Sweet blossoms of May! year after year I marked them unfolding, and every opening bud told me a tale of hope and confidence. Returning still in their appointed season, they were never sought in vain. Why ? " For that He is strong in power, not one faileth." Day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, came and went. Their quiet rotation none might interrupt: they were ordained as tokens of a covenant between God the creator and his creature man; and this again was the type of a better covenant between God the Redeemer and his ransomed family. I had no express promise that such or such a soul should be saved at my request: but I had in myself a token for good;—the spirit of earnest, persevering, importunate prayer, for one who was to me as a second self. I had waited and prayed through eight successive years,—still reading upon the simple hawthorn flower, an admonition to pray and to wait,—before a gleam of actual gladness broke upon me. On the ninth anniversary, from the period whence I ventured to date my own deliverance from spiritual darkness, I was privileged to deck my brother's hearth with the snowy flower; and while his little ones aided in the task, I could send up a secret thanksgiving, that at length the means of grace were vouchsafed —at length the glorious gospel was weekly proclaimed to him; and while I numbered the buds, I numbered the promises too : for that He is strong in power, not one had yet failed.
The day returned—it was a late cold spring and only a few half-opened blossoms rewarded my anxious search. I was well-pleased, for the tree furnished a type of him for whom my soul wrestled hourly with my God. There were graces in the bud, giving promise, but as yet no more : lying concealed, too, except from the watchful eye of solicitous love. I placed the little round pearly things, hardly peeping from their green inclosures, upon his study table; mentally anticipating a far richer developement both of flowers and Christian graces, when another year should have passed away. It did pass, and a brilliant season brought the next May flowers to early perfection ; whether the type held good, I know not—he was far from me—but never can I forget the eagerness of supplication into which my spirit was wrought at that period. I had no assignable reason for it; yet I called on friends to make continual intercession on his behalf. I thought it long to wait, and impatiently asked, How often shall the returning seasons speak only of hope ? When shall they bid me rejoice 1
" My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, sailh the Lord." I have pondered on those words, when I saw the glory of creation withering, and its loveliness fading away beneath the first chills of winter. I have dwelt more deeply upon them, when my best purposes were crossed, my fairest anticipations blighted, and my attempts at usefulness repelled by unforseen, insurmountable obstacles. But if ever those words sank with abiding power into my heart, it was when I went to gather a solitary blossom of May, and hid in the folds of my sable weeds, while imagination travelled to the distant spot where the wind was scattering such tiny petals over a grave, which man's thoughts would call most untimely: —a grave dug where the grass had scarcely recovered from the pressure of his firm, yet buoyant step :—a grave, into which he went down, without a moment's warning : yes, as a flower of the field, so he flourished. In the morning he was as bright, as beautiful, as joyous, as any creature basking in the light of that summer day,—in the evening he was cut down and withered. He around whom the deadliest weapons of war had often flashed in vain, who had seen a thousand fall beside him, while not a hair of his head was touched—who had encountered storm and shipwreck, pestilence and famine, and almost every description of peril, with perfect immunity from all that overwhelmed others,—he was reserved to die in the midst of life, and health, and peace, and sunshine, and prosperity.
" As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." It is the Christian's privilege no less than his duty, to walk by faith and not by sight, and this we readily admit; but let the lesson be brought home to our bosoms, and what wretched learners are we ! We sow the grain, and fully expect to reap our fields in the appointed weeks of harvest: ask the natural man whence his confident anticipation of such an issue to his husbandry—he will tell you that he trusts to nature, because her operations are uniform, and have never, in the ordinary course of events, been known to fail. Are those two immutable things, the promise and the oath of Him who is the Author of nature, less trust-worthy than April showers, and summer beams ? Alas ! we must answer in the affirmative, if we square our words to our thoughts and actions ; for notwithstanding the unutterably rich profusion of promises studding the whole book of God, as thickly as the stars bestud the evening sky, we bring our unbelief in desperate resistance to the fulfilment of our prayer, .mentally crying, Let Him hasten his work that we may see it. Except I see, I will not believe. Had I been left, to this day, in the ignorance of the spiritual state of that dear brother—as I was, until long after his departure,—I could not sorrow as one without hope, remembering the many encouragements given to persevere even unto the end, after the example of the Canaanitish woman ; but the trial, though severe, was not long ; and solid grounds were afforded of a delightful assurance, that even in the sight of men, that work was begun in him, which God never commences to leave unfinished; though sometimes drawing a veil, and from its obscurity-breathing into our souls the memorable word, " Only believe and thou shalt see the glory of God".
