they met in a foreign land they would surely claim it for our sakes; why not in the land that is not foreign, and not far off? But still these are not the thoughts to bring you special comfort. "Thy will be done!" does the whole. And yet my heart aches for you. Some one, who had never had a real sorrow, told Mrs. N. that if she submitted to God's will as she ought, she would cease to suffer. What a fallacy this is! Mrs. N. was comforted by hearing that your little one was taken away by the consequences of the fever, as her Nettie was, for she had reproached herself with having neglected her to see to Johnny, who died first, and thought this neglect had allowed her to take cold. I feel very sorry when mothers torture themselves in this needless way, as if God could not avert ill consequences, if He chose.

I have shed more than one tear to-day. I heard last night that my dearly-loved brother, Prof. Hopkins, is on his dying-bed. I never thought of his dying, he comes of such a long-lived race. I expect to go to see him, and if I find I can be of any use or comfort, stay a week or two. His death will come very near to me, but he is a saintly man, and I am glad for him that he can go. How thankful we shall be when our turn comes! The ladies at our little meeting were deeply interested in what I had to tell them about your dear boy, and prayed for you with much feeling. May our dear Lord bless you abundantly with His sweet presence! I know He will. And yet He has willed it that you should suffer. "Himself hath done it!" Oh how glad He will be when the dispensation of suffering is over, and He can gather His beloved round Him, tearless, free from sorrow and care, and all forever at rest.

May 5th.—Yesterday, the friend at East Dorset whose three children died within a few weeks of each other, sent me some verses, of which I copy one for you:

"The eye of faith beholds A golden stair, like that of old, whereon Fair spirits go and come; God's angels coming down on errands sweet, Our angels going home."

I hope this golden stair, up which your dear boy climbed "with shout and song," is covered with God's angels coming down to bless and comfort you. One of the most touching passages in the Bible, to my mind, is that which describes angels as coming to minister to Jesus after His temptations in the wilderness. It gives one such an idea of His helplessness! Just as I was going out to church this morning, Mr. Prentiss told me of the death of a charming "baby-boy," one of our lambs, and I could scarcely help bursting into tears, though I had only seen him once. You can hardly understand how I feel, as a pastor's wife, toward our people. Their sorrows come right home. I have a friend also hanging in agonizing suspense over a little one who has been injured by a fall; she is sweetly submissive, but you know what a mother's heart is. I have yet another friend, who has had to give up her baby. She is a young mother, and far from her family, but says she has "perfect peace." So from all sides I hear sorrowful sounds, but so much faith and obedience mingled with the sighs, that I can only wonder at what God can do.

To Miss Morse, May 7, 1872.

How true and how strange it is that our deepest sorrows, spring from our sweetest affections; that as we love much, we suffer much. What instruments of torture our hearts are! The passage you quote is all true but people are apt to be impatient in affliction, eager to drink the bitter cup at a draught rather than drop by drop, and fain to dig up the seed as soon as it is planted, to see if it has germinated. I am fond of quoting that passage about "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" coming "afterward."

I have just come from the funeral of a little "Wee Davie"; all the crosses around his coffin were tiny ones, and he had a small floral harp in his hand. I thought as I looked upon his face, still beautiful, though worn, that even babies have to be introduced to the cross, for he had a week of fearful struggle before he was released.... I enclose an extract I made for you from a work on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was all the paper I had at hand at the moment. The recipe for "curry" I have copied into my recipe-book, and the two lines at the top of the page I addressed to M. A queer mixture of the spiritual and the practical, but no stranger than life's mixtures always are.

To a young Friend, New York, May 20th, 1872.

As to assurance of faith, I think we may all have that, and in my own darkest hours this faith has not been disturbed. I have just come home from a brief visit to Miss ——, with whom I had some interesting discussions. I use the word discussions advisedly, for we love each other in constant disagreement. She believes in holiness by faith, while denying that she has herself attained it. I think her life, as far as I can see it, very true and beautiful. We spent a whole evening talking about temptation. Not long ago I met with a passage, in French, to this effect—I quote from memory only: "God has some souls whom He can not afflict in any ordinary way, for they love Him so that they are ready for any outward sorrow or bereavement. He therefore scourges them with inward trials, vastly more painful than any outward tribulation could be; thus crucifying them to self." I can not but think that this explains Mrs. ——'s experience, and perhaps my own; at any rate I feel that we are all in the hands of an unerring Physician, who will bring us, through varying paths, home to Himself.

I had a call the other day from an intelligent Christian woman, whom I had not seen for eighteen years. She said that some time ago her attention was called to the subject of personal holiness, and as she is a great reader, she devoured everything she could get hold of, and finally became a dogmatic perfectionist. But experience modified these views, and she fell back on the Bible doctrine of an indwelling Christ, with the conviction that just in proportion to this indwelling will be the holiness of the soul. This is precisely my own belief. This is the doctrine I preached in Stepping Heavenward and I have so far seen nothing to change these views, while I desire and pray to be taught any other truth if I am wrong. I believe God does reveal Himself and His truth to those who are willing to know it.

To Miss Morse, New York, May 31, 1872.

I got home yesterday from Williamstown, where I went, with my husband, to attend the funeral of my dearly beloved brother, Professor Hopkins. He literally starved to death. He died as he had lived, beautifully, thinking of and sending messages to all his friends, and on his last day repeating passages of Scripture and even, weak as he was, joining in hymns sung at his bedside. The day of the funeral was a pretty trying one for me, as there was not only his loss to mourn, but there were traces of my darling mother and sister, who both died in that house, all over it; some of my mother's silver, a white quilt she made when a girl, my sister's library, her collection of shells and minerals, her paintings, her little conservatory, the portrait of her only child, dressed in his uniform (he was killed in one of the battles of the Wilderness). Then, owing to the rain, none of us ladies were allowed to go into the cemetery, and I had thought much of visiting my sister's grave and seeing her boy lying on one side and her husband on the other. But our disappointments are as carefully planned for us as our sorrows, so I have not a word to say.

After services at the house, we walked to the church, which we entered through a double file of uncovered students. One of the most touching things about the service was the sight of four students standing in charge of the remains, two at the head and two at the foot of the coffin. His poor folks came in crowds, with their hands full of flowers to be cast into his grave. My brother said he never saw so many men shed tears at a funeral, and I am sure I never did; some sobbing as convulsively as women. I could not help asking myself when my heart was swelling so with pain, whether love paid. Love is sweet when all goes well, but oh how fearfully exacting it is when separation comes! How many tithes it takes of all we have and are!

A worthy young woman in our church has been driven into hysterics by reading "Holiness through Faith." I went to see her as soon as I got home from W. yesterday, but she was asleep under the influence of an opiate. There is no doubt that too much self-scrutiny is pernicious, especially to weak-minded, ignorant young people. It was said of Prof. Hopkins that he would have been a mystic but for his love to souls, and I am afraid these new doctrines tend too much to the seeking for peace and joy, too little to seeking the salvation of the careless and worldly. But I hesitate to criticise any class of good people, feeling that those who live in most habitual communion with God receive light directly and constantly from on high; and of that communion we can not seek too much. [10]

* * * * *


Christian Parents to expect Piety in their Children. Perfection. "People make too much Parade of their Troubles." "Higher Life" Doctrines. Letter to Mrs. Washburn. Last Visit to Williamstown.

