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all else fell away. The sublimity of disinterested benevolence,- the harmony and order of a system tending in its final results to infinite happiness, the goodness of God, the love of a self-sacrificing Redeemer, were all so many glorious pictures, which she revolved in her mind with small care for their logical relations.
Mrs. Marvyn had never, in all the course of their intimacy, opened her mouth to Mary on the subject of religion. It was not an uncommon incident of those times for persons of great elevation and purity of character to be familiarly known and spoken of as living under a cloud of religious gloom; and it was simply regarded as one more mysterious instance of the workings of that infinite decree which denied to them the special illumination of the Spirit.
When Mrs. Marvyn had drawn Mary with her into her room, she seemed like a person almost in frenzy. She shut and bolted the door, drew her to the foot of the bed, and, throwing her arms round her, rested her hot and throbbing forehead on her shoulder. She pressed her thin hand over her eyes, and then, suddenly drawing back, looked her in the face as one resolved to speak something long suppressed. Her soft brown eyes had a flash of despairing wildness in them, like that of a hunted animal turning in its death-struggle on its pursuer. 'Mary," she said, "I can't help it, don't mind what I say, but I must speak or die! Mary, I cannot, will not, be resigned!-it is all hard, unjust, cruel!— to all eternity I will say so! To me there is no goodness, no justice, no mercy in anything! Life seems to me the most tremendous doom that can be inflicted on a helpless being! What had we done, that it should be sent upon us? Why were we made to love so, to hope so, our hearts so full of feeling, and all the laws of Nature marching over us, -never stopping for our agony? Why, we can suffer so in this life that we had better never have been born!
"But, Mary, think what a moment life
is! think of those awful ages of eternity! and then think of all God's power and knowledge used on the lost to make them suffer! think that all but the merest fragment of mankind have gone into this, are in it now! The number of the elect is so small we can scarce count them for anything! Think what noble minds, what warm, generous hearts, what splendid natures are wrecked and thrown away by thousands and tens of thousands! How we love each other! how our hearts weave into each other! how more than glad we should be to die for each other! And all this ends O God, how must
it end? - Mary! it isn't my sorrow only! What right have I to mourn? Is my son any better than any other mother's son? Thousands of thousands, whose mothers loved them as I love mine, are gone there! -Oh, my wedding-day! Why did they rejoice? Brides should wear mourning, the bells should toll for every wedding; every new family is built over this awful pit of despair, and only one in a thousand escapes!"
Pale, aghast, horror-stricken, Mary stood dumb, as one who in the dark and storm sees by the sudden glare of lightning a chasm yawning under foot. It was amazement and dimness of anguish ; -the dreadful words struck on the very centre where her soul rested. She felt as if the point of a wedge were being driven between her life and her life's life, between her and her God. clasped her hands instinctively on her bosom, as if to hold there some cherished image, and said in a piercing voice of supplication, “My God! my God! oh, where art Thou?"
to make it certain,- that He ordains every sin, and does all that is necessary to make it certain, that He creates the vessels of wrath and fits them for destruction, and that He has an infinite knowledge by which He can do it without violating their free agency.-So much the worse! What a use of infinite knowledge! What if men should do so? What if a father should take means to make it certain that his poor little child should be an abandoned wretch, without violating his free agency? So much the worse, I say! They say He does this so that He may show to all eternity, by their example, the evil nature of sin and its consequences! This is all that the greater part of the human race have been used for yet; and it is all right, because an overplus of infinite happiness is yet to be wrought out by it!-It is not right! No possible amount of good to ever 80 many can make it right to deprave ever so few-happiness and misery cannot be measured so! I never can think it right,never!-Yet they say our salvation depends on our loving God,— loving Him better than ourselves,-loving Him better than our dearest friends.—It is impossible! - it is contrary to the laws of my nature! I can never love God! I can never praise Him!- I am lost! lost! lost! And what is worse, I cannot redeem my friends! Oh, I could suffer forever, how willingly!-if I could save him!-But oh, eternity, eternity! Frightful, unspeakable woe! No end!-no bottom!- no shore!— no hope! — O God! O God!"
