Nehemiah Adams.

Agnes and the little key, or Bereaved parents instructed and comforted online

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morbid creature, refusing to do and to enjoy
any thing because I had been afflicted, and
asking God to do an impossibility ! I never
before truly submitted myself and my trouble
to God; my prayers were complaints, mur-
murings, if not impeachments ; but I began
to see arid feel the power of that word, * Be
still, and know that I am God.' I do believe
that the best help which we can have in afflic-
tion is that which, by God's grace, we are



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AGNB6. 157

enabled to give ourselves, using our common
sense, availing ourselves of expedients to
assist and cheer the mind, resorting to va-
rious methods of changing the current of
thought, making waste-locks and weirs to
diminish the strength of tide, and seeking
supplies of new thoughts and feelings for our
help."

^ Had you no alternations of feeling ? " said
I. " Did not your sorrows come back without
leave?**

^ Of course they did,'* said he j " but I took
care to barricade myself against them. Short
journeys I found useful ; entertaining, cheer-
ful books, especially those of a scientific,
descriptive kind, which led to no intro-
verted contemplation, but. kept my thoughts
out at pasture ; humorous writings, the news
of the day, any thing which would take my
attention and hold it by an intrinsic interest,
so that I did not feel that I was practising arts
with myself, did much to help me."

" But did you not thereby lose something



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i&8 AQNBS.

of your spiritual-mindedness; your interest in
prayer ? "

"Far from it My prayers became more
like the Epistle of James; works and faith
met in them ; I had a good conscience ; I was
living to make others happy ; I had become
reconciled to God. Besides^ I had more true
religious enjoyment than before, from Scrip-
tural truths."

" That is what I should be glad to hear you
speak of more at large," said I ; "for what-
ever illustrates the Word of God is exceed-
ingly precious."

" Well," said he, " one day I read this pas-
s*age : * The night is far spent, the day is at
hand.' It came to my mind. How soon I shall
be in heaven ! Perhaps even now I am on the
very verge ; perhaps in a few days I shall be
with God. How sorry I shall be if I spent
my time in useless weeping, when relief was
all the while so near.

"I thought also of these words: * If thou
faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is



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AQNES. 159

smalU It is sublime to beai the fearful
strokes of God's providence with meekness
and firmness ; to endure ; to show one's self
a man. Uow true this is : —

< God did anoint Uiee widi his odoroiu oil,
To wrestle, not to reign.' *

^I have felt that terrible calamities are
great blessings to the spirit of a man who
knows how to suffer. To such a man, a great
affliction from God is like a great blast in a
quarry, — it throws out great treasures, or it
opens a way for great projects. I revere a
man who is in great affliction. God seems to
have selected him, like a piece of second-
growth timber, for an important work. It is
not every one who can be trusted to suffer
greatly. I look with great respect upon an
honest man who has fallen into disfavor and
is greatly abused. Many a time, when we
were boys, you know, we were attracted to an
apple-tree in a pasture, by the great number

• Mrs. Browniog. — " Wliat are wo aot on earth for ' "



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160 AONE8.

of clubs and stones which lay under it, show*
ing that the fruit had attracted notice. To
angels in heaven, a good man enduring suffer-
ings well must be a sublime sight^ for suf-
ferings and faith are no part of their expe-
rience ; but to see a mortal bearing the afflic-
tive hand of God with faith and love, must
excite their admiration. How angels flocked
around Christ! how they must have loved
him when at the end of his temptation
'the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels
came and ministered unto him ! ' There
is the truest courage, I think, in adjusting
ourselves to our circumstances. If God be-
reaves us, let us live bereaved ; if he takes a
blessing from us, let us do without it; not
with stoicism, but with childlike submission :
' Father, you know best.'

