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This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.orgTitle: Choice Readings for the Home Circle Author: Anonymous Release Date: June 27, 2006 [eBook #18701] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
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(http://www.gutenberg.net/dirs/1/8/7/0/18701/18701-h.zip) CHOICE READINGS FOR THE HOME CIRCLE
I know not where his islands lift Their fronded palms in air, I only know I can not drift Beyond his love and care.--_Whittier_ [Illustration: Home, Sweet Home]
M. A. Vroman
2123 24th Ave. N.
1650 San Jose Ave., San Francisco, Calif.
617 Chestnut St., Glendale, Calif.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1905, by M. A. Vroman, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, Washington, D.C. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 1916, by Martin A. Vroman.
The compiler of this volume has been gathering a large amount of moral and religious reading, from which selections have been made, admitting only those which may be read with propriety on the Sabbath.
This volume will be found to contain the best lessons for the family circle, such as will inculcate principles of obedience to parents, kindness and affection to brothers and sisters and youthful associates, benevolence to the poor, and the requirements of the gospel. These virtuous principles are illustrated by instances of conformity to them, or departure from them, in such a manner as to lead to their love and practice.
Great care has been taken in compiling this volume to avoid introducing into it anything of a sectarian or denominational character that might hinder its free circulation among any denomination, or class of society, where there is a demand for moral and religious literature. The illustrations were made especially for this book, and are the result of much careful study.
The family circle can be instructed and impressed by high-toned moral and religious lessons in no better way during a leisure hour of the Sabbath, when not engaged in the solemn worship of God, than to listen to one of their number who shall read from this precious volume. May the blessing of God attend it to every home circle that shall give it a welcome, is the prayer of thePUBLISHER. NOTE TO THE PUBLIC This is the same book formerly known as "Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle," _the subject matter remaining unchanged_.
We believe all who read this book will heartily accord with us in our desire to see it placed in every home in the land, and will do their part toward this good end.
The stories and poems it contains cover nearly all phases of life's experiences. Each one presents lessons which can but tend to make the reader better and nobler.
This decidedly valuable and interesting work now enters upon its sixth edition, one hundred thirty thousand copies, with the demand rapidly increasing.
Many have joined us in canvassing for it, and it has proved to be not only a noble work and a service to the people, but it brings good financial returns. Many students have worked their way through school by using their vacations in this work.
The publisher's _name_ and _address_ is on the title page, and he will see that _all orders_ are promptly and carefully _filled,_ and all letters of inquiry cheerfully answered. Address nearest office.
Believing that the "Choice Readings for the Home Circle" will be appreciated by all lovers of the true and beautiful, and that the book will make for itself not only a place, but a warm welcome, in thousands of homes during the coming year, it is cheerfully and prayerfully sent on its mission byTHE PUBLISHER. Contents
Affecting Scene in a Saloon 388 A Good Lesson Spoiled 192 A Kind Word 67 A Life Lesson 178 A Mountain Prayer-meeting 144 An Instructive Anecdote 214 Another Commandment 71 A Retired Merchant 90 A Rift in the Cloud 286
Be Just Before Generous 99 Benevolent Society 199 Bread Upon the Waters 280
Caught in the Quicksand 112 Christ Our Refuge 47 Company Manners 36
Effect of Novel Reading 95 Evening Prayer 342 Every Heart Has Its Own Sorrow 324Grandmother's Room 230
Hard Times Conquered 185
Herrings for Nothing 275 How It Was Blotted Out 166
Live Within Your Means 127 Look to Your Thoughts 397
Lyman Dean's Testimonials 251
Only a Husk 151 Out of the Wrong Pocket 131 Over the Crossing 304Put Yourself in My Place 312 Richest Man in the Parish 296 Ruined at Home 157
Speak to Strangers 360 Story of School Life 221 Success if the Reward of Perseverance 291 Susie's Prayer 32
The Belle of the Ballroom 40 The Fence Story 310 The Happy New Year 346 The Indian's Revenge 11 The Infidel Captain 319 The Little Sisters 368 The Major's Cigar 363 The Premium 58 The Record 25 The Right Decision 29 The Scripture Quilt 354 The Ten Commandments 81 The Widow's Christmas 374 The Young Musician 244 Tom's Trial 50Unforgotten Words 263
With a Will, Joe 385 "What Shall It Profit?" 115 Why He Didn't Smoke 217 Poems
A Christian Life 89 Alone 341 An Infinite Giver 137Believe and Trust 39 Consolation 111 Did You Ever Think? 279 Do With Your Might 387 Forgive and Forget 318 Good-Bye--God Bless You! 165 Life That Lasts 213 Loving Words 362 Mother 28
"Once Again" 114 Our Neighbors 66 Our Record 373Reaping 216 Song of the Rye 156 Stop and Look Around! 309
The Dark First 130 The Father Is Near 285 The Lord's Prayer 342 The Master's Hand 49 The Shadow of the Cross 46 The Way to Overcome 169 To-Day's Furrow 98
Walking With God 303 Watch Your Words 177 What Counts 57 What to Mind 367Your Call 274 List of Illustrations
Home, Sweet Home Frontispiece
While He Slept His Enemy Came and Sowed Tares Among the Wheat 44 Christ Blessing Little Children 76
Christ the Good Shepherd 124
Paul at Athens 172
Pure Religion Is Visiting the Fatherless and Widows in 207 Their Affliction
Grandmother's Room 240
Come Unto Me 278
Christ in the Home of Mary and Martha 300 He Is Not Here; He Is Risen 336
God Be Merciful to Me a Sinner 354
Announcement to Shepherds 376
Sabbaths, like way-marks, cheer the pilgrim's path, His progress mark, and keep his rest in view. In life's bleak winter, they are pleasant days, Short foretaste of the long, long spring to come. To every new-born soul, each hallowed morn Seems like the first, when everything was new. Time seems an angel come afresh from heaven, His pinions shedding fragrance as he flies, And his bright hour-glass running sands of gold.--_Carlos Wilcox._ THE INDIAN'S REVENGE
The beautiful precept, "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you," is drawn from our Lord's sermon on the mount, and should be observed by all professing Christians. But unless we are truly his children, we can never observe this great command as we ought.