Mrs. Marvyn's eyes grew wilder,—she walked the floor, wringing her hands,and her words, mingled with shrieks and moans, became whirling and confused, as when in autumn a storm drives the leaves in dizzy mazes.
Mary was alarmed,—the ecstasy of despair was just verging on insanity. She rushed out and called Mr. Marvyn.
"Oh! come in! do! quick!--I'm afraid her mind is going!" she said.
"It is what I feared," he said, rising from where he sat reading his great Bi
ble, with an air of heartbroken dejection. "Since she heard this news, she has not slept nor shed a tear. The Lord hath covered us with a cloud in the day of his fierce anger."
He came into the room, and tried to take his wife into his arms. She pushed him violently back, her eyes glistening with a fierce light. "Leave me alone!" she said, "I am a lost spirit!"
These words were uttered in a shriek that went through Mary's heart like an
At this moment, Candace, who had been anxiously listening at the door for an hour past, suddenly burst into the
"Lor' bress ye, Squire Marvyn, we won't hab her goin' on dis yer way," she said. "Do talk gospel to her, can't ye? -ef you can't, I will.”
"Come, ye poor little lamb," she said, walking straight up to Mrs. Marvyn, "come to ole Candace!"-and with that she gathered the pale form to her bosom, and sat down and began rocking her, as if she had been a babe. "Honey, darlin', ye a'n't right,—dar's a drefful mistake somewhar," she said. “Why, de Lord a'n't like what ye tink,- He loves ye, honey! Why, jes' feel how I loves ye, poor ole black Candace, an' I a'n't better'n Him as made me! Who was it wore de crown o' thorns, lamb?— who was it sweat great drops o' blood?who was it said, 'Father, forgive dem’? Say, honey!-wasn't it de Lord dat made ye?- Dar, dar, now ye'r' cryin'!— cry away, and ease yer poor little heart! He died for Mass'r Jim, - loved him and died for him,-jes' give up his sweet, precious body and soul for him on de cross! Laws, jes' leave him in Jesus' hands! Why, honey, dar's de very print o' de nails in his hands now!"
The flood-gates were rent; and healing sobs and tears shook the frail form, as a faded lily shakes under the soft rains of All in the room wept togeth
"Now, honey," said Candace, after a pause of some minutes, "I knows our
Doctor's a mighty good man, an' larned, —an' in fair weather I ha'n't no 'bjection to yer hearin' all about dese yer great an' mighty tings he's got to say. But, honey, dey won't do for you now; sick folks mus'n't hab strong meat; an' times like dese, dar jest a'n't but one ting to come to, an' dat ar's Jesus. Jes' come right down to whar poor ole black Candace has to stay allers, it's a good place, darlin'! Look right at Jesus. Tell ye, honey, ye can't live no other way now. Don't ye 'member how He looked on His mother, when she stood faintin' an' tremblin' under de cross, jes' like you? He knows all about mothers' hearts; He won't break yours. It was jes' 'cause He know'd we'd come into straits like dis yer, dat he went through all dese tings, Him, de Lord o' Glory! Is dis Him you was a-talkin' about?- Him you can't love? Look at Him, an' see ef you can't. Look an' see what He is don't ask no questions, and don't go to no reasonin's,—jes' look at Him, hangin' dar, so sweet and patient, on de cross! All dey could do couldn't stop his lovin' 'em; he prayed for 'em wid all de breath he had. Dar's a God you can love, a'n't dar? Candace loves Him,-poor, ole, foolish, black, wicked Candace, and she knows He loves her," and here Candace broke down into torrents of weeping.
They laid the mother, faint and weary, on her bed, and beneath the shadow of that suffering cross came down a healing sleep on those weary eyelids.
