[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
"UNTO every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." So says St. Paul, in words of mighty practical wisdom; and yet they seem so little realised in their import, or, at all events, acted upon in the Church and amongst Christian workers. How often it appears as if one individual should be and should do everything - combine all the gifts and qualities that God bestows separately upon different individuals set apart to labour in the extension of His cause. One would think, to judge of some earnest workers, that they regarded the Heavenly Overseer as a hard task-master, exacting from them the last drop of blood; whereas it is they, or if not they, it is the system under which they work that is so unreasonable. Individual talent is lost sight of in the vast sameness of the machinery and of the work turned out. All zealous they may be; all whole-hearted, true, earnest, gifted people; yet all undertaking the same task; and, in their eagerness of execution, running in each other's way and tripping one another up. Nay, should any individual worker have the hardihood to chalk out a way of his own, and engage in work of his own finding and selection, how often he is found fault with, as not doing his duty by his Church or by the community: he neglects, they say, this, that, and the other thing; and he takes up schemes of his own of a doubtful nature and of no manner of use. Why not do so-and-so? Why not follow the leading of so-and-so? Why be odd? Why, in a word, not do as they do?
Eleanor Elliott was one of the so-called "odd" workers. As before said, always about her Master's business, she yet made no mark in the religious world indicative of any great feat of labour. For a moment we will lift the curtain and lay bare some of the busy routine of that quiet, hidden, unremarkable, yet forcible Christian career. And, as we are about to do so, we are reminded of what might be conceived of an ideal explorer through dense forests and barren, trackless wastes. He goes forth, not to kill, but to tame, subdue, and save. Alone he sets out, alone he prosecutes his arduous and dangerous journey: there is no path before him, but what he makes for himself with persevering patience and risk. Wild beasts prowl around, and their cries fill his ears; but his humane errand and the desire of discovery animate his heart and nerve his endeavour, and on he holds his way, and never relents, till by degrees he sees the fruits of his labour and the reward of all his toil Another coming after him, with less of his skill, less of his courage and thirst of achievement, finds the path rough, it is true, but after all comparatively clear; the wild creatures fewer in number, and not so fierce in character. They have learned to know the disposition of the adventurer - he is gentle and kind, he will not harm them; and they will not harm him. Easy - comparatively easy for the second on the field. But who smoothed the path? who subdued the ferocity of the wild denizen? who opened up the way to tracts of unexpected beauty, verdure, and fruitfulness - who! The succeeding traveller profits, but cannot tell to whom he is debtor; per haps he does not even ask himself. He only thinks of present minor difficulties, not of the greater that have been over come by another!
Yes, our friend may be regarded as especially a Christian pioneer. No "odd" worker really, but in the truest sense most methodical; because "according to the measure of the gift of Christ" she duly fulfilled her calling in the Church and the community to which she belonged. She clashed with no one, but she smoothed the path of the feet of man who have followed after.
There are, or there were, dens of sin, filth, and misery in Douglas that no ordinary Christian worker ever put a foot into, not altogether from want of sympathy, but from positive dread - on the one hand of contagious disease, and on the other of foul language; and perhaps of personal attack and injury. There, however, Mrs. Elliott was as well known as were the uncouth wretched inhabitants to one another; there she walked and visited and taught and prayed for years of her holy self-denying life. Her practice was every morning to spend alone some hours in the study of the Word (which she studied on her knees), and in prayer. Then, her devotion over, she betook herself to the hovels of dirt and misery; and often until an advanced hour in the afternoon visited in the polluted slums of Douglas. On entering a house, no matter how sickeningly unclean, she would kneel down on the floor, join her hands fervently together, and with raised head and closed eyes, address the Father of all mercies on behalf of the inmates. As she knew the wants of each dwelling so well in all their particulars, she mentioned each need to the God of help; and above all prayed that the poor people might have their eyes opened to behold Jesus the Saviour of their souls, and their hearts made receptive for the truth by the visitation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Then she rose, sang a verse or so of a hymn, and then slowly and emphatically repeated a text of Scripture, never omitting the leading truths of salvation, such as "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life )" and "The blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin;" and "Ye must be born again." After this repetition by herself, she then questioned her hearers as to what she had said; and never did she leave their presence until they were able to repeat the words correctly. This achieved, she then asked them if they understood what They had learned. Of course they rarely did, then began an explanation, and then another catechising. In some degree satisfied with what had been taken in by her scholars - sometimes very old pupils indeed - as also sometimes very young, she questioned them about the needs of the body; and should the case appear anything like a necessitous one, putting her hand in her pocket, she gave to the only too eager recipient what would assist the natural in addition to the spiritual requirements, the former being always considered by her conjointly with the latter. Quietly, and usually with her head slightly bent, she sallied forth towards the door, her step very slow and measured, as if she were in deep thought, but in reality in deep communion with God, and earnest in entreaty with the Divine Spirit on behalf of those she had dealt with. Once more on the threshold, she knelt down, prayed audibly - after which, another verse of a hymn, and she was gone. This system of visiting she practised in every house; and how much niore of material as well as of spiritual assistance she gave the Great Day alone will declare. Her life was truly hid with Christ in God.
