« ZurückWeiter »
Christian deportment were a safe defence against unkinduess and injustice. Nevertheless, she had to do with a variety of characters ; and at times even the best of them did not exactly meet her views of propriety. She was exposed to injury and insult in common with others; but even then she would pity the offender, and forgive the offence. In this respect she imbibed the spirit of her Lord, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; and who also assures us that, "if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." And then, again, she loved much. Her love to God was pure and ardent; and whilst loving him with all her heart she endeavoured to love her neighbour as herself. Finally, as St. Paul classes joy amongst the graces of the Spirit, I cannot forbear adding, that our pious friend did honour to her profession as a cheerful and happy Christian. Piety is no enemy to enjoyment. Mrs. Schofield prized her privileges, and rejoiced in the Lord all the day long. Religion was her solace and her joy. It made her happy under all circumstances; in health and in sickness, in life and in death. Truly "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
We have already remarked, that where genuine piety exists an individual will be useful; and, like Tabitha, our departed sister was eminent for "good works and almsdeeds." Her piety awakened holy zeal, and she carefully improved opportunities for doing good. Her benevolent heart glowed with an intense desire to be useful, and her best energies were directed to several important objects. In the first place, Mrs. Schofield considered the poor, and evidently rejoiced to do them good. The deep interest she took in the Dorcas meeting, and the generous manner in which she supported its funds, and laboured to promote its efficiency, will be long and gratefully remembered, not only by those who enjoyed the fruits of her benevolence, but also by others who had the privilege of being associated with her in that good work. She took great delight, also, in serving the Church. Of her devotion to the interests of this Society many can testify. Here she felt at home; and whenever health and circumstances allowed, she was regularly found in the sanctuary. But it was not by example only that she endeavoured to serve the cause of Christ, for she frequently went out and invited— nay more, she intreated others to come in, that the house of God might be filled. We might refer to those who have done honour to this place, who were first induced to attend by her influence.
But perhaps the greatest service Mrs. Schofield ever rendered here was in connexion with the ladies' sewing-meeting. This invaluable institution sprang out of the Dorcas meeting, and was commenced at the preacher's house in the autumn of 1842. Since then, the meetings
time before her death. The writer of this little notice had long been privileged with an acquaintance with Mrs. Schofield, and he can safely aver that he never found her to swerve from the dignity and meekness of the Christian character. But she is gone from among us. Her virtues have left an odour of meek and sanctified, but sober and saddened delight, and her memory is sweet to our taste. Let us, my friends, be followers of them who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises. May I not conclude, in the language of the Christian poet,
'Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee,
Though sorrows and darkness encompass the tomb;
have been regularly held in the chapel vestry. The plan adopted is this: a number of ladies join, and furnish tea in rotation. At each meeting as many as possible are induced to attend. Perhaps one person may thus have to provide once in twelve months. Needlework, confectionery, and articles of every description are sought for and gratuitously supplied at every meeting, according to the lady's ability or influence amongst friends. The articles are sold, and the proceeds, together with the subscriptions at the tea-table, are placed to the lady's account, and handed over to the treasurer as her contribution. The first article offered in this way was the gift of Mrs. Schofield. Since then, she has raised upwards of fifty pounds at a single meeting! She was appointed treasurer at the origin of this good work, and retained that important office to the close of life. The objects to which such contributions have been devoted have always been at the discretion of the parties composing the meeting. At one time they assisted the Society; but of late they have chiefly devoted the results of their efforts to the reduction of the chapel-debt. Already, many hundreds of pounds have thus been paid off; and arrangements are now in progress for freeing this estate of all its incumbrances, which the laudable ambition of the ladies will ere long accomplish. The heart of our dear friend was fixed on this great object. Providence has not permitted her to see it fully realized; yet, whilst life and health remained, she gave it her best attention. And though she sleeps in the dust of earth, her name will always be honourably associated with this important institution; and her noble exertions in connexion with it can never be forgotten by the members and friends of the Methodist New Connexion in Manchester.
