In regard to her children, Mrs. Worthington had passed through a deep consecration. She fully realized that they were only lent her by the Lord, entrusted to her care to be trained for usefulness in his service, and she was determined to do all in her power to prepare them as the Lord intended. In all sincerity, she had placed her children upon the altar of consecration, promising God never to let her will interfere with his designs concerning them.
I do not think a child of God ever makes a consecration that is not tested in some form or other. This mother's consecration was tested.
A wealthy aunt, having lost all her children and being very lonely, thought to fill the vacancy in her heart and home by adopting a little child. After several vain attempts to find a suitable child, she sought the home of her niece, Mrs. Worthington. She came with many misgivings. When she made her errand known, her niece said: |Auntie, my children are no longer mine; I have given them to the Lord, and whatever is his will concerning them shall be mine. You will have to obtain my husband's consent.| Thus far Aunt A. was delighted with her success, and she eagerly sought the father. She tried to point out to Mrs. Worthington, who was heartbroken at the prospect of losing her child, how abundantly able she (the aunt) was to provide for the child and spoke of the extreme poverty of the Worthington home. The mother knew all this, but she knew too that God's Spirit does not always rule in wealthy homes. Would she do right to let her child slip from under her parental care? Many thoughts of this nature surged through her brain, and many temptations to say no came to her; but instead of giving a decisive answer she sought counsel from the all-wise Counselor. While in prayer she thought of faithful Abraham's trial regarding Isaac, and she felt that God was just as able to carry her through temptation or test, if she submitted all to his will.
Mr. Worthington gave his consent for one of the children to go for a visit. The aunt having chosen Bessie, hasty preparations were made for their departure. As the mother kissed her curly-haired little girl good-by, her heart seemed bursting with sorrow. She tried to control her feelings, but only God knew the wound that her aunt's parting words made. |Use your influence in my behalf, Niece, with your husband, in case we want to keep Bessie,| she had said, and then the great train moved slowly from the station. Abraham was all the mother could think of on her return home. Oh! would God give her back her child?
Letter after letter came, each telling how fond the aunt and her husband were of Bessie and how happy she was in her new home, but not a word about her return. Four, five, six weeks passed. Then one day a letter came stating that they had decided not to adopt a child now and that, as Bessie was getting homesick, the parents might expect her home the next day. Then, it had been only a test! Oh, how glad Mrs. Worthington was that she had been faithful. Yes, her God was the very same God that Abraham had served centuries before. It was hard to wait until train-time the next day. When once more the loving mother held her darling child in her arms, the tears that could not flow for weeks streamed freely.
Bessie was glad to be at home again. After the cold, formal, loveless life at her aunt's, she appreciated her own humble home more than ever before.
But a far greater test was waiting the dear mother -- one that would call for more than human strength to bear.
After Bessie's return Mrs. Worthington put forth every effort to teach her children more about heavenly things. She bore in mind the scripture, |Train up a child in the way it should go; and when it is old, it will not depart from it.| As she did not want to fail along this line, she spent every spare moment with her children. And she seldom let them go from home to visit unaccompanied by her; but one day, being very busy, she let them go alone to their grandmother's. The distance was not great, and Bessie, now nearly six years old, knew the way perfectly. All would have been well had their grandmother been at home. She being away, the girls stopped to watch some children at play. These children were breaking old bottles that they had picked up in the alley. As the little girls stood watching the sport, a large brown bottle was brought forth and with a heavy stroke of the hammer was broken. Small pieces of the glass flew in every direction. One piece struck Louise on the palm of the hand just below the thumb, knocking off the skin, but not producing a wound deep enough to bleed. Her grandmother, who appeared on the scene just at this time, examined the wound. She though it would soon be all right, but bound it up with a cloth to satisfy the child. The children played as usual and then returned home in time for supper.
When they came in, their mother, who had been very busy through the day at housecleaning, was preparing a hasty supper, and she gave them no special attention. The family were soon seated around the supper-table. They had not been there long until Mrs. Worthington noticed that Louise was not eating. She asked the child why she did not eat, but received no reply. On being asked if her throat was sore, Louise nodded her head. Still the mother did not think the child's condition serious; and, after pinning a flannel around the child's neck, she did the evening work and prepared to attend a prayer-meeting. She had noticed the rag upon Louise's hand, but Bessie had laughed about the little cut and said, |Grandma tied it up just to please Louise.|
Although the meeting that night was unusually good, Mrs. Worthington could not forget the expression on her child's face as they had kissed each other good-by. It seemed to be before her all the time; so she really felt relieved when the meeting closed and she could return.
Upon entering her home she immediately asked her husband, |How is Louise?| He answered that she had been very naughty and cross and that he had been obliged to punish her. This news increased the mother's fears. Feeling of the child's head, she found it hot and feverish.
As Louise continued to grow worse, at two o'clock in the morning Mrs. Worthington thought it best to examine the child's throat; but when the mother asked the little girl to open her mouth, she said, |Mama, I can't.|
|What!| exclaimed the mother, |you can not open your mouth! Why, child, what is the matter with you?| Although Louise tried repeatedly to open her mouth, she could force her teeth apart only about an eighth of an inch, and only with great difficulty could she speak.
