The Officer's Daughter
A memoir of Miss Elizabeth Tatton,
who died at the age of 18
By Octavius Winslow, 1861
It is with some hesitancy — yet not without hope of its favorable acceptance, that the Author presents to the military and naval circle, chiefly — the following unpretending little volume. It derives its claims to their perusal less from any literary merit of its own, than from the interesting character and the instructive piety of its subject. It is the record of no military chieftain of daring prowess, and of brilliant exploit — of no warrior, the hero of a hundred battles, and connected with the exciting incidents of a long and a splendid campaign. But rather, it contains the simple recollections of a young female, claiming no higher rank in the military, than an "Officer's Daughter," and disappearing from the scenes and associations of earth with scarcely eighteen summers' radiance upon her head.
And yet, private as was her life, and unknown and brief as is its history, the few events with which that life was connected, the grace with which it was sanctified, and the holiness with which it was adorned — will replenish heaven with glory, and eternity with song, when all earth-born grandeur and renown shall, like a dream, have passed forever away!
She was, indeed, the true warrior — for in the morning of life she entered upon the Christian warfare, combating by faith, "not with flesh and blood — but with principalities, with powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places." Hers was the splendid victory — for she "overcame" all these foes by the "blood of the Lamb." And by her is now chanted the song of triumph which never ceases, and around her brow is bound the garland of conquest which never fades. With all her natural vigor of mind, sweetness of disposition, and personal loveliness — her moral nature was yet sinful — and this she acknowledged, felt, and deplored. But by the sovereign grace of God, and the "renewing of the Holy Spirit," she became a humble and an enlightened believer in Jesus — a Christian in the truest sense, and of the highest style. Reader, peruse these pages in the spirit of prayer, that the same Holy Spirit may instruct, sanctify, and prepare you for heaven!
PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION.
The wide and warm acceptance which this work has received in military circles, and especially the Divine blessing which has attended it in the conversion to Christ of several young officers in the army, has suggested its republication in a new and enlarged form. The interest of the volume is much enhanced by the appendage to the present edition of a brief sketch of Lieutenant-colonel Tatton, the honored father of the "Officer's Daughter," whose Christian character and peaceful, happy death are worthy of a place side by side with the record of the brief but brilliant life of his daughter, Elizabeth Tatton. Both are, doubtless, now among the faultless throng before the throne of God and the Lamb — the one, a lovely spring flower of holiness, plucked while yet glowing with the tints and sparkling with the ' dew of youth' — the other, a venerable 'tree of righteousness,' transferred to the paradise above, bending in lowliness beneath the golden fruit brought forth in old age. Christ loved both — and both loved Christ, and sweet and harmonious is the song with which they unite in extolling the blood — the righteousness — the grace — the love of Him who died and rose again to bring them there!
Reader! Love, and live for, this Savior — and seek to win and reach this heaven only by faith in Him. The work is done, and you have nothing to do but — believe. Christ must be ALL in the matter of your salvation — His Atonement the one, the only hope of your acceptance with God. Your best righteousness is worthless to justify you! Believe in Jesus — and your worst sins are powerless to condemn you! God is ready to pardon, and the Holy Spirit to renew you, for Christ's sake alone. This little volume may arrest your eye amid the profligacy of the military camp — the weariness of the long march — the loneliness of night guard — the separations, the pinings, the fond memories, or, perchance, the sickness and languor of foreign military service. Read it, then, with prayer — it may instruct, solace, and cheer you, and lead you, as it has led others of your manly yet perilous profession — to Jesus, the Savior, the Friend, the Brother — of the Soldier. God grant this, for the one Mediator's sake! Amen.
Memoir of Miss Elizabeth Tatton.
"Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord!" Psalm 45:10-11
On descending, upon one occasion, from my pulpit, I was met in the vestry by a gentleman who introduced himself to me under circumstances, and in a manner, which at once presented a passport to my confidence, and which found an instant avenue to my heart. He had been in former years the friend and the military companion of my revered father. Holding commissions in the same regiment, they had both served their country with fidelity and honor, amidst the same heart-stirring scenes and events which conspire to lend a fascination so great, and yet a peril so fearful to the military profession. The period which threw them together as fellow-officers was — as, alas, is too much the case in military life — oblivious of all true pious reflection and feeling — a period emphatically "without God," its precious moments unredeemed from an all-absorbing worldliness — by one serious, inquiring thought of the dread and tremendous realities of the eternal world!
Time passed on, and with it the changes which are perpetually transpiring in all human friendships and earthly associations. My beloved father having withdrawn from the army into private life, and his friend Mr. Tatton having joined the 77th regimen, they had for years lost all knowledge of each other; with nothing of the former intimacy remaining, but the reminiscences which the scenes of early life spent in the military service, fix indelible upon the memory.
But God had not lost sight of them. Purposes of grace had long been formed in His mind, and thoughts of redeeming love were moving in His heart. Both were chosen "vessels of mercy;" and He who is "bringing many sons unto glory under the Captain of their salvation," was about to enroll them among the happy and holy number. My honored father had left the scenes of earth-born distinction and of human trial, his departure smoothed with the peace and cheered with the hope which a heartfelt, believing reception of that simple yet glorious truth inspires, even in the final conflict with death — "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Mr. Tatton, with his amiable wife, still survived, and lived to magnify this sovereign grace, of which they too had now become the happy subjects.
In the touching narrative which my father's friend gave of the past, there was one link in the chain of circumstances which could not fail to arrest my attention and awaken my interest. I allude to the instrument and the occasion of the conversion of himself and his beloved wife to God. And who was that instrument, and what was that occasion?
Let parents listen to it, let children ponder it — it was the early piety — and the happy departure of Elizabeth, their only and a fondly-loved child. Moved by this touching fact, and impressed with this remarkable display of Divine grace to them, I requested, and obtained, permission to weave in a brief Memoir, the particulars of her short but holy life, with the hope that the Holy Spirit might again, though dead, speak by her to some hitherto thoughtless, Christless souls.
Elizabeth Tatton was the only child of Major and Mrs. Tatton of the 47th Foot Regiment — but subsequently of the 77th Foot Regiment. Born and educated in the army — a school which, for its worldly and unsettled habits, has not generally been regarded as the most favorable for the training of a youthful mind, and for the formation of those sober views of the realities of the present life, and of the claims of the "life which is to come," so essential to individual happiness — she yet from earliest childhood exhibited a strength of character, a force of intellect, and a maturity of judgment, united with a refinement of feeling, a sweetness of disposition, and a winning gentleness of manner — which rendered her, in a measure, superior to the unfavorable influences of her circumstances, and which threw around her a dignity and an attraction, which at once commanded the respect and won the affection of all who knew her.
But the wonder and the charm of her early years, was the extraordinary piety which marked and sanctified them. This was both her armor and her ornament. The precise period at which Divine grace took possession of her heart, and the human agency, if indeed any were employed, by which this grace effected its conquest in the soul — it would seem impossible to define. But with the first dawn of intelligence, and with the first expansion of feeling, both the judgment and the heart would appear to have been taken captive by the silent yet resistless power of true piety. The child of parents yet unconverted, moving in a circle the center of which was worldliness, and compelled to be a spectator of, and sometimes a participator in, scenes sadly contrary of all religious feeling, she yet exhibited an early development of Christian character, in some of its strongest and most interesting features, which excited the wonder, while it could not fail to secure the respect, of all around her.
An incident in her history when but two years of age, will illustrate the especial care with which the providence of God watched over this dear child of His love — its relation may likewise serve as a cautionary hint to mothers. The hall-door being left open one day, a strolling beggar-woman presented herself with a view of soliciting charity. Elizabeth, whose natural disposition was remarkably benevolent — for she was often known to part with all her money to objects of charity — ran to the door, and gave her a penny. Observing the child young and unprotected, the woman, with the promise of supplying her bountifully with sweets, seized upon the unsuspecting little creature, and folding her beneath her cloak, stole her quickly away. Elizabeth was soon missed from the side of her watchful mother, and an anxious but fruitless search was made for her in the house and gardens. On the loss becoming known, information was brought that a wandering mendicant was seen rapidly passing through the town with a respectable dressed child in her arms. Pursuit was instantly made; and on finding herself discovered, the wretched woman dropped her prey, and fled. Justice, however, soon overtook her, for she was immediately afterwards committed to jail for the commission of a similar crime.
The reader, especially if a mother, may form some idea of the joy of her parents when their lost child was once more restored to their fond embrace. As simple as this incident may appear, does it not in some degree illustrate the holy joy which the recovery of a lost sinner creates in the minds of pure and heavenly hearts? What joy must fill the Father's mind, what satisfaction the Savior's soul, what gladness the Spirit's heart, what ecstasy the bosoms of angels and glorified spirits, and what new-born melody all heaven itself — when a sinner is brought to repentance and faith, when a soul is converted and saved, when the "prey is taken from the mighty," and Christ has won another captive! "It was fit that we should make merry and be glad," exclaims the joyful father, "for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is found!"
Oh, who would not thus be an object of joy to the hearts of saints and of angels, of Christ and of God! And yet if you, my reader, are a sinner saved by grace, if the tear of godly sorrow for sin has ever stood in your eye, if you have been brought to the great trust of a poor sinner — even a crucified Savior — you have filled heaven with more gladness than when all the sons of God sang together over this world's new-born creation! Ah! and ten thousand worlds like this:
"Who can describe the joys that rise
Through all the courts of paradise,
To see a prodigal return,
To see an heir of glory born?
"With joy the Father does approve
The fruit of His eternal love;
The Son with joy looks down and sees
The purchase of His agonies.
"The Spirit takes delight to view
The holy soul he formed anew;
And saints and angels join to sing
The growing empire of their King!"
Another incident which transpired when Elizabeth was but three years of age, evinced that early strength of character for which she afterwards became so remarkable. One day her mamma had occasion, for some slight failure, to correct her with a light rod, and, for a while, to place her in a distant part of the room by herself. After many acknowledgments of her error, and entreaties for forgiveness — she was permitted to return to her mamma. Dropping upon her knees, she exclaimed, in a voice of the most melting tenderness, "I beg your pardon, mamma, for being so naughty, and for causing you so much trouble in whipping me. How kind of you to do so, or I should be so bad!" Then going to the table, she raised the rod, and kissing it, pressed it fervently to her heart, and said, "And you, sweet pretty rod, I could not do without you; you make me a good girl!"
Tried and chastened believer! is there no instruction in this simple story for you? Yes! your heavenly Father is correcting you — but it is in love to your soul, and to make you a "partaker of His holiness." Go, and fall down at His feet, and exclaim, "Lord, I required the rod, the chastisement is just — the discipline is needed. You are righteous — I am vile; I kiss the rod; I welcome the stroke; I hear the voice — it is the voice of my God, the voice of my Father!" "Heed the rod — and the One who appointed it!" Micah 6:9.
I have already remarked, that it would seem impossible to fix the precise period when, or to point to the exact instrumentality by which, divine grace first took possession of her young heart. But as early as four years of age the "tender grape began to appear, and the pomegranate to bud," in the soul of this intelligent and engaging child. Her reading, of which she was remarkably fond, was wholly confined to works of a pious character; and although the library of a military barracks — especially at this period, when religious publications were not so numerous, or so cheaply and generally circulated as now — would be enriched with but few works of this description — she yet contrived to obtain several valuable ones, and among others, a volume containing the "Narratives of Pious Children." The reading of this book deeply impressed her mind.
One day her mamma found her weeping. On inquiring the cause, Elizabeth replied, "I have just been reading the life of little Harriet, and she has made me ashamed of myself; she used to go to the kitchen to teach the servants to read the Bible — but I never do any good to anyone." Who can doubt, that the Spirit of God, the Convincer of sin, was in this instance moving upon her young heart — giving her to know something of its hidden plague, and dissolving it in godly penitence!
It was remarkable how all her thoughts and acquisitions at this early and almost infantile period, were associated with eternity. Thus, for instance, one day she remarked, in her sweet simplicity of manner, "Mamma, I have been thinking what a fortunate thing it is that I have been taught music, for when I die and go to heaven, how awkward I would appear among the angels — if I had not known how to play an instrument!" Ah! yes, she had indeed been taught by the Holy Spirit to sweep the golden harp — long before she joined the heavenly minstrelsy, and in "sweeter strains than angels use," she had learned to sing of redeeming grace, and of dying love!
