She Outlived Her Usefulness
We were riding along very slowly, with the solemn, measured tread which compels reflection. She whose dust we were reverently depositing in peaceful rest, was an aged Christian. For many years she had been foremost in every work of love and mercy. Generous, untiring, and self-sacrificing, she had passed a long life of usefulness in her family and in the church that she loved. Years of infirmity and helplessness followed, and for many weary months those hands which had ministered so cheerfully unto others, could not supply her own slightest need. And then her death came.
"What a devoted Christian she was years ago!" was remarked; "but she has long outlived her usefulness. I have often wondered why such old people live. Such a one as old Mrs. J___, for instance — so totally helpless. She was prepared to die, we know, and yet she must have been weary of so burdensome a life."
"Did she ever express herself as being weary of life?" I asked.
"Oh! no, she was as patient as a lamb. If I were to be ill a long time, I would think it was intended to teach me patience. But she did not need such a discipline."
"And her family?"
"It may have benefitted them. Mary has waited upon her grandmother so long that she has grown like her, and has become a most lovely character, so gentle and self-denying."
"Did she retain her eyesight sufficiently to read?"
"For several years past she has been quite blind. As her grandchildren would come in, she would ask them to read a single verse of the Bible, and which of the most thoughtless would refuse so small a request? Then she would in her quiet way make such varied, such beautiful application of this one text! It was a precious commentary. I think that they will never forget some of them. I know that she spent much of her time in prayer." "Do you suppose she is praying now?" "Certainly not. Her prayers are ended. We read of praises in Heaven — but of no intercessions except those of Christ."
"Has her family been blessed apparently?" "All her children are in the church. Her eldest son living, is our most active elder, and just before her death she heard of the conversion of two of her grandsons at the West, who had been in situations of peculiar temptation."
"Do you think she remembered the church?" "If you had known her you would not ask that. Her church was as dear unto her as the apple of her eye. She spent many a long hour in her sleepless nights in asking for blessings on the church, when the rest of the congregation were sleeping."
"Just now you wondered why God in his providence protracted the life of aged Christians when their days of active usefulness were over. And yet it seems evident that in this case it was the means of teaching patience, gentleness, a knowledge of the Scriptures, and that in answer to her prayers, many of her family have been hopefully converted. No effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous is ever lost.
As this life is the only season for prayer, hers may have been protracted for this express purpose. For many generations, for anything you or I can tell, blessings temporal and spiritual may be granted in answer to the prayers of that helpless, bed-ridden Christian."
Said the angel of the covenant unto one who had wrestled with him all night, "As a prince have you power with God, and have prevailed." Are there now no princes in prayer like him who strove at Peniel? None now who wrestle not one night only — but through long years of infirmity and suffering it may be, yet of cherished communion with God, whose prayers, presented "in the golden vial" by an almighty Advocate, are poured back in priceless blessings?
Let us try to realize that not one day of weariness will be given to the maturest saint, which is not necessary; not one sigh breathed, which has not its errand. The servant of Christ need never be useless, under any circumstances, in any place, alone, on a bed of weakness, shut out from the world, deaf even, while the heart can beat with love to a dying world, or conscious thought rise to the mercy-seat.
We should shine until the last, and the brighter at the last. The nearer we draw to the Sun of Righteousness — the clearer should become our reflection of his loveliness and glory.
"Outlived his usefulness!" Never let such a sentence be uttered by a Christian.
A lady was urging a man in middle life to enter once more a Sabbath-school where he had formerly assisted, and where his services were greatly needed.
He declined. "I have taught for twenty years; I have served my time."
"Then your experience will be all the more valuable," was suggested.
He persisted in refusing, adding, conclusively, that "his work was done."
The next Sabbath they met in the vestibule of the church. As he greeted her she said, quietly, "I did not expect to see you here."
"Ah! why not?"
"You told me the last time I saw you that your work was done. Now I always supposed that when our work was all done the Master would send for us. So I supposed you had gone to your reward."