by his daughter, L. (Letty) M. Bellett.
1. Early Days
2. Domestic Life — Joys and Sorrows
3. Characteristics — Remembered Words
4. Letters, Thoughts on Passages of Holy Scripture
5. Interest in the "Revival" — Hymns
6. Loosening of Earthly Ties
7. Closing Days
The Memory of a Dearly Loved and only Son
It may seem strange that after so many years have elapsed since my dear father's death, I should now print these notes of his life; and I feel that some explanation may naturally be expected.
From time to time I have been reminded that he is still held in loving, remembrance by friends, and also, that many who never saw him feel almost as if they had known and loved him from being familiar with his writings, some of which, I believe, are even more read than formerly. Within the last year or two I have met with more than one whose acquaintance with him was very short; "but his loving spirit, and still more, his abiding sense of the presence of his Lord, and his exceeding love to Him," made an impression which time has not effaced.
To such friends I have thought that this little book might be welcome. It does not profess to be a life of my father. The manuscript from which it is taken was written several years ago for my own comfort, and without any thought whatever of publication; and the recollections are quite fragmentary.
I am glad to be able to add extracts from some of his letters to myself, and also to different members of his family, which have been given to me, as well as some remembered words, so that my father will himself speak through these pages.
At the end* will be found a short account written by him of my brother; and as I feel that it tells much about himself as well as of the son he so loved, I think that many friends may like to read it. But it was not written for publication.
*[This is a separate page]
To prepare these pages has been almost a sacred work. I am deeply conscious of their defects, and can but entrust them to the kindness and sympathy of those who may read them.
Poor as are my words about my dear father, I trust they may convey some idea of his character, and (to use the words of one of his nieces) "of his steadfast faith, his sweet humility, his child-like simplicity, and above all, the depth and breadth of his love, shown to all who came under his notice, but which centred in the Lord Jesus Christ, and which shone out so pre-eminently the last few weeks of his life."
If this little record should lead any one to love more fervently his dear Lord and Master, and to prize more highly His holy Word; or if it may be the means of strengthening any wavering faith, I shall indeed be thankful to Him to Whose blessing I commend it. L. M. BELLETT. CLIFTON, NOV., 1894.
CHAPTER 1. EARLY DAYS.
My earliest remembrance of my dear father is connected with our home in Herbert Place, Dublin. Our family consisted of himself, my mother, brother, and great aunt, Alice Dyer, who lived with us.
Long before I can remember, he had retired from his profession as a barrister, and had given himself entirely to the ministry of God's word, in the meetings of the Brethren.
Before giving my recollections of him, I should like to mention a few things about his early life, gathered from his own lips, or told me by others, and also to quote from some of his early letters which have come into my possession.
He was born in Frederick Street, Dublin, on July 19th, 1795; but the chief home of his early years was "North Lodge," a country house about ten miles out of town. He was the eldest of my grandfather's children, and had two brothers and one sister. Between him and his brother George, who was a little younger, there was the tenderest affection.
The following little incident, related by my uncle in his autobiography,* shows what his feeling towards his brother was. After mentioning his strong attachment to him he writes:
"I well remember when I was about three years old, conceiving this very strongly. Johnny had been naughty, and was sharply reproved for being so, whereas I was praised for being good. Instead of being flattered by this comparison, I burst out crying, and passionately exclaimed, 'I won't be good if Johnny isn't good!' A closer bond than that of nature, I trust afterwards linked us together."
*See Memoir of Rev. G. Bellett, by his daughter.
When they were about seven and eight years of age, they were sent to school at Taunton, and while there spent their holidays at the home of their grandmother — "Whyte's Cottage," Sampford-Arundel, Somerset — and this place was loved by them almost as a second home. There they had not only pleasant holidays, but also the wise training and heavenly example of "Aunt Roberts."*
* This is the title of a short memoir of her written by one of her great nieces.
One day during my dear father's last illness, when we were sitting together, without anything apparently leading to it, the image of "Whytes" and the ground around it seemed to rise before him, and he described so distinctly the little "goyle"* at the bottom of the orchard, that when I was there a few years after, it was easy to recognise the scene his memory had retained.
*The Somersetshire name for a small stream between high banks.
Sampford-Arundel was a meeting-place for different members of the family; and there was frequently one there from London, whose influence for good was ever felt by my father and uncle; this was their cousin, Mr. Richard Baron Bellett. They felt great affection for him, and used to recall with pleasure the delight with which he dwelt on the words of Holy Scripture. He was some years older than they were, but felt much interest in them, and not only imbued their minds with his own reverence for sacred things, but, with his refined and cultivated tastes, led them to appreciate all that was pure and good.
He afterwards settled in Sampford, and took the greatest interest in the poor people, entering into their joys and sorrows, and ministering to their wants. My father used to say that he reminded him of the poet Cowper, so identified was he with the life of the village.
After being at school for some time the brothers were separated, my father being removed to Exeter; and here I again quote from my uncle's Memoir:
"John, whose talents began to develop themselves, was sent to the Grammar School at Exeter, to be under the care of Dr. Lempriere. I was very proud of him, for his abilities and diligence were making him a good scholar, and he was much in esteem with his master. He was making great advance in scholarship, always taking the lead of his friend, W. Follett, who afterwards became one of the most eminent lawyers of the day, and Attorney-General under Sir Robert Peel's Government."
My uncle also writes, referring to school days at Taunton:
"They" (their school-fellows) "were delighted with John's singing. I can recollect even now the surprise and delight I felt in hearing him; for, as in early childhood, anything which seemed to distinguish him, or do him honour, brought joy to me."
After a few years the brothers entered Trinity College, Dublin, and my uncle writes:
"John thought he might venture on the entrance examination without much preparation, and he passed. I rejoiced indeed. The first examination after this, he carried off the classical prize, which was considered a great honour, for, having entered late in the year, he was thrown among the Sizars, who being generally the best scholars, to carry away an honour from them was quite a feather in his cap. He obtained in the January following a prize for general answering. After this he did nothing to distinguish himself. What the reason of it was I do not exactly know. It is likely that the strong religious feelings which he afterwards, through God's mercy, so deeply imbibed, may not only have made him indifferent to honours of this sort, but have caused him to look upon them as unlawful.
"For the first two years in which we were in college we were frequently at parties. I remember well the disappointment I used to feel, on coming home from lecture at college, at not finding on our table an invitation to a dinner, or to a ball, but the invitations were very frequent. Dear John was an acceptable guest at most places, he was so agreeable, and his power of conversation very great."
The next few paragraphs, also taken from the Memoir, and connected with some remembered words of his own, indicate that it was soon after this time that my father's mind (as well as his dear brother's) underwent a change.
Some friendships formed at this time were specially helpful to both.
My uncle writes:
"I became acquainted with John Darley, and to our acquaintance with his family which soon after ensued, my dear brother and I felt that we owed very much.
"Mrs. Darley was a truly devout woman; the religion of Christ was evidently the uppermost thing in her thoughts, and she often made it the subject of her conversation. She was anxious, I have no doubt, to impress our minds with the same truths which were so precious to her; nor did she wholly fail. She certainly made us think more of our Lord Jesus Christ than we had been wont to do, and of the necessity of seeking salvation through Him rather than by our own works."
A little further on he speaks of another friend:
"In 1817 Mr. Kearney was appointed to the living of Kilgobbin" (the parish in which, 'North Lodge' was situated), "one of the most remarkable men I ever knew — remarkable for the saintliness of his character and the amount of heavenly wisdom with which he was endued. He was thoroughly unworldly — not a tinge of the world seemed to soil him, nor a desire for the honour which cometh from men to affect him. Mrs. Kearney was one almost as remarkable as himself, though not in the same way, of a very warm and affectionate nature, full of zeal for the honour of Christ and of loving interest in the souls for whom He died. Two persons of such excellence, the one glowing with the fervour of charity, the other endued with the wisdom which is from above, pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, to a greater degree than I ever witnessed in anyone, could not but have their influence on others, and through the grace and goodness of God, that influence was felt in our family."
The words of my dear father, to which I have referred, were said to me one day when he took me to see the old home. We were in the garden at "North Lodge"; and he told me to look up at one particular window, and said that one day while studying in that room the words came into his mind — "What will be the end of it all?" This thought kept repeating itself; and that, he believed, was the beginning of new life to his soul.
My grandfather was at first much displeased by the seriousness produced, or deepened, in all his children by Mr. Kearney's teaching. His displeasure was patiently borne, while the truths they had received were unflinchingly held. Nor was this without its reward in later years, for after his father's death, my uncle wrote as follows:
"I was called up to Dublin by the alarming illness of my dear father, then ninety-one years old; and I found him declining fast. His mind, however, appeared as clear and strong as ever. His spiritual state during his last illness, affords delightful evidence how graciously God had dealt with his soul, bringing him to a thankful acknowledgement of truths which he once had too lightly esteemed, and to a firm belief in that Saviour, whom at one time he had well-nigh rejected."
After his college course was finished my father went to London, to prosecute his studies for the law, which he had chosen as his profession.
Though I have no clue wherewith to trace the working of his mind during the interval that had elapsed between this time and the day when the thought of eternity first pressed itself upon him, the following letter written to his dear brother from London, (which was lovingly preserved for sixty years), will show something of what he was in heart and mind at the age of twenty-seven.
One can, I think, feel in reading it, his fresh delight in the things of God, as well as the purity, and humility, and singleness of purpose which breathe throughout it. Before many years had passed, his mind had changed on some important subjects referred to; but the one object of his heart from first to last was the same — the love and presence of his Lord.
The letter is a long one, written on old-fashioned letter paper:
"MY DEAREST GEORGE, — I have been expecting a letter from you almost every day since I heard that you had left Dublin for Magherahamlet.*
*My uncle had been ordained to the curacy of this parish, in the north of Ireland.
While I am writing, I am quite ignorant of the fate of your examination, and even the manner in which you have been spending your time with Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, who, I understand, were so kind as to insist on your remaining with them till the bishop held his ordination. Of all these circumstances I shall be glad to hear, and of everything connected with you, my dear brother. My poor acquaintance and fellow-student, Harvey, whom you have heard me mention, was visited about a fortnight since with a paralytic stroke, while at dinner. We met together the evening before, and he as little anticipated the affliction then as I did, but I continue in the full enjoyment of my mind and body, and he has been suddenly deprived of both. My dearest George, every day shows me how much I have received at God's hands, and how I have in my reach all the means of living to Him and His service, and therefore all the means of happiness — the use of reason to contemplate Him, a tongue to praise Him and tell of His wonders, hands and feet to do Him active homage — the blessed word of His grace to give me a knowledge of His holy will, and the free use of the ordinances and privileges of His Church.
I hope that my heart, though dull indeed to learn the saving, blessed truth, is knowing more and more of the fulness that there is in our God for all our desires, and the utter poverty in everything beside Him.
I have been studying with much attention the life of Henry Martyn, a book which I found was not to be read merely to know the circumstances, but that there was a treasure in it which would not be found unsought. It at first gave me some mournful impressions of the nature of Christianity, it taught me to regard it as a most severe process, by which the mind was to undergo some important revolution, but of the happy effects of which it was allowed to taste but very rarely.
The first part of his life in almost every page exhibits some strong marks of great despondency, and I can assure you I had for some time occasionally haunting me, a most gloomy picture of the religion of our blessed Lord.
You will remember that his sensibilities were most acute; his attachment to his friends and family very great indeed, so that he must have experienced the propriety of those strong images — cutting off a right arm, plucking out a right eye — and it was the bringing my mind more directly to contemplate this, and to see it put in practice, which so pressed upon me. But when I brought him onward as a minister and a missionary, and beheld his fervent spirit in active service of his Lord, and at the same time his humbled, broken frame of mind, when secretly with his Lord, I feel at this time, my dear George, that I have reason to rejoice at having read it, and trust it may show me many things we cannot learn too well. If heaven is won by works, where Martyn is I never can go; but as all my unworthiness is not too great for the cleansing of a Saviour's free love and mercy, may I prize such a Saviour with new delight and gratitude.
I confess, my dear brother, that my mind has been brought, I trust, more and more to see that without the Cross I must perish, for I am at best an unprofitable servant.
O may our gracious Lord keep us both ever in a broken, humbled spirit; from the dust in His presence looking up and beholding the Cross, and the ever-blessed words, 'Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' This is the posture for us, and I believe it to be the directest way to attain, even in this life, the peace that passeth understanding. The more of this broken spirit we attain to, the more will be our thirsting for sanctification, and looking to the Cross is the great transforming process.
I find it safe to have heaven occasionally brought secretly to my mind, and so do you, I know, my dear George; and when we go out into the world, let the Cross be before us that on it we may crucify the world to us, and ourselves to the world.
But O, while I am writing, I feel how little right I have to talk of the mysteries of the Saviour's kingdom, for my heart testifies against me, that I have not made Him my all in all; that I am still deriving much of my present and of my anticipated enjoyments from the world, and as dear Mr. Kearney observed, 'if we prized sanctification as much as we say we do, we would willingly suffer any privations or sorrows by which we might attain it'; but such privations and sorrows if they were to visit me, I fear they would leave me but a portion of that happiness which I feel, and which I was in hopes was connected with my interest in a Saviour's love.
You know that I get but little spiritual conversation in London, but I have not fully acquainted you with the delightful and decided change that has passed in our cousin Charlotte's mind, so that, at Chigwell, with her I enjoy the happiness of seeing the workings of a renewed soul thirsting after the riches that never fade away. She is a humble, spiritual Christian, and with her and Mr. and Mrs. West, I sometimes have cause to remember our dear circle at Kilgobbin.
But I must tell you that Charlotte has certainly in heart become a Dissenter, though I know very well that Mr. West* has made it no object with him, and I believe, never in the least said anything to influence her, but can it be wondered at when all the spiritual consolation she receives is from members of Mr. West's congregation, having continually before her the worldly life and worldly conversation of their own parish clergyman.
*He was a Congregational minister.
If she had been of your parish, my dearest George, I think it would not have been so, but being as it is, you cannot wonder at her, or be less disposed to love her as a sister in Christ Jesus.
I have lately heard two delightful sermons from Mr. Simeon, for the Jews, and indeed, he convicted me of having impiously and inhumanly disregarded them. He showed from Scripture that God appeared to have always sympathised with the sufferings of Jerusalem, even while denouncing vengeance against their sins, which is particularly exhibited in our Lord's lamentation over her while predicting her ruin.
What little love have I to my fellow creatures! O if there were not a Saviour, I must perish with the most ungodly.
I have not much news for you. I have commenced an attendance in the King's Bench, where I mean to go while I remain here. I see the public men of the day — Brougham, Denman, etc. — and hear some interesting trials, which familiarise me with practice; and give me a view of that course of life which at present appears will be mine.
I like my studies very well, and fear not the many temptations which will surround me, if the Lord keep my spirit in a praying frame and enable me, as Martyn says, to sit loose to all my engagements, so that I should be ready to depart at a moment's warning.
I saw our City address go up to the King, who, I understand, gave them a most affable and flattering reception, and promised the Lord Mayor that he hoped soon to see their City.
Just as I reached this point I received your most welcome letter. May God bless you, my dear, dear George. I need not tell you to be honest in declaring all the counsel of God.
With the greatest sincerity I can say, O that I were like you. But, whether Calvinist or not, give Christ the glory, and fear neither those who would excommunicate you for not holding high Calvinism, nor those who would shun you as a saint for professing even the doctrine of the new birth.
"If on my face, for Thy dear name,
Shame and reproaches be,
All hail reproach and welcome shame,
If Thou remember me."
On Sunday, being at Chigwell, I stayed in Mr. West's chapel while the Sacrament was administering, as a visitor, which they allow to any one.
He spoke as to his friends and brethren on the Saviour's love, and alluded to the transports which the Israelites must have felt when the rock yielded them water in the wilderness.
May the Lord bless and keep you, and enable you to feel that you are His minister.
Ever your most affectionate brother,
J. G. B."
The next letter, to his friend Mr. Reynolds,* though without date, must have been written about the same time:
*Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds had made acquaintance with my grandfather some years before, when they were visiting in Ireland, and were ever after the loved and valued friends of the whole family.
"MY DEAR FRIEND, — I could wish that, on my return for the summer vacation, I had the prospect of taking some drives with you and our most valued friend Mrs. Reynolds, but it is our wisdom and our happiness to look upward, rather than either forward, or backward.
Milton speaks of the 'Solemn troops and sweet society' in heaven. The language and sentiment are beautiful; but, my dear friend, it will be more than even Milton's rich genius could compass, to speak adequately of that blessed communion and intercourse which the redeemed of the Lamb enjoy before the throne. The poor, if 'rich in faith,' know something of it, much more than the wisest in the wisdom of this world. May God cause you, and me, and those dear to us, so to live that we may attain it in its fulness of joy!"
Soon after the date of these letters my father returned to Dublin to begin his work as a barrister; and a year or two after he was married to my dear mother, Mary, the fourth daughter of Admiral Drury. Their early married life was clouded by the death of four little ones, to one of whom my father refers in a letter to his cousin Richard:-
"MY DEAR COUSIN, — We have just closed a week of almost uninterrupted grief. Poor Mary, you will not be surprised to hear, has felt much more deeply our bitter loss than she did the first day or two; last week she remembered our darling boy in his sickness, but she is now remembering him while he was in health, and all his endearing little ways.
He is missed at almost every turn, and truly do I see the propriety of those words speaking of Rachel's sorrow for her children — 'because they are not.'
But sure I am that a day will come that shall prove not only the wisdom, but the infinite grace and goodness of all God's dealings, and equally sure that I see the necessity of His chastening, and I trust I pray in sincerity that it may accomplish its good purpose in both of us. Surely Cowper's words may be used -
'Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.'
Our dear child, no doubt, has joined this sweet and noble song, and shall we regret it? Shall we lament that his poor lispings in our ears have been changed for hallelujahs in our Lord's? — indeed a naughty world he has left, as a friend said to me the other day, 'He just looked on it, and seeing that it was so naughty, left it.'
Like dear children, may we all follow him — may the oldest among us, and the wisest among us, become as little children.
Farewell, my dear cousin, much love to all around you."
In the next letter my father refers to his two other boys, "little Richard and Johnny" — the first, delicate almost from his birth, was taken from him when about three years old. "Johnny," who was about a year older, lived to the age of nineteen to be the occasion of calling forth his father's tenderest sympathy during months of suffering, and also his wondering and adoring thankfulness for the grace given to this dear son. His letters at the end will show this fully.
"MY DEAREST GEORGE, — Our dear James* has been with us since Friday evening, but indeed not to find dear sister by his side is a great miss to us all.
*His much-loved brother-in-law, Rev. J. Richey.
Perhaps you remember Henry Martyn's reflection in a moment of disappointment: — 'Who is it that makes friends, and sleep, and food pleasant to me? Cannot He also make solitude, and hunger, and weariness so many ministering angels to help me on my way?'
It is so indeed. He can make the wilderness blossom as the rose, or turn the fruitful field into barrenness. He can give songs in the night, or turn the morning into the shadow of death, and we are called upon to be learning more and more that without Himself nothing is day, and with Him nothing is night. The good Lord give us all this blessed experience of Himself continually.
'It won't do,' says dear Rutherford, 'to be living amid the rumbling of the wheels of second causes, saying, "if it had not been for this circumstance," or "if this had not happened"; we must get out of the hearing of that jarring and din of confused noises, and run up at once to God with "It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good," before the soul will find her rest.'
This is beautiful, I can admire it; would that I could do more. May you abundantly prove it to be true, to your great and endless comfort.
Last week our dear little Richard had a pretty violent attack, but now, thank God, though a good deal weakened necessarily, we consider the complaint subdued. Johnny is very well.
Farewell, my very dear George; the Lord be with you, is the affectionate prayer of my poor heart.
