Life and Death
AN INDIAN WOMAN.
“—Afraid your big heart feel some proud.” See p. 10.
Printed by Elisha Bates.
IT was a comfortless morning in the month of March, 1814, when I first formed an acquaintance with the subject of the following sketch.
She called to solicit a few crusts, meekly saying, she desired nothing but the crumbs—they were enough for her poor old body, just ready to crumble into dust.” I had heard of Sarah, a pious Indian woman, and was therefore prepared to receive her with kindness. And remembering the words of my Lord, who said, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I was ready to impart a portion of my little unto her (for little was my store.) And how, (I asked her) have you got along this long cold winter, Sarah? “O, Misse,” she replied, “Got better to Sarah than she fear. When winter come on, Sarah was in great doubt. No husband, no child here but--------she wicked, gone a great deal. What if great snow come? What if fire go out? nabor great way off----what if sick all ‘lone? what if die? nobody know it. While I think so in my heart then I cry; while I crying, something speak in my mind, and say, Trust God, Sarah; he love his people, he never leave them, he never forsake Sarah, he friend indeed. Go tell Jesus, Sarah, he love hear prayer, he often hear Sarah pray. So I wipe my eyes, dont cry any more; go out in bushes, when nobody see, fall down on my old knees and pray. God give me great many words;
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pray great while. God make all my mind peace. When I get up, go in house, can’t stop praying in my mind. All my heart burn with love to God; willing live cold, go hungry, be sick, die all ‘lone, if God be there. He know best, Sarah dont know, so I feel happy; great many days ago singing hymn-----
‘Now I can trust the Lord forever,
He can clothe and he can feed,
He my rock and he my Saviour,
Jesus is a friend indeed.’”
Well, Sarah, have you been comfortably supplied? ‘O, yes,’ she replied, ‘I never out corn meal once all winter.’ But how do you cook it, Sarah, so as to make it comfortable food? ‘O, I make porridge, Misse; sometimes I get out like to-day, and I go get some crusts bread, & some salt put in it, then it is so nourishing to this poor old body; but when cant get none, then make it good I can, and kneel down, pray God to bless it to me: and I feel as if God feed me, and be so happy here, (laying her hand on her heart.)” O what a lesson, thought I, for my repining heart. But do you have no meat or other necessaries, Sarah? ‘Not often, Misse; sometimes I get so hungry for it. I begin feel wicked, then think how Jesus hungry in the desert. But when Satan tempt him to sin, to get food he would not. So I say Sarah wont sin to get victuals. I no steal, no eat stole food, though be hungry ever so long.* Then God gives me small look of his self, his Son, and his glory. And I think in my heart they all be mine soon; then I no suffer hun-
* This might refer to food stolen
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ger any more—my father have there many mansions.’ Sarah, said I, you seem to have some knowledge of the scriptures; can you read? ‘I can spell out a little, I cant read like you white folks; O, if I could.’ Here she burst into tears. But after regaining her composure, she added, ‘this, Misse, what I want above all things, more than victuals or drink. O how often I beg God to teach me to read, and he do teach me some. When I take bible, kneel down and pray, he show me great many words, and they be so sweet I want to know a great deal more. O when I get home to heaven, then I know all, no want to read any more.’ In this strain of simple piety, she told me her first interesting story. And when she departed, I felt a stronger evidence of her being a true child of God, than I have acquired of professors by long acquaintance. In one of her many visits she afterwards made me, she gave me in substance the following account of her conversion. She lived according to her own account, until she became a wife and a mother, without hope and without God in the world, (having been brought up in extreme ignorance,) her husband treating her with great severity. She became dejected and sorrowful, and to use her own simple language, “I go sorrow, sorrow, all day long. When the night come, husband come home angry, beat me so, then I think, O if Sarah had friend, Sarah no friend; I no want to tell nabor I got trouble, that make only worse. So I be quiet, tell nobody, only cry all night and day for one good friend. One Sunday, good nabor come, and say, come Sarah, go meetin. So I called my children, tell’em stay in house,
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while I go meetin. When got there, minister tell all about Jesus; how he was born in stable; go suffer all his life, die on great cross, bury, rise, and go up into heaven, so all be sinner’s friend. He say too, if you got trouble, go to Jesus. He best friend in sorrow, he cure all your sorrow, he bring you out of trouble, he support you, make you willing to suffer. So when I go home, think great deal what minister say, think this the friend I want, this the friend I cry for so long. Poor ignorant Sarah, never hear so much about Jesus before. Then I try hard to tell Jesus how I want such friend. But O, my heart so hard, can’t feel, can’t pray can’t love Jesus, though he so good. This make me sorrow more and more. When Sunday come, want go meetin ‘gain. Husband say, you shan’t go; I beat you if you go. So I wait till he go off hunting, then shut up shildren safe, and run to meetin, sit down in door, hear minister tell how bad my heart is—no love to God, no love to Jesus for friend, cause got so bad heart then go prayin all way home, Jesus make my heart better. When got home find children safe, feel glad husband no come; only feel sorry ‘cause my wicked heart don’t know how make it better. When I go sleep then dream I can read good book; dream I read there, Sarah must be born again. In the morning keep thinking what that word mean. When husband go work, run over my good nabor, ask her if Bible say so. Then she read me where that great man go see Jesus by night ‘cause ‘fraid go in day time. I think he just like Sarah. She must go in se-
