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ETHEL;

OR,

WOMAN'S MINISTRY.

CHAPTER I.

May He who erst on Calvary bled,

With all His love, my daughter, bless thee;
Soft dews of mercy o'er thee shed,

Sustain thy soul when woes oppress thee;
May His unfading rays illume
Life's wilderness of guilt and gloom,
Thy star of hope, thy rock of faith,
Thy light in darkness, life in death.”- DALE.

“How full of dread, how full of hope, loometh inevitable death : of dread, for all have sinned; of hope, for One hath saved. Pass along, pilgrim of life, go to thy grave unfearing; the terrors are but shadows now that haunt the vale of death." - MARTIN TUPPER.

The last golden rays of the winter sun were shining brightly into a dingy-looking though well-furnished apartment, in a house in the outskirts of the large manufacturing town of Carysford, illuminating for a moment the pale face of a lady, who was reclining on a couch near the window. Kneeling at her side was

VOL. I.

B

:

a young girl of about seventeen years of age, whose likeness to the invalid left no doubt as to the relationship between them. Her looks spoke, more than words, the anguish of her heart, and tears were fast gathering in her dark eyes as she contemplated the wasted form of her dying mother. In one hand she still held the Bible, from which she had recently been reading, and her figure marked the words of holy comfort: “He will be our guide, even unto death.” (Ps. xlviii. 14.) It was over this passage she was pondering, trying to realise its comfort for her who was fast hastening homeward, and for herself, who would so soon be left to tread the desert of life without her mother. Mrs. Woodville perceived her emotion, and laying her thin hand on her daughter's head said, soothingly:“ Ethel, my precious child ! you are grieving for

Why is this, dearest? Do you fear to lose ? Will not our blessed Saviour supply all your · need ? Can He not be all in all to you? my child, death will be gain, indeed!. Oh, how sweet to rest for ever in heaven!”

Fondly she stroked her daughter's hair, while she allowed Ethel's tears to flow unrestrainedly for a few moments, until she grew calmer, and then the mother spoke again :

“We are not likely to be interrupted this afternoon, and so I will speak of a few things connected with my past life, which it is better now you should know, both as a warning to yourself, and as enabling you to realise more fully how mercifully my heavenly Father is dealing with me, and how calmly, through the Saviour's merits, I can meet death. The verse you have just read to me has often been present to my mind, and God has, indeed, been a guide to me through

me.

me

To me,

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many bitter trials, and has sweetened, and I trust sanctified, them to me. I thank God he has given me this blessed assurance, that I shall die with the hope that one of my children is 'rooted and built up in the faith ;' and I trust, though it may not be permitted to me to see here any further fruits of

my

fervent prayers

for you all, that hereafter it may be granted me to meet my husband and children in heaven.”

Mrs. Woodville paused, and her voice faltered as she thought how far off seemed the fulfilment of the promise, “ Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.”

God will hear and answer your prayers, my mother, for he has promised, and his word cannot fail,” exclaimed Ethel, fervently.

“I know it! I believe it, my child! Oh, what a happiness that you can realise it, too! You have not always trusted in it so securely. Even though I have known you to be an earnest seeker after Christ, you have not trusted Him so fully as I hoped,” replied the mother, as a solemn joyousness overspread her face.

“No; my faith is, indeed, often very, very weak, dear mamma. I cannot see clearly ; but then again my faith revives, and I know and feel all will, all must be well.”

“Even so, my child. Live near to Christ; cling closer to him, even to the shadow of the great rock,' and he will give you more faith, more hope, and lead you safely through this wilderness of care and sorrow.”

Very still and silent the parent and child sat together, until the darkening shades of evening warned them that they could not be much longer alone, and then the mother spoke again :

“I had better not lose the present opportunity of

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speaking to you of my early life, Ethel; I may never have another.”

Ethel drew closer to her mother's side, and with their hands clasped in one another's Mrs. Woodville began :“ What I am now going to tell you

I have never breathed to any one before, and to none but yourself I should ever wish to relate my unhappy experience. When I was only your age I first met your father ; he was then the handsomest and most fascinating young man of my acquaintance, but I could not blind myself to the fact, that he was a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.' My dear parents saw and felt this, and would willingly have forbidden further intimacy with him; but their interference was too late, my heart was given to your father, and I was resolved, at whatever risk, to become his wife. In vain my

dear parents represented the sinfulness of my conduct in uniting myself with an unbeliever, and told me that, if I persisted in doing so, I could never expect the blessing of God upon my marriage. My resolution was formed. I stifled conscience, and soon after gave my hand to the chosen of my heart. Oh! how I now feel the truth of my parents' words! Years of deep, heartfelt repentance, have I endured for my forgetfulness of God. And truly, as they told me, God's blessing has not rested on our union.” A few tears fell from Mrs. Woodville's eyes as she spoke, but were quickly checked, and she proceeded :

“At first, all was joy and happiness — sunshine without a cloud. But ever remember, dear Ethel, a cloudless sky is seldom the best for us. It is the showers and storms of life which force us to fly to the Rock of Ages for shelter: thus it has been with me. Soon heavy clouds gathered on the horizon of my life,

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