Ever your loving brother,
J. G. B."
The following letter was written when my uncle was in some anxiety and trouble:
"MY DEAREST GEORGE, — We know not what is good for us, but this we know, that, if not thwarted by our own wilfulness, all things will work together for good in the Lord's hands, for good in conforming us to the image of His dear Son, and in that image imparting to us a share in all the glory which has been provided for Him, and which is to be revealed in His day.
'Till that day may you be enabled to dwell under His shadow, and prove the sufficient virtue of that abiding-place even in the heaviest, dreariest tempest: the present is one indeed to put it to the proof, and all I know is, that were it my case, I should not come through it without leaving me to see much of my weakness, which might well confound me.
But let us trust, 'and not be afraid.' We are to hope that we shall be found able to do all things — Christ strengthening us — His strength being fitted to our day.
I know a lady — whose husband, from bad conduct, is obliged to hide himself — I believe with eleven children, all but two apparently destitute, after living in comfort, and disease lately discovered to be working in her, drawing on certain death, it may be after years of suffering. But yet, with all these things against her, I learn that she was never in the enjoyment of such peace in God. She has found sweet sympathy in her Christian friends, and abundance in her blessed Saviour.
It is well to mention such cases to the praise of Him, who sticketh closer than a brother, and who in spirit is as near to us now as He will be in manifested glory hereafter."
The next two letters are addressed to my father's very dear and only sister.
"MY DEAREST Bessy, — How is dear James? I often think of you both; and the bustle, and the 'noisy folly' that surround one in a city like this, hurry me in imagination, and memory too, to the stillness of Culmstock,* but, dearest sister, the poetry of the shade is not the religion of faith, and when spirit, soul, and body are accounted not our own, but the Saviour's, in virtue of the purchase of His blessed sufferings, occasions for serving Him may be presented to us everywhere, and it is our duty to enter upon those occasions in humbleness, and faith, and love.
*At that time my aunt's home, in Somersetshire.
'What is that in thine hand?' says the Lord to Moses, and that which was in his hand, and which he had not to go far to look for, was to be employed as the instrument of his ministry."
The second letter refers to the illness of Aunt Roberts:-
"It is very comforting to know of our dear aunt. My love to her, and kiss her, and remind her while you do so of the last verse of the 2nd Psalm — 'Kiss the Son' — and may she and you, dearest sister, and all of us, enter more into the enjoyment of that full and free love of the Saviour, which that gracious invitation proposes to us.
How plainly do we see the hand of a tender Father in that stroke which laid her on a bed of pain, and her outward man perishing, but for the renewal and strengthening of the inner.
Our blessed Lord says, 'Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.' There is much now in the power of temptation, in sorrow of various kinds, in the witnessing of sin all around one, to cause the head to droop, and the heart to wither a bit, but once lifted up at the day of redemption it is lifted up for ever.
How happy that our dear brothers* separated from us, find Bandon is more palatable to them. They meet with much friendship and affection, but I hope, and believe, that their work itself, so truly blessed and great as it is, will be found sufficient to give the scene of it no common interest in their esteem.
*Both my uncles were curates at Bandon, in the south of Ireland. I shall often have occasion to speak of my uncle George; but my father's youngest brother lived only a few years after this. I never knew him, but heard him spoken of as one who loved his Lord most devotedly, and lived a saintly life; yet he suffered from great spiritual depression.
It is written, 'How beautiful upon the mountains.' Bleak, untamed mountains might seem beautiful when they become the scene of the labours of the gospel.
I feel so satisfied that, through His free and full love to you, God will so order all your ways for good, that I cannot exactly say that I should feel unqualifiedly sorry at any of His dispensations towards you, but I do trust, in His disposal of you, He may see fit to keep you, dear, in good health, that you may wait on those around you and minister to God in your place without interruption.
How does generation succeed generation, and how quickly does the place that now knows us know us no more! Our life is a hand-breadth, the journey of a day, but the end is the presence of God.
I think my gracious Lord has given me sweeter thoughts of death for a few months past than ever I had; it has appeared to me better to depart than formerly, and though I feel how weak my faith is to reach forth and take eternal joys, yet I have had some few earnests, that as I approach the confines of the two countries, my God will strengthen me and give me grace to sing the conqueror's song over death and the grave.
Surely we both entirely say that all our hope is exactly that which the dying thief had — the grace of the Saviour. I know no other. Let us serve and wait for years; still the beginning of my confidence must continue with me to the end, that the Lord has freely forgiven me all trespass, and loved me with an unchanging love.
Everything that helps us to see the glory of the Lord reflected in the pages of His Holy Word is so much pure gold, and better than thousands of silver.
"Cleave close to the Word, dearest Bessy. Is it not the way to cleave close to God? May the remembrance of it become increasingly precious to you. If you love it as well as I love you, you will often think of it with ever new delight."
Some of the following extracts are from letters to the Rev. J. Richey:-
"MY DEAREST JAMES, — I enclose a short answer to dear W.'s note which you sent me, and which was very beautiful indeed; truly and simply, I am sure, speaking the desires of his heart which appear all directed to the dear things of our Lord's Kingdom.
May you and dearest Bessy have much cause to rejoice in the work of your hands. I think of you all pretty often, and if you be bringing forth a hundred fold, while I yield twenty, I shall rejoice with you for the abundant grace bestowed upon you, and that God is glorified thereby.
Give my love to our dear aunt. Tell her I only trust that the same rod and staff may be supporting us all when we are summoned to follow her, and that we may find the valley, as Henry* says, valleys generally are a fruitful place.
*Matthew Henry, the Commentator.
We desire again to hear of dear Baby. I fear that she must be an object of some painful solicitude to you and dearest sister, but you will both learn, I am sure, by the effectual teaching of God Himself, to repose your little darling in the arms of the Lord. The sufferings of an infant deeply present the sinfulness of sin to us. We are ready to say, 'What hath sin wrought?' but you remember those comforting and, I believe, sound words, 'They die, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died.'
You remember, dear James, how Milner tells of some African Christians who, on leaving their native town in time of persecution, went out singing, 'Such honour have all His saints' — I would that this mantle may fall on us both.
I often think of dear Culmstock. May the presence of our good God be much there.
Dear Mother is, assuredly, we trust, more and more under the holy power of the Spirit of God. May His kingdom be the portion of us all!"
In the following letters my father speaks of the illness and death of my grandmother (Mrs. Drury), and of a little daughter who lived but a short time, also of the death of little Richard.
"Dear Baby gives us hopes and fears at times. In complexion, as well as features, she has become to my eye so like Johnny,* that she brings his last month very forcibly to my mind. The Lord restore her if it be His will, but we are all very doubtful if she will ever number up twelve months.
*His first little son.
She is a sweet, engaging little pet to us all, but God may see that the world would prove too strong for her; and, to see her not triumphing over it, would truly be the saddest sight of all.
Our dear Mrs. Drury is much, much worse; there is a near connection, I feel more and more, between ours and the eternal world. May her spirit soon rejoice with the blessed angels. I shall miss her very, very much."
A few days later:
"My prayer for her has been gradually turned into praise, and the subject of my praise was that God has so visited her with His peace and strength, for she was entirely composed and never happier in all her life, though she was sensible that a few days must dismiss her hence — not one murmur from the beginning. But yesterday morning she appeared somewhat relieved.
My dear, dear M. has been a good deal tried, but she is docile under God's hand, I surely believe, and longs to know Him more and more.
You do not mention dear Aunt Roberts, for your letter was all affectionate interest about us.
How comfortable to know that that which distinguishes heaven is not intellectual power, or high and honourable attainments of any kind which our hearts naturally admire — but love — let us then live in love. 'He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.' Have we not some understanding of this? It is hard to delineate, but it way be proved in the soul."
"Our darling Mrs. Drury died this morning after twelve hours of laborious breathing, but without one painful struggle. The happy circumstances of her illness, the truly happy temper of her soul generally, almost entirely from first to last, greatly help to comfort us. Her death came as the most sudden surprise after her revival.
Farewell, my own dear sister."
MY DEAREST BESSY, — Dear Mother has told you of our sorrow, which has come in a moment most unlooked for, for Mr. Crampton told us, thirteen days before dear little Richard died, that he might outlive his disease. But he has followed his dear, kind grandpapa very speedily, and though he was a most delightful child to us, yet we see much mercy in his being freed from possibly long suffering. I feel, however, that it helps to show me that I have less reason to have my hold on this world.
He has been a most precious little son to me."
I think it must have been about this time that my father withdrew from the Communion of the Church of England. His friend Mr. Darby's* name first occurs in the following letter:
*It is perhaps needless for me to say that Mr. Darby was one of my father's dearest friends. They had been contemporaries at College, and afterwards they were almost entirely of one mind on the subjects most prized by both. I never knew the time when Mr. Darby was not a visitor in our house — sometimes for weeks together; and well do I remember the rapt attention with which his preaching was listened to by my father, and the pleasure with which he would afterwards tell Mr. Darby how it had delighted him.
January 31, 1827.
MY DEAREST GEORGE, — At times it is only the assurance that God is with you that makes me feel at all happy in our separation.* If we lived merely for this world, it would be better that we should be together even on bread and water, but we must not undertake to fix the bounds of our habitation. Circumstances will, please God, occasionally unite us.
*My uncle was still at Bandon.
I hope on Friday to see John Darby. You will be grieved to hear that be has been laid up for nearly two months from a hurt in his knee. His poor people at Calary miss him sadly."
My father used to say, "If I deserve any credit it is that I early discerned what there was in John Darby!"
The next few lines refer to the last illness of Cousin Richard:
*Cousin Richard's home, near Sampford.
MY DEAREST SISTER, — I reached this yesterday, and found our beloved cousin much as I had expected. I should judge the time of his continuance among us is at present uncertain. I have had very delightful communications from him; he speaks in such a way as carries its own witness with it, that the Lord, the Spirit, has made Jesus very precious to him, and given him full peace through His blood.
Indeed, dear, dear sister, it is a matter of thankfulness to find him thus kept. He seems to be detained here by no recollections or desires whatever. I feel that we are losing a most pleasant and beloved friend."
To Mr. Reynolds:
"MY DEAR FRIEND, — Many persons are confidently anticipating sorrowful times for our land. The condition of the public mind here they think to be very alarming. I would that I felt myself more in an Abraham state, looking for a city that hath 'foundations.' You know none of the present kingdoms of the earth have foundations, they are all either shaken, or to be shaken. (Hebrews 12:27-28.)
In the first chapter of Ephesians the apostle says that we receive spiritual blessings in Christ. (v. 3.) He then enumerates these blessings (vv. 4-14), and they are election, adoption, acceptance in the Beloved, forgiveness, knowledge of God's purposes, inheritance in Christ, earnest of inheritance. It is instructive to consider the meaning of these blessings in detail, for each has its peculiar value for the Church.
How good it is to study the word of God with care, and how worthy it is of this study!
Give our love to Mrs. Reynolds. Tell her the prophets are still much in my thoughts, as we used to talk of them together."
To the same:
"MY DEAR FRIEND, — I was sorry to learn from your few kind lines that your general health was not better; it may be that the change from Fulham to higher ground may serve both you and Mrs. Reynolds, and I shall rejoice to hear that it does, if it be God's will concerning you, but I rather trust that He may dispose you both to leave your times in His hands, and go on to understand more and more fully that love of His which passeth knowledge.
Indeed I regret that you did not see dear John Parnell* before his leaving this country. He and the godly company with whom he purposes to labour left our port for Bordeaux on Saturday. They went off accompanied by the regrets and blessings of many of the Lord's people, who loved them much for His sake.
*He went with Mr. Groves and others on the mission to Baghdad.
It is better to rejoice that our names are 'written in heaven' than to be able to report that 'devils are subject unto us.' Graciousness of mind is better than endowments."
This is the last of the very early letters.
CHAPTER 2. DOMESTIC LIFE — JOYS AND SORROWS.
I HAVE now reached the point when I can first speak of my dear father from personal recollection. The very first thing I can recall is the tone of his voice; and I can remember his playing with us, and can almost see him groping his way in blind man's buff; but perhaps nothing made a more lasting impression on my mind than the way in which, when bidding me "good-night," he would say some little word of a hymn or prayer. Sometimes it would be a short verse, such as
"Jesus, Thou our Guardian be
Sweet it is to trust in Thee."
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good."
"Jesus only can supply
Boldness if we're called to die."
But I think that most frequently it was some loving desire that the blessed Lord might draw me to Himself, and keep me from "the snares of this naughty world." (An expression he often quoted when mentioning children in prayer.) Whatever the parting word might be it reminded me constantly where his heart was.
My great-aunt, Alice Dyer, whom I have before mentioned, was my grandmother, Mrs. Bellett's, younger sister, and had come to Ireland with her without intending to remain. But she became so attached to my father, even from his birth, that nothing could induce her to leave him. Friends in England wanted her to return; but never, except for one short visit, did she leave Ireland again; and after the death of my grandparents she came to live with us. She used often to talk to me of the early days at "North Lodge." Her love for her sister's four children was great; and, when they each left the old home and made homes for themselves, her heart followed them; but it was most closely bound to her "dear John." I shall have occasion to speak of this aunt again.
As my brother and I grew older my father would sometimes sing with us; and used to enjoy the old psalm and hymn tunes with which he had been familiar. His voice was ever sweet and true. The first hymn that I remember his writing was composed to the tune of "Woodman, spare that tree," which we had learned to sing, and which my father much enjoyed.
"My heart is bounding onward,
Home to the land I love;
Its distant vales and mountains
My wishful passions move.
Fain would my fainting spirit
Its living freshness breathe,
And wearied feet find resting,
Its hallow'd shades beneath.
No soil of nature's evil,
No touch of man's rude hand,
Shall e'er disturb around us
That bright and peaceful land.
The charms that woo our senses
Shall be as pure, as fair;
For all while stealing o'er us
Shall tell of Jesus there.
What light! when all its beaming
Shall own Him as its Sun;
What music! when its breathing
Shall bear His name along.
No change, no pause those pleasures
Shall ever seek to know;
The draught that lulls our thirsting,
But awakes that thirst anew."*
*This hymn was first printed by someone years ago without our knowledge.
I can remember the sorrow to which my father refers in the following letter, and my consciousness, when quite a little child, of how much it affected him. It was the death of my mother's youngest sister. She had been an invalid all her life, and was the object of tenderest love to all her family. With her two other sisters she lived next door to us.
MY DEAREST BESSY, — Our darling sister Louisa has been taken from the midst of us, after a short inflammatory attack of only six days, from the 18th to the 24th of April. But her mind was fully preserved throughout, and her peace flowed like a river from her entrance upon, till her close of, the dark valley. It was indeed a mingled scene of light and darkness. Darkness as to nature and the poor body, but God's light in the spirit all the way. But she has been very dear to me from the beginning, and for years our minds had been trained together in sweetest harmony. Scarcely a meditation of mine on the blessed Word that she was not familiar with. … I have felt abundant reason in my soul to thank my God with an especial note of praise for it, for it was all needed I am sure, and it will, I trust, be made a good and holy practical lesson to us. My poor Mary and sisters are in the deepest sorrow.
* * * * * *
"'Happy, quite happy,' were the first words dearest Louisa said to me; and many a sweet word passed between us. The whole was the most perfect peace, not broken for a moment. On one occasion saying to her, 'You shall behold His glory, and be raised in His likeness,' 'Sure of that,' she just said. When dear Aunt came in to see her, she was almost too weak to say anything, but she lifted her hand to heaven as intimating that she was soon going there. She wanted nothing but the Lord Jesus. — He was her boast and holy confidence all through.
I said to her, 'It is a blessing to us, darling, to know that you are as safe in the hands of Jesus as the Apostle Paul.' She raised her poor arm and laid hold on my coat and said, 'I have such a grip of Christ.'
It is sweet to me to talk of her, dearest sister. My poor Mary has been left a little weaker by all this. She will never be fully strong again on her limbs, I judge, but she lays herself without a murmur on the Lord."
One of our pleasantest days each summer was when my father would drive out with my brother, my mother's two nieces and myself, to spend the day at Ballycorus (near "North Lodge"), the Dargle, and Powerscourt Waterfall, first going to breakfast with Mr. Kearney at Kilternan Glebe.
Mr. Kearney's love for my father was very strong; and their friendship was not the least shaken by my father's separation from the Church of England.
Visits to Kilternan Glebe were continued up to the time of Mr. Kearney's death; and on the last day of his life my father watched beside him for hours, and saw him breathe his last (1852).
This "day in the country" was continued in after years; and friends sometimes joined us. My dear father used to enjoy it with a sweet natural pleasure, especially if we had the company of any friend, to whom the beautiful scenery was new.
On these occasions we generally dined at Mrs. Walker's farm; and I think we were never there without his getting together whoever might be in the house, and either reading a little of the Bible, or speaking to them in his own happy, loving way. His kindly manner made all the tenants feel at ease with him.
I cannot remember much about my fathers work and ministry in those early days, but I think that then, as afterwards, a part of each day was spent in visits of Christian counsel and sympathy amongst the Brethren, or others.
He usually took part in the Sunday morning meeting, and frequently preached in the evening also, as well as on Thursday evenings. There were also occasional Bible readings at friends' houses.
He was always an early riser. On winter mornings he would have his table by the kitchen fire, with his Bible and writing materials on it, and there read, and meditate, and write, for some time before breakfast.
The Short Meditations on the Psalms, and On the Gospels according to Luke and John, were written before we left the dear old Herbert Place home, and also, no doubt, many other meditations which appeared from time to time in the Christian Witness.
In later years he would often sit with my dear mother and me, with his Bible open, and a pen in his hand, meditating and writing, always ready to answer any question, or to say some loving word; and I can truly say that I never remember his showing any impatience at being interrupted.
It was his habit to read aloud at breakfast and in the evening. The first book I remember his reading to Johnny and me when we were children was Uncle Philip's Conversations on Animals; and after the lapse of many years, when I alone was left to listen to him, the last he was able to read thus was The Land and the Book, by Dr. Thompson. He often chose history and biography to read, and would say that the reading of history was useful in a special way, to show how "the bubble had burst," and to remind us that many things which may seem very important to us today will one day be as nothing.
One of the biographies he enjoyed was that of the Rev. H. Venn, of whom his physician said, it was impossible for him to die while in such a state of joy at the prospect. The thought of such experience as this greatly delighted my father. He used to repeat with much pleasure what Mr. Venn said about his solitary parish rides — "I rode along with no companion but my pocket Bible and its Divine Author."
When my dear father wrote of my aunt's death as being such a cause of sorrow, he little thought of the greater grief that was slowly but steadily approaching, nor of the eternal joy that was to spring up in the midst of it.
I refer to the illness and death of my brother, the only one of his three boys who lived to grow up.
The letters at the end of this little volume were written during his illness and after his death to Aunt Alice; and my father afterwards found comfort in putting them together. My own recollection of this dear brother (some years, older than myself) is a very bright one. Although often suffering and requiring care, he was full of life and spirits. His bright face and sunny temperament made him a most pleasant companion, while his love of poetry and music, and all the refined enjoyments of life, and his readiness for pleasure and society, might have been even greater temptations to him than they were, if it had not been that his love for our father had such an influence over him. I can remember hearing them speak of books in which Johnny found enjoyment, but which my father had laid aside. He had doubtless many anxious thoughts about his boy; but, while fearing to encourage too much his love for merely intellectual pleasures, he yet felt much sympathy with his tasteful mind. When my brother's illness assumed a serious aspect, the doctor advised a total change, and we left Dublin for Ryde, and other places. Those changes, however, were of no lasting service; but a greater blessing was vouchsafed to him than restored health. The prayers of so many years were answered, and Johnny was, as he himself expressed it, "Shocked out of a life of vanity into real life"; and during the months that followed, until his death, the change was indeed proved to be real.
The beauty of his mind expressed itself in new channels; and the things of God and the love of Christ were ever first in his thoughts. He was entirely free from religious phraseology; and, as far as his health allowed, enjoyed social intercourse, and entered into surrounding interests.