Early in June she went to Dorset. The summer, like that of 1871, was shadowed by anxiety and inward conflict; but her care-worn thoughts were greatly soothed by her rural occupations, by visits from young friends, and by the ever-fresh charms of nature around her.

To a Christian Friend, Dorset, June 9, 1872.

I was obliged to give up my much-desired visit to you. We went on to the funeral of Prof. Hopkins, and that took three days out of the busy time just before coming here. I particularly wanted you to know at the time that my three younger children united with the church on Sunday last, but had not a moment in which to write you. It was a touching sight to our people. Mr. P. looked down on his children so lovingly, and kissed them when the covenant had been read. He said —-'s face was so full of soul that he could not help it, and his heart yearned over them all. Someone said there was not a dry eye in the house. I felt not elated, not cast down, but at peace. I think it plain that Christian parents are to expect piety in their children, and expect it early. In mine it is indeed "first the blade," and they will, no doubt, have their trials and temptations. But it seems to me I must leave them in God's hands and let Him lead them as He will. It was very sweet to have the elements passed to me by their young hands. Offer one earnest prayer for them at least, that they may prove true soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ. No doubt your two little sainted ones looked on and loved the children of their mother's friend.

The following testimony of one of President Garfield's classmates and intimate friends may fitly be added here:

"For him there was but one Mark Hopkins in all the world; but for Professor Albert Hopkins also, or 'Prof. Al.,' as he was called in those days, the General—not only while at college, but all through life— entertained the highest regard, both as a man and a scholar. His intellectual attainments were thought by Gen. G. to be of an unusually fine order, rivalling those of his brother, and often eliciting the admiration not only of himself, but of all the other students. In speaking of his Williamstown life, Gen. Garfield always referred to Prof. Hopkins in the most affectionate manner; and, both from his own statements and my personal observation, I know that their mutual college relations were of the pleasantest nature possible."

On the subject of perfection, you say I am looking for angelic perfection. I see no difference in kind. Perfection is perfection to my mind, and I have always thought it a dangerous thing for a soul to fancy it had attained it. Yet, in her last letters to me, Miss —— virtually professes to have become free from sin. She says self and sin are the same thing, and that she is entirely dead to self. What is this but complete sanctification? What can an angel say more? I feel painfully bewildered amid conflicting testimonies, and sometimes long to flee away from everybody. Miss ——'s last letter saddened me, I will own. You say, "I am in danger of becoming morbid, or stupid, or wild, or something I ought not." Why in danger? According to your own doctrine you are safe; being "entirely sanctified from moment to moment." At any rate I can say nothing "to quicken" you, for I am morbid and stupid, though just now not wild. Those sharp temptations have ceased, though perhaps only for a season; but I have been physically weakened by them, and have got to take care of myself, go to bed early, and vegetate all I can—and this when I ought to be hard at work ministering to other souls. The fact is, I don't know anything and don't do anything, but just get through the day somehow, wondering what all this strange, unfamiliar state of things will end in. Poor M—— has gone crazy on "Holiness through Faith," and will probably have to go to an asylum.... Our little home looks and is very pleasant. I take some comfort in it, and try to realise the goodness that gives me such a luxury. But a soul that has known what it is to live to Christ can be happy only in Him. May He be all in all to you, and consciously so to me in His own good time.

To Miss Woolsey, Dorset, June 23, 1872.

I wish you could come and take a look at us this quiet afternoon. Not a soul is to be seen or heard; the mountains are covered with the soft haze that says the day is warm but not oppressive, and here and there a brilliantly colored bird flies by, setting "Tweedle Dum," our taciturn canary, into tune. M. and I have driven at our out-door work like a pair of steam-engines, and you can imagine how dignified I am from the fact that an old fuddy-duddy who does occasional jobs for me, summons me to my window by a "Hullo!" beneath it, while G. says to us, "Where are you girls going to sit this afternoon?"

Your sister's allusion to Watts and Select Hymns reminds me of ages long past, when I used to sing the whole book through as I marched night after night through my room, carrying a colicky baby up and down for fifteen months, till I became a living skeleton. We do contrive to live through queer experiences.

To a young Friend, Dorset, Aug. 3, 1872.

The lines you kindly copied for me have the ring of the true metal and I like them exceedingly. People make too much parade of their troubles and too much fuss about them; the fact is we are all born to tribulation, as we also are to innumerable joys, and there is no sense in being too much depressed or elated by either. "The saddest birds a season find to sing." Few if any lives flow in unmingled currents. As to myself, my rural tastes are so strong, and I have so much to absorb and gratify me, that I need a mixture of experience. Two roses that bloomed in my garden this morning, made my heart leap with delight, and when I get off in the woods with M., and we collect mosses and ferns and scarlet berries, I am conscious of great enjoyment in them. At the same time, if I thought it best to tell the other side of the story, I should want some very black ink with which to do it. We must take life as God gives it to us, without murmurings and disputings, and with the checks on our natural eagerness that keeps us mindful of Him.

You speak of the "Higher Life people." I still hold my judgment in suspense in regard to their doctrines, reading pretty much all they send me, and asking daily for light from on high. I have had some talks this summer with Dr. Stearns on these subjects, and he urges me to keep where I am, but I try not to be too much influenced for or against doctrines I do not, by experience, understand. Let us do the will of God (and suffer it) and we shall learn of the doctrine.

To Mrs. Washburn, Kauinfels, Friday Evening, (September, 1872).

I have done nothing but tear my hair ever since you left, to think I let you go. It would have been so easy to send you to Manchester to-morrow morning, after a night here, and an evening over our little wood-fire, but we were so glad to see you both, so bewildered by your sudden appearance, that neither of us thought of it till you were gone. And now you are still within reach, and we want you to reconsider your resolution to turn your backs upon us after such a long, fatiguing journey, and eating no salt with us. I did not urge your staying because I do so hate to be urged myself. But I want you to feel what a great pleasure it would be to us if you could make up your minds to stay at least over Sunday, or if to-morrow and Sunday are unpleasant, just a day or two more, to take our favorite drives with us, and give us what you may never have a chance to give us again. I declare I shall think you are crazy, if you don't stay a few days, now that you are here. We have been longing to have you come, and only waiting for our place to be a little less naked in order to lay violent hands on you; but now you have seen the nakedness of the land, we don't care, but want you to see more of it. This is the time, and exactly the time, when we have nothing to do but to enjoy our visitors, and next year the house may be running over. And if you don't come now, you'll have the plague of having to come some other time, and it is a long, formidable journey.