But Mrs. Schofield's chief anxiety was to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of her own family. She felt the important responsibility of her position, and endeavoured to improve it to the glory of God. When she looked at her dear partner and interesting children, and thought of them as heirs of immortality, her concern for their salvation was overwhelming. By example, by counsel, and by prayer she endeavoured to lead them to God, that they might be saved. I shall never forget the manner in which she once spoke to me on the subject. Referring to her family, she said, "0 Mr. B., I woidd rather see my children good than great; I would rather see them fearing God, and , walking in his ways, than rising to the highest distinction in the world." That anxiety and intense feeling never left her; and having spent her days in teaching them the fear of the Lord, and daily imploring the influences of his Spirit on their hearts, she commended them to God with her dying breath, and devoutly prayed that they might at length appear "a whole family in heaven." Surely such prayerful and unceasing efforts cannot be in vain. God of families! look mercifully on those whom she has left behind! and may the revelations of the last day make it manifest that on their behalf she did not live and labour in vain!
Having given this brief sketch of the life, character and usefulness of our departed friend, we must turn your attention once more to the language of our text, which points out,
Thirdly, the closing scene of Tabitha's useful life. "And it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died." There seems to have been something mysterious in the sickness and death of this estimable woman. She was cut off in a career of usefulness, and at a time when her valuable life appeared specially desirable. What a singular Providence! and, to us, how strange and inexplicable! At such events reason is confounded, and we can only " wonder and adore."
At Joppa, Tabitha was well known; and, no doubt, universally esteemed. Her disinterested benevolence would command general attention, and those who admired her pious labours would be deeply affected by the intelligence of her death; but the greatest amount of sorrow would be found amongst those who had long experienced her friendly care. They thought of their departed friend, and "many widows stood weeping;" and, as an expression of their gratitude, "they showed the coats and garments which Dorcas made, whilst she was with them." What an affecting sight! She was dead, but her pious deeds still lived in the recollections of thousands; her name was as fragrant as ointment poured forth; it was engraven on the table of their hearts, and could never be effaced. And it was meet that it should be so, for such benevolent actions ought to be recorded, not in Joppa only, but in every city and nation under the sun; and "Verily I say unto you, that •wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." She lived to benefit the poor, and thus insured a glorious reward. For, "they canuot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
This ought to remind us that the best of saints are mortal, and will soon pass away; the most exemplary and useful of our race cannot live long. We have just had another proof of this solemn fact in the death of our truly estimable and useful friend, Mrs. Schofield.
Sickness frequently interferes with Christian usefulness, but death brings the most zealous and well-directed efforts to a final close: "For there is no work, nor device, nor Knowledge in the grave," whither we are all hastening. We have often seen our dear friend laid aside for a season, but returning health always found her again at the post of duty. But it is not so now. Her work is done, and she is gone to her reward.
Mrs. Schofield's last illness was short, and death came at an hour when least expected. We have already remarked, that she had so far recovered from a serious affliction as to be able to leave her room for a few days; but on Saturday, October 25th, an unfavourable change took place, and, the very next day, danger was apprehended. It must be an awful thing to lie stretched upon a death-bed, and to have the solemn realities of eternity opening before us. Divine grace can, however, sustain the mind in the immediate prospect of such a change. It has done so in ten thousand instances; and the experience of our expiring friend affords another proof that at eventide there shall be light.
When on a dying bed, she said but little. No doubt her mind was too much occupied with solemn thought to expend itself in conversation. But though her remarks were few, they were explicit and satisfactory. She was ready for her change, and could therefore say, "To die is gain." Her constant and affectionate friends were always at her side, ministering to her wants and catching those precious words which fell from her dying lips. At one time, when Mrs. Auderton referred to a number of sweet passages in the Psalms, and other portions of the sacred volume, which had often proved a source of consolation and encouragement in time of trouble, Mrs. Schofield emphatically replied, " Oh, yes; they have frequently comforted me. From them, and from many other 'exceeding great and precious promises,' I have often derived comfort.'' How consoling to he able to refer to the past, and thus demonstrate from our own personal experience the goodness and faithfulness of God. An affectionate partner and endeared children stood weeping at her side, but they could afford no assistance. To whom, then, could she look for help? Not to man, but to God. Yes, to that God in whom she had long trusted, and by whose almighty arm she had always been sustained. To him she looked with confidence, knowing that he was able to hold her up. He had delivered and would deliver, because she trusted in him; and therefore, "committing her soul to him, as unto a faithful Creator," she exclaimed,
His love in times past forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure to bring me quite through.