*' Besides," said he, "God is all the time
teaching us that this is not an unmixed con-
dition, neither of evil nor good. Compensa-
tions are the rule of his gracious providence ;
we all have them. I have learned to have



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AONES. 161

less pity for greatly afflicted people than
formerly; for I know that they have great
consolations, and their losses are in one way
and another atoned for, in some degree, if
they feel and act right * In the day of pros-
perity be joyful ;' but in the day of adversity
consider: God also hath set the one over
against the other, to the end that man should
find nothing after him,' making man feel that
God adjusts and disposes every thing. These
lines of Gray have been a comfort to me : —

' Still, where rosy pleasure leads.
See a kindred grief appear ;
Behind the steps that misery treads.
Approaching comfort hear.
The hues of hliss more brightly glow
Chastised by sadder tints of woe,
And blended, form, with artful strife,
The strength and harmony of life.' " *

"Now," said I, *^let me thank you for all
that you have said, and tell you something of
my experience under sorrow, and that may



# Vicissitude.— (?niy's Poems.
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^162 AQKBS.

start other trains of thought in you which 1
shall be glad to hear/'

^ I have heard several speak of that little
key of yours," said he, "and what legerde-
main you seemed to work with it in the feel-
ings of people. I hope that you will try it
on me."

^ You are past needing it," said I j "yet w^
can always help one another from our expe
rience. One effect of affliction on me has
been to make me forgiving. People some-
times inflict great injuries upon me j for you
know my calling leads me into scenes where
I have to resist the evil passions of men.
Few men get more ill-will than one who tries
to discharge the duties of his place with im
partiality. The treatment which I used to
meet with frequently embittered my feelings
against men. Since I lost my child, strange
to say, I find it harder to cherish animosities.
Some weeds, you know, cannot take hold of
rich soil ; they need sandy, coarse ground ;
so, when our hearts are fertilized by affliction.



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AQNES. 1Gb

xt is hard for certain poor things to get a place
there. When a man injures me, I- have a
feeling of tenderness towards him come over
me at times, if I say with myself, I wonder if
he has a little child, or ever lost one ; and
that thought — -you will smile — has some-
times kept me from replying in the newspa-
pers to angry assaults upon me. I know how
weak many would deem me for this ; but so
it is. Many a time, when my feelings have
been exasperated, I have taken the little key
into my hands, and the thought of the little
grave has calmed my passions. I have stolen
Mark Antony's words, —

* My heart is in the coffin there with * Agnes,
' And I must wait till it comes back to me.'

As, when it thunders and lightens, I often
think how secure the little sleeper is; and,
when the heavy rain comes down -on that
peaceful bed, my heart betakes itself to calm
thoughts, because the precious dust feels no
tempests, wakes at no alarm, — so in trouble



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164 AGNES.

that little grave makes me feel peaceful.
How often have I said to myself, when a man
has written against me or spoken ill of me,
Could I meet him at the grave of his little
child or mine, we should almost love one an-
other ; we should write and speak about each
other, publicly, in unexceptionable terms. I
almost wish that some of our great conven-
tions could be held inside the fences of some
cemetery."

^^ There will be a great convention in every
one of them, one of these days," said he.
" The last great meetings of men on earth
will most of them be held there."

'^Each of us will come to attend them,"
said I.

" Resolutions will be of no effect then," he
added, taking up a newspaper filled with mat-
ters relating to the presidential election.
'* Oh, did you notice the loss of that passen-
ger ship with four hundred souls on board ? "

^ I did, and it made me think. What a cem-
etery is the sea! None are thought of^ loved,



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AGNEB. 165

and mourned over more than they who find
their sepulchre there. It is soothing to have
the dust of a child or friend in a sure^ safe
grave, when you meet with those whose
loved ones are lost in the great waters. Bui
He who is the resurrection and the life has
his eye upon them. The Lord buried them,
and no man knoweth of their sepulchres.
And yet they are more conspicuously buried
than those on land. Few know where one
and another on land lies buried, but the un-
known sepulchre of the deep is well known ;
those viewless graves are ever before our
eyes. I have noticed that they who are lost,
or die, at sea, exert great religious influence
on survivors at home. Christ is magnified in
their bodies by their death. *

" I love to think," said he, " that our sepa-
rations, griefs, and our improvement under
them, will make us love each other intensely
when we meet again."

I said to him, ^^ If afflictions make us sullen,
slothful, jealous of God, morose, and useless^



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166 AGNBS.

we shall feel very much ashamed hereafter.
Our afflictions pierce -the heart of God before
they reach ours. He is willing to see us suf-
fer greatly for the endless good effect which
he means to accomplish by it Should he
spare the rod for our crying, or should he
consult our wishes, it would be our calamity."