Why didn't we just take and lock you up when we had hold of you! Well, now I've torn out all my hair, and people will be saying, "Go up, thou bald-head." Besides—you left them bunch-berries! and do you suppose you can go home without them? Why, it wouldn't be safe. You would be run off the track, and scalded by steam, and broken all to pieces, and caught on the cow-catcher, and get lost, and be run away with, and even struck by lightning, I shouldn't wonder. And now if you go in to-morrow's train you'll catch the small-pox and the measles and the scarlet fever and the yellow fever, and all the colors-in-the-rainbow fever, and go into a consumption and have the pleurisy, and the jaundice and the tooth-ache and the headache, and, above all, the conscience-ache. And you never ate any of our corn or our beans! You never so much as asked the receipt for our ironclads! You haven't seen our cow. You haven't been down cellar. You haven't fished in our brook. You haven't been here at all, now I come to think of it. I dreamed you flew through, but it was nothing but a dream. And the houses have a habit of burning down, and ours is going to do as the rest do, and then how'll you feel in your minds? And when folks set themselves up against us, and won't let us have our own way, why then "I tell my daughter

What makes folks do as they'd oughter not, And why don't they do as they'd oughter?"

And we all pine away and die like the babes in the woods, and nobody's left to cover us up with leaves. Send all these arguments home by telegram, and your folks will shoot you if you dare to go. I could write another sheet if it would do any good. Now do lay my words to heart, and come right back.

To Miss Morse, Dorset, Oct. 7, 1872.

I sent home my servants a month ago, and they have been getting the parsonage to rights, while I have in their places two dear old souls who came to live with me twenty years ago. One stayed ten years and then got married, the other I parted with when my children died because I did not need her. It has been a green spot in the summer to have these affectionate, devoted creatures in the house. We have had only one slight frost, but the woods have been gradually changing, and are in spots very beautiful. We (you know what that word means) have been off gathering bright leaves for ourselves and the servants, who care for pretty things just as we do. Yet not a flower has gone; we have had a host of verbenas and gladioli, some Japanese lilies, and so on, and have been able to give some pleasure to those who have not time to cultivate them for themselves. It has been a dreadful season for sickness here, and flowers have been wanted in many a sick-room, and at some funerals.

Since I wrote you last "we" have been to Williamstown. I wanted to get possession of my sister's private papers. Everything passed off nicely; I burned a large amount and brought away a trunk full, a part of which I have been reading with deep interest. Her journals date back to the age of fifteen, though to read the early ones you would never dream of her being less than twenty or thirty. She was a wonderful woman, and as I found such ample material for a memorial of her life, I felt half tempted to carry out her husband's wishes and complete one. But on the whole I do not think I shall. You can imagine how my soul has been stirred by the whole thing; the farewell to the familiar objects of my childhood, the sense of a new race taking possession of her conservatory, her shells, her minerals, her pictures, her German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew and Greek library—dear me! but I need not enlarge on it to you. And how stupid it is not to forget it all alongside of her ten years in heaven!

[1] "Especially after a time of some special seasons of grace, and some special new supplies of grace, received in such seasons, (as after the holy sacrament), then will he set on most eagerly, when he knows of the richest booty. The pirates that let the ships pass as they go by empty, watch them well, when they return richly laden; so doth this great Pirate."—Archbishop Leighton, on I Peter, v. 8.

[2] "Cynegvius, a valiant Athenian, being in a great sea-fight against the Medes, espying a ship of the enemy's well manned, and fitted for service, when no other means would serve, he grasped it with his hands to maintain the fight; and when his right hand was cut off, he held close with his left; but both hands being taken off, he held it fast with his teeth."

[3] The following lines found on one of its blank pages were written perhaps at this time:

Precious companion! rendered dear By trial-hours of many a year, I love thee with a tenderness Which words have never yet defined.

When tired and sad and comfortless, With aching heart and weary mind, How oft thy words of promise stealing Like Gilead's balm-drops—soft and low. Have touched the heart with power of healing, And soothed the sharpest hour of woe.

[4] A friend writing to Mrs. Prentiss, under date of September 24, 1872, refers to Lady Stanley's high praise of The Story Lizzie Told, and then adds: "You must be so accustomed to friendly 'notices'—so almost bored by them—that I hesitate to tell you of meeting another admirer of yours in the person of Mrs. ——, of Philadelphia, who was indebted to you for the return of a little text-book. She means to call on you some day, if she is ever in New York, to thank you in person for that act of kindness of yours, and for your 'Stepping Heavenward.' She is a daughter of the late Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. Her mother, a staunch old Scotch lady over 80, has just returned from Europe. Mrs. —— is a very interesting woman, of warm religious feelings and very outspoken. She was the companion of the famous Mrs. H., of Philadelphia, all through the war,—as one of the independent workers, or perhaps in connection with the Christian Commission. She witnessed the battle of Chancellorsville—a part of it at Mary's Heights, and has told me a great deal that was thrilling—told as she tells it—even at this late day. She has the profoundest belief in what is called the 'work of faith' by prayer and I don't believe she would shrink from accepting Prof. Tyndall's challenge."

[5] From the "Power of the Cross of Christ."

[6] "Briefe an eine Freundin," a remarkable little book, full of light and sweetness.

[7] Praying before others.

[8] Since the warning we had the other day that we may be snatched from our children, ought we not to try to form some plan for them in case of such an emergency? I can't account for it, that in those fearful moments I thought only of them. I should have said I ought to have had some thought of the world we seemed to be hurrying to. I suppose there was the instinctive yet blind sense that the preparation for the next life had been made for us by the Lord, and that, as far as that life was concerned, we had nothing to do but to enter it. I shudder when I think what a desolate home this might be to-day. Poor things! they've got everything before them, without one experience and discipline!—From a letter to her husband, dated Dorset, Sept. 17, 1871.

[9] The Presence of Christ. Lectures on the XXIII. Psalm. By Anthony W. Thorold, Lord Bishop of Rochester. A. D. F. Randolph & Co.

[10] Albert Hopkins was born in Stockbridge, Mass., July 14,1807. He was graduated at Williams College in the class of 1826, and three years later became Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in the same institution. Astronomy was afterward added to his chair. In 1834 he went abroad. In the summer of 1835 he organised and conducted a Natural History expedition to Nova Scotia, the first expedition of the kind in this country. Two years later he built at his own expense, and in part by the labor of his own hands, the astronomical observatory at Williamstown. In this also, it is said, in advance of all others erected exclusively for purposes of instruction. He was a devoted and profound student, as well as an accomplished teacher, of natural science. But he was still more distinguished for his piety and his religious influence in the college. Hundreds of students in successive classes learned to love and revere him as a holy man of God—many of them as their spiritual father. The history of American colleges affords probably no instance of a happier, or more remarkable, union of true science with that personal holiness and zeal for God, by which hearts are won for Christ. Full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, he did the work of an evangelist for more than forty years—not in the college only, but all over the town. During the last six years of his life he devoted himself especially to the White Oaks—a district in the north-east part of Williamstown-which had long before excited his sympathy on account of the poverty, vice, and degradation which marked the neighborhood. He identified himself with the population by buying and carrying on a small farm among them. He also established a Sunday-school, and then he built with the aid of friends a tasteful chapel, which was dedicated in October, 1866. Later "the Church of Christ in the White Oaks" was organised, and here, as his failing strength allowed, he preached and labored the rest of his days.