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cret to hear ‘bout Jesus—else husband be angry, and beat her. Then feel ‘couraged in mind, determined to have Jesus for friend. So ask nabor how get good heart. She tell me, give your heart to Jesus, he give Holy Spirit, make it better. Sarah dont know what she mean—never hear ‘bout Holy Spirit. She says must go to meetin next Sunday, she will tell minister ‘bout me—he tell me what to do. So Sarah go hear how must be born ‘gain. Minister say you must go fall down before God; tell him you grieved ‘cause you sin—tell him you want better heart—tell him your Christ Jesus’ sake, give Holy Spirit make your heart new. Then Sarah go home light, ‘cause she know the way. When get home, husband beat me, ‘cause I go to meetin—dont stay home work. I say Sarah cant work any more Sunday, ‘cause sin ‘gainst God. I rather work night when moon shine. So he drive me hoe corn that night, he so angry. I want to pray great deal, so go out to hoe corn, pray all the time. When come in the house husband sleep. Then I kneel down and tell Jesus take my bad heart; cant bear bad heart; pray give me Holy Spirit, make my heart soft, make it all new. SO great many days Sarah go beg for a new heart. Go meetin all Sundays’ if husband beat me never mind it: go hear good nabor read Bible every day. So after great while God make all my mind peace. I love Jesus; love pray to him; love tell him all my sorrows. He take away my sorrow, make all my soul joy: only sorry cause cant read the Bible—learn how to be like Jesus; want to be like his dear people Bible tell of. So I make great many brooms,
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go get Bible for ‘em. When come home, husband call me fool for it; say he burn it up. Then I go hide it; when he gone, get it, kiss it many times ‘cause it Jesus good word. Then I go ask nabor if she learn me read; she say yes. Then I go many days learn letters, pray God all the while help me learn read his holy word. So Misse, I learn read hymn; learn spell out many good words in Bible. So every day take Bible, tell my children that be God’s word, tell ‘em how Jesus die on cross for sinner; then make ‘em all kneel down. I pray for husband too, he so wicked. O how I pray for husband too, fear his soul go in burning flame. Sarah, said I, how long did your husband live? ‘O he live a great many year.’ Did he repent and become a good man? ‘No Misse, I ‘fraid not, he sin more and more. When he get sick I in great trouble for him; talk every day to him but he no hear Sarah. I say how can you bear go in burning fire, where fire never go out. At last he got angry, bid me hold tongue. So I dont say any more, only mourn over him every day ‘fore God. When he die, my heart say, Father thy will be done—Jesus do all things well. Sarah cant help him now, he be in God’s hands; all is well. So then give my heart all away to Jesus, tell him be all his; serve him all my life; beg Holy Spirit come fill my heart, make it all clean and white like Jesus. Pray God help me learn more of his sweet word.
“And now, Sarah live poor Indian widow great many long year; always find Jesus friend, husband, brother, all. He make willing suffer;
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willing live great while in this bad world, if he see best. ‘Bove all, he gives me great good hope of glory when I die. So now I wait patient till my change come.”
While she was giving this narration, her countenance bore strong testimony to the diversified emotions of her soul. I might greatly swell the list of particulars; but I design only to give the outlines of an example, which would have done honour to the highest sphere in life; and which in my opinion, is not the less excellent, or less worthy of imitation, because shrouded in the veil of poverty and sorrow. It was evident she meditated much on what little she knew of divine things. And what she knew of God’s word was to her like honey and the honey comb.
She was in the habit of bringing bags of sand into the village, and selling it for food. Sometimes she brought grapes and other kinds of fruit. But as she walked by the way, she took little notice of any thing that passed (except children, whom she seldom passed without an affectionate word of exhortation to be good, say their prayers, learn to read God’s good word, &c. accompanied with a bunch of grapes or an apple. Thus she engaged the affection of many a little heart,) but seemed absorbed in meditation, and you might often have observed her hands uplifted, in the attitude of prayer. One day, after having observed her as she came, I asked her how she could bring such heavy loads, old as she was, & feeble. ‘O,’ said she, ‘when I get great load, then I go pray God give me strength to carry. So I go on, thinking how good God is, give his only Son die for poor sinner; think how good Je-
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sus be, suffer so much for poor creature; how good Holy Spirit was, come to my bad heart, make it all new; so these sweet thoughts make my mind so full joy. I never think how heavy sand be on my old back.’ Here, said I to my heart, learn how to make thy heavy load of Iron cares easy.