Honey," said Candace, mysteriously, after she had drawn Mary out of the room, "don't ye go for to troublin' yer mind wid dis yer. I'm clar Mass'r James is one o' de 'lect; and I'm clar dar's consid'able more o' de 'lect dan people tink. Why, Jesus didn't die for nothin', all dat love a'n't gwine to be wasted. De 'lect is more'n you or I knows, honey! Dar's de Spirit,- He'll give it to 'em; and ef Mass'r James is called an' took, depend upon it de Lord has got him ready,-course He has,—so don't ye go to layin' on yer poor heart what no mortal creetur can live under;
'cause, as we's got to live in dis yer world, it's quite clar de Lord must ha' fixed it so we can; and ef tings was as some folks suppose, why, we couldn't live, and dar wouldn't be no sense in anyting dat goes on.”
The sudden shock of these scenes was followed, in Mrs. Marvyn's case, by a low, lingering fever. Her room was darkened, and she lay on her bed, a pale, suffering form, with scarcely the ability to raise her hand. The shimmering twilight of the sick-room fell on white napkins, spread over stands, where constantly appeared new vials, big and little, as the physician made his daily visit, and prescribed now this drug and now that, for a wound that had struck through the soul.
Mary remained many days at the white house, because, to the invalid, no step, no voice, no hand was like hers. We see her there now, as she sits in the glimmering by the bed-curtains, her head a little drooped, as droops a snowdrop over a grave;—one ray of light from a round hole in the closed shutters falls on her smooth-parted hair, her small hands are clasped on her knees, her mouth has lines of sad compression, and in her eyes are infinite questionings.
WHEN Mrs. Marvyn began to amend, Mary returned to the home cottage, and resumed the details of her industrious and quiet life.
Between her and her two best friends had fallen a curtain of silence. The subject that filled all her thoughts could not be named between them. The Doctor often looked at her pale cheeks and drooping form with a face of honest sorrow, and heaved deep sighs as she passed; but he did not find any power within himself by which he could approach her. When he would speak, and she turned her sad, patient eyes so gently on him, the words went back again to his heart, and there, taking a second thought, spread upward wing in prayer.
Mrs. Scudder sometimes came to her room after she was gone to bed, and found her weeping; and when gently she urged her to sleep, she would wipe her eyes so patiently and turn her head with such obedient sweetness, that her mother's heart utterly failed her. For hours Mary sat in her room with James's last letter spread out before her. How anxiously had she studied every word and phrase in it, weighing them to see if the hope of eternal life were in them! How she dwelt on those last promises! Had he kept them? Ah! to die without one word more! Would no angel tell her? - would not the loving God, who knew all, just whisper one word? He must have read the little Bible! What had he thought? What did he feel in that awful hour when he felt himself drifting on to that fearful eternity? Perhaps he had been regenerated,—perhaps there had been a sudden change; - who knows?she had read of such things; -perhaps Ah, in that perhaps lies a world of anguish! Love will not hear of it. Love dies for certainty. Against an uncertainty who can brace the soul? We put all our forces of faith and prayer against it, and it goes down just as a buoy sinks in the water, and the next moment it is up again. The soul fatigues itself with efforts which come and go in waves; and when with laborious care she has adjusted all things in the light of hope, back flows the tide, and sweeps all away. In such struggles life spends itself fast; an inward wound does not carry one deathward more surely than this worst wound of the soul. God has made us so mercifully that there is no certainty, however dreadful, to which life-forces do not in time adjust themselves, but to uncertainty there is no possible adjustment. Where is he? Oh, question of questions! question which we suppress, but which a power of infinite force still urges on the soul, who feels a part of herself torn away.
Mary sat at her window in evening hours, and watched the slanting sun
beams through the green blades of grass, and thought one year ago he stood there, with his well-knit, manly form, his bright eye, his buoyant hope, his victorious mastery of life! And where was he now? Was his heart as sick, longing for her, as hers for him? Was he looking back to earth and its joys with pangs of unutterable regret? or had a divine power interpenetrated his soul, and lighted there the flame of a celestial love which bore him far above earth? If he were among the lost, in what age of eternity could she ever be blessed? Could Christ be happy, if those who were one with Him were sinful and accursed? and could Christ's own loved ones be happy, when those with whom they have exchanged being, in whom they live and feel, are as wandering stars, for whom is reserved the mist of darkness forever? She had been taught that the agonies of the lost would be forever in sight of the saints, without abating in the least their eternal joys; nay, that they would find in it increasing motives to praise and adoration. Could it be so ? Would the last act of the great Bridegroom of the Church be to strike from the heart of his purified Bride those yearnings of self-devoting love which His whole example had taught her, and in which she reflected, as in a glass, His own nature? If not, is there not some provision by which those roots of deathless love which Christ's betrothed ones strike into other hearts shall have a divine, redeeming power? Question vital as life-blood to ten thousand hearts, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, - to all who feel the infinite sacredness of love!
