« PreviousContinue »
they could be of no use to him; and he found, too late, that he had laid up no treasure in heaven. He felt great concern at his past life, but for nothing more than his unkindness to Mr. Simpson. He charged me to find you out, and let you know, that by his will he bequeathed you five hundred pounds, as some compensation. He died in great agonies; declaring, with his last breath, that if he could live his life over again, he would serve God, and strictly observe the Sabbath.
Mrs. Betty, who had listened attentively to the letter, jumped up, clapped her hands, and cried out, "Now all is for the best, and I shall see you a lady once more." "I am, indeed, thankful for this mercy," said Mrs. Simpson, "and am glad that riches were not sent me till I had learned, as I humbly hope, to make a right use of them. But come, let us go in, for I am very coldj and find I have sat too long in the night air."
Betty was now ready enough to acknowledge the hand of Providence in this prosperous event, though she was blind to it when the dispensation was more dark. Next morning, she went early to visit Mrs. Simpson, but not seeing her below, she went up stairs, where, to her great sorrow, she found her confined to her bed by a fever, caught the night before by sitting so late on the bench, reading the letter, and talking it over. Betty was now more ready to cry out against Providence than ever. "What! to catch a fever while you were reading that very letter which told you about your good fortune; which would have enabled you to live like a lady, as you are. I never will believe this is for the best—to be deprived of life, just as you were beginning to enjoy it!"
"Betty," said Mrs. Simpson, " we must learn not to rate health nor life itself too highly. There is little in life, for its own sake, to be so fond of. As a good archbishop used to say, 'tis but the same thing over again, or probably worse; so many more nights and days, summers and winters; a repetition of the same pleasures, but with less relish for them; a return of the same or greater pains, but with less strength, and perhaps less patience, to bear them." "WeU," replied Betty, "I did think that Providence was at last giving you your reward." "Reward!" cried Mrs. Simpson. "O, no! my merciful Father will not put me off with so poor a portion as wealth; I feel I shall die." "It is very hard, indeed," said Betty, "so good as you are, to be taken off just as your prosperity was beginning." "You think I am good just now," said Mrs. Simpson, " because I am prosperous. Success is no sure mark of God's favor; at this rate, you, who judge by outward things, would have thought Herod a better man than John the Baptist; and if I may be allowed to say so, you, on your principles, that the sufferer is the sinner, would have believed Pontius Pilate higher in God's favor than the Savior whom he condemned to die for your sins and mine."
In a few days, Mrs. Betty found that her new friend was dying, and though she was struck at her resignation, she could not forbear murmuring that so good a woman should be taken away at the very instant in which she came into possession of so much money. "Betty," said Mrs. Simpson in a feeble voice, "I believe you love me dearly; you would do any thing to cure me; yet you do not love me so well as God loves me, though you would raise me up, and He is putting a period to my life. He has never sent me a single stroke which was not absolutely necessary for me. You, if you could restore me, might be laying me open to some temptation from which God, by removing, will deliver me. Your kindness in making this world so smooth for me, I might forever have deplored in a world of misery. God's grace in afflicting me, will hereafter be the subject of my praises in a world of blessedness. Betty," added the dying woman, " do you really think that I am going to a place of rest and joy eternal 1" "To be sure I do," said Betty. "Do you firmly believe that I am going to the assembly of the first-born; to the spirits of just men made perfect; to God, the Judge of all; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant 1" "Iam sure you are," said Betty. "And yet," resumed she, "you would detain me from all this happiness: and you think my merciful Father is using me unkindly by removing me from a world of sin, and sorrow, and temptation, to such joys as have not entered into the heart of man to conceive; while it would have better suited your notions of reward to defer my entrance into the blessedness of heaven, that I might have enjoyed a legacy of a few hundred pounds! Believe my dying words—All is For The Best."
Mrs. Simpson expired soon after, in a frame of mind which convinced her new friend that " God's ways are not as our ways."
CURE FOR MELANCHOLY;*
SHOWING THE WAY TO DO MUCH GOOD WITH LITTLE MONEY.
Mrs. Jones was the widow of a great merchant. She was liberal to the poor, as far as giving them money went; but as she was too much taken up with the world, she did not spare so much of her time and thoughts about doing good as she ought; so that her money was often ill bestowed. In the late troubles, Mr. Jones, who had lived in an expensive manner, failed; and he took his misfortunes so much to heart, that he fell sick and died. Mrs. Jones retired, on a very narrow income, to the small village of Weston, where she seldom went out, except to church. Though a pious woman, she was too apt to indulge her sorrow; and though she did not neglect to read and pray, yet she gave up a great part of her time to melancholy thoughts, and grew quite inactive. She well knew how sinful it would be for her to seek a remedy for her grief in worldly pleasures, which is a way many people take to cure afflictions; but she was not aware how wrong it was to weep away that time which might have been better spent in drying the tears of others.
