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A mother's last wish.
they used to go up together to the house of the Lord, and unite in the hallowed strains of their own beloved liturgy.
At length the hand of disease was laid upon the mother. Though comparatively young, and in possession of a firm constitution—though there was immediately procured in her behalf all the medical aid which the country afforded—the ravages of disease were neither stayed nor turned back. On the other hand, it became but too apparent to all around her that she was wasting down to death.
As she lay stretched on the couch of languishing, day after day growing more and more feeble, she herself came to the conclusion, that she was on her dying bed. At such a time it was natural that her mind should revert to the scenes of her early life, when she was in the midst of her friends, and a mother's kindness watched her every step.
Those friends were now all far away. No mother's soft gentle hand now rested on her pale, burning brow ! But it was not the absence of these friends that drew the deep sigh from her bosom, and caused the big tear to roll down her cheek. Her little ones stood around her bed : she looked on them, and then she wept ! She had sought to train them in the way everlasting. Like the M-Ellen family, these Christian parents had converted their dwelling
the Sabbath into a chapel, and their children taught to mingle their little voices in the responses of the service.
This sick and dying mother felt that she was willing to give up her husband and children to God; but when she saw those dear little ones stand around her bed, she remembered that they had not been baptized in the name of the holy Trinity. She felt that she could not die, till they had been sacramentally given up to God. It was this that made the tears trickle down her pale cheek. And then too she felt, that it was a long, long while, since she had received the memorials of her Saviour's dying love. And now that death was pressing hard upon her, she felt that she needed the strengthening influence of that holy ordinance to help
her over Jordan. But Elijah was not there—the prophet could not be found. There was but one Episcopal clergyman then in the whole state, and he resided more than two hundred miles distant. A message, however, was immediately despatched to him. For two or three days, the hope was cherished, that the flickering flame of life would last till the man of God arrived. Often did this dying disciple say—“Let me hear the voice of Christ's minister, welcoming my offspring into the Redeemer's fold, and invoking the blessings of God on the sacramental bread and wine ; let me once more receive those emblems of Christ's broken and bleeding body, and I shall be ready to bid adieu to all earthly scenes.”
But in this last wish, the dying mother, unlike Mrs. M'Ellen, was ungratified. She could not await the slow arrival of the distant missionary. Already the silver cord was loosed, and her spirit, fixing all its hopes on the blood of the everlasting covenant, winged its way to the blessed mansions of peace.
She, whose wishes, and sorrows, and privations, and dissolution have been described, was one whom the author well knew; yea, one whom he tenderly loved,—one who bore to him the interesting relation of an only sister.
The manuscript narrative of Robert M‘Ellen, which has been interrupted by the relation of the preceding incident, and from which the contents of this chapter have been principally transcribed, states, that Mrs. M'Ellen's fever in a few days after the visit of the missionary took a favourable turn, and she was speedily restored to health. It also gives a history of the family up to the time of my acquaintance with them, in which are to be found several interesting details. But I shall at once conduct the reader into the midst of the affecting scene connected with the history of this family which fell under my own observation.
The room I well remember.....
....and all the faces too
POLLOK. ACCORDING to the suggestion made at the close of the preceding chapter, I now hasten to give the reader some account of the interesting and affecting scene I witnessed in the dwelling of Robert M.Ellen, on the Sunday evening that I preached at his house.
The log-dwelling that had formerly been occupied by the M.Ellen family had been removed, and in its place there appeared a neat and spacious farm-house. This was now the residence of Robert M‘Ellen, in whose family his aged and venerable mother was an inmate.
I have before observed that it was in the month of June when I first approached this dwelling. There did not then spread a wide and impenetrable forest around it; but for miles in every direction there stretched before the delighted eye finely cultivated fields, luxuriant orchards, and wellarranged farm-houses. Here and there were seen fragments of that once boundless forest, reserved by the cultivator of the earth, for a retreat to shelter him from the summer's heat, and for fuel to dispel the winter's cold. The foliage of the trees at this time was unusually thick, rich, and
beautiful. Not one of those ten thousand leaves which had so recently burst into being had as yet felt the blighting touch of the worm, the sun, or the frost; but they all appeared fresh and verdant.
On either side of this dwelling were wheat fields waving in the gentle breeze, in all the luxuriance of perfect verdure.
As I was passing through this rich landscape, there seemed to ascend from the soft and beautiful bosom of the earth ten thousand sounds of praise to the Great Eternal. There was much in the scenery around me, connected with the history of the inhabitants of the dwelling I was approaching, to attune my feelings to the solemnities of worship.
I did not arrive till the appointed hour of service. A few of the neighbours had come in, but the families of Robert and Joseph M‘Ellen, being very numerous, constituted the majority of the congregation.
I was led immediately into the room where this grave and devout group were assembled. Before the chair where I was seated was placed a cherry stand, and on it lay a Bible and Prayer Book. This was the very piece of furniture, and these the very books, with which, in the minds of that family, were associated so many sacred recollections, and which, the reader will readily remember, were used on a very interesting occasion twenty-five years before.
Near the stand sat the aged and venerable Elizabeth M‘Ellen. As the minds of all were in a fit frame for devotion, this was very properly considered no time for formal introductions. But although I had never before seen this worthy woman, I could not be mistaken. There was in her countenance, which age had in vain strove to disfigure with wrinkles, an expression of intelligence and of loftiness of purpose that I have seldom witnessed. By her side sat her daughter, who had rejected numerous advantageous offers of marriage, from her unwillingness to be separated, or to allow any of her affection or attention to be withdrawn, from her mother.
What is implied in infant dedication.
The service commenced; I observed with pleasure that Mrs. M Ellen joined audibly in the responses, and that all her grandchildren, for they were all present, seemed anxious to imitate her example. They all had their Prayer Books, though several of them were quite young, and all seemed to unite in the service with interest and devotion. How differently educated were these families, who, till recently, had never enjoyed the ministrations of the sanctuary, from some that I have seen in old established congregations !
These parents attached some meaning to the “ solemn vow, promise, and profession" that they made in the name of their children, when they brought them to the sacred waters of baptism. They viewed the dedication of their children to God in this holy ordinance, as one of the most interesting and momentous events in their whole history. They gave them up in faith, fully believing that God “ for his part would surely keep and perform the promise'* he had made, to those “rightly” given up to him in baptism : and then they sought most diligently to bring up their baptized offspring “ to lead a godly and a Christian life.”+ Their efforts were not in vain. The results of this religious training and dedication of their children to God were seen in the correct deportment and early seriousness of those children.
On the present occasion the scene was truly interesting. It must have been a scene upon which an angel could have looked down with a smile. As the worshippers kneeled down in prayer, the place seemed “none other but the house of God and the gate of heaven." Agreeably to the excellent provision of our admirable liturgy, the devotions were not all performed by one voice; but there went up many united voices together, and there might have then been heard the song of praise ascending from the palsied lip of age and the lisping tongue of infancy.
* Baptismal office for Infants. See the 27th of the 39 Articles.