A funeral under any circumstances, or among any people, whether Christian or pagan, has a solemnity which casts a shade, for a moment at least, over all levity; and never probably in war or peace, in pomp or destitution, among civilized or uncivilized, was there [p. 277] a procession bearing to its last home a body from which the soul had fled, which did not produce on the minds of the multitude a check if not a reflection, that the “deep, damp vault,” where the departed is about to be shut from the light of the world and the converse of his fellow-men, was a mysterious hiding-place, into which secret the souls of the living did not wish to enter.
It was about midsummer on a sunny morning, when looking from the door of William Martin, in Cork, a procession unexpectedly moved before my vision, and never in the short space of a moment did more painful and pleasant remembrances pass in review. Painful, because were again presented the friends, who in my native land, one by one as they departed, rose in succession before me, and because I knew there were sorrowing hearts in that train — and mine well knew the pangs of such; but pleasant, because in the comely throng, who with slow and solemn step measured the distance, the unnatural custom which mock fashion has introduced was not manifest. Woman was in that procession, precisely the procession where she belongs — woman, whose heart emphatically can “weep with those that weep,” — woman, who loves to the last, and acts to the last; why, tell us why, should she not follow to the narrow, dark house, the relative she has cherished, or the neighbor she has valued and loved; the friend with whom she may have taken “sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God in company?” Why should she not go “in company” now “to the [p. 278] house appointed for all living,” and where she shall, in her own due time, be transported? Pleasant, too, because the vain trappings of hireling undertakers, “nodding plumes,” mourning horses and black hearses were not there. It was simply and truly a Friend’s funeral.
Not stopping to inquire the name or age of the deceased, or who would accompany me, I crossed the street and joined the procession. Like the burial in the city of Nain eighteen hundred years ago, “much people of the city” were there. A mile or more through the town, gave time for that reflection so suitable and profitable when the soul is necessarily summoned to the face of that “King of Terrors,” and there interrogated as to its present state and future destiny. Slowly and silently the entrance to that inclosure, where the dead were congregated, was opened and passed; and as with the pen of a diamond was that panorama impressed on my eye and heart. It was a square of smooth green, with the exception of the unpretending hillocks, which without a stone told that the dead lay there. The whole inclosure was surrounded by trees of rich summer foliage; these, as they waved gracefully over the wall, shed a trembling shadow upon the emerald covering of the beds of the sleeping, and the still house of death was quietly approached, and every member of that Society sat down together to this mourning feast, and there in solemn sweet silence waited to hear what God would say. The narrow bed was open before them — the plain coffin that [p. 279] inclosed the body of the dead was waiting to enter — an interval of some thirty minutes of solemn silence was broken by a deep-toned measured voice; and never before did the words, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord,” so sweetly, so solemnly, so unearthly, fall on my ear — as if standing on the Isle of Patmos, the voice that spake to John, seemed to reverberate through that assembly, that to me appeared as if already standing on “Mount Zion before the Lamb.” The sentences were short and pithy, and from them I ascertained that the departed before us was an aged female, who had fulfilled as a faithful hireling her day, and had come to the grave “like a shock of corn fully ripe.” He praised her not in studied eulogiums — he held her not up between us and the Lamb who redeemed her, as a bright pattern for our imitation; but he said deeply and emphatically, “Yea, they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” He dwelt a moment on that sweet rest prepared for the people of God, and if any were there who had not entered into it, surely they must then have felt a desire.
He was followed by one who addressed the Majesty of heaven with that adoration which always marks the manner of one whose supplications emanate from the deep working of the Holy Spirit within the soul, and that speaks because it feels, and feels because it has something to feel. It was done — the coffin was carefully let down to its long resting-place — “Dust to dust” met, green sod was fitly placed on her breast, [p. 280] nor was the silence in the least broken till all had passed the inclosure.
I would not exchange that hour for a thousand dinner parties of fashionable professors, or pompous burials of the titled great, who have lived but to be honored, and whose true epitaph could only be —
“He lived and died.”