And there were times when that pure and lofty spirit entered houses where, it is safe to say, even the most devoted clergyman never put, or could with any prudence put his foot, let alone lift his voice in warning or entreaty. Yes, into habitations of ill-fame - dens of foulest sin and most terrible lawlessness she found her way. Many a time she was positively refused an entrance; not by the men who frequented these haunts of vice but by the women. Calmly and determinedly she stood like a rock on these occasions at the outer door of such houses, and implored of the young men who were making their way in, not to go - not - if only for their mother's sake! "I am a mother," she would say, "and I implore you, as with a mother's love - do not risk your souls in here!" Shamefacedly some turned back; and when they did so the women within all but struck that fair noble creature of their own sex, who stood like a wall between the temptresses and the tempted. On other occasions she intruded her pure presence where oaths and drink prevailed, and there raised up that voice of hers in holy beseeching. Sometimes not in vain, sometimes at the very risk of her life. The writer hardly knows now from what source she chiefly obtained this knowledge of this devoted life; for truly, in after years when she knew the subject of this memoir almost as intimately as a daughter might have done, she yet never heard her speak of her labours or of what they were. She was ever the delightful companion, the saintly influence that ennobled and raised to the higher ntercourse of God and eternity; but conversation of self there was none. Self was laid on the altar; Christ and His cause were everything. Freely and enthusiastically, on the other hand, she spoke of the good deeds of others; indeed, the smallest effort on the part of any Christian friend was commended and encouraged -praised beyond all deserving. It was impossible to meet with such sympathy and encouragement from any one as from her; and who knew better how to give it? And strange, though so conscious - she could not fail to be from the experience she had - of the sin and worthlessness within the human heart, and the deceitfulness of the human tongue, no being could have been less suspecting, more utterly guileless than she was. She saw beauty and she saw worth - and always hope - where no other could. It was almost a vain task to get her to believe evil of the most depraved at times. Her heart was a centre of boundless love and pity.
One day - and here we tremble to proceed - that she had, as her wont, been spending hours in the wretched region of "Little Ireland," or Back Strand Street, she came home late in the evening faint and weary and hungry - as, she was often all these ! - when a telegram was placed in her hands. It was addressed to her husband, but thinking probably it might be a call to some patient suddenly taken ill, she opened it - when, lo ! these words met her gaze
"Snell to Philip Elliott, Esq. - Come at once. Philip has been vomiting blood and died suddenly this morning.
A cry - a piercing cry - a blank - a fall - and we know no more.
No more ! but what is contained in the following letter.
It is from the Rev. Frederick Grier, eldest son of Colonel Grier, to his uncle, the Rev. Robert Weatherell, Elton. The Griers were now living in Douglas, and the writer of the letter was curate of St. George's.
"6 ALBERT TERRACE, DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN,
"September 20, 1866.
"My DEAR UNCLE, - To-night a heavy blow has been struck in our family. A telegram arrived in Athol Street to the following import: 'Snell to Philip Elliott, Esq. - Come at once. Philip has been vomiting blood and died suddenly this morning.' Poor Uncle Elliott rushed over to this house with it at about nine o'clock, and mother and myself went over. Aunt Eleanor's grief is tearless, unrelieved by a tear - cold, deep, hard - a 'stony grief.' Mr. Elliott's is passionate, like a woman's. God help them this night.
"Mr. Elliott, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Craigie, starts to-morrow morning to bring home the mortal remains.
