Short Stories

Scotsman's Fireside (The) by Mrs. Divie Bethune

 

The Scotsman's Fireside

by Mrs. Divie Bethune

 

"From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs,

That makes her lov'd at home, rever'd abroad."

IN the year 1805, during the prevalence of the yellow-fever in New York, the late Mr. B-- resided a few miles from that city.

On his return one evening to the domestic circle, which then consisted of his wife and four children, and his venerable mother-in-law, the late Mrs. --, he said to Mrs. B--, "My dear, I fear I have done what will not please you."

Mrs. B--. "What is that?"

Mr. B--. "I have met with an old school-fellow and countryman, and invited him to stay with us while the fever prevails."

Mrs. B--. "And why should I be displeased with that?"

Mr. B--. "Because I know that he and you will not agree in politics."

Mrs. B--. "O, if that be all, we will avoid the subject."

Mr. B--. "But there is another subject on which you will be still more at variance. Mr. M-- has not only imbibed French principles in politics, but also on the subject of religion. He is an infidel."

Mrs. B--. "That, indeed, is bad. How shall we please him, and yet observe the religious duties incumbent on us as a Christian family?"

Mr. B--. "My dear, we must not omit one of them, and you must help me. When the hour for family worship arrives, you will call the family together, and we will do our duty as usual. Mr. M-- is a gentleman, and however he may be opposed to religion, his politeness will, at least, prevent him from ridiculing it."

In the course of the evening Mr. M-- arrived, and a few hours were spent in pleasant conversation, and recollections of the "land of the mountain and the flood"-the scenes of early life.

At the hour of nine Mrs. B-- rung the bell three times, the usual signal for calling the family together; and turning to the guest, said, "Mr. M--, we keep up the good old Scotch custom of family worship; I hope you have no objection to unite with us."

"Certainly not, madam," was his reply; "I hope I may not, in the least, interfere with your domestic arrangements."

The family assembled.

-------With serious face,

       They round the ingle[*] form a circle wide:

The sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace,

       The big hall Bible, once his father's pride;

Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,

       He wales[†] a portion with judicious care,

And, "Let us worship God," he says, with solemn air.

 

They chant their artless notes with simple guise;

       They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim:

Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,

       Or plaintive Martyrs', worthy of the name.

 

The priest-like father reads the sacred page

       Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme;

How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;

       How he, who bare in heaven the second name,

Had not, on earth, whereon to lay his head.

 

Then kneeling down, to heaven's eternal King

       The saint, the father, and the husband prays:

Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing,

       That thus they all shall meet in future days;

There, ever bask in uncreated rays,

       No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear;

Together hymning their Creator's praise

       In such society, yet still more dear,

While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere.

 

Cotter's Saturday Night.

 

Mr. M-- knelt with the family, and on rising, observed to Mrs. B-- that he had not bent his knee in the same manner for ten years. This led to serious conversation between him and Mrs. Graham, which was continued to a late hour; he, of course, arguing against revealed religion.

Next day, and every day, the subject was renewed, with much pleasantry and politeness on his part, and great forbearance on the part of those whose minds the Spirit of God had enlightened. Instead of saying, "Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou," they often said to each other, "Who maketh us to differ?" and united in private prayer that God would look in compassion on their guest, and bless their conversation to awaken him to a sense of his sin and danger.

One day, while conversing with Mrs. Graham, he remarked, "I have travelled through many countries, and have seen many families, but never, till now, have I witnessed such perfect happiness."

"Perhaps, sir," said the aged saint, "you never were with those who had an assured hope of an interest in Christ, and that, through his atonement, ‘all things shall work together for their good,' both in time and eternity."

"No, indeed I have not, since I left the parental roof."

One of the children, a lovely girl about two years old, was his particular favorite, and he often walked the garden with her in his arms, entertaining her with Scottish melody.

When the fever had subsided, Mr. M-- returned to W--, where he resided, to arrange his business previous to going to the West Indies to visit his brothers, with a view to procure aid towards embarking in the mercantile line. In the mean time it pleased God to remove by death the lovely olive-plant who had so often shared in his attentions.

On his return to New York, Mr. B-- could scarcely persuade him to visit the family, as he feared that Mrs. B--'s sorrows, on seeing him, would be renewed. He, however, was prevailed on, and again and again religion became the subject of conversation.

