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Her character being thus early formed on a religious basis, she became qualified as a Christian woman, a wife, and mother, rightly to discharge the respective duties of her station, to honour the position in which we have known her, and to employ her wealth in promoting the glory of God and the extension of His cause. When at the age of twenty-five she became the wife of Joseph Love, whose memory is still fragrant, she was truly a helpmeet for him, and well fitted to tread the path of life by his side. To her the words of Lemuel were certainly applicable, “ The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She stretcheth out her hands to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy." All through their married life Mr. Love honoured her; from him, in all companies, she had her full meed of praise, and he was proud to call one of his steam vessels after her name.
Two children were the fruits of their marriage. One of them, a beloved daughter, was early taken home to Jesus, and so removed while young to a brighter world. The other, a son, Mr. Isaac Pearson Love, grew up to reflect honour upon his parents by his scholarly attainments and his highly intellectual character. His death in early manhood, and shortly after the birth of his own son, was a source of deep grief to a large number who sincerely loved him.
For nearly fifty years Mr. and Mrs. Love were permitted to live together, and during that time our lately deceased friend was the associate of her husband in all good works. In the leading of society classes, and the management of Bible classes for women, she sought faithfully to serve God, and to help forward the work in which her husband took such great delight. In a Methodist prayer-meeting she was thoroughly at home. When, about eight and a half years ago, Mr. Love died, his bereaved partner confi. dently sought Divine help that she might be able to bear the heavy responsibilities belonging to her high position. Nor did she seek in vain. During the years of her widowhood she has been upholden by Divine grace, and found no small measure of blessing in communion with her God. A thorough believer in the family altar, she has been accustomed to call the house together that she might read to them the Word of God, and lead them in prayer. Devotional exercises and conversation on religious topics never seemed unwelcome to her, or inopportune.
My predecessor in the circuit, the Rev. A. Hilditch, in writing me just after Mrs. Love's death, remarks : “ She was a grand specimen of an aged Christian of the old Methodist type. I shall ever
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remember with peculiar pleasure the many happy interviews I had with her on spiritual topics. ... I never once saw her when the mention of the Saviour's name did not act on her mind with gladdening effect. Her statement of Christian experience was to my own heart a precious means of grace. I shall ever think of her as one of the grandest women that ever lived.”
Mrs. Love's position, during the last few years, has undoubtedly been one of great responsibility ; but, following the example of her late husband, she has endeavoured to dispense her wealth with a generous and wise liberality. Many thousands of pounds have been given to help in the building of chapels and school-rooms, to relieve burdened trust estates, and to help orphans and widows, the blind, and the destitute. Our own Connexion has benefited largely by her generosity, both by the amounts which she has contributed and by the stimulus which her liberality has given to local efforts. The chapels at Barrow-in-Furness, Middlesborough, and Darlington are monuments of her vast beneficence, for she contributed handsomely towards their cost. In her death, the Durham Circuit has lost a true friend, and will greatly miss the help she has been accustomed to render. One of the last acts of her life has been the complete renovation and beautifying of our Durham chapel, schoolroom, and minister's house. “Bethel " was the chosen religious home of Mrs. Love, her heart was bound up in its interests, and her life has appropriately closed in making the House of the Lord an honour to His name, the joy of His people, and a beautiful memorial of her own Christian worth.
But Mrs. Love did not belong simply to the Durham Circuit, or to the Newcastle district; she belonged to the Methodist New Con. nexion, and the Connexion at large appealed to her generosity. Friends in the Durham Circuit wisely and generously recognised her exceptional position in our community, and were very far from seeking, or wishing, to retain within their own circuit boundaries the outflow of her benevolence. Our Connexion owes a debt to her secretary, Mr. Thompson, for the clearness and sympathetic feeling with which he invariably stated the appeals made to her from every part of our denomination.
But to mention all her gifts would require us to note her regular pensions to poor and aged persons, of which the number was exceedingly large, her subscriptions to temperance societies, hospitals, and infirmaries, metropolitan drinking fountains, asylums for the blind, for idiots, and for crippled boys, societies for the Jews, and for shipwrecked mariners, ragged-schools, missionary societies, orphan asylums, and the like.
On July 25, Mrs. Love visited Darlington for the purpose of laying one of the stones in our chapel there. Like the chapel at Middlesborough, it was designed to be a memorial to her departed husband, and it seemed to her like a sacred tribute to his memory to be there. The heavy rain which fell during the ceremony prevented Mrs. Love from taking part in it, and she returned home apparently no worse for the visit; indeed, her impression was that there had been decided benefit in the change. For some time previously her health had been failing somewhat, and towards the close of the following week her strength gave way.
The natural vigour of her constitution and her remarkable strength of will induced an extreme reluctance to retire to the sick-room. This did not arise from opposition to the will of God, nor from any fear of death; it was rather the power of babit unconsciously constraining her to keep up and move about as long as possible. Troubled nights and wearisome days quickly followed, and it became painfully evident that she was gradually sinking. The wonderful recuperative powers, for which she had been so long remarkable, failed to rally her depressed energies.
All that medical skill and careful medical attention could do failed to stay the almost imperceptible, but certain loss of vital power. The kindly ministry of those who were nearest to her in natural relationship and affection, the influence of their loving presence, and the help of their willing hands were alike unavailing. Her strong constitution enabled her to continue longer than might have been expected. She seemed to have wonderful powers of endurance.
