THE POWER OF FAITH,
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF THE LATE MRS. ISABELLA GRAHAM.
A NEW EDITION, ENRICHED BY HER NARRATIVE OF HER HUSBAND'S DEATH, AND OTHER SELECT CORRESPONDENCE
The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility. The Lord will destroy the house of the proud; but he will establish the border of the widow. PROV. 15:25, 33.
PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY, 150 NASSAU STREET, NEW YORK: 28 CORNHILL, BOSTON.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843, by JOANNA BETHUNE, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Copyright transferred to the American Tract Society.
EARLY LIFE—RESIDENCE IN CANADA.
Foundation of the excellence of her character—Birth— Education—Conversion—Marriage—Voyage to Quebec— Doddridge's Rise and Progress—Residence at Montreal and Fort Niagara—Sails for Antigua—1742-1772, .................. 7
RESIDENCE AT ANTIGUA—DR. GRAHAM'S DEATH.
Dr. Graham called to St. Vincents—His safe return—State of his mind—Death of Mrs. Graham's mother—Letter describing the death of Dr. Graham—Kindness of Dr. H.— Reflections—Letters to Mrs. Grandidier and to her father— Departure for Scotland—1773-1775, ............................ 22
RETURN TO SCOTLAND—SCHOOL AT EDINBURGH.
Perilous voyage—Trust in God—Return to Cartside—Care of her father—Residence at Paisley—Depressed circumstances— Peace in God—Singular investment and result—School in Edinburgh—Friends—Benevolence to poor tradesmen— Dancing—Letter of Lady Glenorchy—Origin of the Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick—Death and character of Lady Glenorchy—Letter to a daughter—Visit to Cartside and Paisley—Reposes all upon Christ—Removal to New York—Devotional exercises—1776-1789, ................... 54
SCHOOL IN NEW YORK—DEATH OF HER PASTOR, DR. JOHN MASON—LAST NEWS OF HER SON.
Voyage and reception at New York—Marriage of Mrs. Stevenson— Anxiety for her son—He escapes a press-gang—Confidence in God—Sickness and death of her pastor, Dr. John Mason— His character—Dr. John M. Mason installed pastor— Devotional exercises—Letter to A.D.—Letter to her son— Last intelligence of him—Reflections—1789-1794, ............ 82
DEATH OF HER DAUGHTER—FIRST MISSIONARY SOCIETY IN NEW YORK.
Marriage of Mrs. Bethune—Death of Mrs. Stevenson—Strong consolation—Singular receipts and liberality—Devotional exercises—Anniversary of her daughter's birth and death— First Missionary Society in New York—Reflections— Acquaintance with Mrs. C—— near Boston—Letter and devotional exercises—1795-1797, ............................. 115
FORMATION OF THE WIDOWS' SOCIETY— CLOSE OF HER SCHOOL.
Rise of the Widows' Society—First monthly missionary prayer-meeting—Letter to a young man on joining the church—The Essay on Man—Marriage of Mrs. Smith—Close of her school—Labors for widows and the poor—Letters to Mrs. C.—The yellow-fever—Death of Washington—Devotional exercises—1797-1800, ........................................ 144
BENEVOLENT LABORS—MRS. HOFFMAN— CORRESPONDENCE.
Schools and labors connected with the Widows' Society—Her friend Mrs. Hoffman—Anniversary of the Widows' Society— Visit to Boston—Want of evangelical preaching—Letters to Miss M—— of Boston—Letters to Mr. and Mrs. Bethune in Britain—Anxiety for them—Confidence in God—Church discipline—Dr. Mason sails for Britain—1800-1801, .......... 167
JOURNAL AND LETTERS—LADIES' SCHOOL FOR POOR CHILDREN.
Death of a grandchild—Letters to Mr. and Mrs. Bethune in Britain—Death of B.—Of another grandchild—Of Pero, a colored man—Return of Mr. and Mrs. Bethune—Takes up her abode with them—Devotional exercises—Ladies' school for poor children—Address on its formation—Supplications for a revival of God's work—Labors for the suffering poor— Letters to Mrs. C.—Letter to the widow of her brother— 1801-1805, ................................................... 200
ORPHAN ASYLUM SOCIETY—FOREIGN MISSIONARIES.
Letters—Formation and success of the Orphan Asylum— Inscription for Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Hoffman—Labors in the New York hospital and among female convicts—Miss Farquharson, first American missionary to foreign lands— Visit of Rev. Dr. Morrison and others—Letter to her children at the Springs—Letter to Mrs. Juliet S.—Visits Rockaway—Reminiscence of Elderslie—1806-1809, .............. 250
NEW YORK BIBLE SOCIETY—ASSOCIATIONS FOR PRAYER— HAPPY OLD AGE.
Letters—Bible Society organized—Efforts for the revival and extension of religion—Admissions to the communion— Narrow escape from drowning at Rockaway—Barrenness of preaching without Christ—Devotional exercises—Letters to Miss Van Wyck and James Todd—Happy old age—Letter to Mrs. C—— in affliction—Letter to Mrs. G.Y.—Prayer for ministers—Magdalen Society—Lancasterian school— 1809-1811, ................................................... 270
DEVOTIONAL EXERCISES AND LETTERS.
Indwelling sin lamented—Day of fasting—Happiness of the aged Christian—Sermon in the state-prison—Happy reminiscences—Two grandchildren unite with the church— Unfaithfulness to people of the world lamented—Rich temporal blessings—Letter to Mrs. J.W.—Day of fasting— 1812-1814, ................................................... 309
CLOSING LABORS FOR THE POOR—SICKNESS AND DEATH.
Society for the promotion of industry among the poor— Sunday-school of eighty children—Love of evangelical books Last two weeks—Communion—Last sickness—Peaceful death—Character by Dr. Mason—Epitaph—1814, ................ 348
PROVISION FOR PASSING OVER JORDAN.
Scripture extracts—Meditations—Poetic effusions, ............... 379
MRS. ISABELLA GRAHAM.
EARLY LIFE—RESIDENCE IN CANADA.
Mankind take an interest in the history of those who, like themselves, have encountered the trials and discharged the duties of life. Too often, however, publicity is given to the lives of men splendid in acts of mighty mischief, in whom the secret exercises of the heart would not bear a scrutiny. The memoirs are comparatively few of those engaged in the humble and useful walks of active benevolence, where the breathings of the soul would display a character much to be admired, and more to be imitated.
As the celebrated Dr. Buchanan has observed, that if you were to ask certain persons in Christian countries, if they had any acquaintance with the religious world, they would say "they had never heard there was such a world;" so, while the external conduct of individuals is made the subject of much critical remark, the religion of the heart, the secret source of action, too frequently escapes unnoticed and unexplored.
It is only when the career of life is closed, that the character is completely established. On this account memoirs of the living are, in few instances, read with much interest; but when the soul has departed, and the body sleeps in dust, it may prove useful to survivors to examine the principles which led their departed friend to a life of honorable benevolence, and to a peaceful end.
Such considerations as these, and the urgent request of many respectable individuals, have induced the preparation of the following sketch of the life and writings of Mrs. ISABELLA GRAHAM, whose character was so esteemed, and whose memory is so venerated by all who knew her. The evident purity of motive which impelled her to activity in deeds of benevolence, at once commanded love and respect, which, in her case peculiarly, was unalloyed with any risings of jealousy, envy, or distrust.
Blessed with a spirit of philanthropy, with an ardent and generous mind, a sound judgment, and an excess of that sensibility which moulds the soul for friendship, a cultivated intellect and rich experience, her company was eagerly sought and highly valued by old and young. Though happily qualified to shine in the drawing-room, her time was seldom wasted there; for such a disposition of it would have been waste, contrasted with her usual employments. Her steps were not seen ascending the hill, of ambition, nor tracing the mazes of popular applause. Where the widow and the orphan wept, where the sick and the dying moaned, thither her footsteps hastened; and there, seen only by her heavenly Father, she administered to their temporal wants, breathed the voice of consolation on their ear, shed the tear of sympathy, exhibited the truths of the gospel from the sacred volume, and poured out her soul for them in prayer to her Saviour and her God.
In a few such deeds she rested not, nor was the story of them obtruded upon others, or recorded by herself. The recollection of past exertions was lost in her zeal to accomplish greater purposes and greater good: her heart expanded with her experience, and her means were too limited, the active powers of her vigorous mind too feeble, to fulfil the abounding desires of her soul in alleviating the miseries and increasing the comforts of the poor, the destitute, and afflicted. To learn the latent springs of such excellence is worthy of research; they may be all summed up in this, the religion of the heart.