Prof. Hopkins was an enthusiastic lover of nature. A few years before his death he organised a society called "The Alpine Club," composed chiefly of young ladies, with whom, as their chosen leader, he made excursions summer after summer—camping out often among the hills. He took them to many a picturesque nook and retreat, of which they had never heard, in the mountains near by. He also explored with them other interesting and remoter portions of northern Berkshire, and interpreted to them on the spot the thoughts of God, as they appeared in the infinitely varied and beautiful details of His works. In these excursions he seemed as young as any of his young companions, with feelings as fresh and joyous as theirs. In earlier years he was a very grave man, with something of the old Puritan sternness in his looks and ways, and he bore still the aspect of a homo gravis; but his gentleness, his tender devotion to the gay young companions who surrounded him, and the almost boyish delight with which he shared in their pleasures, took away all its sternness and lighted up his strongly-marked countenance with singular grace and beauty. In these closing years of his life he was, indeed, the ideal of a ripe and noble Christian manhood. His name is embalmed in the memory of a great company of his old pupils, now scattered far and wide, from the White House at Washington to the remotest corners of the earth.

P.S.—This was written soon after the inauguration of Gen. Garfield, to whom allusion is made. His high regard for the venerable ex-President of Williams College—the Rev. Dr. Mark Hopkins—he made known to the whole country, but the younger brother was also the object of his warmest esteem and love, and the feeling was heartily reciprocated. Nearly a score of years ago, when he was just emerging into public notice from the bloody field of Chickamauga, Prof. Hopkins spoke of him to the writer in terms so full of praise and so prophetic of his future career, that they seem in perfect harmony with the sentiment at once of admiration and poignant grief which to-day moves the heart of the whole American people—yea, one might almost say, which is inspiring all Christendom.—Saturday, Sept. 24, 1881.




Effect of spiritual Conflict upon her religious Life. Overflowing Affections. Her Husband called to Union Theological Seminary. Baptism of Suffering. The Character of her Friendships. No perfect Life. Prayer. "Only God can satisfy a Woman." Why human Friendship is a Snare. Letters.

The trouble which had so long weighed upon her heart, crossed with her the threshold of 1873, but long before the close of the year it had in large measure passed away. Such suffering, however, always leaves its marks behind; and when complicated with ill-health or bodily weakness, often lingers on after its main cause has been removed. It was so in her case; she was, perhaps, never again conscious of that constant spiritual delight which she had once enjoyed. But if less full of sunshine, her religious life was all the time growing deeper and more fruitful, was centering itself more entirely in Christ and rising faster heavenward. Its sympathies also became, if possible, still more tender and loving. Her whole being, indeed, seemed to gather new light and sweetness from the sharp discipline she had been passing through. Even when most tried and tempted, as has been said, she had kept her trouble to herself; few of her most intimate friends knew of its existence; to the world she appeared a little more thoughtful and somewhat careworn, but otherwise as bright as ever. But now, at length, the old vivacity and playfulness and merry laugh began to come back again. Never did her heart glow with fresher, more ardent affections. In a letter to a young cousin, who was moving about from place to place, she says:

I shall feel more free to write often, if you can tell me that the postmaster at C. forwards your letters from the office at no expense to you, as he ought to do. It is very silly in me to mind your paying three cents for one of my love-letters, but it's a Payson trait, and I can't help it, though I should be provoked enough if you did mind paying a dollar apiece for them. There's consistency for you! Well, I know, and I'm awfully proud of it, that you'll get very few letters from as loving a fountain as my heart is. I've got enough to drown a small army—and sometimes when you're homesick, and cousin-Lizzy-sick, and friend-sick, I shall come to you, done up in a sheet of paper, and set you all in a breeze.

Her letters during the first half of this year were few, and relate chiefly to those aspects of the Christian life with which her own experience was still making her so familiar. "God's plan with most of us," she wrote to Mrs. Humphrey, "appears to be a design to make us flexible, twisting us this way and that, now giving, now taking; but always at work for and in us. Almost every friend we have is going through some peculiar discipline. I fancy there is no period in our history when we do not need and get the sharp rod of correction. The thing is to grow strong under it, and yet to walk softly." "I do not care how much I suffer," she wrote to a friend, "if God will purge and purify me and fit me for greater usefulness. What are trials but angels to beckon us nearer to Him! And I do hope that mine are to be a blessing to some other soul, or souls, in the future. I can't think suffering is meant to be wasted, if fragments of bread created miraculously, were not." She studied about this time with great interest the teaching of Scripture concerning the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The work of the Spirit had not before specially occupied her thoughts. In her earlier writings she had laid but little stress upon it—not because she doubted its reality or its necessity, but because her mind had not been led in that direction. Stepping Heavenward is full of God and of Christ, but there is in it little express mention of the Spirit and His peculiar office in the life of faith. When this fact was brought to her notice she herself appeared to be surprised at it, and would gladly have supplied the omission. To be sure, there is no mention at all of the Holy Spirit in several of the Epistles of the New Testament; but a carefully-drawn picture of Christian life and progress, like Stepping Heavenward, would, certainly, have been rendered more complete and attractive by fuller reference to the Blessed Comforter and His inspiring influences.

To a young Friend, New York, Jan. 8, 1873.

I feel very sorry for you that you are under temptation. I have been led, for some time, to pray specially for the tempted, for I have learned to pity them as greater sufferers than those afflicted in any other way. For, in proportion to our love to Christ, will be the agony of terror lest we should sin and fall, and so grieve and weary Him. "One sinful wish could make a hell of heaven"; strong language, but not too strong, to my mind. I can only say, suffer, but do not yield. Sometimes I think that silent, submissive patience is better than struggle. It is sweet to be in the sunshine of the Master's smile, but I believe our souls need winter as well as summer, night as well as day. Perhaps not to the end; I have not come to that yet, and so do not know; I speak from my own experience, as far as it goes. Temptation has this one good side to it: it keeps us down; we are ashamed of ourselves, we see we have nothing to boast of. I told you, you will perhaps remember, that you were going to enter the valley of humiliation in which I have dwelt so long, but I trust we are only taking it in our way to the land of Beulah. And how we "pant to be there"! What a curious friendship ours has been! and it is one that can never sever—unless, indeed, we fall away from Christ, which may He in mercy forbid!... I do pray for you twice every day, and hope you pray for me. I do long so to know the truth and to enter into it. Certainly I have got some new light during the last year, in the midst of my trials, both within and without.

To another young friend she writes a few days later:

I remember when I was, religiously, at your age I was longing for holiness, but my faith staggered at some of the conditions for it. I had no conception, much as Christ was to me, what He was going to become. But I wish I could make you a birth-day present of my experience since then, and you could have Him now, instead of learning, as I had to learn Him, in much tribulation.

To Mrs. Condict, Jan. 15, 1873.

