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expressed much surprise that she should be willing to die while Divine consolations were withheld from her. “What,” replied this child of God, “ shall I not trust my Father to put me to bed in the dark !”
Methinks the Lord would say to such a one,“O daughter, great is thy faith!”
How simple and beautiful her conception of dying—being put to bed by her Father !
To all who trust in the redeeming God, it is not death to die, it is only sleeping. Death does not touch the soul, it only puts the flesh to rest till the great morning breaks when God shall call His child up to live in everlasting day. And so God superintends the act of dying. It is not left to itself; it is not even left to angel ministrants. God Himself puts His child to bed, for “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
There is no haphazard, then, about death, come how it may, come when it may, come where it may. There is no such thing as “accidental death.” The true child of God sees that it is all fixed and appointed of the Father-the how, the when, the where! The circumstances may appear to be “accidental,” the event itself may seem to be premature, the manner of it trying ; but it never comes to pass without God's wise forethought, without His loving purpose. He is never away when His child dies. He is there, “ putting His child to bed.”
He was with Moses alone on the mountain-top. God was his only attendant. The rabbis used to say that God drew his soul away with a kiss:
“Softly his fainting flesh he lay
Upon his Maker's breast;
And laid his flesh to rest.
In God's own arms he left the breath
Which God's own Spirit gave :
Oh, what a noble grave !”
And so with every believer. God draws his soul away with His good-night kiss, and lays his flesh to rest. Beautiful dying, when to die is to be put to bed by our Father !
What, then, though God sometimes puts His child to bed in the dark! Let the dying one but feel his Father's hand to be upon him, and he will be comforted, though he cannot see his Father's face. He knows Him to be there, and though he would fain see Him, yet “ though he see Him not” he will trust Him to do all that is necessary for him, and that will secure his final salvation. So he will softly whisper, even in the dark, “ Thou makest all my bed in my sickness.” “ Thou carest for me with a great care.” “I will trust, and not be afraid.” “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
There have been devoted Christians whose dying hours have been dark. “The valley of the shadow of death” has deepened into gloom. Physical causes may sometimes account for it. Languor, lassitude, may cause depression, and even distress of soul. I call to mind one such, and he an eminent minister, whose last days were spent in darkness, though at length he emerged out of the shadow, saying, in reply to solicitous inquiries, “ I feel greatly relieved.”
“To the upright there arises,” sometimes in death, “ light in the darkness”; but when it is not so it is well that faith should make the child of God content that his Father should put him to bed in the dark, being fully persuaded that there is for him on the other side of the cloud a home of everlasting light, and that light glory.
Once I went up to the death-chamber of a godly man, one who had been a “good minister of Jesus Christ.” There he lay in the heavy breathing of unconsciousness. It seemed to be dark, but I wanted to know whether it were so or not. So I took one of his prostrate hands in mine to try and rouse him to consciousness, and then began to quote that text, “ I know whom I have believed." Up went the other hand, and kept waving, in token that it was
even so. Then he sank back into sleep. There was light in the soul; the mind only was beclouded. The Father was putting His child to bed only in mental, not in soul, darkness.
J. B. FRENCH.
“The Best Thing I could be !"
" TF you were grown up big, Annie,
1 Annie, what would you be ?”
“I'll be a lady,” said she.
Mary, what would you be ?”!
And smiled so pleasantly.
But never a word spake she-
Mary, what would you be ?
Will you not answer me?"
That's the best thing I could be!”
“Go on faster, then."
“ You had better not cheek me, my girl, or I'll give you a thrashing.”
“ If you touch her you'll get a good whacking yourself, Amy,” called out a third voice.
“Shall I! I should like to know who cares for you," was the scornful reply.
I was basking in the hot September sunshine, sheltered from a somewhat fresh sea-breeze by a corner of the rugged hillside that is the favourite resort of visitors to the small watering-place of Southend, when these voices broke rudely on my pleasant dreaming. I turned to see whence came the sharp tones that harmonised so little with the soft beauty of the day. Three children, two girls and a boy, were scrambling up the steep cliff just below me. A little girl some six years old led the way, followed by a fair-haired, refined-looking girl perhaps three years older, who was, I imagined, the impatient “Amy” above referred to. A sturdy, sunburnt boy of ten or eleven brought up the rear. I was surprised to note, as they passed me, that they had about them every outward token of gentle nurture in a well-to-do home. I expected to see rude and ill-bred-looking children. My presence did not avail to check their wrangling, and I was relieved when their irritable voices died away in the distance, and I was left once more to a restful quiet, broken only by the soft wash of the wandering waves. But insensibly my thoughts followed the children, and I found myself speculating as to the influences that surrounded them in their home life. They did not look ill-tempered, and they seemed free from any physical weakness that should make them peevish. What was the influence that had so early developed in these little people such sharp voices, and such a quick spirit of contradiction and opposition. They evidently knew nothing of the “ soft answer that turneth away wrath,” or of the beauty of "a low, sweet voice, that most excellent thing in woman.” Then I fell to musing on the vast influence for good or evil that is exercised by parents and nurses on the pliant natures of children. How often, to save a little trouble, the responsibility of the elders is shirked, and how often, to indulge some whim of the moment, the future character of the child is sacrificed. Children are literally “twigs to be bent.” Their natures, for the most part, are tender and easy to be shaped as the young shoots that the lightest hand may help io a graceful, or force into a distorted growth. Children are generally by nature affectionate, imitative, and very
receptive. From their earliest associates they take impressions that are often indelible.
“ That is not a nice way to speak," I once said to a very small maiden who had just ordered a servant to do something for her in a very peremptory manner. “I should say please.”
“Mamma never says please to a servant,” was the lisping reply. “She says they are paid to do what we tell them.”
I was silenced. I could not tell the child that mamma's manners to her servants were not nice, and she would not have believed me if I had. To children who are fond of their parents there is no appeal from their word. “Papa” and "mamma" rule their little world absolutely, and in the face of this fact it behoves parents to weigh carefully the words they utter in the presence of their young children, and to control hasty tempers and impetuous speech in daily life. This should be remembered always, that with children, even more than with older people, it is necessary to teach by example rather than by precept. It is not the occasional burst of temper, the rare fretfulness of disposition, or exceptional irregularities that do so much harm, though these too work their effect, but it is when such evils are habitual that they leave an indelible stamp on the young ones around. Just as the constant dropping of water wears away the surface of the stone, so do the little acts and words of each hour throughout the days and the weeks of the year influence the growing characters of children. It is these small matters, the tone of voice most frequently heard, the phrases most commonly used, the every-day occupations, that make the moral atmosphere which children breathe for good or ill. It is the habitual conduct from day to day of father and mother, nurse and governess, that makes or mars the characters of the young ones under their care. Children are quick to detect inconsistencies, and to feel injustice even when they dare not resent it. The secret of Dr. Arnold's great influence over his Rugby boys lay in his perfect power of self-government and his keen sense of