I could murmur that the hawthorn blossom has this year unfolded prematurely beneath the unwonted softness of the season ; but ever welcome be the endeared type ! shall we quarrel with the rapidity of God's mercies, and lament the untimely perfecting of a glorifie'd spirit ? If the flowers be withered, the fruit will tell that they have verily bloomed, and left an endearing record of their existence ; but some lingering blossom I shall find to speak of what needs no memento. It wras once my lot to pass a spring in a distant country, so bleak and barren that, throughout the whole territory, only one attempt at cultivating the hawthorn had succeeded, and that consisted of a few yards of hedging close to my abode. How sweet was the smile with which its white flowers seemed to look out upon the poor stranger, speaking not merely of home, but of all that had made home pleasant to my happy childhood ! The colonists prized their hawthorn hedge, and pointed it out with pride, to their curious children, descanting on the beauties of English landscape ; but who among them could love it as I did ?
The character of him who forms the subject of these reminiscences, was in perfect unison with the flower. He was singularly beautiful in person, in temper most joyous, and of a disposition that diffused sunshine around him. The most superficial observer could not pass him by unremarked ; the deepest investigator found abundance to repay his close inspection. Many a delicate trait invited the latter; while the former could not but recognize a union of attractiveness and worth not often meeting in one individual. To me he was a fence as pleasant and as precious as Jonah's gourd, sheltering me from the vehement wind. But though so many sad thoughts are now written on the fair blossom of May, it likewise presents a sacred Eben-ezer of unnumbered mercies, which have followed me all the days of my life ; and which follow me yet, as surely as the leaves reappear to clothe the stems that winter had denuded. " For that he is strong in power not one faileth".
And here I had intended to close this paper, but I cannot. A circumstance most unexpected has occurred, even while I was in the very act of preparing to send these pages to the press ; and I must not withhold the ascription of praise to Him who now, at the end of several years, has given me to see a cluster of fruit from the sweet blossom of Christian promise, that seemed so suddenly* ly to fall and die. I was yet pondering with tearful eyes on this poor record of departed gladness, when a letter reached me from one who labours in his Master's cause among the deluded people of Ireland. He asked me to plead for an estimable society, established in the diocese of Tuam, for the education of poor children; and subjoins * one of our best schools was instituted by your late la-merited brother.'Now, to the glory of God's grace be it spoken, He never yet left me without some token for good, when my mind had been strongly exercised on the glorious subject of his faithfulness and truth. I had even questioned whether it would be expedient to send forth this story of hopes and prayers, where many might doubt whether they had been fulfilled : and I do not envy the faith or the feeling of that person who should chide me, for recognizing in this case a distinct message of encouragement from Him whom I have dared to trust.
I knew long since that my dear brother, shortly before his death had discovered a little hedge-school in a remote part of that country, which he only visited to find a grave beneath its sod. I knew that he had compassionated its destitute case, and obtained for the children a small supply of religious books : but I never knew, never suspected, that the Lord had put such honour upon his work, as to bid it grow up into an important establishment of truly spiritual instruction, and to stand forth among a little cluster, appointed to shed abroad the light of life and immortality over those regions of darkness and the shadow of death. I cannot communicate to my readers my own peculiar feelings, but fain would I speak of hope and joy, to those who go in heaviness for souls not yet brought under the power of divine truth ; fain would I urge them always to pray, and never to faint; fain would I persuade them, when looking abroad on the bursting buds, the unfolding leaves, the embryo fruits of May, to read on every petal, every pod, the soul-cheering invitation, " Lift up your eyes on high, and behold ! who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power, " not one faileth".