The time was drawing nigh when effects must be gathered, and Cork must be left. The season had been spent most pleasantly and profitably, for cultivated minds were ever at hand, and hospitable boards were always made welcome. To designate who was the kindest, would be a difficulty wholly uncalled for, as all and every one were more than courteous. Justice compels an acknowledgment of one distinguished favor, which was and is more prized for the manner in which it was done. The Irish, I have before remarked, are in their habit of giving, most nobly removcd from an ostentatious display, or from a manner which makes the recipient feel that he is so deeply indebted that he can never be discharged.
In the year 1845, I stopped in the house of Mrs. Fisher, who generously refused any compensation; when the second visit was made to that city, I again took lodgings with her, determining to pay; but as she was generous in the first instance, I did not inquire terms, lest she might suppose it an indirect suggestion for a second gift. On my departure the bill was called for, fifteen weeks’ uncontrolled access to drawing-room [p. 281] or parlor, and good lodging. Not a shilling was demanded and not a shilling would she accept. This was hospitality, apparently “without grudging,” and certainly without display.
I sailed from that harbor with a heart full of gratitude to all with whom I had been conversant, and full of sorrow, that my eyes would never again see those kind friends who had made my stay so pleasant, and the last farewell of the kind Theobald Mathew, and the hospitable, intelligent Beales, who were ready at the packet, was the finishing touch to sensations already too pressing upon me.
The captain had generously given my passage, and ordered the steward to see that all and everything was prepared for my comfort. This, by my own negligence, or in some other way, was not performed, and the night to me was a sad one. When all had stepped on shore, and the ring of the packet bell died on the ear, I sat down upon the side of the vessel, and with feelings much like those when sailing out of New York, a passive, stoical indifference, amounting almost to selfishness, passed over me; and I turned away, and could not or would not look upon the sweet hills that hung over the Lee, and scarcely did I see the wave of the handkerchiefs on that lovely South Terrace, as the steamer sailed, where I had enjoyed so much. The passage was rough, the wind high, and the night long, cold and dreary. Wrapping my cloak about me, I had reclined under a little awning on the deck, not once asking for a berth in the cabin, and not till a stranger [p. 282] aroused me, and said, “It is both imprudent and late to be stopping here,” did my stupor leave me in the least. Then it was too late to find a bed, and the remainder of the night was passed as uncomfortably as it commenced.
It was not wholly the parting with kind friends, or shutting my eyes forever on waters, flowers, rich valleys and hills, that so unnerved me; but it was Ireland, that land of song and of sorrow, that I was leaving forever. It was Ireland, where I had been so strangely sent, so strangely preserved, and to which I was so strangely linked, by sights of suffering and unparalleled woe. It was Ireland that was still drinking that fathomless cup of misery extreme, whose bottom has yet never been sounded, and whose brim is still running over, welling up and oozing out, in spite of long and deep draughts continually tasted. The visitor among strangers, who is receiving tokens of kindness and presents of remembrance, in the routine of other engagements may not examine and appreciate all in possession, till the hurry is past, the visit ended; and then coolly and calmly the parcel is opened, and every memento, however valuable or trifling, has a just estimate, if judgment be competent to the task. My parcel was left untouched that night; passive, enduring, as if covered suddenly by an avalanche, which only left room for breathing, with no room for struggling, was all that could effectually be done.
The morning found me in Dublin; and here new trials were in waiting. My trunk, containing nearly [p. 283] all that was valuable in wearing apparel, was left in the care of the poor woman where I had lodged through the winter. She had before been intrusted with it, and her honesty had never been doubted. Her husband had become intemperate, and she had been placed in this great house by the landlady to keep it, and wait on lodgers, who paid her what they saw fit. The lodgers had left, all but one, and she had no resources; her children, three in number, were crying for bread. She went to the trunk, took a dress, and carried it to one of the nuisances — a pawnbroker’s — and procured bread. She took a second and third, until the trunk was emptied of garments to the number of fourteen, together with a few valuable books and other etceteras, among which was a silver teaspoon, which had seen nearly half a century, and had been the admiration of many a Connaught and Kerry wight, when sitting with them around the basket of potatoes. This, which was carried in my pocket, wrapped in clean paper, served for knife and fork, tea-cup, plate, and saucer, during every tour over mountain and bog. Blessed companion! it had become “part and parcel” of myself; beside it was a true born American, and had an indenture made by an agonized child when in the act of taking medicine. Sacred relic!