*^Do you not suppose," he asked, " that the
remembrance and the pain of some trials fol-
low us to the end of life ? When I was sick
some years ago, they gave me a medicine
which they called Hiera Picra, which, trans-
lated, you know, means Sacred Bitter. God
seems to dispense such medicines sometimes.
I could not remove the taste of that bitter
by any expedient"

"Do you remember," I inquired,'^ a passage
in Prior's Life of Edmund Burke, which
speaks of his feelings at the loss of his son,
the ^ low moan ' which continued in his heart
long after he had submitted to God, and how
he would hang on the neck of his son's horse
and weep ? Yes, there are sorrows which we



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AGKES. 167

carry with us to our graves. Tbey ought^
however, to make us more useful, more dili-
gent, more grateful for redemption ; for what
mast it be to ' lie down in sorrow/ in another
world? To a man in hell, what must the
recollection of his children be? What a
word that is, ' Ye shall lie down in sorrow ' !
Did you ever notice that fearful imprecation,
' Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto
them'?"

" My heart exults sometimes," said he, ^ in
thinking of that word, ^ And God shall wipe
away all teara from their eyes; and there
shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor
crying, neither shall there be any more pain ;
for the former things are passed away/ We
can bear any thing for this short period; the
thought that afterward there is never to be
one sensation of pain or grief, but increasing
bliss forever, ought to make us cheerful here "

*' It ought to make us diligent," I replied ;
" for when I think how long that bliss will be,
how many are in danger of losing it, how



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168 AOKES.

short a time we have to secure it, and help
others to obtain it, I- do not feel impatient for
heaven; I wish to live and do good to my
fellow-men."

As we parted, I told my friend how glad I
felt that he had learned the selfcontrol which
religion teaches. Our feelings are not given
to \is for our guide ; we must subject them to
the laws of God. Though it was easier to
commend him than fully to imitate him, I
carried away with me a new purpose, that, by
the help of God, I would endeavor, more than
ever, to help myself



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CHAPTER Xi;

Losma AND LEAvma children.

* Which is the greater trial," said my wife
as we rode home from a visit to some friends
in affliction, — " to lose a child, or to leave
it?"

I replied, '* To lose it, so far as my observa-
tion has gone. Nothing has surprised me more
than the resignation and peace of some Chris-
tian mothers, when called to die and to leave a
family of young children. There was a pang
when the conviction that they must die came
over them ; but it was short, and I have won-
dered at the self-possession with which they
looked upon the children afterwards."

Mrs. M. • ^* How do you account for it ?"

Mr. M. ^^ Partly from natural causes.
. Some instincts which are given us for self-

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170 AGNES.

preservation are mercifully suspended when
they can be of no use- People falling from
a height, or thrown from a vehicle, are not
fully sensible of what is happening to them.
Besides, God is pleased to stay his rough wind
in the day of his east wind. Dying grace is
for a dying hour; we cannot feel in health
as we shall in the last hours of life."

Mrs, M. ^ The expectation of what is to
happen to ourselves, I suppose, abates our
solicitude for others."

Mr. M. ^ When I had made up my mind
to go to Europe, after we were married, the
anticipation of all which I was to see and ex-
perience held my regret at leaving you, so to
speak, in suspension; the mind cannot long
be acted upon powerfully by two opposite
passions : one yields ; and so I suppose it is
with the solicitude of parents for their chil-
dren, when their own departure takes full
possession of their thoughts. But there is
something better than all this, I think, as a
means of preparing us to leave children."



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AQNBS. 171

J/f «. M. ^ What is that ? — for I am going
this afternoon to see Mra Wales, who is dying
of consumption. She has six children, from
sixteen down to one year old."

" I will go with you," said I ; "for I should
expect to be greatly instructed by seeing and
hearing her "

The morning-glories were climbing over
the windows of Mrs. Wales's humble room,
turning their simple, beautiful trumpet-flow-
ers, of different colors, in all directions, and
some of them towards the open window,
where I took my seat

" God is here, my dear Mrs. Wales," said I,
as I drew one of the creepers toward me, full
of flowers, and looked at her. " If God so
clothe the grass, how much more will ho
clothe you."

She was supported in bed with pillow?,
looking nearly as white as they. The peace
of God which passeth all understanding was
expressed in her face.

"Mr. M.," said she, " I have given all up to



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172 AGKBS.