I have been meaning, for some days, to write you about the Professorship. [1] It is a new one, and is called "the Skinner and McAlpine" chair, and Mr. Prentiss says there could not be a more agreeable field of usefulness. It is most likely that he will feel it to be his duty to accept. As to myself, I am about apathetic on the subject. My will has been broken over the Master's knee, if I may use such an expression, by so much suffering, that I look with indifference on such outward changes. We can be made willing to be burnt alive, if need be. For four or five years to come I shall not be obliged to leave the church I love so dearly; if the Seminary is moved out to Harlem, it will be different; but it is not worth while to think of that now. It seems to me that Mr. P. has reached an age when, never being very strong, a change like this may be salutary. February 3d.—You will be sorry to hear that dear Mrs. C. is quite sick. Her daughters are all worn out with the care of her. I was there all day Saturday, but I can do nothing in the way of night watching; nor much at any time. A very little over-exertion knocks me up this winter. It is just as much as I can do to keep my head above water.... Sometimes I think that the dreadful experience I have been passing through is God's way of baptizing me; some have to be baptized with suffering. Certainly He has been sitting as the Refiner, bringing down my pride, emptying me of this and that, and not leaving me a foot to stand on. If it all ends in sanctification I don't care what I suffer. Though cast down, I am not in despair.

It is an encouragement to hear Mahan compare states of the soul to house-cleaning time. [2] It is just so with me. Every chair and table, every broom and brush is out of place, topsy-turvy.... But I can't believe God has been wasting the last two years on me; I can't help hoping that He is answering my prayer, my cry for holiness—only in a strange way. Dr. and Mrs. Abbot spent Sunday and Monday with us a week ago, and I read to them Dr. Steele's three tracts and lent them Mahan. They were much interested, but I do not know how much struck. I can not smile, as some do, at Dr. Steele's testimony. I believe in it fully and heartily. If I do not know what it is to "find God real," I do not know anything. Never was my faith in the strongest doctrines of Christianity stronger than it is now.

Feb. 13th.—I spent part of yesterday in reading Stepping Heavenward! You will think that very strange till I add that it was in German; and, as the translator has all my books, I wanted to know whether she had done this work satisfactorily before authorising her to proceed with the rest. She has omitted so much, that it is rather an abridgment than a translation; otherwise it is well done. But she has so purged it of vivacity, that I am afraid it will plod on leaden feet, if it plods at all, heavenward. And now I must hurry off to my sewing-circle.

To a young Friend, April 4, 1873.

I want to correct any mistaken impression I have made on you in conversation. The utmost I meant to say was, that I had got new light intellectually, or theologically, on the subject of the working of the Spirit. In the sense in which I use the words "baptism of the Holy Ghost," I certainly do not consider that I have received it. I think it means perfect consecration.... Thus far, no matter what people profess, I have never come into close contact with any life that I did not find more or less imperfect. I find, in other words, the best human beings fallible, and very fallible. The best I can say of myself is, that I see the need of immense advances in the divine life. I find it hard to be patient with myself when I see how far I am from reaching even my own poor standard; but if I do not love Christ and long to please Him, I do not love anybody or anything. And if I have talked less to you on these sacred subjects this winter, it has been partly owing to my seeing less of you, and an impalpable but real barrier between us which I have not known how to account for, but which made me cautious in pushing religion on you. Young people usually have their ups and downs and fluctuations of feeling before they settle down on to fixed principles, paying no regard to feeling, and older Christians should bear with them, make allowance for this, and never obtrude their own views or experiences. I think you will come out all right. Satan will fight hard for you, and perhaps for a time get the upper hand; but I believe the Lord and Master will prevail. Perhaps we are never dearer to Him than when the wings on which we once flew to Him, hang drooping and broken at our side, and we have to make our weary way on foot.

I am always thankful to have my heart stirred and warmed by Christian letters or conversation; always glad to see any signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in a human soul. But never force yourself to write or talk of spiritual things; try rather to get so full of Christ that mention of Him shall be natural and spontaneous.

To the Same, April 15, 1873.

I have just been reading the sermon of Dr. Hopkins on prayer you sent me. It sounds just like him. I think his brother and mine (by marriage) would have treated the subject just as logically and far more practically; still, under the circumstances, that was not desirable. As to myself, I would rather have the simple testimony of some unknown praying woman, who is in the habit of "waiting" on God, than all the theological discussions in the world. The subject, as you know, is one of deep interest to me.

I have not answered your letter, because I was not quite sure what it was best to say. During the winter I was not sure what had come between us, and thought it best to let time show; and I have been harassed and perplexed by certain anxieties, with which it did not seem necessary to trouble you, to a degree that may have given me a preoccupied manner. There have been points where I wanted a divine illumination which I did not get. I wanted to hear, "This is the way, walk in it"; but that word has not come yet, and almost all my spiritual life has been running in that one line, keeping me, necessarily, out of sympathy with everybody. As far as this has been a fault, it has reacted upon you, to whom I ought to have been more of a help. But I can say that it delights me to see you even trying to take a step onward, and to know that while still young, and with the temptations of youth about you, you have set your face heavenward. Your temptations, like mine, are through the affections. "Only God can satisfy a woman"; and yet we try, every now and then, to see if we can't find somebody else worth leaning on. We never shall, and it is a great pity we can not always realise it. I never deliberately make this attempt now, but am still liable to fall into the temptation. I am sure that I can never be really happy and at rest out of or far from Christ, nor do I want to be. Getting new and warm friends is all very well, but I emerge from this snare into a deepening conviction that I must learn to say, "None but Christ."... Now, dear ——, it is a dreadful thing to be cold towards our best Friend'; a calamity if it comes upon us through Satan; a sin and folly if it is the result of any fault or omission of our own. There is but one refuge from it, and that is in just going to Him and telling Him all about it. We can not force ourselves to love Him, but we can ask Him to give us the love, and sooner or later He will. He may seem not to hear, the answer may come gradually and imperceptibly, but it will come. He has given you one friend at least who prays for your spiritual advance every day. I hope you pray thus for me. Friendship that does not do that is not worth the name. April 17th.—Of course, I'll take the will for the deed and consider myself covered with "orange blossoms," like a babe in the wood. And it is equally of course that I was married with lots of them among my lovely auburn locks, and wore a veil in point lace twenty feet long.

I have had several titles given me in Dorset—among others, a "child of nature"—and last night I was shown a letter in which (I hope it is not wicked to quote it in such a connexion) I am styled "a Princess in Christ's Kingdom." Can you cap this climax?

* * * * *


Goes to Dorset. Christian Example. At Work among her Flowers. Dangerous Illness. Her Feeling about Dying. Death an "Invitation" from Christ. "The Under-current bears Home." "More Love, More love!" A Trait of Character. Special Mercies. What makes a sweet Home. Letters.

