Jane D. had nearly completed the 103rd year of her age when she fell asleep in Jesus. She had been twice married, was the mother of many children, and had worked hard to bring them up respectably, “without troubling anybody.” Her amount of education was but scanty. In her personal appearance she was tall, with the features and cast of countenance that gave the impression to beholders that in early life she had been good looking. The following is a brief history of her spiritual life.
One day, as a visitor was going the usual round of the district in which Jane D. lived, a young woman darted out of a cottage, and besought with much earnestness that the visitor would come in and see a poor person who was very ill and very unhappy, and nobody could tell why.
Following as the young woman led, the visitor entered a small room on the ground floor of a neat little cottage. Seated by a table, with her head leaning on a pillow, was the poor old woman.
In reply to some natural questions about her health, she raised up her head and said, “My heart is sickÂ—that’s it. My head is bad, ’tis true, but not near so bad as my heart.”
Jane D. was at this time midway between 70 and 80 years of age, but shrewd and intelligent. She had “roughed it” through vigorous industry, and was remarkable for sincerity and integrity. Poor as she was, she had earned the respect of her neighbours, who testified to her moral worth, and pronounced her “the honestest person as ever lived.” But God’s time was now come, to show up to Jane D. the corruption and depravity of her heart;
and there she lay, with her head on the pillow, from morn till night, crying outÂ—in the very words used by the great reformer Luther 300 years before, when God broke in upon his soulÂ—”My sins, my sins!”
Seeing the wounded state unto which the poor woman was brought the visitor was led to speak of the plan of salvationÂ— the love of the Father to His chosen people in giving His Son to die for the sins that His people had committed; the love of the Son in fulfilling the good pleasure of the Father, by obeying the law in His people’s room and stead, and atoning for their sins by His blood; the love of the Spirit in quickening the dead sinner, showing up to the heart the nature of sin, and thus giving a feeling sense of the need of salvation, and sooner or later taking of the things of Christ and revealing them to the comfort of their souls.
But many months of deep soul trouble rolled on, and found the poor old woman only worse instead of better, till she wearied every one but God, who had blessings in store for her all the while.
Without any human means, or any particular application of the Word, the Lord appeared and brought her out of bondage.
When asked by a friend to give an account of how it was done, she said, “I can’t explain it; it was done by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. He came upon me, and brought Christ into my soul. I heard nothing, and I saw nothing. It was done in my feelings.” Great peace followed this revelation of Christ, and the joy of the Lord was her strength for many weeks.
Shortly after this, her health failed so completely, that she was compelled to give up the work which she had for some time only been able to superintend. This reduced her means, so that she was obliged to give up her cottage and take a small room. For some time she was unsettled as to her abode, but finally fixed herself in a garrett that she never quitted for seven years before her death. A cheerless, miserable room it was to the spectator’s gaze, but to her it often proved a glorious spot, because, as she used to say, “it was visited by King Jesus.”
Under a severe attack of illness she said to a friend, “I was in heaven all yesterday. I did so want to die. I was so happy, I didn’t want victuals or nobody. I felt so overshadowed” (a favourite expression with her for some time after she had been set at liberty). On another occasion she said, ” ‘Tis pleasant when I’m by myself to puzzle and study, and have the Lord visit me. As I lay in bed these words were given me, ‘My grace is sufficent for thee’; I hope I shan’t ever forget them.” She never did, for when mind and memory failed at intervals, the repetition of these words always brought with them spiritual intelligence, and revived in her soul the sweet recollections of Divine grace and love. Her own simple comment upon them was very touching. Being reminded of them upon one occasion when she was under great darkness of soul, she said, “Ah! He told me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ We do want our own graceÂ—somewhat to look at, and do what we like with; but no, no, ’tis God’s grace, not our grace.”
She was a remarkable instance of the fulfilment of this Scripture: “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” A Scripture-reader appointed for the district was attentive and kind in his visits. One day he called (as was his weekly custom, and began to read the 7th of Hebrews. She stopped him at the 3rd verse, and said, “There now, that’s the kind of Saviour you and I must haveÂ—King of righteousness, for we’ve got none of our own. We be born sinful, and we’ve lived sinfulÂ—at leastwise I have; so you see we do need a righteousness beyond what we can make up to cover our filthy souls. Now Christ is King of righteousness, and He gives His righteousness to His people. Then we do want Jesus as King of peace, to give us the blessing here.” And she tapped upon her breast as she spoke. “It must be an inside religionÂ—the work of the Holy Ghost. He must overshadow us like. He must show us
our sins. He must show us Jesus. We can do nothing; He must do it all.” In this simple way she commented upon the chapter as the reader proceeded, and was so earnest in her remarks that she was not aware of the entrance of the narrator, who listened with wonder to much more than memory can record.
