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read; kindly saying, at the same time, that I had better leave Ellen alone a few minutes, until the first burst of sorrow should be over; and then she would be in a better state to listen to the voice of consolation.
The letter was from her parents; brief, yet evidently written under the influence of strong excitement. They had just heard of the sudden and dangerous illness of their eldest son, a young gentleman of high promise, who had nearly completed his professional studies. His physicians gave not the slightest hope of his life. His parents made immediate preparations for leaving home, with the faint hope that, by rapid travelling, they might be enabled to be with their beloved child in his dying moments. They could not take Ellen with them; and the best arrangement they could make for her, was, to have her remain where she then was, until their return.
I returned to Ellen, but found her scarcely more composed than when I left her. To this brother she was most fondly attached. He had written to her frequently, and taken a deep interest in her studies and amusements. He expected to have been at home during a part of her vacation; and now the thought of never meeting him again was agony. I knew not what to say. I could only weep with her, and silently commend her to "Him who healeth the broken in heart;" entreating, that she might be enabled submissively to say, Thy will
My father consents that I should remain for two or three days with Ellen. I know that more striking instances of the uncertainty of earthly prospects are constantly occurring; but I feel that the scenes of to-day have made an impression upon my own heart, and the hearts of my companions, that can never be effaced. I shall never again hear others planning with confidence for the future, without thinking of poor Ellen's disappointment and affliction; and of the text, Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
The other narrative is still more serious in its subject. Both might have been given, with propriety, as specimens of "Personal Journals;" though. as they do not give strictly the personal history of the writer, this may perhaps better be inserted here. I admit this last the more readily, as the thoughts of the final account which we all must render are brought up very distinctly to view by it: and this thought is a very proper one to be presented, now that this volume is drawing to a close, as a means
of fixing the resolutions which I trust some of my readers at least have formed, and stimulating to diligence in duty.
THE DYING BED.
On Monday, a few minutes before breakfast, a messenger came to me with a note from a gentleman whom I shall call Mr. A., whose wife was taken suddenly ill the Saturday previous. She became worse and worse, until she was considered in a dangerous situation. And now her husband addressed a note to me, requesting me to visit his wife; "for she is," said he, 65 as sick as she can well live."
Immediately after breakfast, I hastened over to their house, and found her very weak and low. She seemed near her end. Having understood that neither herself nor husband were professing Christians, I attempted to point out to her, without delay, the way to be saved; and directed her mind at once to the Saviour of sinners. She could just speak a few words, in faint and broken whispers ; just enough for me to ascertain her anxious and agitated feelings. I endeavoured to compose her mind; and to explain the feelings which were becoming in us as sinners, when we look to the Saviour for pardon and peace. She looked and listened with intense interest; and I have seldom felt, as I then did, the responsibility of trying to direct any one, but especially any one in the immediate prospect of eternity, to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. I looked to the Saviour to help and to guide me, to put such thoughts in my heart, and words in my mouth, as He saw were necessary, and as would be suited to the sick, and, as I supposed, dying woman. I besought Him earnestly, in silence, that He would assist me in being faithful and useful to her immortal soul.
After some few questions and some remarks, and quotations from the Saviour's words, at her request I engaged in prayer. Her husband, one son about twelve, another son about six, and her youngest child about eighteen months, were present. Several other relations and friends were also there. We kneeled around her bedside, and besought the Lord for her. Occasionally the voice of prayer was interrupted by the swoon into which she was falling every few minutes. After a short prayer, we rose. All was silent, except the sighing of her friends around her, the noise of the fan, and the catching of her breath as she recovered from
After a few minutes had elapsed-during which she seemed struggling with sickness, and with a tumult of feeling in her bosom-she called the different members of her family around her. First, to her husband she addressed herself, somewhat in these words:
And now, my dear husband, I hope you will keep your
resolution, and not let the next Communion season pass without making a profession*. I have been more lukewarm than you. If I had been as much in earnest as you have, we should have both of us been members of the Church long ago; but I have held back. I hope you will not fail to keep your resolution."
She then most affectionately bade him farewell, expressing the tenderest interest in his religious purposes, and in the hope of a happier meeting in Heaven. After a moment's pause, she took her eldest son by the hand, and addressed him as follows: And now, my dear son William, I am going to leave you. Your poor mother is going, and you will be left without father or mother in the world+; but Mr. A. has always treated you as one of his own children; and if you will be good and obedient, he will always be a father to you. Be a good boy, my son, and God will take care of you."