Bridget met me at the door — the usual gladness and hearty salutation were wanting. “How are you, Bridget, and how are the children?” was answered by, “Bad enough, God knows; and bad luck to you.” “What luck to me?” “Your clothes are gone, and I [p. 284] couldn’t help it.” Not in the least suspecting her integrity, the natural inquiry was, “Has the house been robbed?” Frankly, she replied, “No, but I have taken them; my children were starving with hunger; I found the trunk open, which a painter who went into the chamber opened, as I supposed. You had long been gone, it was uncertain when you would return, and I might and should redeem them in a few weeks, and they are all in the pawn.” The cause and effect were both before me in a true light, and the question is left to mothers, how they might have acted in a case like this. She had heard me say that life was more valuable than property, and when that was in peril, property became the moral right of him who had tried every expedient to save life, but especially when the taking of it did not threaten the same condition of that in which he was placed. She had said, “I will never see my children die for bread; I will work, I will beg, and when neither will do, I would go and stand on that bridge (which was under the window), and if asking would not do, I would seize the first that my hands could wrench from any one passing.” She had flung me back on my principles, by acting up to hers, and what could be said. She could have been transported; and the whole city, who knew the affair, and had never been hungry, neither entered into her starving case nor pitied me for my foolish forbearance. The rich landlady who had recommended her to me coolly said she would put her out of the house, and she did so; and I found poor Bridget in a miserable hovel, with no means [p. 285] of support, and regretted that the landlady had ever known the circumstance. All the garments but one were found, but many of them too mildewed to be worth redeeming; the missing one was the best, and doubtless was taken by the painter. But the spoon — ah, the lucky spoon! It is now in a closet, where I am sitting, in London, doubly, yes, trebly valued for its extensive travels and fortunate escapes. I look at it, and think of the peasant children, and the potato, and poor Bridget and the pawnbroker.
The reader is left to name this tale “Lights ” or “Shades ” of Ireland, as best suits his principles; for myself, in my heart, I could not pronounce the woman a thief, and would as soon have trusted her in all common cases after this as before, and am glad that her children did not starve when my garments were lying useless.
The time for a little review of the past, and preparation for the future, had now come. Ireland had been explored, and England was in prospect. The Americans had written that the last donation was on the ocean, and probably no more would be sent. Why should my stay be protracted; for the inward voice was continually urging, “I have finished the work that thou gayest me to do.” Far, far be it from me to say that this work was well finished; many, many mistakes might be corrected, but this I would candidly and humbly say, they were not willful, but ignorant or misjudging ones. So faithful was conscience in her scrutinizing, that hours, yes days, when sitting alone in a chamber [p. 286] at Richard Webb’s, preparing for London, she would ask, and earnestly too, Had I done what I could? — had I not sometimes consulted my own ease? — had I labored to the extent, with hands, feet, money, tongue, pen, and influence, to do, by little or by great means, what my Master had required? — had I not sometimes, when condemning the whisky-drinking and wine-bibbing of the clergy and gentry, spent a penny on some little relish to take with my bread, when that penny would have given a poor laboring man a pound of meal, and my bread could have been taken without it? had I not burned a candle an hour, when neither reading or working, or put an additional piece of turf on the grate, when the poor, sick, dying cabiners had not either? — had I not paid a shilling for riding, when my feet were able for the journey? But above all, that trunk of clothes! When packing it to leave, the question was suggested, Is not this laying up treasures on earth? and should “moth corrupt,” or “thieves break through and steal,” my hoarding would be justly rebuked. I had often thought, as the last alternative, of selling everything for bread to give the starving, that could possibly be spared, without leaving myself in a suffering state. This had not been done, the clothes were hoarded, and the virtual thieves — the pawnbrokers — had taken if not stolen them. This was followed by the startling passage, “If thine own conscience condemn thee, God is greater than thy conscience, and knoweth all things.” Oh! what searching of heart is there contained in the Holy Scriptures. Then again — [p. 287] had I by precept and example presented Christ, and so walked in him that all who saw me took knowledge that I had learned of Him? — had the words of eternal life been read and explained in every place where God gave me ability and opportunity, as might have been — had I been as faithful in rebuking the sins of the great, where opportunity presented, as I had those of the mean and despised? — had “a gift ever blinded my eyes,” to lead me unjustly to favor the giver, and had the kindly heartfelt welcomes of the poor been as grateful in some lowly mud cabin, and the humble invitation to a dinner of potatoes as flattering as the polished salutations of the rich, with the proffered arm of the master of the feast to sit down to a sumptuous table with honorable invited guests? Had I rejoiced with “exceeding great joy,” when my name had been cast out as evil, when reviled, and all manner of evil falsely said against me? — had that legacy of long standing and sure title been as salutary and as gratefully received, as would have been a bequest from the government, for sacrifices made for the poor? All this and more sunk deep, and remained long, when conscience arraigned me for rendering the stewardship of that four years’ labor. “What hast thou done with thy Lord’s money?” Ah! what indeed? Has a portion been given to “seven, and also to eight?” — has the bread been cast upon the waters; and shall I find it after many days? To the cross I flee, there let me hide — simply, simply, solely there I cling.
