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THE DEATH OF MONICA, MOTHER OF ST. AUGUSTINE.
Like most other great men, Augustine was deeply indebted to his mother. She not only instructed him, but when he grew up into forgetfulness of God, she ceased not to follow him with fervent supplications. For him her soul was in agony; so that on one occasion, when she spoke on the subject to a holy man, he said to her, “Go, woman: the child of such prayers and tears cannot perish !" She at length witnessed his conversion, and her joy was full. Resolved to devote himself wholly unto his God and Saviour, he then left Milan, whither he had wandered, followed by his sorrowing and widowed mother, on his way home to Carthage. They had arrived at Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, and there had, one evening, an exalted and soul-melting conversation on the blessedness of eternity. Acknowledging that blessedness to be beyond human conception, he yet says that in that conversation their hearts were so opened towards God, and received so largely of the streams of the water of life flowing from Him, that in some degree they were enabled to realize in their own feelings the joys that surpass all understanding. All earthly things appeared as nothing to them; heaven everything, because God is in heaven, and God is all in all.
She told him, in conclusion, that all her desire to live had referred to him and his salvation ; and that now she had witnessed this, life seemed objectless to her. She had nothing particular to do, nothing particular to hope for. She ended by saying, "What have I to do here ?” In five days she was seized with a violent fever, by which her strength was entirely prostrated. But her mind was all peace. She had previously wished much to die at Carthage, that she might be buried with her husband in the place which she had provided and prepared. Their union had been most happy, and by a natural feeling she desired that their dust might be mingled. She was now far from her family sepulchre. The waves of the Mediterranean were rolling between. She was in a strange land. But the desire was quenched. All places on earth were alike to her whose treasure and heart were in heaven. Some of her friends asked her, seeing that her mortal remains would be committed to Italian earth, whether she felt no regret at the thought of leaving her body so far from her own city? VOL. V.
TIIE ATTRACTIONS OF HOME,
She replied, “We are never far from God; nor have I any fear that at the last day He will not know where to find me that He may raise me again.” She soon after expired. Her son gives this simple record of the event: “Thus, in the ninth day of her sickness, in the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the thirty-third of mine, her devoted and holy spirit was separated from her body.” (Conf., 1. ix., c. 11.)
Many a conversation had Augustine enjoyed with his beloved mother, but that final one exceeded all. The manner in which he relates it, shows how deeply the remembrance of it was fixed in his soul. It was a remarkable occurrence. Just on the eve of the final separation, the mother and the son stand by a window in a clear Italian evening, looking towards the sky from which sun, moon, and stars shed their light on the earth, and in ardent affection, elevating their spirits higher and yet higher still, nor pausing in their glorious ascent till they arrive in thought and affection at the blessed region of inexhaustible abundance where God for ever nourishes His Israel with the food of truth : and thus standing, they converse till earth fades from their view, and the happy mother, to whom the very hope of heaven had become more blissful by its union with the hope of her converted son, feeling as if her work on earth were done, exclaims, “What do I now here ?" In a few days she is taken ill and dies ! On her death-bed, seeing her friends were somewhat disturbed at the thought of her dying so far from home, she checks their needless care, and tells them to bury her where they chose.* Happy they who live ever in such a state that the solemnities of a death-bed, and the pains of separation, may be preluded with such celestial music as that which filled with exulting ecstasy Augustine and Monica, the mother and the son, standing by the garden-window of their lodging at Ostia !
THE ATTRACTIONS OF HOME. Home! How inspiring is the word! What pleasurable emotions it kindles in the soul! Who has not felt its soothing influence? Who has not acknowJedged its talismanic power? It is the sacred spot on which the eye of the traveller loves to linger in imagination, while exploring regions far remote. Amidst his wanderings in a land of strangers, nothing can long divert his thoughts from his beloved home. It is the polar-star to which his hopes are pointed. His country, his kindred, and his own fire-side, lie as a cordial at his heart. The hardy soldier, whose courage never failed him in the field of battle, has been often known to weep at the recollection of home, even while his ears have been stunned by the din of arms. And the sailor-boy, whose cheek is yet warm with the parting kiss of bis absent mother,—while traversing the trackless deep,— feels, amidst the roar of the angry billows, a calm serenity of mind, as he dwells on the home of his childhood.
“ Home! 'tis the name of all that sweetens life;
The growing virtues of a blooming race."
• Ponite hoc corpus ubicunque ; nihil vos ejus cura conturbet.-Conf., 1. ix., c. 11.
THE ATTRACTIONS OF HOME,
volume of inspiration, felt its reviving influence, when sunk in wretchedness and misery, in a “far country.” Destitute of friends, and perishing with hunger,-the thought of the peaceful home which he had forsaken, the domestic comforts he had slighted, the affectionate father he had deserted, awakened in his bosom a desire to return. A ray of hope broke through the cloud of his sorrows; and he exclaimed, “I will arise, and go to my father."
