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returning home, to his pain and distress, found there was neither bread, nor meal, nor any article of food in the house. His wife was weeping sorely for the poor children, who were crying with hunger, and continued to do so till they fell asleep. He advised his wife to go to bed likewise; and she, worn out with suffering and anxiety for the children, speedily fell asleep.
“ The moon shone brightly, and with a heavy heart he went out to a retired spot at a little distance, to meditate on those remarkable words in Hab. iii. 17, 18 : Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines ; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Here he continued in prayer for about an hour and a half; and so completely was his soul tranquillized by communion with God, that he returned into his house in a sweet and composed frame of mind.
“His wife and children he found on reaching it were still sleeping; but to his astonishment he discerned something by the light of the moon placed upon a stool (chairs they had none) near the bed, which was not there when he left. He examined it a little more closely, and to his utter surprise found it consisted of a roasted joint of meat and a half-peck loaf. He went to the door, but could see no one; he called, but there was no answer; and after having used his eyes and his voice for some time in vain, he returned in, awoke his wife and children, asked a blessing, and gave them a comfortable repast."
Whence came this unexpected provision in such an emergency? Certainly it was sent by Him who heareth the young ravens when they cry, and who hath said that “there is no want to them that fear him." But through what instrumentality did it arrive? What Christian hand had been stretched out to relieve this poor family? What Christian mind could possibly be acquainted with their circumstances at that hour? " Truth is stranger than fiction." No such heart pitied, no such hand relieved; and yet there was the supply when the exigency came.
The whole matter was involved in mystery, and in mystery it remained for above twelve years after this period.
At the expiration of that time, some friends
met together one evening, when a conversation arose about a fariner who was lately dead, and who had lived at Lowick-Highsteed; a place to which the cognomen of Pinch-me-near had been given by his neighbours, on account of its owner's miserly propensities. “What," it was asked, “had become of his property ?" “ Never," observed one of the number, did he do one generous action during his whole lifetime." “ Yes," answered an elderly woman who was present, “I could relate one which he did, that is rather curious.” She then stated, that about twelve or thirteen years ago she lived with him as servant, or housekeeper. On one Thursday morning he ordered her to have a whole joint of meat roasted, having given directions a day or two before to bake two large loaves of white bread. He then went to Woolmer market, came home in a very bad humour, and went to bed. In about two hours after he called up his man-servant, and ordered him to take one of the loaves and the joint of meat, and carry them down the moors directly to Thomas Hownham's, and leave them there. The man did so, and finding the family asleep, set them by the bed-side and came away.
On the next morning, her master seemed, she added, in great agitation of mind, and told her and the man servant that he had intended to have invited John Mool and some neighbouring farmers, who were always teasing him on account of his close and miserly habits, to have a supper with him the night before ; that he would not invite them in the inarketplace, as he intended to have taken them by surprise on his way home, but a smart shower of rain coming on, they rode off, and left him before he could get an opportunity of asking them ;—that soon after he had gone to bed he fell dreaming, and thought he saw Hownham's wife and children starving for hunger ;-that he awoke and put off the impression ; soon, however, he dreamed the same thing again, and again attempted to shake it off ; but when the dream occurred a third time he was altogether overcome with the nonsense ;-that he believed the devil was in him; but that since he had been so foolish as to send the meat and bread, he could not now help it. But he charged the man and herself never to mention it, or he would turn them away directly. She added that since he was now dead, she thought she might relate it, as a proof that he had done one generous action, though he was grieved at it afterwards. “Surely," adds the narrator of the anecdote, “this was a wonderful instance of God's special interposition on behalf of his own children. The infidel or sceptic may sneer at the account as incredible, and denounce it as a fiction got up by some fanatic or enthusiast, and the worldly minded and formal professor of Christianity may join the former in his ridicule, and say this is carrying the doctrine of a particular providence rather too far ; but the sincere Christian will be prompted by this affecting story to a higher and holier admiration of that gracious God and Father, who feedeth' the young ravens when they call upon him, and therefore can give bread to his people, and supply their temporal wants in a way that shall call forth their deepest gratitude."
As we have already observed, we offer no remarks as to the origin of dreams. We have simply dealt with the fact that they have evidently at times been used by God as instruments of his providential dispensations. In the immense majority of cases, dreams are vain and fantastic fancies, originating in the previous action of the mind, or in the present condition of the body. They are but