The extracts from Mrs. Graham's letters and devotional exercises, which constitute so large a part of the following pages, will furnish the best development of her principles; and may, with the blessing of God, prove useful to those who read them. In all her writings will be manifested the power of faith, the efficiency of grace, and in them, as in her own uniform confession, Jesus will be magnified and self will be humbled. Her life was chiefly distinguished by her continual dependence on God, and his unceasing faithfulness and mercy towards her.
ISABELLA MARSHALL, afterwards Mrs. Graham, was born July 29, 1742, in the shire of Lanark, in Scotland. Her grandfather was one of the elders who quitted the established church with the Rev. Messrs. Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine. She was educated in the principles of the church of Scotland. Her father and mother were both pious; indeed, her mother, whose maiden name was Janet Hamilton, appears, from her letters yet extant, to have possessed a mind of the same character as her daughter afterwards exhibited.
Isabella was trained to an active life, as well as favored with a superior education. Her grandfather, whose dying-bed she assiduously attended, bequeathed her a legacy of some hundred pounds. In the use to which she applied this money, the soundness of her judgment was thus early manifested. She requested it might be appropriated to the purpose of procuring a thorough education. When ten years of age, she was sent to a boarding-school taught by a lady of distinguished talents and piety. Often has Mrs. Graham repeated to her children the maxims of Mrs. Betty Morehead. With ardent and unwearied endeavors to attain mental endowments, and especially moral and religious knowledge, she attended the instructions of Mrs. Morehead for seven successive winters. How valuable is early instruction. With the blessing of God, it is probable that this instructress laid the foundation of the exertions and usefulness of her pupil in after-life. How wise and how gracious are the ways of the Lord. Knowing the path in which he was afterwards to lead Isabella Marshall, her God was pleased to provide her an education of a much higher kind than was usual in those days. Who would not trust that God, who alone can be the guide of our youth?
Her father, John Marshall, farmed a paternal estate, called the Heads, near Hamilton. This estate he sold, and rented the estate of Elderslie, once the habitation of Sir William Wallace. There Isabella passed her childhood and her youth.
She had no definite recollection of the period at which her heart first tasted that the Lord is gracious. As far back as she could remember, she took delight in pouring out her soul to God. In the woods of Elderslie she selected a bush, to which she resorted in seasons of devotion. Under this bush she believed she was enabled to devote herself to God, through faith in her Redeemer, before she had entered on her tenth year. To this favorite, and to her, sacred spot, she would repair, when exposed to temptation or perplexed with childish troubles. From thence she caused her prayers to ascend, and there she found peace and consolation.
Children cannot at too early a period seek the favor of the God of heaven. How blessed to be reared and fed by his hand, taught by his Spirit, and strengthened by his grace.
The late Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, afterwards president of Princeton college, was at this time one of the ministers of the town of Paisley. Isabella sat under his ministry, and at the age of seventeen publicly professed her faith in Christ. In the year 1765 she was married to Dr. John Graham, then a practising physician in Paisley, a gentleman of liberal education and of respectable standing.
About a year after their marriage, Dr. Graham, having been appointed surgeon to the 60th or royal American regiment, was ordered to Canada, where that corps was stationed. Mrs. Graham accompanied him, and a plan was digested—with how limited a knowledge of the future will appear—for their permanent residence in America. Dr. Graham calculated on disposing of his commission, and purchasing a tract of land on the Mohawk river, where his father-in-law, Mr. Marshall, was to follow him. The letter subjoined gives the interesting incidents of their voyage, and forms a pleasant introduction to the character of Mrs. Graham at this period of her life.
"QUEBEC, August 29, 1767.
"MY DEAREST PARENTS—This is the fifth letter I have written to you, although I know it is the first that can reach you. All the time I was at sea I kept a letter lying by me, in hope of getting it put on board some vessel bound for Britain; but I have met with many disappointments. We spoke several ships, but I never could get a letter put on board. At one time I was told the wind was too high, at another that the ship was at too great a distance, and so was put off till I began to understand a more substantial reason, namely, that it would cost the captain rather too much trouble.
"We have now, however, got safe here, after a tedious voyage of nine weeks, and I will give you a short account of what happened during that time.
"We sailed, as you know, from Greenock, June 10. For the first five or six days we had fine weather and fair winds, and got quite clear of land; after this, we had nearly six weeks of most tempestuous weather, and the wind, except for about two days, directly against us. The gentlemen after some time began to be very impatient; for my part I should not have cared although it had lasted twelve months. I had left all that was dear to me behind, except one dear friend, that one was constantly with me, and although the rest of the company in the ship was very agreeable, yet I was the great object of his attention, and his invention was ever on the stretch to find amusement for me. It is not possible for me to say with what indulgent tenderness I was treated; but though I love my husband even to extravagance, yet my dear friends whom I left behind have a large share of my heart. They dwell on my mind in the daytime; and at night, when sleep lays the body aside and leaves the soul at liberty, she on the wings of imagination makes one skip over whole seas, and is immediately with those dear friends whose absence she so much lamented during the day, and in an imaginary body as truly enjoys you for the time as if really present with you.
"The gentlemen on board soon found reason to be thankful for the preservation of life, and got something very different to think of than fret at the contrary winds. A leak sprung in the ship, which alarmed them all so much that a consultation was held among them whether if any ship came near they should hail it and go on board wherever she was bound. I was perfectly unconcerned about the whole matter, not being aware of the danger, which was kept secret from me till we came on shore. I saw the men constantly pumping, but thought it was what they were obliged to do in every ship. After coming to land, on examining the ship, they found the leak to be so large that one might put his five fingers into it; indeed, it seemed next to a miracle that she kept above water; but every day of our lives may convince us what dependent creatures we are. While God's merciful providence protects us we are safe, though in the midst of apparent danger; should he withdraw that protection but for a moment, inevitable evils surround us, even when we think ourselves in perfect safety.
"A proof of this we had in a most distressing event, which took place about six weeks after we left Greenock. The wind was in our favor, the day was fine, and we were all amusing ourselves on deck in various ways, when Captain Kerr, who was standing close by us, stumbling backwards, fell overboard. He got above water before the ship passed him, and called to throw him a rope, but alas, no rope was at hand, and before one was got the ship was out of his reach. Immediately they threw over a large hen-coop, but, poor man, he could not swim, so he soon disappeared. The boats were put out with great expedition, and in less than a quarter of an hour he was found. You may believe no means were left unemployed to restore animation; but alas, the spirit had taken its final leave; it was no longer an inhabitant of earth, not the least signs of life appeared. The day after, being Sunday, his body was committed to the deep, from whence it had been rescued the day before. Dr. Graham read in public the church of England burial service. Every one on board seemed much affected; I cannot tell you how much I was.
"About eight days after, we got to the Banks of Newfoundland; while there the fog was so dense we could not see forty yards in any direction, and the cold was excessive, notwithstanding the season of the year. There were a great many islands of ice floating on the water; I saw three within twenty yards of us, much larger than the ship. The captain said if the ship ran against any one of them, she would be dashed to pieces. And here, again, my former observation holds good, for sure it could not be the art of man, either in the dark night or in the dense fog, which could protect the ship flying before the wind, through dangers so thick on every side of us. For several days and nights we saw neither sun nor stars, which distressed the captain much, for he knew not where we were, and apprehending we were near land, was afraid of running upon some rock; so we were obliged to cruise about till the atmosphere cleared.
"The sail up the river St. Lawrence is extremely pleasant. You know how fond I have ever been of wood and water. This country, in this respect, is quite to my taste, and could I only get half a dozen of those friends I could name settled down on either side of us, with five hundred pounds' worth of land to give to each, I should ask no more in this world.
"When we arrived, the doctor's friend Mr. Findley came on board, took us on shore, and brought us to his elegant mansion. He begged we would look on him as an old friend, feel perfectly at home, and remain with him as long as we could. Give my love to my dear boys;* you see them often, I have no doubt. Do, my dearest mamma, write me soon, and tell me all about them and yourself; and ever believe me, my dear parents, with the greatest affection,
*Dr. Graham's two sons by a former marriage, who were left under the care of Mr. Davidson, rector of the grammar-school of Paisley.
"Your dutiful daughter, "I. GRAHAM."
In a letter a month, later, Mrs. Graham refers to the gay and fashionable circles to which they were introduced in Quebec, and mentions her visiting the beautiful falls of Montmorency; but mourns over the low state of religion, and the prevailing desecration of the Sabbath. She adds:
"I have read Doddridge's Rise and Progress. I little knew what a treasure Mr. Ellis put into my hand when he gave me that book. I cannot say it is my daily companion, but I can with truth say it is often so. Let my mind be in ever so giddy and thoughtless a frame, or ever so much busied in those amusements I am engaged in, it makes me serious, and gives my thoughts a different turn; there is scarce any situation the mind can be in, but it will find something suitable there. I must not, however, make remarks on the particular contents of it; it would occupy more paper than I have to spare. I would have you purchase the book; I am sure you would like it; and when you have read it, it will be matter of great satisfaction to you that John and I have such a treasure in our possession. In it are contained every advice you could give us, and cautions against the temptations which, on account of youth, company, and the country we are in, we are exposed to."