God, and feel that I no longer have any re-
6pon6]*)ility for any thing.*'

>fy wife asked her if she was able to look
npou her babe and the other children with
composure of mind.

" Yes " she replied ; ^ but I am a wonder
to myself Their father has gone to heaven,
and I expect to be there soon, and these chil-
dren will be orphans. But I have this feel-
ing : God knows what he is doing. 'Now, if
he sees fit to take us away from our six
children, let him do it ; for he sees a reason
for it which would satisfy me, could I be made
acquainted with it Or, if he never tells me
why he does it, still, blessed be his name ; for
who are we, that God should explain his con-
duct to us ? Oh, how good it is to trust God
and love him, when you cannot understand
his ways ! "

Mt9. M, ^ But you must have some nat-
ural pangs, as you think of parting with
these dear ones."

Mt9. W. ^0 Mrs. M. ! there is no reason-



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AGNES. 173

ing about it All I know is that I am at
peace."

Mr. M. ^ Tell me, Mrs. Wales, what one
thought comes to your mind with special
power as you think of leaving these children ?
Is there one thing more than another which
gives you special comfort? '*

Mrs. W. ^1 think it is this : I feel sure of
meeting them all in heaven, and it seems to
me a very little while ere I shall. Thie last
time I went to church, our minister was speak-
ing about the expectation which the Apostles
sometimes seem to have had, that the day of
the Lord was near, and he said perhaps it
might be accounted for by their all-absorbing
interest in that event, which made ii^tervening
time and objects shrink to nothing. Heaven
and eternity so engross my mind, that I
strangely forget earthly things, however im-
portant; and I chide myself sometimes for
not planning and directing about my children.
But, besides being weak, I stop myself when I
do this at all, by saying. How little you know



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174 AQKES.

about the future ! It is like walking in the
fog. You can see a few steps only at a time j
take them^ and you can see as many more.
My sister and her husband have promised to
befriend my children ; but, oh ! *' said she, cov-
ering her face, ^ God is their God and my God,
'. — that is enough."

Mr. M. " But you feel so sure of meeting
them all in heaven, — how is this? What
gives you such confidence ? "

Mrs. W. ^ Jane, my child, hand Mr. M.
that missionary paper which has the piece
about leaving children.*'

It was a periodical of a foreign missionary
society. I read aloud. It seems that a dying
father, a missionary, was about to leave four
young children ; his wife, their mother, having '
previously died. The writer says :

" There was another subject which claimed his most earnest
thought He was about to leave his four motherless children,
in a strange land, to the exclusive care of a doubly-bei*eaved
sister. Knowing him to be an affectionate father, always
anxious and careful in regard to his offspring, I hardly dared to
mention the case. I soon found, however, that his mind was



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AONJBS. 175

entirely at rest in relation to them. Their sainted mother had
dedicated them to Grod ; he had renewed that dedication. A
covenant had heen made with the Lord to train them up wholly
for liim. But now, by his holy providence, ono party (the
parents) was disabled from pcrfornung the covenant ; its whole
execution, therefore, devolved upon Gk)d. He is faithful and
almighty; not ono thing which he has promised shall fail.-
Our dying brother triumphed in this thought. He said he felt
sure that he should meet all his children in heaven. * Sumner,
Ellen, Lizzie, and (his voice failing, he rallied his waning pow-
ers, and, conquering the conqueror, said clearly) Susie 1 Not
one of them will bo wanting.' He thus lefl them with the most
delightful and unreserved confidence in the care of a covenant-
keeping God and a gracious Father. Knowing Lis anxious
temperament, I looked with wonder and admiration npon this
victory of his faith."

Mrs. W. ^ That is my expectation and my
hope. God is a covenant-keeping God. I ^ ^^
have intrusted my soul to him for eternity in
Jesus Christ, and I will trust my children with
him."

Mrs. M. " Have you no doubt, Mrs. W. ? "
Mrs. W. " Sometimes it is whispered in my
ear, The children of good people do not always
turn out well ; yours may be of that descrip-
tion. I cannot reason about this, either ; for,



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176 AQKBB.

' Where reason fails

With all her powers,
There faith prevails,
And loTO adores.

