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And though thy foes were wrathful,
And to dark deeds were given,
Who rules o’er earth and heaven;
In words as clear as day,
“I, only, will repay.”
And here, in this lone valley,
Thy closing days were pass’d;
Thy dying lot was cast.
Thy soul left its abode ;-
Thy spirit to thy God.
PASTOR NEFF'S CHURCH.
Who has not heard of the devoted Pastor of the High Alps, Felix Neff? Who has not read, with intense interest, of his pastoral visits to the sheep of his wild and extensive fold ?-visits which led him over rugged and all but impassable roads, in the traversing of which it was necessary to pass fearful precipices, and rushing mountaintorrents, the very sight of which would have appalled the heart of any one less anxious than was Felix Neff to gather souls into the fold of the Good Shepherd. Dangers and difficulties, however, did but animate and refresh his ardent mind, by bringing to his recollection the deeds of the faithful martyrs of old. He thought of the lonely caverns into which they were wont to retire, in order to search the Scriptures, and to worship the Father of Lights, in spirit and in truth; and his heart burned within him, when he beheld the poor peasants of the Alps "perishing for lack of knowledge.” It was not, however, only by his pastoral ministrations, that Felix Neff was a blessing to his Alpine flock. With his own hands he was ever ready to minister to the necessities of his people. When, in the year 1824, in the course of his continual rounds among his widely-scattered flock, he spent a fortnight in the Valley of Fressinière,—a secluded district, of which he found the inhabitants to be utterly unacquainted with most of the useful arts, as well as with the refinements of life,-he occupied himself in the mechanical labour of assisting in the building of the church then in the course of erection at Violins. " To fashion and place the pulpit," writes his biographer, " to plan and
PASTOR NEFF'S CHURCH.
arrange the seats, and not only to direct and to superintend, but to labour with the smiths and carpenters, so called, was the pastor's occupation, whenever he could spare time from his preaching and his catechizing, his visiting from hamlet to hamlet, and from house to house. Nothing was too much, too great, or too little, for this citizen of two worlds—this man of God, and servant of servants. From break of day to midnight, he was toiling in one way or other with unyielding perseverance. The ardour of the teacher and his scholars seemed equal. Both stole time from their hours of rest; and the long glare of blazing pine-wood torches, and the shouting of voices, directing the footsteps of the timid or of the tottering, often broke the silence and the darkness of the night in those wild glens."
There was one striking excellence in Neff's character. No man ever preached or insisted upon the essential and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel more strenuously than he did; these doctrines were put prominently forth in his sermons, in his conversations, and his correspondence, and were fully recognized in his private diaries and religious meditations; but, at the same time, he inculcated attention to the ordinary duties of life, with all the earnestness of a man who would admit of no compromise. It was his anxiety to build up the Christian on a foundation, on which self-dependence and imaginary merit could have no place; and yet every act of his ministry proved that he set a just value on knowledge and attainments. The spiritual advancement of his flock was the great end and object of all his toils ; but no man ever took a warmer interest in the temporal comforts of those around him; and this he evinced by instructing his people in the management of their fields and gardens, and in the construction of their cottages; and by employing all his own acquirements in philosophy and science for the amelioration of their condition. He was not only the Apostle, but, as some writer has observed of Oberlin,“ he was also the Triptolemus” of the High Alps.
To discharge the proper duties of a preacher of the Gospel, was, with Neff, a vehement desire, strong as a passion; his heart and soul were in those duties; yet he often left this walk,—so glorious in itself, and in his estimation,—to follow another track, and to bring under the notice of his people matters which related merely to their worldly convenience and advantage. It was his lofty ambition to elevate their thoughts and hopes to the highest and noblest objects to which human beings can aspire; and yet he so condescended to things of low estate, as to become a teacher of the first rudiments of learning, not only to ignorant infancy, but also to the dull and unpliant capacities of adults. Beginning with the alphabet, he led his pupils, methodically, kindly, and patiently, onwards and upwards, till, having made them proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic, he could introduce them into the pleasanter paths of music, geography, history, and astronomy. His own liberality and enlargement of mind forbade the fear that he might teach his peasant-boys too much. It was his aim to show that so vast is the variety of enjoyment which may be extracted out of knowledge, that even the shepherd and the goatherd on the mountain-side will be the happier and the better for every piece of solid information which he can acquire. A man of the most ardent zeal, he brought the good sense of a masculine understanding to bear upon all his religious projects; and by the Divine blessing, his success was in proportion to