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LOSS AND GAIN.
“ I shall be a lady for ever.”
Neither shall I know the loss of children," Isa. xlvii. 7, 8. It is sixty years since a rich heiress, an only child, started in life with an heir of equal wealth. It was in the cheerful month of May. The sun seemed to rise with such a smiling radiance, as ough he intended to bless the bridal day; the birds sang merrily in the woods that skirted the noble mansion; the cowslips tinged the well stocked meads with golden spangles, as they flung their odours on the passing breeze; the mountain rill leaped in joyous bounds as it descended to the grassy glade below. By the appointed hour groups of villagers were gathering here and there, chatting of the scene soon to be witnessed, which only a few of the
very oldest could remember having seen before in that unfrequented dale; and many a tale went round of the noble race that had for so many generations owned that hall; of their chivalry, their loyalty, their benevolence and charity, as each vied with the other to evince the largest store of knowledge of the ancient Percy family, of which this was a distinguished branch. They were all in holiday dress, as the mansion was liberty hall that day—open and free to all
The hour had struck; the crowd was eager in expectation, and in breathless suspense they waited for the commencement of the ceremony.
On a sudden forth issued from the ancient hall the queen of that day's joy, led by her doting parent to the church where all their fathers lay, only a step or two distant.
She was queenly; tall, stately, and beautiful. A burst of hearty cheering greeted every step, as she passed swiftly by, adorned in the most costly array; the long procession followed; the spectators entered the sacred fane; the ceremony was performed in a mode, grave, solemn, and devout. When it had closed, the bells struck up a merry peal, which continued at intervals throughout the day.
Everything that day was in keeping with the imposing event. Everybody was joyous; everything smiled; all were as
gay as gay could be; and the rustic merriment was kept up till a late hour. The moon rose, and shed her light over the landscape, and had almost finished her course before sleep had swayed his “ leaden sceptre" over this happy throng.
After a time the youthful pair settled in the sober enjoyment of a fine country house, close by a northern provincial town; the husband as the principal banker, with a hundred thousand pounds of his own, to which were added an equal sum as the rich dowry of his blooming wife.
“ The rich have many friends," so they enjoyed the smiles, caresses, and friendships of all the great in wealth and in fame, for many miles round. 66 The lines had fallen to them in pleasant places; they had a goodly heritage." All that wealth, station, and friends of great influence could command they had; besides, they were allied in blood to the Percys.
A young family rapidly blessed the domestic circle, and each child was a new fountain of real joy. They continued by slow degrees to grow to the patriarchal number. They insensibly became the idols of a doting mother, who devoted almost all her hours to fit them for the society of the fashionable, the rich, and the great. Her husband, in the mean time, was diligent in his counting-house, successful in his speculations, had become possessed of his wife's inheritance, embarked in an extensive partnership, and lent money largely to foreign courts. Success stimulated to enterprise and speculation. To the immense wealth with which they started in life they added daily gains, till they were esteemed among the most prosperous and wealthy of the nation. While they, thus enjoyed the confidence of all, and flourished in the world, almost as by magic, they congratulated themselves in their good fortune, and dwelt securely, as, humanly speaking, well they might; they had added “field to field,” and “house to house;" they had intrusted to their care half the county's wealth ; the most noble in the neighbourhood were planning to ally their sons in marriage to their accomplished daughters, now arriving at maturity; and new prospects and promises of future greatness opened every day.
Just at this time Napoleon had attained the zenith of his power. The firm was applied to for the negotiation of a loan of large amount, to aid that troubler of the nations to carry out his ambitious designs; the banker was sent to Paris on the business, was received at Court, reaped a rich harvest, and returned with fresh laurels, although not won in the tented field. This raised his wife a step bigher in fame, station, and real worldly aggrandizement. But, alas! all was done without even a recognition of God, his providence, his glory, or his government. No blessing from Him was either sought or thought of; the boast was echoed, “My hand hath gotten me these things."
It was in a bitter cold, snowy day in December, 1852, I was sent on an errand of mercy to a house in Street, to see Mrs. M-- I was ushered into a small back parlour, neatly furnished, and here and there ornamented with a few valuable trinkets and remains of some former grandeur. An elderly person, nearly eighty, was reclining in a quiet, resigned manner on an easy chair by the fire, but suffering acutely from a very recently broken limb, having been knocked down by a cab in Regent Street. There were still the remains of a beautiful outline of face: she was tall in person and inclined to stoutness, and had a sweet, soft voice. She was one, and, before she could speak, let fall a tear or two, but wiped them
I told her the object of my visit was to “comfort them that mourn."