History records the fact that the Roman emperor Severus was so much struck with the moral beauty and purity of this sentiment, that he ordered the "Golden Rule," to be inscribed upon the public buildings erected by him. Many facts may be stated, by which untutored heathen and savage tribes in their conduct have put to shame many of those calling themselves Christians, who have indeed the form of godliness, but by their words and actions deny the power of it. One such fact we here relate.
Many years ago, on the outskirts of one of our distant new
settlements, was a small but neat and pretty cottage, or homestead, which belonged to an industrious young farmer. He had, when quite a lad, left his native England, and sought a home and fortune among his American brethren. It was a sweet and quiet place; the cottage was built upon a gently rising ground, which sloped toward a sparkling rivulet, that turned a large sawmill situated a little lower down the stream. The garden was well stocked with fruit-trees and vegetables, among which the magnificent pumpkins were already conspicuous, though as yet they were wanting in the golden hue which adorns them in autumn. On the hillside was an orchard, facing the south, filled with peach and cherry-trees, the latter now richly laden with their crimson fruit. In that direction also extended the larger portion of the farm, now in a high state of cultivation, bearing heavy crops of grass, and Indian corn just coming into ear. On the north and east, the cottage was sheltered by extensive pine woods, beyond which were fine hunting-grounds, where the settlers, when their harvests were housed, frequently resorted in large numbers to lay in a stock of dried venison for winter use.
At that time the understanding between the whites and the Indians, was not good; and they were then far more numerous than they are at the present time, and more feared. It was not often, however, that they came into the neighborhood of the cottage which has been described, though on one or two occasions a few Minateree Indians had been seen on the outskirts of the pine forests, but had committed no outrages, as that tribe was friendly with the white men.
It was a lovely evening in June. The sun had set, though the heavens still glowed with those exquisite and radiant tints which the writer, when a child, used to imagine were vouchsafed to mortals to show them something while yet on earth, of the glories of the New Jerusalem. The moon shed her silvery light all around, distinctly revealing every feature of the beautiful scene which has been described, and showed the tall, muscular figure of William Sullivan, who was seated upon the door-steps, busily employed in preparing his scythes for the coming hay season. He was a good-looking young fellow, with a sunburnt, open countenance; but though kind-hearted in the main, he was filled with prejudices, acquired when in England, against Americans in general, and the North American Indians in particular. As a boy he had been carefully instructed by his mother, and had received more education than was common in those days; but of the sweet precepts of the gospel he was as practically ignorant as if he had never heard them, and in all respects was so thoroughly an Englishman, that he looked with contempt on all who could not boast of belonging to his own favored country. The Indians he especially despised and detested as heathenish creatures, forgetful of the fact that he who has been blessed with opportunities and privileges, and yet has abused them, is in as bad a case, and more guilty in the sight of God, than these ignorant children of the wilds.So intent was he upon his work, that he heeded not the approach of a tall Indian, accoutred for a hunting excursion, until the words:-- "Will you give an unfortunate hunter some supper, and a lodging for the night?" in a tone of supplication, met his ear.
The young farmer raised his head; a look of contempt curling the corners of his mouth, and an angry gleam darting from his eyes, as he replied in a tone as uncourteous as his words:--"Heathen Indian dog, you shall have nothing here; begone!" The Indian turned away; then again facing young Sullivan, he said in a pleading voice:--
"But I am very hungry, for it is very long since I have eaten; give only a crust of bread and a bone to strengthen me for the remainder of my journey."
"Get you gone, heathen hound," said the farmer; "I have nothing for you."
A struggle seemed to rend the breast of the Indian hunter, as though pride and want were contending for the mastery; but the latter prevailed, and in a faint voice he said:--
This appeal was no more successful than the others. With abuse he was told to drink of the river which flowed some distance off. This was all that he could obtain from one who called himself a Christian, but who allowed prejudice and obstinacy to steel his heart--which to one of his own nation would have opened at once--to the sufferings of his redskinned brother.
With a proud yet mournful air the Indian turned away, and slowly proceeded in the direction of the little river. The weak steps of the native showed plainly that his need was urgent; indeed he must have been reduced to the last extremity, ere the haughty Indian would have asked again and again for that which had been once refused.
Happily his supplicating appeal was heard by the farmer's wife. Rare indeed is it that the heart of woman is steeled to the cry of suffering humanity; even in the savage wilds of central Africa, the enterprising and unfortunate Mungo Park was over and over again rescued from almost certain death by the kind and generous care of those females whose husbands and brothers thirsted for his blood.
The farmer's wife, Mary Sullivan, heard the whole as she sat hushing her infant to rest; and from the open casement she watched the poor Indian until she saw his form sink, apparently exhausted, to the ground, at no great distance from her dwelling. Perceiving that her husband had finished his work, and was slowly bending his steps toward the stables with downcast eyes--for it must be confessed he did not feel very comfortable--she left the house, and was soon at the poor Indian's side, with a pitcher of milk in her hand, and a napkin, in which was a plentiful meal of bread and roasted kid, with a little parched corn as well.
"Will my red brother drink some milk?" said Mary, bending over the fallen Indian; and as he arose to comply with her invitation, she untied the napkin and bade him eat and be refreshed.
When he had finished, the Indian knelt at her feet, his eyes beamed with gratitude, then in his soft tone, he said: "Carcoochee protect the white dove from the pounces of the eagle; for her sake the unfledged young shall be safe in its nest, and her red brother will not seek to be revenged."
Drawing a bunch of heron's feathers from his bosom, he selected the longest, and giving it to Mary Sullivan, said: "When the white dove's mate flies over the Indian's hunting-grounds, bid him wear this on his head."He then turned away; and gliding into the woods, was soon lost to view.
The summer passed away; harvest had come and gone; the wheat and maize, or Indian corn, was safely stored in the yard; the golden pumpkins were gathered into their winter quarters, and the forests glowed with the rich and varied tints of autumn. Preparations now began to be made for a hunting excursion, and William Sullivan was included in the number who were going to try their fortune on the hunting-grounds beyond the river and the pine forests. He was bold, active, and expert in the use of his rifle and woodman's hatchet, and hitherto had always hailed the approach of this season with peculiar enjoyment, and no fears respecting the not unusual attacks of the Indians, who frequently waylaid such parties in other and not very distant places, had troubled him.
