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The end came at last, calm and beautiful as the closing years of his life had been. There was a slight attack of paralysis, then another, and another, and the old man lay powerless and speechless, waiting the will of his heavenly Father. A married daughter and his three servants stood around his bed watching his departure. They whispered to him ever and again those words of consolation which they knew to have been as precious to him in the days of his healthful vigour as in the hour when heart and flesh were failing him. He could make no reply, but there was no need for words. They knew in whom he had believed, and he too knew it right well. In a few painless days after his last seizure his spirit entered upon the rest which remaineth for the people of God. To such a calm and honoured old age, to such a blessed entrance upon the joys of immortality, may God, through the merits of his dear Son, bring every reader of this narrative!
Christmas; its True Joys and Blessings. ANE WILKINS, a childless widow, sat sorrowfully over her fire last Christmas Eve. Her tears fell fast and thick as she contrasted her lonely cottage now with what it was but one short year before. loving husband, a merry child, had made her humble home a very happy one; and in her lonely musings she could almost fancy she heard again the voices and steps so long silent. She recalled her child's eager delight as she watched the making of the Christmas pudding, the arranging of the holly and ivy, with which together they had decorated the cottage "Such a s'prise for father." She remembered, too, the walk to the village church, how she and her husband had knelt side by side at the table of the Lord, there to receive the pledges of his love. Little did either dream that it was the last time they were to kneel there together. Then the presents, the very thing each one wanted most, yet least
expected, and the Christmas tree, prepared by the rector's kind young ladies for the village children, the beauty of which haunted her darling even in her last hours, when it seemed to mingle strangely with her sweet murmurs of heaven and the Good Shepherd, "who gathered the lambs in his arms, and carried them in his bosom."
But that was all over. Before the new year had opened the father was laid low in fever. A few days only, and the wife and husband were parted; but thanks be to God they were not parted for ever; they had a sure and certain hope of a blessed meeting, when the Saviour they knew and loved on earth shall come again, and bring his people with him.
The grave had scarcely closed over the loved remains, when it was opened to receive all that could die of their only child, their beloved little Mary.
As the poor broken-hearted woman sat and thought, the sorrow was almost greater than she could endure; and she cried aloud in her agony, "Oh, I wish Christmas would never, never come; it makes sorrow tenfold more sorrowful!"
At that moment Mrs. Mortimer entered the cottage. She had been with Jane through her deep trouble, and could sympathise with her, for death had entered her home. too, and taken thence her two loved boys, the very light of her eyes and the joy of her heart. But God had himself comforted her in her sorrow, with the very comfort she was come, just as she was most needed, to minister to her afflicted sister. That comfort we shall give in her own words to Jane. Help from above did not let her sink into inactive depression, rather it sent her forth to help others in trouble, as she was herself. She had now no children at home for whom to make a happy Christmas, no joyful meeting with schoolboys on their return to their home; but there were others, children of her Father in heaven, whose lives she could brighten, whose sorrows she could alleviate; and it was in the course of this work of mercy that she now visited our poor friend just as she had
uttered that sorrowful exclamation, "I wish there were no Christmas!"
"What is this?" she gently asked. "I knew you would be lonely to-day; and, as neither you nor I have our loved ones at home to make Christmas preparations for, I thought we might comfort one another in talking together of the Christmas joy and blessing still left us-joy and blessing which sorrow and trouble cannot rob us of."
"Oh, ma'am," said Jane, sadly, "sure you don't think there are any joys left in Christmas for me? it is the saddest of all times now-I suppose because it was the happiest. I hardly know how I shall live through to-morrow. there were only no Christmas at all in the year!"
I did so
"My poor friend, that sad thought came to me too the first Christmas I was alone-now four years ago. dread the day; it brought back so vividly all the past, just as it is bringing it all back to you now. But our gracious, loving God, who had appointed the sorrow, sent comfort so abundantly, that I am not sure if, after all my fears, it was not the most blessed Christmas I ever spent."