From the time when he became increasingly dependent (after the loss of his arm), our father's devotion to him was beautiful. Could I have taken note of it all then, as I now look back upon it, I should have been filled with admiring love. It is little to say, that at any hour, day or night, it was his one pleasure and comfort to wait on his suffering child. His own letters show something of this, but they do not, of course, convey the extent of his devotion. During all those months of gradual decline, he and our dear and faithful Mary Perrott, whose name is found in the letters, entirely nursed my brother. My dear mother's feeble health prevented her from taking her share in this labour of love.
This sorrow and loss did most deeply wound my father's loving heart. It gave occasion to his Meditations on the Book of Job, and doubtless gave colour to some of his other writings about the same time.
During his own illness, in 1864, he spoke of this dear son to some who, I suppose, had never even heard of him before, and gave them copies of one or two hymns written by him.
The following extracts are taken from letters written to my dear aunt, Mrs. Richey, who had been with us for some time before my brother's death:
I esteem it among the sweetest mercies of a mere circumstantial nature, that we were so together in that dear and precious season — precious, I need not say, to the fondest recollections that can ever fill our hearts. … How little, when we traversed the Three Rock Mountain together in the freedom of young days, we counted on the style of the more serious and advanced stages of life. How little did I think that dear Mary's heart and mine would be linked by such a common sorrow.
I pray that the memory of him may never be a faded or distant impression on my heart, for I believe it has its virtue, and such virtue, I trust, as the Spirit sanctions. Did you ever meet with the beautiful rendering of Jer. 31:20, in Tyndale, I believe, 'Ephraim, my dear son! the child with whom I have had all delight and pastime, since I first communed with him I have him ever in remembrance. My very heart driveth me unto him. Most lovingly and gladly will I have mercy on him, saith the Lord of hosts.'
How sweet that verse of Tersteegen's hymn is:
"'Mid conflict be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my strength,
And when the storms of life shall cease,
And Thou to earth shalt come at length,
Then, to the Glory be my Guide,
And show me Him who for me died.'
To live to serve Him, is the highest desire.
To die, to enjoy Him as our portion."
During the summer of 1849, after my brother's death, we remained at Bath with my mother's sisters and nieces, who were then living there.
Much sympathy was shown by many friends, and very specially by those in Dublin. My father went back for a short time to attend a large meeting, and the tender and deep sympathy that awaited him there must have been very comforting.
He returned to Bath for a time, but before the winter he and my dear mother went back to the now shadowed home, where Aunt Alice was waiting for them with her most loving welcome. I remained with my aunts and cousins at Bath, and this gave occasion to my having letters from my father, some extracts from which I can give here.
"This is a new scene to us, without our darling children who once gave it, in our heart's esteem, its chiefest attraction — one 'is not,' and the other beyond the seas. May the blessed Spirit guide your heart as He did that of your loved and now happy brother! What can a father's fondest wishes desire more for you? We have heard of the death of Georgy T — by a fall from his horse. What recollections of our mercy this again gives us! What a different departure did our eyes witness, my child, just twelve months since!
I grieve much to hear of dear Mr. Jukes, and would indeed most sincerely pray and desire that he may be soon in health and strength again; but he has better possessions than either — conscious peace with God, and a well-known title to His presence and kingdom.
Think of the Lord and of all His love in the simplicity of a believing heart. May He be near to teach and keep you, my dear child.
I need not say, my love to your dear aunts and cousins they know how I love them, and so does my heart know it.
I have just come from the poor M.'s. Dear M.'s last hours were lovely. She said, 'Pray for me passing the dark place but no, it is not dark, it is bright, glorious light.'
She charged her husband to hold fast by the people of the Lord. 'Jesus, my light, my joy,' she said. Great comfort in thinking that her warfare is accomplished and her journey ended, and 'them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.' The Lord bless you. Keep your heart open to Himself, and He will pour in only light, which, though at first it may rebuke, will for ever gladden.
The subject I had last evening was the brightness of Jacob's closing hours, as shown in Gen. 48. At the beginning (see Gen. 27) he had craftily got the blessing from his father, as though he were not satisfied with the promise of God. Through weakness of faith he sought to have his title to the inheritance sealed by his father's blessing, as it had been previously by God's promise. But now, at the end he listens to nothing but God's purpose, believing surely that he is blessed whom God blesses, and that nothing shall hinder. Therefore, though Joseph may plead for Manasseh, he puts the blessing upon Ephraim, because this is God's way, to set the younger above the elder, that all blessing may come through the grace of God, and not through the rights, or claims, or the efforts of nature. At the end all Jacob's undivided boast and confidence is in the sovereign grace of God.
How happy it is to know that we, in like measure, must be 'debtors to mercy alone'! We have no title in ourselves; we are like the younger child, not the natural heirs of blessing. But God gives to those who deserve nothing.
I sometimes remember our piano and songs; but the humming of a tune is never my custom now. We have, however, far better things to remember.
May His presence and approbation be our present joy, my dear child, and the assurance of His everlasting love, the spring of our constant confidence and hope."
Referring again to my brother's death, he writes:
"His dealing was marked by the most signal tokens of His love. And when I consider what the world is and what it is becoming; the temptations specially which young men like our darling are subject to, and the thousands that go to the wide gate and the broad way, I am almost lost in admiration and praise in the presence of my Heavenly Father, though all the world could not repair the loss.
The Lord bless my dear, dear child; keep her in the midst of the corruptions and distractions abroad, under the shelter of the name of Jesus, for it is a strong tower, and they that trust in it shall never be confounded. … I have been thinking a little this morning of the meaning we may attach to the 'talent,' or the 'pound,' which the Lord gave to His people to use till He return. We may, as a practical word for our conscience, say, that every circumstance may be used as a talent. I mean, if we seek to go through it, or to meet it, or to be exercised in it and by it, in reference to Christ. Every opportunity, every advantage we should learn to regard as an occasion of service to the Lord, not seeking to turn it to our own account, but to the account of His praise. And the more we love Him, the more this will be done. Where there is love, even amongst ourselves, we know this. We know how to prize an opportunity or a circumstance, if it can be made to serve the wishes or interests of a person we love. And this man in the parable who had no heart for the Lord, but who feared Him, never used His talent, never took up any opportunity or circumstance with love and desire, as a means of serving or pleasing Him.
And happy, my child, it is when the heart is so true to Jesus that it can regard all things that arise, not in their relation to ourselves, but as occasions of thus pleasing and honouring Him; to try to get out of every little event, something that may tell Him we love Him.
And then, when we discover our coldness in our best estate, and our short-comings in everything, to remember His covenant, everlasting, electing love, which made us His object in spite of all things, and will never leave, never forsake us."
My dear father and mother finally left the home in Herbert Place in the following summer, and returned to Bath for a time. He took me into Devonshire, and on the way we stayed for two or three days at Wellington, in order to visit my brother's grave in Sampford Churchyard, and to see the inscription which had been placed in the church to his memory.
The names of many relations are there also, among them some much loved and honoured.
While at Wellington we were the guests of Mr. Charles and Mr. Henry Fox. I can recollect the kindness and sympathy shown to my father by these friends, and after the lapse of thirty-five years I met again one member of the family, whose happy remembrance of him touched me very much. She had scarcely seen him, I think, since that visit when she was a girl of about fifteen, but the length of time had not dimmed her recollection. She loved to speak of him, and said, "I never saw anyone so full of love as Mr. Bellett."
Not long after we returned to Ireland, and during the next few years lived in the neighbourhood of Dublin.
It was either on that journey or on another, a year or two later, that, in conversation with a fellow-traveller, my father (as he was always ready to do, though without any undue effort) led the thoughts to higher things, and in answer to some remarks about the pleasures of travelling, said that life was too serious a thing to be spent in pleasure. The reply instantly was, "I think I know some friends of yours, sir; are you not one of the Plymouth Brethren? "
This surprised, and, I think, pleased him.
There is nothing special to mark the next year or two, except the remembrance of friends who gathered round my father, and who were welcomed to our house chiefly as guests at breakfast.
He used to quote a saying of Lord Macaulay's (I believe), "You ask a man to dinner because he knew your grandfather, or because he has done you some service; you ask a man to breakfast because you like him."
There are still some remaining who can recall, I think, the charm that he gave to these simple morning gatherings. He made them opportunities of friendly intercourse with some not belonging to the Brethren, whom he was always glad to welcome. At such times, whilst ready to converse cheerfully on different subjects (when too, his appreciation of humour would occasionally show itself), the one ever nearest to his heart would continually come to the surface, and the claims of Christ be felt as the words fell with persuasive power from his lips. Some of his choicest sentences were uttered in these happy moments of familiar intercourse, or at our family Bible reading from day to day. A few of these, remembered and written down afterwards, may not be out of place here:-
The more we live in expectation, the less we shall grudge another; and the less we shall seek to acquire for ourselves, for, even if obtained, what would it be but a vanity?
The gate of the domains of heaven is on earth.
I often think of the two worlds — the difference between them — victory here will be dignity there. (1 John 5:4.)
That which disappears here in widow's weeds will re-appear there in bridal attire. (This sentence was explained to mean that the faith which has here been tried by 'manifold temptations' will there be found 'unto praise and honour and glory.' (1 Peter 1:7.)
There is nothing like faith which attaches you to a victorious Christ.
By the bleeding hand of Christ we have received from God the reconciliation, that He might satisfy the mystery of God's eternal love for sinners, and satisfy the conscience for eternity.
He was numbered with the transgressors — He who had had Moses and Elias on either side of Him! (See St. Luke 9:30-31)
The service that humbles you is true Christian service.
Love does not wait for great occasions, but buckles on its service-suit at once (like St. Paul preaching at Damascus).
What was the apostle's temper of mind in writing the Epistle to the Galatians? In Romans it was the calmness of a teacher. In Corinthians he was a pained rebuker, a disappointed father. In Ephesians all is elevation, looking around on a world of glories.
Justification by faith was no mere dogma to the man who wrote the Epistle to the Galatians.
Where is the blessedness ye spake of? We do not know the power of the thought that God's favour is towards us — the greatest lever which can be put under the soul. The Galatians knew it at the time to which the apostle looked back.
Thessalonians has a deep glow of pastoral devotedness throughout.
The God of all grace. How little do we let the majesty of such words in upon the soul!
It is a terrible thing to lay oneself out to be an object; it is like a worm at the root.
Heb. 10:32-39. It is as if the Lord would remind them of His goodness in illuminating them, and ask if they so valued what they had in Him as to part with present things. It would not do for them to pass at once from 'illumination' to 'glory.' The time of 'patience' was necessary to prove that they did value what He could give.
Passages that may seem startling, read in the light of others, are found to be necessary truths. Such is the fearlessness of Scripture, an honest man does not fear to speak his mind."
(In answer to some remark about what we might "expect" to find in the Bible, "It is a perfect book; I expect what I find there."
How minute the links between the different parts of Scripture are, and how many silent references there are from one part to another! How the divine writers provide for one another! Judges for Hebrews; Genesis for Galatians. How the volume rolls in upon itself! Paul rolls in upon Habakkuk. (Rom. 1:17; 2:4.)
Variety in unity; unity in variety — the dislocated parts of the volume carrying out one line of thought, or a single passage presented in different lights. It is a book of wonders, but the volume itself is a wonder.
Though we may not have capacity to put things together, Scripture has.
We should lean upon the Word as David leaned upon his harp, and press music out of it.
We must leave reason with God; believing is our's. God will take care of His own glory.
There is no citadel for the heart like confidence in God.
No accuracy of doctrine will give the soul rest; there must be the knowledge of a Person.
Christ was the manifestation of God to man, and of man to God. He was the man in whom God could delight.
If there is an entertainment for the heart this side the glory, it is tracking the moral glory of the Lord Jesus; as one says, 'The conception of such a character would be more wonderful than the reality.'
The story of the life of Christ as given by the four evangelists is an enlarging, living wonder to the soul from day to day.
After the lapse of many years, I had a touching proof of the impression left on the mind of one who occasionally joined us at breakfast, in some letters, from which I take the following extracts:
". … Your father's kind notice of me when a lad, his gentleness, his courtesy, his originality, have left with me an indelible memorial of him, but his love to his God and Saviour, and the light he was enabled to cast upon his Saviour's life in the gospels, endear him in an extraordinary manner to all who knew him, and I can say, with sincerity, to myself also.
He is at times vividly before me, as though no long period of time had passed since I saw him; his tone of voice, his warm, loving pressure of hand, his sweet, graceful, high-bred courtesy, above all, his unbounded faith, his realization of the person and character of the Lord Jesus, create before me an unspeakably precious and unique personality."
I shall have to quote from the same friend later on.
About two years after my brother's death another great trouble came into my dear father's life, caused by the division which took place amongst the Brethren who had hitherto been united in Christian love and service.*
*The controversy that arose about the writings of Mr. Benjamin Newton had already taken place; and this was consequent upon it.
It was at this time that my father wrote two papers in the Present Testimony, called "The Son of God." His mind was led to the subject (as he has explained) by thoughts concerning the person of our blessed Lord, which he felt to be erroneous, and which had been suggested by some whom he knew.
In looking back, I can see how great was the mercy which did not suffer this sorrow to visit him until the former wound was in a measure healed.
The controversy assumed a grave form. Decided judgments had to be formed and acted upon, and much sorrow followed in the separation (in many instances) of close and tried friends. My father's judgment was not shared by the greater number of those amongst whom he had ministered for so many years in Dublin, and by whom he was greatly beloved. Many meetings for conference were held — and I well remember the pain and anxiety he suffered.
His dear friend Mr. Darby was of the same mind as himself; but his visits to Dublin at that time were few; and at first my father stood much alone.
He felt it all most keenly; and the temptation must have been very great to silence his conscience, and remain, as before, united with so many whom he loved, and who wished still to have him as their friend and teacher.
The trouble began to tell upon his health and he was persuaded to leave Dublin for a time.
On his return, a separate meeting was formed by the few who felt with him, and whose numbers gradually increased. With them he resumed his ministry, and continued it with only occasional interruptions until his last illness began.
It was a comfort to him that living a few miles from Dublin, at Booterstown, he was spared the more frequent meetings with those friends from whom he differed, but whom he never ceased to love. But, by degrees, when the pain was in a measure softened, on coming home, he would sometimes say with a smile, "I had to run the gauntlet today!" and would then mention the familiar names of some of these friends whom he had met.
After a while these meetings became less painful, and he found it a happiness to see the old friends from time to time.
There is a circumstance which comes to my memory, as part of the refining process through which my dear father was called to pass, though not connected with this period of his life, that I may here mention. It was the gradual withdrawal from his ministry (in consequence of a difference in their judgment on another matter of some importance) of one who had been a constant hearer, who always took copious notes of his lectures, and who had given many proofs of his affectionate regard.
My father must have been deeply pained, but he had the full approval of his conscience in the matter, and no touch of wounded feelings seemed to remain.
CHAPTER 3. CHARACTERISTICS — REMEMBERED WORDS.
WHILE we were living at Booterstown, my father was invited by the curate of the parish to attend a meeting held by him once a week, where a few gentlemen met together for Bible reading and conversation, and he went regularly unless some other engagement prevented him.
He had at that time a weekly meeting for exposition of Scripture at the house of an old lady, who, though herself one of the Brethren, would invite any friends and neighbours who wished to come; and it was always a pleasure to my father when any who loved his Lord, though "they followed not with him," were present.
His own convictions were sure and unwavering and seemed to grow stronger from year to year, but he could appreciate to the full Christian worth in those whose opinions were not his own, where he felt they were held "as to the Lord." He would refer often to Romans 14 in connection with this.
He often said, "We will not agree to differ, because that would be making little of truth, but we will love in spite of differences."
My father's temperament did not lead him to active work; and he the more admired those who were bearing "the burden and heat of the day." Those (such as city missionaries and others) who go out into the lanes and alleys, the highways and hedges, he greatly honoured, and loved to remember them in family prayer. He would speak of himself as fit only to sit at their feet.
I do not know whether he had ever felt ambitious of success in his profession as a barrister; but I think he liked it, and had he continued in it, his accurate mind and fitting perception of things would probably have ensured success; but nothing that he had given up seemed to be felt a sacrifice. He would speak with admiration of any who had suffered for the cause of Christ; and of himself, as one to whom the lines had fallen "in pleasant places"; and no one who can recall his happy smile can doubt that he felt this.
His social nature was fully alive to the enjoyments of refined society; but so completely was it kept in check by what he felt to be loyalty to his Lord, that I never remember thinking it was any trial to him to abstain from many things, nor yet that he judged harshly those who did otherwise. With his shrinking from everything in which he felt not his Lord's approval, there was no touch of hardness, or of gloom in his intercourse with others.
Satisfied cheerfulness was characteristic of him. I remember how we were amused by the remarks of a Dutch Pastor, who had come to Dublin from Amsterdam, and breakfasted with us one morning. He asked my father if he had ever been on the Rhine, and being answered in the negative, he said with a smile, "How can you be so cheerful, never having seen the Rhine!"
My dear father's simplicity of character I have scarcely thought of mentioning, it was so entirely a part of himself. The following anecdote was told me by a friend whose remembrance of him after thirty years is as fresh as that of so many others. He said that one evening my father had been spending a little time at their house, and on going away he met a poor man at the gate selling brushes, and touched, I suppose by his importunity, he bought one. They were surprised to see him returning to the door with a sweeping brush in his hand. He told them, how he had got it, and asked if they would have it, as he hardly liked to carry it home!
This brings to my mind his constant readiness to give alms; and I remember that almost always, when he gave anything to a beggar, he would say, "That is for the Lord Jesus' sake." If any doubt were suggested as to the integrity of anyone in want, he would say pityingly, "Ah, we don't know the temptations of poverty!"
As far as his means would allow, my father was ever ready to give to those who were in want, his sympathies being always specially called out when there were large families of children to be provided for.
I may perhaps mention a little circumstance which has been a treasured memory to myself. One day coming home from his usual rounds, he told me that he had been attracted by a davenport which he saw in a shop window, and looked at it, wishing very much to buy it for me. "But then," he added, "I thought, how many are wanting a loaf, and I turned away."
I think he had almost a dread of wealth. To hear of anyone dying "worth so much" (as the expression is), especially if he were known as one who made a profession of religion, pained him very much. But the luxury of giving away largely, he fully understood, and used to say that this was the one thing for which wealth could be valued. Hearing of any act of self-denying generosity at once stirred his admiration.
His work from day to day did not lead him much to the very poor: but amongst those he did visit and relieve from time to time were a poor man, his wife, and sister-in-law, all old and feeble. I remember his saying with admiration of their simple faith, "They have only about half an eye between them, and yet they are cheerful and happy!"
He would relate with pleasure the following little history told him by the Rector of a poor parish called "The Liberties," in Dublin, whom he greatly esteemed for his "unobtrusive work." Mr. H — had been visiting a poor, sick woman for a long time, without making any impression upon her. It seemed as if she were incapable even of understanding his words, and she would always repeat, "I'm a stupid old woman, I can't understand." Still Mr. H — would not give her up, but continued to read and speak to her of the Lord. One day as soon as he entered the room she raised her head and said, "I understand it all now!" and then she told him how all that he had been saying to her seemed to be made quite plain; and he had the comfort of feeling that the Holy Spirit had indeed been her teacher.
My dear father's sympathies were very strong, and for suffering of any and every kind he felt deeply, especially so (perhaps from his own dread of it) in the case of illness accompanied by much pain.
I remember once a person whom we knew was threatened with a very painful disease, unless a successful operation were performed. My father felt tenderly about it, and (as if taking it to himself) he said, "There are moments of midnight darkness to the soul, but there will be noon-day brightness for ever!" His relief and happiness were great when the danger was past and health restored.