They were expecting to spend the winter in Quebec, but were ordered to Montreal, where Jessie, her eldest daughter, was born, and where Mrs. Graham received intelligence of the death of her infant son, who had been left with her mother in Scotland. Further orders were soon received for the doctor to join the second battalion of his regiment at fort Niagara, on lake Ontario; Mrs. Graham followed him, and they continued here in garrison for four years, during which her second and third daughters, Joanna and Isabella, were added to her charge.
Under date of February 3, 1771, we find, from her own pen, the following description of her occupations and enjoyments, in a letter addressed to her beloved mother:
"My two Indian girls come on very well indeed. The eldest milked the cows all summer; she washes and irons all the clothes for the family, scrubs the floors, and does the most part of the kitchen work. The young one's charge is the children, and some other little turns when the infant is asleep. I teach them to read and to sew when they have any spare time. As for me, I find I have enough to do to superintend. You may be sure I help a little too, now and then. I make and mend what is necessary for the family, for I must be tailor, mantua-maker, and milliner.
"In the forenoon the doctor makes his rounds as usual. I generally trot about till two o'clock, dress the children, order dinner, dress myself, and twenty other things, which you know are necessary to be looked after by the mistress of a family. After dinner I sit down to my work, and we have always a book, which the doctor reads when I can attend; when I cannot, he reads something else.
"As I am at present the only wife in the place, we have a regular tea-table, and now and then a little frugal supper; for the doctor has come more into my way of thinking, and does not insist upon cutting a figure as much as some time ago. When alone, he reads and I work, as usual. He is seldom out, and never but when I am with him. We are easy in our circumstances, and want for nothing that is necessary; in short, my ever dear parents, my life is easy and pleasant. The Lord my God make it pious and useful.
"Could I place myself and family in the same circumstances, and every thing go on in the same manner, within a few miles of you, I should be happy for life; and were it not for this hope, which my heart is set upon, I could not be so, with all I have told you.
"We find the newspapers full of preparations for war; may the Lord dispose all hearts to peace, for I hate the sound, though it is the wish of the greatest number about me. There is no prospect of our leaving this place for a year yet. For my part I have only two reasons for wishing it. The first is, I should like to be in some Christian society; the other, that I might do something towards getting home. To return to the gay world, again I have no ambition. My family here, and my friends at home, engross all my attention; and when I see the one, and hear of the other being well, I am happy. Time never hangs heavy on my hand; I can always find employment, and amusement too, without the assistance of what go under the name of diversions.
"We have lately had several visits from a great family. The chief of the Seneca nation having a daughter not well, brought her to the doctor to see what could be done for her; he, his squaw or lady, and daughters breakfasted with us several times. I was kind, and made all the court to them I could, though we could not converse but by an interpreter. I made the daughters some little presents, and the doctor would not be feed. Who knows but these little services may one day save our scalps? There have been several threatenings of an Indian war; thank God, it seems to be quite hushed again.
"War with civilized nations is nothing to war with Indians. They have no mercy, nor give any quarter to man, woman, or child: all meet the same fate, except where they take a liking to particular persons; those they adopt as their children, and use them as such.
"The doctor joins in affectionate respects to my dear father, and you, the boys, and all our dear friends. I am as much as ever, and will be to my latest breath, my dear mamma, your affectionate daughter,
Mrs. Graham always considered the time she passed at Niagara as the happiest of her days, considered in a temporal view. The officers of the regiment were amiable men, attached to each other, and the ladies were united in the ties of friendship. The society there, secluded from the world, exempt from the collision of individual and separate interests, which often create so much discord in large communities, and studious to promote the happiness of each other, enjoyed that tranquillity and contentment which ever accompany a disinterested interchange of friendly offices. But this fort being detached from other settlements, the garrison were deprived of ordinances and the public means of grace, and the life of religion in the soul of Mrs. Graham sunk to a low ebb. A conscientious observance of the Sabbath, which throughout life she maintained, proved to her at Niagara as a remembrance and revival of devotional exercises. She wandered on those sacred days into the woods around Niagara, searched her Bible, communed with God and herself, and poured out her soul in prayer to her covenant Lord. Throughout the week, the attentions to her friends, her domestic comfort and employments, and the amusements pursued in the garrison, she used to confess, occupied too much of her time and of her affections.
Here we behold a little society enjoying much comfort and happiness in each other, yet falling short of that preeminent duty and superior blessedness of glorifying, as they ought to have done, the God of heaven, who fed them by his bounty, and offered them a full and free salvation in the gospel of his Son. No enjoyments nor possessions, however ample and acceptable, can crown the soul with peace and true felicity, unless accompanied with the fear and favor of Him who can speak pardon to the transgressor, and shed abroad his love in the hearts of his children; thus giving an earnest of spiritual and eternal blessedness along with temporal good.
The commencement of the revolutionary struggle in America rendered it necessary, in the estimation of the British government, to order to another and very diverse scene of action the sixtieth regiment, composed in a great measure of Americans.
Their destination was the island of Antigua: Dr. and Mrs. Graham and their family, consisting of three infant daughters and two young Indian girls, sailed from Niagara to Oswego, and from thence, by a path through the woods, reached the Mohawk, which river they descended in batteaux to Schenectady. Here Dr. Graham left his family, and went to New York to complete a negotiation he had entered into for disposing of his commission, to enable him to settle, as he originally intended, on a tract of land which it was in his power to purchase on the banks of the river they had just descended. The gentleman proposing to purchase his commission, not being able to perfect the arrangement in time, Dr. Graham found himself under the necessity of proceeding to Antigua with the regiment. Mrs. Graham on learning this, hurried down with her family to accompany him, although he had left it optional with her to remain till he should have ascertained the nature of the climate, and the probability of his continuing in the West Indies.
At New York they were treated with much kindness by the late Rev. Dr. John Rodgers and others, especially by the family of Mr. Vanbrugh Livingston. With Mr. Livingston's daughter, the wife of Major Brown, of the sixtieth regiment, Mrs. Graham formed a very intimate friendship, which continued during the life of Mrs. Brown.
They embarked with the regiment, November 5, 1772, for Antigua.
RESIDENCE AT ANTIGUA—DR. GRAHAM'S DEATH.
Within three weeks after their arrival at Antigua, six companies were ordered to the island of St. Vincents to quell an insurrection of the Caribs. The doctor accompanied them, and Mrs. Graham was called to the pain of separation under circumstances more trying than she had as yet experienced, as the war with savages might expose him to the most cruel death. In these circumstances she wrote him as follows:
"ANTIGUA, January 16, 1773.
"MY DEAREST DOCTOR—This goes by Mr. W——, who sails to-morrow; also a letter to Captain G——. Mr. M—— begs to be remembered to you; he has been foot and hand to me since you left. My dearest doctor, suffer me to put you in remembrance of what you put in the end of your trunk the morning you left me,* and let it not lie idle. Read it as the voice of God to your soul. My dearest love, I have been greatly distressed for fear of your dear life; but the love I bear to your soul is as superior to that of your body, as the value of one surpasses the other; consequently my anxiety for its interest is proportioned. May heaven preserve my dearest love—lead you, guide you, direct you, so can you never go wrong—protect and defend you, so shall you ever be safe, is the daily prayer of your affectionate wife,
*Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.
"P.S. I am told that you have taken a number of prisoners. I know not if you have any right to entail slavery on these poor creatures. If any fall to your share, do set them at liberty."
On the 8th of June, Mrs. Graham wrote to her mother, expressing her gratitude for her husband's safe return, and noticing some gratifying indications of the calm and peaceful state of his mind:
"You would be surprised to hear the doctor preach. He says we ought to be thankful; we have hitherto been richly and bountifully provided for; we ought not to repine, nor doubt, seeing we have the same Providence to depend upon; that we ought not to set our hearts upon any thing in this world; being very short-sighted, we cannot know what is proper for us. Having done for the best, when we are disappointed, we ought to rest satisfied that either what we wish is not for our good, or it will in some future dispensation of Providence be brought about another way and in a fitter time. Indeed, my dear mamma, in some things he is a better Christian than I am. May God make him so in every thing."
Thus was the Lord preparing his servant for what was so soon to follow—not his dismission from the regiment, which he so ardently desired, but from this world and its temptations and snares. Mrs. Graham's prayers were answered, but "by terrible things in righteousness."
She added a request that her mother would receive her eldest daughter, who, though at the early age of five years, she feared would receive injurious influences from the corrupt state of society around her, and accordingly, not long after, sent her to Scotland; but before her arrival, her grandmother had been called to a better world. In reference to this event Mrs. Graham wrote to her bereaved father as follows:
"ANTIGUA, August 21, 1773.
