But I must return to the Irish baby, wrho lay in state, not after the fashion of this world's great ones, but to indulge the fond and superstitious feelings of his family: three generations of whom had assisted to adorn him for this customary display. Glancing around me, I beheld with surprise four large candles burning, though scarcely visible in the glowing sunbeams that fell upon them from a western window. Behind these superfluous lights, a large crucifix was fastened to the wall, terminating in a bowl well filled with holy water. On a table, together with the good cheer inseparable from a wake, were displayed other symbols of a worship clearly idolatrous : while whispered invocations, addressed to the helpless mediators on whom the church of Rome instructs her deluded people to call, completed a scene that filled my heart with sadness when I looked upon the living, and my soul with rejoicing, as again I turned to contemplate the dead.
It is impossible to describe the force of the contrast. The paraphernalia of a worship at once sensual and senseless, mingled with the gross aliment of the body, with the coarse luxuries of tobacco, and snuff, bottles of whiskey and jugs of beer, all confused in the red, smoky atmosphere of dim candles: these were on my left hand. I turned to the right, and beheld the fair casket of a jewel lately rescued from the evil grasp—the calm and majestic countenance of a creature, originally formed in the image of God, and by the sacrifice of God's dear Son, made near once more, and for ever. Over this beautiful object stole the purest beams of a setting sun, bathing it in soft brilliancy ; while the flowers, the innocent smiling flowers that reposed above, and beside, and around him —not in profusion, but at such intervals as gave the full effect to each individual blossom—these appeared to claim, as their sweet companion, the little body so like themselves, in its short, sunshiny existence, its peaceful decay, its future uprising from the dust of the earth, to light, and life, and glory.
Happy spirit! Like a bird out of the snare of the fowler, he had escaped the chains that superstition was forging to hold him back from God. Before that idol crucifix he had never bent; to the water beneath it he had never looked for sanctifying influences. He had not dishonoured the most high God his Saviour, by giving glory to other names : nor had he sought unto man for the pardon which cometh from God alone. Too young to sin " after the similitude of Adam's transgression" by voluntary disobedience, he was by natural inheritance an heir of wrath, an alien from God : too young to exercise faith on Christ, how precious as I looked on him, was the assurance, that the blood shed as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, embraced his case, and opened to him the heavenly kingdom. My mind was engrossed by the deep and clear argument of the apostle, in the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, which to me brings perfect conviction as to the eternal safety of all who die in infancy. Like the early dew, they just visit our earth, and once brought within the influence of the Sun of righteousness, 'they sparkle, are exhaled, and go to heaven'.
There are many flowers that speak to me of early happy death. The lily of the valley is one : but the fairest is the white moss-rose. I have never yet attached it to any individual character : but behold in its faint blush, scarcely perceptible, the last delicate hue of animation quietly fading from a young face where the pulse throb no longer. The usual plan, as I have seen it adopted among the poor Irish, is to lay out the body of the dead on an elevated couch, or table, in the corner of a room; one wall forming the head, another the side, of the temporary bed. Against these walls they suspended a white sheet, pinning bouquets here and there ; and as the flowers begin to drop, bending their heads downward, it requires no very great power of imagination to read the type— ihey seem to gaze upon the corpse, repeating the humiliating doom, alike applicable to both—dust we are, and unto dust we shall return. I could not look on such a spectacle without beholding the garden of Eden, by man's transgression rendered desolate, and perishing, alas ! in man's destruction —the creatures, the innocent and beautiful creatures of God's hand, made subject to vanity through our sinfulness ; fading and falling into one common grave. The pall may spread its velvet folds, and the sable plumes bow in stately gloom over the dead; but a single white rose, drooping amid its dark foliage, tells the story more touchingly, and with more eloquent sympathy, than all that the art of man may contrive, to invest sorrow in a deeper shade of woe.
" Thou shalt be like a watered garden," says the Lord to the believing soul, whose grace shall spring up and flourish, and be fruitful, to the praise of the glory of his grace, who visits it with the small, quiet rain of his life-giving Spirit. " Thou shalt be like a watered garden," he says to his church, as one sleeper after another awakes, and arises from spiritual death, and receives light from Christ, growing up among the trees of his planting, that he may be glorified in the abundant accession to his vineyard on its very fruitful hill. " Thou shalt be like a watered garden," the Lord says to this wide earth, destined in the appointed day to see her dead men live—they that dwell in the dust of many ages, awake and sing—a dew as the dew of herbs falling upon her graves, and the bodies of the saints that slept issuing forth in the brilliancy of celestial beauty. Then that which was sown in corruption shall be raised in incorrup- s tion: that which was sown in dishonour shall be raised in glory : that which was sown in weakness shall be raised in power : that which was sown a poor, vile, natural body, shall be raised a spiritual body, like to the glorious body of Christ, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things—yea, even death, and the grave, and destruction—unto himself. Has he not given us an earnest of this, in the vivid forms that spring on every hand, as we tread the garden and the grove ? Shall we look upon this annual resurrection, and not give thanks unto him for his great power ? Shall we disdain to acknowledge the benevolence of that divine skill which has taken of the common elements, and spread them out into such lovely forms, and tinted them with such resplendent hues, and finished the delicate pencilling with such exquisite art, and planted them in our daily, hourly path, breathing delicious fragrance ; and, to crown all, bade us consider them how they grow, as an earnest of the tender care that he is pledged to take of us, his obdurate, unthankful children!
Lord of all power and might! all thy other works do naturally praise thee ; but such is the darkness of man's heart, that it is only by the application of that spiritual gift which was purchased by the blood of Christ, that even thy saints can be impelled to give due thanks unto thee for thy great love, while thou clothest the grass that makes pleasant their footpath over this magnificent wreck of a glorious world !