Even in those regions where nature has been the most lavish in scattering her bounties,—where she has revealed her loveliest and most attractive features to the eye of the traveller,—where the skies are cloudless, and the teeming earth is clothed with rich and unfading verdure,—where the palm-tree and the orange, the myrtle and the cinnamon, impart the richest fragrance to the senses,—and where the groves are yocal with the sweetest aërial melody,even there, while seated beneath the shade of some spreading tree, and surrounded by beauties such as these, the exile finds his thoughts directed to his native land ; and he sighs for the home of his fathers.
"Sweet hopes of native home! how many a heart
Is soothed by thee !" “During the expedition to Buenos Ayres, a Highland soldier, while a prisoner in the hands of the Spaniards, having formed an attachment to a man of the country, and charmed by the easy life which the tropical fertility of the soil enabled the inhabitants to lead, had resolved to remain and settle in South America. When he disclosed this resolution to his comrade, the latter did not agree with him ; but leading him to his tent, he placed him by his side, and sang to him, Lochabar no more! The spell was immediately on him ; the tears came into his eyes; and wrapping his cloak around him, he murmured, * Lochabar nae mair! I maun gang back.' The songs of his childhood were ringing in þis ears ; and he left that land of plenty for the naked rocks and sterile valleys of Padenook, where, at the close of a life of toil and hardship, he might lay his head on his mother's grave."
The inhabitants of Switzerland are proverbial for their attachment to their native soil. During the Peninsular war, many of the Swiss soldiers, at that time engaged in the French service, were so powerfully affected on hearing the favourite air, Rans de Vasches, that they immediately deserted the army. " This tune," says Dr. Beattie,“ having been the attendant of their childhood, recalls to their memory those regions of wild beauty and rude magnificence- those days of liberty and peace—those nights of festivity—those tender passions—which formerly endeared to them their country, their homes, and their enjoyments; and which, when compared to the scenes of uproar they are now engaged in, and the servitude they now undergo, awaken such regrets as entirely overpower them.”
Home, with all its fond endearments, is indeed a subject which has employed the pen of almost every writer, both in ancient and modern times. And no wonder : for a theme which dwells on early affections, and brings to remembrance the scenes and pursuits of our juvenile days, is one which cannot be exhausted.
“ Age cannot weary it, or custom sate
Its infinite variety." Thus Homer represents Ulysses strolling along the beach, lamenting bis absence from his family and friends. Calypso was sent to inform him that he might return to Ithaca :
THE ATTRACTIONS OF 110ME.
“ Him pensive on the lonely beach she found,
With streaming eyes, in briny torrents drown'd,
And inly pining for his native shore." Speaking of the same hero, on a subsequent occasion, Homer describes the intensity of his grief, arising from the recollection of his country and kindred:
“Ulysses melted, and tear following tear
Feil on his cheeks.”
: Goldsmith's admirable poem of the “Deserted Village" abounds with passages on the same subject; which cannot fail to find an echo in every heart. How exquisitely tender are the following lines :
“ In all my wanderings round this world of care
In all my griefs,—and God has given my share,
" And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
at home at last." But if the recollections of home can produce such a pleasing, melancholy association of thoughts, while distant from its hallowed bourn, a return to it must be accompanied by emotions the most delightful and transporting. What heart, professing the slightest claim to feeling, could be stoical at such a time?
“ The same keen sense that barbs the pang to part,
Points the wild rapture when return draws nigh." With what tumultuous joy does the returning exile gaze upon the spire of his native village, faintly seen tapering above the trees by which it is surrounded ! With what heartfelt satisfaction does he tread the well-known path which leads to the paternal dwelling, where first he saw the light, and from whose humble roof he already discerns the curling smoke! The fields through which he rambled, the school-house in which he received the elements of learning, the sun-burnt rustics,-once the companions of his childhood, alternately arrest his eager attention, and give birth to a train of reflections the most affecting and the most agreeable. At length he reaches the home of his boyhood. With a palpitating heart, he opens the door. In the next instant he is encircled in the embraces of those who smiled on his infancy. During the bursts of parental and filial affection, the anxieties of the past are obliterated by the ecstasies of the present.
But if, after a long and protracted absence from home, we find on our return, that time has effected mighty changes in the appearance of those objects which imparted joy to our earliest years,—if the fields we have traversed are now covered with buildings,-if the village-green, on which we have often gamboled, has been enclosed by some recent Act of Parliament, if the cottage in which we first breathed the vital air has been removed to make way for a more stately edifice,-if the flowers we planted, or the vine which our infant hands essayed to train, are withered and decayed, -we hasten to gather up the “relics of our former existence, and, with an exquisitely tender emotion, we press the fragments to our hearts, and bathe them with our tears." And if the friends of our childhood have passed away,--if" the spoiler," with unsparing hand, has removed to an eternal world a father, who