"So we go one after another, time leaves its niarks and death makes its gaps, and we ask which of us is next to follow as we look round us on our family circle. Looking at him who has last been taken, I think of one whose prayer was, 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' rather 'to me the sinful one,' and I can but add, 'The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord on thatday,' and teach us who survive, in this and other like daily spectacles of mortality, to see how frail and uncertain our condition is, and so to number our days that we may seriously apply our hearts unto that holy and heavenly wisdom whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ. - Your very affectionate nephew, FRED. GRIER."
After Philip and his wife left Douglas for their new home, and the former's new sphere of work at Barrowden, things had gone on apparently very well; the young doctor was a favourite with his patients, and Barrowden generally was loud in his praise. All at once, seemingly with no specific cause, Philip was seized with a slight attack of bleeding from the lungs. On consultation it was deemed nothing of any moment. A short time went over, and, on the return of health, he was one day leading a horse out of the stable; the animal kicked him in the region of the stomach. Philip bore the pain and said nothing. Some days after, however, bleeding began again, and soon became very excessive - progressing in quantity with terrible rapidity. Death was speedily the result.
So sudden had been the call, and so unaccountable, that for a time the event seemed clouded with mystery, both in Barrowden and in Douglas, when the intelligence was received and circulated. As to the widow, so paralysing had been the shock to her system, that for days she lay as dead. When Dr. Elliott and Mr. and Mrs. Craigie arrived at Barrowden, they found her in this sad condition. Mrs. Craigie remained with her daughter, and Dr. Elliott and Mr. Craigie returned to the Isle of Man, accompanying the body of the deceased.
What the return was to that home of woe in Athol St. we never heard and have no means of ascertaining, excepting by what is inferred in a letter from the heart-broken mother. She, too, it was stated, lay paralysed, or literally turned to stone with speechless agony of grief. In a sense this sorrow was more powerful in its intense anguish than that she experienced when her first-born - Willie, the light and sunshine of her life - was taken. Philip was all she had left of the children God had given her; and what made his sudden death so bitter %bove all was the thought, was it well with her poor boy? Willie she knew was safe in the bosom of his Saviour; but Philip, poor Philip, he had given no evidence that he had passed from the condemnation of sin into life in Christ Jesus. He was a good-hearted, happy- go-lucky youth, who had never really seriously considered the great question of a personal salvation and reconciliation with a just and righteous God, through a loving and com passionate Saviour. He was not spiritually-minded, or at all events he had given no indication of being so, and this was the mother's bitterest and most crushing cause of grief. Could she have known that all was well with her beloved one, she would have borne up with less poignancy of woe and stubbornness of despair; but when the great comfort and rest for her stricken heart was wanting, she was over come with a grief so uncontrollable, that many condemned it as nothing short of rebellion. Heedless the words fell upon her ears. Friends spoke but she heard not, or if she heard there came no response. An awful blackness - a night of utter inconsolable anguish rested upon her spirit, and even the voice of the Lord of life was, for the time being, dumb to her heart. Surely nothing is so terrible to bear to the true child of God as the sense of the with drawal of the Divine presence and support. As the Saviour cried out on the cross, "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" so she now was, as it were, forsaken - alone with her woe - with a stretch of life before her, unrelieved for evermore on earth by the music of the voice, by the sunshine of the smile, by the warmth of the touch of any dear child of her own. All - all taken of those God had given, and that she had striven to rear for Him. A life lonely with loss was to be hers, and dark with irrevocable sorrow.
The funeral was a large one, as might be expected under the circumstances; and independent of the sympathy and respect that were so general for the bereaved parents and relatives, poor Philip had been a great favourite with his many associates and friends in Douglas. He was laid to rest in the family vault close to the entrance of the principal gate to St. George's churchyard.
Mrs. Weatherell recounts in her Diary how attentive and kind their dear friend and clergyman, Mr. Hawley,* was on the occasion. How he reasoned with her afflicted daughter so sensibly and lovingly that she seemed to be soothed, and in some measure comforted. Vain are almost all words - the kindest and best even - from the dearest on earth, when the hand of Death has been laid on what we prized above all. There is but this comfort, "Jesus wept." He shed the mortal tear; and He alone can wipe those tears He Himself has permitted to be shed.
* The Rev. William Hawley was now Incumbent of St. George's, having succeeded Rev. Edward Forbes in 1859.