Those who are best acquainted with the young in our Sunday schools and churches, have often witnessed the deep concern of youthful converts for their unsaved friends and relatives, especially their parents. Pardoned themselves, they have the most intense desire that those they love should enjoy the same blessing; and, when they see them indifferent to religion and neglecting their soul’s salvation, their fear that they will perish often amounts to bitter agony. One of these who was daily praying in private for the conversion of her father and mother told her teacher that if it was a question whether she or they must be saved, she felt she would rather be lost herself if her loss would secure their eternal safety.
When Lucy became old enough to understand her condition in life she found herself the child of parents greatly different in many respectsÂ—especially in things of the greatest importance. Her father was a strong, healthy, labouring man, with wages barely sufficient for the requirements of their small cottage. He was not unkind nor was he a drunkard, though, like too many, he had formed the bad habit of spending a few hours in the public house on the Saturday evening and sometimes on club-night came home rather unsteady. He never attended a place of worship Â— not because he “hated parsons,” nor because he doubted the truth of the Bible, or objected to religion, but because he cared, or seemed to care, nothing about divine things Â— he was a neglecter. When the Sundays were fine he would go out to get what he called fresh air, rambling about the streets or fields. At other times he would sit in the house reading history or the newspapers, or spending most of his time in lounging on an old oak couch, resting himself, as he often said, “until his back ached.”
The mother of Lucy was rather tall, very good looking, orderly, clean, and industrious. She had been in the Sunday school from a child, but it was not until after her marriage that she began to be concerned about eternal things, or to think seriously about being saved. She had then two young children, four and six years old respectively. Lucy was the eldest and almost every Sabbath the mother and children might be seen sitting on a form near the church door Â— a very humble place but one the mother always preferred; for she went to the temple as the publican went. His prayer was her prayer and she said that any place in the house of God was precious.
She did not remain long a weeping penitent. Earnest seekers seldom do; and when the sweet, melting power of saving grace diffused its purifying influence through her happy soul, it came like the still small voice. But her joy was deep, and one evening, in the fulness of her gratitude, she could not refrain from telling her husband and young children. The husband listened patiently, but made no reply,
the children wept but did not then understand why; but Lucy never forgot that night.
When Lucy was about twelve years of age she went to work at the mill, and it was about this time her mother’s health began to fail. One evening Lucy and her little sister were talking in bed about how
they loved their mother, and how good she was: the little sister saidÂ—
” Lucy, I do think my mother looks more beautiful every day.” “Yes, when she is not so pale; when her cheeks are red, as they often are, she looks veey beautiful,” replied Lucy.
” But what does father say she must have the doctor for Lucy?”
” I cannot tell, except it be because she coughs so much,” was the answer.
Little did these children know the import of their conversation;
others, who knew something of the family history saw another marked to fall. For several months the mother was able to attend to her housework, and she was frequently so much better that her friends rejoiced in hopes she might be spared. But this was not to be:
little by little she lost strength, but, like thousands similarly afflicted, she thought when spring returned she would be well again. She did not cling to life because she feared death. She loved her husband and children and for their sakes alone she wished to live.
About this time an event took place which we wish was more frequent. Several of the teachers of the Sunday school where Lucy attended, had met together for the special object of praying that the Lord would send the convincing and converting influence of the Holy Spirit among the senior scholars. God heard their prayers, and many began earnestly to seek the Lord and believed to the saving of their souls. Lucy was one of this happy number and when her mother heard of this her joy was great; and especially when her other child, Rachel, near eleven years old, began to ask what she must do to be saved. The mother was in raptures; and, had her husband been
brought to seek for mercy, her cup of bliss would have been almost full.
It was at this period I became acquainted with this interesting
family, learned what is already narrated, and witnessed most of what follows.
I had been addressing a large gathering of young people, after which many of them wished to speak to me on various subjects;
amongst them was Lucy. She had a request from her mother that I would call and see her, if possible, before I returned to Rochdale. I called and found her seated in a large arm-chair carefully wrapped in a dark woollen shawl. Near her stood a small table on which was her Bible, two half oranges, and a small basin of sago gruel. The cottage was very neat and clean; Lucy had done it all, for though she was not yet fourteen, her mother had trained her well. She had been forced to leave the mill to nurse her sick parent, and willingly she did her work.
When are we happiest? In the crowded hall,
When fortune smiles, and flatterers bend the knee?
How soon, how very soon such empty pleasures pall.
How fast such fleeting rainbow pleasures flee!
We are not happy there.
When are we happiest then? O, when resigned
To whatsoe’er our cup of life may bring;
When we can know ourselves but weak and blind
Creatures of earth, and trust alone in Him
Who giveth in His mercy joy or pain!
O, we are happiest then.
And such was now the happiness of Lucy’s mother. The last enemy’s dart had once again found its mark, and soon the victim would quiver and fall. But there was no murmuring, no repining, no doubts, no fears. She was dying; and she knew it; yet how calm, how composed, how unspeakably happy; and in the only way in which it is possible for any being to be truly happy. She was resting her soul, body, circumstances, and prospects on Jesus; and, as the sun on a calm summer evening sinks down the western sky, gilding all around with glory, suggesting thoughts of grander glories still, so did this dying saint behold by faith her home prepared by Christ in the mansions of the blest, and, as she passed away, showed the same glorious path to heaven.
Lucy brought a low buffet and sat beside her mother’s knee eagerly catching every word we spoke . My words were few for I felt I was in the presence of an experience I had yet to acquire. She told me of her own conversion and of the peace she had since enjoyed. She told me of the goodness of God in permitting her to see her two children, like Mary, choosing the “good part” in their early days. She then paused and for a time was silent. I did not like to speak, for I saw she was under some deep emotion. Recovering herself a little, she saidÂ—
“O, how I did want to see my husband saved before I died! I have prayed for this and I believe it will yet come.” Then taking hold
of Lucy’s hand she said, “Lucy, my child, I want you to promise me you will never give him up; never, no, never!”
Lucy buried her face in her mother’s lap, weeping and sobbing,
and, with an earnestness that showed it came from an overflowing heart, saidÂ—
“Mother, I never will, I never will. O, mother, we shall all meet you in heaven!”
The mother, smiling through her tears, saidÂ—
“Thank you, my child, for that promise. Your young sister will help you; and I leave you this as a legacy, especially to you, Lucy.”
Let us not think lightly of this affectionate, dying mother’s request to Lucy or doubt the influence of early piety. Most of the brightest ornaments of the Church of Christ found the Saviour while young. Some of them while very young began to exert an influence for good amongst their youthful acquaintances, and especially amongst those of their own family. Had the church more confidence in early conversions, more faith in the power of saving grace to reach our children, many cheering harvests would spring up amongst those who once sung hosannas in the streets of Jerusalem to the world’s
Redeemer. God did, and God can, from the mouths of babes and sucklings, bring forth praise.
We know a girl who, one Sunday morning, was getting ready for the school, when three wicked men called for her father to go with them to a dog-race on the moors. The father promised to follow them in a few moments. He sat down to his breakfast; but his child was so shocked at the thought of her father going to a dog race, especially on the Sabbath day, that she could not help weeping.
“What is the matter with you Sarah?” asked her father. The
child went and leaned on his shoulder, and, putting her small, thin fingers through his rough hair, said Â—
“Father, should you go to dog races on the Sunday, will not God see you?”
“Bless thee, child, how thee talks! Away with thee to the school and never mind me,” replied the father.
“I will if you promise me that you will not go,” she said, still stroking down his hair with her delicate fingers.
“But I told the men I would go,” he replied.
“Yes, but God will forgive you if you do not go but He will not if you do; and I shall cry all the day about you.”
“Bless thee child, how thee talks! Away with thee to school and I will not go.”
She pressed both his cheeks with her small hands and ran off to the school, happy as a little queen.
But that was not all; that same evening this little lady had hold of the horny hand of her father leading him to the chapel. She could read better than he could and found the hymn and stood on the form to be high enough to see the words. Nor was that all: several months after, this man, when giving his experience, previous to being admitted a member of the church, mentioned his child’s conduct that Sunday morning he was going to the dog race, as the beginning of his concern for pardon. He expressed his thankfulness to the Almighty that he had such a child, and said he felt that if he had gone to that dog race, God would have taken the child from him.
Two months after I had called to see Lucy’s mother, about twelve o’clock one evening there was a sad scene in that humble cottage. The father stood at the head of the bed, holding the hand of his dying wife; Lucy and Rachel knelt at her side in speechless sorrow, and two neighbours sat at a distance silently looking on. There were a few last words faintly spoken; these last words wereÂ—
“Dear husband, see in my greatest need what religion can do. I wished to see you a child of God before I departed but I have left a legacy to my children, and, when I am gone, Lucy will tell you what it is.”
Feebly, very feebly, were these words spoken, and her soul, in the company of the waiting angel, went away to glory.
For several months after the mother’s death Lucy’s father was very regular in returning home. He went less to the public house, and once or twice attended the church with his two children. He had some suspicion what the legacy was that his dying wife had left, but did not ask. Lucy durst not yet tell him, and nearly two years rolled over before it was explained. Lucy did most of the home work; a little help from a neighbour on a washing day was all she required and things were moderately comfortable. But there was this one thing, this one cause of concern Â— father was not a Christian. Lucy sometimes thought he would never be saved; that he would grow harder and harder in his indifference and this gave her great anxiety. But she held fast to the promise made to her mother; she did not and would not give him up.
About this period a circumstance occurred that greatly encouraged her to persevere in praying for her father. She had a
young, pious companion in the church named Ellen who had a careless, prayerless mother. Believing in the power of prayer, she had set apart ten minutes every day to plead with God for her mother’s salvation. About seven o’clock every evening the time she was most at liberty from her work, she went upstairs to her bedroom to ask again and again for the burning desire of her soul Â— her mother’s conversion.
The mother had witnessed a great change in her daughter. She was always affectionate and kind but had been unusually so for many months. She never seemed weary in helping her mother in the house and did everything very cheerfully. Often had she requested her mother to go with her to her place of worship but there was always some excuse Â— she never would go. Ellen’s going upstairs about the same time each evening surprised her mother. She had noticed that sometimes, when she came down, her eyes were red with weeping and determined to know what was going on. One evening when Ellen was gone up, the mother took off her shoes, gently went about half way up the steps and sat down to listen; she then heard in a soft, subdued, but earnest voice, words that sent a thrill through her whole soul.
On the following Friday evening, Ellen was quietly sewing by the fireside and her mother was ironing. Without turning round, her mother said,Â—
“Ellen, have you been praying for me?”
Ellen was greatly astonished at this unexpected question. Her face grew red, and her eyes filled with tears, and, when able to speak she saidÂ—
“O, mother, I could not help it, I could not help it ! I feel so concerned for your soul.”
Soon after this, Ellen had the unspeakable delight to walk beside her mother to the chapel and to see her become a member of the church.
When Lucy heard of this she was more and more determined not to give her father up. She, too, had a set time for prayer, and often had so much faith that she was now expecting it every day. Had the father known of this, surely it would have softened his hard heart. And he did know at last, for one evening, on returning home much earlier than expected, and finding the door a little open, he entered without being heard. He stood for a moment wondering where his daughter was, and, hearing a voice upstairs, he was on the point of calling out, but, on listening, he became fixed to the spot. Lucy, thinking no one but God heard her, was pleading for her father.
“O Lord,” she said, “Thou knowest I promised my mother I would never give my dear father up; and I never will. Thou saved my mother. Thou hast saved me and my sister, and Thou can save him. O, Lord, do save my dear, dear father, and I will praise Thee Forever.”
Fearing that Lucy might know he had heard her prayer, he silently stepped out leaving the door as he found it and set out on a short walk. But it was such a walk as he had never had before and his thoughts were loud thoughts.
“This is the MOTHER’S LEGACY,” said he, “I thought what it was, but now I know. I have always thought my children the best children in the world and now I think better of them than ever. But what shall I do? I cannot stand this; and yet, what shall I do?”
So much of the family I knew, when circumstances separated us. Lucy’s father lost his work and had to remove into another county to get employment. Eleven years after, I was attending a religious gathering, and, in my address to the people, mentioned the Mother’s Legacy. The moment I had done so, two females who sat near the platform seemed greatly affected. I could not tell why and feared I had said something wrong. After the meeting was over, these two females followed me into the vestry and I at once recognised Lucy and Rachel both dressed in black. I did not ask them any questions, for I feared their father was dead and I well remembered the Legacy. Lucy suspected my thoughts and smiling saidÂ—
“I see you are afraid to ask about my father, Mr Ashworth.”
“I am, Lucy,” I replied.
“Well, I know why; but you do not need for we have good news. You saw us a few weeks before we removed into this neighbourhood. The last Sabbath we lived in the dear old place my father went with us to the church and wished us all to see mother’s grave before we went away. We all three stood round the spot in silence. My father, reading my mother’s name, said, as if talking to her,Â—
You left a legacy to your children, Martha, and I now know what it is, and thank you for it.
O, how my heart did beat when he mentioned the legacy, and said he knew what it was! We had never told him, Â— how had he got to know?
That night, before retiring to rest, knowing it was the last day we should reside in the cottage where we were born, and where
mother had died, we were very sad. I had locked the door, and Rachel and I were just going upstairs, when father said Â—
“Lucy, I heard your prayer for me on Tuesday evening, and then learned what mother’s request was. I know you are both anxious I should go with you to chapel and be a Christian; don’t give me up. Will you kneel down now and pray for me?”
We did all kneel down, but we could not pray; we did nothing but weep and we rose up not having spoken one word. What a night was that for us all! The following Sunday we all three went to the new house of prayer about one mile from this place and during the sermon father was completely broken down. Soon after he found peace; and now we think he is one of the best and holiest of men and we are a very happy family.”
“When I saw you in mourning, I feared your father was dead,” I observed.
“O no, we are in black for our grandmother, my father’s mother. She was a good woman and died in great peace. When she heard of my father’s conversion she was in ecstacies; and though she was seventy-five years of age she said she was so glad that she felt as if she could leap over the house.”
We have in this narrative another illustration of the passage Â— “sowing in tears, reaping in joy.” And what a joy! To see those we love walking with us in the way to heaven, is amongst the highest pleasures we can know in this life. To feel that when we part here, we shall soon meet again, and be forever reunited on the pearly plains of paradise, makes our prospects of heaven more heavenly still. All children may not see their parents saved, as in this case, but there are
many thousands of cases where the child has been the instrument of the parent’s salvation.
To those of my young friends who have parents out of the way, like Lucy’s mother I would say Â— never give them up. Heaven has given us a promise as firm as the everlasting hills:Â— “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask believing, ye shall receive.” With a promise like this, is it not strange that more of our parents are not converted? Never give them up. When you are discouraged, and feel tempted to despair of their salvation, remember LUCY’S LEGACY