“ You are a welcome guest,” she replied.
I took up the Bible, and read the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, which, when I had done, she said, “ Read the eleventh verse again, if you please."
I read, “ Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous : nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
“I had not known God, sir,” she said with a smile, “but for affliction;" adding
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY 27 RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.
“ Thou dost my profit seek,
And chasten as a friend;
There's honey at the end.
At strokes in mercy sent ;
My soul shall be content.”
“ Afflictions," I remarked, “ are often severe, but always sent in mercy."
" To me they have, indeed,” she answered; “ for when I lost my all in this world I found God; I learned the worth of my soul and the preciousness of Christ. My loss was profit."
“ You have seen better days," I remarked.
“ What the world calls better days, I have,” she answered, with a sigh; and added, “I lived in every luxury till I was
nearly forty years old: I was like the rich fool in the gospel ; I trusted in riches, till, by one stroke of adversity, struck by God, through the French government, we lost half a million of money. One day my husband was a merchant prince, the next day we were beggars, at every one's mercy."
The next time I called she related the facts told in the introduction of this tract, and said, “ Read these verses ;" as she reached towards me her Bible, pointing to the forty-seventh chapter of Isaiah and the seventh verse, which she had marked. I read :
“ Thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever : so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it."
“ I said, 'I shall be a lady for ever, when I lived in my pride, "without God in the world,'” she continued, repeating the eighth verse : “God said to me, “Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.” “ Your experience since," I remarked,
“ has been the contrary of this, I suppose."
“ The next verse,” she added, “ describes my case exactly. Will you
read it, sir ?" It runs thus : “But these two things shall come on thee in a moment, in one day, the loss of children and widowhood.”
“ That is it, sir,” she interrupted; "after our failure in business, my husband died of a broken heart. This I thought hard of God; and I murmured and rebelled against his dealings. My heart was stubborn, and refused to yield to the stroke of love."
“ It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," I replied.
“I did not know it then, sir; but, soon after I buried my husband, I followed my children to the grave, one after another. Within the space of a few years I buried eleven out of the twelve; and the one remaining was married in India, who had made arrangement for me to go out to her, and there to end my days: but—_" and here she wept profusely. When recovered, she continued: “ As the wise Father of all goodness would have it, just before I should have started, a letter came, sealed with black; it was in the handwriting of her husband. The sight of it overwhelmed me; I dreaded opening it; my lacerated heart bled afresh; I anticipated the news
-ill truly it was—it reported the death of my last child, who died of consumption; and I was then left alone in the world's wilderness of affliction, want, and woe.”
6 You have seen affliction !" I answered.
“But this was the turning point of my stubborn and rebellious heart. Now I turned to God. I read my long-neglected Bible;
I went mourning to the house of God. In the bitterness of my soul I cried for mercy, and that the rod might be suspended. I had no one to comfort me, no one to advise me, no one to help me. Bereft of all my wealth, my friends, my husband, and now my children, all were gone, to be seen no more. Stroke upon stroke followed; till, like a little child, I sought God as my only friend. And, oh! what a wonderful thing He did not cast me off for my sins, so aggravated and long-continued as my rebellion was !”
“It is His peculiar delight to have mercy on the wretched," I answered.
“So I found," she continued, “to my surprise and joy. I did not feel the need of Christ till I had lost everything else ; nor know the worth of my soul, nor the greatness of my sins, nor the depth of the redeeming love, nor the great work of God the Holy Spirit, nor the sweetness of God's promises, nor the value, comfort, and power of prayer.”
“ The true knowledge of Christ, as taught in the gospel,” I said, “is the wellspring of life. He is the fountain of life, of eternal life.”
Here the conversation closed. I read the seventeenth chapter of St. John, and departed.
The next time I called I found her in very good spirits, as she had just received a letter from her son-in-law in India, who had remitted a cheque for the payment of her expenses during her long and painful afiliction : and this he did in addition to a pension he has allowed her for twenty years, sufficient to maintain her in tolerable comfort.
“I not only follow the cloud,” she observed, “but I eat the manna, the true bread of heaven.
How good God is to me, who dishonoured him so many years! When revelling in every pleasure and luxury; when my heart was wedded to the world and its fashions; when I idolized
children and my fortune, God was not in any of my thoughts: and now that He should make me a child of His care, His love, and His redeeming mercy, exalts my thoughts to admiring gratitude and warm devotion, and a fixed resolve to praise him with my latest breath. I will praise him even for my loss, which is real gain.”
“God in Christ," I remarked, “ shines with peculiar beauty to the eye of true faith.” “I feel,” she replied, “the sympathy of Christ with our