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No wonder that Ann Eliot should have deemed it a service of piety to shield such a husband from the perplexity and lowering tendency of secular cares. Not only did she succeed in rendering a small salary equivalent to all the needs, proprieties, and charities of their position, but also managed to lay aside something for a future day, when sickness or age should quell the energies of action. Singularly regardless was the apostolic man of all such worldly wisdom. The bread of to-morrow never occupied his thoughts. Perhaps even that of the passing day might not have entered there, save that it formed a petition of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. He said that the sons of Levi should not seek their heritage below, and that the earth was no fit place on which to lay Aaron's holy mitre.'
An historian of these times, in describing how little his peaceful mind occupied itself with the science of accumulation, says, 'Once, when there stood several of his own kine before his door, his wife, to try him, asked, * Whose kine are these?' and she found he knew nothing about them.'
Among the multitude of employments which a systematic division of time enabled her to discharge, without omission or confusion, was a practical knowledge of medicine, which made her the guardian of the health of her young family. The difficulty of commanding the attendance of well-educated physicians, by the sparse population of an infant colony, rendered it desirable, and almost indispensable, that a mother should be neither unskilled nor fearful amid the foes that so thickly beset the first years of life. The success of Mrs. Eliot in the rearing and treatment of her own children, caused her experience to be coveted by others. In her cheerful gift of advice and aid, she perceived a field of usefulness opening around her, especially among the poor, to whom, with a large charity, she dispensed safe and salutary medicines. But her philanthropy was not to be thus limited to the children of penury. Friends and strangers sought her in their sicknesses, and she earnestly availed herself of the best medical works that she could obtain, to increase her knowledge, and her confidence in its application. To her well-balanced mind and large benevolence, it seemed both proper and pleasant, that while the beloved companion of her life devoted his energies and prayers to the welfare of the soul, she should labor for the health of the body. Often they found themselves side by side at the couch of suffering, and a double blessing from those ready to perish came upon
them. To the pastor himself, this sphere of benevolence, where his wife so willingly wrought, was a source of intense satisfaction, and he tenderly encouraged her both in the study and exercise of the healing art. He exulted in her success, as far as his heaven-wrapt spirit could exult in any thing of earth. Deeply delighted and grateful was he when, on one prominent occasion, her skilful and ready service enabled them effectually to discharge the difficult Christian duty of rendering good for evil. Notwithstanding the meekness and self-denial of his course, he was not always exempt from the shafts of calumny. A man of a proud and lawless temper took offense at a sermon of his, and repaid his simplicity and godly sincerity' with hatred and persecution. His passionate abuse extended to both tongue and pen. After a considerable period of time, he sustained a dangerous accident, and Mrs. Eliot, whose fortitude did not
shrink from surgical cases, undertook the dressing of his wounds. Her services were gladly accepted, and eventually successful. After his recovery, he called to render thanks in person. The forgiving pastor took him by the hand, and, as it was meal-time, led him to his table. In the grace that preceded the repast, he gave thanks that the sick was restored. She, who had so faithfully labored for his healing, was in her seat at the table, to dispense her free hospitality with the smile of welcome. No allusion was made to the past; but were there not writhings of remorse in the heart of the traducer? The warmth of these coals from the Christian altar melted enmity into love, and the man who had been so openly injurious ever afterward took pains to prove that he 'to whom much is forgiven, loveth much.
It might naturally have been expected that a woman so high-principled as Mrs. Eliot, so firm in duty, so fervent in holy trust, would be also exemplary in the endurance of affliction. Though she considered her lot as a favored one, never having accounted toil or privation as evils, she had her share in that cup which He who drank it to the dregs usually appoints his disciples to taste. Her six carefully-nurtured children all attained a vigorous maturity,
youngest He was a fine boy of twelve, earnest both in books and sports
, and pressing with joyful expectation on the verge of active life. Suddenly, at its threshold, he faltered and fell. •God touched him, and he slept.
Four other sons remained. Each in succession received the benefits of a collegiate education, and all cheered the hearts of their parents by decidedly and seriously choosing the work of the ministry.
Samuel, who was two years older than his brother whom the tomb had so early claimed, was lovely both in person and in mind. He was a graduate of Harvard at nineteen, and eminent in his youthful bloom, both for learning and goodness. In love with knowledge, he lingered a while as a fellow of the university, ere he should assume the crook of the sacred shepherd, and lead souls beside living waters. The wing of the dark angel overshadowed him, as he mused among the pages of wisdom, and communed with the spirits of other times. His bright eye grew dim to earth. He went to read in the Book of Heaven.
The first-born son bore the name of the father, and inherited his gentle temperament. He was refined by a love of classic lore and the attainment of many accomplishments. The warmth and force of his pulpit eloquence were proudly appreciated by the people at Newton, among whom he was settled ; and his zealous piety moved him to give instruction to the roving natives, having mustered the aboriginal language. His parsonage was made pleasant by the young bride whom he had brought there, and mingling with the song of birds was a new music; the voice of a babe, stirring the parents' hearts with strange gladness. But a few months had passed over the head of the boy, the third John Eliot, ere the father lay in his coffin. In the strength and fulness of his prime, having scarcely numbered his thirty-second year, he was removed from a loving flock and cherished home. “Не
grew so fast,' says the author of the ‘Magnalia Christi Americana,' 'that he was soon ripe for heaven, and upon his death-bed uttered such penetrating things as could proceed only from one on the borders and confines of eternal glory.'
