« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
prayer, imploring the destruction of the carnal mind, these words were sweetly and powerfully applied : 'Look unto me, and be ye saved. My heart replied, 'Lord, I will look in faith, and believe thy precious blood doth cleanse my soul at this moment.' I then clearly saw it was my privilege thus to look constantly, and receive salvation each moment. I strive thus daily to go on ; and though occasionally I am at a loss to distinguish clearly between the temptations of the enemy, and the workings of a corrupt heart, yet I am kept from perplexity, and, in some degree, from vain reasoning."
About this time, whilst feeling acutely the pain of severe personal and family affliction, Mrs. Harper writes : “I am astonished at the goodness of my gracious God in causing me to feel my mind so free amidst the various exercises through which I am at present passing. • He hath done all things well.'
* Thou, O Lord, in tender love,
Dost all my burdens bear."" In the year 1808 Mrs. Harper was appointed the Leader of a class; and continued to meet it, much to the godly edifying of the members, till increasing infirmities obliged her to relinquish her charge. Her feelings, on undertaking this important office, may be gathered from the following note :-“The Rev. James Wood called, and proposed my taking care of Mrs. Barker's class. I instantly felt my unfitness, and desired him to think of some one else. Before I consulted any person respecting it, I made it the subject of daily earnest prayer, that the Lord would enable me to act agreeably to his will,-being fully convinced that he could give the necessary qualifications. It did not appear that there were obstacles sufficient to justify my refusal ; and I have now, with many fears and tears, engaged in this important work, -a work that calls for wisdom, courage, patience, faithfulness, and all the graces of the Spirit.”
The entries of several succeeding years exhibit all the characteristics of deep piety, and lively concern for the progress of the work of God. The following passage, however, so expressive of her tender maternal solicitude, must not be omitted :-“Yesterday, when praying for my children, I felt some power to believe ; but o for more faith, that God would grant me my desire in their salvation! I ask not wealth, or the honours of the world, for them ; but only this,-that they may
Glorify their God below,
And find their way to heaven."" In the years 1818 and 1819 Mrs. Harper sustained some most afflictive bereavements. In fourteen months, four of her children, three of whom had attained to years of maturity, were removed to a better world. The following extracts show that, whilst acutely feeling as a mother, her well-instructed and pious mind meekly bowed in
submission to the divine will :-“ Praise the Lord, O my soul! Call to remembrance the multiplied favours and deliverances wrought out by thy compassionate Lord and Saviour! Though called to suffer his will in what still tries me in the tenderest part,—the bereavement of my beloved children,- I feel the necessity of exercising myself as a weaned child, when deprived of its pleasing food. O for grace to make my way to that heaven of eternal blessedness where they are all safely landed! I begin to feel (blessed be God !) the resignation of my will, though it is with a bleeding heart, from the consideration that these bereaving providences have been under the direction of the God of infinite love and unbounded wisdom. They are the strokes of my heavenly Father; and shall I not be submissive ? Lord, I thank thee for any power so to be; and pray that, in the enjoyment of more of thy presence and love, I may possess a growing meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light."
Mrs. Harper's attachment to the public means of grace was ever conspicuous ; indeed, she was often seen at the house of God when the state of her health and her feebleness would have more than justified her absence. Scarcely a page of her copious diary occurs without some acknowledgment of the advantage she received from the ministry of the word; and the names of successive Ministers are gratefully and affectionately recorded. She esteemed them “ very highly in love for their work's sake;" heard them, as servants and ambassadors of Christ, with meekness, candour, and prayer; and thus failed not to derive profit from their labours. The ministry of the Rev. Henry Moore, when that venerable man was last stationed in Bristol, proved especially useful to her, in strengthening and confirming her faith, and in elevating the character of her Christian experience. She observes : “Mr. Moore's preaching has been much blessed to my soul. I am aiming to live by faith, though I am generally permitted to be led in the way
of inward conflict. I am enabled to bring all to my Saviour; determining, by his gracious help, not to reason, but believe."
Passing over the occurrences of intervening years, Mrs. Harper was, in 1832, called to part with her beloved husband; and she thus notices the event : “ October 21st. Alas! what have I been permitted to pass through since I last wrote ! and what have I to record! My dear husband, with whom I had lived nearly forty years, sharing the mercies and trials, the comforts and afflictions, of life, was called hence on Thursday morning, September 20th. A gloom is on my spirits that I will not attempt to describe ; but I endeavour to look at my surviving mercies; and I will, and do, try to use the two passages of Scripture which have many times brought relief to my mind,— Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ;' and, 'I am thine, save me.""
During the last three years of her life, Mrs. Harper was exercised with some painful trials, and became a subject of frequent affliction and increasing infirmities. In January, 1840, she was obliged to
relinquish the charge of her class; and from that time, as her health permitted, she met in one led by her much respected and valued friend, Mr. Thomas Exley, A.M. For some months previous to her lamented decease, she appeared to have a presentiment of her approaching end; and thus writes on her sixty-fourth birth-day: “Spared to see the return of my natal day. My capabilities are declining; and the place that now knows me will soon know me no more. But I shall follow those who are gone before ; and, while this feeble body is left behind, I hope to gain new powers to sing the song of the redeemed for ever. O how cheering is this blessed hope! I sometimes think this will be the last year of my life; but I leave all with my heavenly Father. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation !" The last entry in her diary concludes : “I endeavour to keep my old motto, - Trust in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.' May I ever feel that his arms are underneath and around me !"
