Project Canterbury

Robert and Louisa Stewart: In Life and in Death

By Mary E. Watson

London: Marshall Brothers, 1895.

Chapter X. "Called, and Chosen, and Faithful"

I have seen this golden city
Shining as the noonday clear,
Seen the glory that surrounds it
As of sunset drawing near,
And my soul hath caught an echo
Of the music that resounds
Through all its woods and meadows:--
"In this city Love abounds,
Love abounds."

There is no night in this city,
Here the Sun goes down no more,
For the Lord Himself unveileth
His own Light from shore to shore;
Where the stillness is so perfect
In its harmony of sounds
That the soul hears but one utterance--
"In this city Love abounds,
Love abounds."

Christ alone is King of glory,
He--The Lamb who once was slain!
And this wondrous living city
Is the outcome of His pain:
'Tis His own all-glorious body,
Hence we hear the joyful sounds
That for ever echo through it:--
"In this city Love abounds,
Love abounds."


LENA was called by God when quite a child in one of the Dublin Mission Homes. She heard the call and recognised the Voice.

She was chosen of Him that she should be holy and without blemish, and to her also was this grace given that she should preach by word and life among the heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ.

She was faithful even unto death. She lost her life in seeking to save another.

When Lena was eleven years old, she knew very distinctly that Christ had taken possession of her as His temple, to fill with grace and glory, and thence to bless others.

She was a bright, clever girl, and her friends thought she would make a good teacher in one of the Mission schools. But Lena herself had other views in her little mind.

In the world outside the Elliott Home changes had been taking place. Miss Louisa Smyly, a great favourite among the Mission school children, had been married, and had become Mrs. Robert Stewart. She had gone out to China with her husband, followed to her far foreign home by the love and interest of many to whom she had been helpful in Dublin. But in one little Elliott Home girl's heart there was a special link of sympathy,--a God-given link.

The wise little maiden felt that if she could help forward God's work by helping Mrs. Stewart and setting her free to teach the Chinese women, her great wish would be fulfilled.

Some years passed by, and Mr. and Mrs. Stewart returned from China with a family of little children. In the summer holidays they went to Wales to be near the sea. Mrs. Stewart wanted a girl to help her in the care of her children. And though Lena's desires were locked up in her own little heart, the matron of the Home had her ideas on the same subject, feeling that her capable trustworthy pupil might be a real help to Mrs. Stewart, and she gladly recommended her for the vacant place. And Lena found herself promoted, for the time at least, to the work she had so desired.

She proved herself so faithful and useful during the temporary engagement, that the next proposal was, to her unbounded delight, that she should be permanently installed as nurse and go back to China with the family on their return. I need hardly say the offer was accepted, even with tears of joy. And from that time (with one interval of a year, when she went to stay with her mother, who had emigrated .to America) the little voices that called on "Ena" for help and counsel in their daily joys and sorrows and occupations filled her life with happy, useful work.

Not without its trials; such as the long hours when Mrs. Stewart was out among her Chinese women, and the bright young Irish girl--she was only seventeen when she went out--was left alone with her little charges, no other English-speaking person within reach. It was well that her life-path had not been lightly chosen; and better still, that she had learned to know Him who says, "I will never leave thee."

When Mr. and Mrs. Stewart had to come home in 1888, as already stated, to recruit his health, Lena, of course, came with them. She proved to be a great comfort, not only through her watchful care of the children, but by her ready thoughtfulness and Christian sympathy.

The love she bore to Mr. and Mrs. Stewart was God's own love shed abroad in her heart by the Holy Ghost. This was proved by her unselfishness. Merely human love is an outcome of the self-life, and is never quite free from selfishness. God's love alone is like the sunshine--all give and no take.

We all counted Lena as a friend, no longer a servant merely (hallowed as that name and position is through our Saviour's life of humble service), but also a sister beloved in the Lord.

During the short happy time that they called Bedford home, I used to see Lena occasionally, and not the least important part of a few days' visit to my sister was the little time with Lena in the nursery.

One day baby would not sleep. And Lena had something on her heart to say, but even the hearts of babies are in the Lord's hand, and He turns them whithersoever He will. Baby slept, and Lena could tell her request for prayer. It was for blessing deep and lasting on the Y.W.C.A. in Bedford, and for special meetings about to be held.

Lena was a Y.W.C.A. member, and deeply interested in the Association.

Mrs. Stewart was made President of the Bedford Association while she was resident in that town. Lena and her mistress were always one in spirit, and they both loved the Y.W.C.A.; and I am sure they both prayed God to bless it as long as they lived.

To this union of spirit between mother and nurse we attribute much of the blessing which, through God's mercy, has been given to the children.

In all the little difficulties which always arise with a family of seven or eight children the one resource with Mrs. Stewart and Lena was prayer.

They clung to that promise, "If two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done." And the promise, or rather the Promiser, it is needless to say, never failed them.

Lena never forsook her old love for the new. China, the land of her adoption, was the new love, Ireland and her people, and specially "The Elliott Home," her own home, was the old. Every year the savings from her wages were sent to its funds. Earnestly and fervently she prayed for the children, and heartily did she thank God for the Dublin Mission Homes and Schools.

The arrangement made when Mr. and Mrs. Stewart were returning to China, in 1893, showed how highly they valued Lena's capability and trustworthiness. It was, of course, impossible to take little children on a missionary tour in Canada, so they were left to make the long journey to Foochow, in their faithful nurse's care.

How vividly we remember the start that October evening, the little travellers well wrapped up for their night journey, dear little four-year-old Herbert clinging to a stuffed calico "pussy"; and Lena moving about among them, so quiet and self-possessed, seeming to know everything, and to remember everything that was necessary.

The journey was safely accomplished, and we heard with joy of the happy meeting in China.

Since then Lena's letters have been interesting, full of nursery news, well written and well expressed.

In spare evenings Mrs. Stewart taught Lena Chinese, so that when she went out with the children she could give a simple message to the Chinese women who came in her way. She soon learned to say, "Jesus loves you, and died to save you."

One of Lena's last letters, written in May, 1895, tells about the flight from Kucheng at the first alarm of the Vegetarians; how she packed blankets and clothes in baskets for Mrs. Stewart and the children.

She gives beautiful glimpses of the confidence and oneness of spirit between the workers whom God had joined in such close union in His work, and whom He was so soon going to gather up together into the unseen glory.

Then the letter goes back to nursery details, very touching to read now; how baby caught cold on the journey, and how her teeth were troubling her; but finally the careful nurse says, "She is quite bright again," and goes on to tell of more little plays and sayings.

Sweet, happy home-life, not ended, only carried within the veil by that wild outbreak of fanatical fury. We know how the faithful nurse went home by that rough path with two of her nurslings.

We do not want to dwell in thought on the rough path--the earthly side. It seemed as if God drew our hearts up, and taught us to say, "Lord, they are with Thee"; the little ones "quite bright again." Ah! how bright in the sunshine of Thy presence, all that band rejoicing now in the presence of the King.

"Safe gathered home around Thy blessed feet,
Come home by different roads from near and far;
Whether by whirlwind or by flaming car,
From pangs or sleep, safe folded round Thy seat."

And so we close this sketch of what God was pleased to do in living temples, where He had come to dwell. "For God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them."

No less in the faithful young nurse (missionary and martyr) than in the devoted mother, Louisa Stewart,--mother, not only of her own children, but of many in China and elsewhere, who loved to call her Mission Mother, and Robert Stewart, father, Mission Father, beloved brother, patient humble worker, happy, blessed martyr.

Their lives still speak to us, and this is what they say:

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

"And will be a Father unto you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

Project Canterbury