"MY DEAREST PAPA—The heart-rending tidings of my dear, my tender, my affectionate mother's death reached me yesterday. I am so distressed that I can scarcely write, and no wonder, for never was there such a mother. My loss is indeed great; but O, my dear, my afflicted father, how my heart bleeds for you. Father of mercies, support my aged parent, and enable him to place his hopes of happiness beyond this transitory world, and to follow the footsteps of the dear departed saint till he joins her in glory, never, never more to be separated.
"My dearest father, we may indeed mourn for ourselves; but she is happy—that is beyond all doubt. Her delight was with God while she was here; her closet was a Bethel; her Bible was her heart's treasure, and His people were her loved companions. She has now joined the innumerable company above, where she continues the same services without human frailty, and the enjoyment heightened beyond our highest conceptions.
"O then, my dear father, be comforted; let us now try to follow her; let her Saviour now be ours, and then shall we be blest with like consolations.
"My dearest father, I cannot tell you how much I feel for you; my tears will not allow me, they flow so fast that I cannot write; what would I give to be with you. But these are vain words.
"The doctor, however, fully expects that next summer will bring him leave to go home; then, I trust, we shall be in some fixed place of abode, and, my dear papa, you will come and live with us. I shall feel it to be a privilege beyond what I can tell, to perform every service you stand in need of, soothe your pains and comfort you under the infirmities of old age.
"My dear, my worthy brother—how has that tender letter, and the noble resolution he has taken, endeared him to me. It is certainly his indispensable duty to stay with you in your present solitary situation; such a dutiful, affectionate son must be a great comfort to you, and he will not lose his reward.
"I am anxious, my dearest father, to know the particulars of my mother's death: who attended her in her illness? was the nurse who was with her a good woman? was she sensible? did she expect death? and did she mention me, and leave me her blessing? My dear, dear father, tell me all.
"Farewell, my beloved father; may your God and Redeemer be your support and final portion, is the prayer of your affectionate daughter,
In her grief for the loss of her inestimable mother, Dr. Graham had said to her that "God might perhaps call her to a severer trial by taking her husband also," and the warning appeared prophetic; but her own words best describe the emotions of her bleeding heart.
To Miss Margaret Graham, Glasgow.
"MY DEAR SISTER—Prepare yourself for a severe shock from an event that has robbed me of every earthly joy. Your amiable brother is no longer an inhabitant of this lower world. On the seventeenth of November he was seized with a putrid fever, which, on the twenty-second, numbered him with the dead, and left me a thing not to be envied by the most abject beggar that crawls from door to door. Expect not consolation from me: I neither can give nor take it. But why say I so? Yes, I can. He died as a Christian, sensible to the last, and in full expectation of his approaching end. O, you knew not your brother's worth; you knew him not as a husband: he was not the same as when you knew him in his giddy years: he was to me all love, all affection, and partial to my every fault; prudent too in providing for his family. I had gained such an entire ascendency over his heart as I would not have given for the crown of Britain.
"On Wednesday, at one o'clock, the seventeenth day of November, 1773, my dear doctor was seized with a violent fever. I sent for his assistant, Dr. Bowie: he not being at home, Dr. Muir came, who prescribed an emetic in the evening, and his fever having greatly abated, it was accordingly given. In the morning Dr. Bowie thought him so well I did not ask for any other assistance. At ten o'clock his fever greatly increased, though not so violent as it had been the day before. He was advised to lose a little blood, which he did; and towards evening it again abated.
"I found he was not quite satisfied with what had been done for him; at the same time he would do nothing for himself. Thursday evening I begged Dr. Bowie to call in Dr. Warner's assistance, notwithstanding he assured me there was not one dangerous symptom. Friday morning they both attended, and both pronounced him in a fair way of recovery.
"About three o'clock Dr. Eird came, who seemed surprised the thing had not been done which Dr. Graham himself had been dissatisfied for the want of the day before. Soon after the medicine was sent; but O, my dear doctor said it was then too late. In the evening they all again attended, and insisted there was no danger. Saturday morning he seemed very easy, and the physicians said he was in a fine way. The fever was gone; the decoction of bark prescribed; and they said he would be able to-morrow to take it in substance. I was not now the least apprehensive of danger, and was very earnest in prayer that the Lord would sanctify his affliction, and not suffer it to go off without leaving a sensible effect on his mind. Nay, I even said in my heart, 'the rod is too soon removed, it will do him no good.' Oh, that fools will still persist to prescribe to infinite wisdom and goodness. I was soon severely punished.
"About eleven he took the hiccup. I did not like it, but little knew it was so dangerous a symptom as I afterwards understood. I sent for Dr. Bowie, who assured me that though it was a disagreeable symptom with other attendants, in his case it was of no more consequence than if he or I were to take it. All that day it was so moderate that a mouthful of any liquid stopped it, though it always returned again: he often said it would be his death; but I imagined the pain it gave him extorted these words from him rather than a sense of danger, and was much pleased to hear him often pray that the Lord would give him patience and resignation to his blessed will, and still more to observe that he bore it with a patience beyond what was natural to him. He was of a quick temper, and being of a healthy constitution, was but little accustomed to pain; but, during the whole of his severe and trying affliction, I do not remember to have heard a murmuring word escape his lips; so that I cannot doubt but his prayers were heard, and the grace prayed for bestowed. In the evening the hiccup increased, and all that night it was very severe, so that he could not bear to be any way disturbed, nor could I possibly prevail upon him to take his medicine, from two in the morning until ten o'clock, when the physicians again attended and persuaded him to comply. This was Sunday. About mid-day Dr. Warner sent some old hock, with orders that he should take some in his drink, and now and then a little plain. When the wine was brought in and put on the table, he asked me what it was. I told him. He said, 'Yes, they are now come to the last shift.'
"Mr. Frank Gilbert, a good man, and, I believe, a real Christian, having come to town to preach—for he is a Methodist minister—sent a note, kindly inquiring after him, and intimating, if it would be agreeable to him, he would visit him in the morning. He said, by all means, he should be very glad to see him. I said, 'My love, you know I have great faith in the prayers of God's people; suppose you should beg an interest in them this afternoon?' He answered, 'My dear, do you think they will forget me?' I said, 'I hope, my love, you are not ashamed to desire the prayers of the people of God; it is not now a time to mind the ridicule of the world.' He said, 'No, Bell, I care not a farthing for the whole world, and you may make it my own request.'
"His disorder gained ground very fast that day, and I began to be much alarmed; yet still I thought it would not end in death, but though severe and dangerous, was sent in answer to my repeated, earnest prayers to awaken in him a real concern about his eternal interest, to set the world and its vanities in their true light, and bring about that entire change of heart which our blessed Lord styles the new birth, and without which, he says, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
"It was now become very difficult for him to speak; but by the motion of his hands and eyes, which were continually lifted up when he had the smallest respite, I could easily see his thoughts were fixed on the importance of his situation; besides, many sentences and half sentences broke from his lips at different times, which left me without a doubt. 'Farewell,' said he, 'vain world; an idle world it is, nothing but shadows, and we keep chasing them as children do bubbles of water, till they break, and we find them nothing but air.'
"Observing this inward recollection, I seldom disturbed him. He was perfectly acquainted with the truth, and believed it. The doctrines of religion were often the subject of our conversation, and in every point of faith we entirely agreed: they only wanted to be felt and applied to the heart. I remained in silence to my dear husband, but not to my God: I was incessant in prayer, begging and beseeching that the Lord himself would carry on what he had so graciously begun—that he would every way suit himself to his necessities, and give conviction or consolation, as he saw needful; but when he spoke I endeavored to answer him from God's own word, as I was able or assisted. Once he exclaimed, 'Draw me, and I will run after thee;' at another time, 'Surely thou wilt not allow thy blessed Son to plead in vain for me, an obstinate sinner.' This was a degree of faith, and I endeavored to strengthen it. I said, 'My love, you know the way to the Father, through Christ, the only Mediator. You say right, he cannot plead in vain; fly to him; cast yourself at his feet; trust in him; hear his own invitation, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;' 'him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' At another time these words broke from his lips, 'Form me, train me, prepare me for thyself.' Here was a breathing after sanctification; might not the promise be applied, 'I will create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within thee.'
"In the evening the physicians again attended, but could hardly get a word from him. While they sat by the bedside I went out to the gallery with Mrs. Grandidier; the apparent struggle she had to conceal her distress, the compassion and sympathy in her countenance struck me. I easily perceived she gave up hope, and, I began to suspect, not from her own judgment alone; she advised me to send away my children to a friend's house, and to send for a person who was capable of assisting me, it being no longer proper for me to be alone. Thus far I had not allowed any person to do the least thing about him but myself, nor stirred from his bedside, except for a few minutes, to pour out my soul into the bosom of my God. I hardly, if ever, prayed for his recovery, being willing the rod should remain till it effected the purpose for which it was sent, and then I believed it would be removed—as if the Lord was to follow exactly the rules prescribed by my weak, foolish, ignorant heart.
