Character of Father Mathew

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XV (5) | Start of Chapter

Father Mathew, taken in the aggregate, is a character which must put the finger of silence on the lip of even bigotry itself. If any one finds fault, it must be because his unceasing unostentatious acts of goodness rebuke his own sluggishness. He unites the meekness of a Moses with the unyielding firmness of a Paul, and while he reasons with severity on temperance, and a "judgment to come," before a worldly-minded Felix, he dashes in kind sprinklings of mercy to the repenting prodigal who says. "Father, I have sinned." While he shows "mercy with cheerfulness," he forbears not the deserved caution or rebuke, where the recipient may have caused his own sufferings by imprudence. While the rich guest at his table feels a subdued respect, the poor feels he is in presence of one by whom he is remembered with that condescending kindness, which narrows the awful gulph too often fixed between the rich and the poor. While universal praises are falling on his ear, and the multitude are saying, "It is the voice of a God and not of a man," like the angel before whom John was about to fall and worship, he says, "See thou do it not."

Like the eagle, the nearer he approximates to the sun, the clearer his vision, and the less the squibbings of the marksman affect him—so, as his heaven-born towering mind goes from glory to glory in his lofty moral flight, the adulations and censures of men die on his ear like the echo of the mountain sportsman, or the distant murmur of the waterfall. When he speaks in a crowd, it is not that the eloquence of his tongue or the happy figure or turn of a period may he admired; and when the loud cheerings drown his voice, the lighting up of his countenance is not that of inflated vanity, but a grateful manifestation of approbation that his brethren can appreciate the worth of that cause which lies so near his heart. Though cradled in the lap of affluence, he is as unostentatious of pedigree as the shepherd boy, who claims no descent beyond the thatched cabin that gave him birth. Though the weight of an intemperate world is rolled upon him, yet he forgets not the wants of the humblest menials, nor suffers the smallest favor to go unrequited. Consistency is the sheet anchor which keeps all steady. His house, though the resort of the great and noble, has no tawdry display of finery, nor rich gildings, serving only as useless ornaments of family greatness. His religion is truly catholic, dealing no anathemas to the dissenting who may differ from his creed in belief or practice; and his whole life, though one of daily self-denial, is an even tenor of chastened patience and cheerfulness. He has wiped more tears from the face of woman, than any other being on the globe, but the Lord Jesus; and thousands of lisping infants will bless the providence that gave them an existence in the same age with Father Mathew. May God give him length of days, and a crown of glory in heaven, which shall shine as the stars for ever and ever!

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.