One of the latest of his precious counsels which is recorded was to “his dear friends, to get an interest in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ.'
Of this diminished family two sons remained, bearing the naines of the children of Rachel — Joseph and Benjamin. The destroying angel stayed his hand, and the lenient influences of time, and the balm of God's Holy Spirit, healed the wounds that he had made.
Joseph Eliot had assumed the charge of a church in Guilford, Conn. The difficulties of change of place, and the obstructions presented to travelers in those days, rendered his removal to a different State a grave circumstance in his native home. Letters were welcomed as now they might be from a distant land, and a visit was an achievement; for there were dark forests, and rough roads, and scarcely fordable streams to be surmounted. But the parents knew that he had an attached people, and a faithful wife and little ones, like the olive plants, around his table. They were already advanced and somewhat wearied in the vale of years. Yet he was to go to rest before them. They saw him laid low with their buried treasures, and bowed themselves mournfully, though unmurmuringly, over the dead.
The youngest, Benjamin, the mother's darling, and the one who, perhaps, most resembled herself in person and in heart, was still spared.
Still she sat peacefully and lovingly by the side of her heavenly-hearted husband. More than fourscore years had passed over them. Their minds were unimpaired and their charities in action. Life to them was pleasant with hallowed memories and hopes that never die. The scenes of by-gone days gleamed before them as through the soft, dreamy haze of an Indian summer, the woes divested of their sting, and the joys sublimated. They spoke to each other of all that they had borne with the same humble gratitude. This love of their old age seemed like that of angelic natures.
Yet not useless were they, nor forgotten. No one was weary of them. The tender attentions of their daughter -- herself a woman in the wane of years, but cheerful and vigorous — were unwearied and beautiful. It was supposed that she had overruled, in the prime of life, allurements to form a home for herself, that she might devote her life to her parents, and comfort them for the children they had lost. Doubtless her filial piety brought its own high reward.
Sometimes the venerable pastor ascended the pulpit, and in a voice enfeebled, though still sweet, besought his flock to love one another. Still to the arm-chair of his aged wife, where by the bright wood-fire and the clean hearth she sat, came those who suffered, and she gave medicine for the sick and food to the hungry.
Thither also came the poor forest children, no longer lords of the soil. Humbled in heart and sad, they found Christian welcome. They were told of a country where is no sorrow or crying, and urged to make the King of that country their soul's friend. They loved him who had toiled to give them the Bible, and had baptized their children, and laid their dead in the grave with prayer. They loved her who had smiled so kindly upon and pitied their sick babes, as though they were her own. Their
dark brows were furrowed with sorrow as they marked the increasing infirmities of their white father and mother; for they said, “When these go to the land of souls, who will remember us poor Indians ?'
It was the great grief of Eliot, then approaching his eighty-fourth year, to see his heart's companion fading away from his aged arms. than half a century she had clung to him, or hovered around him, like a ministering angel. In the words of the prophet, he might have said, 'I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness to a land not sown.'
He would fain have hidden from himself her visible decline. Yet, day after day, he saw the light from heaven's windows beam more and more strongly upon her brow, and felt that she was to reach home before him. He who had borne all other trials firmly had not strength, to take a full prospect of this. He could not willingly unclasp his hand from hers and lay it in the cold grasp of the King of Terrors. His prayer was that, if it were possible, they might go together down through the dark valley of the shadow of death, and up to the great white throne, and Him who sitteth thereon.
But her hour had come, and in that, as well as in all the duties of life, she was enabled to glorify God. Serenely she resigned the burden of this failing flesh, and entered a world of spirits. The desolate mourner-husband, it would seem, had never before fathomed the depths of grief. She who had been not only his help-meet but his crown, whom he had so long prized and cherished, rejoicing in her good works and in the honors she received, had gone and left him alone.
'God,' says a contemporary writer, ' made her a rich blessing, not only to her family, but to the neighborhood; and when at last she died, Í heard and saw her aged husband, who very rarely wept, yet now with many tears over her coffin, before the good people, a vast confluence of whom were come to her funeral, say, 'Here lies my dear, faithful, pious, prudent, prayerful wife. I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me. And so he followed her to the grave, with lamentations beyond those with which Abraham deplored his aged Sarah.'
Touching and eloquent eulogium! and justly deserved. Equally so are a few lines from the pen of the apostle himself; which, though only intended as the simple record of a date and a fact, are embalmed with the tears of the heart:
• In this year, 1687, died mine ancient and most dearly beloved wife. I was sick unto death, but the LORD was pleased to delay me, and retain my service, which is but poor and weak.'
The sympathy of his flock was freely accorded to the smitten shepherd; for each one felt that the loss which bowed him down was their own. The popular affection was signified in a beautiful and somewhat unique form — a vote to erect a ministerial tomb; and a unanimous and quaintly expressed resolution, “That Mrs. Eliot, for the great service she hath done this town, shall be honored with a burial there.'
Sincere tribute from honest hearts, more to be coveted than the plumed hearse and all the splendid mockery of wo. So, to the keeping of that tomb ‘wherein man was never yet laid,' were intrusted the mortal remains of that saintly woman, whose consistent example of every duty appertaining to her sex and sphere will be remembered through future generations. Scarcely had three more winters cast their snows upon the earth, ere the companion of her days was laid by her side, of whom it might have been said, as of a blessed man of old, 'that eighty-and-six years he had served his Lord and SAVIOUR, who did not forsake him at his last need.'