But her advance in life, was the measure of her growth in grace. Her love for the Scriptures, and her tender yearning for the salvation of souls — now developed themselves as strong features of her Christian character. To witness a young girl, unblest with the preaching of the gospel, unacquainted with a single serious person to instruct and encourage her in the way of holiness, with no parental precept or example "alluring to brighter worlds," surrounded by worldly officers, mirthful and thoughtless — and yet from day to day bending, often with tears, over the pages of the New Testament, and saying, as she once did, "I can never read of our blessed Savior's sufferings, mamma — but my heart is almost torn!" — is a moral spectacle to a spiritual eye, of no ordinary interest and sublimity.
At this time it was her constant habit and delight, with all humility of mind and most affectionate address — to direct her mother's attention to the beauty of the Scriptures, and the preciousness of the Savior. One day she was heard to exclaim, with a voice of much earnestness, "Mamma! mamma! "On hastening to her, her mamma found her with her Bible upon her lap, and intently bending over its sacred page. "Oh, listen," she said, "to these sweet and blessed words of our precious Savior! 'Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. I am going to prepare a place for you. When everything is ready — I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am!'"
And when she read the sixth verse, "Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father — but by me," — she exclaimed, "Oh, what would I not give to know some pious minister or serious Christian who could explain all these things to me!" But the Holy Spirit of truth was her teacher — and guided by Him, her heart, thirsting for the Word of God, was led into all truth needful for her present salvation and her eternal glory!
The holy shrinking of her conscience from sin, and the faithful yet gentle manner with which she was accustomed to reprove sin in others — were remarkable features of her early piety. There was an old lady in the regiment, the paymaster's wife, in whom Elizabeth had felt a particular interest. One morning she called to ask if Elizabeth might be allowed to accompany her in the evening to the theater. Horrified at the very proposal, Elizabeth seized the opportunity of pointing out to her aged friend, the great sin of visiting such places of amusement; at the same time, with great earnestness and solemnity, enlarging upon the nearness of death, and the certainty of a judgment to come! The old lady laughed at the fervent expostulations of the holy child, and retired, saying, that "she feared Elizabeth Tatton had been among the Methodists!"
When she was gone, the sweet girl turned to her mamma, and said, "Oh, how grieved I am to see that dear woman ridicule everything that is serious! And yet, as young as I am, an officer's daughter, and an only child, so that if any person were happy in this life, I ought to be that person. Yet there is not a pleasure in this world I would regret to leave this night — if it were God's will, except your darling self. — (Kissing her mamma.) Paul's was a wise choice, 'having a desire to depart — and to be with Christ.'"
Another instance may be given of the pain which sin occasioned her. It conveys a severe though tender rebuke to those who are accustomed to indulge in unholy levity in reference to divine and spiritual things. Calling with her mamma to pay a visit, on their return, she said, with great solemnity, "Mamma, were you not shocked and grieved at Major ___'s blasphemous expression? When speaking of his three friends, did you observe that he called them the trinity — instead of the trio?"
Alas! how prevalent the sin of sacrilege is — even with some professing Christians! The common use which is sometimes made of sacred words, the light and flippant manner in which holy phrases are employed, the carnal use which is frequently made of the words of Scripture itself, the interlarding of light conversation with Scripture phraseology, and what are intended to be witticisms — at the expense of God's holy Word. These are sins of greater prevalence and magnitude than, perhaps, many who are beguiled into their commission are aware!
We can scarcely conceive of anything more grieving to the Holy Spirit — than the manner in which some people deal with His inspired Word. Nor is the low spirituality which this solemn trifling with the Bible betrays, less painful. A heavenly mind will guard the sacredness and purity of God's Word with holy jealousy! How can it be otherwise? To the Bible, the instrumentality of God's truth — the believer is indebted for his quickening, for his sanctification, and for his comfort! To trifle, then, with that holy Word, to quote it flippantly, to speak of it irreverently, to jest with it profanely — would seem a crime from which a mind stored with its precious treasures, and imbued with its hallowed spirit — would recoil with holy dread!
Oh, beware, reader, how you sport with, or trifle with — God's holy Scriptures! Oh, it is a fearful thing to quote with sportive lip, to touch with unhallowed hands — the holy Word of God! "My heart stands in awe of Your Word! I rejoice in Your Word like one who discovers a great treasure!" Psalm 119:161-162. How beautiful and instructive is this trait of Elizabeth's piety — her jealous regard for whatever was revealed and holy!
Elizabeth's opinion of the influence of light literature — particularly of novel-reading — may be gathered from the following simple incident. At the time it occurred, she was past sixteen years old — it is not, therefore, the crude opinion of an unformed and unenlightened judgment. The evening had been spent in reading aloud, by her papa, a new novel. On retiring for the night, she said, "Mamma, what an unprofitable evening we have spent." Her mamma replied, with surprise, "Do you think so?" "Oh yes," was the response of the young believer; "had my papa read the Bible, there would have been good for our souls, something to comfort and cheer us; or even had it been history, we might have derived some profit — but this novel was altogether worthless!" Such a testimony against the unhappy tendency of works of fiction outweighs a thousand arguments urged in their favor. Young, though she was, with a mind thirsting for knowledge, and with a judgment and taste capable of appreciating works of superior merit, she yet considers a novel "worthless," and the evening devoted to its perusal — as most "unprofitably spent."
Let the blush of conscience crimson the cheek of the novel-reading Christian professor, as the eye of such a one lights upon this page. Let him be humbled that he should have spent an hour of precious time over a sickly romance, or immoral tale of fiction — the reading of which must have inflicted deep and almost ineffaceable injury upon his spiritual and best interests. Let such works, from this hour — be removed from the library, and banished from the drawing-room, and forbidden the parlor! Such was the opinion of Elizabeth Tatton, on the deleterious influence upon the mind and heart — of novels and works of fiction.
We have already alluded to her sensitive and benevolent character. One day, on entering the parlor, her mamma found her sitting in a thoughtful posture. On recovering herself, she remarked, "Oh, mamma, what would I not give — were I but rich." Her fond parent replied, "Are you not rich, having everything you could wish for?" "Yes, mamma, as far as I am concerned; but oh, were I rich, how would I wish to have all these chests" (pointing to a room where the military luggage was stored) "filled for the poor, and I would clothe and make them so warm and comfortable during the winter." Who will not say that this benevolent wish of her heart was as acceptable to God — as David's desire to build a temple for Him? "Because it was in your heart to build a temple for My Name, you did well to have this in your heart!" The Lord doubtless was pleased with the thought of this dear child. Ah! how many have it in their power thus to contribute to the needs and the comforts of the poor — who lack the well-spring of benevolence which sparkled up from her sensitive heart.
"How often," is the testimony of her dear father, "have I seen her weep, and implore for pardon on behalf of poor delinquents, that they might not be sent to the jail-house. On one particular occasion, a soldier was brought to our room by a guard, to be sent off to confinement by her papa, when she ran to the staircase, and fell upon her knees, and implored forgiveness for the culprit, exclaiming, 'Oh, papa, as you expect to be forgiven yourself — do forgive this poor man!' Such was her benevolence towards all her fellow-creatures." She was never known to expend but one penny upon herself — and that was for some fruit. As soon as she had tasted it, she said, "Mamma, I feel conscious I have done wrong." "In what way?" was the reply. She said, "Well, even this simple penny would have made the heart of some poor person glad!"
Possessed of great personal attractions, of rare abilities, and of superior accomplishments — for no pains or expense had been spared in the cultivation of her mind and taste — yet so entirely did the lovely robe of humility veil all her beauteous character from her own view, that she seemed totally unconscious of possessing anything worthy of admiration, and was always grieved when undue adulation was paid to her person or her singing, in which accomplishment, such was her power of execution, she became the admiration and the pride of the regiment.
One evening, on entering the room dressed for a party, her mamma, enraptured with her appearance, arose, and throwing her arms around her neck, lavished upon her some expression of admiration and affection — too extravagant and fond. Elizabeth gave her a most solemn look, and said — "O my darling fond mother, begging your pardon, you ought not to say these things to me! You might make me vain; recollect that I am human." Observing that her mamma appeared disconcerted, she laid her hand upon her arm, and pressing it, said — "I know, my dear mamma, you will not be hurt at what I have said. One moment's reflection will convince you that I am right."
At one time, her mother was desirous that Elizabeth should sit for her portrait, from a secret, trembling apprehension, that this lovely flower would soon be transplanted to its native skies. But such was her profound humility of mind, nothing could prevail upon her to comply with the request. She would playfully resist all her mother's entreaties by saying, "And what would you do with it, if you had it? You would place it over the mantel-piece, and every person coming into the room would naturally say, 'Ah! I suppose this girl fancies herself pretty.'" Thus, to the inexpressible and lasting regret of her parents, they possess no "faithful remembrancer of one so dear," except
"The image on the heart bestowed,
To dwell there, beautiful in holiness."
In the absence of any such specimen of the "art that can immortalize," a pen-and-ink sketch of her personal appearance and literary acquisitions may not be inappropriate in this place. Let the imagination of the reader picture to itself an individual — in person, tall and symmetrically formed, her complexion fair, and her cheeks deeply tinted with the rose-hue of health, her soft blue eyes beaming with meek intelligence, and a profusion of light-brown hair falling in bright ringlets around her neck — and it will possess a faithful portrait of the interesting subject of our memoir.
Upon this picture, must be thrown the sun-light of that sweet, gentle disposition, winning manner, and air of superior refinement, which imparted dignity to every action, and grace to every movement. And yet to all this loveliness — her own eye was deeply veiled! An object of attraction to all who saw her, she alone was unconscious of the power which she possessed, and of the admiration which she awoke. Absorbed in the contemplation of the beauties of Jesus, reveling amidst the wonders of God's Word, and yearning in her heart for the conversion of souls — personal vanity and pride, inherent though they were in her fallen nature, (for the germ of all sin dwells within each of us,) appeared not to soil and mar the peerless beauty of her character.
Young although she was, her literary attainments, particularly her acquisition of languages, were of a high order. She was a superior linguist. Before she arrived at the age of sixteen, she had become a perfect master of the French, Italian, and other languages. Her written accomplishments were not less brilliant. Her drawings were exquisite, and her executions upon her favorite guitar, and the piano, marked a skill and proficiency in music far beyond her years. Piety seemed to blend with, and to sanctify all her accomplishments.
One day, she said to her mamma, "Mamma, although I have a great quantity of music — yet I have so few sacred pieces, and, oh, if you did but know how I love to sing the praises of my God!" The next day, on driving into town, her mamma enriched her stock of music, by the addition of a choice selection of anthems and other sacred pieces. On their return home, Elizabeth went to her piano, and sang that splendid composition of Handel — "Comfort, comfort My people, says your God," etc. Overpowered with a sense of God's love, on finishing the piece, she arose, and approaching her mamma, dropped upon her knees, kissed her feet, and wept. With a heart struggling with the deepest emotion, she exclaimed — "Oh, God is good! how can I ever praise Him sufficiently in having given me such dear parents to gratify me in this way!"
Another instance of affectionate and grateful appreciation of her parents' sympathy with her fondness for music, may be given. On their return from Lisbon, her papa presented her with a new and splendid piano. After running over the keys on the day of its presentation, she became deeply agitated, and nearly fainted from emotion. On recovering herself, she arose from the instrument, and throwing her arms around her papa's neck, she exclaimed with tears — "Oh, how good is God, to give me such dear parents! And how kind of you, papa, to put yourself to so great expense for such a worthless creature as I am!" Her mamma replied — "Yes! Lizzy; you must take great care of it — as it must last your lifetime." Alas! how brief that lifetime! Within twelve months she passed into eternity, and entered upon the music of heaven!
Death and eternity seemed ever-present conceptions to the mind of Elizabeth. To her friends, not one of whom gave to these all-important subjects a single serious consideration — so eager were they in chase of the honors and the pleasures of the world — she was a person "wondered at." They would frequently inquire, "What has come over Elizabeth, for she is always speaking on pious subjects?" Upon one occasion, when walking in view of the mountains, her mamma, in the fond romance of her heart, and yielding at the same moment to the full inspiration of the grand and tranquil scene, said to her — "Oh, Elizabeth, if you and I had a cave in that mountain to reside together in — how happy we would be!" Elizabeth, with great impressiveness of manner — yet gentleness of tone, instantly replied, "Yes, mamma — but one of us might die! And then what would become of the survivor?"
The thought that death might enter that peaceful glen, and rudely sunder the fond tie that existed there, leaving a broken, bleeding heart, to sigh out its lone grief to the wild winds of the mountain — never crossed the mind of this warm-hearted mother. But to the sanctified and thoughtful intellect of this girl of sixteen, with the capacity and the power of enjoying life to its extreme of earthly bliss — there seemed an ever-present consciousness of the nearness and solemn realities, of the eternal world.