But now, as the time of their departure drew near, strange misgivings relative to his safety filled his mind, and his imagination was haunted by the form of the Indian whom in the preceding summer he had so harshly treated. On the eve of the day on which they were to start, he made known his anxiety to his gentle wife, confessing at the same time that his conscience had never ceased to reproach him for his unkind behavior. He added, that since then all that he had learned in his youth from his mother upon our duty to our neighbors had been continually in his mind; thus increasing the burden of self-reproach, by reminding him that his conduct was displeasing in the sight of God, as well as cruel toward a suffering brother. Mary Sullivan heard her husband in silence. When he had done, she laid her hand in his, looking up into his face with a smile, which was yet not quite free from anxiety, and then she told him what she had done when the Indian fell down exhausted upon the ground, confessing at the same time that she had kept this to herself, fearing his displeasure, after hearing him refuse any aid. Going to a closet, she took out the beautiful heron's feather, repeating at the same time the parting words of the Indian, and arguing from them that her husband might go without fear."Nay," said Sullivan, "these Indians never forgive an injury."
"Neither do they ever forget a kindness," added Mary. "I will sew this feather in your hunting-cap, and then trust you, my own dear husband, to God's keeping; but though I know he could take care of you without it, yet I remember my dear father used to say that we were never to neglect the use of all lawful means for our safety. His maxim was, 'Trust like a child, but work like a man'; for we must help ourselves if we hope to succeed, and not expect miracles to be wrought on our behalf, while we quietly fold our arms and do nothing." "Dear William," she added, after a pause, "now that my father is dead and gone, I think much more of what he used to say than when he was with me; and I fear that we are altogether wrong in the way we are going on, and I feel that if we were treated as we deserve, God would forget us, and leave us to ourselves, because we have so forgotten him."
The tears were in Mary's eyes as she spoke; she was the only daughter of a pious English sailor, and in early girlhood had given promise of becoming all that a religious parent could desire. But her piety was then more of the head than of the heart; it could not withstand the trial of the love professed for her by Sullivan, who was anything but a serious character, and like "the morning cloud and the early dew," her profession of religion vanished away, and as his wife she lost her relish for that in which she once had taken such delight. She was very happy in appearance, yet there was a sting in all her pleasures, and that was the craving of a spirit disquieted and restless from the secret though ever-present conviction that she had sinned in departing from the living God. By degrees these impressions deepened; the Spirit of grace was at work within, and day after day was bringing to her memory the truths she had heard in childhood and was leading her back from her wanderings by a way which she knew not. A long conversation followed; and that night saw the young couple kneeling for the first time in prayer at domestic worship.
The morning that witnessed the departure of the hunters was one of surpassing beauty. No cloud was to be seen upon the brow of William Sullivan. The bright beams of the early sun seemed to have dissipated the fears which had haunted him on the previous evening, and it required an earnest entreaty on the part of his wife to prevent his removing the feather from his cap. She held his hand while she whispered in his ear, and a slight quiver agitated his lips as he said, "Well, Mary dear, if you really think this feather will protect me from the redskins, for your sake I will let it remain." William then put on his cap, shouldered his rifle, and the hunters were soon on their way seeking for game.
The day wore away as is usual with people on such excursions. Many animals were killed, and at night the hunters took shelter in the cave of a bear, which one of the party was fortunate enough to shoot, as he came at sunset toward the bank of the river. His flesh furnished them with some excellent steaks for supper, and his skin spread upon a bed of leaves pillowed their heads through a long November night.
With the first dawn of morning, the hunters left their rude shelter and resumed the chase. William, in consequence of following a fawn too ardently, separated from his companions, and in trying to rejoin them became bewildered. Hour after hour he sought in vain for some mark by which he might thread the intricacy of the forest, the trees of which were so thick that it was but seldom that he could catch a glimpse of the sun; and not being much accustomed to the woodman's life, he could not find his way as one of them would have done, by noticing which side of the trees was most covered with moss or lichen. Several times he started in alarm, for he fancied that he could see the glancing eyeballs of some lurking Indian, and he often raised his gun to his shoulder, prepared to sell his life as dearly as he could.
Toward sunset the trees lessened and grew thinner, and by and by he found himself upon the outskirts of an immense prairie, covered with long grass, and here and there with patches of low trees and brushwood. A river ran through this extensive tract, and toward it Sullivan directed his lagging footsteps. He was both faint and weary, not having eaten anything since the morning. On the bank of the river there were many bushes, therefore Sullivan approached with caution, having placed his rifle at half-cock, to be in readiness against any danger that might present itself. He was yet some yards from its brink, when a rustling in the underwood made him pause, and the next instant out rushed an enormous buffalo. These animals usually roam through the prairies in immense herds, sometimes amounting to many thousands in number; but occasionally they are met with singly, having been separated from the main body either by some accident, or by the Indians, who show the most wonderful dexterity in hunting these formidable creatures. The buffalo paused for a moment, and then lowering his enormous head, rushed forward toward the intruder. Sullivan took aim; but the beast was too near to enable him to do so with that calmness and certainty which would have insured success, and though slightly wounded, it still came on with increased fury. Sullivan was a very powerful man, and though weakened by his long fast and fatiguing march, despair gave him courage and nerved his arm with strength, and with great presence of mind he seized the animal as it struck him on the side with its horn, drawing out his knife with his left hand, in the faint hope of being able to strike it into his adversary's throat. But the struggle was too unequal to be successful, and the buffalo had shaken him off, and thrown him to the ground, previous to trampling him to death, when he heard the sharp crack of a rifle behind him, and in another instant the animal sprang into the air, then fell heavily close by, and indeed partly upon, the prostrate Sullivan. A dark form in the Indian garb glided by a moment after, and plunged his hunting-knife deep into the neck of the buffalo, though the shot was too true not to have taken effect, having penetrated to the brain; but the great arteries of the neck are cut, and the animal thus bled, to render the flesh more suitable for keeping a greater length of time.
The Indian then turned to Sullivan, who had now drawn himself from under the buffalo, and who, with mingled feelings of hope and fear, caused by his ignorance whether the tribe to which the Indian belonged was friendly or not, begged of him to direct him to the nearest white settlement.
"If the weary hunter will rest till morning, the eagle will show him the way to the nest of his white dove," was the reply of the Indian, in that figurative style so general among his people; and then taking him by the hand he led him through the rapidly increasing darkness, until they reached a small encampment lying near the river, and under the cover of some trees which grew upon its banks. Here the Indian gave Sullivan a plentiful supply of hominy, or bruised Indian corn boiled to a paste, and some venison; then spreading some skins of animals slain in the chase, for his bed, he signed to him to occupy it, and left him to his repose.