The remembrance of what he felt during my brother's months of intense suffering gave, no doubt, additional tenderness to his sympathy. Thank God! he was never again called upon to pass through such a time of trial as that. My dear mother's weakness, increasing gradually as it did from year to year, until she could only move from room to room, was not such a trial as might have been thought, because she suffered but little.
Her even cheerfulness was unfailing. It was his delight to have her beside him, or to minister to her in little ways, and her sweet, bright smile was quite enough to cheer him, even when anything arose to trouble him.
Her truthfulness and simplicity of character were such a rest and joy to him. The friends whom she was only able to see occasionally, little knew how his happiness depended on her. He often said to me when I was a girl, "I will give up all my expectations of you, if you will be like your mother."
He used to say that in character she was like "Aunt Roberts," for whose memory he and others had much veneration; and he was not a little pleased to hear Mr. Darby once say, "Mrs. Bellett has been my mentor for twenty years." Her straightforward and clear-sighted judgment gave much weight to her opinion and advice.
I have now to give some extracts from my father's letters, though they rather belong to Chapter 2, written after the death of my dear aunts, to whom he was summoned as each drew near her end. He was closely bound in affection to each of them; and the loss of them made, a fresh blank in his life. Never did sisters more truly love a brother than those dear aunts loved my father.
The first letter refers to the death of the eldest of the three:
"I am sitting between your dear aunts, who are still in sorrow. But all is richly well. She was as full a sample of 'peace in Jesus' as your own dear mamma, and she could not be more. All is well, eternally well, and the joys of the Glory will awaken all our faculties for enjoyment, and give them their perfection for ever.
"Thankful I am to hear of the meetings on Sunday — 'Manifestly declared to be the Epistle of Christ' is said of that church at Corinth, where so much had to be corrected and rebuked. But the Spirit discerned the work of God in the midst of the rubbish of nature."
The next extract speaks of the dear aunt that was called away last.
". … It is a coming and a going, my dear child — a living and a dying — but perfections, and brightness, and purity are all in His presence in Glory. We must know 'Scripture' as the 'power of God.' (Matt. 22:29) If He say, He can do it; if He promise, He can make it good; and it is the business of faith to learn what He has said: and know the power that will accomplish it.
The body and the spirit of the saints are given their different histories in Scripture. The spirit is not contemplated in 1 Cor. 15; that concerns the body, and tells that, a day is coming when it shall be glorified.
The spirit is instructed, by other Scripture, to know its history also. It is taught that it will return to Him who gave it. (Ecc. 12:7.) And we know that God gave it to Adam, a living soul, and Jesus gives it to His elect. Jesus having given it to His elect, it returns to Him when the body returns to the dust. (Acts 7:59.)
These 'Scriptures,' which we ought to 'know,' will be made good by the 'power of God,' for God is able to make them good.
'According to your faith be it unto you' — a precious sentence — and we want the believing mind and not the agitated intellect.
Faith has to do not with difficult problems or abstruse propositions, but with simple facts, and declarations, and promises, while the more the reader is a child and a wayfaring man, the easier he will find them. And they are as sure as they are simple — the words of Him who cannot lie — yea, and the words of Him who is Himself glorified in their being that.
Indeed, indeed, if there were a loveable person it was your dear aunt; and such a sweet picture in death, as her body, I think I never saw. It is pure, white marble, no disfiguring, and the dear hands so exquisite. But it is vile, my child — in its day to be made glorious.
This event seems to have opened, a little wider, the world of faith to the eye of the soul.
. … Dearest aunt said nothing that I need mention, for we all looked to her being with us again till the last twenty minutes.
But how quietly her blameless path ended! characteristic we may say, and in fullest, brightest certainty; because of grace and the gift of grace we know where they are all of them in spirit now.
. … Dearest mamma is so sweet in telling me not to leave this soon. Augusta and Isabella* feel this love from her. Oh, it is like her! but I need not say that. My heart blesses God for her, the only branch now of the old tree, and that a broken one."
My mother's two dear nieces.
When this dear aunt was taken ill my father was summoned by my cousins; and he went at once to Cheltenham. After a time she seemed to be getting better. When the unexpected increase of illness came on she scarcely spoke, except to ask for "John." He was soon at her bedside, and she was satisfied. Just before she breathed her last she gazed at one corner of the room, and as she looked, her face became radiant with joy, as though some blessed object were presented to her view.
About ten years before my father's death we went back to live in the house 2, Upper Pembroke Street, which had been the first home of his married life, where almost all his children were born, and some died in infancy; and there his manner of life was very much the same from day to day.
Although he never wished to be considered chief, or in a place of authority amongst the Brethren, yet they loved to give him such a place; and Sunday after Sunday, as I have said before, he preached in the evening, and usually took part in the morning meeting.
Perhaps the word preaching scarcely conveys the true description of his ministry. It was rather an unfolding of Holy Scripture in a way peculiar to himself. His fervour would betray itself as he went along; and the heart and conscience of the hearer be touched as he spoke of the beauty and delight of the "Book of God" (as he loved to call the Bible). Never at a loss for a theme full of profit and interest, his own enjoyment seemed to increase as he spoke.
To trace his Lord's life in all its details was indeed his delight; and to bring out for others the treasures he found there, his happy work.
Subjects from the Gospel according to Luke he specially loved; also the early days of the Patriarchs and the Epistle to the Hebrews;* and I suppose that none who were in the habit of hearing him could forget how he loved to dwell upon our blessed Lord's conversation at the "Well of Sychar."
*The pamphlet entitled Musings on Hebrews is the substance of notes taken at a weekly Bible reading at a friend's house. It was not written for the Press. I think this ought to be mentioned; because the familiar conversational style was not what my father used in writing. This is also the case, I believe, with Notes on Luke, published after his death.
Among the different meetings and Bible readings, there was an early prayer meeting at 7.30 on Wednesday mornings, which he never missed whilst it continued, though it was attended by very few others.
I have lately met a lady who was once at a lecture given at Rathmines: she never heard my father before, or after; but his words made a strong impression on her. She said that she had never heard anything like it before. She only saw him once after; but her recollection of him was very vivid.
From time to time there were social gatherings for reading and conversation on Scripture, where he was always welcomed. Friends would sometimes bring questions about disputed or difficult points for him to answer. He had no taste for controversy, or mere intellectual reasoning; but his accuracy and clearness in explaining any passage was ever felt.
Indeed this was the natural consequence of his constant study and meditation of God's Word. It was his companion at all times. But any question that he thought might be merely for intellectual gratification he greatly disliked. A friend once said most truly, "Mr. Bellett does not answer your difficulties always; he raises you above them."
Thus it was indeed; it was not that he did not well know what difficulties were, whether intellectual, moral, or spiritual; but it was that his sense of the sufficiency of the Blessed Lord to meet and quiet every thought by His own Presence was all powerful.
Often did he repeat with fervour the following lines:
"His purpose and His course He takes,
Treads all my reasonings down,
Commands me out of nature's depths,
And hides me in His own."
To speak to him about Holy Scripture, to get his thoughts on any passage; (and one always felt there was no part he had not thought about), seemed entirely to rest and satisfy the mind. Then his sweet deference to others, as well as his clear grasp of his subject and his bright and loving way of presenting it, gave a charm to all he said.
In a letter written when he was in the North of Ireland for a short time, he told me the subject on which he thought of speaking at a meeting, but at the close of the letter, written after the meeting he says: "We had a crowded room last evening, and I was happy; but my mind was turned to another subject, and you know, I like to be thus in God's hands." This reminds me of how he used sometimes, when we were walking together to an evening meeting, to tell me the subject he thought of taking, and I was surprised to find that he sometimes took one entirely different. His mind was full of meditations on almost all parts of Scripture, and it seemed as though the Master on whom he waited, would at such times direct him to one or another, for His own gracious purposes.
I remember being surprised when he told me that he could speak with more comfort to himself when in his regular work at home (two or three lectures a week, beside Sunday), where of course the subjects were fresh each time, than when he was going from place to place and could repeat his subject.
His influence in social life must have been greater than he was at all aware of. At times difficulties arose which his wise counsel and careful allowance for difference of judgment, and above all his loving spirit and gentleness, smoothed over. "Do not stand upon your rights!" was a sentence he often uttered, "but be willing to be a cypher in the great account." I may truly say that on every occasion, whether of joy or of sorrow amongst the little company in Dublin, his sympathy was at once sought for and heartily given.
He was always anxious to encourage those who might be less favoured than others; and after seeing or hearing of any proof of faith and love in one who might have been under-rated, he would say with fervent pleasure, "The last are first." If anyone passed hasty judgment on another, he would say, "Remember, the law considers everyone innocent until he be proved guilty."
He often quoted the words, "Ye know the heart of a stranger," when he heard of anyone lonely, or a stranger, to whom he might show kindness. No difference of rank hindered the welcome he gave to any whom he believed to be followers of his Lord.
Simplicity of faith, leading to a spirit of constant praise, delighted him; he felt it to be a level of Christian experience higher than his own, and he would mention, with much pleasure, the reply once made to him by a friend, to whom he had said, "What is the character of your communion with God when in prayer? Mine is chiefly confession." With a beaming face, the answer was given, "Oh! mine is praise."
He delighted in the simplicity and naturalness of children, and often referred to those verses which tell of our blessed Lord taking a little child in His arms, a symbol, as he felt, of what the Church and each member of it ought to be "A cypher in the world's account (as a little child is), but in the arms of Christ."
The following verses, translated from the German of Tersteegen, he greatly enjoyed: —
Dear soul, could'st thou become a child
While yet on earth, meek, undefil'd, —
Then God Himself were alway near,
And Paradise around thee here.
A child cares not for gold or treasure,
Nor fame nor glory yield him pleasure;
In perfect trust he asketh not
If rich or poor shall he his lot.
No questions dark his spirit vex,
No faithless doubts his soul perplex;
Simply from day to day he lives,
Content with what the present gives.
He will not stay to pause or choose,
His father's guidance e'er refuse,
Thinks not of danger, fears no harm,
Wrapt in obedience, holy, calm.
* * * * *
O childhood's innocence! the voice
Of thy deep wisdom be my choice;
Who hath thy lore is truly wise,
And precious in our Father's eyes.
Spirit of childhood! loved of God;
By Jesus' Spirit now bestow'd,
How often have I longed for thee?
O Jesus! form Thyself in me.
And help me to become a child
While yet on earth — meek, undefil'd;
That I may find God alway near,
And Paradise around me here!"
My father never took in a daily paper; but if there were any special public events at any time, and a paper were lent to him, he read it with interest.
I think I used to notice that, whatever turn affairs might be taking in the world at large, it seemed to be just what he, from his prophetic point of view, expected. He did not, perhaps, take prophetic subjects as often as others for his expositions; but at times he clearly expressed his mind concerning prophecy. He often remarked that, just as in a landscape, the distant parts look hazy, while the foreground stands out clear and strong, so is it with unfulfilled prophecy — we must not expect to find it as clear as the other parts of the word of God.
The prophecies of Daniel and others, led him to expect changes that have taken place, or are taking place, in Christendom.
From 2 Peter 3 and other parts of Scripture, he expected the world to grow worse instead of better; and he was fully prepared for the lawlessness which is now so ready to show itself everywhere. I remember his once saying to my uncle, "We shall not see it, but the children will."
All efforts merely to "elevate the masses" he regarded with fear, and used to say, "people do not know what they are doing."
A feature of the last days (as he fully believed these to be), of which he sometimes spoke, was the union of superstition and infidelity. He expected an increase of the former; and when the Pope's temporal power was taken away, he believed it would lead to further increase of spiritual power over the minds of men.
His thoughts as to coming judgment were very strong. He used to say, "the world is incurable: and before He comes Whose right it is, and Who will reign in righteousness, it must be cleansed by judgment."
He expected the return of the Lord Jesus at any moment, to take all His redeemed to Himself; and believed that this event was in no wise dependent upon, or necessarily delayed by, anything here, except the gathering in of the people of the Lord.
With a strong feeling that the world is at enmity with the Church, and that the natural path of a Christian through this world is one of suffering like that of his divine Master, he used to say, "Martyrdom is the natural death of a Christian." But he fervently thanked God for peace and quietness, given, as he would say, for the sake of "timid ones like me, who are not of the stuff that martyrs are made of;" and greatly did he admire any bold testimony for truth which did not shrink from consequences.
With thankfulness he would say that God's ways never end in judgment. In tracing, for instance, in Isaiah different "strains of judgment" he would notice how they all lead up to, and end in, mercy and praise. And so, whatever solemn thought of present evil or future judgment might present itself, he would remember the end, and dwell upon the thought of the world to come. He often repeated the closing words of Hebrews 2:5, "Whereof we speak," delighting in the thought that the "world to come" was the apostle's theme; and surely it was his.
His strong conviction that "the Church is a heavenly stranger" in the world kept him apart from politics, while he yet carried out to the full the principle of subjection to the powers that be, and was thankful for the protection of our English laws. While he took no part in politics he was by no means indifferent to public events. His natural likings and sympathies were all Conservative.
In anything that concerned the Queen, or her family, he felt a true interest. This was shown specially at the time of the Prince Consort's death. He shared very fully the deep sympathy that was felt.
At a time when there was a great deal said about the abolition of Capital Punishment, he felt very strongly against such a measure, because, as he said, when the government of the earth was committed to Noah, the command was clear — "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed;" and it was never abrogated.
The following extract from a letter written after the Crimean war is an index of his mind:
"I would acknowledge the blessings of peace. Surely we should rejoice that the sword is in the scabbard again; but in all prayer or thanksgiving on these subjects, we must remember that it is in the way of over-ruling and not in the way of governing, that the Lord now holds the nations of the world in His hand. In millennial days it will be otherwise. Then He will govern and not simply overrule.
We are to submit to Powers; but to share with them is not the calling of the Church. She will sit and share power when her Lord governs.
I see more to dread from peace than from war; for the world will get further opportunities to ripen its superstitious and infidel thoughts, and prepare itself in its ecclesiastical and civil apostasies for the judgments of the Lord."
I will end this chapter by giving a few sentences, taken verbatim from lectures of my father, given at different times:
"The more morally we read scripture the safer; because it keeps us in company with our own conscience and delivers us from our speculations.
"The minute touches of scripture are full of divinity.
Faith links you with God — your necessities with His resources, but if faith be omnipotent, it is also self-renouncing.
Romans 8 is dedicated to us individually, that we may be educated in Christ for a bright eternity.
The refuge of the soul, the object and end of confidence — to go right up to Him as the Home of the heart and conscience!
A believing heart cures the narrowness and coldness that we have. The understanding of Himself must form the link between our souls and Him.
Ephesians 2:20-22 — Every stone in the Temple, big or little, has the value of Christ upon it.
It was not the Sun of the morning that came after the three hours' darkness; it was the very glory of God breaking out — the full light of His everlasting love.
Faith adopts God's thoughts; it is wisdom and obedience.
Instead of keeping the ear nailed to the door-post of God, we turn to reasonings.
John 14:27 — The world will give what it can spare, the Lord gives what cost Him everything.
The 1st Epistle of Peter is the epistle of the lamp, the girdle, and the furnace.
Charity is always active — never idle; busy, skilful, unceasing vividness.
If I don't bring my own individual history to God, I come short of eternal alliance with Him.
You must learn Christ by your necessities and His resources.
He manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed on Him — the glory of Christ is the property of the Church.
Oh that thoughts of God's future for His people may be familiar to our hearts! But even above that, may a simple, believing mind be in us, a mind not so much formed by thinking and watching, as generated naturally and artlessly, and without effort, by believing.
You may lean on the bosom of Divine salvation with eternal confidence.
The Lord at the Paschal Table was the living Christ, presenting to the faith of the sinner a crucified Christ.
The life of the Lord Jesus was the great moral illustration of all Divine glories.
If there is an exquisite thing in the Creation of God, it is the disclosures of the mind of Christ."
I have also a few notes which, though not strictly verbatim, are accurate, and give the true sense of my father's words.
"There is blessed consolation in knowing that it is in my sinner character I come to Christ. The convicting light of the Gospel is as severe as the law; and there would be no comfort without the Lord exposed the very dregs of our nature, because it tells that He has taken us up knowing the very worst of us. He tells us that we have destroyed ourselves — but He lays the sentence of death in us that we may trust in Him that raiseth the dead.
'Sanctified by faith that is in Me' (Acts 26:18) — this is rather separation to God than a progressive work; though sanctification in other places means this. By nature we know separation from God, but in Christ we know separation to Him.
Zechariah 11 may be read as an epitome of Matthew's Gospel. It is only in that Gospel that the quotation is made from this prophet (under the general title of 'Jeremy') and in the striking language of verse 12 the Lord takes the matter into His own Hand, and speaks as if He had sold Himself, — and we know He did give up His life, or it never could have been taken. Thus there is exact coincidence between Prophet and Evangelist, though apparent historical variance.
The Lord had been 'Beauty' and 'Bands' to Israel; but in rejecting Him they lost both.
To whatever He touches He imparts strength and beauty.
Zechariah 12:12 is a vivid illustration of the separating power of conviction.
Where the presence of God is felt in a soul, everything must stand aside.
Peter, under this power (Luke 5:8), was separated in spirit from the ship that was ready to sink; apparently he had no fears about it. The presence he was awakened to feel absorbed his whole mind.
Abraham's history was the varied, picturesque exhibition of the life of faith (Heb. 11:13). … They were persuaded it was a reality. They gave their heart to it. The way back was not lost to them; but, how beautiful, they were not 'mindful' of it.
Isaac was all to Abraham, but he surrendered all; because he believed in God as a Quickener of the dead.
Jacob and Isaac did not exhibit much of the life of faith; but the small and the great are before Him. They laid hold upon the same object, and ascended the same heavens.
Fill your vision with the glories of Scripture, and all the darts of 'wicked' and 'unreasonable' men will be as so many straws. God has put into His own oracles all the vindication they require.
The more we ponder upon the story (i.e. the gospel history), the more we put an instrument into the hand of the Holy Ghost to seal comfort on our souls.
The Atonement will be our music through the endless ages of eternity. The sight of glory is not so great as the song which celebrates grace. 'Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.'
The Spirit will give out the shadows of Lev. 16, and the substance of Matt. 27 with all calmness; but you and I ought not to be calm over it.
Mary chose the good part which should remain with her. Let us cultivate the principle of hidden satisfaction in Christ; it is the beginning of eternal communion.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace. It is God's delight in the gospel that has ordained preachers of the gospel — the joy of God, the gospel of God, and the eternal counsels of God have sent them forth. Can I doubt that 'joy' sends forth the message, since, when it returns full-handed, there is 'joy'? (See Luke 15:10).
It was not Jacob wrestling, but God wrestling with him. He has plenty to withstand in me, and is it not pleasant that He should withstand it? Faith is able to stand under a Divine rebuke. Did you ever come away from the rebuking presence of God with fresh strength in the manhood of faith? It was heaven to Jacob's spirit.
When the Samaritan leper, instead of going on to the High Priest, turned back and fell down at the feet of the Lord, Jesus owned Himself the Lord of the temple, and His presence the temple of the Lord. 'There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.'
'Master, where dwellest Thou?' 'Come and see.' As though He had said, 'follow Me, and you shall know; do not lose sight of Me, but follow Me even to the Father's bosom.'
CHAPTER 4. LETTERS — THOUGHTS ON PASSAGES OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.
THOSE who knew my dear father will not need to be reminded what his happy relations were with those who, for longer or shorter periods, were associated with him in ministry or service, as Mr. Mackintosh, Mr. Stoney, Mr. Alexander, and others. He was ever ready to welcome all such, and to esteem them "very highly in love for their work's sake."
I have now to make a few more extracts from letters, and in the first three there are references to the visit of Mr. Andrew Millar to Dublin:
"We are hoping to have dear Mr. Millar, from London, with us on Sunday.
Mr. M. preached on the Pier, at Kingstown, last evening, to 500 people.
Grieved I am that you lost acquaintance with dear Mr. Millar. A gracious soul he is, full of heart and service for the Lord. His visit was very acceptable.