The preciousness of the Savior was her favorite and frequent theme. One day, when her mamma was embarrassed in replying to some of her questions on pious subjects, she said — "Oh, mamma, look to Jesus! He can do all things; nothing is impossible with Him." How touching the spectacle — a child directing the author of her natural life — to Him who is the Author of spiritual and eternal life!
The following incident in her Christian experience will impart to the reader some insight into the simplicity and closeness of her walk with Jesus. One morning her mamma found her bathed in tears. On inquiring the cause, she said, "Last night, when we returned home, I was so fatigued, that instead of going on my knees, I was wicked enough to lie down to pray, and consequently I fell asleep. And now I feel as if the Lord had forsaken me. He has hidden His face from me altogether, as if He would not receive me any more." She continued in great dejection throughout the day, until the evening, when she came to her mother, her countenance radiant with animation, exclaiming — "O mamma! I have found my blessed Jesus again!"
Thus, at this tender age, with no human instructor, totally ignorant of the dealings of God with others — but taught by the Spirit alone, this dear young believer was led into one of the profoundest mysteries of the Christian life — the hidings of the Lord's face — the restorings of the Lord's presence. How forcibly will the Christian reader be reminded of the corresponding state of the Church, as described in the Song of Songs! "All night long on my bed I looked for the One my heart loves; I looked for Him but did not find Him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the One my heart loves. So I looked for Him but did not find Him. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. "Have you seen the One my heart loves?" Scarcely had I passed them when I found the One my heart loves. I held Him and would not let Him go!" Song of Songs 3:1-4
Dear Christian reader, what is the state of your soul? Do not turn from the searching but affectionate inquiry. I repeat it with increased earnestness, What is the present state of your soul as before God? Time is flitting away — a dying bed is before you — and beyond it, stretching far into the dim or bright distance — as the state of your soul may paint it to your eye — is an endless eternity! What, then, is your spiritual state? Are you walking thus softly and closely with Jesus? Are you so accustomed to live in the enjoyment of His presence, that the least withdrawment of Him "whom your soul loves" fills you with alarm and sorrow? Or are you reposing upon the bed of sloth, insensible to your Lord's absence, not awake to the loss your soul has sustained, and manifesting no earnest, seeking desire for His return?
Ah! it was not always so with you! The time was when you could not live without the sensible presence of Christ; when your converse with Him was simple, and close, and tender; when the name of Jesus was as "ointment poured forth;" when you walked with God as your Father; and when your highest desire was to do those things which were pleasing in His sight.
But is it so now? Let conscience answer — let the barrenness of your soul, let the chill upon your affections, let the drowsiness of your spirit, let the increasing love of the world, let the growing insensibility of your spirit, let the light thoughts of sin — testify that it is not with your soul now, as in "months past, when the candle of the Lord shone round about you." Oh, that the example of this dear young believer might encourage you to arise and search for your Lord, until with her restored joy you exclaim — "I have found my blessed Jesus again!"
We now approach a memorable and solemn period of dear Elizabeth's history — the closing scene. The period had arrived when, at the interesting age of eighteen, the Lord was about to remove this beautiful plant of Paradise to its own congenial climate in heaven. A voice spoke to her — others saw the glory that beamed around her person — she alone heard the voice — "Child, your Father calls — come home!"
Let us draw near the DEATHBED of this lovely young believer —
On the 12th of September Elizabeth caught a cold. For a time her illness, regarded by her doctor as ordinary and transient, created no immediate uneasiness in the minds of her friends. In a few weeks, however, it assumed a serious and an alarming cast; and it was then discovered that an abscess had formed upon her lungs. A consultation of eminent physicians pronounced the case hopeless. It now became necessary to represent to her, her real condition. To whom could the painful task, requiring such tenderness and skill, be more appropriately confided, than her mother? In whom were faithfulness and affection so powerfully and sweetly blended, as in her? An opportunity soon presented itself for the solemn announcement. One morning she said to her mother, "Mamma, suppose papa were to speak to Dr. ___, perhaps he might give me something that would do me good."
It was at that moment her mamma summoned sufficient self-command to disclose to her, that all hope of her recovery was over! She instantly clasped her hands, and, lifting her eyes to heaven, said, with great solemnity, "Then, may God's will be done!" From that moment she seemed to regard herself as more the inhabitant of the eternal world, than of this. Not another wish or word expressive of a desire to live, escaped her lips; but her spirit commenced its preparation for the heavenly flight.
Her first step was to arrange her little temporal affairs. On taking out her case of trinkets, with a view of disposing of them as mementos of her affection, she said, "How the sight of these things reminds me of my folly! Do you remember, after we left Lisbon, how I regretted not having bought more of these baubles? How little did I then think I should so soon leave them behind! Do not these things show our short-sightedness?" She then presented to a young friend, the daughter of one of the officers, a few of her jewels, accompanied with the most solemn and appropriate advice. It is much to be regretted that the counsels which then fell from her lips, and which so strikingly marked the strength of her mind and the maturity of her grace, have not been preserved.
When speaking to all who approached her dying bed, of the uncertainty of life, she more than once said, "Do you not see an instance of it in me? I who was always so healthy — who could have supposed that I had come at last to lay my body here? The worms will not have much to feed upon, with me," holding up her emaciated hands. I mention this to show how completely her faith in Christ and her bright hope of heaven raised her above all the terrifying and humiliating circumstances of her approaching dissolution. The "last enemy" was disarmed of his terrors by her simple yet strong faith in Him who had "abolished death, and had brought life and immortality to light."
She then requested her mamma to allow her to make a few bequests of money to the servants and attendants, expressive of the gratitude which she felt for their attentions during her illness. The first person she asked to see was Charles, the household servant. On his approaching her bedside she said, "Charles, are you sorry that I am going to die?" He dropped on his knee, and wept. She then said, "But do not grieve for me; I am going from a world of sin and care — to one of unutterable joy! And, Charles, Jesus is willing also to be your Savior. Oh, look to Him now that you are in good health; and let not the world persuade you that your color will prevent you entering into rest. No; Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior; believe on Him, and taste how gracious the Lord is. Here, take this trifling sum from the hand of your dying young mistress." She then addressed each one in a similar strain, exhorting with all the earnestness and solemnity of one standing upon the verge of the eternal world, with expanded wings for glory — to prepare, by repenting of their sins, and believing in the Lord Jesus, for that solemn hour.
To her beloved papa she said, "I wish to exact a promise from you. It is a thing near my heart. It is, that you will do everything to console my dear mamma when I am gone. From me she expected much temporal happiness; but the Lord is pleased to withdraw me from her, and she will require your kindness and sympathy." Her papa instantly made the promise; and, by the grace of God, that promise has been faithfully fulfilled.
She then requested that her burial might not be attended with needless expense, adding, "I have necessarily put you to too much already."
About this time she was favored with the visits from her minister, whose evangelical and affectionate ministrations appeared to have consoled her dying hours. On one occasion she asked him, "Does the soul appeared before its Maker, the moment it leaves the body?" He replied that we have every reason to believe that it did, from what we read in Scripture. For example, what our Lord said to the penitent thief, "Truly, I say unto you, today shall you be with Me in paradise." She then said, "Ah! that is true! and if my Lord smiles upon me when I appear before Him, and says, 'Come, you who are blessed of my Father!' — oh with what ecstasy will I fly into His arms!" And then her bright eye sparkled with joy, and her countenance kindled with a glow of heavenly delight.
That her filial desire may have been gratified — that she may now be a ministering spirit, hovering around those beloved ones who cradled her in infancy, and whose steps, in later life, she guided to the Savior — we delight to think. There is nothing, we suppose, visionary or speculative in the thought. Our conceptions of the world of glory are far too unreal, our ideas of its inhabitants and their employments far too shadowy and vague. The home of the glorified is not so remote from us as we deem it. The "Father's house" is nearer than we suppose. Heaven itself being not so distant, the "spirits of just men made perfect," who people its blissful regions, are closer to us than we have thought. We move, in fact, through a world of invisible spirits. They cluster around our persons, they crowd upon our path, and they fan us with their wings as they sweep on their errands of mercy and love. Were but the spiritual eye unsealed, as was the prophet's servant's — forms of beauty and "chariots of fire" would be seen trooping around every pilgrim on his way to heaven!
And oh! is it fanciful to suppose, is it credulous to believe, is it presumptuous to hope — that among those pure and lovely spirits clustering around us, we should recognize some loved one who once journeyed by our side, soothing our sorrows, and heightening our joys — whose last sickness we nursed, whose dying pillow we smoothed, whose eyes we closed in death, and whose departing spirit we accompanied to the celestial gate — now "sent forth" to guide us — noiseless and unseen — along our trying and perilous path?
The very conception is sanctifying. For, "seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses," "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" It may be an inferior — but it is yet a powerful incentive, to watchfulness.
But do not allow this thought, as holy and persuasive as it is, to take the place of that greatest of all motives to holiness — "You O God, see me!" The consciousness of God's eye resting upon us at every step — that eye, the eye of a Father reconciled in Jesus, and never for one moment withdrawn from us — oh, there is no motive to a holy walk like this! "I have set the Lord always before my face." "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous!" "You compass my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways!" All these are deeply solemn and sanctifying declarations to the child of God. What are the eyes of angels and of glorified saints gazing upon us — compared with the eye of the holy God — this God, our God and Father, accepting us, rejoicing over us in Jesus, the Son of His love?
Oh, to walk beneath the beamings of that eye — as a holy, obedient child, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and aiming in all things to please and glorify Him! This may be a high and difficult walk — but the grace of Jesus is all-sufficient for it. That grace can make us all that the Lord would have us to be.
We return to the dying young saint. Her affectionate minister took occasion to direct her attention to some of those "exceeding great and precious promises" appropriate to her present circumstances. After he had paused, she herself took up and prolonged the delightful strain, and quoted that most wonderful of all the promises, as expressing the source of her joy and the foundation of her hope — "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish — but have everlasting life." "These," she continued, "are indeed sweet and cheering promises. Oh, that I could convey to you the most distant idea of the joys of heaven — nay, the bliss which I already feel! But I cannot describe it to you. And no wonder that my feeble tongue is powerless, when the Scripture says, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined — what God has prepared for those who love Him!'"
Presently she was heard to exclaim, "I see the cross — the cross of my crucified Savior!" Her mamma replied, "Let your eye be fixed upon the cross and the Savior who died upon it, my love, and He will save your precious soul." "I will, mamma," she gently replied, and raised her hands in prayer.
It was evident to those now watching her expiring moments, that the spirit of this departing saint was in close communion with the realities of that celestial world upon whose confines she stood. To her a "door was opened in heaven;" she "had come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God." Looking as Stephen did, "within the veil," she saw, and heard, and felt what no mortal tongue could disclose. " h, that I could convey to you the most distant idea of the joys of heaven — nay, the bliss which I already feel!"
"Music swells around my bed —
Angels fill the room;
Lovely voices whisper near —
"Pain and earthly grief depart!
In my soul there's peace;
Darkness veils the outward world,
But my heart has bliss.
"See the beauty of the skies
Sweetly round me glows;
Light above the light of earth,
Opening glory shows.
"While the sun of nature sets,
Heaven's rich beams arise;
Changeless day follows night —
Mental darkness flies.
"Every storm of woe is quelled,
All the billows rest;
Peace dwells on my dying lips —
Peace is in my breast.
"Upward to my God I haste,
There my joys to tell;
Earth no more enchains my thoughts —
Friends, farewell! farewell!
"Music swells around my bed —
Angels fill the room;
Lovely voices whisper near —
On the day which preceded her death, she expressed an earnest desire to partake of the Lord's Supper. Her wish arose from an enlightened and proper view of this holy ordinance. She regarded it not, as it is feared thousands have done, as a kind of "last-rites" for the soul, a meritorious preparation for heaven. She had been too exclusively the pupil of the Holy Spirit, and too close a reader of her Bible, to nourish, at a crisis so solemn, views so dark and soul-periling as these. Her hope of heaven was based upon a better and a surer foundation than the mere observance of this ordinance. She looked upon it only as the picture of an absent Friend whom her soul loved, recalling to her grateful and adoring memory — the thought of His affection and the image of His death.
"Do this in remembrance of me," was the sweet command which awoke in her soul the holy desire. All that she requested was another and a last glance at that picture — for the true image of her Lord was already enshrined within her heart! She had bathed in the fountain of His blood, she had clothed in the white robe of His righteousness, and thus "anointed for the burying," all that she desired was a little refreshment to faith before she passed over Jordan.