As Mr. M-- had recently been deprived of an office under government, his pecuniary means were slender, which caused Mr. and Mrs. B-- to add to his sea-stores such comforts as in those days were not furnished to ship passengers; and each determined to add provision for the soul as well as the body. Mrs. B-- put up a small pocket-Bible, with references in the blank leaf to appropriate texts; Mrs. Graham added "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul;" and Mr. B--, "The Refuge," with a long letter, superscribed, "Not to be opened till out at sea."

Many months elapsed before the family heard from Mr. M--, but he was often remembered at the throne of grace, and his three friends derived some consolation from the recollection that, during his last visit, he had appeared more serious, and had courted religious conversation. At length Mr. B-- received a letter from Mr. M--, dated at G--, at the close of which he remarked that, he never expected to be as happy as they, for his past life had been spent in such a way as to deprive him of all hope's of ever enjoying the favor of God.

But we will let Mr. M-- tell his own story. Two years after that period, he was again a visitor in that parlor where, for the first time in ten years; he bowed the knee. He then related to a dear departed Christian friend and Mrs. B--, the way in which the Lord had led him, until he found "peace in believing." His account was substantially as follows:

"There," said he, pointing with his finger, "there, on that spot, I bowed the knee in complaisance to man, while my heart was filled with enmity against God; and O, the long-suffering and compassion of that God, who of such a rebel has made a child of grace. The moment I found myself on my knees, early associations crowded on my mind; I did not hear a word of Mr. B--'s prayer, for I was immediately, in idea, transported back to similar scenes under my father's roof.

"I arose from my knees as if waking from a dream; and from that hour I have found myself often mentally asking the question, ‘If the Bible, after all, should be true, what must become of me?'

"When it pleased God to remove by death your lovely R--, I was filled with anger. ‘Is this the God so often extolled for his mercy and justice?' I said with myself; ‘does he thus reward those who faithfully serve him?' I felt that I could have torn him from his throne; and when I visited the city a few weeks after, I feared to call on you, lest the presence of one who so fondly loved your darling, should renew your grief; but Mr. B-- insisted, saying, ‘Go, my friend, and see the consolation religion affords in time of trouble.'

"Every time I visited you, and conversed with Mrs. Graham, I felt that there must be some source from which Christians derive happiness, of which I was ignorant. I did not avoid religious conversation, and generally left your family with a painful feeling that all my golden expectations of happiness connected with ‘liberty and equality,' and man's perfectability, must soon pass away; and that I must yield the palm of discovery to those whom I had often made the jest of revelry, and let that volume which I had considered only as ‘old wives' fables,' take the place of infidel writers. ‘Miserable comforters' I had found them all. Still, however, I felt irresolute as to my future conduct.

"When at sea, I read Mr. B--'s letter, and looked into the books that accompanied it. Every word I read condemned me; and I saw that I was a wretched, guilty sinner, at the mercy of an offended God. But to become "religious would mar my worldly prospects. I feared ‘the world's dread laugh,' when again I should meet my former associates. I had no time to retrace my steps, and I therefore continued in the same course, I took the letter and books, and pushing them out of sight at the bottom of my trunk, I determined to banish all thoughts of religion from my mind.

"I succeeded in my object in the West Indies, and returned to W--, from which place I wrote to Mr. B--, to inform him of my plans. Before closing my letter, thought ‘I must add something on the subject of religion, to please those good people, who are certainly the kindest enthusiasts[‡] I ever knew.'

"What I said called forth another letter from Mr. B--. He did not suspect my hypocrisy, but viewed me as one convinced of sin, and anxious to know what I should ‘do to be saved.' He advised me to procure Saurin's Sermons, and read that ‘On the Compassion of God.' But it was far from my intention to comply with his request; and only that part of his letter that related to worldly prospects was attended to. I continued to associate with the gay, carefully concealing the fearful doubts and forebodings which often haunted my mind while partaking in their revels.

"Shortly after, I made one of a party to attend a grand ball at A--. We dined at a tavern, and the glass circulated till the festive scene of the evening commenced. The exciting influence of dancing, added to that of wine, caused me to fly rather than dance, and by some means to me unaccountable, I fell and broke my arm. A young physician, one of the party, set it; and while the gay revelers returned to their homes, I was carried to the upper story of the building, where I passed a sleepless night, under the excitement of fever, aggravated by an alarmed and awakened conscience.

