Catharine Brown: The Little Indian Girl Who Taught us How to Die
To face death with confidence of heaven is a rare feat. Catharine Brown achieved this, dying a triumphant death and showed us how to do the same. Death is hard for the aged, but for 23 year old Catharine, it is most difficult. It is remarkable that she could die with such peace, for she was a new Christian who had never heard of Christ until 6 years before her death.
It took Catharine 3 years to die. It started from two nights sleeping on wet blankets. As she recorded in her diary: "Brainerd, May, 1820 This morning I set out from Brainerd, with my dear father. Travelled about twenty miles. Thought much of my beloved Christian friends. Whether I shall ever see them again, is uncertain. The Lord only knows."
"June 2. Have been very sick to-day; but, blessed be God, and now I am a little better. Hope I shall be able to travel to-morrow. The Lord is very kind and merciful to all those, who put their trust in him. Last night I slept on the floor without any bed. Felt quite happy in my situation. Though very sick in body, yet I trust my heart was well.
"June 5. Have arrived at my father's, but am yet very unwell. Have a bad cold. Am sometimes afraid I shall not be able to teach school at Creek-Path. We slept two nights on the ground with our wet blankets, before we reached our home."
In April she was visited by that kind friend of herself and family, Dr. Campbell. He strongly advised, that she should be removed to his house, thinking it probable that he might be able to cure her. But, her trip was delayed and Catharine failed so rapidly, that she was unable to ride to Limestone. Dr Campbell, told her the bad news: Her racking cough meant that she had pulmonary tuberculosis. Her health quickly faded and she tired easily.
"As she approached nearer to eternity, her faith evidently grew stronger, and she became more and more able cheerfully to resign, not only herself, but her parents, her friends, her people, her all, to the disposal of her Lord," wrote Dr. Rufus Anderson of the American Board of Commissioner for Foreign Missions Catharine was reduced very low by a hemorrhage from the lungs, and for a few days was on the borders of the grave.
"I have rarely, if ever, seen a more lovely object for the pencil, than she appeared to me on her dying bed. The natural mildness of her features seemed lighted with a beam of heavenly hope, and her whole aspect was that of a mature Christian, waiting, with filial patience, the welcome summons to the presence of her Lord" wrote Dr. Anderson.
Mrs. William Potter, a missionary, says,?"Death was now disarmed of his terrors. She could look into the grave without alarm. She confessed her sins with great meekness, and mourned that she had not been more faithful in the service of God; yet rejoiced to resign her soul into the hands of her Redeemer.
"Catharine said,'I feel perfectly resigned to the will of God. I know he will do right with his children. I thank God that I am entirely in his hands. I feel willing to live, or die, as he thinks best. My only wish is, that he may be glorified. I hope, should I ever recover, I shall be more faithful in the cause of Christ, than I have ever been.'"
Dr. Campbell observed: "Religious confidence and tranquillity were at this time her sweet companions. How happy she seemed in my view, so near the confines of tbe eternal world, about to relinquish all earthly cares and sorrows for the enjoyment of her dear Redeemer's presence. On the 23d, she seemed to have the most cheering evidence of her interest in the Lord Jesus. Thus she exclaimed, 'Now I am ready to die. Oh, how delightful is the view of my Saviour! How happy shall I be, when I arrive at my Father's house.'"
Dr. Campbell wanted Catherine to go to his home in order to better treat her. Just before she left home to go, she had a friend write this to her brother David: "I am entirely resigned to the will of God, and hope you will feel the same resignation. 1 am perfectly willing to die, or to live, as the Lord shall direct. This world is nothing but sin. I "have no wish to live in it but to do good. If it be the Lord's will to take me now, I am willing to go."
Catharine was not able to ride in a carriage over the rough roads. It was necessary to carry her on a litter to the Tennessee River, which was six miles. There they would put her in a canoe and make a 40 mile trip downriver. Then she would be put on a litter again and carried 5 miles to Dr. Campbell's house.
Under the skilful care of Dr. Campbell, she soon began to amend, and there was some hope that she would recover.
Catharine wrote to her brother, "MRS. POTTER has told you the particulars of my illness. I will only tell you what I have experienced on my sick-bed.
"I have found that it is good for me to be afflicted. The Saviour is very precious to me. I often enjoy his presence, and I long to be where I can enjoy it without sin. I have indeed been brought very low, and did not expect to live until this time. But I have had joy, such as I never experienced before. I longed to be gone; was ready to die at any moment. ?You must not be grieved, when you hear of my illness. You must remember, that this world is not our home, that we must all die soon.'
"I am here under the care of Dr. Campbell, and his very kind family. My mother, and sister Susan are with me. Since I came here, I have been a great deal better, and the doctor sometimes gives encouragement of my getting well.
"I know I am His. He has bought me with his blood, and I do not wish to have any will but his. He is good, and can do nothing wrong. I trust if He spares my life, he will enable me to be faithful to his cause. I have no desire to live in this world, but to be engaged in his service."
But Catharine got worse. And as death advanced, she frequently offered her hand to the friends around her bed. Her mother and sister weeping over her, she looked steadily at the former, for a short time, filial love beaming from her eyes; and then,?she closed them in the sleep of death.
"She expired without a groan, or a struggle. Even those around the bed scarcely knew, that the last breath had left her, until I informed them she was gone," wrote Rufus Anderson. "Thus fell asleep this lovely saint, in the arms of her Saviour, a little past 6 o'clock, on the morning of July 18th, 1823."
Catharine was twenty-three. She died just six years after entering the school at Brainerd. She entered the school as a heathen. But she came to know what true salvation was through the missionaries of the cross. This resulted in a glorious end to her life on earth.
A neat monument of wood, erected by her bereaved relatives, covers the grave where she was buried. Anderson wrote. "Let the life of Catharine Brown operate as an appeal to the benevolence of the Christian community. Though dead, she speaks: and oh, let her voice fall with persuasive and irresistible eloquence upon every ear.
"Say, ye missionaries of the cross, should ye repent of your self-denying toils, if this had proved your only reward.
"Say, ye churches of the Redeemer, would ye recall her sainted spirit from the skies, if what ye have expended for her nation could be refunded? A thousand worlds would not be worth what you have, through the grace of God, secured to her, as is humbly believed, in the regions of the blessed. And when ye, also, stand on the heights of the Zion above, and behold her ransomed spirit "filled with all the fulness of God," and exulting amid the hosts of heaven, will ye have any regrets for the sacrifices it cost you to send the Gospel to her people."