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The Cottars of the Glen
Chapter VIII


Death of Saunders's daughter Janet—Death-bed experience— Triumph of faith—Funeral—Strange customs.

An event now befel which filled the household of honest Saunders with mourning. His daughter Janet, whose conversion we have already noticed, was seized with a disorder which terminated in death. She was of a delicate frame, was unfit for any active employment, and was therefore confined to the house and to her needle. So long as her strength permitted she was never absent from the church—a distance of about two miles and a half; but gradually her attendance became more seldom, through infirmity. This she much regretted, from the love she bore to the ordinances. She was always anxious to be present at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, that she might obey the command, "This do in remembrance of me." The last sacramental occasion she attended was a time of much enjoyment to her, but it was observed by her in the midst of much exhaustion. On the evening, when she reached her home, she felt herself so feeble and faint, that she leaned upon the bed, scarcely able to move a step farther, and with great solemnity she said to her mother, "This, I think, will be the last time that I shall drink of the fruit of the vine on earth in commemoration of my Lord's atoning death." And it was the case. But then, He who was weakening her strength in this way, was maturing her in her soul for the heavenly rest, and preparing her for sitting down in the kingdom of God, with the great redeemed family, at a table that shall never be drawn.

As her weakness increased, and death appeared in the prospect, her faith and fortitude arose in proportion. Her fear of death had vanished—her faith had conquered that. Her confidence was strong, her consolations abounded, her prospects were glorious. She waited the event of her dissolution with a heavenly calmness that was truly edifying and encouraging to the faith of those who beheld her. Her heart was already in heaven; she longed to reach her Father's house, gloomy as the passage might be through which she was to reach it. Heaven was familiar to her; she had often tasted of its joys, and she was willing to submit to the painful stroke that was to dismiss the soul from its earthly prison-house, and to introduce her into the presence of the Lord.

As she drew near her end her pains were sometimes very severe, and though they extorted groaning, they excited no murmurings. She had resigned herself entirely into the hands of her heavenly Father. She knew that all was working for her good, and that the Lord chastened her for her profit.

On one occasion, when she had recovered from one of her severe turns, she said to her mother, "I thought I was just entering into the haven, but I find I must put out to sea again, and be for a while longer tossed on the ocean." O how sweet is rest to the weary, and especially that rest that is to be found in the bosom of the Saviour! What a change must heaven be to the believer when there he finds himself or ever free from pain and sorrow, for ever free from sin and guilty fears, and swallowed up in the plentitude of the Divine fulness, world without end! O earth, how frivolous art thou! how trifling are all thy pleasures and pursuits, when viewed in the contrast of a blissful eternity! How precious is that gospel which raises the lowly heart to the loftiest heights of heavenly bliss, from which, on looking down on earth, every sublunary thing dwindles into nothingness.

At another time she awoke from a pleasant dream, in which she thought she was in heaven, and heard the blessed voices of an innumerable throng uttering joy and songs of praise to the Highest One on His lofty throne in glory; and, said she, "I thought that every one strove to raise his voice to the loudest pitch, and in the sweetest tones to celebrate the praises of redeeming love unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and to His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen!"

On another occasion, when she awoke from sleep, she said u she imagined that she felt the sweet influences of the blood of Christ coming warm upon her cold heart, and oh how pleasant it was!" Happy they who have taken refuge under the covert of this blood; it is their shield and their salvation.

The day before she died she was much tossed with a restlessness that sometimes precedes dissolution. She could find no ease for her weary body, there was no rest for it but in the grave; but, then, the mind was in peace, in perfect peace, trusting in the Lord. The day following her pains and toils had greatly abated, for her constitution was worn out, and her life hung by a single thread. At length the moment came when that thread was to be broken, but it was broken by a gentle hand, and she expired like a child falling into a sweet sleep.

"One gentle sigh her fetters broke,
We scarce could say she's gone,
Before the willing spirit took
Its station near the throne."

Thus drooped and faded the lowly flower of Crawick. Her name was scarcely known save by her immediate acquaintances. Her fame never spread beyond the banks of the secluded stream on which she dwelt, but she was known to God, and acknowledged as one of his children. Many a flower of the sweetest hues grow in the lonely desert, and is beheld by no human eye; but there it lives, and blooms, and smiles in the face of the glorious sun, from whose beams it drinks in all the rich beauty of its charming colours, and after flourishing for a season it droops and dies, and is no more seen on earth. So is it with many a saint of God that wons in the solitude of the upland wilds. There many a pious family lives unknown to fame, growing up, generation after generation, in the fear of God. Janet Gray belonged to this class, and she was simply a specimen of many that might be given in the same situation of life.

She was buried in Old Eirkbride, in Nithsdale, the lonely resting-place of her ancestors; and there, among the ruinous monuments of the ancient dead that have been forgotten time out of mind, is to be seen the lowly grave of "the flower of Crawick," which shall bloom again when the morning of the resurrection shall dawn on the gloom of the sepulchre.

Many precious moments did Janet spend in poring over the Holy Scriptures, which were the nutriment of her faith and the solace of her heart. No book was so dear to her as the blessed Book of grace, with respect to which her motto was—

"Here would I learn how Jesus died
To save my soul from hell;
Not all the books on earth beside
Such heavenly wonders tell."

The number of Scripture passages which she had treasured up in her memory was truly astonishing, and they were all of the richest description. On these she continually ruminated. But this was not all; she committed large portions of other books to memory. When she happened to receive the loan of a book, she applied herself instantly to lay up in her mind the best portions of it; and thus, as the bee gathers honey from every flower and stores it in the cells, did she make a sacred treasure-house of her memory. Her mind was literally filled with Divine things, and she hid God's good Word in her heart, that she might not sin against Him; and verily it did its work, in sanctifying her inmost nature and in purifying her life.