Turning from myself, and the retrospect of the past [p. 288] four years, the coming out from Cork, at the last and almost finishing touch of the whole, presented, Theobald Mathew, with the impression made on my mind, when he stood on the dock, by the packet, on the Lee, as the vessel sailed away. His countenance is a marked one, and would be distinguished as such in a crowd of strangers. But grief and blasted hopes have so scathed his warm heart, that though he retains that benignity of expression so peculiarly his own, yet the pencil of sorrow has so shaded it, continued anxiety has so paralyzed that hope which ever is, and ever must be the wellspring of the soul, that there seems a trembling doubting in every feature, whether to settle into a desponding passiveness, or struggle to maintain that wonted complacency which has seemed an innate and inseparable part of his whole constitution. The scourge that has laid waste his people has withered, has scathed his very soul. He stood “between the living and the dead,” like a Phineas, till the plague was measurably stayed, when, in letting go his strained grasp, he found, he felt that his own hand had been weakened, and though he complained not, he saw, he knew that many who had cried “Hosanna,” if they did not say “crucify him, crucify him,” would turn away and walk no more with him. The palsy that shook his body was a faint shadow of the palsy that withered the springs of his heart, and dried up the life-blood of his soul. Great as was his goodness, and good as was his greatness, they neither of them had power to sustain a fabric whose framework was gentleness and confiding love. [p. 289] When the blast swept over him, and he felt his feet sliding, he reached out his believing hand to the supports he thought near him — they were gone! It was then that the “iron entered into his soul,” — it was then that he found that love dies with money, and popularity thrives best when its hand is fullest, and needs it the least; — it was then that he found experimentally that benevolence must be content with its own reward, till the “time of the restitution of all things,” when every man shall be rewarded according to his works; and that though he might have given “all his goods to feed the poor,” his recompense in return from his fellow man might only be, “Who hath required this at your hands?” When a man is in trouble and his feet are fast sliding, the prompt inquiry is, “What brought him here? — Has he been industrious, has he been honest, has he been temperate?” But when he is in prosperity, and the tide of fortune flows smoothly, who inquires whether he honestly, industriously, or soberly acquired this prosperity? Who stands aloof from sharing his honors, which flow from his abundance, lest these honors come from an abundance too unjustly acquired? Has he robbed the poor and despoiled the widow and fatherless to fill his granaries and decorate his halls? Who has any right to investigate that? — Let every man mind his own business, is the rebuke. Theobald Mathew was in debt — how came he there? Why everybody knew it was not to aggrandize himself; but he is in debt — he must have been imprudent if not dishonest! True, he was, as the world calls it, in [p. 290] debt, but virtually he owes no man anything — the world never has, the world never will, the world never can repay him; his debt is giving to the poor, when the poor were dying, what he then thought was justly his own, and justly tangible; and that depravity is to be pitied that imputes blame to generosity like this — a generosity which seeks not its own, but the good of those that are ready to perish. He loved his country — he loved his fellow-man of every clime, and his whole life has been spent in seeking their good. When he saw the world had misunderstood him, then he suffered unutterable things; and the shock that both body and mind sustained has left an impress that throws a constraint upon that full freedom which his real friends have been wont to exercise toward him; so abstracted does his mind at times appear, that it is sometimes difficult to know either what chord to touch or what time to strike it, lest the unostentatious sensibilities of his heart should be awakened afresh to painful sensations.