Her dying wish was gratified. It was a touching and solemn service. Had it been the spectacle of a soul on the eve of appearing in the presence of God — unrenewed, unpardoned, and unsanctified, and just at the last gasp of life clutching with the convulsive grasp of death, this ordinance as its only passport to heaven — it would, to a spiritual mind, have been a service painful in the extreme. But far different was the present solemnity. There was a propriety, a beauty, and a tenderness in it which no pencil could have portrayed. I speak not of the mere scene as it presented itself to the eye of sense — interesting though it was — I allude to that moral sublimity perceptible only to the spiritual eye — for it was a service into which faith and love essentially and deeply entered, and which faith and love only can rightly understand.
"Leaning upon her Beloved," she received at the hands of His servant, the expressive symbols of His atoning death — her last remembrance of Jesus upon earth. It proved a means of grace which was greatly refreshing to her spirit, and invigorating to her faith. It gave her a more realizing apprehension of the reality and perfection of that great Atonement made by her dying and risen Lord, upon which her departing soul now confidently and peacefully reposed. "I never felt more peace and joy," was her testimony, "than I have done since I commemorated the dying love of my precious Savior!"
And now the solemn but blissful moment arrived, which summoned her to drink of the new wine in the kingdom of her Lord. The chariot had come, and she addressed herself to the journey. She was already robed. The "king's daughter was all-glorious within, her clothing was of wrought gold," and she was prepared to be "brought unto the king," and to "enter into the king's palace!"
Never did the chamber of death appear more like the opening gate of glory — never did death itself look more lovely, never more like a peaceful falling asleep as now. There was a repose upon that countenance, a calmness and a radiance in that room "quite on the verge of heaven." The Conqueror of death was there! The "Resurrection and the Life" was there! The Shepherd of the flock was there! The Redeemer of sinners was there! And the valley of the shadow of death, from that dying couch to the portal of glory — was illumined with His presence and smoothed with His love. "I will fear no evil, for You are with me," expressed in one brief but comprehensive sentence, the secret of her calmness, and the ground of her hope.
Her breathing now became shorter, which baffled her attempts to speak. About five o'clock in the evening, she said, "Mamma, what a pity I forgot . . ." her tongue faltered. "Alas! I cannot" "Where's papa?" "He is there, my love," was the reply. Turning her eyes, she fixed them upon him for a moment with a look of the tenderest affection; then raised them heavenward in prayer. One fond parting glance at her mamma kneeling by her side, holding her dying hand — and then, as the sun was setting, she gently closed her eyes upon all earthly scenes — to open them upon the glories of that heavenly world, where the sun no more goes down. And thus passed away her pure, happy spirit — into the blissful presence of Him whom, in life, she loved, and with whom, in death, she longed to be!
"Dear as you were, and justly dear,
We will not weep for thee;
One thought shall check the starting tear,
It is — that you are free!
"And thus shall faith's consoling power
The tears of love restrain!
Oh, who that saw your parting hour,
Could wish you here again!
"Triumphant in your closing eye
The hope of glory shone;
Joy breathed in your expiring eye,
To think the fight was won.
"Gently your passing spirit fled,
Sustained by grace Divine;
Oh, may such grace on me be shed,
And make my end like thine!"
Before we follow to their resting-place, the remains of what was once, and what will be again, in more surpassing beauty, a lovely temple of the Holy Spirit — let us review some of the points in Elizabeth's life, from which we may gather instruction appropriate to our own. We purpose only to speak of what she was by the grace of God, and of what, dear reader, that same Divine grace can make you!
By the grace of God, Miss Tatton was instrumental in leading her parents to Jesus. "With sorrow and shame I confess," says her mother, "we were then in such darkness, and so blind to its consequences, that we only went to churches where there were good singing and fashionable people; but what a mercy, that, through grace, we have now been better taught. It was my sweet Elizabeth who pointed out to me the beauty of the Scriptures and the preciousness of the Savior. She was so affectionate, humble, and obedient, (indeed, everything that my heart could wish,) that when I lost her — I felt I had lost my guardian angel."
Now here is an example of individual influence employed in a most interesting and important direction. This record forms one of the most instructive pages in our little Memoir. The influence which we exert over relatives and friends is powerful and far-reaching! It is a mighty engine in our hands, capable of effecting great good — or great evil; and thus becomes an important gift, involving fearful responsibility. But in what direction may this influence find scope for its exercise, so important as in relation to the eternal happiness of the soul? What a wide field of exertion is this! What an honor to be instrumental in conferring blessing — lasting as its duration — upon deathless mind!
Onward to eternity our kinsmen are traveling. There the parent and the child, the husband and the wife, the brother and the sister, the lover and the friend — are traveling. See how, one by one, they disappear! Even while we are conversing with them, and are smiling upon them — they vanish and are gone! Gone beyond our sympathy, our influence, and our reach. And where? — ah! where? There is a heaven and a hell — to which have they gone? To the throne of divine mercy — or to the tribunal of inflexible justice? To the unfading glory — or to the undying worm? To either one or the other — they are gone.
Can you think of the dread alternative — of their dying beds uncheered with a ray of hope — of their appearance before a holy God without a hiding-place — of their banishment to the regions of eternal despair, to the unutterable and interminable woes of the lost — and not shrink appalled from the thought of being accessory to their ruin!
And what efforts, as a professing Christian, are you making for their conversion? What compassion do you feel for their souls? What yearning of heart for their salvation? What attempts to "pull them out of the fire?" Is your gospel witnessing scriptural? Are your warnings faithful? Are your pleadings earnest? Are your prayers fervent? Are your spirit and manner humble and affectionate? Above all, is your own Christian walk commanding in its influence — from the holy and uniform consistency of its character? Oh, with what moving eloquence and with what mighty persuasion — does a devout and holy life speak to the hearts of unregenerate relatives! There is no human instrumentality like it. With what sleepless vigilance, then, ought we to guard against those infirmities to which we are peculiarly exposed, lest we hinder the conversion of any over whom our affection and relationship give us power. May the Lord pardon us "where we have come short concerning this great matter! So important is this subject, permit me to pursue it a little further.
In the Word of God, we have both our warrant and encouragement to bring our unconverted relations to Christ. For example, Who was it that Andrew brought to Jesus? — it was his brother. Who did Zebedee's wife lead in her hands to Christ? — they were her two sons. When Jesus visited the house of mourning at Bethany, whom did Martha call to share the comfort of the interview? — it was her sister. When Cornelius sent for Peter that he might be admitted to the privileges of the Christian Church, whom did he call together on an occasion so important? — "his relatives and close friends." And on whose behalf did the centurion send messengers to Jesus asking the exercise of His healing word? — it was for his servant.
And so has many a mother cherished in her heart, the precious words that have fallen from the lips of a converted child, until they have resulted in the surrender of that mother's heart to Christ. Oh, what a signal honor to be instrumental in leading a beloved parent — perhaps a father in his worldliness, or a mother in her cares — through the shadows and mists of spiritual ignorance, and out of the mazes of earthly concerns — to seek and find in Jesus the chief good.
Christian child! Do you not aspire to this honor? Do you not long to bring your unconverted parents to a knowledge of Christ? This may be the end — as it regards others — for which you have been converted. "Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" was Mordecai's faithful message to Queen Esther. And who knows, whether you, in the sovereignty of God's grace, have been thus early brought into the kingdom of Christ — that you might be instrumental in bringing your honored parents to the feet of Jesus? Who can tell?
And Christian mothers! You who bear this sacred, powerful name — have you taken your children by the hand, and led them to Jesus? Have you travailed a second time for your offspring, that Christ might be formed in their hearts, as the hope of glory? For them you have passed through the pangs and the perils of the first birth — will you feel no anxiety, nourish no solicitude, put forth no effort, and endure no travail of soul — for their second birth? Blessed mother — who, having dedicated your child to God in prayer, are now training it for Christ, for His Church, and for Heaven!
Let me remind you, for your encouragement, that some of the most eminent men who have adorned the Christian Church, or have guided the destinies of states, received the first impression of their future greatness from a mother's influence. Washington, the founder of a new empire — Morison, who gave to China a version of the Bible — Doddridge, the most useful of Biblical commentators — Whitfield, the prince of preachers, and Knibb, one of the most successful of modern missionaries, among a thousand brilliant names crowding upon the memory, built their greatness and success upon the foundation which a mother's hands had laid.
Among the papers of a recently-deceased American statesman of great distinction, (John Quincy Adams, president of the United States) has been found a letter addressed to him by his mother, when yet a lad, and holding an office in an embassy to Europe, which in part reveals the secret of her son's future and unsurpassed eminence. "Great learning and superior abilities," she writes, "should you ever possess them, will be of little value and of small estimation — unless virtue, honor, integrity, and truth are nourished by you. Adhere to the rules and principles early instilled in your mind, and remember that you are responsible to God. As dear as you are to me — I had much rather you would find a grave in the ocean which you have crossed — than to see you an immoral, graceless child."
Let every mother realize that, to a certain extent, she holds in her hand the future destiny of her child; that she is the founder of its character, and the architect of its greatness, as she is the author of its being — and then let her trifle with a responsibility so precious and tremendous, if she can! Oh, who can fully estimate the worth, or unfold the blessing of a Praying Mother!
"If we reflect upon those instances supplied so strikingly in Scripture, of the efficacy of unwearied and persevering prayer, we shall find several, even of the most affecting of them all, such as bear directly on our subject. For whom was it that the Syrophenician woman endured the bitterest humiliations and the most disheartening delays, until at length her faith and fervor called forth so signally the testimony of the Savior's approbation? Was it not for a daughter bound and oppressed by Satan? What was the unconquerable impulse which sustained the Jewish ruler when, in spite of its apparent hopelessness, he came and worshiped Him, and offered, not in vain, this singular petition — 'My daughter is even now dead — but come and lay your hand upon her, and she shall live!'
It is needless to multiply examples — but there is one so singularly applicable, and which may seem to treat the case of parents agitated by an almost hopeless solicitude for the spiritual welfare of their children in so many separate points, and in a manner of such striking adaptation, that we cannot pass it unnoticed. We refer to that urgent, and as it seemed, remediless extremity, wherein our Lord, descending from the mountain of transfiguration, found His disciples surrounded by the caviling scribes and an incredulous multitude, in the midst of which there stood a suppliant and half-desponding parent with his demoniac son. How great was that parent's disquietude! how heart-sickening his affliction! A fury, altogether uncontrollable, maddened the spirit over which he had watched and wept from its first dawn of intellect. A malignant and resistless influence had often thrown him to the ground, cast him into the fire, engulfed him in the waters, and sought his destruction in a thousand ways. And now his last dependence seemed utterly to fail. He had brought his melancholy burden to the followers of Jesus — they could not administer relief.
His knowledge was still imperfect respecting the power of that Great Prophet, whose help at length he despondingly implored — 'If You can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.' Bitter were the tears with which he uttered that memorable confession — than which there is none more consolatory to the afflicted and tempted soul — 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.' And his cup of anguish appeared to have received its last agonizing ingredient, when, at the command of the Redeemer, compelled as he was to a surrender, the possessing demon gathered his utmost rage, put forth the last and fiercest demonstration of his energy, and left his prostrate victim convulsed and breathless in the dust, so that a murmur ran throughout the horror-struck assembly that the strife was over, and that life had departed! But oh, how encouraging the outcome!
Who will any longer despair of the rescue and salvation of his child? Who will desist from his entreaty to Jesus, because of the confirmation of those evil habits, or the present exasperation and recklessness of that infuriated spirit, whose ravages he can only deplore?"
We must refer to Elizabeth's love to the Bible as forming a remarkable trait in her Christian character worthy of imitation. She may almost be said to have been the child of one book. The Word of God was the instrument of her conversion; and thus early imbibing a deep reverence and love for it — it became her constant, and indeed her only spiritual companion, and the rich storehouse from whence she daily drew the divine nourishment which sustained the life of God in her soul. An instance of her early attachment to the Scriptures may be mentioned. On one occasion, when her papa embarked for Portugal to join his regiment, her mamma gave him the only copy of the Bible which Elizabeth possessed, promising to replace it immediately with another. For sometime this promise, despite of Elizabeth's earnest and perpetual entreaties, was unfulfilled and evaded. The sense of her loss was acute. Bereft of her Bible, she was bereft of her most precious treasure. Passing one day near a place where Bibles were sold, she stopped her mamma, and said, with imploring earnestness, "O Mamma! I will go down upon my knees to you in this square — if you will but purchase me a precious Bible!" "Alas!" says the mother, "I did not then know the value of it myself — but, blessed be the Lord, she did, and felt its power and comfort too."