"Hitherto I had suffered little, believing all to be the answer to my prayers; but I had not seriously thought of parting with him. I was now truly alarmed, and determined to know, as far as appearances went, the worst. Accordingly I stopped Dr. Bowie on the gallery: 'Tell me, doctor,' said I, 'what have I to expect? It is cruel to flatter me: if you give me some warning, and prepare me, I may perhaps be able to support it; but if you suffer it to come upon me all at once, I shall certainly sink under the shock.' He was silent for some time, and then replied, 'I am really at a loss how to answer you.' I said, 'I will answer for you, there is no hope.' He said, 'God forbid—he is in great danger; but still there is hope; and if you value his life, be calm.' I was composed. Strange composure; I neither cried nor complained; tears were denied a passage; I was fixed and dumb like a statue. Can I, or any one else, describe my situation, or what I felt at that moment? It was urged of what consequence it was that I should be composed, that I might be able to do my duty to him, as no one could supply my place to his satisfaction, and perhaps even now he might be in want of me. I returned to my post, which was, except when doing some necessary office about him, generally on my knees by his bedside, partly that I might not lose the least whisper that came from his lips, and partly because it is my favorite posture for prayer, from which I could not cease, no, not for one minute.
"There were different medicines prescribed for that night, some in case that others proved too strong for his stomach, others in case of the increase of the hiccup. I found my head confused and my memory incapable of retaining the variety of directions given. I therefore accepted of the offer of a friend of his to sit up with us that night, whom I begged to pay particular attention to the directions, and to watch the proper times the medicines were to be given. This he did with great care, and my dear doctor was very pliable in taking them as they were offered. As for me I was so deeply engaged with the concerns of his soul, I was unfit for any thing else.
"After Dr. Bowie let me know the danger he was in, I sent a letter to Mr. Gilbert, begging he would not delay his visit till morning, as perhaps by that time he might not be able to speak to him. Accordingly he came; he asked him how he did; he answered, 'Very ill;' he asked him the situation of his mind; he answered, 'Entirely resigned to the divine will;' he asked him what hopes he had; he said, 'his hope was in the mercy of God, through Christ;' Mr. Gilbert said, 'You have no dependence on any thing besides?' he said, 'No, no, I have nothing else to depend upon.' Then the doctor desired him to pray, but at the same time to be short, as he had but short intervals from the hiccup. After prayer, Mr. Gilbert told me it seemed difficult for him to speak, and he did not think it would be prudent to say more; that he would call again in the morning.
"Monday morning he was greatly weakened, having had little rest all night from the severity of the hiccup. At ten o'clock the physicians again attended; but I could easily perceive they had but small hopes. My doctor asked Dr. Warner if he thought it would be long before he would be at rest, who said his pulse was still strong. He said, 'It is a hard thing to die!" Mrs. Brannan came to spend the day with us, one of the Methodist society, and Mr. McNab, whom my doctor desired to pray with him, which he did. All this day he said little, but still continued in inward prayer, as was visible by the motions of his hands and eyes; he had many agonizing struggles, and often exclaimed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' 'Blessed Jesus, come and receive me to thyself—come—come—blessed Jesus, come!' Once, after a long struggle, he exclaimed, 'Release me, O release me, and let me fly to the bosom of my Father!' All this time I never parted from his bedside but a few minutes to give my soul a freer vent at the throne of grace. I never prayed for life, but that he might be washed, sanctified, and have all God's salvation completed in his soul, and be received into the arms of his mercy. I also had been, and still was, very importunate that God would give me some token, some assurance that he would save his soul, and give him an abundant entrance into the kingdom of his glory; and, by all that I had heard, seen, and felt, I was now satisfied that the most merciful God had sealed his pardon for Jesus' sake; and I found myself ready, dearly as I loved him, to resign him into the hands of divine mercy; but still I breathed after some further manifestation.
"In the evening Dr. Galloway, an old acquaintance, arrived from the island of Dominico, and hearing of his friend's illness, came immediately to visit him. When my doctor heard his voice only whisper how he was, he said, 'I hear Galloway's voice,' and stretched out his hand; so fully had he his senses to the last. Upon their feeling his pulse, he asked if they thought he would be long in dying. Dr. Eird replied, 'You must not talk of dying, but of living; you are stronger than when I was here this morning, and I have seen many worse recover. Do, do be advised, take your medicine, and try for life.' These words brought a gleam of hope to my despairing soul, and what had been denied me for twenty-four hours, a flood of tears, and I was greatly relieved. I went out to the gallery and gave a free vent to my bursting heart. I now also begged the Lord for his life, and said in my heart, should he now be restored, how doubly blessed would he be, healed in soul and body. I returned to his bedside and thus addressed my beloved: 'My dearest life, the doctors still have hopes, and we know nothing is impossible with God. Who knows what further service he may have for you in this world; or whether he may not give you to my prayers, and restore you to your Bell and family? God works by means; O be persuaded to take every thing prescribed, and pray to God for the blessing; devote your future life to his service, and, for poor Bell's sake, offer up a petition for life.' He did not interrupt me, but answered, 'Disengage yourself, Bell, disengage yourself from me. I want to lift up my soul to God, and bless him for Jesus Christ.'
"Dr. Galloway was determined to stay with him all night, and see him take his medicine. Some time after, he had a severe attack of hiccup, and said to Dr. Galloway, 'I hope you are now convinced.' He said, 'Of what?' My doctor said, 'That dissolution is near.' A little after, he said, 'Who died for all?' and again repeated, 'Who died for all?' I was forbid to speak to him, as rest was so much wanted, so I answered, 'Christ, my love; but give up your soul to God, and try to shut your weary eyes, and get a little rest for your body;' and so he did, and got a little sleep. All that night he did every thing he was desired, but would drink nothing but cold water, which had been allowed him; the wine he would not touch. His disorder increased so fast that Dr. Galloway, about five in the morning, said to me, 'I may go home—I can be of no service, and I cannot stand it.' I said, 'I suppose I need not disturb him any more with medicine.' He said, 'No, you may give him what he calls for.' Now, my God, all is over; I resign him up to thee. Only one parting word—something yet I require, to assure my heart that thou wilt receive his soul. Some time after he laid his hand upon Mrs. Brannan's lap and made a sign to her; afterwards he made a sign to me, who was at the back of the bed, to come round. Mrs. Brannan thought he wanted her to retire, which she did. He looked after her. I said, 'My love, she thinks you want to say something to me; can you speak?' He said, 'Join—pray,' which we did. He spoke no more for some time, only, 'Come, sweet Jesus,' and frequently, 'Receive my spirit.' These words were given for my sake. I cried, 'I am satisfied, Lord, and I yield him up to thee with all my heart; thou hast given me all my asking. I will not be longer faithless, but believing. Continue to support his departing soul, and let the enemy find nothing in him.'
"The next attack of hiccup laid him back speechless, and I believe senseless in the last parting work: he had no further struggle, nor need of any person to support him. I therefore again placed myself on my knees by his bedside, determined not to quit the posture till his soul had entered its rest; but nature was worn out, and though I swallowed hartshorn and water in great quantities, I was so overcome that I was obliged to lie down at the back of the bed to save me from fainting. Three hours did he continue in this last work of the heart. I watched his last, and delivered him up with a hearty prayer and a full assurance; but O, how earnestly I wished to go with him! I was, for the time, entirely insensible to my own loss: my soul pursued him into the invisible world, and for the time cordially rejoiced with the Spirit. I thought I saw the angel band ready to receive him, among whom stood my dear mother, the first to bid him welcome to the regions of bliss.
"I was then desired to leave the room, which I did, saying, 'My doctor is gone. I have accompanied him to the gates of heaven: he is safely landed; that is now not him that lies there. You, nurse, will see it decently dressed; then I may again be permitted to take another parting kiss.' So, embracing the precious clay, I went into the parlor. Some friends came in to see me. My composure they could not account for: our sincere and tender regard for each other was too well known to allow them to impute it to indifference. My distress at parting with him, even for a couple of months, when he went to St. Vincent, and dejection of spirit the whole time till his return, left them as little room to impute it to want of sensibility: at last they imagined that I was stupefied with grief and fatigue; but they little knew that at that hour I rejoiced; indeed I told them, but I suppose was not believed. I was asked if I had any thing particular to say respecting the funeral. I said, 'Nothing—my charge is gone to rest; I would leave it to them.' It was then proposed to bury next day at ten o'clock. I said that was very early; they answered, by that time I would be satisfied it was not too early.