Well might David say, " They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever."
The nearer a saint approaches the heavenly world, the more transient and worthless all earthly things appear in his estimation. But at those awfully solemn and affecting times, there are two objects which always seem to retain all their power and influence upon the Christian's heart. I refer to the Church and to the members of his own family. These two objects were powerfully present to Mrs. Schofield's mind when the world was passing from her vision, and her spirit was about to ascend to the paradise of God. At that solemn noment her thoughts turned to this place. She remembered the sanctuary and those estimable friends with whom she had been long associated in " works of faith and labours of love;" but she was called to enter into the joy of her Lord. To her the change was glorious; but, as if to soothe the grief and encourage the dejected hearts of those with whom she had worshipped and laboured, she said, "But you can do without me." How expressive of her humility and childlike simplicity! You must do without her, but her absence will be felt and universally deplored. But there stood her sorrowing husband and ever-affectionate children; and how could she part with them? The thought was distressing, the struggle was severe; but reflection brought relief. She loved them dearly, and would have lived for their sake; but the Lord determined otherwise. In giving them up she thought of the resurrection, of the Paradise of God, and the final gathering together of the saints. Yes, she thought of that day, and cherished a blessed hope of meeting them all again, where
Death shall all be done away,
And therefore, pouring out her expiring breath in prayer, she exclaimed, "Oh that at the last day I may be able to say, Here am I, and all that thou hast given me!" Amen. God grant that not one of them may be lost, but may they all stand accepted with her before the throne in peace!
But oh, how enchanting are the thoughts and prospects of heaven, especially to one who is suddenly torn away from everything that is near and dear to him on earth! The Christian often ascends the skies in anticipation, and thus scales the mount of God before that welcome voice falls upon his ear, and ravishes his heart, saying, "Come up hither!" And when the pinions of faith carry the struggling soul away, and show him visions of God; when his astonished eye rests on the celestial city, with its walls of jaspar and streets of gold, he is enchanted. He sees the city which has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. The nations of them which are saved walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth bring their honour and glory unto it. Sin and suffering are no more known, for "God" himself "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." I say, when these blissful visions of a glorious immortality are presented to the eye of a dying saint, no wonder that he longs to drop the robe of mortality, and enter into the joy of his Lord. It was just so with our sainted sister. She caught a glimpse of the new Jerusalem and sighed to be there. It could not be otherwise. Such prospects were transporting; and as heaven opened she was in raptures. And then, full of joy and hope, she exclaimed," Oh, what a happy place!" Yes, it is a world of bliss; and with such prospects of her future home it was impossible to enchain her any longer to this vale of tears. "Oh, what a happy place!" And again she added, " Oh, how happy I shall be in that place,
Where congregations ne'er break up
It was enough. The desire of her heart was granted. God in mercy cut short his work in righteousness; and at forty-five minutes past eleven o'clock on Monday morning, Oct. 27th, 1851, the pearly gates of the celestial city opened, and sister Schofield entered into that region of endless felicity—
Where glorified spirits by sight,
Converse in their holy abode,
And pure as the angels of God.
And now, my dear fiiends, but one thing more remains to be done, and that is, to address a few observations to you who have listened to these mournfully interesting and deeply affecting details. And in doing so, it will be proper to observe—
First, That this solemn event ought to remind us that we are mortal. Though here to-night in the enjoyment of our usual health, we knownot what shall be on the morrow. Death is standing at the door. Our excellent friend is gone, and we must shortly follow her to the grave, the house appointed for all living. "We must all needs die." There is no exception. There can be none. The sentence of death is already in ourselves; and before long we must go the way whence we shall not return. Reflect on these things, and God grant that they may produce a salutary effect on all our hearts.
Secondly, From what you have heard to-night, it must be quite evident that the great secret of being prepared for death is to have the heart always right in the sight of God. A sense of his favour will not only comfort and support the mind under all the cares and anxieties of