After the first interview with Mrs. Marvyn, the subject which had so agitated them was not renewed. She had risen at last from her sick-bed, as thin and shadowy as a faded moon after sunrise. Candace often shook her head mournfully, as her eyes followed her about her daily tasks. Once only, with Mary, she alluded to the conversation which had passed between them; - it was one day when they were together,
spinning, in the north upper room that looked out upon the sea. It was a glorious day. A ship was coming in under full sail, with white gleaming wings. Mrs. Marvyn watched it a few moments, the gay creature, so full of exultant life, and then smothered down an inward groan, and Mary thought she heard her saying, "Thy will be done!" "Mary," she said, gently, "I hope you will forget all I said to you that dreadful day. It had to be said, or I should have died. Mary, I begin to think that it is not best to stretch our minds with reasonings where we are so limited, where we can know so little. I am quite sure there must be dreadful mistakes somewhere.
"It seems to me irreverent and shocking that a child should oppose a father, or a creature its Creator. I never should have done it, only that, where direct questions are presented to the judgment, one cannot help judging. If one is required to praise a being as just and good, one must judge of his actions by some standard of right, and we have no standard but such as our Creator has placed in us. I have been told it was my duty to attend to these subjects, and I have tried to,- and the result has been that the facts presented seem wholly irreconcilable with any notions of justice or mercy that I am able to form. If these be the facts, I can only say that my nature is made entirely opposed to them. If I followed the stand ard of right they present, and acted according to my small mortal powers on the same principles, I should be a very bad person. Any father, who should make such use of power over his children as they say the Deity does with regard to us, would be looked upon as a monster by our very imperfect moral sense. Yet I cannot say that the facts are not so. When I heard the Doctor's sermons on 'Sin a Necessary Means of the Greatest Good,' I could not extricate myself from the reasoning.
"I have thought, in desperate moments, of giving up the Bible itself. But what do I gain? Do I not see the same
difficulty in Nature? I see everywhere a Being whose main ends seem to be beneficent, but whose good purposes are worked out at terrible expense of suffering, and apparently by the total sacrifice of myriads of sensitive creatures. I see unflinching order, general good-will, but no sympathy, no mercy. Storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, sickness, death, go on without regarding us. Everywhere I see the most hopeless, unrelieved suffering,- and for aught I see, it may be eternal. Immortality is a dreadful chance, and I would rather never have been.The Doctor's dreadful system is, I confess, much like the laws of Nature,— about what one might reason out from them.
"There is but just one thing remaining, and that is, as Candace said, the cross of Christ. If God so loved us,-if He died for us,-greater love hath no man than this. It seems to me that love is shown here in the two highest forms possible to our comprehension. We see a Being who gives himself for us, and more than that, harder than that, a Being who consents to the suffering of a dearer than self. Mary, I feel that I must love more, to give up one of my children to suffer, than to consent to suffer myself. There is a world of comfort to me in the words, 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' These words speak to my heart. I can interpret them by my own nature, and I rest on them. If there is a fathomless mystery of sin and sorrow, there is a deeper mystery of God's love. So, Mary, I try Candace's way, I look at Christ, I pray to Him. If he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father, it is enough. I rest there,-I What I know not now I shall know hereafter."
Mary kept all things and pondered them in her heart. She could speak to no one, not to her mother, nor to her spiritual guide; for had she not passed to a region beyond theirs? As well might those on the hither side of mortality in