During this interview, Jack, the dumb boy, had been standing behind a chair, his eyes roving with strange delight from one to the other, fully comprehending the character of each, and bestowing on me many significant nods, accompanied with the words, " Beautiful-loves Hannah More :
Good Hannah More loves beautiful-," while he and the wonderful manifestation of divine grace in his soul, furnished her with many appropriate remarks, calculated to awaken my dear brother's interest on subjects quite new to him.
Sweet shades of Barley Wood ! how lovely they looked to my gladdened eye, as we strolled among them—how delicious to my soul were the remarks made by my companion on their blessed owner— and with what pleasure did I observe the mutual cordiality of their greeting, when he again seated himself opposite to her, leaning over her little table, and perusing the venerable countenance which really shone with maternal love towards him. I would record it among the many instances of her Christian spirit, that she endured, even to serious inconvenience, the fatigue of a mostj prolonged interview, for the sake of following up a manifest advantage with one in whose sight the Lord had given her unlooked-for favour ; and I trust that is enrolled among her abundant labours in her Master's cause.
But the vine ? Well, I was seated just opposite the window, and counted as grapes of Eschol, the clusters before me ; for I thought that my brother was now obtaining a glimpse of the product of that good land, concerning which unfaithful spies had brought him an evil report. Neither did I overlook the typical fitness of the plant to grace Hannah More's favourite corner; for truly she, among woman was as that vine among the shrubs of her garden. Who has not attached the distinction of exquisite gracefulness, combined with noble simplicity, to the vine ? Who has not acknowledged its beauty, its full, overspreading growth, its rich abundance of delicious fruit ? Painters will tell us, that, to study the perfection of form, colour, light and shade, united in one object, we must place before us a bunch of grapes. Scripture refers us to their juice, as " wine that maketh glad the heart of man," selecting it also as an emblem of that choice blessing, a loving, faithful wife. Now, in Hannah More's renewed and ripened character, those who know her best will be the most eager to assert that all these qualities were clearly perceptible ; to me, who had not much personal intercourse with her, the trait of grateful simplicity, evidently emanating from an humble, peaceful mind, shone paramount, as it does in the beautiful tree. There was an exquisite modesty, deprecating in every look the homage that all were prepared to render. There was something that shrunk from admiration, while it courted the love, I could almost say the countenance and encouragement, of those who could only have thought of raising her to the eye of reverential observance. Yet, amid all this humbleness of mind, that asked a prop from what, in comparison, was but a bundle of dry sticks, rich clusters were perpetually looking out—thoughts that drew their being from the sap of the True Vine, clothed in the fairest diction, arranged with tasteful skill, and touched with the peculiar grace of originality : while the unction that cometh from above, rested with freshening effect upon this fruit of the lips of a true mother in Israel.
We are, alas ! such selfish creatures, that I have often questioned whether Hannah More would have left such a delightful impression on my mind, had I seen her under circumstances less endearing to my own fond heart, than those narrated above. So very precious her remembrance would not be ; but that she was altogether equally engaging as valuable, I had the testimony of my brother, whose previous expectations had been extremely unfavourable. He remarked in his usual playful manner, referring to the title that he had given her, ' The methodists cannot be like their queen : they are poor melancholy souls, but she is the nicest, liveliest, sweetest old lady I have ever met with.' I well remember that, on our return to the study, on hearing us expatiate on the beauties of her luxurious plantation, she told us she had put down every tree and shrub with her own hand ; neglecting for that employment, the more important one to which the Lord had called her: adding that she had been severely rebuked for it, by being long disabled in the right hand. ' This evil hand,' she said, slapping it with the other, ' which left its Master's work so long undone ! Well might he have caused it, like Jeroboam's to wither and be dried up ; but after a season he mercifully restored it'.
One of the last efforts of my dumb boy, with his pencil, was to complete a copy that he had commenced from a print of Barley Wood. He left it after all, unfinished ; but the window is distinctly pour-trayed : and the distant church, where now repose the mortal remains of Hannah More. She lived to shed many a tear for me, when the sudden stroke that removed my brother made every preceding trial appear as nothing; and she lived to render praise for the slow yet glorious translation of the dumb boy into the eternity after which he panted. He retained the fondest recollection of her; and, when dying, requested me to fix a little sketch of her likeness where he could constantly behold it— saying in his broken language, 'Jack die young: good Hannah More very old, soon come to Jesus Christ in heaven.' Yes I trust indeed that they were all branches, living branches of the True Vine. In one of them the father was glorified, by her bearing much fruit, through a long succession of plentiful years : another, according to his shorter season, yielded many a cluster, precious in the sight of the great Husbandman, who willed his early transplantation into a better soil: and the third— oh, he was taken from the wild vine, and grafted into the tree, and had received of its fulness, and began to put forth the delicate bud of promise— the blossom of hope that maketh not ashamed. "What could we do without that blessed assurance that it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom to all his little flock ? The lamb, so newly dropt that it cannot yet find a firm footing, but totters and sinks before the lightest breeze-—the lamb is, notwithstanding, of the flock. Once born of God the soul never dies; once admitted into his family, it is no more cast out. Weak faith is ever staggering at the promise, and asking for evidences which the nature of the case puts beyond our reach: it cannot trace this simple analogy between things natural and things spiritual. It is content, as regards the veterans of the fold: but the little new-born lambs, how could they tread the difficult path to heaven ? Why, they could not tread it at all—and what then ? The Shepherd gathered them in his arms, and carried them in his bosom, and they reached it no less surely, safely, speedi ly, than the sturdy ancients who travelled onward in matured strength. Verily, our unbelief strips God of half his glory, to put it on the creature.
It is a hard saying for human pride to hear, that the babe which gives one gasp and dies, enters heaven under as exceeding and eternal a weight of glory, as the matured, the tempted, the victorious Christian. But if it be of grace, and not of works, such is the undeniable inference. We are con strained to believe; but how hard to apply it!
The infant martyrs of Bethlehem, who laughed with unconscious glee at the glittering of murderous blades, just poised to impale them—wherein is their crown less bright than that of our confessors, who voluntarily mounted the pile, and fixed the chain, and welcomed the torturing fires of popish persecution? 'There is, surely, no difference in the recompence of Christ's sufferings, bestowed alike on each: but very sweet, and surpassingly dear, must be the retrospection of those who had forsaken all to follow him, after counting the cost, and fully comprehending what lay before them. The act of renewing a sinful nature, must needs furnish a song of praise for eternity : a long catalogue of wilful transgressions, also blotted out by the blood of the cross, may well raise the tone of exstacy much higher. But it will be as with the manna in the wilderness, where he who gathered little did not lack, and he who gathered much had nothing over. This is never the case with aught of man's providing; but when God furnishes the table, it cannot be otherwise.
When the eye rests upon the pleasant green foliage of a favourite tree, how smoothly can the billows of thought roll on, in the untroubled mind, each insensibly disappearing before its successor. To dream away life, would accord with most dispositions ; and to ponder on the works of others, often appears somewhat of a meritorious work in ourselves. I find this snare in my garden, loving better to trace characters in flowers, than to bestir myself to the needful operation of uprooting weeds. May the Lord, who has given me many sweet and soothing thoughts, while contemplating the vine that his bounty has enriched with precious clusters, cause the warning word to sink deep into my heart, which declares, " every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away !"