"In the evening I returned to our bed-chamber to take a last farewell of the dear remains. The countenance was so very pleasant I thought there was even something heavenly, and could not help saying, 'You smile upon me, my love; surely the delightful prospect opening on the parting soul left that benign smile on its companion the body.' I thought I could have stood and gazed for ever; but for fear of relapsing into immoderate grief, I withdrew after a parting embrace, and with an intention not to ask for another, lest a change in his countenance might shake my peace; for Oh, we are weak, and at certain times not subject to reason. I went to bed purely to get alone, for I had little expectation of sleep; but I was mistaken; nature was fairly overcome with watching and fatigue. I dropped asleep, and for a few hours forgot my woes; but Oh; the pangs I felt on my first awaking. I could not for some time believe it true that I was indeed a widow, and that I had lost my heart's treasure—my all I held dear on earth. It was long before day. I was in no danger of closing my eyes again, for I was at that time abandoned to despair, till recollection and the same considerations which at first supported me brought me a little to myself. I considered, I wept for one that wept no more; that all my fears for his eternal happiness were now over, and he beyond the reach of being lost; neither was he lost to me, but added to my heavenly treasure, more securely mine than ever. Those snares and temptations arising from the corrupt customs of a degenerate age, which had so often caused my fears, could never reach him there. The better, dearer half of myself was now secure beyond the possibility of falling, and waiting my arrival to complete his bliss. O happy hour, which shall also set my soul at liberty, and unite us, never to part more.
"In the morning I asked the nurse if there was any alteration; she said, no. I again returned to take another view, and was surprised to find his color and countenance unchanged. I began to be extremely uneasy at having consented to so early a burial. I returned again, and again; O, how I wished to have kept him for ever. Ten o'clock came; the company assembled; I became very uneasy; at last I discovered it to Dr. Bowie, begged he would only view him; how fresh the color—how every way like life. He assured me there was not the smallest doubt but that he was gone. I was not satisfied with this, but made them all inspect him. All agreed in the same thing, and I was obliged to yield, and the dear remains were ravished from my sight. What a night I passed the night after the funeral! I had ordered our own bed to be made up, and at the usual time retired; but in vain did I try to sleep; the moment my senses began to lose sensibility, I was in a kind of dream. Finding myself alone, I imagined he was out at supper, though he seldom was without me; now I thought I heard his foot on the stairs, and started up to listen if it were he, and to bid him welcome, when my roused senses told me what I could still hardly credit, that I had no husband to expect, and threw me into a fresh agony, which kept me awake till I had in some measure again reconciled myself to my solitary situation. But having only slept a few hours since my dear doctor was taken ill, I no sooner got my mind a little composed, than sleep again began to overpower my senses, when the same, or a similar imagination roused me.
"The morning came. When I was called down to breakfast, the sight of his empty seat distracted me. I returned to my room, though I thought it my duty to take some nourishment. I had it brought to me. Alas, I could nowhere turn my eyes but the sight was connected with this dear idea, and recalled past delights, never more to return. Our back windows looked into the garden, on which he had bestowed so much labor and pains, and which he was just bringing to perfection. Here we had spent many pleasant hours together, and indulged that freedom of conversation, the natural consequence of an unbounded confidence. The double arbor he had reared, and so contrived as to screen from both the south and the western sun, bid fair, in a short time, to screen us also from every eye. Hitherto we had been confined to morning hours, or afternoon, when it was shaded by the house; but had often pleased ourselves with the hours we should spend in this cool retreat, even at noonday, while, screened from the sun's scorching rays, we might enjoy the refreshing breeze through its leafy openings; but these delightful prospects were now for ever at an end. I might, indeed, there take my seat; but the tongue which everywhere charmed, was buried in deepest silence. The company which rendered every scene pleasant was gone, never to return: his sheep, his goats, nay, even the poultry, were often fed from his hand: every thing served to distract. As for my children, they were by kind friends kept for some time out of my sight; for not only to view them fatherless distressed me, but their thoughtless mirth and play was altogether insupportable.
"I accepted an invitation from Mr. Gilbert's family to spend some time in the country with them; for though it was impossible for me to forget for one moment, yet, when these objects were removed from my sight, I was more able to turn my thoughts upward, to where my heart's treasure now is, and where I myself expect to be. We had two men-servants, and my two Indian girls; one of the men I dismissed, the other I left to take care of the living creatures about the place. One of my girls I boarded where she would be in good company, and with my children and their maid I abandoned my solitary dwelling. I met with a very tender reception from that worthy family. My situation here was such as I both expected and wished, and attended with many outward circumstances which had the probability of making it supportable. I was allowed to be as much by myself as I chose. No one intruded on my privacy without my consent; but one or other of the Mrs. Gilberts often visited me in my own room, and drew from my bursting heart all its griefs, sympathizing, soothing, and advising at the same time. They are both women of great piety, having for many years devoted their hearts, time, talents, and fortune to the service of God; and their two husbands likewise, whose business it has been to instruct the ignorant negroes without fee or reward. Had it not been for this family, I know not where the distraction of my mind might have ended." * * * *
Thus was Mrs. Graham, at the early age of thirty-one, left a widow in a land of strangers. Her husband, companion, protector, was gone: a man of superior mind, great taste, warm affection, and domestic habits. She was left with three daughters, the eldest of whom was not over five years of age, and expecting an increase of her infant charge. Of temporal property she possessed very little: she was at a distance from her father's house: the widow and the fatherless were in a foreign land. The change in her circumstances was as sudden as it was great.
That sympathizing heart with which she was accustomed to receive and return the confidence of unbounded friendship, and thus, by reciprocal communion, to alleviate the trials and enrich the enjoyments of life, was chilled in death. All the pleasing plans, all the cherished prospects of future settlement in life were cut off in a moment. While sinking into a softened indifference to the world, in the contemplation of her severe loss, she was, on the other hand, roused into exertion for the sustenance and support of her young family, whose earthly dependence was now necessarily upon her.
Not satisfied with the custom of the island, in burying so soon after life is extinct, her uneasiness became so great that her friends judged it prudent to have her husband's grave opened, to convince her that no symptoms of returning life had been exhibited there. The fidelity of her heart was now as strongly marked as her tenderness. She dressed herself in the habiliments of a widow, and determined never to lay them aside. This she strictly adhered to, and rejected every overture afterwards made to her of again entering into the married state. She breathed the feelings of her heart in a little poem, in which she dedicated herself to her God as a widow indeed.
On examining into the state of her husband's affairs, she discovered that there remained not quite two hundred pounds sterling in his agent's hands.
These circumstances afforded an opportunity for the display of the purity of Mrs. Graham's principles, and her rigid adherence to the commandments of her God in every situation.
It was proposed to her, and urged with much argument, to sell the two Indian girls, her late husband's property; but no considerations of interest or necessity could prevail upon her thus to dispose of immortal beings, the work of her heavenly Father's hand. One of these girls accompanied her to Scotland, where she was married; and the other died in Antigua, leaving an affectionate testimony to the kindness of her dear master and mistress.
The surgeon's mate of the regiment was a young man whom Dr. Graham had early taken under his patronage. The kindness of his patron had so far favored him with a medical education, that he was enabled to succeed him as surgeon to the regiment.
Notwithstanding the slender finances of Mrs. Graham, feeling for the situation of Dr. H——, she presented to him her husband's medical library and his sword: a rare instance of disinterested regard for the welfare of another.
This was an effort towards observing the second table of the law, in doing which she was actuated likewise by that principle which flows from keeping the first table also. Nor was the friendship of Dr. and Mrs. Graham misplaced. The seeds of gratitude were sown in an upright heart. Dr. H——, from year to year, manifested his sense of obligation, by remitting to the widow such sums of money as he could afford. This was a reciprocity of kind offices, equally honorable to the benefactors and to them who received the benefit: an instance, alas, too rarely met with in a selfish world.
It may here be remarked, in order to show how much temporal supplies are under the direction of a special providence, that Dr. H——'s remittances and friendly letters were occasionally received by Mrs. Graham until the year 1795; after this period her circumstances were so favorably altered as to render such aid unnecessary; and from that time she heard no more from Dr. H——, neither could she learn what was his subsequent history.
It may be profitable here to look at Mrs. Graham, contrasted with those around her whose condition in the world was prosperous. Many persons then in Antigua were busy and successful in the accumulation of wealth, to the exclusion of every thought tending to holiness, to God, and to heaven. The portion which they desired they possessed. What then? They are since gone to another world. The magic of the words, "my property," "an independent fortune," has been dispelled; and that for which they toiled, and in which they gloried, has since passed into a hundred hands; the illusion is vanished, and unless they made their peace with God through the blood of the cross, they left this world, and alas, found no heaven before them. But amidst apparent affliction and outward distress, God was preparing the heart of this widow, by the discipline of his covenant, for future usefulness—to be a blessing, probably to thousands of her race, and to enter finally on that "rest which remaineth for the people of God."
