Under His Wings
Excerpts from Carrie Judd Montgomery’s Autobiography Under His Wings.
As I review Life’s pathway from my earliest memories to the present time, I can say, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.” So great has been the goodness of the Lord, and so wonderful His providences, that I feel constrained to write this little story of the Lord’s dealings with His child, for His glory and for the encouragement of others.
I was born in Buffalo, New York and was the fourth one of a family of eight children (five of whom were girls, and three boys). We were blessed with loving and godly parents, who took the greatest interest in the welfare of their children, and who desired to leave nothing undone which would work out to their advantage from a moral, educational and spiritual standpoint. Precious memories come thronging as I think of that early childhood home. It was a small house for so many of us, but some way it never seemed crowded, and we never seemed to be in each other’s way. Our precious, gentle mother had wonderful executive ability, and she always had a way of apportioning the household tasks so that each child was satisfied that he or she was not being imposed upon. She also, when tasks were well done, had a remarkable way of giving us little pleasures, so slight in themselves that one would be inclined to smile at them in after years; but the balance of work and play, of task and reward, was so wonderfully kept by the one who was queen of all our hearts, that life was full of interest from morning until night. Mother had a few simple rules for holding her restless brood in check, and one was, that she would never allow any contention between us. If we had any grievance against each other, we were to bring our cause to her, and she would faithfully and patiently inquire into both sides, and then settle the matter according to her judgment. This method of dealing with our little disputes caused us to grow up with quite an idea of justice, and taught us a method of fair dealing which was invaluable. We were always perfectly satisfied with our mother’s decision as she seemed to us to have the wisdom of Solomon. My father was of a very amiable disposition, and was usually more than willing to leave most of the family discipline to my mother, whose wisdom he trusted as much as we did. Mother seldom used ordinary methods of punishment. She had so succeeded in keeping our love and loyalty that even the most stubborn of her flock could not bear to cause her grief. Some scenes strongly impressed upon my child heart came before me as I write. One day, some of us had been naughty, though I do not remember the cause of the trouble. I was one of the culprits. My mother’s abhorrence of contention and everything wrong had been a strong factor in her success in keeping us obedient, but on the day of which I am writing, her heart was so over-burdened that, with great emotion she appealed audibly to her Father in Heaven that we might be forgiven our sin. I do not know what effect this had on the other offenders, but I know it struck terror to my child heart. It was bad enough to realize that I was causing my beloved mother great grief, but to think that the sin was also against God, and that she was actually telling Him about it, while at the same time she pleaded for our forgiveness, seemed more awful that I can describe, and I remember retiring to a corner where I would not be noticed, and in the despair of my spirit I did some silent praying on my own account, not so much for myself as for my dear mother, whose anxiety and grief appalled me, and I was afraid that it would prove more than she could bear. So I appealed to the Lord in some such way as this, that if He would only comfort my mother, and take away her extreme sorrow, I would promise to be quite good. At this time of my life I had not evidently found out what I learned later, that my own efforts to be good availed little or nothing. At another time, I refused to do a simple task which my mother requested me to perform. This was quite unusual with me, as we were trained from babyhood to be obedient, but I was interested in reading a book, and said, “I do not want to wipe the dishes.” A look of grief came into those beautiful blue eyes, and in a very sad tone, which pierced my heart, she gave me to understand that she would do the task herself, but that my refusal had made her very sorrowful. Mother was very keen in understanding the different dispositions of her children, and she knew with whom she was dealing now. Immediately I sprang to my feet, and with true repentance said I would obey her, but she let me know that my opportunity for pleasing her in this respect had gone, and though I pleaded and persisted, and tried to take the wiping cloth from her hand, she firmly but kindly refused, saying but few words, but those so much to the point that they sank into my heart like fire, and I had learned a lesson which was most effectual.