** You have lost your dear child/* said she ;
^you are not to leave her behind you. Some
might think that you have more to be thank-
ful for than I. It may not seem sb hereafter.
When my six children come to me in heaven,
having been useful here, bringing their sheaves
with them, how glad I shall be that I had six
orphans to trust with God?**

I did not take out the little key from my
pocket, as I thought at first that I should do.
These words had made me feel that some of
my sorrows over that little key had not been
wise. I saw that it would be out of place if I
should use it to instruct this dying saint

^ Beautiful words," she * continued, — " * the
seed of Abraham, my friend.' Have you never
witnessed, Mr. M., touching instances of kind-
ness among men towards the children of one
who was an early friend ? *'



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AGNBS. 177

Mr. M. "Surely I have. I am myself an
instance of it A friend of my father, who
grew up with him, has bestowed loving
kindness on me which I can never repay in
this world."

Mrs. W. '* Is not God the author of that
feeling towards the child of a dear friend ? "

Mr.M. "No doubt he is."

Mrs. W. " Then he possesses it himself."

Mr. M. " Yes, and exercises it, he says,
^ to a thousand generations.' "

^ Mrs. Wales," said I, ^ the influence of a
godly man or woman, eminent for some spe-
cial love and service towards God, follows in
the line of descent through long periods of
genealogy ; there are families among us, you
know, who have a reputation for goodness; ^»fye.
uncommon numbers of their children are
hopefully pious ; we honor the stock to which
they belong, but we do not always consider
that all has proceeded, in many cases, without
doubt, from the signal favor which God bore
to some man or woman who maintained a

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178 AGNES.

life of peculiar walking with God, sealing it
continually with fresh acts of love and service.
And so that blessing promised to Christ is vir-
tually fulfilled to them : f I will make thy
name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore shall the people prabe thee for ever
and ever.' "

^ But," said my wife, " what sight is more
heart-rending than a family of orphans ? "

" And yet," said I, " observation has led me
to feel less and less solicitude, in seeing a fam-
. ^/ ily of children left in orphanage by parents
>>> who were truly the children of God. The
^ self-reliance which they early learn and prac-
tise, the restraining and subduing power of a
deceased parent's memory, the friends raised
up for them, all afford a good comment on
those words, ^ Leave thy fatherless children :
I will preserve them alive.' Nothing seems
to us more in violation of the natural and
proper order of things, than the removal of a
mother from a family of young children. We
wculd have provided against such a calamity



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AGKES. 179

by a special law, had we arranged the affairs
of life and death. He who is willing to do so
great and solemn a thing as to remove a
mother from the head of her large family
must have reasons for it^ as Mrs. Wales says,
* which would satisfy us, could we see them
with a right mind.' Such an event is so
peculiarly an act of God's providence, we may
suppose that lie who giveth to the beast his
food, and to the young ravens which cry, will
not fail to accomplish some great and good
purpose by it to all whp love him. He
soothes the feelings of our dear Mrs. Wales,
makes her speak words of comfort and cheer
to those whom she is about to leave, and thus
he secures for himself, in the hearts of the
children, oftentimes, and in those of their
friends, a degree of confidence in God as a
covenant-keeping God, which nothing else
could so well inspire."

Mrs. W. " I expect to do more for my chil-
dren in heaven than I copld if I should live.' ■

Mrs. M. " Why, Mrs. Wales, we came here



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I/-

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ISO AGNES.

to comfort you ; but we are almost tempted
to say we have never found so great faith, —
certainly not in ourselves."
^N* Mr. M. ^ Please tell us how you expect in
/ ^\ heaven to influence your children."

Mtb. W. ^ They will cherish my memory j
remember my words ; say to themselves, How
would mother approve or disapprove of this ?
They will never forget my praying with them.
I have had scenes with each child which they
will think of as long as they live."

A sweet girl of twelve years, standing with
her face toward the window, began to sob, and
suddenly left the room.

Mrs. W. « Oh, that dear Charlotte ! I was
about to punish her, when she was eight years
old, for an untruth. I took her into my cham-
ber, locked the door, kneeled with her, spread
the case before God, asked him to help me
punish her, and to bless the rod for her salva-
tion, and then I administered the punishment
She did not cry, but as soon as I had d(3ne,
she put her arms about me, and said, ^ Dear



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AGNES. 181

mother^ God has forgiven me ; will you ? * She


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