God preserve him, as well as all others, who live for the world and its benefit. The current of man’s heart must run in a different channel before it can render at all times even blessing for blessing, and better is he treated than was his Master, if the question do not apply to him also, “Many good works have I shown you; for which of these works do you stone me?” The last famine has drawn out the true character of the people there, in a light most favorable to be understood; it has shown what is in man, by a dissection of almost every part of his system, and they never can hide again [p. 291] as they have done, and the great pity is, that amid so much upturning there has been so little cleansing. True, the pool has not yet become quiescent, nor the sediment had time to settle; and when it shall, many that were “filthy will be filthy still,” and those that were “righteous will be righteous still.”
Though truth must and will triumph, judgment sometimes long delays, and the accusations against the nation of that island have a foundation in truth, yet the perverted judgment of men have so misapplied them, that at present the force they contain falls almost powerless. That there is injustice there cannot be denied, and this injustice has often been exercised by those who would have been least suspected. The famine, in spite of all evasions, has told some singular tales of this. The liberality of all nations has been most shamefully abused there, but the poor were not in the fault, and yet the poor must and do suffer all the sad consequences; for now, while the wail of woe and death is still going up in many parts, the response is neither money nor bread, but “they have been ungrateful, they have been dishonest, and we are tired of hearing of Ireland.” And were I to speak from honest conviction of what passed there, in much of the distributions belonging to government, and much from other places, that went through paid hands, had it been cast into the sea, the fishes might have been better benefited than were the starving; but to private donors, and to the churches of England, and the laboring classes, who intrusted their offerings to isolated churches and isolated almoners [p. 292] of their gifts, without fee or reward, let it be said, their donations in most cases were well applied, and greatly blessed. I have known, and record it with pleasure, that when a church there, from one here, was presented with money, clothing, or food, the minister of that church would divide it among such men and women as cheerfully sought out and supplied the most needy, with the utmost integrity. Many felt apparently that it was the Lord’s money in very deed, and belonged to the Lord’s poor, and that they must render a strict account of their stewardship; and had one half even that the government sent been withheld, and the other half intrusted to such hands, as managed with like discretion and honesty, many more lives would have been saved, and less complaint of ingratitude been made.
It must be seen that the work was a most arduous and difficult one, and it takes much less time and trouble to sit quietly at home and dictate how it should be done, or complain when it is finished how badly it was executed, than it would to have gone in person and performed the task. It was a hurried work — the four millions of starving men, women, and children were calling for food to-day, they were calling in earnest, they could not wait days, and possibly weeks, till the honesty of a landlord, or the integrity of a rector, should go through the trial of a jury; they could not stand round the doors of a church or chapel, waiting the decision of bishops and clergymen, priests and monks, whether the bread taken in commemoration of the Lord’s death, were transformed into a part or whole of [p. 293] his real body or not, before they could have a piece of it; consequently, what was to be done must be done quickly, and in the kindly feelings which promptly lighted up, the givers would naturally and properly throw promiscuously whatever relief could be gathered by any hands that would offer. The government of England might possibly have dozed a little too long, regardless of what these her thriving landlords in that green isle were doing; they might not have precisely understood how they were feeding, housing, and paying their serfs that were squatting “lazily” upon their soil; they might not have applied the laws of mind precisely to this point, that these laws possess the unvarying principle of fixing deeply and firmly in the heart of the oppressor a hatred toward the being that he has unjustly coerced, and the very degradation to which he has reduced him becomes the very cause of his aversion toward him. Therefore such landlords, when famine pressed sorely upon their unpaid tenants, would necessarily by this law pity least, and neglect most, those who by accidental circumstances might be in greatest want. Those full-fed, government-paid clergymen, who had learned the law of love through her own bread and wine exclusively, and whose jaundiced eyes saw dark and foul spots on all her surplices but her own, would be quick to discern that the “curse causeless does not come,” and that as the Roman Catholics embodied the majority of the sufferers in Ireland, and the Roman Catholics were mostly fed on potatoes, and as God had blasted these potatoes, therefore [p. 294] they ought in humble acquiescence to say, “amen!” while the smoke of this torment was ascending, if not be willing co-workers with God in the infliction of the punishment. When such did give what was intrusted to their hands, it was not always given “with cheerfulness,” or without what they thought a merited rebuke. “Don’t you see now,” said a pert wife of a curate of this class, “don’t you see what your idolatry has brought upon you;” handing a starving woman tauntingly a little food; “you’ve been told that something dreadful would come upon you long before, but you would not believe; now are you ready to come out of that church?” “How,” said a bystander, “could you speak so unkindly to that poor starving suppliant at your door; should you like the same treatment under the same circumstances?” “I should deserve it; and beside, how could I see her die under those awful delusions?” “Would it not be better to show her Christ, and try to direct her to him?” “Christ! how can she understand anything of him, while in that church?”
