We once, when setting out on a long walk besides the river, started a subject on which our opinions considerably differed : it was something connected with the grand doctrine of redemption. My notions were very crude, but I was abundantly dogmatical in proclaiming them. Marie had the better of the argument throughout; and not a word was spoken on either side, approaching to intemperance of feeling.
We had not quite concluded when we reached my door, and stood awhile to finish the discussion, as the dinner-hour forbade a longer interview. It ended by my conceding to her the palm of orthodoxy, which I did, I believe, with a good grace; and we parted most affectionately, agreeing to meet on the morrow, at noon. The following morning, before I was well awake, a billet was brought to my bedside, the contents of which amazed me. It was from Marie, written at three o'clock in the morning, under the most extreme depression of spirits, occasioned by an apprehension which had seized her that she might, in the earnestness of our discussion, have said, or looked, something calculated to pain me : and the idea was, she said, intolerable, that she perhaps had added a mental pang to the many I was called on to endure, by some seemingly unkind remark, or overbearing assumption. She had wept at the thought, had prayed over it; had acknowledged it to her mother, and now took the pen to implore my forgiveness, if such should have been the case. A more simple, touching effusion I never perused ; and when I had written my assurance that nothing of the kind, nothing even remotely approaching it had occurred, I sat down to meditate on the immense distance to which the once proud Marie had advanced on the heavenly road, beyond me, who said a thousand peevish things almost daily to my most indulgent friends, and rarely repented of them.
Another distinguishing feature in her sweet character, was the perfect absence of egotism. With feelings exquisitely refined, she struggled to conceal their delicate sensitiveness, lest minds of a rougher mould might feel ill at ease in her company. This species of self-denial I have scarcely ever seen practised, except by my beloved Marie ; but in her I have marked it constantly developed. On the same high and generous principle, she concealed her extraordinary attainments in science : she was deeply versed in even very abstruse philosophy, and her acquaintance with learned languages was at once extensive and solid. She had books that would have graced the library of a university professor, and used them too, but they were never seen on her table, or her shelves;] nor did a hint of capability for, or delight in such studies ever escape her, even to me. I verily believe that, to the day of our separation, she did not know I was acquainted with the number or nature of her accomplishments: yet she had no friend so intimate as I was.
I recollect that one day she was showing me a little circular flower-stand, where she had arranged her choice plants, just before the window of her favourite boudoir. I looked around me : the room was not large, but delightfully fitted up. There wras her piano on one side, and her harp in the corner ; her book-shelves elegantly arranged, with drawings hung round, every one of which she said, was a memento of something dear to her heart. The love of a mother, who perfectly appreciated, and almost idolized this one survivor of her domestic circle, had contrived many little useful and ornamental appendages; while the flower-stand, loaded with odoriferous plants, basked in the pleasant light of a window which overlooked her little garden, where her two pet families of rare carnations and splendid tiger-lilies flourished to her heart's content. I remember thus addressing her, i Marie, you perplex and almost make me discontented. You are a child of God, yet have no cross.' She looked at me, with a short laugh of surprize, then, while her aspect softened into deep humility, she answered, ' I am, by divine grace, a child of God, loaded with innumerable blessings by my heavenly Father; every want supplied, every wish gratified. But don't doubt that, when he sees fit, he will find a cross for me.' She presently after brought a miniature, and laid it before me, asking if I knew who it represented. I replied, t had seen some one like it, but could not tell where. Her mother, who had joined us, said, ' Five years before you met, that was a most striking likeness of Marie'.
I gazed in astonishment, comparing the lofty and spirited mein, the brilliant glow of youthful beauty, and deep rich auburn tint of a profuse head of hair, as represented in the minature, with the meek quiet aspect, the faded complexion, and the very thin locks of pale yellow, that marked my friend. She sat quite still during the scrutiny, then said, * It really was a surprising likeness, taken just before I lost my darling brother.' Her tears flowed, and, smiling through them, she added, while closing the miniature, 'You must not suppose that I had no troubles to bring me to the cross'.