Her temporal support was not, in her esteem, "an independent fortune," but a life of dependence on the care of her heavenly Father: she had more delight in suffering and doing his will, than in all riches. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." To those who walk with God, he will show the way in which they should go, and their experience will assure them that he directs their paths. "Bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sure." She passed through many trials of a temporal nature, but she was comforted of her God through them all; and at last was put in possession of an eternal treasure in heaven, "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal." May this contrast be solemnly examined, and the example of this child of God made a blessing to many.
In anticipation of her approaching trial, with which her own life might be suddenly terminated, Mrs. Graham set her house in order, and wrote the two following letters: one to her friend Mrs. Grandidier, to whom and her husband Capt. Grandidier, she committed the charge of her family and affairs; the other to her father in Scotland, commending her children to his protection. Her tender and affectionate appeals to each of them in respect to their own eternal welfare, are a beautiful specimen of that Christian fidelity and love of the souls of men which so strongly characterized her future life.
"ST. JOHNS, Antigua, 1774.
"MY DEAR MRS. GRANDIDIER—The long and steady friendship which has subsisted between us, in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity, ever the same, without change or diminution, leaves me no room to doubt that it will extend to my little family, and that you will be as ready, to the utmost of your power, to befriend them, as you have been to the dear father already gone, and your friend, who is, perhaps, about to follow.
"If it should please God to take me away in my approaching confinement, I leave you and Capt. Grandidier full power to dispose of every thing in this house, and belonging to me in this island, as you shall think most for the advantage of my little family. You know my extreme tenderness for their dear father made me unable to part with any of his clothes, but these can be of no consequence to me when I shall again have joined him for whose sake I kept them; you may therefore dispose of them, and also of my own, if you think the avails will be of more service to the children. But I do not choose to leave any particular directions about my trifling effects; you will consult with other friends, and I am certain you will act for them to the best of your judgment. It is a great relief to my mind that I have such steady and tried friends to leave the charge of them upon. Miss G. B—— has promised to take J——, and it is my desire that the others, and the infant yet unborn, if it survive, be sent to my father, where I will leave them to be disposed of and provided for by that God who has fed me all my life, by their heavenly Father, who has commanded me to leave my fatherless children upon him, that he will preserve them alive, and whose promise I have, that he will never leave them nor forsake them.
"Mr. Reid will not be less kind to the offspring of his friend when they have lost, than when they were under a mother's protection. May the blessing of the widow and the fatherless follow him wherever he goes, and may God recompense him a thousand-fold in blessings spiritual and temporal. Let Diana* be sent with my children; if there be an infant, you know a nurse must be found for it, whatever it cost. As for Susan,* I am at a loss what to do with her; my heart tells me I have no right to entail slavery upon her and her offspring; I know I shall be blamed, but I am about to be called to account by a higher power than any in this world for my conduct, and I dare not allow her to be sold. I therefore leave it to herself either to remain here, or if it be her desire, to accompany the children. I beg Mr. Reid will be kind enough to allow her a passage with the rest.
*The two Indian girls.
"And now, my dear friend, as the greatest happiness I can wish you, may that God whom I have chosen as my own portion, be yours also; may he, by his outward providence and by the inward operations of his Spirit on your heart, lead you to himself and convince you of the truth. But O, my dear friend, shut not your eyes and ears against conviction. You are not satisfied that the Bible is indeed the word of God. Is it not worth inquiring into? What would you think of a man who had a large fortune, and the whole depending on proving some certain facts, and yet would not be at the pains to inform himself? Are the interests of this world of such importance, which in a few fleeting years we must leave and have done with for ever, and our final state in the next, which is to fix us in happiness or misery through the endless days of eternity, not worth a thought? Think then, and seriously ask, 'What if it be so? What if this be indeed the word of God given by inspiration, for the rule of both our faith and manners, and by which we are to be judged? What if this same God, who so kindly reveals his will to men, has with it given the clearest evidences and strongest proofs that it is his own word?' Think, I say, my dear friend, if it should be so, what they deserve who either reject or neglect it without taking the trouble to inform themselves, or to be convinced that it either is or is not of divine authority.
"How many great, learned, and wise men have sifted these evidences with the greatest care, and the deeper they entered into the search, the more clear they appeared, even those whose lives are entirely contrary to it, and whose interest it is to wish it false, cannot deny. As to the various explanations of it, it is every one's duty to read for himself, and although there may be some parts of it too deep for every capacity, and which may perhaps require a knowledge of the history of the times to understand, yet the simple truths of the gospel, what we are to believe concerning God, and what duties he requires of us, and what he forbids, are equally plain and easy. If we can only once be satisfied that it is indeed the word of God, set ourselves to study it with an unprejudiced mind, with a sincere desire to know the truth and be led by it, with earnest prayer that the same Spirit which inspired the writers would make it plain to our hearts and understandings, that God himself would teach us its true meaning, and save us from error, we shall, I venture to say, be taught all necessary knowledge, and be led in the way to eternal life, and not suffered to err: we have God's promise that it shall be so. 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.'
"Forgive me, my dear friend; the subject appears to me so important that I know not how to have done. I love you with a true and sincere friendship: I love your soul, and am deeply interested in its eternal happiness. Once more I commit you to that God, who only can lead you to himself and to true happiness; and that you may know the truth of this from deep experience, to the eternal joy, peace, and safety of your immortal soul, is the last prayer of your affectionate friend, who hopes to meet and rejoice with you in our Redeemer's kingdom.
Mrs. Graham to her Father.
"ANTIGUA, May, 1774.
"MY EVER-DEAR FATHER—If this ever reach you, it will be when I have taken my final leave of this world, and received my portion for eternity in the next, when I hope I shall have gained the summit of my wishes, and be happy in the society of my dear husband and much-loved mother, in the kingdom of our Redeemer.
"My truly orphan children I have desired to be sent to you; though I see no visible way you have to provide for them, yet I am perfectly easy concerning them. I leave them upon that God who has fed me all my life, and whose tender care I have experienced in a thousand dangers—upon their and my heavenly Father, who has commanded me to leave my fatherless children upon him, and he will preserve them alive. The God of providence will prepare for them a home, and raise up friends, perhaps from a quarter neither you nor I could expect.
"My only concern and prayer to God for them is, that they may be early taught to love God and serve him—that they may fall into such hands as will carefully instruct them in the principles of morality and religion, and teach them the great, but too little thought of truth, that our chief business in life is to prepare for death. As to the polite parts of education, I look upon them as of no consequence; they may be as good Christians, perhaps better, without than with them; the perfection of their nature no way depends upon them. I am equally indifferent what station of life they may occupy, whether they swim in affluence or earn their daily bread, if they only act their part properly, and obtain the approbation of their God in that station wherein he in his infinite wisdom sees fit to place them.
"Remember to give my love to all my dear children. I reckon all that sprung from my dear doctor mine; and though I did not suffer a mother's pangs for them, Heaven knows how equally I love them with those who cost me dearer. Tell them I leave them a mother's blessing; and my last prayers, if it please God to continue my senses, shall be for their best interests.
"And now, my dear father, suffer one parting word, though from one no way entitled to advise: this is the third loud call for you to be also ready; according to the course of nature, you must very shortly follow; you can have very little more to do in this world, and therefore the smallest share of your attention is due to it. The young, the gay, the giddy, and thoughtless hold it a wise maxim to forget their departed friends as soon as possible; this may be worldly, but it cannot be heavenly wisdom. To be fully and entirely resigned to the will of God in all things, is certainly the characteristic of a Christian; but this is perfectly consistent with the most tender remembrance. That resignation—but indeed it deserves not the name—which consists in forgetfulness, in banishing thought and drowning reflection in worldly cares and amusements, can be no grateful offering to Him who has commanded us to have our loins girt and our lamps trimmed, and to be always ready, for in such an hour as we think not 'the Son of man cometh.' How often are we commanded to watch, to set our affections on things above, to be dead to the world, to lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven. These injunctions are inconsistent with forgetfulness; and if it be our duty to meditate on death and eternity, nothing more naturally leads our minds to that subject than the recollection of departed friends, who, if pious, are not lost, but only gone a little while before, taken from our earthly and added to our heavenly treasure.
"Believe me, my dear father, to a mind abstracted from the world and devoted to God, death, though solemn, has nothing dreadful in it; on the contrary, to a mind rightly disposed it is rather a desirable object. Just conceptions of God, and converse with him, will very soon change the aspect of the king of terrors to a welcome messenger, who comes to set open the gates of immortality, and to usher us into the kingdom of our heavenly Father. And now may our most gracious God grant you, through your few remaining days, his direction and consolation; may he bestow upon you that peace which the world can neither give nor take away; and when the appointed time of your change shall come, may the comforts of his Holy Spirit so cheer and refresh your soul, that you may be able, without a doubt or a fear, to resign it into the hands of your Redeemer.
