The Friends of a Saint, and the Final Sermon.

2011-09-14-TheSickChildbyEdvardMunchFourthVersionMANY YEARS AGO I VISITED AN AGED WOMAN IN THE CITY OF BRISTOL…

at the request of her son, who was a man in decent circumstances. He told me that his mother had been a constant attendant on my ministry, but was now very aged and infirm, and at the point of death. It was the afternoon of the day when I reached her house, which was at some distance from my own. Following my guide, I ascended to the topmost room, and found it meanly furnished, and so far from cleanly as to render it unpleasant for me to remain. I saw lying on a bed before me an aged female, with her gray hair matted about her head, her eyes dim with age and disease, and her whole appearance most painful and repulsive.

“Mother,” said her son, “I have brought a gentleman to see you.”

“Who is it?” she mumbled, “I don’t know anybody, and can hardly see at all.” “I thought,” said I, turning to the son, “that she would not know me.” At the sound of my voice, she started, and aroused herself, saying, “Oh yes, but I do. Ah! You are the gentleman that I have walked so many a weary mile to listen to, and after my walk on my old legs, I had always to stand in the aisles as you call ’em for want of room; but I didn’t mind.

Oh, often ‘s the time when I wanted to pull you by the sleeve as you came down from the pulpit and passed me, that I might tell you how I loved you for talking so much about my old friends and acquaintances!” “Your old friends and acquaintances,” I inquired, “whom do you mean?” “You and your friends are quite strangers to me.” “Why, I mean said she, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and them like.”

“Dear me, didn’t you often tell me how the good old man walked with God, when he went out, not knowing where he was going to? And how poor old Jacob lost his son –dear Joseph! They bound him fast in the prison, and the iron entered into his soul; and,” continued she, as if talking to herself, “I’ve got a Joseph. He’s far away from me, and I shall see him no more, but I shall leave him this book (a large folio Bible, which had been purchased in separate parts, and which was lying before her); I bought it for him a long while ago. I have got no other book, only ‘The Holy War,’ them be all I ever had; but him (directing her attention to the Bible), I’ll give him; he will find it wetted in many places with his old mother’s tears.

“Ah! don’t you remember,” she continued, “that poor dear creature who went into the house after Him, and stood at His feet, and washed ’em with her tears,and wiped ’em with her hair? I got no hair to wipe ’em, but I could wash ’em with tears too, and they’d not be tears of grief –no, but of love, like hers was, for He said to her –oh! did not His dear lips say to her –Your many sins be all forgiven you; and has not He forgiven mine, quite as many as hers? and don’t I love Him ?”

Then the big tears rolled down her furrowed cheeks, and her strong emotions almost choked her utterance; while her hands were clasped together and lifted up, as if she would have embraced something which she alone could see. So graphic were her descriptions, and so animated was her manner, that I stood beside her listening, as I were entranced –and unmindful of all around me that which had seemed unsightly and unpleasant.

The son had quitted the chamber and left us alone; but she, as if heedless of the presence of any one, and occupied with her own musings, went on, and once or twice spoke as if she saw before her the very individuals about whom she was conversing. “Yes,” she exclaimed, ”the ill-natured Pharisee” (ah! them be always ill-natured to poor folks and sinners like me)” she interjected, and said if the Master knew her He wouldn’t have let her come so near Him: wouldn’t He? Ah, but the ill-natured Pharisee didn’t know Him, bless His dear lips and His tender loving heart. No, says He, He has much forgiven her; and didn’t He look into her heart and, tell her to go in peace? Why, they put Him between two thieves! They thought to disgrace Him; but He took one on ’em to heaven with Him! Didn’t He make a jewel of him?

Ah, and He can make me one of His jewels! But ah, sir,” said she, just then recognizing my presence, “how I have been talking, and you here, who I have so wanted to hear talk again. Oh, do tell me more about my friends and acquaintances –(meaning the Old Testament saints) for I think about them all day and night, and I go about with them and hear all their tales, and see how they wept and how they prayed; and I see the angels too, coming and talking to them, and then I talk to them and they to me. And I thinks it will not be long before I do talk to them really.”

So she went on till, having to attend an evening service, I reluctantly left the room, promising to see her the next day.

My mind was so full of the images and personages she had conjured up before me, that they formed the whole matter of my address that evening; and at the close I told the friends who composed my audience what I had seen and heard.

Some pious ladies requested the address of the aged saint, and repaired early the next morning to her humble abode. “Ladies,” said the person whom they saw, “she scarcely spoke after the gentleman left her, but folded her hands upon her breast, and died in the night.”

She was not, for God took her.

In her lowly path she had walked with God, had seemingly conversed with the angels, and was made perfect for that holy society which she, as far as man can judge was prepared, far above many of her superiors in gifts and privileges.

–Written by Rev. J. Leifchild, D. D., 1867