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I am not prepared to say, but as I witnessed so many encouraging incidents, and rejoiced in the instances of usefulness and tokens for good now cheering us on every side, I felt more than ever persuaded that the whole business of education for time and for eternity was shut up in the three mysterious words, SEED, SOIL, and SOWING.
H. R. E.
“Forget them not, though now their name
Be but a mournful sound,
A stillness round.” There is a custom in the Moravian church which has often struck me as one of singular beauty. On the morning of Easter Sunday there is an early service at six o'clock. Where the climate and the season admit of it, this service is held in the open air, in the simple burying ground belonging to the congregation. There, while surrounded by all that most forcibly reminds of mortality, are the words of Scripture referring to a glorious immortality, read; and at that season of the year when all nature is again bursting into life after the torpor and apparent death of winter, are the promises heard, that tell of a never-ending spring, followed by no withering—no decay.
But this is not all. At a certain period of the service, the names are read out, of all those who, during the past year have been committed to the grave from among that congregation; and strange and mournful is it to hear the names that in that list meet together for the first and the last time. Various as were their histories (for what life, however short, is without its history) they are all summed up as in the earliest funeral register extant that contained in the fifth chapter of Genesis“And he died.” Brief words, but how full of food for reflection!
A visit to a burying ground on a dark, foggy, cheerless, December day, is a very different thing to the scene we have alluded to. In the former case, external objects assist the mind in looking beyond the tomb: in the latter, the animal spirits are
depressed, and every thing seems to conspire to chain the thoughts to earth.
Yet, at the close of the year, it seems so natural to take a retrospect of all that has passed during its course, that at no period does such a visit seem more appropriate. We are solemnly enjoined to remember the days of old ;” and none can do so without a saddened recollection of many a hushed voice, and many a vanished form.
It was full of such reflections that Mrs Hardy, accompanied by her little son, set out to visit the necropolis of her native city. She had left it as a bride ten years before, and was now merely passing through it as a widow, accompanied by her only child, on her way to visit her parents who had removed to a town at some distance.
In reply to Charlie's inquiries as to the name of the place they were about to visit, she told him that the word “ Necropolis," meant "the city of the dead,” as he would find when he began to learn Greek. And singularly appropriate is the name to the last resting place of the busy multitudes who crowd the streets of a bustling city,
As Mrs. Hardy pursued her course through the thronged streets, and thought of all the changes that had taken place among those most dear to her since she last trod them, it struck her forcibly how uniform an appearance life presents to the casual observer. The streets looked as bustling as when she left them; there seemed the same proportions observed between the numbers of men, and of women, and of children, and there appeared representatives of every age; and yet, what changes among the individuals of which the moving mass was composed ! The newspapers told her, that in the past year alone, no fewer than ten thousand individuals of that great city had gone to their last account. Yet, there was no apparent blank; there did not appear to be more than the usual number of persons in mourning dress, and yet there were ten thousand desolated homes.
Charlie was delighted with his walk to the Necropolis in spite of the fog and the cold. It is, indeed, a beautiful spot, and attracts many visitors from the circumstances of its situation, independently of those who are drawn there by other feelings.
When last Mrs. Hardy had visited it, it was merely a hill covered with a fir wood; now it was terraced to its highest point, and walk after walk led you between lines of thickly-set monuments of every device that sorrowing love could suggest. The remote view was, from the nature of the atmosphere, concealed ; and though the distant hum of the city reached them, yet, it came in an indistinct and unobtrusive form. The only object distinctly visible was the venerable cathedral, a sight in strict accordance with the scene. It, too, was surrounded by graves—the graves of many past generations.
Mrs. Hardy, as she looked down on the close pavement of tombstones which surround it, could not help feeling vividly impressed with the different train of ideas excited by the sight of an ancient and a modern burial place. The latter seems merely to convey a fact to our minds - the fact, that past generations were mortal : the former, at least in this case (for as we have said before, the Necropolis was quite of recent origin) conveyed a powerful feeling—the feeling, that the present generation is mortal; for she knew that not one single individual slept in the dust around her whom she might not personally have seen and known.