Another story of my early discipline is connected with a rather amusing incident. My younger brother Frank and myself were playing one morning before breakfast, when we were called to go to a neighboring grocery to buy bread for the morning meal. The crisp air made us feel hungry, and when we saw the nice fresh loaf with its loose wrapping paper, revealing rather than concealing its flaky sides (it was the old fashioned “pricked bread,” baked in rows and broken apart), I took a tempting flake from it and put it in my mouth. Of course Frank wanted to follow suit. It tasted so good, that another and yet another flake found its way into our little greedy mouths. We had two and a half blocks to walk, and we did not hurry, sinners that we were, although we knew the family was awaiting our return. By degrees a deep, deep hole was mined in the loaf by our pilfering fingers. By the time we returned home, our hunger was satisfied, and the question of breakfast was no longer an interesting one, but the awful thing up for our consideration was, which of us should take the mutilated loaf to the breakfast table, where by this time the family had assembled. I finally volunteered for the disagreeable business. Wrapping the loaf in the paper closely, I made as much haste as was consistent with decency and order, and laid the bread upon the table, saying “We do not want any breakfast,” and with my heart beating very rapidly I fled precipitately. Never having sinned in this particular way before, we could not tell what our punishment might be, so awaited the result of our misdeed with some anxiety. We were quite relieved to find that our fate was to have set before us, meal after meal until finished, the loaf which we had begun. I think the mortification of this before the other members of the family was sufficient for a sensitive nature.
We were always very grateful when Mother kept our misdeeds from our father. It was very seldom she felt obligated to report our wrong conduct to him; for although he had an unusually mild and amiable disposition, he could be very stern when he deemed it necessary. I remember on one occasion, my brother Frank and I were seated at the dinner table, one on my father’s right and one on his left hand. Frank and I were engaged in a discussion around Father’s back, when suddenly, to the surprise of both of us, we felt our ears somewhat severely snapped by his fingers. I was naturally of a logical turn of mind, and I was occupied the rest of the meal in silent though, turning over and over this problem; “we could not both be wrong. One had the right of the argument and one had the wrong. Why did he punish us both?” Since I have grown older, I can see clearly that since we were both contentious, we were neither of us right, for a quarrelsome spirit is always wrong, no matter who has the right of the argument. It was only when my father was suddenly annoyed by our pranks that he would take matters into his own hands, and I have scarcely a memory of him that is not filled with pleasure. He was always delighted to impart to us some of the learning with which his mind was well stored. He had graduated while quite young at Union College, Schenectady, New York, in the days of Dr. Eliphalet Nott. Later in life he studied law by his brother’s solicitation; this brother, Mr. Solomon Judd of Binghamton, N. Y. being a successful lawyer himself. My father was naturally so fond of study that he thoroughly enjoyed the course in law. But when he came to practice, it was quite another matter, for he was of such a peaceable disposition that he wanted to help men as quickly as possible to settle their quarrels, and not to prolong them, so he would get these people together and act as a peacemaker, being quite successful in many cases. This did not bring in any money however, so at last he was glad when the way opened for him to accept an offer from Mr. William G. Fargo (an old-timed friend of his boyhood) of a cashier’s position in the American Express Office in Buffalo, New York. This position he continued to hold for over thirty years, honored as a man of the strictest integrity.
One of the sweetest memories of my childhood is the way in which my dear mother so faithfully sent us to Sunday school, and when we were old enough, insisted on our remaining to the church service. We attended the Episcopal church, and our services were long; my limbs grew weary, my little restless feet sometimes over-turned the kneeling stool (to the mortification of my mother and my own dismay), but I was comforted by a kind old man who shared our pew and who often brought a peppermint from the depths of his pocket for the tired little one who sat beside him. This dear man has long since gone to his reward, but I have a vivid memory of his silvery hair, his genial countenance, and his kindly manner. What trivial things children remember, but acts of kindness shown to them make a lasting impression on their minds and inspire them in later life to kindly deeds. Although my flesh was wearied by this restraint as I sat Sunday after Sunday in those long services, while too young to understand much that was being said, yet I have always felt grateful to my dear parents for insisting on my attendance at church at such an early age.
The hallowed influence of the hymns that were sung, of the Scriptures that were read and the solemn Litany in which my mother joined her sweet voice, were all used of God to inspire a deeply reverent spirit within my little heart, and as I gazed at my mother’s beautiful face, with her eyes closed in prayer and heard her devout tones in supplication, I decided that God was a real Being, and that He was listening to her prayers. Praise God for old-fashioned mothers of the past generation who thus guided the feet of their little ones into the pathway of truth and peace. Oh, that the parents of today would heed the admonition, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” claiming the promise that follows, “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6).