"Again early associations recurred to my mind, especially the slighted admonitions of a pious mother, blended with the remembrance of her soothing attentions in childhood, when laid on a sick bed. And ‘O, that I knew where I could find that God whose consolations she and my New York friends enjoy in time of trial!' was my earnest cry.

"My arm not being properly set, had again to be broken and reset, which made my confinement much longer than it would otherwise have been. I sent for Saurin's Sermons, and found consolation in reading the sermon recommended by Mr. B--. I carefully read Doddridge's Rise and Progress, every word of which seemed to accord with the state of my mind. I opened my long-neglected Bible. I saw that I was ruined by sin; justly condemned; and that there was no salvation except ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,' in whom God could be ‘just, and the justifier of him that believeth.' Into the arms of that Redeemer I was enabled to throw myself. I left my room, humbly trusting I had an advocate with my offended Father, in Christ Jesus; and cordially relying on his righteousness, I was freed from the awful dread of a judgment to come.

"I returned to W--, determined to break off from the world and my former associates; and now, ‘clothed and in my right mind,' never to quit the feet of Jesus.

"A few weeks after, hearing that the communion was to be dispensed at A--, I resolved that the scene of my former folly should first witness my deep repentance, and my humble trust in that Savior I had so long rejected. There I publicly devoted myself to him, and partook of the symbols of the broken body and shed blood of him ‘who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

"And now, my friends, will you not help me to bless and magnify the name of God, who thus took me from ‘the horrible pit' of infidelity, and ‘the miry clay' of worldliness and sin, and set my feet upon the ‘Rock of ages?' "

Mr. M--, during the whole of his subsequent life, proved his faith by his works. Prayer-meetings, Sabbath-schools, plans for ameliorating the condition of the poor, and all the benevolent objects of the day, shared his attention. He became an officer in the church, and by his philanthropy obtained the name of the Howard of G--n.

His constitution, never very robust, gave way about the age of forty, when he departed in peace.

Two of his three friends have since joined him-he who, like Abraham, "commanded his children and his household after him;" and the mother in Israel, who saw her children's children following her steps, and "who, being dead, yet speaketh."

READER, hast thou, like the subject of this narrative, imbibed infidel principles; does the Bible-if, indeed, thou hast one-lie unopened; do thy knees never bend to the God who made thee? Be instructed by the history of Mr. M--, and weary not thyself seeking happiness where thou seest he never found it. Take down thy long-neglected Bible. Turn to Psalm 14:1, and read the character of him who "hath said in his heart, There is no God." Then turn to those precious words, Isaiah 55:6, 7, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

Is the reader poor? And dost thou think thou hast no time to read thy Bible or to attend to the interests of thy soul? Turn to Psalm 127:1, 2, and thou wilt see that without the blessing of God, "it is in vain for thee to rise up early, to sit up late, and to eat the bread of sorrows." Then turn to Matthew 6:33, and immediately comply with thy Savior's command: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Are these pages read by a fireside like that above described; where the morning and evening worship are like a foundation and a covering to the dwelling? Let the value of early religious impressions, illustrated in this narrative, incite parents and guardians, not only to be faithful to their own households, but by every practicable method to promote the religious improvement of all the rising generation-contributing to Sabbath and infant-schools, and all charities for the ignorant and destitute, time, talents, and substance, according as the Lord hath given them.

Let this narrative also encourage the friends of the Redeemer to be faithful to those who may seem farthest from the kingdom of God. Let them remember in their prayers and their kind Christian endeavors, the rich, the infidel, the gay, and the proud. On all suitable occasions, and in a proper manner, let the truths of the Gospel be pressed even on their hearts; and let them be exemplified and commended, by a uniformly meek; consistent, and Godly example.

READER, whoever you are, while you reject the Gospel, you "spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not." Hear; then; and accept the invitation, Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money; come ye; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price."

 


 

[*]Fireside.

[†]Selects

[‡]Perhaps the epithet enthusiast grated on his mind, like coward on that of the duellist, and hushed the "still small voice of conscience."