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the cause of her ead looks and melancholy manner?" asked Annie, after another pause.
"It may have something to do with it, Annie; but it is my duty to say to you that neither this, nor any other trial ought to have such an effect. But Miss M—'s natural temperament is evidently desponding and gloomy; and she has not yet caught the brightness of a spirit at peace with God, neither seems conscious of the misapprehension she may cause concerning either herself or her Lord."
"I am so glad to hear you say this, mamma; for if I had never seen any Christian but Miss M—, I should not suppose religion could be a happy, cheerful thing."
Mrs. Ashton paid another visit before returning home. It was to a friend who had recently come to reside where former intimacy might be renewed, and to whom she rejoiced to introduce her child. Annie was delighted with this lady, whose kind and gentlo heart opened at once to the daughter as it had done years before to the mother.
She was a widow, and though not much past the prime of life her hair was perfectly white. Thero was something playful about the expression of her countenance sometimes; and though her eyes had been familiar with tears, they still sparkled with animation or flashed with energy. Her voice was cheerful and pleasant, and when silent her whole countenance bore an expression of happy repose.
"Oh, mamma," exclaimed Annie, as they departed, "what a dear sweet lady that is! I hope we shall soon see her again."
"I hope so too, for she is one of those whose life and conversation adorn the gospel she professes. She has seen deep sorrow, Annie."
"Has she, mamma? but how cheerful she seems, and ready to take an interest in everything. She scarcely spoke of herself at all, except when you obliged her to do so."
"She has found it good to forget self in sympathy for others, and insomuch has copied the likeness and example of Jesus. Did you notice her snowy hair? It turned white under times of trial. She told me once, that, in early life, she trembled at the thought of trials, and there were three things that she hoped might never be permitted to happen to her; they were widowhood, the loss of a child, and failure in business through imprudence of any one dear to her."
"Yes, mamma," said Annie, with eager interest, "did God spare her any of these things?"
"No, Annie, all have come upon her. She was left a young widow with eight little children to provide for and educate; and after the first agony of grief, she arose in the strength of God to fulfil a mother's duty. Two fair daughters grew up to be a help and comfort to her, and to follow her as she followed Christ, and then one after the other faded and died, both feeling that to depart and be with Jesus was their highest conception of human happiness. She nursed and watched over them, and then meekly resigned her treasures to Him whose own they were."
"Oh, mamma," said Annie, with tears starting to her eyes, "was it needful that she should have such sorrow?"
"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, dear child. He never acts without a reason, and it honours his love to believe it, more than we can when we shall know the wherefore, and praise him for it hereafter, as assuredly we shall. Well, once more, one of her sons who has been much trouble and expense to her, has recently failed in business, I fear through his own fault; and but for her, he, with his young wife and two baby children, would have been homeless. So she can say with Job, 'The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me;' and the promise has been fulfilled to her, 'I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not, I will help thee.' God has helped her : he has 'supplied all her need' according to his promises; and you will never hear from her lips an expression of murmuring or discontent: on the contrary, she delights to testify that he does all things well."
"Mamma, it is very nice to see how sorrow may be borne; for I suppose we must all have sorrow in some way or other before we die."
"Hear what Jesus said about it to those he dearly loved," said the mother, as she looked upon the young face saddened for the moment by fears in anticipation. "'In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' Let us recollect that our Lord bore all the ills that we deserved, to impart blessings that he alone could deserve, and only chastens for our profit. He would not have his children walking cast down in fear of the rod; he bids them look up, trusting, hoping, loving, rejoicing in him always, and leaving everything calmly in his keeping. I once read of a young lady who resisted the attempt of a friend to weave into her hair a wreath of roses. 'Shall I wear a wreath of roses,' said she, 'when my Saviour wore a crown of thorns.' I think the sentiment, though sweetly expressive of her sympathy with the sufferings of Jesus, was a mistake. He wore the thorns that we might wear the roses (speaking figuratively): with his stripes we are healed; and his deepest sorrows authorize our highest joys. He has not forbidden to his people the fullest pleasure in all that is bright and beautiful around them, nor condemns the buoyancy of a happy spirit when it feels able to hound cheerily along life's pathway. There is no more necessary connection between the levity of thoughtless unbelief, and the sunshine of a Christian spirit, than between the revelries of Belshazzar's court, and the pure pleasure of king David, when in the joy of his heart he conducted the ark of God to the place prepared for it."
