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The power of trust in God.
According to a custom which I have found useful on such occasions, I did not preach a written sermon, but discoursed in a plain and familiar manner on a passage of Scripture, leaving something to be suggested by the circumstances around me. The passage
selected for this occasion was the following: -" In the Lord put I my trust.” Psalm xi. 1.
After having shown the ground of trust in God, and what it is to trust in him, I proceeded to portray the blessedness of trusting in him. On this article I felt confident that I was saying what a number around me were able to bear testimony to. And as my eye fell upon the aged and venerable form of Mrs. M Ellen, who seemed even then “ripe for the hand of the reaper, as a shock of corn in his season," I could not refrain from descanting upon the power of trust in God, in the last trying hour when the sun of life goes down; upon its power to sustain the sinking energies of the soul in that awful moment when it enters the dark valley of the shadow of death. 66 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord ;" for to him, in the hour of death, the Lord will be a Sun and a Shield, to enlighten the dark chasm through which he must pass, and a Shield to protect him from the fiery darts of the enemy. It is in this hour that the Great Shepherd doth carry his confiding children in his arms, and bear them in his bosom to the haven of everlasting rest.
I saw these remarks went to the heart of her who was soon to test their truth by actual experiment.
The hymn selected to close the religious exercises was the following :
“When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
And wipe my weeping eyes,” &c. Though feeble and infirm, I observed that Mrs. M•Ellen, in conformity to the appropriate custom universally practised in our church, of standing while praising God, arose
at the commencement of the hymn. As she stood among those who were lauding the Most High, methought there was a form, and an attitude, worthy of being immortalized by the hand of a Raphael ; for hers had been one of the first order of fine forms, both tall and graceful. The weight of nearly ninety years now caused her to stoop. She united her voice in the singing, and swelled the sound of praise.
The sun had just sunk beneath the horizon, and had left that beautiful but indescribable aspect on the whole face of nature, which you have often seen on a summer's day to rest upon those objects over which some tree hath thrown its shade. There was a universal stillness pervading the surrounding scene ; and the voice of the singers went up sweetly to the gates of heaven. To the last line, and the last note in the last line, the voice of Elizabeth M.Ellen was distinctly heard. Her voice seemed to swell with richer and more animated sounds in the concluding verse, where the Christian's rest is anticipated,
“ There I shall bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
Across my peaceful breast.”
This was her last earthly song.–She sunk gently into her seat. For a moment a slight quivering shook her frame. Then all motion ceased. Her arms hung nerveless at her side, and her head reclined on her shoulder.
The voices of the singers were raised in the ascription of praise to the Triune God, but her spirit had left its clay tenement, and gone to sing the doxology in the blissful mansions of departed saints,-had gone to “bathe of heavenly rest."
I shall close this narration with an account of her funeral.
The contemplation of death.
“ Hark! how the sacred calm that breathes around
Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease,
To the reflecting mind a funeral scene is always instructive. It was infinite wisdom that dictated the sentiment, that “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting." It is true that some men can remain unmoved and unimpressed amid the most solemn scenes of death. But they, who look at the relation of things, and gather, from the events transpiring around them, that moral instruction which God intends they shall convey, can hardly fail to have their “ heart made better”' by the solemnities of a funeral scene. I speak now particularly of a funeral in the country.
No one that has been bred in the country can have witnessed a funeral in the city without having felt some violence done to the sensibilities of his heart. I have often stood at the corner of some square, upon whose area might be seen, from the earliest dawn even to the midnight hour, bustling thousands, and observed the train of coaches with their sable equipments moving on upon their melancholy errand, with slow and solemn pace, through this mass of beings, and wondered that it made so slight an impression upon the busy crowd. The funeral train, as it passed, perhaps flung a momentary feeling of solemnity upon the
Funeral in the country.
lookers-on; but in an instant the impression was gone. It was like a passing cloud that had darkened, for one fleeting instant, the splendour of the sun, and then was for ever lost in the effulgence of his bright beams. There was no fellow feeling between the gay world without and the brokenhearted mourners within those vehicles.
A funeral in the country presents a different aspect. When death enters the humblest cottage, the sympathies of the community are awakened ; the whole surrounding neighbourhood participate in the feelings of the bereaved, and make every sacrifice to be present to. pay their last respect to the dead. At the appointed hour of the funeral there may
seen, in all directions, the repose and stillness of a Sabbath season. Men, who on no other occasion are present to witness religious exercises, deem it a debt they owe to society, to attend all the funerals in their neighbourhood.
The worth, distinguished piety, and singular death of Elizabeth M-Ellen, had drawn an immense concourse of people to witness her obsequies.
Every thing was in readiness when I arrived; and they were waiting to form the procession. The burial ground was about a quarter of a mile distant from Robert M‘Ellen's house. Twelve strong-framed, but hoary headed men had been selected to bear the body to the grave; and on each side of the coffin there walked three aged and infirm women as pall-bearers. Behind the coffin followed the children and grand children of the deceased ; and in their rear the promiscuous multitude who had been drawn together, on this occasion, either by curiosity or regard for the deceased.
The procession was no sooner in motion, than an aged and venerable man, whom I had always seen at church when I preached at my missionary station in that neighbourhood, joined me, and walked by my side. As we preceded the procession, we were frequently so far before the bearers that we might have, with propriety, engaged in conversation. But I was too deeply impressed with
The old farmer.
the solemnity of the present scene, and the recollection of the past history of this family, to open my lips. For a short distance we moved on in silence; then, in a subdued and under tone of voice, the aged man said, “ Elizabeth has gone to rest.”
I replied, “ that believed she had died, having the testimony of a good conscience, in the communion of the catholic church, in the confidence of a certain faith, in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope, in favour with God, and in perfect charity with the world.""*
“O yes,” said the honest and warm-hearted man, “ I have known her for a long time. I lived on the hill yonder when all this country was covered with woods—when the neighbours could not see each other's houses. I have known Elizabeth ever since. When we first came into this country, I thought I would go down one Sunday, and get acquainted with the M‘Ellen family. I had never thought much about religion, and expected to find the folks there thinking and feeling as I did.
“On the way, I thought of a thousand amusing things to say, and was determined to convince them that I was a clever fellow. I therefore entered the house without much ceremony; but in an instant all my merry thoughts were gone. Instead of finding the family lounging round in idleness, or engaged in some amusement, the first thing that struck my eye was the whole family on their knees, except Robert, who, just the moment I entered, was reading the fourth commandment, · Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.' My attention was riveted; my conscience began to awake. And when, at the close of the commandment, they all around the room, young and old, put up this petition, Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law,' I experienced sensations that I shall never forget. When the service and sermon were through, the family very cordially welcomed me to their house, saying that they would have church
* From the office of the Visitation of the Sick.