"Give my love to Hugh. The sentiments expressed in his letters bespeak him a worthy brother, and deserving of my highest esteem. I would have written to him, but I have still some directions to commit to writing concerning my little family, and my hour is at hand; but tell him I will remember him in my last prayers. I charge him not to banish the idea of his worthy and now glorified mother, lest with that he also forget her precepts; but prepare to meet us who are gone before; and O, that our meeting may be with joy on both sides. It is hard for youth, in the present age, to follow our Christian pattern. Every real Christian, every Bible Christian, must lay his account with being branded with the name of enthusiast; but tell him to remember that the opinion of the world cannot alter the nature of holiness, nor the maxims of Christ. Let him read, think, and judge for himself with an unprejudiced mind; with a hearty desire to know and be led by the truth; to be taught of God, and conformed to his will in all things, and I venture to promise he will not be suffered to err. But let him avoid disputes about religion, they are seldom productive of any good; let him fortify his mind against banter and ridicule, it is no small degree of persecution. Yet, if he be determined to follow his Lord, he must expect to meet with it, and I know from experience it is hard to bear. I have found the safest way is to receive it in silence; for those who are disposed to ridicule the appearance of religion in another, are not in a fit disposition to be convinced by any argument, at least at that time, and few can dispute without heat, which is a transgression against the virtue of meekness, and very apt to lessen our love to the person who opposes us. We lose the spirit of brotherly love in hot-headed zeal, which perhaps deserves a harder name, but conceals itself under that appearance; and it is no small victory gained over ourselves if we are able to love, wish well to, and be ready to serve those whose sentiments differ from ours.
"I leave you and yours, and mine, upon the Fountain of all goodness, and may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.
"Your ever dutiful and affectionate daughter,
It pleased God to preserve the life of Mrs. Graham, and to make her the grateful mother of a son, whom she called after the name of his father, and endeavored, in humble trust, to consecrate to the Author of his being.
Having now no object to induce her to stay longer at Antigua, she disposed of her slender property, and placing her money in the hands of Major Brown, requested him to take a passage for herself and family, and to lay in their sea-stores. After seeing a railing placed around the grave of her beloved husband, that his remains might not be disturbed until mingled with their kindred dust, she bade adieu to her kind friends, and with a sorrowful heart turned her face towards her native land.
RETURN TO SCOTLAND—SCHOOL IN EDINBURGH.
No ship offering at this time from Antigua for Scotland, Mrs. Graham embarked with her family in one bound to Belfast, Ireland. Major Brown and his brother officers saw her safely out to sea; and he gave her a letter to a gentleman in Belfast, containing, as he said, a bill for the balance of the money she had deposited with him. After a stormy and trying voyage, she arrived in safety at her destined port. The correspondent in Ireland of Major Brown delivered her a letter from that officer expressive of esteem and affection, and stating that as a proof of respect for the memory of their deceased friend, he and his brother officers had taken the liberty of defraying the expenses of her voyage.
Consequently the bill he had given was for the full amount of her original deposit; and thus, like the brethren of Joseph, she found all her money in the sack's mouth. Being a stranger in Ireland, without a friend to look out for a proper vessel in which to embark for Scotland, she and her children went passengers in a packet; on board of which, as she afterwards learned, there was not even a compass. A storm arose and they were tossed to and fro for nine hours in imminent danger. The rudder and the mast were carried away; every thing on deck thrown overboard; and at length the vessel struck in the night upon a rock, on the coast of Ayr, in Scotland. The greatest confusion pervaded the passengers and crew. Among a number of young students, going to the University at Edinburgh, some were swearing, some praying, and all were in despair. The widow only remained composed. With her babe in her arms she hushed her weeping family, and told them that in a few minutes they should all go to join their father in a better world. The passengers wrote their names in their pocket-books, that their bodies might be recognized and reported for the information of their friends. One young man came into the cabin, asking, "Is there any peace here?" He was surprised to find a female so tranquil; a short conversation soon evinced that religion was the source of comfort and hope to them both in this perilous hour. He engaged in prayer and then read the 107th Psalm. While repeating these words, "he maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still," the vessel swung off the rock by the rising of the tide. She had been dashing against it for an hour and a half, the sea making a breach over her, so that the hold was now nearly filled with water. Towards morning the storm subsided, and the vessel floated until she rested on a sand-bank. Assistance was afforded from the shore, and the shipwrecked company took shelter in a small inn, where the men seemed anxious to drown the remembrance of danger in a bowl of punch. How faithful a monitor is conscience! This voice is listened to in extreme peril; but O, infatuated man, how anxious art thou to stifle the warnings of wisdom in the hour of prosperity. Thousands of our race, no doubt, delay their preparation for eternity until, by sudden death, they have scarcely a moment left to perform this solemn work.
Mrs. Graham retired to a private room, to offer up thanksgiving to God for his goodness, and to commend herself and her orphans to his future care.
A gentleman from Ayr, hearing of the shipwreck, came down to offer assistance; and in him Mrs. Graham was happy to recognize an old friend. This gentleman paid her and her family much attention, carrying them to his own house, and treating them with kindness and hospitality.
In a day or two after this she reached Cartside, and entered her father's dwelling; not the large ancient mansion in which she had left him, but a thatched cottage, consisting of three apartments. Possessed of a too easy temper and unsuspecting disposition, Mr. Marshall had been induced to become security for some of his friends, whose failure in business had reduced him to poverty. He now acted as factor of a gentleman's estate in this neighborhood, of whose father he had been the intimate friend, with a salary of twenty pounds sterling per annum and the use of a small farm.
In a short time, however, his health failed, and he was deprived of this scanty pittance, being incapable, as the proprietor was pleased to think, of fulfilling the duties of factor.
Alive to every call of duty, Mrs. Graham now considered her father as added, with her children, to the number of dependents on her industry. She proved indeed a good daughter—faithful, affectionate, and dutiful, she supported her father through his declining years; and he died at her house, Feb. 13, 1783, aged 75, during her residence in Edinburgh, surrounded by his daughter and her children, who tenderly watched him during his last illness.
Having resided two years at Cartside, she removed to Paisley in 1778, where she taught a small school. The slender profits of such an establishment, with a widow's pension of sixteen pounds sterling, were the means of subsistence for herself and her family. When she first returned to Cartside a few religious friends called to welcome her home. The gay and wealthy part of her former acquaintances, who, like the butterfly, spread their silken wings only to bask in the warmth of a summer sun, found not their way to the lonely cottage of an afflicted widow. Her worth, though in after-life rendered splendid by its own fruits, was at this time hidden, excepting to those whose reflection and wisdom had taught them to discern it more in the faith and submission of the soul, than in the selfish and extravagant exhibitions of that wealth bestowed by the bounty of Providence, but expended too often for the purposes of vanity and dissipation.
In such circumstances, the Christian character of Mrs. Graham was strongly marked. Sensible that her heavenly Father saw it good, at this time, to depress her outward condition, full of filial tenderness, and like a real child of God resigned to whatever should appear to be his will, her conduct conformed to his dispensations. With a cheerful heart, and in the hope of faith, she set herself to walk down into the valley of humiliation, "leaning upon Jesus," as the beloved of her soul. "I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart," was the spontaneous effusion of her genuine faith. She received with affection the scriptural admonition, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you."
She laid aside her children's fine frocks, and clothed them in homespun. At Cartside she sold the butter she made, and her children were fed on the milk. It was her wish to eat her own bread, however coarse, and to owe no person anything but love. At Paisley, for a season, her breakfast and supper was porridge, and her dinner potatoes and salt. Peace with God and a contented mind supplied the lack of earthly prosperity, and she adverted to this her humble fare, to comfort the hearts of suffering sisters, with whom she corresponded at a later period of life, when in comfortable circumstances.
Meantime the Lord was not unmindful of his believing child; but was preparing the minds of her friends for introducing her to a more enlarged sphere of usefulness.
Her pious and attached friend, Mrs. Major Brown, had accompanied her husband to Scotland, and they now resided on their estate in Ayrshire. Mr. Peter Reid, a kind friend when in Antigua, was now a merchant in London. This gentleman advised her to invest the little money she had brought home—and which she had still preserved—in muslins; which she could work into finer articles of dress, and he would ship them in a vessel of his own/freight free, to be sold in the West Indies. His object was partly to increase her little capital, and partly to divert her mind from meditating so deeply on the loss of her lamented husband. The plan so kindly proposed was soon adopted; the muslin dresses were shipped; but she soon afterwards learned that the ship was captured by the French. This was a severe loss, and more deeply felt as it was received at the time when her father was deprived of his office.