This was the only allusion that she ever made to former trials; but the incident sunk deep into my mind, showing me the Lord's mercy to his dear child, in giving her a season of calm enjoyment after severe tossings on a stormy sea. Dear, gentle Marie ! it was not the combination of ex ternal things, that, gratifying her taste, produced such an atmosphere of tranquil happiness around her : it was the calm and holy frame of a spirit subdued, a heart attuned, under the hand of sanctifying grace. She was eminently devout, and had a method in all her exercises; a methodical arrangement of her time, which conduces, beyond any other mere means, to the consistency, the usefulness, the self-possession of a child of God. A perfect knowledge of herself gave her infinite advantage over those who had more superficially, or more partially investigated their own characters. Beholding continually her original and actual sinfulness, her failures in attempting to follow the steps of a perfect Guide, and all the secret iniquity of a heart naturally most proudly averse from godliness ; beholding these things in the sight of the Omniscient, she was kept from the fatal snare of thinking of herself more highly than she ought to think; and thus no slight, no rudeness, no sevei-ity of remark, could ruffle even the surface of her patient temper. With all this she was exceeding cheerful, and by her frequent flashes of genuine humour often won a smile, when no one else could have extorted it.
In many points, Marie, resembled D. Like him she owed all to the sanctifying influence of the divine Teacher; and the fruits of the Spirit were very similarly manifested in them. He knew her not; but I have often, in conversing with D. dwelt on her character to an interested listener. He said he should much like to meet with her:— and they have met! It is an overpowering thought, what a numerous company are now assembled in heaven, from among those whom I loved on earth. Oh, that it might quicken me more in following them, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises ! In no instance do I, knowingly, embellish the portraits that I sketch in these chapters; and when comparing myself with them, the immeasurable distance at which they left me in the race, is not only humbling, but alarming. We are too indolent: too ready to regard with complacency our acknowledged deficiencies, and to rest in that knowledge, as though the consciousness of standing still would serve us as well as pressing forward in the race. Unless we admit the Popish doctrine of supererogatory merit —from which may the Lord deliver us !—and consider these dear children of God as having done more than was required of them, we must needs be startled to find ourselves doing so much less. Neither is this a legal view : not one of those chronicled in these pages, held any other doctrine than that of salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, as the free, sovereign, unmerited gift of God; but those who adhered to it the most tenaciously, were invariably the most zealous of good works, the most diligent in business, and the most eager in following after perfectness.
It has struck me as remarkable, that, from the time of dear Marie rearing a lemon-plant for me, I have never been without one, until within the last year. That which I had long nursed, died ; and I kept the dry unsightly stalk among my flourishing plants, more than half a year, in the vague hope that it might sprout again ; or under a fond feeling of reluctance quite to lose the memento. I plucked it up only a few days before I learnt the fact of Marie's departure to a better place ; and now the sweet shrub must resume its station, a cherished memento of what I can no more see on earth. The peculiarly healthful fragrance of those slender leaves, their rapid growth, and the delicacy of their pale verdure, all are in keeping with the traits of Marie's character, most vividly impressed on my mind—traits that led me, from the commencement of our intercourse, to place her first and highest on my list of female acquaintance, nor do I expect to meet with her equal among women. Yet what was, what is she ? A wretched, guilty sinner; saved, washed, justified, and sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Those accomplishments, to the attainment of which so many valuable hours were sacrificed, what were they, to an immortal being, sent into this world to fight her way through hosts of infernal foes, encompassing and inhabiting a body of sin and death ? Nothing ! less than nothing and vanity !
The details connected with my beloved Marie's history, would far surpass, in touching and heart-thrilling interest, those of any individual to whom I have yet alluded; but her character needed not the aid of such contingent circumstances to render it engaging in the eyes of those who knew her; nor does it require that aid to make it attractive to those who love to see a contemporary, adorned in like manner as the holy women of old adorned themselves. I could have made my readers weep with me; but I would rather lead them to reflect and to pray, encouraged by the exhibition of what God wrought in my Marie, and what he is equally able, equally willing to work in them also.