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Scottish Stories from the Treasure Chest
A Mother's Love

What is a mother’s love?
A noble, pure, and heavenly flame,
Descending from above,
To bless a heart of earthly mold;
A mother’s love can ne’er grow cold—
This is a mother’s love.

In a small village by the sea-shore, in the Highlands of Scotland, lived a poor widow with her only child, an infant boy. Hard was her lot at this time—for her rent was overdue some weeks, and the agent threatened to dispossess her of her little farm, if it was not paid at once.

The little village where herself and ancestors had lived for more than three generations was about to be swept away, in order to enlarge a sheep farm. Indeed, along the margin of the great stream which watered the green valley, and along the shore of the lake, might even be traced the rains of many a hamlet where happy and contented people once lived, bnt where no sound is now heard, except the bleating of a solitary sheep, or the scream of the eagle as he wheels his flight among the dizzy precipices above. Earnestly did the widow desire to keep her little home; and to enable her to do so, she determined, after due consideration, to make known her trouble to a kinsman of her husband’s, who, at the time of his death, promised, if she needed it, he would assist her to pay her rentv It was a lovely morning in May, when the widow left her home very early, that she might reach her kinsman’s house before night, carrying her infant boy, who was not yet two years old, upon her back. The journey was a long one. The mountain track which she had to travel, after leaving the small village by the sea-shore, where the widow lived, passes through a green valley, watered by a peaceful stream which flows from the neighboring lake; it then winds along the margin of the solitary lake, until near its farther end it suddenly turns into an extensive copsewood of oak and birch. From this it emerges half-way up a rugged mountain side, and, entering a dark glen, through which a torrent gushes amidst great masses of granite, it at last conducts the traveler by a zigzag ascent to a narrow gorge, which is hemmed in upon every side by grand precipices. Overhead is a strip of blue sky, while all below is dark and gloomy. It was, indeed, a wild and lovely path, that requires the eye to behold to realize the journey and situation of this poor widow with her fatherless babe.

From the mountain pass her home was ten miles off, and no human habitation was nearer than her own. She had undertaken a long journey indeed. The morning when the widow left her home gave promise of a lovely day, but before noon a sudden change took place in the weather. Northward the sky became black, and lowering masses of clouds rested upon the hills, and sudden gusts of wind began to whistle among the rocks, and to ruffle with black squalls the surface of the loch. The wind was succeeded by rain, and the rain by sleet, and the sleet by a heavy fall of snow. The wildest day of winter never beheld flakes of snow falling heavier or faster, or whirling with more fury along this the mountain pass, filling every hollow, and whitening every rock. It is yet remembered in Scotland as the great May storm. Weary and wet, foot-sore and cold, the widow reached this mountain pass with her child. She knew that a mile beyond was a shieling which would afford her shelter from the blast; but the moment she attempted to face the storm of snow which was rushing through the narrow gorge, all hope failed of proceeding in that direction. To return home was equally impossible. She must find shelter. The wild cats’ or foxes’ den would be welcome. After wandering about for some time among the huge fragments of granite which skirted the base of the overhanging precipices, she at last found a more sheltered rock. She crouched beneath a projecting rock, and pressed her child to her trembling bosom. The storm continued to rage; the snow was accumulating overhead. Hour after hour passed, and it became bitterly cold.

The evening approached, and the widow’s heart became sick with fear and anxiety. Her child—her only child—was all she thought of. She wrapped him in her shawl, but the poor thing had been scantily clad, and the shawl was thin and worn. Her own clothing was not sufficient to defend herself from such a night as this, more piercing in its cold than had been felt all winter. But whatever was to become of -herself, her child must be preserved. The snow, in whirling eddies, entered the recess, which at best afforded them but a miserable shelter. The night came on. The wretched mother stripped off almost all her own clothing, and wrapped it around her child, whom, at last, in despair, she pat into a deep crevice of the rock among some dried heather and fern. And now she resolved, at all hazards, to brave the storm, and return home, in order to get assistance for her babe, or perish in the attempt. Clasping her infant to her heart, and covering his face with tears and kisses, she laid him softly down in sleep, and rushed into the snowy drift.