The light of dawn had not yet appeared in the east when the Indian awoke Sullivan; and after a slight repast, they both started for the settlement of the whites. The Indian kept in advance of his companion, and threaded his way through the still darkened forest with a precision and a rapidity which showed him to be well acquainted with its paths and secret recesses. As he took the most direct way, without fear of losing his course, being guided by signs unknown to any save some of the oldest and most experienced hunters, they traversed the forest far more quickly than Sullivan had done, and before the golden sun had sunk behind the summits of the far-off mountains, Sullivan once more stood within view of his beloved home. There it lay in calm repose, and at a sight so dear he could not restrain a cry of joy; then turning toward the Indian, he poured forth his heartfelt thanks for the service he had rendered him.
The warrior, who, till then, had not allowed his face to be seen by Sullivan, except in the imperfect light of his wigwam, now fronted him, allowing the sun's rays to fall upon his person, and revealed to the astonished young man the features of the very same Indian whom, five months before, he had so cruelly repulsed. An expression of dignified yet mild rebuke was exhibited in his face as he gazed upon the abashed Sullivan; but his voice was gentle and low as he said: "Five moons ago, when I was faint and weary, you called me 'Indian dog,' and drove me from your door. I might last night have been revenged; but the white dove fed me, and for her sake I spared her mate. Carcoochee bids you to go home, and when hereafter you see a red man in need of kindness, do to him as you have been done by. Farewell."
He waved his hand, and turned to depart, but Sullivan sprang before him, and so earnestly entreated him to go with him, as a proof that he had indeed forgiven his brutal treatment, that he at last consented, and the humbled farmer led him to his cottage. There his gentle wife's surprise at seeing him so soon was only equaled by her thankfulness at his wonderful escape from the dangers which had surrounded him, and by her gratitude to the noble savage who had thus repaid her act of kindness, forgetful of the provocation he had received from her husband. Carcoochee was treated not only as an honored guest, but as a brother; and such in time he became to them both.
Many were the visits he paid to the cottage of the once prejudiced and churlish Sullivan, now no longer so, for the practical lesson of kindness he had learned from the untutored Indian was not lost upon him. It was made the means of bringing him to a knowledge of his own sinfulness in the sight of God, and his deficiencies in duty toward his fellow men. He was led by the Holy Spirit to feel his need of Christ's atoning blood; and ere many months passed, Mary Sullivan and her husband both gave satisfactory evidence that they had indeed "passed from death unto life."
Carcoochee's kindness was repaid to him indeed a hundred fold. A long time elapsed before any vital change of heart was visible in him; but at length it pleased the Lord to bless the unwearied teaching of his white friends to his spiritual good, and to give an answer to the prayer of faith. The Indian was the first native convert baptized by the American missionary, who came about two years after to a station some few miles distant from Sullivan's cottage. After a lengthened course of instruction and trial the warrior, who once had wielded the tomahawk in mortal strife against both whites and redskins, went forth, armed with a far different weapon, "even the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," to make known to his heathen countrymen "the glad tidings of great joy," that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." He told them that "whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life," whether they be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, white or red, for "we are all one in Christ." Many years he thus labored, until, worn out with toil and age, he returned to his white friend's home, where in a few months he fell asleep in Jesus, giving to his friends the certain hope of a joyful meeting hereafter at the resurrection of the just.
Many years have passed since then. There is no trace now of the cottage of the Sullivans, who both rest in the same forest churchyard, where lie the bones of Carcoochee; but their descendants still dwell in the same township. Often does the gray-haired grandsire tell this little history to his rosy grandchildren, while seated under the stately magnolia which shades the graves of the quiet sleepers of whom he speaks. And the lesson which he teaches to his youthful hearers, is one which all would do well to bear in mind, and act upon; namely, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
Speak not harshly--learn to feel Another's woes, another's weal; Of malice, hate, and guile, instead, By friendship's holy bonds be led; For sorrow is man's heritage From early youth to hoary age.THE RECORD "The hours are viewless angels, that still go gliding by, And bear each moment's record up to Him that sits on high."
A mother wrote a story about her daughter in which she represented her as making some unkind and rude remarks to her sister. Julia was a reader of the newspapers, and it did not escape her notice. The incident was a true one, but it was one she did not care to remember, much less did she like to see it in print.
"Oh! mother, mother," she exclaimed, "I do not think you are kind to write such stories about me. I do not like to have you publish it when I say anything wrong.""How do you know it is you? It is not your name." Julia then read the story aloud.
"It is I. I know it is I, mother. I shall be afraid of you if you write such stories about me, I shall not dare to speak before you." "Remember, my child, that God requireth the past, and nothing which you say, or do, or think, is lost to him."
Poor Julia was quite grieved that her mother should record the unpleasant and unsisterly words which fell from her lips. She did not like to have any memorial of her ill-nature preserved. Perhaps she would never have thought of those words again in this life; but had she never read this passage of fearful import, the language of Jesus Christ: "But I say unto you that for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment"? Julia thought that the careless words which had passed her lips would be forgotten, but she should have known that every word and act of our lives is to be recorded and brought to our remembrance.
I have known children to be very much interested, and to be influenced to make a great effort to do right, by an account-book which was kept by their mothers. When such a book is kept at school, and every act is recorded, the pupils are much more likely to make an effort to perform the duties required of them. So it is in Sabbath-schools. I recently heard a Sabbath-school superintendent remark that the school could not be well sustained unless accounts were kept of the attendance, etc., of the pupils.
Many years ago a man, brought before a tribunal, was told to relate his story freely without fear, as it should not be used against him. He commenced to do so, but had not proceeded far before he heard the scratching of a pen behind a curtain. In an instant he was on his guard, for by that sound he knew that, notwithstanding their promise, a record was being taken of what he said.
Silently and unseen by us the angel secretaries are taking a faithful record of our words and actions, and even of our thoughts. Do we realize this? and a more solemn question is, What is the record they are making?
Not long ago I read of a strange list. It was an exact catalogue of the crimes committed by a man who was at last executed in Norfolk Island, with the various punishments he had received for his different offenses. It was written out in small hand by the chaplain, and was nearly three yards long.