My dear young reader, do you thus prize and read this blessed Book? If you are a believer — then aspire to be a diligent and prayerful student of your Bible. Let it model your Christianity. Allow nothing to prevent its daily and devout perusal. No other reading, however spiritual and instructive, can supply its place. No other book can be a substitute for the Book of God. Consult it as the your wisest counselor. Carry it with you as you would a lantern in a dark night and along a dangerous path. Let it cast its heaven-beaming rays before and around your uncertain and perilous way. Say with David, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet — and a light unto my path." Seek to have, by the Spirit's teaching, its divine truths inwrought with your soul's experience, that God's Word may daily quicken and sanctify, comfort, and guide you. "Your Word have I hid in my heart — that I might not sin against You!"
The encouragement which Elizabeth's early conversion affords to the young to seek the Lord, and to walk in His ways, is great. Elizabeth was a sinner. She knew it intelligently, she felt it deeply, she acknowledged it humbly. The Holy Spirit of God, the convincer of sin, had taught her this humiliating, but needed truth. "He shall convince the world of sin." She had learned, not theoretically — but experimentally, that by nature she was fallen, sinful, and under the divine curse! The knowledge of this truth led her to renounce all dependence upon her own righteousness, to disclaim all merit in her own performances, and to rest her only hope of acceptance with God, and the joys of heaven — upon the sacrificial death and atoning work of her divine and adorable Redeemer!
In the matter of her salvation, Christ had become everything. All her merit was in Him, all her justification was in Him, all her pardon was in Him, all her happiness was in Him, all her hope of glory was in Him. Is it surprising, then, that Christ should be "all in all" to her? That there should be no object in heaven or on earth so lovely, so worthy, so dear in her esteem — as Jesus? O no! She loved the Savior. To her He was "altogether lovely," the "chief among ten thousand." No name to her was so melodious or so fragrant as His. She had tasted the sweetness, and proved the truth, of that animating promise, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me early — shall find me."
There was another inspired declaration to which, in concert with the saints in all ages, she could set her seal: "Unto you, therefore, who believe — He is precious." Jesus was precious to her soul. His person was precious — His work was precious — His blood was precious — His righteousness was precious — His name was precious — His precepts were precious — yes, He was altogether precious! And His preciousness was a theme which never failed to dwell with peculiar sweetness upon her lips.
And now to that same precious Savior you are invited, my reader. Will you come to Him? I do not only invite you: Christ himself invites you. The invitation is from Him who is able to shut you up in hell — or take you up to heaven! It is at your soul's peril that you disregard it. There must be no procrastination — no demur — no hesitation — no indecision — no delay. The invitation is too great, and the consequences of its acceptance or its rejection too momentous, to admit of this.
While you are debating the question, whether you will accept of Christ — or the creature; whether you will give your heart to God — or to the world; whether you will repent now — or at some future period, in time or in eternity — you may drop into hell! And Hell! — oh, it is a dreadful place! Have you given it a serious reflection? Have you thought of its remote distance from heaven — separated by a great and impassable gulf? Have you thought of its society — the devil, his demons, and wicked men? Have you thought of its sufferings — the fire, the worm, and the darkness? Have you thought of its employments — blaspheming God, tormenting one another, the weeping of remorse, and the gnawing of the chains? And all this — forever and ever! Surely you cannot have thought of this — or would you have sought a refuge from the wrath to come!
To Jesus the Refuge and the Hiding-Place, I invite you flee to Him now, and just as you are. Not a moment is to be lost. Your eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Oh, how alarming, how perilous your condition — you who have no union with Jesus, you who are out of Christ! And yet, how appalling your indifference — and how profound your insensibility! What is your gaze upon the tinseled glories of this fleeting world — but the wild stare of idiocy? And what your loud laugh — but the senseless ravings of madness?
But the reader, whose eye traces this page, may have upon his sincere lips the greatest of all questions, "What must I do to be saved?" And is it so? Dear soul! Welcome, oh, welcome to the Savior! You are just the one He died to save — and lives to receive. He died to redeem sinners — He lives to receive the penitent, the broken-hearted, and the poor. Listen to the music of His words — "Him that comes unto me I will never cast out." And again, to the precious promise — "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
Oh, that I could allure you to Christ! Oh, that I could win your heart to the Savior! Never did an Object so glorious — so lovely — so loving — so worthy, stand and ask your love, as He. He deserves the first, the best, the chief. Give, then, your heart to Jesus. Disentwine it from the creature — loosen it from the world — divorce it from self — wrench it from sin — and just as it is, surrender it willingly and supremely, decidedly and irrevocably to Jesus.
The reader has perhaps just arrived at that interesting era of a young lady's history — her introduction into public society. It cannot be concealed, that if this is an interesting, it is also a critical period of your life. It is perhaps the most serious step you have hitherto taken. Viewed in some points of light, it must be so. To your eye it may assume quite a different aspect. Brighter visions than have yet floated before you, may dawn upon the view; scenes more inviting than any that have preceded them, are stretching themselves onward in far-reaching and gladsome perspective.
But how can we suppress the sad feeling that, verdant with promise and sunny with hope as that path may be — it lies amidst the dangers and the uncertainty of the future — through days that may never arrive, and events that may only be as the phantoms of a dream. Nor this alone. You are about to enter upon a new and an advanced stage of your existence — a new world, as it were, is opening upon you — new friendships will be formed, new springs of feeling will be unlocked, new pleasures will be tasted, new temptations will be encountered, and joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments — hitherto strangers to your young heart, wait to throw their light and shade upon your path.
At this critical moment, a question presents itself for your consideration of the utmost importance. It is a question of choice, upon the decision of which all your future destiny may depend. That question is: "Christ — or the world, for my portion?" Upon this question are suspended all your precious and deathless interests. It is before you, standing yet, as you are, upon the threshold of a new, untried, and uncertain existence, and it cannot be evaded — it will be heard, it must be decided, and decided now, and decided, perhaps, forever!
Christ — or the world — which shall it be? Both unveil their beauties and present their attractions — both urge their claims and invite your acceptance. The question must be decided, not by sense — but by faith. The eye of sense sees the present only; the eye of faith looks beyond the present to the future. Sense deals alone with the things that are "temporal," faith deals with the things that are "eternal." To the eye of sense — the world will appear substantial, attractive, and permanent — and all beyond it will appear dim, shadowy, and unreal. But to the eye of faith — the reverse presents itself; the world assumes its true character — empty, polluted, and passing away; while the future unfolds itself filled with great, solemn, and eternal realities! Your decision, then, must be made, if made aright, in the exercise of that faith which is the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
You must lose sight of the world's tinsel and vanities — and turn a deaf ear to its siren song; regarding it as "dazzling — but to blind, as enchanting — but to bewilder." You must contemplate it as one of your greatest foes, against which you have need to be armed at every point. And, O my reader, what a formidable foe it is! How beguiling and ensnaring, how treacherous and fatal! And shall this poor world be your choice? What if you realize all that its rank and wealth, its honors and its pleasures promise — and gain the prize for which you cast the die — you still lose your own soul! And is that nothing? Is it nothing to lose yourself, and be eternally cast away?
But what if you choose Christ as your portion? oh, blessed choice will that be! Christ is just the Savior and Friend, the Counselor and Guide that you need at the present moment. The period has arrived, when you must cease to be cradled in the soft indulgence and re pose of a parent's home. You have now become, in an important sense, independent and responsible. You are to think and compare, to decide and act for yourself. Your bark — to speak figuratively — is launching out alone upon the stormy and uncertain sea of life! You are no longer to creep, as you have been accustomed, along the shore, gliding upon its smooth and shallow waters, sheltered and shaded by its overhanging mountains; but stretching out upon the deep broad ocean, you are about to spread your daring canvas to its winds, braving and breasting its huge billows.
What a scene now opens upon you! The green hills are fading in the distance; your home is receding from your view, while before you stretches the broad ocean, the crested wave, and the endless blue sky. And does no one stand upon the shore you have just left, watching with tearful eye, and with thrilling heart, and with tremulous hope, and with silent prayer — the precious bark, as,
"From billow to bounding billow cast,
Like the fleecy snow on the stormy blast?"
Yes! there is one — a parent, it may be — perhaps a mother — gazing with unblinking eye upon its every movement. And many a sigh is heaved, and many a tear is shed, and many a prayer ascends, unheard and unseen by others — but of which the "record is in heaven, and the witness is on high."
You, my reader, are the individual whose present course I have been depicting! You are on the eve of commencing the untried and perilous voyage of life. How much of its future history depends upon the decision which you may make at its commencement! The choice lies between Christ — and the world. A life of piety — or a life of worldliness. A life for the glory of God — or for the gratification of self. A life for time — or for eternity. A life for heaven — or for hell! Thus to one question, the great matter is reduced. I have placed before you the consequences of choosing the world as your portion. Listen, while I remind you of some of the blessings that will result from your making choice of Christ.
He will be your Redeemer, "mighty to save" you from hell. He will be your Hiding-Place from the "wrath which is to come." He will be your Friend, loving you at all times. He will be your Brother, tender and faithful, sympathizing with all your sorrows. He will be your Counselor, imparting wisdom and direction in all your perplexities. He will be your Leader, guiding you every step. He will be your Advocate in heaven, pleading your cause with the Father against all the assaults of your enemies; and He will at length bring you there, to dwell with Him forever.
Will you, then, for a single moment, place Jesus and the world in competition? Can you hesitate and demur which you will choose? Oh, then, be persuaded to commence life with Christ. I do not ask you, Christ does not require it of you, Christianity does not demand it of you — that you lay down your rank, or relinquish your wealth, or resign your influence, or sunder the ties which bind you to family and friends. This were to oppose yourself to the arrangements of that all-wise Providence, which has ordained all the circumstances of your life, which has mapped every step of your journey, which has appointed the bounds of your habitations, and which directs all the minutiae of your history from first to last. But I do ask you, and Christ invites you, and your best interests plead with you — to enter upon life with making the Lord Jesus your Savior, your friend, your portion, your everlasting treasure!
Oh, begin its important duties, its high responsibilities, its many and varied trials — with a saving knowledge of His person, with an entire reliance upon His salvation, with an assured interest in His love, with a heartfelt experience of His grace, with a soul surrendered to the possession and government of His Spirit. Upon the threshold of the path now opening before you, Jesus stands, and in gentle and persuasive accents, says, "Give me your heart!" Yield to His request, and you are happy for time and for eternity! Go in prayer, go in faith, go in sincerity and in truth to God, and there exclaim, "I Am The Lord's!" Oh, blissful moment that finds your heart at rest in Jesus!
"Here, Lord! I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do."
But have you chosen the world as your portion? Have you resolved and decided for the sinful, unsatisfying, wounding, false, and disappointing world? — the world that passes away? Then let it be! You have chosen the world — in preference to Christ; the creature — in preference to God; hell — in preference to heaven! Then let it be! And as saints and angels, the Church below, and the Church above, witness your mad choice, they will together chant in mournful strains the death-dirge of your soul —
"She has chosen the world,
And its paltry crowd;
She has chosen the world,
And an endless shroud!
"She has chosen the world,
With its misnamed pleasures;
She has chosen the world,
Before heaven's own treasures.
"She has launched her boat
On life's giddy sea,
And her all is afloat
"But Bethlehem's star
Is not in her view;
And her aim is far
From the harbor true.
"When the storm descends
From an angry sky,
Ah! — where from the winds
Shall the vessel fly?
"When stars are concealed,
And rudder gone,
And heaven is sealed
To the wandering one —
"The whirlpool opes
For the gallant prize;
And with all her hopes
To the deep she flies!
"But who may tell
Of the place of woe,
Where the wicked dwell,
Where the worldlings go!
"For the human heart
Can ne'er conceive
What joys are the part
Of them that believe.
"Nor can justly think
Of the cup of death,
Which all must drink
Who despise the faith.
"Away then — oh, fly
From the joys of earth;
Her smile is a lie,
There's a sting in her mirth.
"Come, leave the dreams
Of this transient night,
And bask in the beams
Of an endless light!"
God was glorified in the death of Elizabeth. Her one aim and supremest delight, while living, had been to glorify her Father in heaven. To please and serve the Savior — she seemed alone to live. Life had no attraction so sweet, no object superior to this. And now, as she honored God in life — God would honor her in death, by making that death the occasion of the true conversion of her beloved parents. It would seem necessary that she should die — that they might live.
