religion of this poor Hottentot woman
(John Angell James, "The
Path to the Bush")
It is the practice of some of the Christian
order to enjoy the privilege of secret prayer with greater
privacy and freedom than they could do in their own
confined and incommodious dwellings--to retire among
the trees and bushes, that they may carry on their devotions
without being intruded on by others, and also derive all that
tranquilizing influence which would be produced by a spot,
with which no other occupations, thoughts, and feelings are
associated, than such as are holy. Each individual selects for
his own use a particular bush, behind which, and concealed
by it, he may commune with his heavenly Father in secret.
By the others, this bush is considered as sacred to the one
by whom it had been appropriated;
and which, therefore,
is never to be violated by the foot, or
even by the gaze of
another, during the season it is occupied
by its proprietor.
The constant tread of the worshipers, in their
visits to these hallowed spots, would, of necessity,
a path in the grass which lay between their huts, and
the sylvan scene of their communion with God.
On one occasion, a Christian Hottentot woman said to
another member of their little community, "Sister, I am
afraid you are somewhat declining in piety." The words
were accompanied with a look of affection, and were
uttered with a tone that savored nothing of accusation,
nor of reproachful severity--but was expressive of tender
concern, and the meekness of wisdom. The individual thus
addressed, asked her friend for the reason of her fears.
"Because," replied this good and gentle spirit, "the grass
has grown over your path to your bush." Nature
carrying on its usual progress, had disclosed the secret.
The backslider could not deny the fact. There, in the
growing grass, was the indisputable evidence that
the feet which had once trodden it down had ceased to
frequent the spot. She did not attempt to excuse it, but
fell under the sweet influence of this sisterly reproof, and
confessed, with ingenuous shame and sorrow, that her
heart had turned away from the Lord. The admonition
had its desired effect--the sinner was converted from
the error of her ways, and her watchful and faithful
reprover had the satisfaction and reward of seeing the
wanderer restored--not only to the path to the bush,
but to the renewed favor of that God with whom she
there again communed in secret.
Note the value of private prayer, and the connection
between its regular and spiritual performance, and a
healthy state of the soul. When the bush was neglected,
and the path to it forsaken--then did the
religion of this
poor Hottentot woman begin to spiritually decline. And
how could it be otherwise? Who ever kept up a vigorous
piety--when secret prayer was neglected?
is in the closet
of private devotion, that . . .
our cares are lightened,
our sorrows mitigated,
our corruptions mortified,
our graces strengthened, and
shake off the dust of the earth!