That night of storm was succeeded by a peaceful morning. The sun shone from a clear blue sky, and wreaths of mist hung along the mountain tops, while a thousand water-falls poured down their sides. Dark figures, made visible at a distance on the white ground, might be seen with long poles examining every hollow near the mountain path. They are people from the village, seeking for the widow and her son. They have reached the pass. A cry is made by one of the shepherds as he sees a bit of tartan cloak among the snow. They have found the widow— dead, with her arms stretched forth as if imploring assistance. Before noon they discovered her child by its cries. He was safe in the crevice of the rock.

The story of that woman’s affection for her child was soon read in language which all understood. Her almost naked body revealed her love. Many a tear was shed, many an exclamation, expressive of admiration and affection, was uttered from enthusiastic, sorrowing Highland hearts, when on that evening the aged pastor gathered the villagers in the deserted house of mourning, and by prayer and fatherly exhortation, sought to improve, for their soul’s good, an event so sorrowful.

More than half a century passed away! That aged pastor was long dead, though his memory still lingers in many a retired glen among the children’s children of parents whom he had baptized.

This son, whose locks are white with age, was preaching to a congregation of Highlanders in one of our great cities. It was on a communion Sabbath. The subject of his discourse was the love of Christ. In illustrating the self-sacrificing nature of that love, “which seeketh not her own,” he narrated the story of the Highland widow, whom he had himself known in his boyhood. And he asked, “If that child were still living, what would you think of his heart if he did not cherish the greatest affection for his mother’s memory; and if the sight of the poor tattered cloak, which she had wrapped around him, in order to save his life at the cost of her own, did not fill him with gratitude and love too deep for words? Yet what hearts have you, my hearers, if over these memorials of your Savior’s love, in the sacrifice of himself, you do not feel them glow with deeper love and with adoring gratitude?”

A few days after this, a message was sent by a dying man with a request to see this clergyman. The request was speedily complied with.

The sick man seized the minister by the hand, and gazing intently on his face, said: “You do not, you can not recognize me. But I know you, and I knew your father before you. I have been a wanderer in many lands. I have visited every quarter of the globe, and fought and bled for my king and country. I came to the city a few weeks since in bad health. Last Sabbath day, I entered your church—the church of my countrymen—where I would once more hear, in the language of my youth and of my heart, the blessed Gospel of the grace of God to poor, perishing, dying men. I heard you tell the story of the widow and her son”—here the voice of the old soldier faltered, his emotion choked his utterance, but, recovering himself for a moment, he cried: MI am that son!” and burst into a flood of tears. “Yes,” he continued; “I am that son! Never, never did I forget my mother’s love. Well might you ask, what a heart should mine have been if she had been forgotten by me? Though I never saw her, dear to me is her memory; and my only desire now is, to lay my bones beside hers in the old church-yard among the hills. But, sir, what breaks my heart and covers me with shame is this: until now I never saw, with the eyes of the soul, the love of the Savior in giving himself for me—a poor, lost, hell-deserving sinner. I confess it, I confess it! ” he cried, looking up to heaven, his eyes streaming with tears; and, pressing the minister’s hand close to his breast, he added:

“It was God that made you tell that story. Praise be to his holy name that my dear mother did not die in vain, and that the prayers which I am told she used to offer up for me have been at last answered; for the love of my mother has been blessed by the Holy Spirit, for making me see, as I never saw before, the love of the Savior. I see it, I believe it. I have found safety and deliverance in my old age, where I found it in my infancy—"In the cleft of the rock—but now it is the Rock of Ages.’” And, clasping his hand, he repeated with great earnestness my text, altering the one word woman, to mother—“Can a mother forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? They may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”

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