Her holy life had done much to rebuke their earthliness, and to arouse them to the conviction, that there was another and a brighter world, from which she seemed to have come, and to which she sought to allure. But it was the sanctified bereavement of her death which fully brought them to the Savior, of whom she was the first to tell them, and of whose love, beauty, and preciousness she had so often and so sweetly spoken.
That solemn day that saw this lovely flower droop and die, saw that mother, whose bosom had loved and cherished it so fondly, offering up praise and thanksgiving to the Lord as she had never done before. And for what? For the loss of her child? Yes! for then it was she heard a voice saying — it was no sound in the air, it was the still small voice of Jesus in the soul — "Oh, turn unto Me, and be saved."
"I covered my face with my hands," is that mother's testimony, "and could literally have laid my mouth in the dust. I then knew whose voice it was; and from that moment the Lord condescended to reveal Himself to me by the teaching of His Holy Spirit, and I became a new creature in Christ Jesus."
Convinced of sin at the same solemn hour — but conducted to the cross of Jesus by a longer and more humiliating path, Elizabeth's father was at length numbered among those to whom the Lord reveals Himself as "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." And thus her dying prayer was answered in the full conversion of her parents. "For them she languished, and for them she died."
It was in Ireland, and in the city of Cork, that the 77th regiment was quartered at the time the interesting subject of our Memoir passed to her eternal rest. Nothing could more strikingly mark the respect and affection in which she was held, than the distinction which attended her to the tomb. With the exception of firing over the grave, she was buried with full military honors. The band playing the dead march in muffled tone, preceded the body, the officers wearing crape upon their military dress, (their ladies went into deep mourning,) following in brilliant but mournful procession. The privilege of carrying the coffin from the hearse to the grave having been contested by the officers, the captains of the regiment, who had kindly undertaken the arrangements for the funeral, appointed six of their number upon whom this melancholy distinction was conferred.
Thus, loved of God and honored by man, Elizabeth descended to the tomb. In the cathedral of Cork, her ransomed dust reposes until the morning light of the "first resurrection" shall brighten upon her grave, when the archangel's trumpet shall awake it from its sleep, to rise and meet the Lord in the air, changed and "fashioned like unto His own glorious body," and so shall she "ever be with the Lord!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
DIVINE GRACE IN THE ARMY
With the narrative of Miss Tatton's history, thus imperfectly but faithfully portrayed, there were interwoven several instances of God's gracious working among the officers of the regiment, which, to the writer's mind, appeared of too important and interesting a character to be thrown aside unrecorded, and lost. With the hope that their simple and brief record may find its way into the barracks or the mess-hall, and arrest the eye, and arouse to a solemn and earnest concern for the salvation of the soul, of some who hitherto have been living as if there were no God and no hereafter — I have ventured, in the spirit of prayer, to append them to this little volume.
In the front rank of personal sketches, illustrating the power of Divine grace in the army, with which we propose to supplement this Memoir, it is proper that we should place the gallant officer who bore to its interesting subject the endeared and honored relation of — Parent. Those who, in their perusal of these pages, have lingered over the touching statement of the conversion to Christ of the father, through the instrumentality of the grace that shone with such meek radiance in the brief yet holy life of the daughter, will feel an interest in tracing his subsequent pious character and life, from that period until its close amid years lengthened to a good old age, invested with the "crown" and laden with the "fruit of righteousness."
The reputation of the British army as a school of grace, was not, in the early military career of Colonel Tatton, what it now so eminently is. There were at that period but few officers professing the humble religion of Jesus, adorning their profession by corresponding holiness of life, and vindicating the truth of His Word and the honor of His name, by a bold, uncompromising — yet meek and loving, championship. Such distinguished specimens of Christianity as we now associate with a noble army of godly men, whose earnest and consistent piety sanctifies and adorns their profession — were then almost entirely unknown. Here and there a solitary light shone amid the gloom, all the more conspicuous and resplendent from the general and dreary state of worldliness and impiety which prevailed — but they were lone stars, and not clusters — moving in orbits, separate and remote, of their own.
It was at this period that God called by His grace the subject of this sketch, whose piety, even at that remote time, may be said to have won for him the character ascribed to the evangelist, of a "burning and a shining light." Truly, if the electing love of God and the sovereignty of His most free favor ever found an illustration and a proof — it was the gracious calling and decided conversion to Christ, from a state of worldliness, spiritual blindness, and religious formalism — and this by an instrument so weak and improbable — of this now glorified saint of God. From that moment until he finished his life, and fought his last battle in the Christian warfare, he maintained the honored designation of "a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
Passing over the first few years of his Christian life, we may remark that it was when stationed with the 77th Regiment at Jamaica, West Indies, that the eminently real and practical character of his religion appeared so striking and conspicuous. Evangelical army chaplains were not so numerous in those days, as happily they are now. The appointments to high and responsible positions in the Church, both by civil and military authority, were generally types of the existing state of religion — men who reflected the lifeless, cold system of religious formalism so universal at that period. Nor had the subject of Christian Missions — either colonial or foreign — occupied the attention and taken hold upon the sympathies, prayers, and exertions of the Church of Christ, as now. Consequently many of our colonial military stations were left almost entirely destitute of the gospel, and of the evangelical, spiritual, and earnest visits and instructions of the faithful minister at the bedside of the sick and dying soldier.
On arriving at Jamaica, a fine field of Christian effort and usefulness presented itself to the religion and heart of Colonel Tatton, of which he was not slow to avail himself. In default, therefore, of sufficient ministerial instruction and oversight in the regiment, with a soul glowing with love to His Divine Master, and with sympathy and compassion for the perishing soldiers — he gave himself to the work of visiting the men in their quarters, reading and explaining to them the Word of God, lending them gospel tracts, praying with the sick and dying, pointing them to the Lamb of God, and often reading over their graves, the service for the burial of the dead.
The results of these earnest, evangelical labors will only be manifest in that great day when every lowly effort now made to glorify Christ will appear — then, recognized and rewarded — resplendent far above all earth's greatest, proudest, grandest achievements. The "precious seed "we now sow in tears, broadcast with feeble, trembling hand over these dreary waters of the curse — shall then appear a golden harvest, sickled by the angel-reapers, and garnered with joy in the paradise of God. Oh, how should this thought prompt and encourage every personal, humble effort to win a soul to Christ! No uncertainty attends our efforts. "Those who sow in tears — shall reap in joy. He who goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed — shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him," (Psalm 126. 5, 6.)
Multitudes are perishing around us, and it behooves the Christian laity, not less than the professed minister of the gospel — the pious officer, as the regular chaplain of our army and navy — to imitate the holy, Christ-like example of Colonel Tatton, and of many godly men in the present day — and employ their personal influence, talents, and efforts for the conversion of sinners, the advancement of gospel truth, and the ultimate and destined triumph of the kingdom of Jesus in the world. My reader, why do you stand idle? "Go you and do likewise," and God will bless you, and make you a blessing.
On relinquishing the army, Colonel Tatton took up his residence in Bath. It was in this beautiful city he spent the remainder of his days, and terminated his long and now consecrated life. But although thus relinquishing the active duties of his profession, he had not left the army of the living God, nor had forgotten that he was a soldier of Jesus Christ. He fully recognized his obligation, and estimated his privilege of following and serving Jesus, the "Captain of his salvation." He therefore at once united himself with a Christian Church, and gave in his adhesion to a band of godly laymen — some of whom, like himself, were retired military officers, and had seen hard and long service abroad — who were united in conducting and promoting various local Christian and benevolent societies.
To one, especially, his truly Christ-loving, devout spirit and warmest sympathies prompted him to unite. We refer to the Bath Branch of the Evangelical Alliance. Of the committee of this interesting society he became an early and active member, punctual in his attendance at its business and devotional meetings, when health permitted, and contributing liberally to this, as to other local societies, of his earthly substance. His loving, lowly, gentle spirit, his deep self-prostration, his gentlemanly and refined address, his tenderness for the feelings, and his charity and sympathy for the needs and sorrows of others — endeared him to the hearts of all in the circle in which he moved. The sincere self-abnegation, which was so remarkable a trait of his Christianity, the profound humility of his spirit — never more apparent than when he alluded to the days of his unconverted state, the many years that he lived a stranger to Christ and in rebellion against God — imparted a luster, beauty, and sanctity to his pious character which those who were capable of appreciating it will never cease to admire or forget.
Colonel Tatton had reached the eighty-eighth year of his protracted life, when the time arrived that he should be gathered to his fathers. His beloved partner — the affectionate wife of his youth, the staff and comfort of his declining years, and now his mourning survivor, after a happy union of nearly sixty-one years — could not fail to mark in his deepening holiness, his growing heavenliness of conversation, the brightening gleams of glory which illumined his spirit, and his soul's preparation for its celestial flight. And yet the actual probability of his speedy entrance into the world invisible was the last thought of her mind. A separation on earth, after so long and so happy a union, to her conception seemed scarcely to come within the range of possibility. But his Savior had need of him, and the growing fitness for glory which imparted increased closeness, sanctity, and sweetness to the bond of earth, and which seemed to concentrate upon its close the fond endearment of a whole life — was but the opening of heaven to the loved one, now standing as within its vestibule.
On the day previous to his departure to heaven, he appeared to have been favored with peculiar and overwhelming manifestations of the Lord's presence. His habit was to spend four hours of each day in reading, meditation, and prayer. It was in connection with this sacred employment, on the morning of the day which preceded his entrance "into heaven itself" that he was favored with those foretastes of heaven to which he thus referred. Addressing his beloved wife, he said, "My darling, I have been favored with such gracious manifestations of the Lord to my soul this morning, as I am not able to describe. I cannot tell you how precious He is to me. I have been so filled, so overpowered with a sense of His love, that I cannot contain it. Oh, how loving! Oh, how gracious the Lord is to me!" In this elevated frame of mind, he continued during the day, manifesting no evidence of immediate nearness to glory — other than the immediate nearness of glory to him.
He was now quite on the verge of heaven, and yet, so gentle was the tread of death, that no one suspected that the messenger was so near. The royal chariot was at the door — but with a descent so noiseless and invisible, the most wakeful ear failed to catch the angel's summons, "The Master has come, and is calling for you!" But Jesus was there, preparing the soul of His ransomed one, for its celestial journey. The earthen vessel could contain no more. The Divine communications of love and glory must be withheld — or the capacity to receive must be enlarged. "I am overpowered with His love!" was his joyous exclamation. And now that his spirit was replenished to its utmost bounds of enjoyment, and its fluttering wings were uplifted for their flight, "Before I realized it, I found myself in the royal chariot with my Beloved!" (Song of Sol. 6:12.)
He retired to rest at his accustomed hour, and in his usual health. The warmth of affection, the grateful sense of kindness, and the polished courtesy of address which had marked his fellowship through life — shone forth with undimmed luster at its close. While sitting upon the side of the bed preparing for his night's repose; to his beloved wife, in acknowledgment of some little attention to his comfort, with his usual warmth of grateful expression, he said, "Oh, how kind you are to me!" After a few moments' pause, he turned his head, and fixing his eyes intently upon her, with a look beaming with indescribable affection and tenderness, he exclaimed, with a voice of extraordinary energy and emphasis, "May the Lord bless you, my love!"
And then, as in an instant, the curtain which unveiled to his eye the glories and blessedness of the eternal world — enshrouded forever from his view all terrestrial objects! Death-struck, he bowed his head upon his pillow, gathered up his feet in his bed — and fell asleep in Jesus, on Thursday evening, at half-past ten.
"How blessed the righteous when he dies!
When sinks a weary soul to rest,
How mildly beam the closing eyes;
How gently heaves the expiring breast!
"So fades a summer cloud away;
So sinks the gale when storms are o'er;
So gently shuts the eye of day;
So dies a wave upon the shore.
"A holy quiet reigns around,
A calm which life nor death destroys;
Nothing disturbs that peace profound
Which his unfettered soul enjoys.
"Life's duty done, as sinks the clay,
Light from its load the spirit flies,
While heaven and earth combine to say,
How blessed the righteous when he dies!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The second illustration, though it cannot strictly be denominated an example of converting grace — yet presents in a light so profoundly solemn — the sin and danger of trifling with Providence, of stifling the convictions of conscience, and of slighting the warning voice of God — that I cannot refrain from recording it.