Many were the details with which she interested her boy concerning those whose names they read on the monuments around them, and often was she startled by coming unexpectedly upon one and another whom she had imagined still living. Some monuments contained only a single pame; others already, by the long catalogue upon them, indicated that the spot covered “ the graves of a household.” Some were planted with shrubs and flowering plants, while others hewn out of the rock, reminded Charlie of what he had read of the sepulchres of the East.
“I must take you to the Jews' burying ground,” said his mamma. “I remember the first funeral that took place in this necropolis, was that of a Jew; and there is a portion of the ground enclosed for their use."
They descended the hill by long flights of steps, and reached the banks of a dark and dreary-looking stream which scarcely moved its sluggish waters between cities of the living and the dead. They had crossed this stream on their entrance to the
Necropolis by a bridge, well called the bridge of sighs—for who can number the sorrowful feelings that have found vent in crossing it, in sighs and lamentations, uttered by those who have been about to commit all that was most loved and valued to the silent tomb?
Following the course of the stream, they arrived at a large closed gate-way which formed the entrance to the spot they were in search of. On one side of the large iron gates rose a lofty pillar, on which was inscribed a Hebrew word signifying that it was a place of remembrance. There were other inscriptions, too, which interested Charlie much. There were texts from the Bible and some verses of a hymn: these jatter were wrought in iron on the gate in a kind of open work. We need not transcribe them, as they are doubtless well known to most of our readers, being a paraphrase on the words of the patriarch Job, beginning,
“Naked as from the earth we came." There was, also, Lord Byron's beautiful lament, which Mrs. Hardy promised to read to Charlie, who was very fond of poetry, when they reached his grandfather's house, as she was afraid of his standing too long in the cold now.
“Oh, weep for those that wept by Babel's stream,
Whose shrines are desolate, whose land a dream ;
Mourn—where their God hath dwelt, the Godless dwell!
Mankind their country—Israel, but the grave.”' Among the texts inscribed upon the pillars at the side were, “ Thus saith the Lord; refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears ; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord ; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy."
“The Last Enemy, I suppose, mamma?" was the remark of Charlie, as he read these words : “ Why it seems that the Jews have more hope than the Christians; for scarcely any of the other monuments have any thing to comfort one?".
“Too few of them, indeed, Charlie,” said his mamma, as they turned away, “ yet, this would indeed be a dreary world, if we did not look to that bright hope, that all who sleep in Jesus, he
will indeed bring with him from the land of the enemy, when he appears in his glory.”
“How many people you know in this city, mamma," was Charlie's remark, as they approached the bridge of sighs, and turned to take a last look on the Necropolis. “I think you know more here than you do in London; and there seem to be so many here whom you used to love."
“Whom I do love,” said Mrs. Hardy, as her eyes filled with tears. “I never like to hear people talk of those who are gone, as if their love to them was a thing past and over. You love your grandpapa and grandmamma, Charlie,” she added, as her little boy looked rather surprised; " and yet you have not seen them for four years, and our dear friends, who are dead, are as truly living in their spirits as any of our friends who are still on earth. Indeed we can feel more sure of their existence than of that of any one from whom we are separated in this world, for any moment they may die, but in heaven we know there is no death."
“And no graves, mamma," added Charlie, in a low tone, “ and no funerals : why that alone would make heaven a very different place from this."
“Here we have no continuing city," pursued Mrs. Hardy. “I have been telling you of all the changes in this city since I left it; and even in the Necropolis, though some of the monuments are much older than you, yet none of them are beginning to look old, and the inscriptions are already fading away; while, if we had time to look at those in the cathedral churchyard, we should find many that it would be quite impossible to decipher.”
“ And if we could read them, mamma, it would be of no use," rejoined Charlie, “because we should not know anything about them, and we should have no interest in hearing their names.”
“ Then think, dear Charlie, how wonderful it is to remember that God knows every name, not only of those buried here, but all over the world ; and however widely their sleeping dust may be scattered, yet that he will gather it all together, and tha every one shall rise again.”
“Don't you often wonder, mamma, if we shall be just like what we are now, when we rise again ?”
“No, Charlie, I do not, because we are expressly told that