It was happy for her, that Mr. Simpson, the vicar of 'Weston, was a pious man.t One Sunday he happened to preach on the good Samaritan. It was a charity sermon, and there was a collection at the door. He called on Mrs. Jones after church, and found her in tears. She told him she had been much moved by his discourse, and she wept because she had so little to give to the plate; for though she felt very keenly for the poor in these dear times, yet she could not assist them. "Indeed, sir," added she, " I never so much regretted the loss of my fortune as this afternoon, when you bade us 'go and do likewise.'" "You do not," replied Mr. Simpson, " enter into the spirit of our Savior's parable, if you think you cannot go and do likewise without being rich. In the case of the Samaritan, you may observe, that charity was bestowed more by kindness, and care, and medicine, than by money. You, madam, were as much concerned in the duties inculcated in my sermon, as Sir John with his great estate; and, to speak plainly, 1 have been sometimes surprised that you should not put yourself in the way of being more useful."
* This was first printed under the title of The Cottage Cook.
Weston, near Bath, where all that is related here, and in the subsequen narratives connected with this story, actually occurred; and became the mode' of imitation in other places. See the First Report of the Ladies' Society for the Education and Employment of the Female Poor, 1805.—Ed.
"Sir," said Mrs. Jones, " I am grown shy of the poor since I have nothing to give them." "Nothing, madam!" replied the clergyman. "Do you call your time, your talents, your kind offices, nothing? Doing good does not so much depend on the riches, as on the heart and the will. The servant who improved his two talents was equally commended by his lord with him who had ten; and it was not poverty, but selfish indolence, which drew down so severe a condemnation on him who had only one. It is by our conformity to Christ, that we must prove ourselves Christians. You, madam, are not called upon to work miracles, nor to preach the gospel; yet you may, in your measure and degree, resemble your Savior by going about and doing good. A plain Christian, who has sense and leisure, by his pious exertions and prudent zeal, may, in a subordinate way, be helping on the cause of religion, as well as of charity; and greatly promote, by his exertions and example, the labors of the parish minister. The generality, it is true, have but an under-part to act; but to all, God assigns some part, and he will require of all whose lot is not very laborious, that they not only work out their own salvation, but that they promote the cause of religion, and the comfort arid salvation of others.
"To those who would undervalue works of mercy as evidences of piety, I would suggest a serious attention to the solemn appeal which the Savior of the world makes, in that awful representation of the day of judgment contained in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, both to those who have neglected and to those who have performed such works; performed them, I mean, on right principles. With what a gracious condescension does he promise to accept the smallest kindness done to his suffering members for his sake! You, madam, I will venture to say, might do more good than the richest man in the parish could do by merely giving his money. Instead of sitting here, brooding over your misfortunes, which are past remedy, bestir yourself to find out ways of doing much good with little money; or even without any money at all. You have lately studied economy for yourself; instruct your poor neighbors in that important art. They want it almost as much as they want money. You have influence with the few rich persons in the parish; exert that influence. Betty, my housekeeper, shall assist you in any thing in which she can be useful. Try this for one year, and if you then tell me that you should have better shown your love to God and man, and been a happier woman, had you continued gloomy and inactive, I shall be much surprised, and shall consent to your resuming your present way of life." The sermon and this discourse together, made so deep an impression on Mrs. Jones, that she formed a new plan of life, and set about it at once, as every body does who is in earnest. Her chief aim was the happiness of her poor neighbors in the next world; but she was also very desirous to promote their present comfort; and indeed the kindness she showed to their bodily wants gave her such an access to their houses and hearts, as made them better disposed to receive religious counsel and instruction. Mrs. Jones was much respected by all the rich persons in Weston, who had known her in her prosperity. Sir John was thoughtless, lavish, and indolent; the squire was over-frugal, but active, sober, and not ill-natured. Sir John loved pleasure; the squire loved money. Sir John was one of those popular sort of people who get much praise, and yet do little good; who subscribe with equal readiness to a cricket-match or a charity-school; who take it for granted, that the poor are to be indulged with bell-ringing and bonfires, and to be made drunk at Christmas; this, Sir John called being kind to them; but he thought it was folly to teach them, and madness to think of reforming them. He was, however, always ready to give his guinea; but I question whether he would have given up his hunting and his gaming, to have cured every grievance in the land. He had that sort of constitutional good-nature which, if he had lived much within sight of misery, would have led him to be liberal; but he had that selfish love of ease, which prompted him to give to undeserving objects, rather than be at the pains to search out the deserving. He neither discriminated between the degrees of distress, nor the characters of the distressed. His idea of charity was, that a rich man should occasionally give a little of his superfluous wealth to the first object that occurred; but he had no conception that it was his duty so to husband his wealth, and limit his expenses, as to supply a regular fund for established charity. And this utmost stretch of his benevolence never led him to suspect that he was called to abridge himself in the most idle article of indulgence, for