"Can that really be? It is so dark and dreary to me." "As it looked to me that day, dear Jane; my one wish was that I could sleep through the day."
"How did the comfort come ?"
"Just this way. I woke early that Christmas morning; and before I had time to remember all I had lost, how lonely I was, there came such a sense of the amazing love of God in giving his Son, that, as at this time, he was born into the world, born to live a life of sorrow, to die a death of pain and shame, and all for me! He became poor that I might be rich; and my heart rose up in love and thankfulness. As I lay there I could but praise him for his goodness, and feel that, take what he saw well, while I had himself I could not be desolate. My sorrow was there still, but it was changed, as a cloud is changed when the setting sun shines brightly on it.
"As I lay long thinking, I saw that hitherto my Christmas
joy had been more in his gifts than in himself. Oh, Jane, what would you and I have done without him in our sorrow? As I knelt in spirit by that manger, and followed that blessed child as he went about doing good till he reached the cross, and there bare my sins, comfort came such as I had not known before. I could almost rejoice that my loved rejoicing in his presence, and sure never Try, Jane, and think of the wonderful love and tender compassion that had led him thus to humble himself for us, to death, even the death of the cross.
ones were with him, to grieve him more.
"I have been in a little town in Holland, just where the waves of the German Ocean washes its shore, a town with little beauty or interest of its own, yet which year by year is visited by travellers from all countries, because about two hundred years ago a little wooden hut there, consisting of two little rooms, containing the plainest and simplest furniture, was dwelt in by a great monarch, who left his throne and his country for a season, and there worked with his own hands at shipbuilding that he might learn the art, and go back and teach it to his people, and so elevate the condition of his country. To this day the name of Peter the Great of Russia is revered and admired for the generous self-denial of the act. But what is it compared with the love of him who is the King of kings, the height of glory and blessedness from which he came, the depth of humiliation and suffering to which he descended ?"
The look and tone She did not speak;
Jane's tears still flowed, but quietly. of unutterable wretchedness was gone. so Mrs. Mortimer went on. "Did you ever observe at what a blessed time our Christmas comes, just at the close of one year, at the very opening of another? I often fancy it is like a lighthouse built on a rock out in the lonely sea, which casts its rays back over the waters the voyager has already passed, and forward over those still before him. So in the light of that wonderful birth at Bethlehem we can bear to look back on the past year, its sins and sorrows, for it tells us of a Saviour, God and man, a Saviour who is Christ the
Lord, who came to seek and to save that which is lost; 'who himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree;' whose blood cleanseth from all sin; who not only bore the curse that we might be for ever blessed, but who sends down the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, to purify and cleanse them; to take away the love for sin; to make us meet for the home he is gone to prepare for us. A Saviour, too, whose promise is, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.'
"Then it sheds a blessed light on our sorrows too, for He who gave his only Son for us is He who appointed them to us; and he who then came has been with us through them all, to strengthen, to comfort, to bless, true to his word'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' Then surely our joys are all the brighter because they are gifts of His tender love; each one of them a result of that work of redemption begun in His lowly birth that we celebrate at Christmas."
Mrs. Mortimer ceased to speak. The last few minutes poor Jane's face had lighted up with a joy to which she had long been a stranger; but now again it was overcast, as she said, "Bad as I knew I was, I couldn't have believed it; I was forgetting Him, all his love, and all his goodness. My heart was set on the gifts he gave me, and I forgot Himself, the best gift of all. Sure it was in his love and mercy he sent you here to-day to remind me of him. And I wishing there was no Christmas, as if its very name ought not of itself to have brought me comfort! Yes, I forgot him after all his goodness to me and mine.”
"Yes, Jane, that is very sad ; but our lighthouse also throws its beams over the waters yet before us. We know not one step of the way; we are sure to meet storms, temptations within, troubles without; but, as we watch beside the infant Jesus, and listen to the song of the heavenly host proclaiming, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men,' shall we not calmly leave the future with him who has promised that his people shall want