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there is a “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and that Friend is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Many a season of sun and shadow has passed over those grassy slopes since I penned this record of the conversation with my interesting old companion. But friends who occasionally visited Hastings told me, from time to time, that for some years after this the bright face was still to be seen, and the cheery voice to be heard on those exposed heights. At length the day came when the old woman, who had long since seen her nearest relatives depart before her into another world, became too weak and infirm to reach her accustomed place. The little table disappeared, and its owner was obliged to accept the shelter of the walls of the UnionShe knew “it was all right,” she said, and that she should not be forgotten. Nor was she forgotten. Her Heavenly Father was still with her, and His consolations are neither few nor small, Kind neighbours came to see her, and many ladies who had known her at Fairlight visited her still, and gave her those comforts so needed by declining age." Thy will be done” had long been the prevailing sentiment of her life; and in her last years her spirit was as cheerful, happy, and thankful as in her earlier ones. The days had indeed come when, to use the words of Solomon in describing old age, she was “afraid of that which was high," and her feet refused to climb to the old loved hill, of which she often talked and thought; but she knew well that she was nearing that heavenly hill to which her thoughts had been so long tending. And while the tongue of this aged pilgrim could speak the praises of her Lord and Saviour, she often uttered them to those around her, till at ninety-four years of age she gently fell asleep. None who knew her ever doubted her sincerity; and we cannot tell whether the testimony which she bore to her Lord and Saviour may not have induced some of those who dwelt with her during her last hours to search in their Bibles for those blessed promises which made this aged woman happy alike in life and in death,
The Antrodden Way. now I wish I could know what kind of a year this is
going to be like the last and the one before it, or brighter and happier ?"
The speaker was James Colville, and he said that to his friend, Peter Morison. They both lived at Loomsley, and they had been good friends ever since James Colville had gone from Wyborough to set up business there, and that was now twenty years ago.
This is how they became acquainted : the pew next to that in which Peter sat at church had been vacant for a short time, when one Sunday morning the doorkeeper showed into it two young people, who were evidently husband and wife. Peter saw at once they were strangers. He was anything but an officious sort of man-I think, indeed, he was naturally a little bit shy; but he always said that a kind word to strangers cost nothing. So when the service was over he spoke to them, and invited them to go again at night. They went; and from that time they became Peter's next neighbours at church every Sunday. Gradually, too, Peter and they became fast friends.
Peter, as far as this world's goods were concerned, was only a poor man. Yet there was not a man around who was held in greater respect. He was a man of sound common sense, and, better still, he was a sincere Christian, full of faith in God.
It was New Year's morning. Peter was not very well, and James Colville had gone to see him. Mrs. Morison was occupied with household matters, and the two friends were by themselves. They had wished each other“ a happy new year,” and in the course of their talk Colville had uttered the words we have recorded.
“ And may be," said Peter, inquiringly, “you would like to go a good deal further than this year, and see right on through a good many years ?”
“ Well,” replied Colville, “if I could, I almost think I would. If there were trouble coming, one might make up
one's mind to it; and if there were bright and prosperous days before one, it would make a bit of sunshine now."
“ You are not the first, James, by many a million, who have thought that way,” said Peter; “but, to my mind, it is a vast deal better as it is. Many a time I have thanked God I did not know what was coming. You have had your own troubles during the last year or two; but it would not have brightened your life before that to know that you would have such a hard time with the strike, and that you would lose little Jessie—would it ?”
“ Perhaps not,” replied Colville ; “ but I might have made some little preparation for the strike ; and as for losing little Jessie, why, perhaps her removal would not have been such a shock, when it did come, if we had known about it beforehand.”
“ It seems to me,” said Peter, “that any little advantage which you might have got from knowing what was going to happen if there had been any at all—would have been more than counterbalanced by some serious disadvantages. If you had known about the strike, and some other troubles of the same sort, it would have made you very fretful and anxious, and I am afraid you might have got more covetous too. And if you had known about little Jessie, don't you think you might have indulged and spoilt her, and not have taken a tithe of the pains with her you did ? and that would not have been good either for her or you. Then, as the time drew near, what a black shadow it would have cast! Ah, James, God's plan is the best, after all.”
