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An essay by Lydia H. Sigourney

The Adopted Niece

Title:     The Adopted Niece
Author: Lydia H. Sigourney [More Titles by Sigourney]

Those who have extended to lonely orphan hearts the protection of home, and a fostering kindness, are often repaid by the most tender and grateful affections. A peculiarly striking instance of this kind occurred in the case of an adopted niece of the Rev. John Newton, of London, England. Suddenly bereaved of her parents and an only brother, she found the arms of sympathizing relatives open to receive her, as a trust and a treasure. She had just entered her twelfth year when she came to them, and was possessed of an agreeable person, a lively disposition, with a quick and inventive genius. Her judgment and sense of propriety were advanced beyond her years, but her most endearing qualities were sweetness of temper and a heart formed for the exercise of gratitude and friendship. No cloud was seen upon her countenance, and when it was necessary to overrule her wishes, she acquiesced with a smile.

To her uncle and aunt, her returns of affection were ardent and touching. She was watchful not to offend, or interfere with their convenience in the slightest degree, and often said, with her peculiarly sweet tones, "I should be very ungrateful if I thought any pleasure equal to that of pleasing you."

Her health, which had been for some time frail, began, in a year or two, sensibly to decline, with marked hectic symptoms. Whenever she was able, she patiently employed herself with her needle or book, her guitar or harpsichord. Though she knew no hour of perfect ease, she was remarkably placid and cheerful, and attentive to the wishes and comfort of others. If at any time the severity of pain caused a silent tear to steal down her cheek, and she saw that her uncle or aunt observed it, she would instantly turn to them with a smile or kiss, and say,

"Do not be uneasy. I am not so very ill. I can bear it. I shall be better presently."

Her religious education had been early attended to by her parents; and the excellent relatives who supplied their place, saw with the deepest gratitude the strengthening of her faith, for support in the season of trial. She said to her aunt,

"I have long and earnestly sought the Lord, with reference to the change that is now approaching. I trust He will fit me for himself, and then, whether sooner or later, it signifies but little."

Sufferings the most acute were appointed her, which medical skill was unwearied in its attempts to mitigate. To her attentive physician who expressed his regret one morning, at finding her more feeble than on the previous day, she replied,

"I trust all will be well soon."

Her spirit was uniformly peaceful, and her chief attention of an earthly nature seemed directed to the consolation of those who were distressed at her sufferings. The servants, who waited on her from love, both night and day, she repeatedly thanked in the most fervent manner, adding her prayer that God would reward them. To her most constant attendant, she said,

"Be sure to call upon the Lord. If you think He does not hear you now, He will at last. So it has been with me."

As the last hours of life drew nigh, she had many paroxysms of agony. But her heart rested on the Redeemer. To one who inquired how she was, she sweetly answered,

"Truly happy. And if this is dying, it is a pleasant thing to die."

In the course of her illness, to the question of her friends if she desired to be restored and to live long, she would reply, "Not for the world," and sometimes, "Not for a thousand worlds." But as she approached the verge of heaven, her own will seemed wholly absorbed in the Divine Will, and to this inquiry she meekly answered,

"I desire to have no choice."

For the text of her funeral sermon, she chose, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," and also selected an appropriate hymn to be sung on that occasion. "Do not weep for me, dear aunt," she tenderly said, "but rather rejoice, and give praise on my account."

As the close of her last day on earth approached, she desired to hear once more the voice of prayer. Her affectionate uncle, who cherished for her the love of a father, poured out his soul fervently at the Throne of Grace. Her lips, already white in death, clearly pronounced "Amen," and soon after added, "Why are his chariot-wheels so long in coming? Yet I hope he will enable me to wait His hour with patience."

Fixing her eyes on her mourning aunt, it seemed as if the last trace of earthly anxiety that she was destined to feel, was on her account. To one near her pillow, she said in a gentle whisper.

"Try to persuade my aunt to leave the room. I think I shall soon sleep. I shall not remain with you until the morning."

No. Her morning was to be where there is no sunset. All pain was for her ended. So quiet was the transition, that those whose eyes were fixed earnestly upon her, could not tell when she drew her last breath. She lay as if in childlike slumber, her cheek reclining upon her hand, and on her brow a smile.

She died on the 6th of October, 1785, at the age of fourteen years. During her short span, she communicated a great amount of happiness to those who adopted her as a child into their hearts and homes. The sweet intercourse and interchange of love more than repaid their cares.

They were permitted to aid in her growth of true religion, and to see its calm and glorious triumph over the last great enemy. That a child, under fifteen, should have been enabled thus to rejoice amid the wasting agony of sickness, and thus willingly leave those whom she loved, and whose love for her moved them to do all in their power to make life pleasant to her young heart, proves the power of a Christian's faith.

She desired to be absent from the body, that she might be present with the Lord. Now, before his Throne, whom not having seen, she loved, and raised above the clouds that break in tears, and all shafts of pain and sorrow, she drinks of the rivers of pleasure that flow at his right hand, and shall thirst no more.

[The end]
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Adopted Niece