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Good Words 1860
Visiting the Poor

We are passing through busy streets, where restless footfalls beat on unceasingly. We pause a moment, for here in olden days England's maiden Queen rode by, and reined her steed to admire a noble tree, bearing the well-known "Black Pear." Then and there did her right royal will command, such pear should thenceforth form heraldic part of that "Faithful City's" arms. A few paces onward, and Elizabeth with royal bounty selected the site, and assigned endowment, of homes for the homeless. And so the royal alms became alms-houses. It is a royal place still, for here sojourneth many a king's daughter, though humble and lowly in guise. Yes, to many an aged one this is the last waiting antechamber to the court of the great King. Gladly ready are they, waiting for the moment when they shall enter into that presence, where is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.

But they shall speak for themselves, though pen can never trace the flowing utterance, the heaven-bright smile, that add reality to their words. Elizabeth S. is sitting in her old corner, and the best chair and cushion are quickly placed for her visitor. We must pass by all the hearty welcomes.

"Here you find me, far from home, and yet every night it is such joy to me to think I am one day nearer. When I wake in the morning, I think I've got over a great deal of my journey to heaven, without knowing it. Oh, no one knows the joy I have; I only long to go and see Him face to face.

Soon I shall be out of the enemy's gunshot, and be where faithful pilgrims wander no more, but are for ever with the Lord. But you have been to Ireland, my dear, and I think they don't know much about Him there?"

She listens, and wonders, and pities; and says—

"Poor things, what can they do, they have not got Christ. Oh, how dark their poor souls must be! He is my all; what can they do without Him! Oh, He is precious; when shall I see Him face to face? He is very present with me now, but then there will be no veil. Oh, to think of those blind priests, and my own precious minister! I always look to see who goes up the pulpit, and if it's not Mm, my heart sinks. I can welcome all God's servants, yet I take most to him that preaches to my heart. How lively he comes among us old people; I know his step in a minute, and say, 'Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'"

We must pass on to a simple-minded old body who cannot read a word.

"How are you Mrs E.?"

'Oh, my dear Miss, it's a handsome treat to see you again. I've been to the table, and I want to tell you how trembling and unworthy I felt to take that blessed acknowledgment. It overpowered me like, such love to a poor creeping one as I am. But I do love Him, yes, I love that blessed name of Jesus. My poor Tom loved it too, and that sweet hymn I learnt, 'How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.' Ah! my Tom, my jewel's gone. I think I see him walking up there—but he is too far off for me to reach him yet, but I am getting nearer and nearer."

Then she listens even as a little child to the words of Him who "spake as never man spake."

We should like to photograph our next friend, with her intellectual forehead and calm, sweet smile. The refinement of grace pervades her tone and manner, and we sit down here to learn some of her long and well-learnt lessons,

"Dear E., it is so pleasant to come and see you again, and your room is quite beautiful after the Irish cabins. But I do wish you had something better to look at than that great red wall."

E.—"That wall, dear Miss, teaches me many a sweet lesson. I look at those stones, and think how all rest on one foundation; I see each in its little niche, just where the master's hand laid it, and I see all cemented 'together. Then I think of the one foundation, Jesus Christ, and how His living stones are laid one on the other in the spiritual temple, and I hope there is some little niche for me to fill. Then, the strong cement of love binds us together in one blessed union. I have been very ill lately, and one day I really thought the undressing of my mortality was come. I felt no alarm; no wish, no will but His. My mind was brought back to the word on which I first cast anchor long years ago, 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' Then what a claim He has upon us, who redeemed and cleansed us in His own blood! We are not our own, but bought with that priceless blood, and are His, and His for ever."

We must now run up those narrow stairs, in that very dark corner of the alms-houses. A sunbeam never strays in there, the little window is due north, and our teacher, the red wall, frowns closely in upon it. But there is one light step and youthful smile that often throws something like sunshine on the lonely, desolate one who dwells there.

'' I heard you were ill, D., are you better this morning?"

"Yes, I am better now, thank you. Oh, what should I have done if my dear young visitor had not come her rounds! I crept down one night to shut the staircase door, and could not get back again, and for a long, long time I lay on the stairs, and then crept cold to bed. So one came for two days, and I lay ill and cold and lonely. Then Miss V. came, and didn't she run and get a brick and heat it, and put it hot to my feet; and didn't she boil the kettle, and get me a warm drink, and didn't she shake my pillows? Didn't her smile cheer me up? I have not been cold since she came, —that dear young lady!"

We will leave many more kind words and good unwritten, and give a parting glance at the faded picture of good Queen Bess, still hanging on the old gallery wall. Once a year aged fingers wreathe childhood's flowers, leaves of oak and sunny buds, to twine around their queenly memorial.

Shall we knock at an old man's home? It is hard to find so many pious mankind, but maybe it is they talk less. But our friend Tom not only talks, but lives, the life all do, to whom "to die will be gain." He is a quaint old man; it is a wonder his tidy wife does not look after his hair,—such long, straying locks; very proud must she have been of them in his young days. The room is hung round with inky-looking old plates of ancient divines, down to the bright-coloured portrait of our own dear little Princess Royal. Every shelf and corner is stuffed with curious glasses, china cups, chalky parrots, little Samuels, and odd and-end curiosities. Thomas is by his pleasant fireside, and the round table has the green-baize covered Bible on it,—a well-turned-over Bible, with divers markers of faded ribbons and twists of paper, marking some well-conned passages.

I shall begin our talk, for his heart is full of One; and he can "speak of the things touching the King."

"I like some one to call, to whom I can speak out my mind. It's my Redeemer I like to speak of—He is my delight. I am here for hours by myself, but He is my best company-keeper. I have His Word too—'my song in this house of my pilgrimage.' "

Visitor—"Oh, T., how different it is to hear you speak of the Bible, and as they do in poor Ireland!"

"Ay, Miss, I always heard it was a queer country, but I believe it's those priests at the bottom of it all, and they are blind, and so lead them backward instead of forward."

Visitor—"It is just so, Thomas, and I will tell you what old Mick the basket-maker said about the Bible, &c., &c.—'A dead letter!'"

"Did a man dare to say the Bible was a dead letter? Why, it's my life—it's a letter of life to me. Why, it's Him himself—isn't Jesus in the Word? I know I found Him in it, and that's the life in my dead heart. Well now, poor man, I am sure I will pray for old Mick. I argues pretty stiff with a Roman Catholic myself, sometimes, about that Virgin. I would not like to trust my prayers to the ears of a dead woman. Poor enough my prayers are anyway, and how can she be here and everywhere to hear us all at once? Well, I never could come over that!"

If not wearied with these passing calls, reader, you may perchance like to hear again of these our morning friends. Shall we pay them a more lengthened call, and gather their simple histories, and hear of all the way in which the Lord has led them through the wilderness?

Fair reader! will you, too, try some gloomy, shivering morning to take sunshine to some lone, dark room? Just close your pleasant book, just leave that intricate strain of Beethoven's, that difficult cadence for your voice, for which doubtless you will earn the world's cold "Thank you," in the evening's brilliant gathering. Go, listen to the music of some widow's heart which may sing for joy to find in yon a friend to care for her, to listen to her pent-up tale of sadness ! Go, read the words of Him who ''careth for the poor and needy," and pour their healing balm into that wounded heart! Do you still shrink from following the steps of Him who went about doing good? Oh, see well if yet the love of God has entered' into your own heart—or is it self you live for? Take heed lest to you may be said those last, startling words of endless reproach, ''I was sick, and ye visited me not."

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