What a sickening catalogue to be crowded into one brief life. Yet this man was once an innocent child. A mother no doubt bent lovingly over him, a father perhaps looked upon him in pride and joy, and imagination saw him rise to manhood honored and trusted by his fellow-men. But the boy chose the path of evil and wrong-doing regardless of the record he was making, and finally committed an act, the penalty for which was death, and he perished miserably upon the scaffold.
Dear readers, most of you are young, and your record is but just commenced. Oh, be warned in time, and seek to have a list of which you will not be ashamed when scanned by Jehovah, angels, and men. Speak none but kind, loving words, have your thoughts and aspirations pure and noble, crowd into your life all the _good_ deeds you can, and thus crowd out _evil_ ones.
We should not forget that an account-book is kept by God, in which all the events of our lives are recorded, and that even every thought will be brought before us at the day of judgment. In that day God will judge the secrets of men: he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.
There is another book spoken of in the Bible. The book of life, and it is said that no one can enter heaven whose name is not written in the Lamb's book of life.
Angels are now weighing moral worth. The record will soon close, either by death or the decree, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy let him be holy still." We have but one short, preparing hour in which to redeem the past and get ready for the future. Our life record will soon be examined. What shall it be!MOTHER.
The silvery hairs are weaving A crown above her brow,
But surely mother never seemed One-half so sweet as now!
The love-light beams from out her eyes As clear, as sweet and true,
As when, with youthful beauty crowned, Life bloomed for her all new.
No thought of self doth ever cast A cloudlet o'er the light
That shines afar from out her soul, So steadfast, pure, and bright.
Her love illumes the darkest hour, Smooths all the rugged way,
Makes lighter every burden, Cheers through each weary day.
More precious than the rarest gem In all the world could be;
More sweet than honor, fame, and praise, Is mother's love to me.
It was the beginning of vacation when Mr. Davis, a friend of my father, came to see us, and asked to let me go home with him. I was much pleased with the thought of going out of town. The journey was delightful, and when we reached Mr. Davis' house everything looked as if I were going to have a fine time. Fred Davis, a boy about my own age, took me cordially by the hand, and all the family soon seemed like old friends. "This is going to be a vacation worth having," I said to myself several times during the evening, as we all played games, told riddles, and laughed and chatted merrily as could be.
At last Mrs. Davis said it was almost bedtime. Then I expected family prayers, but we were very soon directed to our chambers. How strange it seemed to me, for I had never before been in a household without the family altar. "Come," said Fred, "mother says you and I are going to be bedfellows," and I followed him up two pair of stairs to a nice little chamber which he called his room; and he opened a drawer and showed me a box, and boat, and knives, and powder-horn, and all his treasures, and told me a world of new things about what the boys did there. He undressed first and jumped into bed. I was much longer about it, for a new set of thoughts began to rise in my mind.
When my mother put my portmanteau into my hand, just before the coach started, she said tenderly, in a low tone, "Remember, Robert, that you are a Christian boy." I knew very well what that meant, and I had now just come to a point of time when her words were to be minded. At home I was taught the duties of a Christian child; abroad I must not neglect them, and one of these was evening prayer. From a very little boy I had been in the habit of kneeling and asking the forgiveness of God, for Jesus' sake, acknowledging his mercies, and seeking his protection and blessing.
"Why don't you come to bed, Robert?" cried Fred. "What are you sitting there for?" I was afraid to pray, and afraid not to pray. It seemed that I could not kneel down and pray before Fred. What would he say? Would he not laugh? The fear of Fred made me a coward. Yet I could not lie down on a prayerless bed. If I needed the protection of my heavenly Father at home, how much more abroad. I wished many wishes; that I had slept alone, that Fred would go to sleep, or something else, I hardly knew what. But Fred would not go to sleep.
Perhaps struggles like these take place in the bosom of every one when he leaves home and begins to act for himself, and on his decision may depend his character for time, and for eternity. With me the struggle was severe. At last, to Fred's cry, "Come, boy, come to bed," I mustered courage to say, "I will kneel down and pray first; that is always my custom." "Pray?" said Fred, turning himself over on his pillow, and saying no more. His propriety of conduct made me ashamed. Here I had long been afraid of him, and yet when he knew my wishes he was quiet and left me to myself. How thankful I was that duty and conscience triumphed.
That settled my future course. It gave me strength for time to come. I believe that the decision of the "Christian boy," by God's blessing, made me the Christian man; for in after years I was thrown amid trials and temptations which must have drawn me away from God and from virtue, had it not been for my settled habit of secret prayer.
Let every boy who has pious parents, read and think about this. You have been trained in Christian duties and principles. When you go from home do not leave them behind you. Carry them with you and stand by them, and then in weakness and temptation, by God's help, they will stand by you. Take a manly stand on the side of your God and Saviour, of your father's God. It is by abandoning their Christian birthright that so many boys go astray, and grow up to be young men dishonoring parents, without hope and without God in the world.
Yes, we are boys, always playing with tongue or with pen, And I sometimes have asked, shall we ever be men? Will we always be youthful, and laughing and gay, Till the last dear companions drop smiling away? Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray, The stars of its winter, the dews of its May.
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys, Dear Father, take care of thy children, the boys.
--_Oliver Wendell Holmes._
Her father _was_ a drunkard, she knew, but to be taunted with it before so many was more than she could bear; and with great sobs heaving from her bosom, and hot tears filling her eyes, she turned and ran away from the playground.
Her mother was sitting by the window when she reached home, and the tearful face of the little girl told that something had happened to disturb her."What is the matter, Susie?" she asked, kindly.
"Oh mother," Susie said, with the tears dropping down her cheeks, as she hid her face in her mother's lap, "Ned Graham said such a cruel thing about me," and here the sobs choked her voice so that she could hardly speak; "He said that I wasn't anybody, and that father drinks." "My poor little girl," Mrs. Ellet said, very sadly. There were tears in her eyes, too.Such taunts as this were nothing new.
"Oh, mother," Susie said, as she lifted her face, wet with tears, from her mother's lap, "I can't bear to have them say so, and just as if _I_ had done something wicked. I wish father wouldn't drink! Do you suppose he'll ever leave it off?"
"I hope so," Mrs. Ellet answered, as she kissed Susie's face where the tears clung like drops of dew on a rose. "I pray that he may break off the habit, and I can do nothing but pray, and leave the rest to God."