Her heart was continually welling up the precious truths that had an abiding place there, and her profiting appeared to all, for her lips fed many, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. It was delightful to hear her repeating not only whole chapters of the Bible, but page after page of any religious author whose sentiments were worthy of being retained. What a contrast is all this to the conduct of many young persons who have pleasure in reading anything but the Bible, and who never think of storing up its sentences in their memory. For this they have no heart; songs and romances, and frivolous, if not profane, writings, are the only things for which they have any taste. Parents should be on their guard respecting the books that are found in the hands of their children, for their after life is often the result of that with which their minds have been imbued in their early years.

In the dreamy watches of the night she used to occupy herself in repeating hymns and passages of the Word of God, and in this way she beguiled many a tedious and painful hour. The spirituality of her mind was such that even in her sleep she was sometimes as busy as when awake, in giving utterance to the pious breathings of her heart, and often repeated aloud portions of the Divine Word when she was unconscious of what she was about. Some have prayed in their sleep as earnestly and devoutly as when broad awake, and have even experienced communion with God of the sweetest description. All this displays a sanctified taste and a heavenly, state of mind that is much to be courted.

Janet's intercourse with heaven was uniform, for she was never happier than on her knees in secret devotion before her God, and the blessed communings of her spirit with her heavenly Father often brought her to the very gates of heaven. Her heart was far above this earth, and her faith entered into the most holy place. If ever heaven was enjoyed on earth by any human being, it was by her, for she seemed to have no other care than to live near God and serve Him. Those who lived with her knew the secret of her happiness, and could explain the cause of that sweet placidity which always rested on her countenance. It was because she was at peace with God, and experienced the ceaseless outlettings of His graciousness.

She was remarkable for her love to the Saviour. As she had not the slightest suspicion of His love to her, so she did not hanker in her love to Him. " We have known and believed the love that God hath to us" was a statement the truth of which she deeply felt. Everything she did or said had a reference to Jesus Christ, and she deemed no duty or privilege greater than to love Him. An aged woman who lived next door fc^ Janet's abode used to say that a young female friend of hers was just like Janet Gray in her love to the Redeemer, and that she often expressed herself in these words—"O, what a pleasant thing it is to love God!" This love is the essence of all real godliness, the very soul of all true religion; and where this soul is not to be found, all the rest of a person's profession is a mere carcase, a dead formalism, and utterly naught in the sight of God.

The great design of the gospel is to introduce this love into the heart, and to fasten it there till it work its blessed work, in conforming the. whole inner nature to itself. Christ is an object of transcendent loveliness, and on Him the soul may expand itself in all the depth of its intensest affections and holiest likings. And oh, what a happiness it is to love such a person! The heart must have something to love before it can be blessed; for he is of all men the most miserable, who has nothing to love. Man is made to love; and surely if we feel a pleasure in loving aught, we must feel the greatest pleasure in loving Christ, who is the perfection of beauty, and who loved us and gave himself for us.

This account of Janet is veritable; it is an authenticated portrait of the original. She was cut off in the bloom of womanhood, and transported to blossom in the heavenly paradise of God.

Her funeral was numerously attended, for the inhabitants of the glen "did her honour at her death," and all the obsequies common on such occasions were duly observed.

We may here notice the manner in which, a hundred years ago, funeral services were administered in the glen. A person was sent round the district, to invite all the male population to accompany the remains of the deceased to the churchyard. The company invited assembled in a barn or some spacious apartment, to partake of the customary entertainment. The people were seated on forms or planks provided for the purpose, and a number of servitors were ready to carry round the liquor and the different sorts of bread furnished for the occasion. A minister or elder present began by asking a blessing, or more properly by putting up a prayer, which usually extended to half an hour at least, and sometimes to a much greater length. After this the first round, as it was called, was served, and this consisted of huge slices of cheese and loaf bread, preceded by a glass of strong whisky, and sometimes of home-brewed ale. Next followed a glass of rum, accompanied with shortbread: this was the second round. The third consisted of a glass of wine, with large square pieces of rich bun. In some cases these rounds may have been repeated. And finally, there were carried round the circle, on trays or in baskets, a large quantity of pipes and tobacco, of which almost all availed themselves, so that the place was filled with the fumes that were puffed from a hundred mouths at once; and this, mixed with the fumes of the liquors, caused a more than usual excitement, and the talking and clatter of the company became deafening, and the solemnity of the occasion was nearly altogether forgotten. In many instances not a few were highly intoxicated, and followed the bier to the churchyard staggering from side to side. The lovers of drink never missed the occasion of any funeral to which they were invited. It was a festival, a high day, to which they looked forward with eagerness.

The abuses on these occasions were often enormous; and the funerals of persons of some distinction were all attended by prodigious crowds, and large flocks of the general beggarhood convened from all parts far and near, in the eager expectation of a more than ordinary awmus which, at those times, was commonly distributed. A worthy octogenarian once told us, that at the funeral of an ancestor of his the whole length of the road, which was the full stretch of a mile from the house to the churchyard, was filled with a procession, the rear of which was just leaving the dwelling-house when the van was entering the "kirk-stile." Some, he said, fell by the wayside, dead drunk, and the beggar craft, who amounted to about sixty, were laden with the fragments of the breadstuffs which had been presented in the barn. These were great abuses—they were peculiar to the time, and were, no doubt, partly deplored by many who did not see their way to get rid of them. Many poor people who, on such occasions, wished to be like their neighbours, involved themselves in difficulties out of which they could never afterwards extricate themselves. Happily, these customs are now all laid aside, not only in the glen, but throughout the country generally. Our good friend Saunders complied with the ordinary usage; and if he had not done so he would have been regarded as niggardly, and one who, according to the language of the time, had buried his child like a dog.


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