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John And James Williams Post by :gloprofit Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :1075

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John And James Williams

John and James Williams, were the sons of a New England farmer. In summer, they took an active part in his labours, and during the winter attended to their school-education. Both were fond of books, but their tastes and dispositions were different.

One cold evening in winter, they were sitting beside a bright fire of wood. Their lamp cast a cheerful ray over the snow-covered landscape. Several books lay on the table, from which they had been studying their lessons for the following day.

"John," said the youngest, who was about thirteen years old, "John, I mean to be a soldier. I have lately been reading the life of Alexander of Macedon, and a good deal about Bonaparte. I think there is nothing in this world like the glory of the warrior."

"It does not strike me so, James. To destroy life, and to cause mourning in such a multitude of families, and to bring so much poverty and misery into the world, seems to me, more cruel than glorious."

"But John, to be so praised and honoured, to have hosts of soldiers under your command, and to have the pages of history filled with the fame of your victories, how can you be blind to such glory as that?

"Brother, the minister said last Sunday, that the end of life was the test of its goodness. Now, Alexander the Great got intoxicated, and died like a madman; and Bonaparte was shut up to pine away on a desolate island, as if he was a wild beast, chained in a cage."

"John, your ideas are very limited. I am sorry to see that you are not capable of admiring heroes. You are just fit to be a farmer. I dare say that to break a pair of steers, is your highest ambition, and to spend your days in ploughing and reaping, is all the glory that you would covet."

Their father's voice was now heard, calling, "Boys, go to bed." Thus ended their conversation for that night. These brothers loved each other, and seldom disagreed on any subject, except on trying to settle the point, in what the true glory of the warrior consisted.

Fifteen years glided away, and the season of winter again returned. From the same window, a bright lamp gleamed, and on the same hearth glowed a cheerful fire. The farm-house seemed unaltered, but among its inmates, there had been changes.

The parents, who had then retired to rest, were now mouldering in the grave. They were good and pious, and among the little circle of their native village, their memory was still held in sweet remembrance.

In the corner, which they used to occupy, their eldest son, and his wife, were seated. A babe lay in the cradle, and two other little ones, breathed quietly from their trundle-bed, in the sweet sleep of childhood. A strong blast, with snow, shook the casement.

"I always think," said John Williams, "about my poor brother, in stormy nights, especially in winter. So many years have past, since we have heard from him, and his way of life is so full of danger, that I fear he must be numbered with the dead."

"Husband, did I hear a faint knock! or was it the wind among the trees?" said his wife. The farmer opened the door, and a traveller entered, leaning heavily on a crutch. His garments were old and thin, and his countenance haggard.

He sank into a chair, and gazed earnestly around on every article of furniture, as on some recollected friend. Then, extending a withered hand, he uttered in a tone scarcely audible, "Brother! brother!"

That word, opened the tender memories of other years. They hastened to welcome the wanderer, and to mingle their tears with his. "Sister, brother, I have come home to die." They found him too much exhausted to converse, and after giving him comfortable food, induced him to retire to rest.

The next morning, he was unable to rise. They sat by his bedside, and soothed his worn heart with kindness, and told him the simple narrative of the changes in the neighbourhood, and what had befallen them, in their quiet abode.

"I have had many troubles," said he, "but none have bowed me down, like the sin of leaving home to be a soldier, without the knowledge of my parents, and against their will. I have felt the pain of wounds, but there is nothing like the sting of conscience.

"I have endured hunger, and thirst, and imprisonment, and the misery of sickness in an enemy's land; and then the image of my home, and my disobedience and ingratitude, were with me when I lay down, and when I rose up, and when I was sleepless and sick in the neglected hospitals.

"In broken visions, I would see my dear mother bending tenderly over me, as she used to do, when I had only a headache; and my father with the great Bible in his hand, reading as he used to do before prayer; but when I cried out in agony. 'I am no more worthy to be called thy son,' I awoke, and it was all a dream."

His brother assured him of the perfect forgivenness of his parents, and that duly, at morn and eve, he was borne upon their supplications at the family altar, as the son, erring, yet beloved. "Ah, yes, and those prayers followed me. But for them I should have been a reprobate, forsaken both of God and man."