"Thank you, dear mamma," said Annie; "for do you know when I saw Miss M—this morning, I could not help thinking of those lines in the psalm:
"' Our hearts, though strong and brave,
"Well, dear Annie, returned her mother, smiling, though it is right and needful to meditate sometimes on the sorrowful side of human experiences, which sin introduced, let it comfort you to know that a pleasant countenance and a cheerful voice are most consistent with the believing heart that is at peace with God, and filled with his Holy Spirit; and that genuine smiles may beam happily from the sunshine of eternity over the shadows of time. May my daughter possess in the pure scriptural sense, that ' merry heart which is a continual feast.'"
THE TWO ALMSHOUSES. "Well, Anna," said a pleasant voice to an old bedridden woman who occupied a comfortable apartment in some well-arranged almshouses, "I hope you are happy now that you have obtained this snug house, with its pretty garden, and your weekly allowance and winter coals."
"Happy, ma'am! how can I be happy, so old, so weary, and s" poor?"
"Well, you are old and -weary, but not now so very poor, are you?"
"Not poor? What are a few shillings a week, a cottage, and some coals, for one brought up as 1 was?"
"Not riches, certainly," was the soothing answer, "but comfort, dear friend, much more than falls to the lot of many who, like yourself, have seen better days. Would you be as comfortable in the workhouse as you are here?"
"No, I suppose not; but then my friends, who are so well to do, ought never to have let me come to either place."
"Perhaps not, Anna; but what then? Here you are; and now would it not be as well to try and forget your worldly cares and reverses, and to be thankful for such things as you have? Above all, should you not be thinking of and preparing for that other world to which you are so evidently hastening? It will matter little in eternity whether we die in an almshouse or a palace; but it will concern us deeply whether or not we have died in Christ."
The appeal seemed made to closed ears and a dead heart; and it awoke no echo. The poor feeble creature was only anxious to pour forth complaint; and, evading the subject so tenderly urged upon her by her visitor's earnest tones and words, she said abruptly, "They have put me into this cottage of two stories; but what use is the room upstairs to a bedridden cripple like me? If they had given me one of the opposite cottages where the rooms are both on one floor, I might have now and then been lifted from one to the other; but as it is, I am confined to the same room always."
"Perhaps there was not one of the others vacant when you applied."
"Yes, there was, but Betty Sykes had it. Some people are always in favour."
"She must have been earlier on the list than you: the rules of admission are never broken to favour any one. But shall I read to you?" said the lady, anxious to change the current of the old woman's thoughts.
"Yes, ma'am, if you will; but you know how little I can hear."
Not heeding the ungracious answer, the lady read a few verses of the Gth chapter of John, in which Jesus declares that "he that cometh to him shall never hunger; and he that believe th on him shall never thirst; and him that cometh to him he will in no wise cast out." And then after trying to fix the old woman's attention on the fulness and freeness of gospel grace, she tenderly shook the trembling hand offered, and left the cottage, musing painfully on the seeming perversity of heart in the poor invalid, whose thankless spirit hid her many mercies from her sight.
Her next visit was paid to the "Betty Sykes" whose cottage was coveted by Anna. A pleasant smile passed over the face of the aged woman as the visitor and her friend entered the neat room. "Oh, ma'am, I'm so glad to see you," was her cheerful welcome as she dusted chairs for the ladies. "I am thankful for the nico soup and groceries you sent me last week, and should have been down to say so, only you see my leg won't let me walk far."
"Don't speak of that, Betty: I am glad to hear you enjoyed your little comforts. And now I want to hear how you like your new home. This is my first visit here you know."
"Dear lady, I can never thank you enough for helping me to get it. The place is fit for a queen; two rooms on one floor, a small kitchen behind, with the grass-plat and sweet flowers before my window. I often think it is a little paradise, and only want one thing to make me quite as happy as I can be this side of heaven."
"What is that, Betty?"
"To be more Chrisl^like," replied the old woman, dropping her voice.
"Do you love Jesus, Betty?" asked the companion of Betty's visitor.
"Yes, miss, I humbly hope so."
"Have you loved him long?"
"Well, miss, almost fifty years ago I was left a widow with five children. I am now nearly eighty, and I think I may say that very early in my widowhood, while my heart was sorely aching, the Lord appeared to me in his gospel, and gave me peace—the peace of pardon, and the peace too of submission to his will in the removal of my dear husband, who is only gone a little while before me, for he was a good man; and though the years since he I went are many, they seem a span to look back upon; and very soon I shall be with him again."