“ Well,” said Colville, “ I dare say you are right.”
“ You said something,” resumed Peter, “about bright days to come shedding a bit of sunshine on our path to-day. I have an idea that there's a better way of getting into the sunshine than that-ay, and of keeping in it every day, and all day long."
“ How do you mean?" asked Colville.
“ There's no sunshine,” said Peter, “like the sunshine of God's love. If a man is a real believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, his sins are forgiven, and his heart is renewed by God's Holy Spirit. Then God loves him—loves him like a father; He sheds abroad His love in his heart by the Holy Ghost; and that fills him with a joy no words can tell. No hope of a good time on earth can make such sunshine as that.”
Colville knew that his friend spoke from experience. Many a time he had wished he were as happy as Peter.
“ But now," resumed Peter, after a short pause, “though we know nothing at all about the things which will happen to us between to-day and the day of our death—though we don't know what will happen even to-morrow—there are some things which have a good deal to do with the future about which we may be quite certain ; and if we can only believe them, they will make us a hundred-fold happier than if we knew every step of the way we were to go—ay, happier than if we were kings.”
“What things do you mean?” asked Colville.
“ You have heard me tell,” replied Peter, “ of a visit I paid, five or six years ago, to my wife's cousin, Benjamin Hewitson, in Westmoreland. He had often asked me to go, but I never got a chance of going till then. Cousin Ben is a farmer, and he has a lot of sheep on the hills. One day he said if I would go with him he would show me a bit of the grandest country I had ever seen; so I went. He took me along some of the queerest paths I was ever on in all my life. I could no more have found my own way along them than I could have flown. But I was not a bit afraid ; for I saw he knew every step as well as if he had been crossing the fields on his own farm. Now and then too he pointed out for a mile or two before us the way we were to go. That was till about the middle of the afternoon. Then, however, there came on a thick mist, and we could hardly see half a dozen yards before us. I was, I confess, a bit afraid then ; but Peter said, “Don't fear: I know the way; keep close to me: it will be all right. Well, I said to myself, he has led me safely so far; I'll trust him still. And I did. It was a rough bit of road we had to walk along ; but he led me safely, till at length he said, “Now we are just at home.' Thought I to myself, Here's a lesson to me about better things. I trusted my cousin when the mist came, because he had led me safely before; and shall not I trust God, who has led me all my life till now, although I can't see a single step before me ?"
“ I never knew a man like you,” said Colville, “ for getting good lessons out of everything ; but who would have thought of your getting a lesson out of a ramble like that? But about God guiding us; I don't know how you find it, but I find it a great deal easier to believe that God has been leading me in the past, than to feel that He is leading me now, or to trust Him for the future.”
“ We all feel that,” replied Peter. “ We are like a man who is looking back upon the road he has travelled from a mountain-top: we see every step of the way; and we see, too, we could never have found the right way for ourselves. But now, and for days to come, we need faith. It is like going into the mist; and it is not always an easy thing to grasp the hand that guides us, and to feel sure that it will lead us right. But it will. What we want is more faith. Let us pray, as the disciples did, 'Lord, increase our faith.'”
“ I wish I could believe,” said Colville, “that this year would be brighter and happier than the last two years, with less of trouble and care and sorrow.”
“I don't say,” replied Peter," that it is not a right thing to hope for, and not a right thing, too, to pray for, provided only we leave it to, God's wisdom to grant our prayer or not, as He sees fit. But the faith we want is not the faith that God will send us no more trouble, but this, that whatever He sends-trouble or joy—is best. I often think of that verse in the Psalms which says, “He led them forth by a right way.' We must believe, James, that whatever the way along which He leads us, rough or smooth, it will be the right way. But, for my part, I think it is the best plan not to think about what will happen, especially about any trouble that may come. I have often found that the