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expressing, by her raised eyes, and arms folded across her breast, how thankful she was to see, at last, the pastor, -beloved in joy, and trusted in trouble.
A few words sufficed to say who was the stranger :and the dying man, blessing me by name, held out to me his cold, shrivelled hand, in token of recognition. I took my seat at a small distance from the bed-side, and
loser station those who were more dear. The pastor sat down near his elder's head ;—and by the bed, leaning on it with gentle hands, stood that matron, his daughter-in-law; a figure that would have sainted a higher dwelling, and whose native beauty was now more touching in its grief.
“ If the storm do not abate,” said the sick man after a pause, “it will be hard for
friends to carry me over the drifts to the church-yard.". This sudden approach to the grave, struck, as with a bar of ice, the heart of the loving boy ;-and with a long, deep sigh, he fell down, his face like ashes, on the bed; while the old man's palsied right hand had just strength enough to lay itself upon his head.
“God has been gracious to me, a sinner!" said the dying man. “During thirty years that I have been an elder in your church, never have I missed sitting there one Sabbath. When the mother of my children was taken from me,-it was on a Tuesday she died,—and on Saturday she was buried. We stood together, when my Alice was let down into the narrow house made for all living. On the Sabbath, I joined in the public worship of God. She commanded me to do so, the night before she went away. I could not join in the psalm that Sabbath, for her voice was not in the throng. Her grave was covered up, and grass and flowers grew there."
The old man then addressed himself to his grandchild :—"Jamie, thy own father has forgotten thee in thy infancy, and me in my old age; but, Jamie, forget not thou thy father, or thy mother; for that, thou knowest and feelest, is the commandment of God.”
The broken-hearted boy could give no reply. He had gradually stolen closer and closer unto the loving old man; and now was lying, worn out with sorrow, drenched and dissolved in tears, on his grandfather's bosom. His mother had sunk down on her knees, and hid her face with her hand. “Oh! if my husband knew but of this, he would never, never desert his dying father !"—And I now knew, that the elder was praying, on his death-bed, for a disobedient and wicked
The door was suddenly opened, and a tall, fine-looking man entered; but with a lowering and dark countenance, seemingly in sorrow, in misery, and remorse. Agitated, confounded, and awe-struck by the melancholy scene, he sat down on a chair, and looked with a ghastly face towards his father's death-bed. The elder said, with a solemn voice, “Thou art come in time to receive thy father's blessing. May the remembrance of what will happen in this room, before the morning again shine over the hazel-glen, win thee from the error of thy ways! Thou art here to witness the mercy of thy God and thy Saviour, whom thou hast forgotten.”
The young man, with much effort, advanced to the bed-side ; and, at last, found voice to say, Father, I am not without the affections of nature;—and I hurried home the moment I heard that the minister had been seen riding towards our house. I hope that you
will yet recover; and if I have ever made you unhappy, I ask your forgiveness ; for, though I may not think as you do on matters of religion, I have a human heart. Father, I may have been unkind, but I am not cruel. I ask your forgiveness."
“Come near to me;- William, kneel down by the bed-side, and let
hand feel the head of my beloved son; for blindness is coming fast upon me. Thou wert my first-born, and thou art my only living child. All thy brothers and sisters are lying in the church-yard beside her, whose sweet face thine own, William, did once so much resemble. Long wert thou the joy, the
pride of my soul,-ay, too much the pride ; for there was not, in all the parish, such a man, such a son, as my own William. If thy heart has since been changed, God may inspire it again with right thoughts. I have sorely wept for thee-ay, William, when there was none near me ;-even as David wept for Absalom-for thee, my son! my son !"
A long, deep groan was the only reply: but the whole body of the kneeling man was convulsed; and it was easy to see his sufferings, his contrition, his remorse, and his despair. The pastor said, with a sterner voice and austerer countenance than were natural to him, “Know you whose hand is now lying on your rebellious head? But what signifies the word 'father,' to him who has denied God, the Father of us all ?”— “ Oh! press him not too hardly,” said his weeping wife, coming forward from a dark corner of the room, where she tried to conceal herself in grief, fear, and shame. Spare, oh! spare my husband !-he has ever been kind to me ;" and with that, she knelt down beside him, with her long, soft, white arms, mournfully and affectionately laid across his neck. “Go thou likewise, my sweet little Jamie,” said the elder, “go even out of my bosom, and kneel down beside thy father and thy mother; so that I may bless you all at once, and with one yearning prayer.”
The child did as the solemn voice commanded, and knelt down somewhat timidly by his father's side; nor did the unhappy man decline encircling with his arm his son, too much neglected, but still dear to him as his own blood-in spite of the deadening and debasing influence of infidelity!
“Put the Word of God into the hands of my son, and let him read aloud to his dying father, the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.” The pastor went up to the kneelers and said, “ There was a time when none, William, could read the Scriptures better than couldst thou ;-can it be that the son of my friend hath forgotten the lessons of his youth ?" He hath not forgotten them; there was no need of the repen
tant sinner to lift up his eyes from the bed-side. The sacred stream of the Gospel had worn a channel in his heart, and the waters were again flowing. With a choked voice he read, “ Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She said unto him, Yea, Lord : I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."
“ That is not an unbeliever's voice," said the dying man, triumphantly; "nor, William, hast thou an unbeliever's heart. Say that thou believest in what thou hast read, and thy father will die happy !" “I do believe, and as thou forgivest me, so may I be forgiven by my Father, who is in heaven." The elder seemed like a man suddenly inspired with a new life. His faded eyes kindled, -his pale cheeks glowed, -his palsied hands seemed to wax strong,—and his voice was clear as that of manhood in its prime.—"Into thy hands, O God, I commit my spirit-" and so saying, he gently sank back on his pillow :--and I thought I heard a sigh. There was then a long, deep silence, and the father, the mother, and the child, rose from their knees. The
eyes of us all were turned towards the white, placid face of the figure, now stretched in everlasting rest, and without lamentations, save the silent lamentations of the resigned soul, we stood around the death-bed of the elder.
(By permission of Messrs. Blackwood & Sons.)
THE WORSHIP OF NATURE.
JOHN G. WHITTIER.
The ocean looketh up to heaven,
As 'twere a living thing;
They kneel upon the sloping sand,
As bends the human knee, A beautiful and tireless band,
The priesthood of the sea!
They pour the glittering treasures out
Which in the deep have birth, And chant their awful hymns about
The watching hills of earth.
The green earth sends its incense up
From every mountain-shrine, From every flower and dewy cup
That greeteth the sunshine.
The mists are lifted from the rills,
Like the white wing of prayer; They lean above the ancient hills, . As doing homage there.
The forest-tops are lowly cast
O'er breezy hill and glen, As if a prayerful spirit pass'd
On nature as on men.
The clouds weep o'er the fallen world,
E'en as repentant love;
They fade in light above.
The sky is as a temple's arch,
The blue and wavy air
Of messengers at prayer.
The many stars are given,
The altar-fires of Heaven !