That night Mr. Ellet came home to supper, as usual. He was a hard-working man, and a good neighbor. So everybody said, but he had the habit of intemperance so firmly fixed upon him that everybody thought he would end his days in the drunkard's grave. Susie kissed him when he came through the gate, as she always did, but there was something in her face that went to his heart--a look so sad, and full of touching sorrow for one so young as she!"What ails my little girl?" he asked as he patted her curly head. "I can't tell you, father," she answered, slowly. "Why?" he asked. "Because it would make you feel bad." Susie replied. "I guess not," he said, as they walked up to the door together. "What is it, Susie?"
"Oh, father," and Susie burst into tears again as the memory of Ned Graham's words came up freshly in her mind, "I wish you wouldn't drink any more, for the boys and girls don't like to play with me, 'cause you do."
Mr. Ellet made no reply. But something stirred in his heart that made him ashamed of himself; ashamed that he was the cause of so much sorrow and misery. After supper he took his hat, and Mrs. Ellet knew only too well where he was going.
At first he had resolved to stay at home that evening, but the force of habit was so strong that he could not resist, and he yielded, promising himself that he would not drink more than once or twice. Susie had left the table before he had finished his supper, and as he passed the great clump of lilacs by the path, on his way to the gate, he heard her voice and stopped to listen to what she was saying.
"Oh, good Jesus, please don't let father drink any more. Make him just as he used to be when I was a baby, and then the boys and girls can't call me a drunkard's child, or say such bad things about me. Please, dear Jesus, for mother's sake and mine."Susie's father listened to her simple prayer with a great lump swelling in his throat. And when it was ended he went up to her, and knelt down by her side, and put his arm around her, oh, so lovingly!
"God in Heaven," he said, very solemnly, "I promise to-night, never to touch another drop of liquor as long as I live. Give me strength to keep my pledge, and help me to be a better man."
"Oh, father," Susie cried, her arms about his neck, and her head upon his breast, "I'm _so_ glad! I shan't care about anything they say to me now, for I know you won't be a drunkard any more."
"God helping me, I will be a _man_!" he answered, as, taking Susie by the hand he went back into the house where his wife was sitting with the old patient look of sorrow on her face.--the look that had become so habitual.
I cannot tell you of the joy and thanksgiving that went up from that hearthstone that night. I wish I could, but it was too deep a joy which filled the hearts of Susie and her mother to be described.Was not Susie's prayer answered?
There is never a day so dreary, But God can make it bright.
And unto the soul that trusts him He giveth songs in the night.
There is never a path so hidden, But God will show the way,
If we seek the Spirit's guidance, And patiently watch and pray. COMPANY MANNERS.
"I don't care, you may laugh," said frank little Bess; "that _is_ the reason--at least, one of them. He's nice; he don't stamp and hoot in the house--and he never says, 'Halloo Bess,' or laughs when I fall on the ice."
"Bessie wants company manners all the time," said Wilfred. And Bell added: "We should all act grown up, if she had her fastidiousness suited."Bell, be it said in passing, is very fond of long words, and has asked for a dictionary for her next birthday present. Dauntless Bessie made haste to retort, "Well, if growing up would make some folks more agreeable, it's a pity we can't hurry about it." "Wilfred, what are company manners?" interposed I from the depths of my easy chair. "Why--why--they're--It's _behaving_, you know, when folks are here, or we go a visiting." "Company manners are good manners," said Horace, "Oh yes," answered I, meditating on it. "I see; manners that are _too_ good--for mamma--but just right for Mrs. Jones." "That's it," cried Bess. "But let us talk it over a bit. Seriously, why should you be more polite to Mrs. Jones than to mamma? You don't love her better?" "Oh my! no indeed," chorused the voices.
"Well, then, I don't see why Mrs. Jones should have all that's agreeable; why the hats should come off, and the tones soften, and 'please,' and 'thank you,' and 'excuse me,' should abound in her house, and not in mamma's.""Oh! that's very different." "And mamma knows we mean all right. Besides, you are not fair, cousin; we were talking about boys and girls--not grown up people." Thus my little audience assailed me, and I was forced to a change of base.
"Well, about boys and girls, then. Can not a boy be just as happy, if, like our friend Russell, he is gentle to the little girls, doesn't pitch his little brother in the snow, and respects the rights of his cousins and intimate friends? It seems to me that politeness is just as suitable to the playground as to the parlor.""Oh, of course; if you'd have a fellow give up all fun," said Wilfred.
"My dear boy," said I, "that isn't what I want. Run, and jump, and shout as much as you please; skate, and slide, and snowball; but do it with politeness to other boys and girls, and I'll agree you will find just as much fun in it. You sometimes say I pet Burke Holland more than any of my child-friends. Can I help it? For though he is lively and sometimes frolicsome, his manners are always good. You never see him with his chair tipped up, or his hat on in the house. He never pushes ahead of you to get first out of the room. If you are going out, he holds open the door; if weary, it is Burke who brings a glass of water, places a chair, hands a fan, springs to pick up your handkerchief--and all this without being told to do so, or
interfering with his own gaiety in the least.
"This attention isn't only given to me as the guest, or to Mrs. Jones when he visits her, but to mamma, Aunt Jennie, and little sister, just as carefully; at home, in school, or at play, there is always just as much guard against rudeness. His courtesy is not merely for state occasions, but a well-fitting garment worn constantly. His manliness is genuine loving-kindness. In fact, that is exactly what real politeness is; carefulness for others, and watchfulness over ourselves, lest our angles shall interfere with their comfort."
It is impossible for boys and girls to realize, until they have grown too old to easily adopt new ones, how important it is to guard against contracting carelessness and awkward habits of speech and manners. Some very unwisely think it is not necessary to be so very particular about these things except when company is present. But this is a grave mistake, for coarseness will betray itself in spite of the most watchful sentinelship.
It is impossible to indulge in one form of speech, or have one set of manners at home, and another abroad, because in moments of confusion or bashfulness, such as every young person feels sometimes who is sensitive and modest, the habitual mode of expression will discover itself.
It is not, however, merely because refinement of speech and grace of manners are pleasing to the sense, that our young friends are recommended to cultivate and practice them, but because outward refinement of any sort reacts as it were on the character and makes it more sweet and gentle and lovable, and these are qualities that attract and draw about the possessor a host of kind friends. Then again they increase self-respect.
