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death makes in that uttermost province of human life, excite no surprise. It is an adage nearly as ancient perhaps as time, that the old must die. Indeed the aged may be said to die while they live. By little and little they are losing, almost every day, somewhat of the very stamina of life: and even if no mortal disease supervene, their earthly tabernacles must, ere long, be dissolved, of mere decay. This natural process of dissolution is often so gradual as to be little perceived, and least of all by the subjects of it; but the process is constantly advancing, whether perceived or not. So far, therefore, from its being a wonder that the aged die at last, the wonder is that they live so long; considering the extreme brittleness of the thread of life, and the many hair-breadth escapes from death which they must have had during such a great length of time.
On the contrary premature deaths occasion, not merely the bitterness of transient sorrow, but that rooted anguish which rises from disappointed hopes. And it is particularly so with regard to children, cut off in the flower of youth, or in the bud of infancy. Parental affection hopeth all things: and when the object of its fond hope is snatched away, it faints under the stroke, and is ready to say, repiningly, “It were better not to have had the gift at all.” But when this object is an only child, the cup of anguish is not merely full, but it overflows. Bereavement of this last description is frequently noticed in the holy scriptures, as most deeply affecting; and accordingly, pious writers in all ages and countries, have been assiduously anxious to pour the balm of consolation into hearts thus torn with anguish.
With such benevolent views, no doubt, was fabricated the ancient legend, or fable, with which I shall conclude these reflections. It originated in the Scottish highlands, whose inhabitants have in great part, borne a considerable resemblance to the patriarchal ages; having, from time immemorial, led a pastoral life, and been remarkable for frugal plainness of living, for sobriety, and for zealous attachment to the holy religion they profess. And a singular circumstance, which to them has given peculiar efficacy to the legend hereafter related, is, that they have been, and are, generally speaking, so tinctured with superstition, as firmly to believe in the frequency of supernatural visions or apparitions. I will only remark further, for explanation, that every highland householder, agreeably to an ancient custom, makes a festival for his friends and neighbors, on the death of any one of his family; which funeral feast is called The late Wake.
A married couple of the Scottish highlands, had thrice lost their only child, each dying at an early age. Upon the death of the last, the grief of the father became boisterous, and he uttered his plaints in the loudest terms.
“ The death of the child happened late in the spring, when, in the more inhabited straths, sheep were abroad; but from the blasts in that high and stormy region, they were still confined in the cot.
In a dismal snowy evening, the man, unable to stifle his anguish, went out, lamenting aloud, for a lamb to treat his friends with at the late wake. At the door of the cot, however, he found a stranger standing before the entrance. He was astonished, in such a night, to meet a person so far from any frequented place. The stranger was plainly attired; but had a countenance expressive of singular mildness and benevolence, and addressing him in a sweet impressive voice, asked him what he did there amidst the tempest. He was filled with awe which he could not account for, and said he came for a lamb.—6 What kind of lamb do you mean to take ?” said the stranger. “ The very best I can find," he replied, “as it is to entertain my friends : and I hope you will share of it.” “Do your sheep make any resistance when you take away the lambs, or any disturbance afterwards ?" “ Never," was the answer.
6 How differently am I treated,” said the traveller: “When I come to visit my sheepfold, I take as I am well entitled to do, the best lamb to myself: and my ears are filled with the clamor of discontent by these ungrateful sheep, whom I have fed, watched and protected." He looked up in amaze; but the vision was fled.”
If it be proper to add any thing at all here, I can think of nothing better than the Epitaph of Mr. Wesley's upon an infant ehild :
“When the Archangel's trump shall blow,
" And souls to bodies join,
" Had been as short as thine !"
Of maternal tenderness or the sorrows of the daughter
AMONGST the short but admirable sketches of nature which the historical part of the Sacred Volume furnishes, there is one that has been but very little noticed ; though had it been found in any other book of so early date, it would have been quoted, again and again, with peals of applause. It is recorded in the 21st chapter of the 2d book of Samuel, and consists of a simple unvarnished tale of maternal tenderness, taken from real life.
In the beginning of barley-harvest seven sons of Saul were hanged up, all together, and it was ordered that their dead bodies should remain upon the gallows or tree, exposed to the birds and beasts of prey. Two of these young men were the sons of Rizpah, Saul's concubine, whose conduct on that distressing occasion is described as follows :-"And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night."
The sacred historian records this story as worthy of notice and remembrance, and according to the usual manner of the penmen of the Holy Bible, he merely records it; adding not a word of comment or a single reflection of his own. Indeed it is, of itself, a picture which needs no coloring, and which no art could improve.
What was the moral or religious character of Rizpah, we are not told. Her being called Saul's concu
bine, is no evidence that she was of an abandoned character; for concubine probably means here, nothing more or worse than a wife of the secondary or subordinate rank, agreeably to the custom, tolerated, though not sanctioned, under the Mosaical dispensation. Nor do we know if the two unhappy sons had treated their mother at all with filial kindness. Considering that they were branches of Saul's ungracious house, the greater probability is that the mother had suffered many a pang from the churlishness of their behaviour. And be it even so, she but acted the genuine character of Mother, when she forgot the undutifulness of her sons in the yearnings of her compassion.
If we except the few, in whose hearts natural affection has given place to the ambition of making a figure in the eyes of the public-maternal tenderness is of universal extent, unless in those benighted regions where it has been blighted by a horrible superstition. This species of affection is one of the primary qualities of human nature, and no talents or accomplishments can supply its place. It is one of the main pillars of our race, which, without it, would quickly tumble to ruin.
The child that has the mother with it, though born in the most abject condition of life, has one friend at least; a friend who loves it as naturally as she loves herself, and guards and fosters it from the same powerful feelings of nature that she guards and fosters her own life. And if sometimes, through misguided fondness, she runs into a blind, excessive, and pernicious indulgence, so aptly represented in the fable of the ape that stifled her youngling with the violence of her embrace ;-all this, only shows that the gifts of nature are pervertible, and that ill may be educed from good. The affection itself, peculiar to the maternal bosom, is implanted by the hand of God; it is a precious part of female nature,
and of immeasurable importance in its consequences.
As a celebrated writer remarks,“ The authority of a father, so useful to our well-being, and so justly venerable on all accounts, hinders us from having that entire love for him that we have for our mothers, where the paternal anthority is melted down into the mother's fondness and indulgence."*
Experience fully testifies to the truth of the above remark, and at the same time evinces the wisdom of the divine economy in this important particular. Filial affection, which is one of the most useful affections of our general nature, obtains its root and earliest growth from maternal tenderness. The fond and doting mother has our first love, which, by degrees, extends itself to the other parent. Whereas, but for the indulgent softness of female nature, which so irresistibly attracts the affections of our infancy and early childhood, there would be much less of pure unsophisticated filial love, than there now is in the world.
Alas, for the conduct of those children who neglect their mother when she is old! It manifests an unfeelingness of heart and brutality of disposition, exceeding the ordinary bounds of human depravity.
While I am upon the subject of maternal tenderness, I will notice one of the bitterest of the bitter drops in the cup of early widowhood: it is the loss of the only human being that can so naturally participate in her tenderness to her infant offspring. This is exquisitely expressed in one of the poems of Mrs. Opie, a young widowed mother.
“When to my heart my child I fold,
of Prudence in the ordinary concerns of Life.
" I Wisdom dwell with Prudence.” And what is this close intimate of wisdom? _Not that niggardly, craving propensity, which occasions one to toil like an emmet, without cessation, and without enjoyment--not that sordid disposition, which, appropri