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Bunyan, “My burden rolled off into the sepulchre, and I saw it no more."
It should have been said that our friend was taught early to read the Bible, and was brought up by her parents under the sound of the Gospel; but she felt, after the Lord had opened hor eyes and heart to see the glory and feel the power of it, that she had been as blind as the heathen, not having even mentally discovered the plan of salvation, which thousands subscribe to who are destitute of divine life; and she was truly surprised, when sitting at the same chapel, among the same people, hearing the same minister, at the great difference she felt. Truly, as she said, this must be being “ born again” (John iii. 5); and the effects of passing from death unto life were further manifested by her heart being united to the Lord's people (1 John iii
. 14). There was one poor, afflicted, and tried man at the chapel who used to talk with her, and as they communed together (Mal
. iii. 16), she found his conversation very savoury and encouraging. She was then, as she had been for some years previously, a hearer of Mr. Day, at East Farleigh, where she heard the Word with
On one occasion, in the year 1847, she heard the late Mr. George Abrahams, at Collier Street Chapel. In writing upon that she says, “If ever I was blessed with full assurance it was then. I longed to die in that Collier Street Chapel. I dreaded going out into the world again, lest I should be left to myself, and some day bring a reproach upon the cause and people that I loved. This I greatly dreaded, but hitherto the world has not had to point the finger of scorn, and say, 'Ah, so would we have it!'" (Psa. xxxv. 25.) And all those who knew her can bear testimony that to the end of her days she walked humbly with her God, and, consequently, consistently before the world. But sins of heart, inbred corruptions, and sins of omission were more or less her daily burden. Still, having proved the love and faithfulness of God, she was not one to be continually poring over what she was in herself, to the exclusion of what the Lord was to her. She knew and spoke of both the dark and the bright spots of Christian experience.
When quite young in the things of God, and having the vigour of spiritual youth upon her, she was anxious to honour her Lord by making a public profession of His name, and so was baptized, and joined the little Church at East Farleigh, over which Mr. Day was then the pastor, whom she highly esteemed for the truth's sake, and where the Lord fed her soul and refreshed her in her heaven-bound course. But after she had been much favoured in soul, she says she read that the Lord's people were a tried and exercised people, and often went mourning from the house of God, fearing lest she was not exercised rightly, because she was so frequently fed and blessed under the Word, and went home rejoicing in the goodness of her God; therefore, she was repeatedly led to ask the Lord to make it plain to her. Her language was, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. If I am a hypocrite, make it manifest." No doubt in this she was most earnest and sincere, but we fear it was mingled with much unbelief, and seeking for an experience like the children of God about her, rather than a panting for conformity to the image of Christ (Phil. iii. 10). About this time her minister, who had been a spiritual father and shepherd to her, left the chapel; and, whether from a change in her own soul, or from a change in the ministry, but perhaps from both, she found "a famine, not of bread or of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos viii. 11). Now she knew what it was to go mourning and fasting from the place where she had often been well fed.
In the providence of God she was removed to Goudhurst, and about the year 1862 she joined the Church at Flimwell, over which the late Mr. Pert was pastor; and for some years, while she resided in that neighbourhood, she was much profited by the ministry, and felt greatly united to the people. She was long acquainted with some choice friends, Mr. and Mrs. Roots, and I think for about twenty years lived beneath their roof. The former was taken with an illness that terminated in death. He made a good end, as related in the Gospel Standard, January, 1871, and the “Miss A.” several times mentioned therein is the subject of this memoir. While living at Goudhurst, she feared she should fall a victim to small-pox, as it was then in the locality, but the Lord relieved her from her fears by these lines
66 Comfort take, thou child of sorrow,
All is ordered well for thee;
As thy days, thy strength shall be.” After the death of Mr. Roots, it was thought desirable that his widow and Miss Ashby should take a small business together. One place opened for them, but our friend felt it was not attended with the Lord's leading. Another place had been upon her mind, but there seemed no probability of obtaining it. But the Lord cleared the way to it; and there, at Canterbury, she and her widowed friend stayed some considerable time. But she was compelled at length, through affliction, to leave there, and she felt she could say, to the honour of her God, as He led her there, that He brought her out without loss.
She was once long detained in a railway carriage in a tunnel.
This was a shock to her nerves, from which she never fully recovered.
After she had lived with some dear relatives at Maidstone, she was invited by some friends in Greenwich to spend a few weeks with them ; but, through the goodness of her God, and the kindness of her friends, she stopped on and on; and, although she came as a visitor into Devonshire Road Chapel, Greenwich, she soon felt that she was
“ No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.”
It is over six years since she first joined our Church, during which time she proved a source of comfort to us, and we still feel our loss. It would ill become the writer to say what he was made to her. He needed no letters of commendation where she
She was not accustomed to write much, but she wrote as she felt. One extract may suffice
“MY VERY DEAR PASTOR,—I, one of the poorest of the poor of thy flock, feeling broken in spirit, and my soul melted at the goodness of God to such an one, and feeling drawn to the Lord that He will bless thee in basket and in store, in thy going out and in thy coming in. I feel He does, and I feel you must love your pulpit, for of a truth the Lord is with you. Last night it was life from the dead to my poor soul. I could say, 'Thou hast granted me life and favour.'» She was greatly united in spirit to Mr. Jeffery and Mrs. Harris
, whose obituaries appeared in the SOWER respectively, February and March, 1880, and July, 1881; and, indeed, she lived in the house of the latter, and participated in her motherly and Christian-like kindness.