One day she passed with a bag of sand. On her return she called on me; I enquire how much Mrs. -- -- gave her for the sand. She was unwilling to tell, and I feared she was unwilling lest I should withhold my accustomed mite, on account of what she had already received; I therefore insisted she should let me see. She at length consented, and I drew from the bag a bone, not containing meat enough for half a meal. Is this all? Did that rich woman put you off so? How cruel, how hard hearted, I exclaimed! “Misse,” she replied, “this make me ‘fraid to let you see it; I ‘fraid you would be angry: I hope she have bigger heart next time, only she forget now, that Jesus promise to pay her all she give Sarah. Don’t be angry, I pray God to give her a great deal bigger heart.” The conviction, that she possessed in an eminent degree, the spirit of Him, who said, “bless them that curse you,” and prayed for his murderers, rushed upon my mind with energy, and I could compare myself in some measure to those who said, “shall we command fire to come down from heaven,” &c. I think I never felt deeper self-abhorrence and abasement: I left her for a moment, and from the few comforts I possessed, gave her a considerable portion. She received them with the most visible marks of gratitude—arose to depart, went to the
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door, and then turned, looking me in the face with evident concern, Sarah, said I, what would you have? (supposing she wanted something I had not thought of, and feared to ask.) “O my good Misse,” said she, “nothing only I ‘fraid your big heart feel some proud, ‘cause you give more for nothing than Misse ----- for sand.” This faithfulness, added to her piety and gratitude, completed the swell of feeling already rising in my soul, and bursting into tears, I said, O Sarah! When you pray that Mrs. ----- may have a bigger heart, don’t forget to pray that I may have an humbler one. “I will Misse, I will,” she exclaimed with joy and hastened on her way. Another excellence in her character was that she loved the habitation of God’s house, and often appeared there, when from bad weather or other causes many a seat of affluence was empty. She was always early, ever clean and whole in her apparel; though sometimes almost as much diversified with patches as the shepherd’s coat. She was very old and quite feeble, yet she generally stood during pubnlic service, with her eyes rivetted on the preacher.
I have sometimes overtook her on the steps, after service, and tapping her on the shoulder, would say, Have you had a good day, Sarah? “All good, sweeter than honey” she would reply.
In the spring of 1818, it was observed by her friends that she did not appear at meeting as usual, and one of her particular female benefactors asked her the reason; when she with streaming eyes told her, that her clothes had become so old and ragged that she could not come with comfort or decency; but said she had been praying God
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to provide for her in this respect, a great while, and telling Jesus how much she wanted to go to his house of prayer, and expressed a strong desire to be resigned and submissive to his will. This was soon communicated to a few friends, who promptly obeyed the call of Providence & soon furnished this suffering member of Christ, with a very decent suit of apparel. This present was almost overpowering to her grateful heart. She received them as from the hand of her heavenly Father and kind Redeemer, in answer to her special prayer. But this did not in the least diminish her gratitude to her benefactors; but said she would go on, tell Jesus how good his dear people were to this poor old creature, and pray her good father to give them great reward.
Two of the garments given her, she received with every mark of joy. On being asked why she set so high a value on these, she replied; “O, these just what I pray for so long, so to lay out my poor old body, clean and decent, like God’s dear white people when I die.” These she requested a friend to keep for her, fearing to carry them home lest they should be taken from her. She was, however, persuaded to wear one of them to meeting, upon condition that if she injured that, another should be provided; the other was preserved by her friend; and made use of at her death.
Thus was this humble band of female friends honoured by anointing as it were the body, beforehand, to the burial. And I doubt not but that her prayer was heard, and will be answered in their abundant reward. The last visit I had from her, was in the summer of 1818. She had
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attended a funeral, and called at my cottage. She complained of great weariness and pain in her limbs, and showed me her feet, which were swollen. I enquired the cause: “O” said she, with a serene smile. “Death come creeping on, I think in grave yard to day. Sarah must lie here soon.” Well, are you willing to die? do you feel ready? “O, I hope, Misse, if my bad heart tell true, I willing and ready to do as Jesus bid me: if he say, You must die, I glad to go be with him: if he say, Live and suffer great deal more; then I willing do that: I think Jesus know best. Sometime I get such look of heaven, I long to go see Jesus; see happy angel, see holy saint—throw away my bad heart, lay down my old body, and go where I no sin. Then I tell Jesus: he say, Sarah, I prepare a place for you, then I come and take you to myself. Then I be quite like child, don’t want to go till he call me.” Much more she said upon this interesting subject, which indicated a soul ripe for heavenly glories. When we parted, I thought it very doubtful whether we ever met again below. In the course of three weeks from this time, I heard that Sarah was no more.
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