On Sunday morning, November 6th, 1840, Mrs. Harper, although extremely unwell, attended Portland chapel; but on the following day she was seized with an alarming illness. From its commencement she felt persuaded that she should not recover; and frequently observed, “ The mortal story is nearly told. I am hastening home to my Saviour.” During the progress of her disease, she was occasionally disturbed by distressing mental weakness; but, when relieved from its oppression, her thoughts and conversation were habitually directed to spiritual subjects. Whenever her strength permitted, she would repeat or sing verses of our invaluable hymns, with most of which she was well acquainted. A favourite verse, which she repeated almost daily, was,
“O what are all my sufferings here,
If, Lord, thou count me meet
And worship at thy feet ?” At one period of her illness, being a little revived, she said, “I am afraid death is flying from me:” and, when informed that there was a faint hope of her recovery, she prayed for grace to wait the Lord's time; and then, addressing a member of her family, very emphatically said, “Remember, my dear, whether I live or die, all is well!” Soon after this, a violent hemorrhage from the chest destroyed the hopes of her friends. On the following Sabbath she was triumphantly happy; tears flowed from her eyes ; but she said, “ These are not tears of sorrow, but of joy. O that blessed hope, it almost overwhelms me!" To her faithful servant, who for thirty-three years had affectionately attended upon her, she many times expressed the confidence she possessed that, “absent from the body,” she would be “present with the Lord;” and, though sometimes assaulted by the enemy of her peace, she was enabled to come off more than conqueror.
On Thursday, March 4th, 1841, her medical attendant found her much worse, and in dangerous circumstances. Aware of her danger, she said, “I want to get to the feet of Jesus ;” and, alluding to a recent family bereavement, she observed, “I trust that He who has taken the dear babe will sustain and comfort me ;” and added,
“ Because thou didst for sinners die,
Jesus, in death remember me.”
During the whole of Friday she was generally in a state of stupor ; but, in answer to some question relating to her feelings, she replied, “Mercifully dealt with ; mercifully dealt with." About two o'clock on the morning of Saturday, the 6th, her eldest son, Mr. Abiezer Harper, wishing to ascertain whether she yet retained consciousness, said, “My dear mother, do you know me?" She feebly replied, “ Yes, my son.” He then said, “ You are going to that blessed Saviour whom you have served from your youth.” She responded, “ Yes.” He subsequently remarked, “My dear mother, you are very near heaven;" when, with considerable energy, she replied, “ Yes, yes, yes!” After this she spoke not. She was mercifully delivered from the painful circumstances which sometimes attend dissolution, and of which she had often expressed a fear; for so easily did the purified spirit depart, that, some moments before her mourning family and attendants were aware of the fact, she had gained
“ The blest shore, Where all is assurance and peace,
And sorrow and sin are no more."
The following extract from a letter, with which Mrs. Harper's most intimate and beloved friend favoured her family, justly describes her as she really was :
“Although favoured with her friendship above thirty years, yet I feel myself quite incompetent to delineate her character ; but I can, without hesitation, say, that she was one of the most exemplary and consistent Christians I have known. Our intercourse was always interesting and profitable : she was delighted with every subject which bore on her favourite topic,—Christian experience; and her views of divine privileges and attainments were fixed and unchangeable. Her frame of mind was always heavenly; and her soul ever panted for more abundant spiritual life. She was truly a bright example to the church of God, and possessed all the graces of the Spirit, which bore ample testimony to the faith which united her to her living Head. I think her most conspicuous grace was humility; and with this lovely characteristic she was eminently adorned, so as to attract not only her Christian friends, but all persons who had the pleasure of her acquaintance. The meek and quiet temper of her mind, so discernible under all circumstances, enabled her to lie as clay in the hands of the divine
Potter, unhesitatingly saying, "Father, thy will be done. Very much might be subjoined of her strong attachment to her relatives, and her deep sense of the importance of family duties. These powerfully influenced her conduct, and so occupied her affectionate heart, as to exclude all personal considerations.
“One conversation which I had with her was very delightful. On my entering her room she was greatly animated. She said, that her sufferings had been severe and distressing; but that the Lord had manifested himself to her in a wonderful manner; removing all her doubts and fears, and bestowing upon her abundant hope of everlasting happiness. It was true, that Satan had raged beyond all she had before experienced; but such support and consolation had been given as to afford her complete victory. She added, “Not only have precious promises occurred to my mind, but they have been applied and sealed on my heart by the Holy Spirit ; so that my joy has been full. I could write volumes of the goodness of God that has accompanied me all the days of my life. She has now attained to the consummation of her desires ; faith is changed to sight, and her life and death have brought glory to God."
The writer of this letter has, with great accuracy, remarked on that humility which was so evident in Mrs. Harper's character. It may be added, that this was instructively apparent in her unostentatious simplicity. It might almost be said, that she did not aim at being humble, but that she was humble. She did not, as it were, fasten on herself the marks of humility ; they were the natural growth of what was in her a constant mental condition. There was not the slightest appearance of studied singularity in her demeanour ; nor was she in the habit of speaking great things against herself. A keen and somewhat cynical observer of human nature has said, that we would rather speak against ourselves, than not speak of ourselves at all. With her, humility was the feeling produced by an inwrought and deep conviction that all she was, she was by the grace of God. And this was seen in that unassuming, but happy, frankness of manner which evinced that she was best pleased in seeing that others were so. She was neither forward nor reserved. Habitually serious, there was not the slightest approach to austerity or gloom; while her cheerfulness, which never even bordered on levity, was evidently the effect of that serenity of mind which the peace of God, with the constant recollection of his presence, never fails to produce. Her address was quietly affectionate, and free from the least appearance of affectation. She was easy and self-possessed : there was nothing in her manner that suggested the idea that she was striving to appear to be right. She appeared to be right simply because she was right. She had often suffered, and she knew how to feel for sufferers; but her sympathy was not the mere result of a personal experience of sorrow; it was a Christian grace; and while she wept with them that wept, she rejoiced with them that rejoiced. VOL. XXIII. Third Series. May, 1844.