We must, as one says, acknowledge grace, and in order to do so, we must give ourselves to the power of God's love.
And what a happy surrender! — to surrender ourselves into the embrace of everlasting love. We must submit ourselves to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10), and what a blessed submission that is!
The Lord keep you in His own rest, where He would fain encourage you in every way to dwell.
I was thankful to you for your account of Mr. Willan's lecture. I am sure that facts are the great objects, and faith our duty and obedience. God is thus chiefly glorified, for we are THOROUGHLY His debtors, and that is just right. We have not to inspect our conditions or measures, but still to look or to listen, the actings and the attitude that glorify Him. We receive; He gives.
What more delightful and glorifying to the Lord in this world than the faith that trusts Him! And for a very simple reason: — In this world He has brought forth His resources to answer our need, His light to shine in our darkness, His salvation to meet our ruin.
We have to know our misery, we have to know His fulness, but we have also to bring them together in the certainty of this, that His glory is concerned in that simple process.
I see this illustrated in the Centurion, in Matt. 8, 'I am not worthy,' said he, 'speak the word only,' he added, and all the time he laid his servant at the feet of Jesus. 'My servant lieth at home sick of the palsy.'
His fulness fitted to our need. We do not understand Him if we see His fulness, and do not use it. For He came not to be displayed, but to be enjoyed.
The Lord's love be known in sureness and sweetness by us!
I was sitting with Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell, yesterday, A dear couple they are indeed, who have learned much of the self-emptying grace of their rejected Master.
I saw poor C. at the 'Incurables.' His love for Mr. Thompson is intense. A sad object of human suffering he is.
What will it be, my child, for children of dust and heirs of death, to exchange corruption for glory. 'We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.'
How the lips of Jesus carried away, for ever, the one suspicion that lingered around the heart of the leper — 'If Thou wilt' — 'I will.' And this is the way of His love.
The Scapegoat carried away the sin; the lips of Christ, the fear. 'This is the law of love.'"
The lines in which these last words occur, my father greatly enjoyed: -
"Dig channels for the streams of love
Where they may broadly run;
For love has ever-flowing streams
To fill them everyone.
For we must share ifwe would keep
This good thing from above;
Ceasing to give, we cease to have;
This is the law of love."
"Tell dear Mr. Thompson that I have been writing on Isaac, as a continuation of Abraham, and might have Jacob in prospect, but I know not whether I shall ever print either of them. A little humble reality, my child, is worth all the show and greatness in the world.
But Jesus knows each of us, and that too in our peculiar tendencies and temptations.
Satisfaction in His presence, or Himself, is the divine spring of all graces and services.
To have it, is to set us in joy when others advance beyond us. To have it, sends us out to serve, though with inferior talents, in the spirit of servants.
'I never was happy,' says one, 'till I ceased to wish to be great.'*
*Dr. Payson, a dissenting minister in America, whose life my father read with much interest.
To gaze, to listen, to wonder, to worship, to love — to lose ourselves thus — this is heaven in spirit, even now.
All is closing in, my dear child, but the narrow way leads to a wealthy place. Here it is to be the girded loins (1 Peter 1:13), there the flowing robes. Here is to be the trimmed lamp; there not even sun or moon needed, for the glory never sets.
The next extract is from a letter written when he was visiting in Galway and Mayo:
"Mrs. Palmer took me to look from a height over the Bay, and a fine view it is, with the Clare Mountains in the distance, and Arran in the Atlantic, just as far as the eye can reach.
Mrs. R. was one of our company last evening, and she gave me some of her history. For twenty-one years she struggled with the light;* and she talks much of the wondrous grace of God, that after so long a time took the veil from her eyes. And yet she is humble and affectionate, and nothing of a hard or forward spirit.
*She was an old person who had been a Roman Catholic.
How one does delight in these specimens of God's own handiwork!
The Lord bless you with His own choice blessings. May we have that deep, and entire, and hearty confidence in Him, that the thought of His presence may be most welcome, and the desire to be with Him ever present to our souls!
We cannot long for Him if we are not satisfied of His love to us; and thus, confidence in Him is the spring of the purest, truest affections. His glory in us depends on our confidence in His love.
A spirit of praise greatly helps to take us off from looking at ourselves. May we have it more richly.
Writing from the neighbourhood of Yeovil, he mentioned his pleasure in visiting some poor cottagers.
I have been visiting some of the dear, simple-hearted Christians in the cottages, and been truly edified. I can never forget my visit to Coker; unlettered souls, rich in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, happy in that knowledge though deeply pressed with earthly circumstances, and ready to go and be with Him at a moment's warning.
I do not know that I ever paid a visit that has left more blessing on my own soul. I saw the reality of what all of us too much deal with in idea. You will be surprised that several families, after the rent is paid, have not more than 7d. a week to live on, and yet the cottage is clean.
Many cannot read; and yet the savour of divine teaching is most attractive and edifying.
What an honour to serve such, in either soul or body! I left a little of my money there, and would that I had a good £20 note for them, for the coming winter is expected to be very severe.
A young person came with me in the coach this morning a few miles, and sweet witness he gave me indeed that the Lord had been his teacher. It seems to me that there is a breath of the Spirit of God in those parts, moving souls and leading to peace and hope, but with all this much that is ungodly and worldly.
We had a happy cottage meeting last evening. This rustic congregation is much to my taste; and the simple, earnest affection of the people and their unfeigned faith, is truly edifying and comforting. Many striking expressions drop from them which tell of divine teaching.
'You have a hard cough, Betty,' said a lady to a poor woman. 'Yes, ma'am, but it is the Lord's will,' said she. 'Some years ago the Lord said to me, "Betty, do this," and I did it, and "Betty go there," and I went; but now He says to me, "Betty lie there and cough." So, ma'am, I lie here and cough.'*
*I have since seen this little story in a tract.
A poor woman was reminded some time since of the crown that awaited her. She answered, 'No crown, no crown, only a harp to praise Him for ever.' This was very sweet. The expectation of His presence and exceeding joy is in the hearts of many of them.
I was very happy at Reading. I was refreshed by the faith and love of many there, especially one dear old lady of eighty-eight, who is looking out for the Lord with earnest desire every day. 'Better to depart and be with Christ, dear ma'am,' said one to her. 'A pretty deal better, I should think,' was her true-hearted reply.
I have been reading the Patagonian Mission with great interest.
O my child, if we loved Him as we ought, what manner of people should we be? How much those dear servants of His did and suffered for His name! And yet His love exceeds all, and the very best return we can make to that love is to believe and rejoice in it.
Referring to a hymn he had much enjoyed, he wrote:
"To this lovely hymn I have got a sweet tune, and I have given it to Annie* here, that you and she may sing it together, and then you and I, — but ere long we shall sing it or something like it in the full joy of Heaven itself — and what ought to be our desire for that day, and our service till that day? The Lord fill us with the fervent, simple affection, the heavenly, unworldly affection, that suits His people."*One of his dear nieces in Devonshire.
The hymn referred to is the following: -
"How beautiful the path
Of those who fear the Lord;
Who hear what God their Saviour saith
In His most holy Word.
They hear and they obey,
And in His footsteps tread;
They love to follow, day by day,
Where His blest feet have led.
"What though He lead them through
A dark and thorny road;
He will their fainting strength renew,
And bear their heaviest load.
From Him their rich supplies
Of heavenly comfort flow,—
None but the saints can ever rise
To such delights below.
Like as the sun's fair light
Shines on to perfect day,
Each step shall be more clear, more bright,
Along their heavenly way.
Till at the last 'twill end
In everlasting rest,—
Oh what a blissful day to spend
With Jesus' presence blest."
Perhaps it was because of having first known this hymn about the time that he was reading in "Hope deferred, not lost," about the Patagonian Mission, that my father seemed afterwards always to associate the fourth verse with the experience of Mr. Williams, the surgeon who joined that devoted band of missionaries, and who, while dying of starvation, wrote from day to day in his journal, of the rapture, that filled his heart in the prospect of so soon being with his Saviour.
"None but the saints can ever rise
To such delights below."
He would sometimes read passages, such as the following, with great delight to friends who might not have known the book: —
"… Should anything prevent my ever adding to this, let all my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy beyond all expression the night I wrote these lines, and I would not have changed situations with anyone living. Let them also be assured that Heaven, and love, and Christ, which mean one and the same Divine thing, were in my heart, and that the hope of glory, the hope laid up for me in Heaven, filled my whole heart with joy and gladness, and that to me to live is Christ, to die gain.
After the trials I encountered on Saturday, and our knocking about was over, the sleep that followed was, I think, the most refreshing that I ever enjoyed, not so much because it was a balmy restorative to my poor debilitated body, but because if ever the whisperings of Almighty love spoke tranquillity to the soul of man, and breathed a continual flowing of divine consolation into the heart, I felt both that night; I was, so to speak, talking with the Lord. … Communion heavenly and blessed! earnest of joys to come, of blessings in store, and foretaste of that inheritance undefiled, and that passeth not away, where I shall see Him face to face, yea, behold Him as He is, not even the transparent veil of a divine faith being betwixt Him and me.
* * * * * *
"Asleep or awake, I am happy beyond words and the poor compass of language to tell. My joys are with Him whose delights have always been with the sons of men."
Almost the last words in the journal were —
"Much more I could add, but my fingers are aching with cold, and I must wrap them up in the clothes, but my heart is warm, warm with praise, thanksgiving and love to God my Father, and love to God my Redeemer."
It was always a happy time when my dear uncle came from Bridgnorth, where he was rector of St. Leonards for thirty-six years. The strong difference of opinion between the brothers, frankly owned, did not hinder their freedom of intercourse, nor their love for one another; but the link that bound them still closer was the love of Christ — supreme with both. It was a pleasure to them to remember together their early days, and I have often listened with delight while they talked of school days at Taunton, of holidays at "Whyte's," and of later days at college.
The following little hymn which my father wrote, may fitly find a place here, for it was composed for a tune which his very dear niece Annie used to play for him during her frequent visits to us (always a happiness to him), with or without her father: She likes to remember, as she tells me, not only his beautiful, grave, and serious words, but also the many times of merriment and fun they had together. It was to her persuasion that he yielded in sitting for his photograph, for he always had an objection to having his likeness taken.
The little hymn is on Song of Solomon 1:7, 2:3-17.
"Shepherd, tell! Shepherd, tell
Where Thy flock feed,
With them there, pastures fair,
Me gently lead.
Neath Thy shade gently laid
There let me rest —
With Thine own, with Thine own,
Happy and blest.
Through the veil little while,
Smile Thou on me,
Then in light, cloudless bright,
Ever with Thee.
O'er me spread, o'er me spread
Then I'll taste angel's feast
Fresh from above.
Let me hear, soft and clear,
Thy voice that speaks,
Winter's o'er, night no more,
Morning now breaks!
O'er the hills, o'er the hills
Speed Thou Thy way,
Then I'll rise! cloudless skies!
Reigning in day."
The following letter is addressed to this niece:
"MY DEAR ANNIE, — Some few nights before you left us I had a dream. I thought that I was living in the day when the incarnation was expected, and one day, as I walked in the village where I was living, the report reached us that it had taken place. I then thought that another report reached us, that the Lord was coming into our village. Accordingly I set myself in a place which I thought would give me a sight of Him, and shortly afterwards two youths approached the place where I was. A crowd was around them, the smaller of the two was held by the hand of the other. They walked very leisurely towards me. I said to myself that the smaller of them, was John the Baptist. The Lord looked very serious, somewhat sad; I could sketch His features, I think, if I had any capacity that way, for He looked at me, and I said to myself, I wonder if He is thinking of Gethsemane and Calvary. He held the smaller youth all the time by the hand, and I awoke, just seeing Him, after looking at me, beginning to move onward again.
My dear Annie,
Ever your affectionate uncle,
J. G. BELLETT. "November 3rd, 1858.
I wrote the above as you requested me, my dear child, but let me say two things to yourself. The Lord bless you, and make Jesus everything to you, God's great ordinance for every blessing of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Secondly, be well sure that we miss you much. We would fain have kept you longer, for your presence was indeed grateful to us. Aunt's and Uncle's full love to you."
In the year 1857, another dear niece was in failing health, and after my father had been visiting her in Devonshire, he wrote the following letter:
"MY VERY DEAR CHILD, — Uncle John can indeed say, that he would be glad to pay you another little visit, as he did just this time two months ago.
Your measures of strength or weakness are all in His hand and at His disposal, whose love we are taught to know and rest in, 'We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.'
I have often thought, my child, that that Scripture is a crowning one. After all the revelation of what God has done for us, there we get what God is to us. He is a dwelling-place, for the conscience may find its ease in Him, and the heart its satisfaction.
Faith apprehends this, and the soul enters into this rest of God, as that fervent verse in one of my favourite hymns has it:
'What in Thy love possess I not?
My star by night, my sun by day:
My spring of life when parch'd with drought,
My wine to cheer, my bread to stay;
My strength, my shield, my safe abode,
My robe before the throne of God.'
We may be conscious that we do not experience and enjoy such truths as we ought, but no matter — our first duty is to believe this of our Saviour, and then to know we shall enjoy it as we ought by and by for ever.
My love to dear Matilda. I put this under cover to Mamma. Ever my dear child,
Your affectionate uncle,
J. G. BELLETT.
Aunt Mary specially desires her love to you and M— ."
The next extracts are again from letters to myself:
"I never was better I may say, and in this and in everything my journey to England, in the Lord's sweet mercy, has been happy, save that I feel it long to be from you and dear, dear Mamma. I had an hour with dear Mrs. O'Brien yesterday; she is better, but she knows widowhood indeed. It is well. He has given Himself and His righteousness to us now, His life, His favour, and, by and bye, His kingdom and glory — what more could be done?
I have it in my thoughts to write to that sweet Christian woman, Mrs. S—, now in such sorrow and loneliness, severer in some respects than that of our dear Mrs. O'Brien, for the blow was not looked for, and it has felled a much younger tree.
But it is well, and so will it be found to be in the light of the coming hour. And the Lord allows this to be another link between her heart and heaven — another, but not the principal.
I was thinking a day or two since, how much the Lord consulted for our health of soul and for the glory of His name, when He commanded us to love Him more than wife or child, friend or brother. He has, it is true, a right to such a place; indeed He could claim and fill no other.
The supreme place is His by right, whether He seek it in authority or in affection, whether over the conscience or over the heart. But not only this. The very claim when made is for the health of our souls, for it keeps the soul in its due condition, and tends directly and necessarily to set heaven, where He is, in our esteem and desire far above the earth, and thus sets the heart free for the journey whenever He calls.
In a letter from some place where there had been a large meeting, he wrote:
This is a much larger place than I had calculated on; a dirty, bustling town. But the earth will shine by-and-bye under the light of His glory, which is His presence, and all that He has said will appear in its bright and precious results for ever.
In another, which refers to the Indian Mutiny, 1857, he says
Dear Uncle James and Aunt Bessy are I fear increasingly uneasy about James, for the disaffection seems to be reaching Bombay. … How the heart should acquaint itself with other and better scenes.
Abraham did this, and the simplicity of patriarchal early faith seems to show itself in that.
The better country was reality to their hearts, their title to it, a reality to their conscience. And the Lord would so have it, in spite of many, many failures on their part.
I have been morally distinguishing Joseph. There was perhaps less character about him than in Abraham, but there was more evenness of walk in the ways of godliness than in any of them.
He had not occasional visits and refreshments to help him on, but a more clear and steady witness within, so that he accordingly knew the way and walked in it.
* * * * * *
I saw dear Miss Locke very happy yesterday; I showed her how Paul in Gal. 4 proved our sonship, and John, in 1 John 3:2, assumed it. Sweet variety in the ways of the Spirit in dealing with our souls.
Miss Locks was an invalid belonging to the section of the Brethren that my father had left; but this did not hinder his visits to her; and he was often cheered by her happy spirit, witnessed by a bright face, even though confined to her wheel chair, and often suffering.
In a letter, written during some severe weather, I find the words: "We have had two Arctic days, dear Mierstching had four winters of such days and this brings to my remembrance the interest with which my father had just before read a MS. journal kept by Mr. Mierstching, a young Moravian missionary, during four winters in the Arctic regions. He was chosen to accompany one of the Arctic expeditions, and to act as interpreter to the Eskimos, whose language he understood. His captain was, I think, Captain Collinson, and the commander of the expedition, Sir Robert Maclure. The sweet Christian spirit in which the journal was written, as well as the description of winter and summer in those northern regions, gave it a great charm for my father: he read it aloud.
In another letter he speaks of a lecture he had given —
I could not give you the lecture on paper; but we have now finished Hebrews; but I will give you a little hint of James, which, please God, will be our next subject.
James is the heavenly moralist: the moralist of the Dispensation. There are but few quotations in his epistle, but such are moral, not doctrinal; and they are cited to show that the Old Testament morals were not high enough for the heavenly people of the New Testament. So when he refers to the faith of the Old Testament saints he refers to them, in their moral virtue, as Abraham and Rahab; and when he refers to a piece of the Old Testament history, he supplies a moral feature untold before; as Elijah's prayer.
These marks are very characteristic of the dispensational moralist which James is.
Jesus has been rejected here; and the great effort of the god of this world is to hide the fact under the garnishing and furnishing of the scene with all the refinements and accommodations that suit the earthly mind. I am as sure as I can be of any truth, that the Church is a heavenly stranger here.
Referring to the happy death of a young friend, "What is life when death thus closes it in its morning hour. What is death when Jesus and eternal life thus triumph over it?"
I may close this chapter with a few fragments gathered from lectures on passages in the Old Testament referred to in the New, and two verses written by my father will serve to introduce them.
The lines were suggested by an old Latin proverb which greatly pleased him:
"In vetere Testamento novum latet,
In novo Testamento vetus patet."
The lights of God which sweetly dawn
In earliest books divine,
As morning hours to noonday lead,
Along the volume shine.
'Tis but the same though brightening sun
Which clearer, warmer grows;
The clouds which veil'd his rising beam
Fly ere the evening close.
There are 'silent glances,' references, from one part of Scripture to another, that are deeper even than quotations. Instances of these are found in the Lord's ministry, as though His soul were so impregnated with the Word that He had tacit, quiet alliance with the breathing of God in the Old Testament.
He knew how to impress on each moment its scriptural character:
In the case of Nathaniel (John 1) a silent glance seems to have been in the Lord's mind to Ps. 32, where the secret of having 'no guile' in the spirit is disclosed; confession of all secrets which might try to hide themselves before God, and pardon meeting them. Nathaniel, we might judge, had thus been confessing (the fig-tree always is the symbol of repentance), and the Lord sees him in the light of this Psalm.
The last verse of this chapter may be another instance. Jacob's ladder would seem to have supplied the figure there, the ministry of angels now is taught by it — the word should rather be 'henceforth' than 'hereafter.'
We want to be in company with the Lord Jesus. He had a thousand links formed between His soul and the Scriptures of God. So it should be with us. His references to it were as the glance of an eye familiar with its object.
The glories of the Word and our alliance with it should be our safeguard against the violence that will tamper with it.
The word of John the Baptist — 'Behold the Lamb of God' — was a reference to the shadows of the law — the morning and evening lamb — the lamb provided for shelter and food in the night of Egypt; and perhaps without undue pressure we might also say the 'ram caught in a thicket' on Mount Moriah. Each pointed to Him who now stood before John in outstanding living personality. The Lord was putting various, all kinds of honour upon Scripture; by using it in temptation; by fulfilling it to the utmost jot or tittle; and as a Teacher He who was Truth, embodied it, used it.
In John 19:28 at the last moment there was a scripture to be fulfilled, and because of that He said, 'I thirst.'
In the Acts we still find a close and full and intimate interweaving of the parts of the Divine volume.
A quotation is a divine seal put upon a thing after it has gone forth, as its first utterance was the announcement of the same Spirit.