He was the son of an Episcopal minister, and an officer in the regiment. Handsome in person, amiable in disposition, and fascinating in address — he was a general favorite — admired, loved, and courted by all. His brilliant but thoughtless career was suddenly arrested by disease. His bed of sickness, to all appearance and expectation, threatened to be his bed of death. Human skill was baffled; remedies failed; and his doctors secretly relinquished all hope of saving their patient. Anxious to know their opinion of his case, one of them tenderly but candidly replied to his searching inquiry — that he must die!
Solemn sentence for an unprepared man! Dreadful announcement for one whose whole life would seem to have been spent upon the assumption that death was a fiction, and eternity a fable! The news burst like a loud clap of thunder upon his soul. "I am going to die!" was his terrifying exclamation, "and hell will be my portion forever! Oh, if God would but look in mercy upon me, and raise me up again — what a different life would I live! Oh, that He would but spare me one month — if that month were spent in a dungeon, I would be content; for if I die now — I shall be lost forever!"
God saw his alarm, heard his cry, and in His long-suffering goodness — granted his request. He was spared. But the return of health — was the return of all his former thoughtlessness. His resurrection, as from the grave — was the resurrection of all his sins. His alarm vanished with his sickness — and all concern for his soul was lost in folly, gaiety, and dissipation! The result proved that in the dreadful prospect of soon appearing as a guilty sinner before the righteous God — his natural conscience alone had been alarmed, apart from the renewing work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. There had been no genuine repentance; no true conviction of, or sorrow for, sin; no real contrition of spirit; no prostration of the soul before the cross of Jesus. The storm was allayed — but not with the peace which God gives; the alarm of the conscience subsided — but not with the atoning blood which Jesus sprinkles.
In a word, he arose from that bed of sickness, and came forth from that chamber of horror — still the slave of Satan and the lover of sin — an unregenerate, unconverted man! God gave him "space to repent," and he "repented not." But "he who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy!" God was about to verify, in the case of this young officer, the truth of this solemn threatening.
Some time after his recovery he joined a mirthful gathering of soldiers. The whole night was spent in cards and wine, in folly and vanity. As morning broke upon them — a bright morning in summer — it was proposed that before they separated, they should go to the beach and swim. On returning from the water, a suit of clothes was found without an owner. They belonged to the young officer! Alas! he was not there to claim them! Overpowered with wine, and unobserved by his companions — he had sunk beneath the waves, and was seen no more!
"But since you rejected Me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all My advice and would not accept My rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you! Then they will call to me — but I will not answer; they will look for me — but will not find Me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept My advice and spurned My rebuke — they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes!" Proverbs 1:24-31
And what, reader, is the all-important lesson we would have you draw from this appalling fact? Even the necessity of a thorough conversion of your soul to God. There may be alarm, there may be tears, there may be anxiety, there may be a seeking after God — and yet, unaccompanied with any real conviction of sin, and not resulting in a conversion of the heart. While the hand of God in terror is upon you, while bereavement softens, or adversity humbles, or affliction wounds, or sickness wastes, or death threatens — and visions of eternity shroud from the view the scenes and attractions of earth — there will appear to be a sincere concern for the salvation of the soul! The eye is suffused with tears, the conscience smites, the bosom heaves, the lips utter the prayer of confession and the supplication for mercy — and amidst the anguish of the soul, and the excitement of the moment, the pious resolve and the solemn vow to "live a better life" are made.
But how transient proves the alarm, how fading and evanescent the promise and resolve! Where now — are the tears, the sighs, the repentance, the prayer, the vow? Alas! all this "goodness has passed away like the morning cloud and the early dew!" Oh, do not be deceived! Again do I implore you — do not rest short of true conversion! Be satisfied with nothing except the convincing, renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in your soul! Place no reliance upon the hope of a deathbed repentance. See how fallacious is the hope! Cherish it — and it may prove fatal to your eternal happiness!
Seek the Lord now. Seek Him while life, and health, and reason are yours. Incline your ear to the gracious invitation — "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while he is near! Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Thus seeking Christ — you shall find Him.
In Jesus, God is reconciled, and is at peace with the returning penitent. His language is — "Let him take hold of My strength that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me."
Jesus is God's strength. "Christ the power of God." Take hold of Jesus by faith, and God will be at peace with you. Jesus only can make peace between God and your soul. "He is our peace." All is peace around the cross. The blood flowing there is "peace-speaking blood." Get beneath its shelter — and from the dark region of the curse, and guilt, and woe — you will pass into the sunshine of God's pardoning love!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From this dreadful example of God's righteous judgment — let us turn to a pleasing instance of His saving grace.
"Captain Clark" was an officer in the British army, and was on his way to rejoin his regiment in India at the time of his remarkable conversion. On landing at the Cape of Good Hope, the ship was joined by a "Captain Preston", who had been staying at the Cape for the recovery of his health, and availed himself of the opportunity of returning to the East. Captain Preston was a man of God. His pious character was soon discovered by the officers on board. Holy and devout in his spirit, zealous in his Lord's work, and active in his plans for the spiritual welfare of the souls who sailed with him — it was not possible that his religion should be concealed, or that he should escape the storm of persecution, which all who will live godly in Christ shall suffer. That storm soon broke furiously upon him. Indignant at his efforts of Christian usefulness, and self-rebuked by the holiness of his life — the officers went in a body to the commander of the vessel, and warmly remonstrated with him for receiving on board his ship a "Methodist preacher," as they termed Captain Preston.
The commander replied, "Gentlemen, it will be a strange thing if so many of you cannot keep one man in order." This, they said, they were resolved to do. On the following day, which happened to be the Lord's Day, with a view of annoying Captain Preston, and showing their contempt for his religion, they brought out the cards, and prepared to spend the day in a scene of carnal dissipation. On going to his room for the cards, Captain Clark, the subject of our narrative, observed the godly Captain Preston, bent on a far different mission, ascend to the deck with a Bible in his hand, and a bundle of religious tracts under his arm. Anxious to know what his object could be, Captain Clark followed him. On reaching the fore-part of the ship, the holy man assembled the soldiers and the crew around him, read to them a portion of God's Word, addressed them in a solemn and impressive manner, and concluded by distributing among them the tracts. At the close of the service, the "enmity of the carnal mind" in Captain Clark, rose to the highest pitch, and he resolved to embrace the first opportunity of insulting Captain Preston.
On both returning to the quarter-deck, he attempted the execution of his design. Captain Preston turning meekly round, bent upon him a look expressive of the tenderest pity and compassion, and then passed on. But that look pierced his rebellious heart to its core. There was a power in that glance, not of man — but of God. It was as an arrow winged by the arm of the Spirit, and lodged deeply within his heart! Instantly leaving the deck, he flew to his cabin, fastened the door, and exclaimed — "Oh, that look! What have I done! That godly man was doing his duty as a Christian, while I was acting the part of a devil!"
Then throwing himself across his berth, he wept like a child. Overwhelmed with a sense of his sins, he at length fell upon his knees, and poured out his soul in prayer to God for forgiveness. Missed by his companions, they went to his room, and sought to rally him. But all was in vain. Neither raillery nor entreaty could induce him to rejoin their society. For three days and three nights he remained in his cabin in retirement, and in the greatest distress of mind, from a sense of his lost condition as a sinner.
A gale of strong wind rendering it necessary to close all the windows, he was driven to the deck for air. The first person whom he encountered was the holy Captain Preston.
On finding himself by his side, he exclaimed — "Oh, my dear sir, can you pardon me for my rude conduct towards you on Sunday?" Extending his hand, Captain Preston replied, "Do not mention it, my dear sir; I am sure it was done without a thought."
From that moment Captain Preston took the penitent officer by the hand, led him to the Savior of sinners, unfolded to him the great redemption wrought out by the Son of God for the guilty, pointed him to the "blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin" unfolded to him the nature of that faith in Christ which brings pardon and peace, and showed to him "how God was in Christ reconciling sinners to Himself," and was the "justifier of all who believed in Jesus."
On arriving in India, Captain Preston furnished him with pious books, provided him with letters of introduction to different Christians and missionaries at every place at which he would have to stop on his way to his regiment, and parted from him as a fellow-voyager now to the port of eternal rest.
The remainder of his life evidenced the reality and sincerity of his conversion. Captain Clark became a decided Christian, "old things had passed away — and all things became new;" and lived for years to adorn the holy profession which he made. He recently departed to the eternal world in the faith and hope of the gospel of Christ. But who can read this narrative and not feel the touching force of those words — "Oh, that look!" It was but a look. Not a sentence was uttered, nor a word spoken; no feeling of resentment dwelt in that bosom; no expression of upbraiding gleamed in that eye. It was but a look! But, "Oh, that look!" How meek its glance, how tender its expression, how forgiving its language. It was as a sword penetrating to the depth of the soul — so exquisitely piercing is the look of love.
Such, too, was the look which Jesus bent upon His faithless apostle — "And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter." And that look, which no painter has ever been able to imitate, dissolved Peter's heart: "And he went out and wept bitterly."
And such is the look of pardoning love with which Jesus is prepared to welcome every poor wanderer returning to Him in humiliation, and in penitence, and in faith.
Christian reader, you may know something in your experience, of the "offence of the cross." You may be called to endure shame and disgrace, insult and loss — for Christ. But learn instruction from this incident. Meet every such assault with meek endurance, with patient suffering, and with kind forgiveness. "Overcome evil — with good." Your adorable Lord and Master endured for you the greatest indignity and insult. He was spit upon, the hair was plucked off from His face, He was scourged, mocked, derided, and was slain! And yet, "He went as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent — so opened he not his mouth." "Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace." You may be derided, insulted, and persecuted for the name of Christ; nevertheless, a look of meekness, a glance of love — may disarm the scoffer, and lay him low at the feet of Jesus. Oh, that prayer of Christ's — "Father, forgive them — for they know not what they do!"
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"Major Mason" was what the world would style a good-hearted, noble-minded man. Elegant in appearance, generous in disposition, chivalrous in spirit, and distinguished in the service — he was an especial favorite with his brother officers.
"But he was a leper." 2 Kings 5:1. In other words, he was an unregenerate man. His heart was hostile to every feeling and sentiment of true, evangelical religion. Although the brother of an eminently godly minister of the Church of England, who frequently and faithfully addressed him on the all-important subject of his soul's salvation — his carnal mind still remained in deep and determined enmity against God, pronouncing it "fanaticism in his brother, which induced him to annoy him with his pious cant!"
But we often find that Providence is the handmaid of grace. In this instance it was remarkably true. While on a visit to his mother and sisters, he was induced to accompany them on the Lord's Day to church. His feelings and conduct on this occasion were sadly dissonant with the sacredness of the place and the solemnities of the service. On the clergyman ascending the pulpit, he remarked to his sister — "Did you ever see such an ugly rascal in all your life?"
But the man of God bore a message from the high court of heaven to his soul. He announced his theme: "They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten." Jeremiah 50:5. He then proceeded to unfold his message with scriptural clearness and affectionate fidelity.
He portrayed the character of a soul under a deep sense of its lost state, asking the way to Christ with full purpose of heart, and earnest desire to be saved. The influence and the motives which would awaken and give force to such an inquiring, seeking state of mind — he referred to the Spirit of God moving upon the heart, convincing it of sin. He also spoke of the curse and condemnation under which the soul outside of Christ lay — the reality of a dying bed — and, after death, the solemnities of the day of judgment!
Changing his theme, he spoke in tones of melting tenderness of Jesus — of His great love in dying for sinners, of His ability to save to the uttermost, and of His willingness to receive the vilest who fled to Him in faith. He thus enlarged upon the nature, fullness, and unchangeableness of that covenant of grace in which they have an interest, who join themselves forever to the Lord.
The attention of Major Mason was riveted throughout the discourse. His mind was filled with astonishment and awe. All was new and startling to him. Such truths he never before had heard, such emotions he had never experienced, such convictions he had never felt. It was indeed a message from God to his soul. With a bruised and bleeding heart, he hastened to the vestry at the close of the service, disclosed his feelings to the minister, and solicited the copy of his sermon. Oh, how changed was the appearance of that minister to him now! With the Church of old he could exclaim, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace; who brings good tidings of good."
The clergyman, on hearing of the blessed effects which his discourse had produced upon the mind of Major Mason, instantly offered all the spiritual instruction and comfort which his inquiring mind and anxious heart required. "He brought him to Jesus." After repeated interviews and much prayerful teaching, he had the happiness of seeing the Major — a rejoicing believer in Christ, joining, himself to the Lord in a perpetual covenant. The change was marvelous, and such as the grace of God only could have produced.