Early in June, accompanied by the three younger children, she went to Dorset. This change always put her into a glow of pleasurable emotion. Once out of the city, she was like a bird let loose from its cage. In a letter to her husband, dated "Somewhere on the road, five o'clock P.M.," she wrote: "M. is laughing at me because, Paddy-like, I proposed informing you in a P. S. that we had reached Dorset; as if the fact of mailing a letter there could not prove it. So I will take her advice and close this now. I feel that our cup of mercies is running over. We ought to be ever so good! And I am ever so loving!" "We are all as gay as larks," she wrote a few days later; and in spite of heat, drought, over-work and sickness, she continued in this mood most of the summer. But while "gay as a lark," she was also grave and thoughtful. Her delight in nature seemed only to increase her interest in divine things and her longing to be like Christ. In a letter to one of her young friends, having spoken of prayer as "the greatest favor one friend can render another," she adds:

But perhaps I may put one beyond it—Christian example. I ought to be so saintly, so consecrated, that you could not be with me and not catch the very spirit of heaven; never get a letter from me that did not quicken your steps in the divine life. But while I believe the principle of love to Christ is entrenched in the depths of my soul, the emotion of love is hot always in that full play I want it to be. No doubt He judges us by the principle He sees to exist in us, but we can't help judging ourselves, in spite of ourselves, by our feelings. At church this morning my mind kept wandering to and fro; I thought of you about twenty times; thought about my flowers; thought of 501 other things; and then got up and sang

"I love Thy kingdom, Lord,"

as if I cared for that and nothing else. What He has to put up with in me! But I believe in Him, I love Him, I hate everything in my soul and in my life that is unlike Him. I hope the confession of my shortcomings won't discourage you; it is no proof that at my age you will not be far beyond such weakness and folly as often carry me away captive.... As far as earthly blessings go I am as near perfect happiness as a human being can be; everything is heaped on me. What I want is more of Christ, and that is what I hope you pray that I may have.

To another young friend she writes, June 12th:

We have varied experiences, sick or well, and the discipline of a heart not perfectly satisfied with what it gets from God, often alternates with the peace of which you speak as just now yours. What a blessed thing this "very peace of God" is! There is no earthly joy to be compared with it. But to go patiently on without it, when it is not given, is, I think, a great achievement; for instance, if I held no communication with you for a year, would it not be a wonderful proof of your love to and faith in me, if you kept on writing me and telling me your joys and trials? To go back—I have been a good deal confused by the contradictory testimony of different Christians, and am driven more and more to a conviction that human beings, at the best, are very fallible. We must get our light directly from on high. At the same time we influence each other for right or for wrong, and one who is thoroughly upright and true, will, unconsciously, influence and help those about him.... I am enjoying, as I always do, having the three younger children close about me here, and all sleeping on my floor. We are really like four children, continually frolicking together. We are all crowded now into my den, and I wish you were here with us to be the "fifth kitten." Did you ever read that story?

To Mrs. Catherine G. Leeds, Dorset, July 12, 1873.

It was ever so kind in you to let us share in your relief and pleasure, and we unite in affectionate congratulations to you all. I do hope this new and precious treasure will be spared to his dear mother, and grow up to be her stay and staff years hence. It is the nicest thing in the world to have a baby. What marvels they are in every respect, but especially in their royal power over us!

In spite of the dry weather we have had a pleasant summer, so far. Just before we entirely burned up and turned to tinder, showers came to our relief, and our gardens are putting on some faint smiles and making some promises. I did not allow a drop of water to be wasted for weeks; dish-water, soap-suds, dairy water, everything went to my flower-beds, and each night, after Mr. Prentiss came, a barrel-full was carted up from the pond for me; how many the rest used I don't know. Disposing of such a load has not been blessed to my health, and I have had to draw in my horns a little, but M. and I work generally like two day-laborers for the wages we get, and those wages are flowers here, there and everywhere, to say nothing of ferns, brakes, mosses, scarlet berries, and the like. And when flowers fail we fall back on different shades of green; the German ivy being relieved by a background of dark foliage, or light grasses against grave ones; and when we hit on any new combination, each summons the other to be lost in admiration. And when we are too sore and stiff from weeding, grass-shearing or watering, we fall to framing little pictures, or to darning stockings, which she does so beautifully that it has become a fine art with her, or I betake myself to the sewing-machine and stitch for legs that seem to grow long by the minute.

What the rest of the family are about meanwhile, I can not exactly say. Mr. Prentiss sits in a chair with an umbrella over his head, and pulls up a weed now and then, and then strolls off with a straw in his mouth; he also drives off sometimes on foraging expeditions, and comes back with butter, eggs, etc., and on hot days takes a bath where a stream of cold water dashes over him; "splendid" he says, and "horrid" I say. The boys are up to everything; they are carpenters, and plumbers, and trouters, and harnessers, and drivers; H. has just learned to solder, and saves me no little trouble and expense by stopping leakages; heretofore every holey vessel had to be sent out of town. Both boys have gardens and sell vegetables to their father at extraordinary prices, and they are now filling up a deep ditch 500 feet long at a "York shilling" an hour—men get a "long shilling" and do the work no better. With the money thus made they buy tools of all sorts, seeds and fruit trees, but no nonsense. Three happier children than these three can not be found....

You may be interested, too, to know what are the famous works of art we are framing, as above referred to. Well, photographs of our kindred and friends for one thing: my brothers, my husband's mother and other relatives of his, Prof. and Mrs. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. B. B., and so on, a good deal as it has happened, for everybody hasn't been photographed; and some bodies have not given us their pictures—you, for instance, and if you want to be hung as high as Haman in my den, nine feet square, where I write, why, you can. Last summer I had a mania for illuminating, and made about a cord of texts and mottoes; I can't paint, so I cut letters out of red, blue and black paper, and deceived thereby the very elect, for even Mrs. Washburn was taken in, and said they were painted nicely.

Your little note has drawn large interest, hasn't it? Well, it deserved its fate.

Hardly had she finished this letter when she was taken very ill. For a while it seemed as if the time of her departure had come. At her request the children were called to her bedside, and she gave them in turn her dying counsels, bade them live for Christ as the only true, abiding good, and then kissed each of them good-bye. She was much disappointed on finding that her sickness, after all, was not an "invitation" from the Master. "You don't get away this time," said her husband to her, half playfully, half exultingly, referring to her eagerness to go.

And here it may not be amiss to say a word as to her state of mind respecting death. After her release her husband thus described it to a friend:

Her feeling about dying seemed to me to be almost unique. In all my pastoral experience, at least, I do not recall another case quite like it. Her faith in a better world, that is, a heavenly, was quite as strong as her faith in God and in Christ; she regarded it as the true home of the soul; and the tendency of a good deal of modern culture to put this world in its place as man's highest sphere and end, struck her as a mockery of the holiest instincts at once of humanity and religion. Death was associated in her mind with the instant realisation of all her sweetest and most precious hopes. She viewed it as an invitation from the King of Glory to come and be with Him. During the more than three-and-thirty years of our married life I doubt if there was ever a time when the summons would have found her unwilling to go; rarely, if ever, a time when she would not have welcomed it with great joy. On putting to her the question, "Would you be ready to go now?" she would answer, "Why, yes," in a tone of calm assurance, rather of visible delight, which I can never forget. And during all her later years her answer to such a question would imply a sort of astonishment, that anybody could ask it. So strong, indeed, was her own feeling about death as a real boon to the Christian, that she was scarcely able, I think, fully to sympathise with those who regarded it with misgiving or terror. The point may be illustrated, perhaps, by referring to her perfect fearlessness and repose in the midst of the most terrific thunder-storm. No matter how vivid the lightning's flashes or how near and loud the claps that followed, they affected her nerves as little as any summer breeze—scarcely ever awaking her if asleep, or hindering her from going to sleep if awake. And so it was with regard to the terrors of death. But not merely was there an absence of all apparent dread of death, but an exulting joy in the thought of it. There is a passage in The Home at Greylock, which was evidently inspired by her own experience. It is where old Mary, when her first wild burst of grief was over, said:

Sure she's got her wish and died sudden. She was always ready to go, and now she's gone. Often's the time I've heard her talk about dying, and I mind a time when she thought she was going, and there was a light in her eye, and "What d'ye think of that?" says she. I declare it was just as she looked when she says to me, "Mary, I'm going to be married, and what d'ye think of that?" says she.