As she became weak and helpless, she shared her room with a poor woman in order to have her services. This person was cleanly and kind, but very ignorant upon the subject of religion, and a bitter foe to the truth of God. She read well, and tormented and perplexed poor old Jane with her explanations of Scripture. Every word that spoke of the effects of Divine grace in the soul, all the counsels and directions to the Lord’s loving family, she was sure to twist into creature work and free-will ability.
“Now, Mrs. D.,” she would say, “do listen to this. ‘Knock, and it shall be opened; seek, and ye shall find.’ Why how plain that is. Don’t you see we are to do it?” Old Jane always fell back upon this great experimental fact. “Well now. God found me out, and if He hadn’t I be very sure I never should have looked after He.”
Once she said to a friend, “Poor Mrs. G. and I can’t agree about the beginning of religion. She will have it, people can come to Jesus if they like. I ask her why don’t she come? But I can’t get her to answer straightforward. She knows she ain’t right. She says she ain’t fit to die. I tell her she ought to fit herself, ‘cording to her notions and begin at once. But she can’t poor soul. I know she can’t, whatever she may say. God must do it all; He must begin and end.”
A remarkable feature in the character of Jane D. was the absence of a covetous and complaining spirit. Her daughter, who could not read, took the place of this woman, who was compelled by illness to leave. When friends visited her, and inquired if she wanted anything, her reply invariably was, “Yes, I want to be read to” (and it was almost beyond belief, her extensive acquaintance with every part of Scripture). “I can ponder over it at nights, and when I be alone.”
Being pressed by a friend to tell anything she stood in need of, on one occasion she replied with grateful thanks, “I never like to tell anybody what I do want. God do know.”
“But,” said the friend, “God sends supplies through people to you, and they would like to know what you want in order to give the right thing.”
“Oh, but I don’t like to begin that way,” said the old woman, with earnestness; “I like to tell God, and then I shall be sure to have the right thing; and if I don’t get it, that’s the right thing.”
A few days after a flannel petticoat was sent her. She showed it in triumph to this friend, to whom she said, “Now you see God knew the very thing I needed: I never told nobody but
During her long confinement of seven years to her room, creeping from her bed to her arm-chair, she yet manifested wonderful patience and cheerfulness under the most intense suffering. On one occasion she said, “People ask me be I always happy. Now I’ll tell no lies to please anyone. I ain’t at all happy at times;
I be very unhappy. I get terribly downhearted. I once thought I should grow better like: not feel so tormented with sin; but I think I grow worse and worse. Mrs. G. used to say to me, ‘Now you have nothing in the world to do but to attend to religion, and see after your soul.’ But a pretty many hours I sit here, and have no company but the devil, and he do worrit me so, put all my sins before me, and bring me very low.”
“Then what do you do when you get in this way?” was asked. She promptly replied, “Why, I can do nothing. Jesus must do it all. He do come back to me, and then the devil do fly off.”
Her simplicity and truthfulness were very remarkable. Whenever inquiries were made by her Christian friends respecting her spiritual state, her replies were given in strict accordance with her present feelings. She knew nothing of the cant of the cunning professor. Sometimes her language was that of assurance; but mostly it was couched in humble and cautious terms. She rested on God’s truth. His word was her support, and the sovereignty of His grace as displayed in His dealings towards her was the unfailing topic upon which she loved to dwell.
A twelvemonth previous to her death, a godly poor woman occupied one of the rooms in the same house. This proved to be a great comfort to Jane. Once a day this poor woman read the Scriptures to her, and sometimes twice. It was all she could give;
but it was all Jane cared for or wanted, and her gratitude for this mercy seemed boundless. “I have a good morsel every day now.” she exclaimed. The Scripture reading was always closed with a hymn. Nor was she thoroughly satisfied unless her favourite hymn was read or repeated. Up to the last day of her life she asked for it, and said. “I need Thee, precious Jesus! Ah, I haven’t learnt that hymn yet. I do want Jesus as bad as ever.”
A few weeks before her death, the daughter, who long and kindly nursed her, said to a friend, “My poor mother was lightheaded all night. She told me she had lost someone, but I couldn’t understand what she meant.” When the friend approached her bed she stretched out her hand, and in answer to inquiries said, “Oh, I had such an awful night; I lost my Saviour! I never passed such a night; but I found Him again. ‘Tis all of grace from first to last. ‘My grace is sufficient.’ Oh, I hope, I trust, I believe I shall get safe to glory!”
As she drew near her end she was perfectly conscious. A few seconds before her death she beckoned her daughter to her side, and, pointing upward with her finger, said distinctly, “Betty, I’m going; I see heavenÂ—Oh! so bright, so light!” The hand dropped, and without a sigh she entered upon her eternal rest.