We find this wondrous quality in Scripture; it refers behind its proper boundaries, and discloses eternity that is past — it overlaps again its bounds, and goes into eternity before, and thus bespeaks the authorship of the Book. It is a display of multiplied moral wonders; and one Spirit animates it from beginning to end.
Acts 1 and 2. The Holy Ghost was now the Promise of the Father — the Son was no longer promised, but had come. But before the accomplishment of the promise, the Apostles act upon the dictates of Scripture in supplying Judas' vacant place; and they do this by virtue of the intelligence communicated by the opening of their understandings to understand the Scriptures; but still, the power from on high had not yet been given.
The first act of the Holy Ghost, when the time for His descent was fully come, the feast of weeks (when the wave loaves were presented to the Lord) was the contradiction of Babel. God was undoing our ruin — it was the restoration of man to his fellow and to God.
Peter's first use of the prophecy in Joel is an instance similar to the Lord's use of Isa. 61 in Luke 4. There He stopped at, 'to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,' the time for the 'day of vengeance' had not come: so here, Peter ends with the words, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,' because this was the end of his ministry.
The closing verses of chap. 2 bear witness to the effect of the Pentecostal power. 'The oil of gladness' that had filled the Head in heaven, now trickled down to the skirts of the garments. (Psalm 133)
Chapter 3:21 and 24, though not quotations, bear a most confirming testimony to some of the writings of the Old Testament.
From time to time, we gather that all the prophets bare witness to the sufferings of Christ: the present interval of testimony to Him, rejected, glorified, under the title of 'These days,' and the future glory or 'Times of refreshing.'
Chapter 3:25. The promise that all nations should be blessed in his seed was given to Abraham when he received Isaac, as it were from the dead: before this it had been in him they were to be blessed. But this signified Jesus in resurrection, (Isaac was unbound from the altar), hence the suitableness of quoting it here.
We may bring the meridian light of the New Testament to shine upon the Old.
The Apostles in chap. 4:24-28 in view of the events in Matt. 27 look back to Ps. 2 and find there the foretelling of a certain event which they at once find to be that of Matt. 27. Israel in the latter day will find many passages telling their history.
Stephen's face shining was, according to all Jewish analogies, God giving a pledge of glory when He called into a place of trial. 'The God of glory' appeared to Abraham before he was called out of his country. Moses was 'fair to God' (margin v. 20), before he was called out to suffering testimony.
There is nothing in Stephen's speech, if you take away what the Old Testament supplies. What use does he make of these materials? The very use, that the moment he was occupying suggested. He looked at those who had been separated from their natural circumstances in the world, as he himself now was. The heavenly calling was illustrated in those to whom he glanced back. Dispensational knowledge is important. How can we deal with God's oracles if we are not in His light?
In Rom. 15:11, the shortest portion of the Old Testament is honoured by distinct quotation. (Ps. 117)
In 1 Cor. 15 there is an instance of an Old Testament quotation receiving enlarged application, 'He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.' The Psalm goes no further, but the Holy Ghost in the apostle shows death to be one of the enemies, and promises its doom.
The whole of the Old Testament proceeds upon the principle of that verse (2 Cor. 1:20), 'The promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him, Amen,' fulfilled in Him.
How intimate the intricacies of Scripture one with another! There will often be a tacit reference to an Old Testament passage — without a direct quotation — which is full of beauty.
In the opening of this second epistle (2 Cor.) there are such, as well as plain references. Genesis 1, Exodus 27, and Judges 7, supply material.
In chapter 8:15, there is a quotation which has a sweet application. An omer, in the days of the manna, regulated the supply of each Israelite. Now the love of the Spirit is to take the place of the omer, and so dispense the properties of the saints that there should be no lack amongst any.
Again, in chap. 11:2-3, the allusion to Eve is very significant. Their minds at Corinth were beginning to be corrupted by someone who came with pretensions in the flesh, and just as Eve was not satisfied with what God had made her, but listened to the lie of the Serpent when he offered her to become even as God; so the Corinthians were not satisfied simply with what Christ had made them, but were seeking fleshly wisdom.
In Galatians, Paul is the champion of the faith of God's elect, live they in what age they may. He can call in Abraham and all of them to help, therefore quotations are multiplied.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we find what we might expect. The Holy Ghost is here dealing immediately with the Jew, and teaching him by his own Scriptures; therefore quotations are abundant. The epistle teems with them.
In chapter 1 the Apostle shows that there was One with God far above the angels, and causes it to vibrate from a thousand echoes in the ear of the Jew.
Psalm after Psalm is brought in to prove this, and he goes on to show that the One who on this earth of ours died for our sins, is exalted to highest glory in heaven.
They cannot but look at Him.
Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant for a testimony of those things which should be spoken after, but Christ as a Son over His own house.
Moses was to bring in, to be before, the dispensation of Christ; but He gave place to none.
There are many quotations in the New Testament which are found in little corners of the Old — all equally present to the Holy Ghost.
CHAPTER 5. INTEREST IN THE "REVIVAL" — HYMNS.
THE year 1860 was a time of widely spread religious awakening in Ireland. It began in the North, and was felt in all denominations.
My father's interest was quickly called forth. In the short extract which follows it is mentioned:
"Another very remarkable letter from William Lancey yesterday, copies of which are gone from us to London and to Birmingham. H. Bewley was here last evening, and seems to have been delighted and amazed at all he saw in the county of Antrim."
After some time the influence began to be felt in and around Dublin. The work was deep and real, but attended with less excitement than in other places. Clergymen and others who had longed for such an awakening amongst their people found it brought into their midst, and with more or less energy set themselves to help and teach those who now, perhaps for the first time, began to care for their souls.
Various informal services were held to meet the desires of the people for instruction and prayer. To some of these services my father occasionally went, though they were not in connection with the Brethren. This was contrary to his usual habit, for he felt that having found the way which he believed to be most according to the Word and the will of God, he must cleave to that alone as to worship and discipline.
But now that he saw (to use his own words) "a fresh energy of the Spirit" working how and by what means He pleased in many souls, he delighted to own it and to share, as far as he could, in the refreshing influence.
There was a meeting for prayer and an address held by Dr. Marrable once a week at a friend's house, which he sometimes attended, as also a service in Mr. Denham Smith's chapel at Kingstown.
Mr. Smith sometimes asked my father to take part; but he much preferred being a listener. After the "revival," as it was fitly called, had been the means of leading many from utter carelessness to a true Christian life, he was asked to have a special Bible reading once a week, for those young people and others in the families of the Brethren who had become anxious for more instruction in God's Word.
I think he very much enjoyed this "class"; and it was continued until his health failed. Different parts of the Bible were studied; St. Matthew's gospel being one, and a course of lectures was devoted to each part.
My father wrote a short pamphlet at this time, entitled, "A few words on the Present Revival," some paragraphs of which I quote here. In it he refers to the "physical effects" which in some cases attended this remarkable movement.
That sudden or strong affections of the mind have had wonderful effects on the body must have been the observation of every age, so that we need not speak of it.
But that Scripture both recognises and illustrates this fact when the affection of the mind is conviction of sin, we may profitably consider for a little.
(There is here a reference to Psalm 32. To Daniel 10, where "the prophet tells us that when the glory appeared to him his 'comeliness was turned into corruption,' and this was conscience, not disease. The glory, or the divine presence, let Daniel know that he was a sinner; and the sense of that was intolerable.)
A sinner comes short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23.)
And so it was with Saul on the road to Damascus. It was unveiled glory or the simple power of the presence of God that then applied itself as to a rebel, a child of Adam, one fighting against God; and such an one falls before it — Saul is struck to the earth.
At times God is pleased to afford very vivid expression of these things, in order to give the generation a fresh sense of eternal realities. He would have us know more deeply than we are wont to do that sin is a reality, judgment a reality, hell a reality; and accordingly He is presenting fresh from under His own hand samples of the force and authority of these realities upon the conscience of man. And seeing also, that salvation is a reality, a present reality, together with that peace and joy in the Holy Ghost which properly wait on it, He is also presenting living, happy, thankful witnesses to this reality, with these its attendant virtues.
For the Lord has ever had both His ordinary and His extraordinary seasons in the course of His dispensations, and extraordinary seasons may well be called 'Revivals.'
Such are not properly times of miracles, only of special spiritual energy. Such I believe the present to be. It may be short — and that is according to precedent — for the energies which signalized days of revival in Israel, whether still under their own kings or after their return from Babylon, were but passing.
May every expression of His grace now in the salvation of sinners, be only a fresh reason with the hearts of His saints to wait for, and long for, the coming day of His glory.
It was about this time that my father wrote the following hymns, and they, with the long sacred poem to be given later, are the only ones he ever wrote, with the exception of those already mentioned, and some additional verses to another short one.
The first hymn that follows seemed to suggest itself to him while listening to a simple Scotch melody, to which he afterwards sang it.
"FAITH'S MORNING, NOON, AND EVENING."
The breaking morn in cheerful ray
With many a promise opes the day,
Setting the sun upon his way
To tread his radiant journey.
So faith's fair spring-time opens Heaven,
When clouds and doubts are backward driven,
Revealing Christ, to sinners given
Their morning pledge of glory.
Then, as in robes of glittering dye
The Ruler of the mid-day sky
With fruitful ardours from on high,
Blesses the world before him —
So Christ, in risen virtues strong,
In freedom leads our souls along
To serve and to adore Him.
And then at eve, with 'farewell sweet,'
The day retires, so soon to greet
Regions which wait his smile to meet,
Its varied beauties blending;
So faith, in hopeful, evening hour,
Calm in the Saviour's chasten'd power,
Anchors beside earth's parting shore
In hope of joys unending."
"THE BELIEVING MIND."
Oh, the believing mind!
Which sets Thee, Lord, above
The failures of my heart and hand
In constancy of love.
Impart it, Lord, to me —
Each moment let it reign
In all its calm and brightness there,
My spirit's realm within.
Should busy mem'ry wake
The slumbers of the past,
And o'er a present cloudless day
Some gloomy shadows cast, —
Then let believing thoughts
Assert for Thee the place —
Fill the whole vision of my soul
With glories of Thy grace.
If now my slumbering heart
Should meet Thy searching Word,
And conscience waken but to seal
Thy holy judgments, Lord, —
May faith be witness then
That I am seen of Thee
In light of everlasting love,
Unclouded, changeless, free.
Should fear, with fruitful skill,
Image my days to come,
And bear my trembling footsteps on
Through danger, snares, and gloom,
Let faith then eye the bow
That spans the darkest cloud,
And pledges safety to the end,
Though tempests rage around.
May faith, with clear, calm light,
Thus measure all my days;
Keep my whole soul in constant peace,
And give it thoughts of praise.
In converse, Lord, with Thee,
My Saviour, Guardian, Friend,
While onward still to glory's home
My guided footsteps tend.
There was a hymn, which I think he heard for the first time at Mr. D. Smith's services, which he enjoyed, and to which he wrote two additional verses. It begins:
"Joyfully, joyfully, onward we move,
Bound to the land of bright spirits above."
Additional verses —
"Voice of Archangel and Trumpet of God
Joyfully summon the quick and the dead;
Bright in His glory shall Jesus appear,
Upward in clouds shall we meet Him in air.
Partings all over, and sorrows all gone,
Blest in His presence, eternally one;
Like Him and with Him for ever to be,
Joyfully, joyfully, welcome the day.
Crowns may encircle our radiant brow,
Joyful we'll cast them before Him, and bow;
Harps of the harpers shall gladden the throne,
Joyful to tell He is worthy alone.
Angels in chorus their anthems shall raise,
Only to give Him all honour and praise,
And ev'ry creature around and above
Joyfully, joyfully, rest in His love!"
Another hymn which became first known to us at this time, beginning —
"Oh when shall I see Jesus,
And dwell with Him above,
And from that flowing fountain
Drink everlasting love?
suggested the following verses —
When shall I rise to Jesus,
And find myself but one
Among the countless thousands,
That shine round Him alone!
When shall I wear my raiment
Through Him made white and clean,
No darkening cloud around me,
No hateful spot within!
When shall I hear the music,
Skill'd in this art alone,
To sound the name of Jesus
Before the Father's throne?
When shall I see the Glory,
My Saviour's presence sheds,
And know no other pleasure
Than what that Presence yields?"
My father also wrote the following hymn, as an answer to the well-known one—
'We talk of the land of the blest,
That country so bright and so fair,
And oft are its glories confest,
But what must it be to be there!
* * * * *
'Tis good to be here, was the word
Once heard from that country so fair,
In glory beholding the Lord,
'Tis this, it is this to be there!
The glories and joys of that land
The traveller could not declare,
His rapture and silence alone,
Must tell what it is to be there!
(2 Cor. 12:4)
In sight of that City on high,
Its walls decked with jewels so rare,
He fell, overwhelm'd with the joy,
This tells what it is to be there.
With Thee, Lord, for ever to be
Is the hope Thou hast left with us here,
'Tis enough, Lord, for ever with Thee,
'Tis this, it is this to be there!
(1 Thess. 4:17)
'He also added the following verses to the children's hymn, beginning —
Oh, they've reached the sunny shore,
* * * * *
'Tis a bright and happy place,
'Tis a bright and happy place,
There they see the Saviour's face,
Fresh in joy they sing His praise,
All in light and joy appear,
All in light and joy appear,
Not the half was told them here
Of the things their spirits cheer,
Oh, they've reached the shore in peace,
*Stormy winds and wonders cease,
He hath brought them through the seas,
For His goodness Him they praise,
*Ps. 107:24-25, 30.
My father was not specially fond of poetry, though he could at times enjoy it. He seldom read it aloud, and the hymns he most liked were remarkable rather for their simplicity than for their beauty of language. Some of Watts' hymns he much enjoyed, such as —
"Earth has detained me prisoner long,
And I'm grown weary now;
My heart, my hand, my ear, my tongue,
There's nothing here for you."
The dramatic poem, "The Martyrdom of Ignatius," by Gambold, he greatly admired, and among many favourite passages in it he frequently repeated the following:
"There has one object been disclosed on earth
That might commend the place; but now 'tis gone:
Jesus is with the Father, and demands
His members to be there."
On reading some of his own verses, thrown off from his pen, without effort, as they all were, one can understand my father so often saying that he liked "hymns about heaven."
CHAPTER 6. LOOSENING OF EARTHLY TIES.
THE state of my dear mother's health had from time to time made us anxious, but during the summer of 1863 she was not more feeble than usual, and was able to enjoy the prospect of a visit from my uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Richey. The very day they arrived, however, she had a fall, but as such an accident had often happened before without any serious consequences, we were not made unusually anxious.
She recovered from the shock, and was looking as well and as sweet as we could wish when our dear visitors came. She greeted them with her cheery smile, and said, "You have come to help me to thank the Lord." It was remarkable that they should have come just then, not having been in Ireland for many years; but surely it was God's gracious ordering, that when my dear father's time of deep sorrow came, he should have his much-loved sister's presence to comfort him.
My uncle could only remain a short time. I remember how he was struck by the picture made by my mother and Aunt Alice (then 93), sitting together, my mother reading aloud with some difficulty from the large Bible that was between them, and Aunt Alice listening with deep attention. He said it was "a picture of innocent love."
My mother continued in her usual state of health for a few weeks; then one of the sharp attacks to which she had been subject for years, came, as they always did, suddenly. We did not at first apprehend danger, though there was always a certain amount at such times, but as the hours wore on, the illness became more serious. The doctor could do nothing; and instead of recovering, as usual, she remained unconscious for forty-eight hours, and then, apparently without suffering, passed gently away from us on September 23rd, 1863.
What this was to my dear father, only those who knew the devotion of his heart to her could understand. It was now that the presence of my aunt was such an unspeakable solace to him, and to us all. Her tenderness, her wisdom, knowing when to speak and when to give silent sympathy, her own love for my mother, her readiness to follow my father's thoughts wherever they might lead at any moment, the comfort and help she was to all in the house, made her, indeed, the ministering angel he so sorely needed. It was a sweet relief to him to talk to her of past years, of early days, of my mother when they first knew her — none could have entered so fully into it all; and she was the one sent to him for those days of deepest sorrow. Dr. Cronin, my mother's cousin, and Dr. Drury, her nephew, came from London to be with us at the funeral, and we felt the comfort of their presence.
I cannot recall much about the weeks that followed; but it was a sad day when we took leave of my dear aunt. We little thought that the brother and sister were never again to meet in this world, or that before a year had passed, my dear father would be ministered to with all her love and tenderness — not, indeed, in the time of sorrow, but in that of daily increasing weakness — by the other brother, so loved by them both.
By degrees my father resumed his daily visiting and usual ministry, and after a time, I think he was able to enjoy his work with a measure of his former interest; but the brightness was gone from his life.
I have one or two letters from him, written about this time, to my uncle and aunt in Devonshire:
"MY DEAREST JAMES, — Our days pass on pretty equably. Each day of the week has some appropriate service for me, except Wednesday.
We are all conscious of a void, and my heart carries the sense of it very deeply. How sweet it was that we had dearest Bessy with us, and it was strange, too, after an interval of so many years, just to return to us at such a time. But the hand of Him who sits in the sovereign disposal of all things, orders such things at times, though they may be small in themselves. The recovery of an axe's head from the water was as worthy of His hand as the smiting of a hostile army with blindness.
How truly I hope you may have dear James with you ere the spring closes. It will, indeed, be a great treat to you all. I hope, too, that you may see your dear Robert and Maud at this time.
Love to dear Annie. If she have again any stray sheep from Loxbeare or Stoodleigh, in barracks or hospitals here, tell her to employ Uncle John to look after them for her.
The Lord bless you, and keep us both on the edge and the surface. Where else should we be? and yet, the foot betrays its feebleness on such ground.
May the good hand of the Lord be over the rest of the journey, and the prospect of His presence be still brighter and clearer. Our city and its Protestant poor, have suffered an immense loss in dear Surgeon Smyly. No one life, I believe, was so important to them. But he was safe under the shelter of the blood-sprinkled lintel — soon following one of his precious patients."
*He had attended my mother.
MY DEAREST SISTER, — Dear Aunt continues in that critical state that I judge neither dear L— or I can be in London next week. She is in a peculiar condition — today bright, tomorrow weak and panting. Two months have now passed since she took to her bed in bronchitis.
I am now hoping that your dear Jemmy may soon appear in the midst of you. The Lord grant you, dearest Sister, a happy meeting and a happy sojourn together. … Just six months since my tabernacle was so spoiled, and yet I am going on without her. But the recollection of her is sweet, beyond what I can say.
In the spring of 1864 my father twice went to visit some of the Brethren in the country parts of Ireland, though he had been suffering from a slight attack on his chest. He went to Mr. Waller at Prior Park, to Mr. W. H. Darby, and to other friends at Nenagh, Clonmel, Mount Mellick, Tullamore, Moate, and Buttevant.
From Tullamore he wrote:
"Had a good night after a large meeting last evening. I conclude that as I get no letter dearest Aunt is at least not worse.* My chest is better, but still sensitive, but the work does not distress me."
*Aunt Alice had been ill.
The mention of dear Aunt Alice in these notes leads me to speak more particularly of her.
She used often to tell me little things about her early days, and was filled with thankfulness for the gracious care that had watched over her in youth; for, being early left an orphan, she was under the care of guardians who did not trouble themselves much about her.
My grandmother was ten years her senior; and until her marriage, as soon as Aunt Alice had left school, they both lived with an uncle in London, where they had pretty much their own way; and Aunt Alice used to speak of their extravagant notions. Even in old age, when I first remember her, she was full of animation and brightness; and I could well understand how in early days she had enjoyed pleasure and gaiety. She had a most affectionate nature, and was quickly drawn to people, especially any friend of my father's. I never remember her except as bright and cheerful; and one of my earliest recollections is seeing my mother reading to her. Of late years both were very much confined to the house, and spent many a cheery hour together.