By this time Mr. Worthington had fully awakened to the fact that something serious was troubling his child, and he sprang to her side. As soon as possible they summoned a doctor. He found that the cut on her hand had caused lockjaw, but said that there was no cause for alarm. The parents, however, felt very anxious and called in several doctors for consultation. They found that it was too late to do anything for the child. |The course of this disease,| said the doctors, |is usually very rapid; and we are sorry that we can offer no hope.|
When Mrs. Worthington heard the doctors' verdict, anguish such as she had never experienced before filled her soul. Her thoughts went back to the previous night. Oh! why had she not examined the child closely then? In her distress she cried to the Lord, saying, |Dear Lord, what can this mean? Must I go through another test with one of my children? If so, help me to say amen to thy will!|
Everything possible was done for the comfort of the little sufferer. The little life was swiftly nearing its close. Even when the doctors injected medicine into her arm to relieve her pain, she did not murmur. Forgetful for a moment of her suffering, she looked into her mother's eyes and said, |Mama, I love you|; then turning to her father, |Papa, I love you|; and then to the doctors and friends, |I like all these folks.|
What a beautiful testimony? She had only kindly feelings in her heart for all, even for the doctors, who seemed to be her enemies. Her words were as a message sent from God as they fell into that mother's heart. They seemed as sweet incense and a soothing balm to her troubled spirit. Gazing into the child's face, the mother read of the tender, compassionate love of God for suffering humanity; she read of the depth of Christ's love for the innocent and pure; and, by the heavenly smile that lighted the little face as her darling sank into unconsciousness, she saw that the child realized her Savior's presence.
Slowly the tide is going out; the soul of the child is passing from the mother's presence into life immortal. |O my darling, speak to me once more!| The large blue eyes slowly unclose; a look of disappointment comes into them as she says, |Where has Jesus gone?| The dear eyes softly close; she sinks again into unconsciousness; the beautiful expression of happiness returns; the mother knows that her darling is in the arms of Jesus and is content.
Mrs. Worthington did not sorrow as those who have no hope; for she knew that her heavenly Father knew best, and she could look up with confidence and say, |The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.| With the father it was different. Up to this time he had never had any serious thoughts of a future life. He knew that his wife was a good woman, but he considered her religious views rather strange. She had seen so much error among the popular religious denominations and had felt such bondage when meeting with them, that she worshiped with a few spiritual people in a little prayer-meeting. Because of this peculiarity, he had even feared that her mind was affected; but now, when he saw her fortitude under deep trial, he felt that surely there was an unseen power supporting her -- a power that he secretly longed to possess, although the time for attaining it he set indefinitely in the future.
As Louise had been his idol, his grief was deep. It stirred his whole being. Her last testimony had convinced him that there is a Savior, that he is interested in mankind, and that he is able to keep in every affliction. Standing by the cold, lifeless form of his little daughter, he promised God that he would meet her in heaven.
After these things Mrs. Worthington realized more keenly than ever the value of confidence between children and parents. With renewed energy she sought daily to strengthen that cord which now seemed to her almost divine. Her daily talks now contained a richer and deeper meaning to Bessie, whose understanding of heavenly things was growing clearer since her sister's death. Through her mother's teaching she gained a knowledge of God and spiritual life that would have taken her many, many years to comprehend had she been left to herself.
Mrs. Worthington was surprised and pleased to note Bessie's confidence in her mother's teaching. One day, in answer to the assertion of a little neighbor girl that Louise was not alive, but dead and buried, Bessie said, |I know Sister's body is dead and buried, but her soul is living with Jesus. He was waiting for her when she died and took her soul away with him.|
|I am glad, my child,| said her mother, sometime after this conversation, |that you love to come to me with things that trouble you; for as you're going to school now, you can not help hearing and seeing many things that I would rather keep from you until you're older. You'll see and hear many things that you should allow no place in your life; but if you'll always come to me, I'll instruct you so that they'll not be harmful to you. When I was a child, how I longed for some one in whom I could confide! My mother was a good woman, but she didn't realize how I often longed to unburden my heart to her. Father understood this desire, and we often had confidential talks.
|I shall never forget my gratitude when he took me upon his knee one day and told me about many dangers young girls must meet and explained how I might avoid them. His words were just in time; for I had often been allowed to spend the evening at the home of a little friend, who, like myself, was not taught how to meet danger. At first our play had been innocent sports, but a short time before my father's talk a cousin had come to board with the family and attend school. He at once encouraged us to play a game of cards with him. As I knew nothing of the evil of card-playing, I was eager to learn; for he gave me much praise and allowed me to win very often, always rewarding me with a pile of candy. The appearance of so much candy in my possession had led to my father's talk. As father unfolded the nature of card-playing and gambling, a horror for them that has never left me came into my heart. After this I often sought my father's counsel; his faithful admonitions and tender words of encouragement caused me to have more and more confidence in him.|
Mrs. Worthington sighed deeply as she continued, |The memory of my dear father is sacred, Bessie. Many times I've thanked the Lord that my father knew the worth of prayer and the value of the confidence of his children. He helped me to tide over the most critical period of my life, and I love to recall the encouragement of his devoted life.|