This is not a fac-simile of all in the government church, neither is it an isolated case. Another instance only shall be named, and it is named. as an illustration of the spirit that was too much in exercise there, and how it acted upon the sufferers:—
A poor man, with a numerous family, applied to a rector of the Established Church for a portion of the donations committed to his care for the parish. “Where do you go to church?” was the question. [p. 295] “I am a Catholic,” the man answered. “Ah, yes, give your soul to the priest, and come here for me to feed your body; go back, and get your bread where you get your teaching.” “This will learn ’em,” said the exulting sexton of the church, who related the incident, “this will learn ’em where they are.” The poor man went away without relief, though he belonged to the parish, and had a claim. Turning them over to the priests was the worst part of the spirit; for the priests, in the first place, were not a government-paid people, and in the next, they had at that time no donations intrusted to them; and to tantalize a hungry man with that retort, was like hanging him in gibbets, and then telling him to eat bread.
Such treatment was calculated not only to drive the poor to all sorts of intrigue, but to make them hate still more a religion that they always supposed to be false. The question which the Quaker put to the rector could well apply here, when he remarked that no good would be done to the Papists in Ireland while they rejected the Bible — “What good, friend, has thy Bible done thee?” Ah, true; what good does it do any who practice not its spirit? It is not intended to imply, by these statements, that the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, during the famine, were all bigots, or all hardhearted, and without any true Christianity; but it is intended to say, that the spirit of bigotry and partiality was there, and wherever manifested, whether by that religious party or any other, had a most unfavorable effect both on the bodies and minds of the suffering. [p. 296] The government could not control that, any more than a crazy inebriate can help doing what he is tempted to do; but the inebriate, when he is sober, should keep so, and not put himself in the power of an enemy that can injure him so much; and if the experience of two or three centuries in Ireland have not proved that carnal weapons are not needed in a church, and that Christ, who should be the head of it, has no occasion for them, surely they must be dull learners.
The Christian may despair of conquest when kindness and love have no effect, and in the famine, when these were exercised, they were felt and acknowledged. Let any stranger, in the year 1850, go into every parish in that country, and make investigation of the true state of feeling, as it would naturally flow out without any design; and if that stranger made no party allusions that should awaken jealousy, he would hear lavish blessings bestowed on dissenters of every grade, where these dissenters had manifested a kindly feeling. “And there’s the rector that would do the heart good,” — “There’s the blessed minister, that’s worth the day’s walk to hear his discourse,” — “And would ye see the lady that’s the blessin’ to the poor?” &c. Do you say this is selfishness? — it is a just appreciation of right and wrong; and where right is not exercised why should it be acknowledged? What gospel requires that a man should say of an unjust neighbor that he walks uprightly, lest some evil-eyed partisan should judge him by his own narrow spirit? And blinded as the world is by sin, and perverted as education may be, [p. 297] there are things done which will bear looking in the face without blushing; there are things done so well that an enemy, however skillful, could not improve them; and there are fallen men and women in the lower ranks of life, without any refinement of education, that can appreciate these well done things and even do them too; and with all the zigzag movements in the famine there were some redeeming qualities, there were some things carried on and carried through, which were not accused of sectarianism, for the simplest reason — none was manifest.