I do not know exactly at what time Aunt Alice's mind first became anxious about the things of God; but Mr. Kearney's influence and preaching were helpful to her as well as to others. She told me that once in those early days at North Lodge she was much troubled because of some heavy responsibility that weighed upon her for a time, and in despair she knelt down and said, "Oh, what shall I say to be heard"! And then she seemed to hear a voice repeating these words from the Te Deum, "Lord, help Thy servant, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood." She was comforted; and very soon after by some means the great trouble was removed. This was, perhaps, the beginning of her delight and earnest continuance in prayer. It is beautiful to remember what it was to her. When from increasing age other occupations dropped off, prayer continued with more or less energy to the end.
On one occasion I was much struck by her telling me of the great enjoyment she had had one Sunday morning. She had not been able to attend the meeting which was always such a pleasure to her; but she told me what a happy time she had had alone. I cannot recall her words; but the impression on my mind was that it had been a very blessed experience of the presence and nearness of God, and also of His love. She was then past eighty.
She had great delight in hymns; and when her sight failed so that she could scarcely read, she would walk up and down the room repeating one after another with great enjoyment. This continued almost to the last. She liked those best that were most full of praise, and longed for more expression of it in the generality of hymns.
Miss Elliott, the authoress of "Just as I am," hearing of her desire, wrote a short hymn of praise especially for her, which pleased her much.
One which she used to repeat with great fervour was sent to her with the following inscription:
"Copied for dear Miss Dyer, by S. R. M., with prayer that this love may be more and more shed abroad in the heart of each by the Holy Spirit.
THE LOVE OF GOD.
"Could I with ink the ocean fill,
Were the wide world a parchment made,
Were every stick on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God most high
Would drain the mighty ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll
Contain the whole,
Though it were stretch'd from pole to pole."
I think Aunt Alice was appreciated by all our friends, to whom she was always ready to give a hearty welcome. Her quaint little figure, in old-fashioned dress may still be remembered by some.
Her bright, courteous manner; the ease with which she would converse, even at her advanced age; her dark eyes, full of expression, which would light up with merriment at any little passing pleasantry, or show tender sympathy for any tale of sorrow, all made her a delightful companion. She greatly enjoyed being read to, and was a most appreciative listener.
Two or three years before her death she had a sharp attack of illness, from which we did not think she could recover. She was in a very happy state of mind. One day when Robert, our old Roman Catholic servant, who had lived with my grandfather at North Lodge, came up to see her, we were surprised by the earnest way in which she spoke to him of her Saviour.
We expected the end might be near; but after a very trying time of suffering from irritation of the skin (which she said was just the illness she needed to teach her patience) she recovered.
The visit of my dear aunt and uncle in September, 1863, already referred to, was a great happiness to her. Though she had not seen them for many years, her heart had lost none of its affection for them; and the little times of reading and prayer which she had with "her dear 'Bloss'" (the old pet name by which she called my aunt) were happy to both of them.
Aunt Alice had for years been free from any great sorrow until my dear mother was taken from us; and, truly as she felt this, I think her great age, perhaps, made the grief less acute.
During the months that followed we noticed little symptoms of general decline. Though she had in a measure recovered from the illness mentioned in my father's letter, she had not her usual vigour of mind, or body. She used still to walk up and down the room repeating her hymns, and also liked being read to, but she could not learn anything new. The last verse she tried to learn was 1 Peter 5:10, but though it was read to her over and over again, her power of retaining words in her memory, which had been remarkable, seemed to be gone.
She lingered with us till May 19, 1864; but we felt for some time that she was gradually failing. One day, when he thought her very ill, my father took her hand and said, "We are all with you, dear Aunt." She opened her eyes and replied, "And He is with us all." He said again, "He is very near to you." "Very dear to me," she replied.
Once she spoke of her father with tears, her remembrance of more than 80 years was so vivid: he died when she was about ten years old.
The end came sooner than we expected. One night after a painful gasping for breath she began to repeat her favourite hymn, "Oh, for a heart to praise my God," and laid, as she always did, special emphasis on the line, "So freely shed for me."
The following morning she seemed much relieved, was taken out of bed for a short time, and placed in a chair by the open window. While sitting with her I turned to the "Silent Comforter" which was hanging near, and read one of the texts for the day, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" In her usual fervent way she went over the words, "Who shall separate?"
Thinking she was better we left her to go to the evening meeting. During that time she was constantly repeating different lines of hymns, and was much pleased when Mary Perrott repeated for her the verse:
"Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God,
He to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood."
Some little time after we had left her, as we thought, comfortably settled for the night, in the care of the faithful servant, who had slept in her room for thirty years, we were summoned, and saw at once that a change had taken place. She soon became unconscious, and, after breathing quietly for a few moments, she was taken from us.
During my dear father's second visit to the country, he complained of not feeling well. In a note from Clonmel he wrote —
"I am feeling weak, and not able to go round to places where I might go.
I need not say what kindness and care I meet everywhere. Francis returns this day. He has been taking every care of me."
This "taking care" was the beginning of that service of love rendered by Mr. Cavenagh during the months that followed, especially during the time of greatest weakness, which called forth my own deep gratitude, and can never be forgotten. He had known my father for many years, and had been, amongst others, early united with him in the meetings of the Brethren. Through all the questions and discussions at the time of the "Division," and afterwards, he and my father were almost entirely of one mind; and this friendship remained unbroken.
My father did not leave home again, except when we went together to stay for a short time with our kind friends in the County of Wicklow. Nothing could exceed the thoughtful care and love shown him by Mr. and Mrs. Truell at Clonmannon, and by Mr. and Mrs. Synge at Glanmore. He sweetly appreciated it all, but his strength was gradually failing.
Another visitor came to Glanmore during our stay there, about whom my father was much interested, having been told by Mr. Synge that this young girl seemed to be truly wishing to live as a servant of the Lord, though her surroundings were worldly. She was only there for a few days, and just before she left, he put into her hand the following letter, a copy of which I had taken without telling him:
The Lord bless you, dear Miss —. If you confess Christ, you must let the world know that, while you own your relationships in it, and the duties which attach to them, in its course, and spirit, and vanities, you and it have parted company. Seek a sense of the presence of Christ, and indulge thoughts of Him, and cultivate affections towards Him. You are young, and many fascinations are before you, but the presence of Christ is worth a world of pleasures. Meditate on His Word, and as far as you can, make those who know Him your companions. I write unfeignedly commending you to His blessing.
Yours very sincerely,
J. G. BELLETT.
Glanmore, July, 1864.
I cannot tell exactly when it was that our kind friend, Dr. Walter, began to feel my dear father's illness was becoming serious. In its early stages it took the form of pneumonia; and he was never quite free from cough; but there was more general weakness than any distinct disease.
From the beginning of the summer, Dr. W. was in constant attendance, and full of the kindest consideration. Dr. Law also showed much kindness in his occasional visits.
The weakness at last became too great to allow of his attending the Sunday morning meetings. This was a trial to him; and I remember his once saying that he almost thought he should get some of the young men to carry him, that he might again partake of the Supper of the Lord with his brethren. This, however, was never done.*
*I have not before spoken of my father's feelings on this subject. It was to him a feast of joyful thanksgiving each returning Sunday, of looking "back to the cross and onward to the glory." But he felt very strongly that it was not for the sick chamber, but for the congregation on the "first day of the week."
The last passage on which he gave a short lecture was 2 Cor. 12.
Before writing some details of the weeks that followed, I wish to give some remembered words of my dear father's, uttered from day to day, the last few weeks of his life.
Most of the following sentences, which were put down at the time, were spoken as if he were thinking aloud, or were utterances of prayer and praise, as though none were present but his Lord:
"Lord, how perfect are all Thy ways! How delightful it is to look at Thee! So unlike any other object.
When I think of His mercies, I'm hurried away to Himself.
If I had not His cross for my sins and His person for my portion.
Lord, I have spoken of Thee to others; I have loved Thee; I desire to be with Thee; but I can't say I'm ready to suffer for Thee.
Patience is God's hero."
Speaking at one time of how indefinitely we speak of that which lies beyond death, and saying that Scripture had not been so "indefinite," he added: -
"It had defined it simply, accurately, and in holy detail. It first informs us that the moment death has done its business with the old creation, body, the Lord receives the new creation, spirit, and the simple commentary it passes upon that is, 'tis far better.' Is that indefinite? Death introduces the spirit to the solitary presence of Christ, but afterwards it is as if He said, 'My presence is not the only source of satisfaction (dear, unjealous Lord!), you must enjoy your brethren and your Father's house.' We shall meet our brethren in the air to be with them, as well as with Him, and then the Father's house will be entered.
He has been here to tell us what He is; and there is not a single feature that ought not to be a band of love between our hearts and Him.
Accustom your mind to think of the Jesus of Nazareth who walked through the cities and villages of the land, as the One who is to receive you to His glory.
Do I fear Thee, Lord Jesus? — Let every passage of Thy life give the answer.
Have I any service to make me acceptable? — Let every passage of my poor life give the answer.
When I think of the corruption, the vanity of my ministry, to think that in the day of my weakness Thou should'st come and thus show Thyself to me! 'Tis wonderful!
Oh that volume! That precious volume! To think that a man should question its truth!
Lord Jesus! it is a precious casket, an infinitely precious casket that encloses Thee.
Looking beyond the river, 'tis Thee, Lord Jesus, that I see.
Trust Him for the hour of weakness, come it in what shape it may.
We shall meet where Jesus will be everything to everyone.
(To Mr. Cavenagh). Oh, Francis, tell sinners, tell them boldly while you convict them deeply, of the folly of not believing Him.
For years my soul has never conversed with any evidence but the moral glories of the Word, and the perfection of that wondrous scheme revealed from beginning to end.
Oh, to have the association of the heart with the Lord of the heavenly country!
One time he spoke of the gentle way in which he was dealt with — he had often wished, and (he supposed) prayed for it, but added, "It is not His providence that binds us to the Lord, but His moral perfections," and then he spoke of the "precious blood" as "the one alone title," while the Holy Ghost had given him on the ground of that title to apprehend the glories of his Lord.
One would surely be surprised that in these utterances he never spoke of meeting with those gone before, but for the vivid remembrance that the thought of meeting his Lord absorbed every desire, and, as he said, "filled the whole vision" of his soul.
Some one spoke to him once about meeting my dear mother. He referred to this after, and we understood that he knew this would be in the resurrection, but the One presence was all that he looked for now. If we had not seen and felt the power of this hope filling his heart, a "well of water" indeed springing up continually, so that it seemed the only natural condition for him, we should have wondered, and more especially because of the deep affection of his nature.
His heart has spoken for itself in the letters written during my brother's illness, and his devoted love for my mother had shown itself every moment in the life of every day, yet neither of these "gone before" seemed to mingle with his heavenly longings.
During all those weeks I was continually reminded of the reaping that follows the spiritual sowing; for if there were one thing more than another that he seemed ever to desire, or that his ministry sought to lead others to enjoy, or that his prayers longed after, it was this personal, intimate knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, and the satisfaction that must spring from it; and most surely this blessed experience was given to him.
CHAPTER 7. CLOSING DAYS.
EARLY in September my dear uncle proposed coming to us. His visit was eagerly looked forward to, and on his arrival, my dear father threw his arms round his neck, and they kissed each other as if they had been boys again. My father talked to him a good deal in the evening, went through the history of his illness, and spoke clearly on some matters of business. From this time my uncle was constantly with us, only returning home occasionally for his Sunday duty.
The remembrance of his untiring ministry of love, and my father's childlike dependence on him during the weeks that followed, can never fade away.
One day before my uncle came my father was able to drive out and transact some business. On reaching Mr. B.'s office, the clerk kindly came to him, and saved him the fatigue of going in. He said that he was sorry to see my dear father looking so ill. He replied, almost in the following words, "I hope I can say with my whole heart, may you be as happy as I am when you are in my weak state," and then, gently laying his hand on his, he said, "Remember, all my happiness is in Jesus, not in myself." To friends who came to see him the same day he said that he wished to encourage them to trust the Lord for an hour of weakness; and then spoke, almost in a rapture, but without any approach to excitement, of the joy of being present with the Lord.
By degrees the weakness increased, until he could only move from his own room to the drawing-room, but he had very little suffering. He wished to see everyone that called, and it was graciously ordered that all who loved him in Dublin were able to see and hear him once more. It was very seldom that he was unable to see any friend.
For many of his sweet and happy words, as well as the circumstances of the last month, I must refer to a journal kept from day to day, and to some letters sent home by my uncle, and shown to me afterwards:
"Sept. 7th. He saw two or three friends, and spoke in his favourite strain, full of happy thoughts in the prospect of being 'with the One who went through the cities and villages of the land, and is the same One still.' Uncle G. insisted on sleeping in the drawing-room, to be near him, which he much liked, and when thanking him, he said, 'But I know I might command anything from you.'
"Sept. 11th. I brought Jane Dixon up to see him. He spoke to her of his joy in the thought of being with the Lord. Mr. Cavenagh came in the evening, and sat silently beside him for some time, while he now and then expressed his joy in the thought of going to the Lord. At length Mr. G. said, 'We don't like to give you up.' He fervently replied, 'I am sure of it.' Mr. C. then said something about 'the glory and brightness' that were before him, and referring to this, he said, 'It's Himself that's before me, Francis. He fills the whole vision of my soul.' He clasped his hands together, and said, with tears, 'I embrace Thee, Lord Jesus,' and after a pause, 'Were I to live, it would be still my joy and my business to be in the midst of you with the Word of God in my hand.' He then named two or three whom he wished to see."
Every evening, Mr. Cavenagh came, with unfailing kindness, and remained to sit up for the night if my uncle were away or needed rest, and one morning my dear father said, "Francis talks of the possibility of my returning to the Brethren. How can he talk so? So to have looked at my Lord, and then to be withdrawn from seeing Him!" At another time, "I don't know how it is, but the scene seems shifting." Feeling a little better, he was much affected at the thought of being brought back to life, and said that he so shrank from suffering, and clung to the thought of gently and painlessly "slipping away."
To more than one friend he said that he had had "two surprises": "If my body has been surprised into sickness, my spirit has been surprised into liberty."
"Sept. 13th. While he was resting today, Mr. Denham Smith called, but we thought it not well to bring him up. He begged just to come and look at him. While Mr. S. was there he awoke, and held out his hand. He said that they had met in a different scene (referring to the revival services), but not a happier one, and then spoke of how the Lord had been blessing his soul the last two months, and urged Mr. Smith to preach Christ personally."
He would sometimes beckon my uncle or me to come and sit near his easy chair, and he would rest his dear head on our shoulder.
"Sept. 15th. When feeling very weary, he said, 'Oh for a rest on my brother's shoulder!' He frequently calls Uncle G., 'Georgie,' the dear old name of childhood. I thought, as I looked at them thus together just now of the picture — taken of them when they were boys of about eight and nine, with their faces close together.
"Sept. 12th. Uncle G. watched him tenderly, and reported a bad night. He saw different people through the day, amongst them young F. Cavenagh, who was entirely overcome when leaving.
"Sept. 16th. He called me to him when he first came into the drawing-room and folded me in his arms, and said, 'With what certainty I look at the Lord!'"
About this time I received a letter from Dr. Cronin, from which I quote his words about my dear father:
"Both the truest sorrow as well as joy fill my soul at every remembrance of my longest-known and most dearly-loved brother, friend, companion in God's ways. Assure him of my alacrity to go to him, and of my one desire that the living One who was dead, may be the object of my soul's desire and delight as He is his. Tell him he is amongst the uppermost objects of my heart's love."
On September 18th he arrived. My dear father bore the meeting better than I feared. He spoke to Dr. Cronin about his unpublished MSS., as quietly as if he were packing up for a journey.*
*Most of them were afterwards printed in the Bible Treasury.
"Sept. 19th. He talked a good deal to Dr. C., spoke of 'Brethren's Principles' and of the 'Social Character of the Day' hindering the apprehension of what he firmly believes to be required by the Word of God. He mentioned two or three persons whom they both knew, and sketched their characters. He spoke with as much clearness and decision as ever. Speaking of Christian intercourse where there is 'merely discussion of points,' he said, 'Affection is not there — unction does not come forth, but only the withering of intellect. I'd rather minister from a felt thought or two, than from a volume arranged and digested in my mind.'
Speaking of our blessed Lord's humiliation, he said; 'I worship Him as the Carpenter's Son as thoroughly as I shall do as King of Kings by-and-bye.' He uttered fervent words of adoration, praising the Lord for what He had given him in Himself, and for the title he had sealed to him in His unutterably terrible death.
"Sept. 20th. Mr. S— came to see him, and sobbed like a child before he came in, and after he left the room.
"Sept. 21. Dr. Cronin came home from an evening prayer-meeting just in time to draw his wheel-chair (which had been my mother's) into his room. He first asked about some one who had been a cause of trouble, and on hearing that he was 'softened' immediately said, 'Now push me in,' as if he wanted nothing more.
"Sept. 22. He bore the parting with dear Dr. Cronin well, but it seemed after to make him feel poorly."
Soon after Dr. C. left my uncle returned (he had gone home for Sunday) and Sir E. Denny came from London to see my dear father. As they were both sitting with him he looked sweetly at my uncle, and said he should like not to have been so weak this evening that he might have talked a little. While Sir E. D. sat opposite to him he said, "I love to look at you," and at parting threw his arms around his neck.
The book entitled, A short Meditation on the Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, was the last written by my father; and he entrusted it to Sir E. Denny, who afterwards had it printed.
He was always able to have a short reading and prayer morning and evening; and sometimes spoke a little about the verses we read, and in prayer his words were as ever, the same simple and appropriate ones.
He would sometimes mention suitable portions of scripture to those who came to see him; and one day I said that he had not given one to me. He answered sweetly, "All my words are for you;" and after a short pause named Luke 12.
All books were by degrees laid aside, and at last even his Bible. It seemed strange to see the companion of every day and all day lying on the table unopened, and yet not strange when he was so near the actual presence of Him of whom it had so deeply taught him. But though he scarcely liked to see a book opened, strange to say he occasionally liked to hear some lines read to him from a long meditation in poetry, which he had himself written at intervals during the last two or three years. He said it had been given to him for the hour of weakness. Those who knew my father will understand why it was thus with him; for the poem from beginning to end dwells entirely on the life, the character, and the love of the Lord Jesus, the theme he loved so well. It will be found at the close.
I have now to give some extracts from letters written to my dear aunt, Mrs. Bellett, whose love and sympathy were ever with us, and who afterwards showed me my uncle's letters:
"Dear John appreciates your love in allowing me to be absent from you; you cannot think how affecting are the expressions of his love to me. When he was lying on the bed in a state of great exhaustion, he took my hand and said 'Georgie, you love me more than I deserve to be loved by you, when I think of all my crabbed ways to you (referring to some passages in our early childhood) — our Lord can forgive them, but can you? Yes, you can.' And then he exclaimed — 'Oh, that I could go to Him in this gentle painless way!' His nature is very sensitive, and he dreads pain.
"A little while since he roused himself to give expression to what is dwelling for ever on his mind — 'Oh, Lord Jesus, when Thou did'st build up this Creation, Thou did'st not leave its poor inhabitants to fear that it would fall to pieces about them, but by Thy sustaining power Thou did'st uphold it, and so with regard to Thy great salvation — it cannot fall; Thou bearest up the pillars of it; Oh Lord, who hast taught me Thy love, and enabled me to teach it to others, not by any effort of my own, but by tracing Thy dear and wondrous living ministry recorded by Thy Evangelists' This morning he called me to him and said, 'The Doctor has made me hear music' I thought his mind was wandering a little, though he has shown nothing of the sort, but I soon found it was not so, but that he had a special meaning in what he said, for he added, 'he tells me, the heart is failing daily.'