The poor little boy, as he held his mother's hand in one of his own, and covered his eyes with the other, wept and sobbed as though his heart would break. She then took her little Edward by the hand, and bade him a similar and equally affecting adieu.
The youngest, about eighteen months old, she requested to be laid upon her pillow, in her bosom. She tenderly embraced it; and all wept.
She then called for her mother-in-law, who was behind her (the bed standing in the middle of the room): " And what shall I say to you?" said she, "You have been a mother to me.”She turned to a gentleman who had been a long and valued friend, and who was now at her side, fanning her, and in tears; and, taking his hand, expressed her ardent affection and gratitude towards him, for his kindness and attention during their long acquaintance. She alluded to an interview with him many years ago; and seemed most deeply affected in remembrance, as I thought, of some proofs of real fraternal kindness which she then received from him.
She sent her last message to her parents, brothers, and sisters: and when her strength and voice failed her, she just uttered, in a faint whisper,
'Please to sing, 'Life is the time to serve the Lord.'
A lady who was present, and whose eyes and heart were full, said
"I would take another: O for an overcoming faith !'" The Hymn Book, however, was given to her husband; who read, two lines at a time, the hymn his wife had named: when all who could sing, and whose emotions would allow it, joined in singing; until the husband, completely overcome, dropped his
They had, at a Communion Service in their neighbourhood, a short time before, unitedly resolved to improve the next occasion, which was expected in a few weeks, to connect themselves with the Church, and enter upon all the duties of Christian life.
He was the son of her former husband.
head, unable to proceed. Another then took the book: and as well as we could, with tears and faultering voices, we closed the hymn.
As I read over my description of this scene, I am so struck with its utter weakness, that I almost regret that I attempted to make it. It made an impression upon my mind, that I cannot transcribe. O that the delusive hope of preparing for death upon a death-bed were banished for ever from the earth!
I have inserted the two foregoing specimens, in order to bring up, as distinctly as possible, this principle; viz. that in all your efforts at intellectual improvement, you ought to look with special interest at the moral bearings and relations of all which you read or hear. The heart is the true seat both of virtue and happiness; and, consequently, to affect the heart is the great ultimate object of all that we do. The intellect, then, is only the avenue by which the heart is to be reached; and you will derive, not only more benefit, but far greater pleasure, from reflection and writing, if you are accustomed to consider the moral aspects and relations of every thing which you observe, or of which you read or hear.
A great prominence has been given in this chapter to the use of the pen, as a means of intellectual and moral improvement. I assure my readers, that the power of the pen for such a purpose is not overrated. I am aware that a great many persons, though they may approve what I have said, will not make any vigorous and earnest efforts to adopt the plan: still more, probably, will begin a book or two, but will soon forget their resolution, and leave the half-finished book in some neglected corner of their desks, finally abandoned. But if any should adopt these plans, and faithfully prosecute them, they will find that practice in expressing, in their own language, with the pen such facts as they may learn, and such observations or reflections as they may make, will exert a most powerful influence upon all the habits of the mind, and upon the whole intellectual character.
Responsibility of Religious Teachers.-Injury to be done by this Book.-Imperfect Self-application.-A Useless Way of Reading.
And now I commend you to God; and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among them which are sanctified.
As I draw towards the close of this volume, I think of the influence which it is to exert upon the many who will read it, with mingled emotions of hope and fear. I have endeavoured to state, and to illustrate as distinctly as I could, the principles of Christian duty: and if, my reader, you have perused these pages with attention and care, they must have been the means of bringing very plainly before your mind the question, whether you will, or will not, confess and forsake your sins, and henceforth live to God, that you may accomplish the great object for which life was given. I shall say nothing, in these few concluding paragraphs, to those who have read thus far without coming in heart to the Saviour. If they have not been persuaded ere this to do it, they would not be persuaded by any thing which I have time and space now to say. I have, however, before ending this volume, a few parting words for those who have accompanied me thus far with at least some attempt at self-application— some desire to cherish the feelings which I have endeavoured to pourtray-some penitence for sin, and resolutions to perform the duties which I have from time to time pressed upon them.
It is, if the Bible is true, a serious thing to have opportunity to read a religious book; and more especially for the young to have opportunity to read a practical treatise