As strength permitted, he told them the story of his wanderings. He had been in battles, on land and sea. He had heard the deep ocean echo to the cannon's thunder, and seen earth drink the red shower from the bosoms of her slaughtered sons.

He had stood in the martial lists of Europe, and hazarded his life for a foreign power, and had pursued, in his native land, the hunted Indian, flying at midnight from the flames of his own hut. He had ventured with the bravest, into the deepest danger, seeking every where for the glory which had dazzled his boyhood, but in vain.

He found that it was the lot of the soldier to endure hardship, that others might reap the fame. He saw what fractures and mutilations, what misery, and mourning, and death, were necessary to purchase the reward of victory. He felt how light was even the renown of the conqueror, compared with the good that he forfeits, and the sorrow that he inflicts to obtain it.

"Sometimes," he said, "just before rushing into battle, I felt a shuddering, and inexpressible horror, at the thought of butchering my fellow-creatures. But in the heat of contest, all such sympathies vanished, and madness and desperation possessed me, so that I cared neither for this life nor the next.

"I have been left wounded on the field, unable to move from among the feet of trampling horses, my open gashes stiffening in the chilly night air, and death staring me in the face, while no man cared for my soul. Yet I will not distress your kind hearts, by describing my varieties of pain.

"You, who have always lived amid the influences of mercy; who shrink to give unnecessary suffering, even to an animal, cannot realize what hardness of heart, comes with the life of a soldier, familiar as he must be with groans, and violence, and cruelty.

"His moral and religious feelings, are in still greater danger. Oaths, imprecations, and contempt of sacred things, are mingled with the elements of his trade. The sweet and holy influences of the Sabbath, and the precepts of the Gospel, impressed upon his childhood, are too often swept away.

"Yet though I exerted myself to appear bold and courageous, and even hardened, my heart reproached me. Oh, that it might be purified by repentance, and at peace with God, before I am summoned to the dread bar of judgment, to answer for my deeds of blood."

His friends flattered themselves, that, by medical skill, and careful nursing, he might be restored to health. But he answered, "No, it can never be. My vital energies are wasted. Even now, is Death standing at my right hand."

"When I entered this peaceful valley, my swollen limbs tottered, and began to fail. Then I prayed to the Almighty, whom I had so often forgotten, 'Oh, give me strength but a little longer, that I may reach the home where I was born, and die there, and be buried by the side of my father and my mother.'"

The sick and penitent soldier, sought earnestly for the hope of salvation. He felt that a great change was needed in his soul, ere it could be fitted for the holy employments of a realm of purity and peace. He prayed, and wept, and studied the Scriptures, and listened to the counsel of pious men.

"Brother, dear brother," he would say, "you have obeyed the precepts of our parents. You have chosen the path of peace. You have been merciful even to the inferior creatures. You have shorn the fleece, but not wantonly destroyed the lamb. You have taken the honey, and spared the labouring bee.

"But I have destroyed man, and his habitation; the hive and the honey; the fleece and the flock. I have defaced the image of God, and crushed out that breath, which I can never restore. You know not how bitter is the warfare of my soul with the 'Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that ruleth in the children of disobedience.'"

As the last hour approached, he laid his cold hand on the head of his brother's eldest child, who had been named for him, and said faintly, "Little James, obey your parents, and never be a soldier. Sister, brother, you have been angels of mercy to me. The blessing of God be upon you, and your household."

The venerable minister who instructed his childhood, and laid his parents in the grave, had daily visited him in his sickness. He stood by his side, as he went down into the valley of the shadow of death. "My son, look unto the Lamb of God." "Yes, father, there is a fullness in Him for the chief of sinners."

The aged man lifted up his fervent prayer for the departing soul. He commended it to the boundless compassions of Him who receiveth the penitent; and besought for it, a gentle passage to that world, where there is no more sin, neither sorrow, nor crying.

He ceased. The eyes of the dying were closed. There was no more heaving of the breast, or gasping. They thought the breath had quitted the clay. They spoke of him as having passed where all tears are wiped from the eyes for ever.

But again there was a faint sigh. The white lips slowly moved. His brother bending over him caught the last, low whisper,--"Jesus! Saviour! take a repentant sinner to the world of peace."


(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: John And James Williams

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