She was watchful of the Lord's providential care towards her. One of our dear friends had a small pension put at his disposal
, and, believing that her means were small
, he was able to appropriate it to her benefit. Prior to this, she said, when she considered what little she had was dwindling away, she was much troubled, but her mind was stayed by this promise, “It shall not fail until the day that I send rain on the earth.” At length she had to change her last half-sovereign. She seemed to have forgotten the promise, but that very same day she received a post-card, saying the pension had been allotted to her. She read it in the light of the promise, and was overcome with God's goodness, for she felt the Lord had sent “rain on the earth." She called her friend, Miss Harris, and said, “I have read of wonderful deliverances in Huntington's, and Warburton's, and such men's lives, and now I have one for myself.”
Besides the affliction before referred to, she suffered latterly from an affection of the chest ; but an earnest desire to be in the public means of grace overcame the extreme vigilance that some use over their bodies, who, if they have the wisdom of being more prudent, cannot claim the honour of having been more fervent.
The last time she was at chapel was on Monday evening, April 30th. When first her medical attendant saw her, he said he thought he should pull her through. She said to her friends afterwards, “I should like to be pulled up to my Father's house."
On May 8th she was visited by some of our friends. She said to one of them
“ A Father's hand prepares the cup,
And what He wills is best.” She then said, “ I don't feel so lively in spiritual things as I should like to be. Underneath are the everlasting arms.
May 11th.-To a friend who visited her, and had expressed a wish that she might be raised up again, she said, “Oh, don't say so, except it be for the dear little cause and our minister ! But, she said, “I can give you all up now.'
May 15th.—When some friends called to see her, she related that she had an illness thirteen years ago, when she was not expected to recover ; and when the doctor said he thought she would be restored, she said it was like a dagger to her soul, she felt so disappointed; and this she more keenly felt when she was able to get about again, because she had been so spoilt for this world.
May 16th. One of our friends who visited her said, “You are still in the furnace.” She replied, “ Yes, but I feel it is a very mild one. When the doctor says I am better, I feel it casts me down, and makes me feel dark; but when he
I am not so well, it seems to refresh me. My religion began in sorrow, I have some hope it may end in joy. If not, it will be peace. The Lord has made all my crooked things straight, if I had only strength to tell you.” The writer saw her later the same evening, and said to her, “ If the earthly house were dissolved, you have a building of God, eternal in the heavens.” She replied, “Yes, that's it." He said, “You long to depart ?” She replied, “I do, but I am still in an enemy's country. I had a desire to go heaven in full sail, but I think it will not be so now, as my powers are failing.' He told her in any case she would have a peaceful end.
About nine o'clock the next morning, she was heard to say twice, “The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity,” and “Lord, help me!” and “ Hope-peace-joy!” Much more she said that was not sufficiently clear to be under
stood. After lying about three hours in a sweetly composed condition, her happy spirit was freed from its clay tenement, and took its flight to the realms of eternal day.
Thus ended the pilgrimage of Margaret Ashby, on May 17th, 1883, at 11.55 a.m., in her fifty-fifth year.
She was a person of prayerful heart, peaceable spirit, and profitable conversation--not a great talker, but an humble walker.
May the Lord add to us, and to His people everywhere, many more spiritually-minded ones such as she was, who shall be an ornament to His Church here, and be hereafter beautified with salvation,
TO “A. E. F." As we wish to confine our pages to matter which will be, as we hope, for the general profit of our readers, we cannot go into the subject of your letter, which does not seem to us, from your manner of putting it, very clear and intelligible.
The passages, Hebrews x. 26, and 1 John v. 16, which you refer to, clearly point out daring professors of religion who have been given up of God and abandoned by man; but we need “ bowels and mercies” in dealing even with such cases, lest we further plunge tempted souls into despondency, and make the hearts of those sad whom God would not have made sad. And it would be useless to commence attacking the erroneous teaching of the Church of Rome merely on the points you name, while we believe her entire doctrine and practice to be rotten at the very core. And, with regard to the Church of England, she yet promulgates in some parts much truth, and has, we believe, some good preachers and gracious hearers within her pale. But to attempt in our Magazine to set her right upon the point you mention would be a fruitless use of our pages, we fear, while she has Broad, High, and Low Churchmen teaching many other doctrines equally pernicious. We would not lend our little finger to pull down the time-honoured fabric while she is truly Protestant; but, seeing she is becoming less and less the Church of the Reformation, we would, while faithfully warning others against her errors, say, “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her plagues.”
WHEN you see the refiner cast his gold into the furnace, do you think he is angry with the gold, and means to cast it away? No. He sits as a refiner. He stands warily over the fire and over the gold, and looks to it that not one grain be lost. And, when the dross is severed, he will out with it presently; it shall be no longer there.-Crisp.