The very consciousness that one prepossesses and pleases people, makes most persons feel more respect for themselves, just as the knowledge of being well dressed makes them feel more respectable. You can see by this simple example, how every effort persons make toward perfecting themselves brings some pleasant reward.BELIEVE AND TRUST.
Believe and trust. Through stars and suns, Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of his providence
Is star-lit with benign intents.
O joy supreme! I know the Voice, Like none beside on earth and sea;
Yea, more, O soul of mine, rejoice! By all that he requires of me I know what God himself must be.
"Only this once," said Edward Allston, fixing a pair of loving eyes on the beautiful girl beside him--"only this once, sister mine. Your dress will be my gift, and will not, therefore, diminish your charity fund; and besides, if the influences of which you have spoken, do, indeed, hang so alluringly about a ballroom, should you not seek to guard me from their power? You will go, will you not? For me--for me?"
The Saviour, too, whispered to the maiden, "Decide for me--for me." But her spirit did not recognize the tones, for of late it had been bewildered with earthly music.She paused, however, and her brother waited her reply in silence.
Beware! Helen Allston, beware! The sin is not lessened that the tempter is so near to thee. Like the sparkle of the red wine to the inebriate are the seductive influences of the ballroom. Thy foot will fall upon roses, but they will be roses of this world, not those that bloom for eternity. Thou wilt lose the fervor and purity of thy love, the promptness of thy obedience, the consolation of thy trust. The holy calm of thy closet will become irksome to thee, and thy power of resistance will be diminished many fold, for this is the first great temptation. But Helen will not beware. She forgets her Saviour. The melody of that rich voice is dearer to her than the pleadings of gospel memories.
Two years previous to the scene just described, Helen Allston hoped she had been converted. For a time she was exact in the discharge of her social duties, regular in her closet exercises, ardent, yet equable, in her love. Conscious of her weakness, she diligently used all those aids, so fitted to sustain and cheer. Day by day, she rekindled her torch at the holy fire which comes streaming on to us from the luminaries of the past--from Baxter, Taylor, and Flavel, and many a compeer whose names live in our hearts, and linger on our lips. She was alive to the present also. Upon her table a beautiful commentary, upon the yet unfulfilled prophecies, lay, the records of missionary labor and success. The sewing circle busied her active fingers, and the Sabbath-school kept her affections warm, and rendered her knowledge practical and thorough. But at length the things of the world began insensibly to win upon her regard. She was the child of wealth, and fashion spoke of her taste and elegance. She was very lovely, and the voice of flattery mingled with the accents of honest praise. She was agreeable in manners, sprightly in conversation, and was courted and caressed. She heard with more complacency, reports from the gay circles she had once frequented, and noted with more interest the ever-shifting pageantry of folly. Then she lessened her charities, furnished her wardrobe more lavishly, and was less scrupulous in the disposal of her time. She formed acquaintances among the light and frivolous, and to fit herself for intercourse with them, read the books they read, until others became insipid.Edward Allston was proud of his sister, and loved her, too, almost to idolatry.
They had scarcely been separated from childhood, and it was a severe blow to him when she shunned the amusements they had so long shared together. He admired indeed the excellency of her second life, the beauty of her aspirations, the loftiness of her aims, but he felt deeply the want of that unity in hope and purpose which had existed between them. He felt, at times, indignant, as if something had been taken from himself. Therefore, he strove by many a device to lure her into the path he was treading. He was very selfish in this, but he was unconscious of it. He would have climbed precipices, traversed continents, braved the ocean in its wrath, to have rescued her from physical danger, but, like many others, thoughtless as himself, he did not dream of the fearful importance of the result; did not know that the Infinite alone could compute the hazard of the tempted one. Thus far had he succeeded, that she had consented to attend with him a brilliant ball.
"It will be a superb affair," he said, half aloud, as he walked down the street. "The music will be divine, too. And she used to be so fond of dancing! 'T was a lovely girl spoiled, when the black-coated gentry preached her into their notions. And yet--and yet--pshaw!--all cant!--all cant! What harm can there be in it? And if she does withstand all this, I will yield the point that there is
something--yes, a great deal in her religion."
So musing, he proceeded to the shop of Mrs. Crofton, the most fashionable dressmaker in the place, and forgot his momentary scruples in the consultation as to the proper materials for Helen's dress, which was to be a present from him, and which he determined should be worthy her grace and beauty.
The ball was over, and Helen stood in her festal costume, before the ample mirror in her chamber, holding in one hand a white kid glove she had just withdrawn. She had indeed been the belle of the ballroom. Simplicity of life, and a joyous spirit, are the wonder-workers, and she was irresistibly bright and fresh among the faded and hackneyed of heated assembly rooms. The most delicate and intoxicating flattery had been offered her, and wherever she turned, she met the glances of admiration. Her brother, too, had been proudly assiduous, had followed her with his eyes so perpetually as to seem scarcely conscious of the presence of another; and there she stood, minute after minute, lost in the recollections of her evening triumph.
Almost queenlike looked she, the rich folds of her satin robe giving fullness to her slender form, and glittering as if woven with silver threads. A chain of pearls lay on her neck, and gleamed amid the shading curls, which floated from beneath a chaplet of white roses. She looked up at length, smiled at her lovely reflection in the mirror, and then wrapping herself in her dressing-gown, took up a volume of sacred poems. But when she attempted to read, her mind wandered to the dazzling scene she had just quitted. She knelt to pray, but the brilliant vision haunted her still, and ever as the wind stirred the vines about the window, there came back that alluring music.
She rose with a pang of self-reproach. Instead of the confidence, the consciousness of protection, the holy serenity with which she usually sought her pillow, she experienced an excitement and restlessness which nothing could allay. She attempted to meditate, but with every thought of duty came memories of the festal garlands, and the blazing lamps, and the flitting figures of the merry dancers.
An open Bible lay on the window-seat and as she passed it she read: "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while he slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way."
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she exclaimed, "In the field of my heart also hath the enemy sown tares." She took up the book, and read again; then too soulful to remain quiet, she rapidly paced the chamber. Resolutely and carefully she reviewed the past, back to her first faint trembling hope. Rigorously, as in the presence of her Maker, she scanned her first departure from the narrow path; and if her earlier convictions were pungent, tenfold more intense was the agony of this her second awakening.