The Society of Friends justly merit this acknowledgment, and they have it most heartily from every portion of Ireland. Not belonging to that Society, my opportunity of testing the true feeling of the poor was a good one, and when in a school or soup-shop, the question was put — Who feeds you? or, who sends you these clothes? the answer was “The good Quakers, lady, and it’s they that have the religion entirely.” One young man seriously inquired of me, what sort of people they might be, and if their religion were like any other, and where they got sich a good one; “By dad, don’t you think it’s the best in the world?” It certainly produces good works among the poor of Ireland, was the reply. “And where may they say their prayers? I wish I could hear ’em;” or, “don’t they say prayers?” He pressed so closely, that vague answers would not avail; the foundation of a faith which was so different from what he had seen in any people, as he said, “intirely,” he determined to make out; and finally [p. 298] inquired if they suffered persons of other faith to see them worship; and added, “I should like to see it.” He was directed to a meeting in Dublin which was open on that day, and after getting all preliminaries as to how he must behave, he ventured in.
The meeting was a silent one; he saw no altars, he heard no prayers, and his astonishment at their worship was equal to his admiration of their goodness. “And wasn’t it quare they didn’t spake?” “They were waiting in silence till they should have something given them to speak.” This increased the difficulty, and he went away perfectly confounded, wishing he could know something more about them, “for they must be a blessed people.”
This simple-minded lad lived in a remote part of Ireland, had never been in a city before; and he said that he had seen these good people in the mountains giving alms, and “didn’t they spake so kindly,” he added, “I intended to see ’em if I could find where they stopped.” Simple-minded youth, what could he do more?
Whilst writing this, a report has been sent me of the Birr Mission, at Parsonstown in Ireland, under the superintendence of Mr. Carlisle, and I happily find by the following extract this fresh proof of the effect of kindness on the hearts of the most bigoted.
The Report states: “The medical coadjutor of the Mission, noticed in our last Report as having been sent to us from Edinburgh, continues his labors most assiduously and most usefully. Nothing has done so much [p. 299] toward removing the prejudices of Roman Catholics against us — even those who formerly were most opposed and most bigoted — as his kind, unwearied, and skillful attention to the sick poor. It has already opened the way for the word of God to many families from which it formerly was debarred; and we observe that the prejudices of a class of society above the poor, with whom he has no direct intercourse in the way of his profession, are giving way before this kind and conciliatory approach to the population generally.”
Were there space in these pages, like instances might be multiplied, and two which come under my notice were so in point, that they are entitled to a record in a better place.
A few miles north of Dublin, in the winter of 1847 and 1848, a minister of the Independent church was sick for weeks, and his life seemed suspended in doubt for some days. One Sabbath, in a chapel, after the morning service was finished, the priest called the attention of the people to his case, and added, “If he dies, God will take from us one of the best men in the country, and who will fill his place? All we can do is to pray for him, and surely you will all do that.” Voices were loud in responding, yes, yes; and they tarried another hour and went through their prayers for the sick. Now, as inefficient as these prayers might be, they were the legitimate offspring of kindness and goodwill which this minister had practiced, till he had not only removed prejudice, but had substituted like feelings of kindness.[p. 300]
The second case was that of a good woman, who belonged to the Methodist denomination. She had been a pattern of good works in her neighborhood, without regard to party; and the poor loved her as their long-tried friend. She died. The priest of the parish was noted for his peace-making spirit and liberality. The Sabbath after this good woman’s death, he concluded the exercises of the day by naming the circumstance, and saying, “When God takes such good ones from the earth as this woman was, the living have not only cause to mourn, but to tremble, lest that his anger has gone out against the inhabitants, and He will not suffer such righteous ones to live among them.”
In a few weeks from this, that priest died, the husband of the good woman just named dropped an obituary notice in a paper which he edited, mentioning the conciliatory disposition of the priest, and his exertions in the parish to keep peace. A nephew of this priest called a few days after and thanked the editor for the kind notice, saying, “it was more than he could expect.” In two weeks from this an obituary of the nephew was inserted in the same paper. But mark the effects of simply carrying out the principle of Christian kindness! Was Christ dishonored — was Christ offended?
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