Sometimes during this period her mind was clouded, but occasionally there were gleams of consciousness. When quite herself, and able to converse with those near her, she was wonderfully patient, and very grateful for the kindness of her attendants. When nothing else would rouse her, the name of Jesus would act like a charm, and bright gleams of intelligence would light up her face. What wonderful power the name of Jesus has !
On the morning of August 10, Mr. Thompson prayed with her, and the sufferer found the prayer a precious means of grace. I visited her on the afternoon of the same day, finding her pale and weak. Her speech was nearly gone, but when I prayed with her she responded several times with remarkable clearness and fervour. It was quite evident that Jesus was precious to her soul, and more precious than ever He had been before. All through her illness, prostration was its most marked feature, and towards the close it was only the loving Saviour's name which could awaken her attention. Friends repeated to her, “ Jesus, lover of my soul." It seemed to come like cooling water to parched lips. Once in one of
her clearest moments, looking round upon her dear but anxious friends, who were trying to anticipate her every want, she said faintly, “ You are all very kind to me." Her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Robinson Ferens, then quoted the verse, “How do Thy mercies close me round I” and with difficulty Mrs. Love repeated some of the words.
While the sufferer thus lingered, friends in all parts of the country were anxiously writing to inquire about her condition, and were fearing that the end was come.
The Rev. S. Hulme, on receiving from Mr. Thompson information of her serious illness, wrote: “ Your tidings concerning the condition of Mrs. Love have filled my heart with sorrow. What a chasm will follow her departure! The loss, speaking after the manner of men, will be incalculable and irreparable. A loss of equal magnitude never befell our denomination, with the single exception of the death of Mr. Love." Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, M.P., writing from Aberdeenshire, under date August 21, says: “I send you a single line to thank you for your letter, and to say how heartily I sympathise with those who are, I fear, now mourners ; but for Mrs. Love there can be no mourning. Life well spent, and the close in the “ sure and certain hope !' What can we desire more?”
On August 24 the end came. Dr. Robson saw on Thursday evening that his patient could not live through another night. Early on Friday morning, with her nearest relatives around her, Mrs. Lowe passed quietly away, to be re-united with those of her loved ones who had gone before. The following extracts from letters, written by ministerial friends, will give a fair estimate of her character.
The Rev. W.J. Townsend, in a letter to Mr. Ferens, says: “I feel Mrs. Love's removal very much, as she was one of the old, old links of my boyhood, and they are getting very few now. She was a splendid Christian lady, and I do not know where to look for one to compare to her. I never conversed with her but she seemed to be overflowing with deep and pious feeling, and of late years especially, when I have seen her, I have observed how the spiritual tone and fervour of her mind increased. She and her honoured husband have been by far the greatest benefactors our Connexion ever had, and I wish and pray that God may give us many such.”
A letter to Mr. Thompson, from Rev. R. Fanshawe, contains the following: “It is now eleven years since I was appointed to the Durham Circuit. From that time, to the close of her life, Mrs. Love has helped and encouraged me in my work times almost without number. She never said No' to me when I asked for
assistance on behalf of God's cause. I wish we could have kept her always with us. We shall never have another her equal. Her name, with me, will ever be as 'ointment poured forth.'"
The Rev. Clement Linley sends to Mr. Ferens a letter, in which he says: “It is now upwards of thirty years since I first met our dear departed friend, and during that period she has constantly stood high in my esteem. The purity and noble elevation of her character, the soundness of her judgment, the wide range of her knowledge, and her grand and more than royal beneficence, fitted her to be reverenced and loved by all who knew her. To a large circle of friends her death is an irreparable loss, and her removal creates a blank in the Church which will not soon be filled. It is, however, on the friends who were in frequent and almost daily intercourse with her that the blow falls with the greatest severity. How many things will remind you of your loss, and give poignancy to your grief, inasmuch as in a vast number of affairs she was the ever present and moving spirit. In the death of Mrs. Love I lose my most venerated earthly friend, and feel it difficult to realise the fact that I shall see her no more in the flesh."
The Rev. J. Medicraft writes : “ I shall never forget my visit to the North, a little over two years ago, when I was so hospitably entertained by her. Then I came to know and appreciate her as I had never had an opportunity of doing before. Her venerableness; her quiet demeanour; her affability; her beautiful old-fashioned courtesy; her humility; and, above all, her quiet, unsanctimonious spirituality were most delightful and helpful to me. That visit was a means of grace, not exhausted yet."
One other tribute may very suitably come from the pen of my colleague, E. F. Denton. He says :
“ As a minister on the Durham Circuit during the last two years of Mrs. Love's life, I had the advantage of knowing her in her ripest days. Of her it might be said with emphasis, she lived in Christ. I never knew one who so moved as a ministrant in the Lord's temple. The sense of His presence seemed always upon her; not as repressing her pleasures, but rather as deepening her joy. She was intensely reverent. Nothing pained her more than coarse familiarity of address to the Deity, or unseemliness in public worship. With all her wealth, she remained poor in spirit, and the humblest disciple of the Master's she welcomed as a brother. Her possessions she regarded as a heavy trust; and it was to her a joyous duty to use them for God's praise. She was a very active woman to the last. Had not the flesh been weak, no one would have been more regular at the social means of grace than she, nor would she have been passed by any in vigorous home mission work. Her