This feeling about death is the more noteworthy in her case because of her very deep, poignant sense of sin and of her own unworthiness.

To a Friend, Dorset, July 27, 1873.

This is my third Sunday home from church. I have been confined to my bed only about a week, but it took me some days to run down to that point, and now it is taking some to run me up again. I had two or three very suffering days and nights, and the doctor was here nearly all of one day and night, but was very kind, understood my case and managed it admirably. He is from Manchester and is son of a missionary. [3]

You speak in your letter of being oppressed by the heat, and wearied by visitors, and say that prayer is little more than uttering the name of Jesus. I have asked myself a great many times this summer how much that means.

"All I can utter sometimes is Thy name!"

This line expresses my state for a good while. Of course getting out of one house into another and coming up here, all in the space of one month, was a great tax on time and strength, and all my regular habits had to be broken up. Then before the ram was put in I over-exerted myself, unconsciously, carrying too heavy pails of water to my flower-beds, and so broke down. For some hours the end looked very near, but I do not know whether it was stupidity or faith that made me so content to go. I am afraid that a good deal of what passes for the one is really the other. Fortunately for us, our faith does not entitle us to heaven any more than our stupidity shuts us out of it; when we get there it will be through Him who loved us. But if I may judge by the experience of this little illness, our hearts are not so tied to or in love with this world as we fear. We make the most of it as long as we must stay in it; but the under-current bears home.

The following extract from a letter to a young relative, dated Sept. 23d, furnishes at once a key to several marked traits of her character and a practical comment upon her own hymn, "More love to Thee, O Christ!"

I had no right to leave my friend undefended. I prayed to do it aright. If I did not I am not ashamed to say I am sorry for it, and ask you to forgive me. And if I were twice as old as I am, and you twice as young, I would do it. I will not tolerate anything wrong in myself. I hate, I hate sin against my God and Saviour, and sin against the earthly friends whom I love with such a passionate intensity that they are able to wring my heart out, and always will be, if I live to be a hundred.... People who feel strongly express themselves strongly; vehemence is one of my faults. Let us pray for each other. We have great capacities for enjoyment, but we suffer more keenly than many of our race. I have been an intense sufferer in many ways; the story would pain you; nobody can go through this world with a heart and a soul, and jog along smoothly long at a time.... I do not remember ever having a discussion on paper with my husband; we should not dare to run the risk. But I know I said something once in a letter, I forget what, that made him snatch the first train and rush to set things right, though it cost him a two days' journey. We are tremendous lovers still. Write and tell me we've kissed and made up! We both mean well; we don't want to hurt each other; but each has one million points that are very vulnerable. And neither can know these points in the other by intuition; a cry of pain will often be the first intimation that the one can hurt the other just there. We must touch each other with the tips of our fingers.... To love Christ more—this is the deepest need, the constant cry of my soul. Down in the bowling-alley, and out in the woods, and on my bed, and out driving, when I am happy and busy, and when I am sad and idle, the whisper keeps going up for more love, more love, more love!

To a Christian Friend, Dorset, Oct. 3, 1873.

I do hope you will be in New York this winter and your mother, too. What a blessing to have a mother with whom one can hold Christian communion! You need some trials as a set-off to it. You say few live up to what light they have; it is true; I think we get light just as fast as we are ready for it. At the same time I must own that I have not all the light I need. I am still puzzled as to the true way to live; how far to cherish a spirit that makes one sit very lightly to all earthly things, when that spirit unfits one, to a great extent, to be an agreeable, thoroughly sympathising companion to one's children, for instance. My children have a real horror of Miss ——, because she thinks and talks on only one subject; of course it never would do for me to do as she does, as far as they are concerned. Perhaps the problem may be solved by a resort to the fact that we are not called to the same experience. And yet an experience of as perfect love and faith as is ever vouchsafed to a soul on earth, is what I long for. At times my heart dies within me when I realise how much I need. As you say, no doubt the mental strain I had been passing through prepared the way for my break-down in health; as I lay, as I thought, dying, I said so to myself. That strain is over; I am in a sense at rest; but not satisfied. I have been too near to Christ to be happy in anything else; I don't mean by that, however, that I never try to be happy in other things—alas, I do.

As to the minor trials, no life is without them. But what mercies we get every now and then! The other day three letters came to me by one mail, each of which was important, and came from exactly the quarter where I was troubled, and dispersed the trouble to a great degree. In fact I am overwhelmed with mercies, and dreadfully stupid and unthankful for them. I have had also some experiences of late of the smallness and meanness, of which you have had specimens. One has to betake oneself to prayer to get a sight of One, who is large-hearted and noble and good and true. Oh, how narrow human narrowness must look to Him! I don't know how many times I have smiled at your remark about Miss ——: "She seems to have such a hard time to learn her lessons." I feel sorry for her in one sense, but if she belongs to Christ, isn't He home enough for her? I think it always a very doubtful experiment to offer other people a home with you; and equally doubtful whether such an offer is wisely accepted. Being a saint does not, I am sorry to say, necessarily make one an agreeable addition to the family circle as God has formed it; if His hand sends this new element into the house, of course one may expect grace to bear it; but voluntarily to seek it argues either want of experience or an immense power of self-sacrifice. I should prefer Miss ——'s friends agreeing to give her an independent home, as far as a boarding-house can furnish a home. And if it provides a place in which to pray, as sweet a home may be found there as anywhere.

We go to town on the ninth of this month. Mr. Prentiss has been gone some time, and has entered upon his new duties with great delight. I must confess that if I were going to choose my work in life, I could think of nothing more congenial than to train young Christians. It has come over me lately that all those whom he now instructs, have more or less of the new life in them. I am sorry, however, to add that some young theological friends of mine deny this. They say that many young men preparing for the ministry give no other sign of piety. Young people judge hastily and severely. As soon as I get over my first hurry, after reaching home, I hope you will come and see me.... You speak of my experience on my sick-bed as a precious one. To tell you the truth, it does not seem so to me; I mean, nothing extraordinary. Not to want to go, if invited, would be a contradiction to most of my life. But as I was not invited I realise that I am needed here; and I am afraid it was selfish to be so delighted to go, horribly selfish.

* * * * *


Change of Home and Life in New York. A Book about Robbie. Her Sympathy with young People. "I have in me Two different Natures." What Dr. De Witt said at the Grave of his Wife. The Way to meet little Trials. Faults in Prayer-Meetings. How special Theories of the Christian Life are formed. Sudden Illness of Prof. Smith. Publication of Golden Hours. How it was received.