The once mirthful, thoughtless, scoffing Major Mason — now became the holy, humble, zealous disciple of Jesus, sitting at His feet, clothed, and in his right mind. He directly turned his attention to the conversion of others. Testifying to all whom he met — what "great things God had done for his own soul" — he sought to bring them to the same salvation that was in Christ Jesus. Retiring from the army, he went to reside in Edinburgh. It was there the message which summoned him to his Father's house reached him. His departure was sudden — but his soul was ready. His death was instantaneous — but it was a translation to glory. On coming out of his garden one day, he seated himself in his chair, leaned back, and expired!
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The conversion of "Captain Barnes" was not less striking. It forcibly illustrates the great truth, that "salvation is of the Lord," and that bent upon bringing His people to a knowledge of Himself, God can accomplish His purpose in the employment of any means, and in a way often most improbable to human wisdom, which His sovereignty might see fit to adopt.
Captain Barnes possessed all the attributes of a man of the world. He was admirably fitted by nature to participate in its scenes and to contribute to its enjoyments. He danced gracefully, retained his box at the opera, and was the attraction at every mirthful party in the regiment. At the time that most momentous event of his life took place which we are now recording, his regiment was quartered at Auberge de Castile, Malta, commanding a beautiful view of the harbor.
Standing one day at his window, he beheld a ship sailing out of the harbor, and stretching for the ocean. As he gazed upon the beautiful object, he observed her suddenly tremble, the masts went overboard — and she sank! She had struck upon a rock; and so severe was the blow, that she instantly went down.
This solemn spectacle was the voice of God to his conscience. Such was the arousing, convincing effect upon his feelings, that he instantly fell upon his knees, and exclaimed — "Such will be the shipwreck of my soul, O Lord, if you do not undertake for me!" From that moment, he became an earnest seeker of the Lord Jesus. Seeking, he found the Savior; and, finding the Savior — he found the chief good, the satisfying good, and he was happy.
To the surprise and regret of his companions — he withdrew from the world, and attached himself to the little band of Christians assembling together for the worship of God in the island. His friends mourned that he had imbibed "fanatic opinions," which had so "spoiled him for the world;" but he had found an all-satisfying, sanctifying good in Christ, and from the moment that this precious treasure obtained a lodgement in his heart — in the face of scorn, and obloquy, and reproach — he "forsook all, and followed Jesus in the narrow way."
Reader, are you not afraid of the shipwreck of your soul? You are voyaging to eternity! There are sunken rocks, many and treacherous, in your way. The most concealed and fatal of all — is self-righteousness! Ah! upon this, many a soul has struck and perished! Beware of it. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven." Solemn words! May the Holy Spirit engrave them upon your heart. These words cut up, root and branch, the religion of vast numbers who are dreaming of heaven. But no righteousness of your own — not the most splendid, costly, or perfect — will ever take you there! A hope founded upon a salvation by works — will disappoint its possessor in death, and fill the soul with confusion and remorse throughout eternity!
One righteousness, and one alone — will save you. "The Lord our righteousness" is the name of Him who wrought it out, and who freely imputes it to all those that believe. The following are the words which declare these important truths — "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood!" Romans 3:19-25. Here is a summary of the gospel plan of salvation. Believe with your whole heart the truths contained in these verses — and you shall be saved.
It may be that your "mouth is stopped," and that you feel yourself "guilty before God." Is it so? — then welcome the good news of the gospel — "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." The very God before whom you tremble — is prepared to accept you in the righteousness of His dear Son. The Lord Jesus, whom you may have "despised and rejected," stands with this divine and spotless robe of righteousness in His hands, prepared to cast it over your soul, hiding every sinful spot. The Holy Spirit, whom you have slighted and grieved, is prepared to produce that faith in your heart, which will enable you to believe to the saving of your soul.
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"Captain Nagel" and his wife were returning from a walk to the barracks, and had occasion to pass James Street Chapel, Isle of Wight, as the congregation were assembling for worship. Importuned by his wife to enter, assured that he would meet with a 'friendly congregation, and hear a beautiful sermon,' having herself occasionally been there — after much reluctance he consented. Dressed in his regimentals, the conspicuousness of his appearance and the fear of being recognized, induced him to select a part of the sanctuary which would screen him from observation. The pulpit on that occasion, was occupied by Rev. Guyer of Ryde, who announced his text from Luke 10:42 — "Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
The timid and restless mind of Captain Nagel was soon interested and absorbed in the theme, and his whole attention riveted upon the preacher, from whom he did not withdraw his eyes until the sermon was concluded. That sermon was the saving message of God to his soul. Accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit — it roused him to the consciousness of his lost condition as a sinner, and of his need of a better righteousness than his own to justify him before God. He retired from the sanctuary to his room in the barracks, under the most pungent conviction of sin — there to pour out his aroused, alarmed, agonized soul to God. For several nights, sleep was a stranger to his pillow — those nights being spent in incessant supplication for pardoning mercy.
But the morning of joy followed the night of weeping. The light of the glorious gospel of the blessed God broke in upon his mind; Jesus was revealed to him as having come into the world to save sinners, even the worst! He believed the message, received the Savior with his heart by faith, and peace with God through Christ became the divine and heavenly inhabitant of his heart.
The change thus wrought in his soul was astonishing — such indeed as the Holy Spirit of God only could produce. Previously to his hearing the gospel from the lips of Christ's minister — Captain Nagel thought himself a good Christian. He was strict in saying his prayers, and in reading "the verses for the day," and knew not that in a spiritual sense — he was "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" — a poor, lost sinner, needing just such a Savior as Jesus is.
From that hour, the gallant Captain Nagel became a "good soldier of Jesus Christ," and for more than twenty-five years continued a consistent and exemplary Christian," valiant for the truth," and zealous in endeavoring to bring others to Jesus.
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It is possible that these pages may be honored with the perusal of some who are contemplating the army or navy, or are already holding commissions in the military. Permit the writer — himself belonging to a military family — to address you pointedly but affectionately upon your prospects for eternity. Your profession is proverbially one of religious thoughtlessness. Although beneath its scarlet and gold — its brilliant and fascinating surface — there lie concealed toils and anxieties, perils and privations — which often exhaust the frame, sicken the heart, and throw a shade of sadness over the spirit. Yours is yet a profession whose duties and recreations are of such a nature — presenting at one glance a combination of opposites the most striking — as to stifle all religious feeling, and to dissipate all serious thought.
There is not, perhaps, another calling in life in which the great concerns of eternity are more entirely forgotten, and the salvation of the soul more fearfully imperiled — than yours. Each department partakes of this. In the mess-hall — all is conviviality; on parade — all is show; in the field and on the deck — all is worldly ambition. There rarely, if ever, does the searching and solemn inquiry obtrude itself, "Where will I be when I die?"
And yet God has sent you many and affecting admonitions and warnings. You have seen your companions — the manly and the brave, the talented and the gay — fall at your side, struck down by the ravages of disease, or by the desolations of war! You have seen them exchange their fancy uniforms — for the pale shroud; and forego their prospects of promotion — for the humiliation of the grave! Hearts stout and valiant, which never quailed before — now succumb to the will of a foe, whose mercy they may not bribe, and whose power they could not resist. Oh, the vanity of all human hope — and of all earthly glory! What is man in his power and pride, in his pomp and glory — when death takes away his soul? "He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down!"
But in what school will you learn to form a just estimate of your character as a sinful being — of your destiny as an accountable being? Where would you fill your mind with a sense of the overpowering greatness, grandeur, and solemnity of eternity? Not amidst the scenes of earthly pomp and pageantry, of carnal mirth and dissipation! Not in the camp resounding with martial music and glittering with a thousand banners waving proudly to the sun. Not in the theater, with its play actors! Not at the opera, where music enchants! Not in the ball-room, where beauty captivates, and wealth dazzles, and admiration intoxicates, and flattery ensnares! No, not there! From those resorts and scenes — you must flee as from a tremendous vortex that has swallowed up its tens of thousands of souls, and is each day drawing within its treacherous bosom, its thousands more!
But oh, could one realizing apprehension of the eternal world fasten itself upon your mind — could you form any adequate conception of what the loss of the soul is — you would hasten your escape from a catastrophe so appalling, and from a doom so tremendous! You would not pause — until you had found Jesus, the crucified One, you would shelter yourself in Him from the "wrath which is to come." No longer be beguiled by the world that is "passing away." Its rank and its wealth, its honors and its pleasures, its pride and place are soon to perish in the dust — yes, are perishing now. But your soul is imperishable — that lives on, and lives on forever! Death triumphs over everything but the soul — this it cannot conquer.
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A few observations, in closing, addressed to the believing soldier. There are many such, we rejoice to think, compared with the history of the army in former years. How far it is the duty of a truly converted and spiritual man to take up the profession of war, or to relinquish it when called of God to be a follower of the "Prince of Peace," are questions which we do not here attempt to discuss. They must be decided in the court of a conscience enlightened by the truth of God. But there is one thing that cannot admit of a moment's doubt — the duty of a Christian man, called to a knowledge of the truth in the army, to glorify God who has chosen him to be a "good soldier of Jesus Christ" in the "calling wherein he is called."
Dear brother, allow me to remind you, that you hold a high commission, such as no temporal potentate could place in your hand. You are commissioned by the "King of kings" — you wear His uniform — you wield His sword — you defend His cause — you combat with His enemies, and beneath his banner you are fighting your way to "glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life."
You will, as a Christian man, desiring to "do that which is good and right in the eyes of the Lord God," find your present path painfully trying to your Christian principles. The circle in which you move, the companions with whom you associate, the etiquette which you are expected to observe, the customs which you are compelled to respect — in a word, the whole routine of your military profession, must exert an influence upon your Christianity, which is adverse to its spirituality and its growth.
Thus, the temptations to inconsistencies of Christian profession, to a shrinking from the offence of Christ's cross, to conform to the habits, and to compromise with the religion of the world — will assail you on every hand, and with no ordinary power.
Hence the necessity and importance of your being clad with the entire panoply of truth, "of putting on the whole armor of God," that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, against the seductions of the world, and against the carnality and deceitfulness of your own heart — which my brother, your greatest foe!
Thus armed for the spiritual battle — your next step will be to draw truly and distinctly the line of demarcation — the Word of God has already drawn it — between your Christianity and the world. And then, having done this, to take your position as a "good soldier of Jesus Christ."
In taking this decided, bold, uncompromising stand in the army as a Christian man — you must be prepared for suffering. See how faithfully the Holy Spirit forewarns you of this: "If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus — he shall suffer persecution." "Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach."
Our dear and blessed Lord on several occasions reminded His followers, that a profession of attachment to His person, to His cause, and to His truth — involved a "yoke," a "burden," a "cross," — implying obedience, sacrifice, suffering. All this you must expect. But it will be your joy, your boast, your glory, as it was with the disciples of old — "And they went out rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Your choice will be that of Moses, "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward!"
And oh, how great the reward, how verdant the garland, how bright the crown — which await the faithful soldier of Jesus, the "Captain of our salvation!" Who would not enlist in His ranks? Who would not wear His armor? Who would not fight under His standard? Who would not fall, if need be, upon the field, sacrificing life itself in His cause?
Permit me to remind you, my brother, that the great secret of your advance in the divine life, and of your victory in the Christian warfare, will be found to lie in the habitual closeness of your walk with God. Be a man of secret prayer, and you have a coat of armor, proof against all the assaults of your enemy. Prayer will make you skillful in the fight. Prayer will make you "valiant for the truth." Prayer will polish your armor, and sharpen your sword, and make you "terrible as an army with banners" to your foes.
Through the channel of prayer — will flow into your soul all needed grace from Christ's inexhaustible fullness. Going, in simple prayer, empty-handed to Jesus — you shall return laden with all blessings, as from a rich armory, as from a full storehouse, as from an overflowing fountain. Living out of yourself, and above yourself, and in simple prayer and faith upon the fullness of all grace treasured up in Christ — you will be strengthened in all weakness, shielded in all assault, comforted in all sorrow, and be enabled to "deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."
Fight on! The Lord — He it is, who fights for you. Fight on! All your enemies — Christ has conquered. Fight on! The Captain of your salvation has secured to you the victory. Fight on! Like "Gad, a troop may overcome you — but you shall overcome at the last." Fight on! Heaven is before you; the crown glistens, the palm waves, and the shout of victory is already upon your lips. Fight on! And soon, with an aged Christian warrior, who, with sword in hand, fell gloriously upon the red battle-field, you too shall exclaim — "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day!" Then, over your grave, how sweet will sound the song of the Christian warrior triumphant in death —
"Servant of God! well done!
Rest from your beloved employ;
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter your Master's joy!"