"He only called me up twice, and I and Ann* gave him some tea. The least movement disturbs his breathing and produces palpitation; and he said to us when suffering in this way, 'This is a little death to me, but oh how welcome when I think of the life that is behind it! How deeply welcome departure hence to be with Christ; absent from the body, present with the Lord!' One to whom for years he has been strongly attached, called; he gave many words of spiritual counsel; and then, in reference to himself, spoke as follows:
'My complaint is pleuritic pneumonia, and I am becoming weaker day by day, but I never was so happy in all my Christian course as I am now. To be in prospect of being in the company of the Lord Jesus, — the Man out of whom virtue went to give blessings to sinners, and yet all the while God in the highest. To be with Him is my joy.'
*One of our faithful servants.
"A little while since he was speaking of the goodness of the Lord in letting him down so easily, such a gentle decline, only interrupted by brief passages of suffering.
"'Thou knowest, Lord, my weak and timid nature, so Thou dealest with me accordingly. But this is a poor character in which to enter into Thy presence. Some have been rolled off the rack into it. I shall see them with their crowns, and shall delight to see them, and I without one, without a crown, but in Thy presence. I know there is a kingdom of glory, but the whole field of my vision is filled with the Lord Jesus.'
To Edward * he said with great emotion
"'Oh, the joy of meeting an unrebuking gaze!'
*Sir E. Denny.
"Dr. Walter said he wished he could get him into the country, that he might have a view of the pleasant fields. Dear John was much disturbed by this.
"'Have I not,' said he, 'something better in prospect than pleasant fields to look upon!'
"He thus uttered his heart in prayer —
"'Lord, I do not love Thee so as to suffer martyrdom in Thy service, — not as one who said, "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death" — but I would be glad to go to Thee along this path of feebleness, for it is, and has been for some time now, the ruling thought of my heart; how happy a thing it must be to be with Thee, Lord Jesus.'
"After a little pause, he pursued his meditations thus—
"'What He was here, that He is there, and what He is there, that was He here, the same for ever.'
"At one time he said — 'Oh, George, set Him before your people as the object for the affections to rest upon!'
"Mr. Darby came to see him, and the meeting of the two friends was very touching. Dear John held him in his arms, and expressed in ardent terms his great affection for him."
A few weeks before this my dear father had written his last letter to Mr. Darby — in it he expressed the deep thankfulness he felt for ever having known him, and also his firm and ever-deepening conviction of the truth of Brethren's principles. This conviction, which had never wavered, was so assured, and so clear to him, that whatever he might have felt as to causes of division which have arisen since, he would have "walked alone" rather than swerve from it.
When the first anniversary of my dear mother's death came, we rather dreaded lest he should be too much affected by it. He only alluded to it once, but we found that he had thought that he might be called away on that day. On the following day he reminded himself that on that day "last year," he had watched beside her the day after her death; and spoke of how she would have felt had she seen him in his weak state, and how well-ordered all had been.
"Sept. 24th. When Robert brought up his dinner, he held out his hand to him, and said, 'Thankfully wearing out.' Soon after, he looked up, and added, 'My Lord, am I moving towards Thee?' and then spoke of the ground of his hope.
"Sept. 26th. He was anxious to see our very dear and long-valued friends, Mrs. Leader and Miss Herrick, though he had been having frequent visits from them all through his illness, and I found afterwards that his desire was to commit me specially to their loving care.
Never, surely, was a trust fulfilled with more thoughtful love.*
*About the same time he said to Mary Perrott, "Mary, never leave my child."
The sofa in the drawing-room was now made into a bed for him by day, and to the last he was helped, or wheeled in my mother's chair, from his own room, which was on the same floor.
A thought, which Mr. Darby suggested, gave him much pleasure, and he spoke of it to my uncle and to me separately. It was that of being "hidden behind the Lord Jesus, and seeing Him honoured by the whole creation, by-and-bye."
"Sept. 27th. His face has got back much of its old look, his colour is almost natural, and he speaks sometimes with his own sweet smile. We look at him with surprise. There is no distress, and he is able to lie with ease on his side, which he has not been able to do for some time. J. C. came to see him for a moment. He said, 'the Lord keep you; make you as happy in Himself as He has made me.' At one time, he spoke of feeling some 'weariness,' and of submitting to the mighty hand of God, but immediately turned to the thought of 'love' in all.
"Sept. 29th. For a few moments he spoke in a way quite like himself, expressing his mind, with beauty and accuracy, about 'the different worlds' — that of business and self-seeking; that of domestic affection; that of letters; and then turned to the thought of 'the world to come,' where his blessed Lord would be all."
From this time he took no nourishment, except now and then a few grapes.
When told that some one had called to inquire for him, whom he knew as one truly benevolent and amiable, but who had not submitted to the authority of revealed truth, he said, as if thinking aloud, "a beautiful vessel, marred on the wheel!"
"Oct. 1st. While Robert was waiting to help him into his room at night he said, 'I am on my way to the Lord, and I long to reach Him.'
"Oct. 3rd. Mr. Cavenagh came early (Uncle G. is away for two days), and remained all day, generally sitting beside him holding his hand. Dr. Walter watched him through the night, which was disturbed by the cough."
When my uncle returned my dear father seemed too much overpowered to notice him, except by squeezing his hand. When Ann came in the morning she said, "May God comfort you, sir," and he replied, "Ah, faith in Jesus comforts me." The next day he seemed quite revived again all the morning and dictated some business letters through the day. An old friend, Rev. James Hogan, called to see my uncle, and when my father heard that he was in the house he sent for him. He kissed him and then said, "I love to look at your honest face." He then spoke of his own happiness; and when Mr. H. expressed the hope that he might have the same, he said, "Encourage confidence in Jesus," and spoke earnestly for a moment about presenting Him in preaching, and having confidence, not in "the Church," but in "Him." He ended by saying, "The Lord bless you and yours," to which Mr. Hogan fervently added "Amen." On leaving he said to my uncle that it was worth coming from Magherahamlet to get his blessing, though he did not come on purpose to see him.
George Richey came by his request Oct. 4th, and to him he spoke very clearly, first on business, and then of George's mother; and, lastly, told him to remember him as one knowing the peace of God and finding a satisfying object in the Lord Jesus, Whom he every moment longed to meet. G. was much affected.
On one occasion my dear father asked my uncle to tell him truly if he were "impatient," and this is referred to in the following extract from another letter
"When we laid him in bed for the night he said to me, 'Georgie, how have I been to you?' I said, 'Always very loving.' 'Yes,' he said; 'but how have I been in my behaviour? I have betrayed myself before you all, and I ask your forgiveness. I have confessed it to the Lord, and He has forgiven me; but He requires submission, and must be submitted to. From this hour may He give me power to submit with patience.' I reminded him that he had before used that prayer, and that it had been better with him ever since — he is indeed most loving and gentle."
Another time he said, "I fear I am impatient with the Lord," and explained that he had turned for rest to lie on his side, though knowing it would make him cough, and he asked if that were "rebellion."
One evening he called Mary Perrott, and expressed sorrow for having spoken crossly to her, and then he asked if we all forgave him. He said that he had been impatient with us all, and owned subjection to be his duty, but added that it did not make him afraid to meet the Lord. My dear uncle said, "Terror is not in Him. You know this better than we do." He raised his eyes and said, "My blessed, disobeyed Lord." To Dr. Walter and Mr. Cavenagh he also owned impatience, and in his little prayer after I noticed the petition that "submission" might be our "thanksgiving."
I must here say that no trace of this impatience which he seemed to feel remains in my memory; except, indeed, it may have been at times when he had a remarkable intuition (quite unlike him at other times) of how things ought to be done for an invalid which we did not exactly understand.
"Oct. 5th he said, 'I like to have you all near me today.' He repeated one or two verses of Hart's hymn, beginning, 'A Man there is, a real Man,' and said, with tears, how he must have been overcome when writing it.
"He said to Uncle G— how he liked those words, though they were in 'the rugged style of a Puritan,' and not in 'the refined style of dear Archbishop Leighton.'
"This evening he called us to him, and said he would not have us deceived, or think more of the desire he had so often expressed to depart than was strictly true. It would be swords and daggers to him for us to be deceived; and then he said that the fear of suffering, and the desire to escape from present weariness, were with him, as well as a longing to be with the Lord."
A few days before this my dear father spoke to Dr. Walter as follows. I quote from another letter of my uncle's.
"The doctor came; dear John said to him, 'Dear doctor, the Lord bless you and your house for all your kindness to me, and gather them all in, "in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," and then, in the kingdom of glory. I have not taught nor practised the one enough. I blush, but I am not a bit afraid. I often prayed that the Lord would give me a more vivid sense of His love to me. I had it, but not so comfortably or fully as I wished. But on the night of July 17th as I lay in bed it was given me. Doctor, if ever my hand touched yours, the Spirit then touched my spirit. I am as certain of it as I am that you are there. He sealed me, and since that day I gaze upon Him, not always, but when I do it is with satisfaction; on the dear and wondrous Man who came from heaven to make us happy, and has entitled us to happiness."
Journal, "Oct. 6th. He has been anxious all the morning about sending off the box,* and told us to fill it up with biscuits, and was pleased, and looked on with his own sweet smile while we packed it with cakes for the children. He wished also to have two or three little books put in.
*It was sent to our kind friend Mr. Miller, at Wellington, with some business papers. His wife was a cousin of my dear father's, the "Charlotte" mentioned in the earliest letter. They both loved and valued him very much.
At one time, lifting his finger and calling us all to hear, he said that the exultations of feeling he had expressed were not hypocrisy, but frames and feelings were little, and though he could say that his desire was to be with the Lord, he would not have us think him so 'heavenly-minded or spiritual' as not to be desiring rest from the suffering and weariness.
"Oct. 7. When I went into his room this morning, after he had held me in his arms for a few moments, he said, 'Wondrous has been the thrust of Satan at me this night, and blessed the victory given, but it is as sure as you are my Letty.' I asked what he referred to; but he said he could not tell me then.
"Soon after breakfast he called us to read; and he spoke a little about the verses 19 to 23 of St. Luke 7. He said that 'John was weak in one point;' he expected his prison doors to be opened as the eyes and ears of others were opened. He failed, as 'every other steward has done, except the One in whom every promise is yea and amen.' He then offered a short prayer, in which he mentioned the reality of the enemy's fiery darts, and deliverance from them. Immediately after, he called my uncle and me to either side of the sofa-bed, and gave us the following account of what he had experienced: —
"'Soon after Francis Cavenagh and I were left alone for the night, a mist seemed to come round me like the mist of hell, and one was sent to me. I thought I had known him before, he was clothed in white. He denied the truth of Scripture. I took the Word in my hand, and bolted one passage after another at him, but still he held his ground. "The moral glories of Scripture a lie!" I said; "they are as true as heaven and earth." The temptation still continued; and I felt weak. But I cried to the Lord for help; and gradually I rose out of the mist into a calm atmosphere; and I was with my Evangelists again. But it was dreadful while it lasted, That is a plain, unvarnished tale.'
"My dear father told us afterwards that he would not but have gone through this exercise. No shadow seemed to remain upon his heart, and he said it had been a fresh link between his Lord and him.
"We asked Mr. Cavenagh if he perceived anything of it while he watched through the night; and he told us he had been conscious that my father was passing through some new exercise of heart, for he heard him repeating to himself, 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee,' and other verses of the same character. He heard him also say, 'The unassailable Scripture, a tower of beauty and strength.' He thought it continued for some time; but my father did not seem to him much agitated, and lay quietly for some time after it had passed before he went to sleep.
"Oct. 7. Evening. He asked for the servants to come up, as he wanted to pay what would shortly be due to them himself. As he gave each little parcel of money, he said that they had been 'faithful,' and asked if he had been 'kind.' While Uncle G. sat beside him, he spoke of a fall he once had from a pony in early days, and reminded him of a battle he had once fought for him at school, saying that 'he was a cowardly fellow.'
"My uncle was obliged to leave us again for two days. On Oct. 8th Mr. Cavenagh watched him through the night with tender care, and my dear father warmly expressed his affection for him."
I have now come to the last entry in the little journal.
"Oct. 10. He called me to him, and putting his arms round my neck, held me thus for a few moments. He then told me to 'write,' and gave directions about some business. I asked if Mary and I should read a few verses; he at once assented and said, 'Read the close of Matthew 6.' We did so; and he said a few words, partly prayer; they were a little confused, but there were some about 'exchanging such a world as this, for Christ's world.'
"He wished to see the servants again, to give them the little legacies left them by Aunt Alice. With entire clearness, and remembering exactly which little parcel was for each, he placed them in their hands, saying he had 'wished to give them' himself. Afterwards he lay for some time in a half-sleeping state; but about twelve o'clock a sad fit of coughing came on; and he called us to prop him up, and open the window. Then, for about an hour, we watched him as he lay in a kind of faint. When he revived, his own dear look came back a little. He asked if he had been 'sleeping,' and then said, 'Why don't they all come and tell me they are satisfied?' When we told him they were so; in the sweetest voice he asked, 'And is the Lord satisfied?' and when I said 'Yes,' he bent his head to rest it on my shoulder like a child, and he was 'satisfied.' He would take nothing all day but water now and then.
"Later on Dr. Walter and Mr. Cavenagh came, and remained with him. He held out his hand to each, and now and then looked round, as if wanting some one else. It was now an effort to him to speak, but he asked to be wheeled into his room, and Mr. Cavenagh tenderly lifted him into bed.
"The breathing was disturbed, but he did not appear to suffer much. Dr. Walter had to leave for a while, but he called after him, and said, with some effort, 'Tell me, am I going on?' Dr. Walter assured him that he was; and he was content.
"Mr. Cavenagh, Mary, and I, stood by the bed-side. The servants gathered round. Mrs. Cavenagh had asked if she might come in and look upon him once more; she and one of her sons were in the room. Beside these, there was one more present — our kind and faithful friend, Miss Ferrall.
"From time to time a few words were said, but we did not know whether he noticed them, except once when Mr. Cavenagh repeated the verse, 'My times are in Thy hand,' he lifted his right hand, and said clearly, 'Amen.' He looked, every now and then as before, as if expecting someone, and this was surely my dear uncle. He tried to say something more than once, but was unable, and the effort by degrees stopped. He looked round the bed at us more than once, calmly and steadily. Gradually the breathing began to cease, and in a few moments he was at rest; and he is 'satisfied' for ever.
"My dear uncle came the following morning to find his tenderly-loved brother gone. He was grieved indeed not to have been with him, for he would fain have ministered to him to the end, with that love that for sixty-seven years had never been disturbed by even a passing shadow; but he felt it was all God's ordering, and he patiently submitted to it."
Of the days that followed, I need not write. Each day brought fresh proofs of what the sorrow was to many hearts.
One and another came, and asked to see him once more; and each one saw the face they had loved, with its sweetest expression of happiness and rest.
Of all his friends in Dublin, none were willingly absent, and some came from a distance, when he was taken to his last resting-place in Harolds-Cross Cemetery, and there, by the hands of those only who loved him, he was laid by the side of my dear mother and Aunt Alice. The whole inscription on the headstone is given below, the beautiful verses which immediately follow my dear father's name being suggested by my uncle:
PEACE IN JESUS.
UPPER PEMBROKE STRFET, DUBLIN.
SEPTEMBER 23RD, 1863.
UPPER PEMBROKE STREET.
MAY 19TH, 1864.
"WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD."
JOHN GIFFORD BELLETT,
UPPER PEMBROKE STREET, DUBLIN.
OCT. 10TH, 1864.
"THOU SHALT MAKE ME FULL OF JOY WITH THY COUNTENANCE.
THOU HAST GIVEN HIM HIS HEART'S DESIRE,"
The love which my dear father was so ready to give, secured to him the love of others; but I think he was quite unconscious of the influence it gave him, as well as of the reverent affection with which so many regarded him. A few extracts from letters much prized by me shall close this little record. The first was written to my uncle by Rev. J. Hogan, whose visit on Oct. 3rd has been mentioned.
"MY DEAR GEORGE, — I feel only disposed to rejoice and give thanks with you for the great grace given to your beloved brother, and for his happy end; but, surely, this is a wrong word to use. Even as regards this world, his memory and example may long exercise an influence for good on others, and though dead, he will still speak to many as one of the chosen witnesses of Christ in the world. I always thought there was something primitive about your dear brother; he reminded me of George Herbert, in his simple child-like devotion."
The following is from Mr. Alexander, dated
"1st November, 1864.
". … To speak or write of him, and the love we bore him, would now be beyond what you may desire, yet the love is a living reality. We have to remember how he walked and behaved himself so meekly and humbly, and having our eye on Christ, the Son of God, to follow on."
From Mr. S — :
"18th October, 1864.
"I need not tell you how more than thirty years acquaintance, a period which has embraced almost every phase of one's life, had so connected him with me that it would be vain for me to seek reparation of the peculiar blank. I am a mourner like yourself. How my eye, if I ever visit Dublin again, will feed my heart with sorrow? Could anything remove the sable investiture of sorrow which shrouds that spot for me?
Another friend wrote:
"The thought of your dear father's being in heaven seems to make heaven nearer to me. … He is now with that Saviour on whose praises he so delighted to dwell."
From Dr. Cronin:
"All is silence now, but all is peace! Truly to my soul the peace of God and the presence of Christ are boundless, with my every remembrance of that precious spirit. That he is where he is, and that he has what he has, is such real satisfaction to my heart, though his absence from us is full of sorrow. I am conscious of such mingled feelings."
From Sir E. Denny:
"13th December, 1864.
"I have not yet written to thank you for your kind letter and deeply interesting details. What a sweet history it is, what a tale of love! I do indeed bless God for enabling our hearts so sweetly to repose in the recollection of his ways and words at the last."
The next extracts are from later letters written by the friend whom I quoted in chapter two. He was never in connection with the Brethren. He is a clergyman of "moderate High-Church views;" and never heard my dear father in public further than by attending some Bible readings in early days. The impression, so deep and lasting, was made by himself and his writings, which were indeed the transcript of his mind.
"How thankful we ought to be to God who gives us every now and again such witnesses as your most dear and honoured father was, to His own glory, love, and character. If the servant were so lovely, what the Master.
"What I thought of Mr. Bellett, as a boy, I think still; he was one of the most remarkable and attractive men, if not the most, I ever met, and after thirty years, the tones of his voice, the expression of his eyes, and the exquisite utterances of his heart are as vivid as though I only saw and heard him today. Unique in character and gift, 'being dead, he yet speaketh.' Yes, your beloved father was unconscious of the reverence and love with which he was regarded; he was conscious, however, of God's love in Christ, and Christ filled heart and mind, and so man fell into his proper place. Never, never shall I see such an one again."
Again, in a letter of sympathy on the death of my dear uncle, he writes:
"What a meeting between the brothers so tenderly attached, in the presence of the Saviour whom they both loved. How they are now thanking Him for the love which led them all their lives through.
"O happy saints for ever blest!
At Jesu's feet, how safe your rest,'"
And once again, in answer to my request to print these extracts: "As to my own words respecting him, if they are in any way expressive of my love and reverence for him, they are most gladly at your service. I place him among the greatest aids towards the realizing of Christ's life and love I ever met."
From Mr. C.:
"That I should have crossed his path and find myself a depository of so much from him, is a circumstance in my history in which the Lord's hand and ways declare themselves to me.
Those of us here to whom he was known, often rehearse his words to one another, and his memory is a fruitful theme. How little could one of such humble-mindedness as he was ever think how the Lord would thus honour him."
From another friend:
"The last time he breakfasted with us we were talking of the 'Separate State,' and he said to me 'If you want to wish to go to Him you must study Him in the Evangelists' — How truly he proved the truth of his own words!"
The poem referred to already is as follows:
(In 'the Evangelists' volume.)
In closing these recollections, and feeling how very imperfect they are, I can but humbly hope that time, recalling my dear father's words and ways, may lead both myself and those who may read these pages to seek to know more fully the Blessed Lord, of whom he loved to speak and whom he sought to follow in humility and love.