Her return from Dorset brought with it a new order of life. The transfer of her husband to a theological chair was almost as great a change to her as to him. In ceasing to be a pastor's wife she gave up a position, which for more than a quarter of a century had been to her a spring of constant joy, and which, notwithstanding its cares, she regarded as one of the most favored on earth. While in the parsonage, too, she was in the midst of her friends; the removal to Sixty-first street left the most of them at a distance; and distance in New York is no slight hindrance to the full enjoyment of social intimacy and fellowship. Several weeks after the return to town were devoted to the congenial task of fitting-up and adorning the new home. Then for the first time in many years she found herself at leisure; and one of its earliest fruits was a selection of stray religious verses for publication; which, however, soon gave way to a volume of her own. She was able also to give special attention to her favorite religious reading.

The sharp trials and suffering of the previous years showed their effect in deepened spiritual convictions, humility and tenderness of feeling, but not in repressing her natural playfulness. At times her spirits were still buoyant with fun and laughter. An extract from a letter to her youngest daughter, who with her sister was on a visit at Portland, will give a glimpse of this gay mood. Such mishaps as she recounts are liable to occur in the best-regulated households, especially on a change of servants; but they were rare in her experience and so the more amused her:

I undertook to get up a nice dinner for Dr. and Mrs. V——, about which I must now tell you. First I was to have raw oysters on the shell. Blunder 1st, small tea-plates laid for them. Ordered off, and big ones laid. Blunder 2d, five oysters to be laid on each plate, instead of which five were placed on platters at each end, making ten in all for the whole party! Ordered a change to the original order. Result, a terrific sound in the parlor of rushing feet and bombardment of oyster-shells. Dinner was announced from Dr. P., who asked, helplessly, where he should place Mrs. V——. Blunder 4th by Mrs. P., who remarked that she had got fifty pieces of shell in her mouth. Blunder 5th by Dr. P., who failed to perceive that the boiled chickens were garnished with a stunning wine-jelly and regarding it as gizzards, presented it only to the boys! Blunder 6th. Cranberry-jelly ordered. Cranberry as a dark, inky fluid instead; gazed upon suspiciously by the guests, and tasted sparingly by the family.—And now prepare for blunder No. 7, bearing in mind that it is the third course. Four prairie hens instead of two! The effect on the Rev. Mrs. E. Prentiss was a resort to her handkerchief, and suppression of tears on finding none in her pocket. Blunder 8th. Iauch's biscuit glace stuffed with hideous orange-peel. Delight 1st, delicious dessert of farina smothered in custard and dear to the heart of Dr. V——. Blunder 9th. No hot milk for the coffee, delay in scalding it, and at last serving it in a huge cracked pitcher. Blunder 10th. Bananas, grapes, apples, and oranges forgotten at the right moment and passed after the coffee and of course declined. But hearing that Miss H. V. was fond of bananas, I seized the fruit-basket and poured its contents into one napkin, and a lot of chocolate-cake into another, and sent them to the young princesses in the parsonage, who are, no doubt, dying of indigestion, this morning. Give my love to C. and F., and a judicious portion to the old birds.

To a young Friend, Oct. 19,1873.

I am sorry that we played hide-and-go-seek with each other when you were in town. I have seen all my most intimate friends since I came home; I mean all who live here. There are just eight of them, but they fill my heart so that I should have said, at a guess, there were eighty! Try the experiment on yourself and tell me how many such friends you have. It is very curious.

I have just got hold of some leaves of a journal rescued from the flames by my (future) husband, written at the age of 22, in which I describe myself as "one great long sunbeam." It recalled the sweet life in Christ I was then leading, and made me feel that if I had got so far on as a girl, I ought to be infinitely farther on as a woman. Still, in spite of all shame and regrets, I had a long list of mercies to recount at the communion-table to-day. Among other things I feel that I know and love you better than heretofore, and it is pleasant to love. I must not forget to answer your little niece's questions. I remember her father's calling with your sister, but I don't remember any little girl as being with them, much less "kissing her because she liked the Susy books." As to writing more about Robbie, I can't do that till I get to heaven, where he has been ever so many years. Give my love to the wee maiden, and tell her I should love to kiss her.

No trait in Mrs. Prentiss was more striking than her sympathy with young people, especially with young girls, and her desire to be religiously helpful to them. But her interest in them was not confined to the spiritual life. She delighted to join them in their harmless amusements, and to take her part in their playful contests, whether of wit or knowledge. Her friend, Miss Morse, thus recalls this feature of her character:

In Mrs. Prentiss' life the wise man's saying, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, was beautifully exemplified. Yet few were thoroughly acquainted with this phase of her character. Those who knew her only through her books, or her letters of Christian sympathy and counsel—many even who came into near and tender personal relations to her—failed to see the frolicsome side of her nature which made her an eager participant in the fun of young people—in a merry group of girls the merriest girl among them. In contests where playful rhymes were to be composed at command, on a moment's notice, she sharpened the wits of her companions by her own zest, but in most cases herself bore off the palm.

She always entered into such contests with an unmistakable desire to win. I remember one evening in her own home in Dorset, when four of us were engaged in a game of verbarium, two against two—the opposite party were gaining rapidly. She suddenly turned to her partner with a comical air of chagrin and exclaimed: "Why is it they are winning the game? You and I are a great deal brighter than they!"

The first time I ever saw Mrs. Prentiss was through an invitation to her home to meet about half a dozen young persons of my own age. She was in one of her merriest moods. Games of wit were played and she took part with genuine interest. She at once impressed me with the feeling that she was one of us, and that this arose from no effort to be sympathetic, but was simply part of her nature.

This brightness wonderfully attracted young people to her, and gave her an influence with them that she could not otherwise have exercised. She recognised it in herself as a power, and used it, as she did all her powers, for the service of her Master. Young Christians, seeing that her deeply religious life did not interfere with her keen enjoyment of all innocent pleasures, realised that there need be no gloominess for them, either, in a life consecrated to God.

Just as her line of thought would often lie absorbingly in some one direction for quite a period of time, so her fun ran "in streaks," as she would have been likely to express it. One winter she amused herself and her friends by a great number of charades and enigmas, many of which I copied and still possess. They were dashed off with an ease and rapidity quite remarkable. And I believe the same thing was true of most of her books. I have watched her when she was writing some funny piece of rhyme, and as her pen literally flew over the paper, I could hardly believe that she was actually composing as she wrote. One day two young girls were translating one of Heine's shorter poems. They had agreed to send their several versions to an absent friend, who on his part was to return his own to them. Mrs. Prentiss entered heartily into the plan and in an hour had written as many as a dozen translations, all in English rhyme and differing entirely one from the other. The stimulating effect on the genius of her companions was such that over thirty translations were produced in that one afternoon.

In thinking of the ease with which Mrs. Prentiss would suddenly turn from grave to gay and the reverse, I often recall her answer when I one day remarked on this trait in her.

"Yes, I have in me two very different natures. Did you ever hear the story of the dog, who by an accident was cut in two, and was joined together by a wonderful healing salve? Unfortunately, the pieces were not put together properly, so two of his legs stood up in the air. At first his master thought it a great misfortune, but he found that the dog, when a little accustomed to his strange new form, would run until tired on two legs, and then by turning himself over he would have a fresh unused pair to start with, and so he did double duty! I am like that dog. When I am tired of running on one nature, I can turn over and run on the other, and it rests me." [4]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse