“HOW OPENED HE THINE EYES?”
“I was born of very poor parents, and soon as ever I could labour I was put to the silk trade. I married when young, and had thirteen children; two of them only are alive now. I toiled all day at work for my family, and often slaved whole nights to keep them decent. My husband spent more on drink than he earned; and as I was of a careful, tidy habit, we lived like cat and dog. When my youngest child was six months old, I felt one day something like a prick in my conscience, because of the bad tempers I gave way to, and the bad words I was in the habit of using. I tried to push the thoughts of it from me, promising myself I would mend; but this thought grew wider and wider every day, I tried to mend, But I could not. My husband’s ways aggravated my mind, and my children grew up troublesome; we often wanted food, and I could not keep them in clothes: and these things so crossed my will, that trying to make them better, I felt to grow worse. I could not read; I had no neighbours; I never entered a place of worship; I had never been taught any sort of religion; and we all lived like the heathen. Sometimes the thought used to cross my mind, what is to become of me when I die? Then I pushed it away; but it would come back again, and with it something inward would remind me of my oaths and evil tempers. For five years I went on in this way, carrying about with me everywhere a great load which I could not get rid of; and when I seemed to forget it a bit in my work, or with my family, it would come back again, and added to it the weight that I had forgotten it,
One Sunday morning I got up early, tidied myself, and determined to start for Church. It was nearly three miles off, and as Sunday was the only day we had any cooked dinner, my husband cursed me for going, and said he would teach me better when I came back home. I got in late, close upon sermon time; the minister gave
out his text, looking full at me I thought, as he said these words, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ A very curious feeling came over me as he gave out these words; and while he was preaching, it was like anyone laying down a great burden for a little while to rest themselves. When the sermon was over, I went out of the Church, then it seemed as if I took my burden up again, only I felt rested a little. When I went into our cottage, dinner was over, and my husband had gone off to the village to his companions, so I did not get what he promised me. The next evening, as I was busy in my cottage, not long come home from the silk factory, I saw coming in at the door the very minister I had heard the day before. He told me he was quite surprised to find a cottage in so lone a place, and asked me how long I had lived in it. I answered him as well as I could, till at last I fell a crying, and said I was the most unhappy woman in the world; that I often thought I must make away with myself, and that all the ease I had felt for five years was yesterday, when he said some words which suited me, when he began his sermon. ‘What words?’ he asked. ‘Something like this, sir’ I said, ‘Come to me heavy loaded Â— I’ll help you.’ ‘Did you feel comfort then?’ said the minister. ‘No, sir,’ I said, ‘but I felt rested.’ ‘Well, my good friend, who gave you that little rest?’ asked the minister. ‘Why, sir,’ I said, ‘I suppose it was God.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘God in Christ gave it to you. God gives peace to troubled souls only through Jesus Christ.’ Perhaps some might doubt what I am going to say, but it is true, I never up to that moment heard of Jesus Christ. I was afraid to ask any questions of the minister; but I felt whoever Jesus Christ was, he must be a good Friend if He got peace from God for a wretch like me
Before the gentleman left, he asked me if I had a Bible. I told
him I had not; and it would be of no use if I had, for not one in the house could read. He said, ‘Would you like learn?’ ‘Oh, that I would, indeed,’ I said. ‘Then you shall,’ said the kind gentleman; ‘I’ll send my daughter to you, with an easy book, and she will soon teach you if you are really anxious about your soul.’ He then questioned me closely about my feelings, and told me the world was divided into two sorts, called in the Bible the sheep and the goats; that God’s children were the sheep, that He loved them before they were born, and that when they were born they were sinful, just as bad as myself;
but when God’s time was come to alter them, and give them a new heart, He always began by making them feel sin, and pulling them all to pieces, to show them what bad stuff they were made of; that all was the work of the Holy Ghost, and that in God’s good time He would lead them to Jesus His dear Son, who was God as well as man;
and that as He died in the place of God’s children, they should all see and feel the blood that cleansed them from all sin. The minister prayed with me before he left, and for many weeks I went over in my mind all he said to me.
The next evening the young lady came to teach me to read. My desire to learn was great, but I was so stupid I felt I could never learn, unless God would teach me. I prayed to Him every day, and sometimes every hour, to instruct me; and while at the factory I used to picture the letters, and the words before me, to print the lesson on my mind. At the end of six weeks I could read any chapter in the Gospels as well as I do now. But all this time my spirit was full of trouble; sin pressed upon me; the more I read and the more I knew, the more I felt my awful case. Again and again I thought, sin and I must part before I die. If I die with this load on my breast it will sink me to hell. I shall surely be damned for my wickedness, and I cannot blame God either, for I am a great wretch, fit only to live with devils for I am just like them. At last, one day I said to myself, well now, I have left off swearing I go to Church, I can read my Bible, but I am no better for it all; I shall surely drop into hell; I feel something like hell all day long; the real place cannot be worse. I’ll make an end of all this doubt and misery. I’ll go to the well and fetch a bucket of water, and then I’ll go to the loft and hang myself. So I went out, fully bent to do the deed; and I let down the bucket as miserable a wretch as ever drew breath; but, before I had time to pull it up, the Lord broke in upon my soul, and darted His love and peace into my heart, took off my load of sin, and I felt as light as a feather. Between that bucket going down and coming up, what a change was worked in my feelings. I was like another person. I sat down by the well Â— I cried for joy Â— I praised the Lord Â— I talked to Him Â— I told Him again and again I wondered He could save a wretch like me, and I seemed to have nothing in the world to ask Him for, but just to take me home to see His dear face for ever and for ever.
I went back to my cottage as happy as a bird, with pardon and peace in my bosom, and with new eyes I sat down to read my dear God’s Book, and for many weeks my joy was full. But, soon after, fiery trouble came on. The fever broke out in my family, and five of my children died. My husband took worse to drink; and, because God ruled in my temper, and I let him alone about his wicked ways, he got very overbearing, and used me very ill. One night he came home quite drunk. I was in bed and asleep, but I was awakened by a loud crash from the kitchen. I guessed my husband was in liquor, and had broken something that was in his way. Next morning, when I went down, I saw what he had done. He had swept all the crockery we had off the shelves, and there it lay in bits on the floor. My spirit rose at this, and I felt most awfully angry; but God’s Book had often quieted my spirit when I was in trouble and vexation, so I fetched it over to me, and, throwing myself on my knees, I poured out my heart to Jesus for meekness and patience under the cross; and I asked Him to show me HIS dear cross, so that I might forget my own, and to give me a little food from His Word; and the time slipped away
sweetly, so that my husband came down before I was aware. ‘What! no fire, or breakfast?’ he said. I made no answer. He looked at the floor, covered with the broken crockery, then at me, and left the house. Presently he returned with some breakfast for us, and since that day I have never had any trouble with him about drink. The man is unchanged in heart, but God blessed that circumstance to our good; and though he can earn little now, because his health is bad, yet we are better off than when he earned more. Out of my large family I have only two sons left; one is idle and troublesome, the other is steady and affectionate. One, and only one, of all my children, died in the Lord, and he left a sweet proof of a work of grace on his heart; but if I had a hundred children I could leave them all with God, for I know He will have His own, whether they are mine or not, and it will signify nothing who was their sinful mother in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
So ended the poor woman’s simple narrative; and we close it with this solemn inquiry to you, reader, “HOW OPENED HE THINE EYES?”
Gospel Magazine 1851