In the solitude of his chamber, Edward thought with less elation of his successful plan. He believed that Helen would have yielded to no ordinary temptation, and felt that he had been scarcely generous to enlist her affections against her principles. His repeated, "It is but a trifle," did not satisfy him; and when he had listened hour after hour to her footfall, he could no longer restrain his inclination to soothe her emotion. In vain he assayed all the arguments, all the sophistry, which the world employs to attract the lukewarm professor.[Illustration: While He Slept His Enemy Came and Sowed Tares Among the Wheat.]
"Do not seek to console me," said Helen, "for such tears are salutary, my dear brother. I have virtually said that the joys of religion are fading and unsatisfactory; I must sometimes seek for others. I have quieted more than one uneasy conscience, by throwing the influence of a professing Christian into the scale of the world. I have wandered from my Father's side to the society of his rebel subjects. And yet I have cause to mourn less for this one transgression, than for the alienation of heart, which led the way to it. Had I not fallen far, very far, from the strength and purity of my earlier love, even your pleadings could not have moved me.""But the Bible says nothing about such amusements, Helen."
"Not in words, perhaps, but in effect. Put the case to your own heart, Edward. Would you have me choose for my companions those who treat you with neglect? Would you wish me to frequent places, whence I should return, careless and cold in my manner toward you? Ah, brother! I loved God once. I saw his hand in everything around me. I felt his presence perpetually, and trusted, childlike, to his protecting arm. But now I regard him less, pray less, read less, and give less." And then she revealed to her brother her beautiful experience--beautiful till she grew negligent and formal--with a truth, an earnestness, a loving simplicity, that for the first time gave him some insight into the nature of true piety."And now, dear Edward," she said, "read to me Christ's prayer to the people, that I may feel sure that they prayed for me."
As she listened, the varying expressions of countenance indicated many and varied emotions. Submission, sorrow, love, and faith--all were there. When Edward had finished they knelt together, and Helen sorrowfully, yet hopefully, poured out her full soul in confession, and most touchingly she besought the divine compassion upon her erring brother.
The carol of the birds went up with the whispered amen of the penitent, the blossoms of the climbing honeysuckle sent in her fragrance, and the morning sun smiled on them as they rose from prayer. The face of Helen reflected her inward gladness, and restored peace shone in her dark eyes and tranquil countenance. "Thou art happier than I," said Edward, as he turned from the chamber.THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.
"Aye, and the race is just begun, The world is all before me now, The sun is in the eastern sky,
And long the shadows westward lie; In everything that meets my eye A splendor and a joy I mind
A glory that is undesigned."
Ah! youth, attempt that path with care, The shadow of the cross is there.
"I've time," he said, "to rest awhile, And sip the fragrant wine of life, My lute to pleasure's halls I'll bring And while the sun ascends I'll sing, And all my world without shall ring Like merry chiming bells that peal Not half the rapture that they feel." Alas! he found but tangled moss, Above the shadow of the cross.CHRIST OUR REFUGE
There were six cities in the land of Canaan which were set apart as places of refuge, to which a man might flee if he had, either by accident or design, killed another. These cities were easy of access. Three were on the west side of the river Jordan, and three on the east side. Every year the roads leading to them were examined, to see that they were in good condition, and that there was nothing in the way to stop the manslayer as he was running from his pursuer. At different points there were the guide-boards, and on them were written, Refuge! Refuge!
If any man by accident killed another, and reached one of these cities before his pursuer, he was allowed to stay there until the death of the high-priest who was then living. But if in anger a man had purposely killed another, then, although he sought refuge in one of these cities, he was given up to the avenger of blood to be slain. You will find more about these cities and their names if you will read the thirty-fifth chapter of Numbers, the nineteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, and the twentieth chapter of Joshua.But what interest can boys and girls and all older persons have in these cities?
I will try to tell you. God has different ways of teaching. A great many things about which we read in the Old Testament are what is called types. A type, in scripture language, means a pattern or a likeness to a person who is to come, or to an event which is to take place. It is supposed to point forward to something more valuable than itself. Thus, for example, the blood of the lamb which was slain on the Jewish altar was a type, or a foreshowing, of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Hence John the Baptist pointing to the Saviour, said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29. The paschal lamb, which was slain to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the bondage of Egypt, and the lamb which was offered daily, both morning and evening, in the service of the temple, were representations of the greater sacrifice which Christ came from heaven to make for our salvation.
So the land of Canaan was a type of heaven. The lifting up of the brazen serpent on a pole was a type of our Saviour's crucifixion; and the cities of refuge were a beautiful type of Jesus Christ, who is the sinner's refuge.
You know, my dear children, that we have all sinned, and that we all need a place of safety. The avenger says, "Thou shalt surely die." Escape for thy life. But that we may not die eternally, God has given us the Bible as our guide-board; and the Bible is constantly pointing to Jesus Christ as the sinner's refuge. He is our hiding-place. It is to him Isaiah refers when he says, "And a man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
The way to our city of refuge is plain. "I am the way," is the Saviour's own direction. The gate is always open, and the assurance is, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
I want you to remember, dear children, that it is a great deal easier to run to this city of refuge when you are young, than it will be if you put it off until you are older. The promise of the Saviour is, "Those that seek me early shall find me." Will you not seek him when he may be found? How sad it will be if you neglect to do so. You will need a refuge when the tempest of God's judgments shall burst upon the wicked. Oh, then how glad you will be if you can say, as David said of his trust in God, "Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."THE MASTER'S HAND.
"In the still air the music lies unheard; In the rough marble beauty hides unseen; To make the music and the beauty needs A master's touch, the sculptor's chisel keen.
Great Master, touch us with Thy skilled hand: Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us, nor let Hidden and lost, Thy form within us lie!
Spare not the stroke! Do with us as thou wilt! Let there be naught unfinished, broken, marred; Complete Thy purpose, that we may become Thy perfect image, Thou our God and Lord!"TOM'S TRIAL.
It was a pleasant day in that particularly pleasant part of the summer time, which the boys call "vacation," when Tiger and Tom walked slowly down the street together. You may think it strange that I mention Tiger first, but I assure you Tom would not have been in the least offended by the preference. Indeed, he would have assured you that Tiger was a most wonderful dog, and knew as much as any two boys, though this might be called extravagant.
Nearly a year ago, on Tom's birthday, Tiger arrived as a present from Tom's uncle, and as he leaped with a dignified bound from the wagon in which he made his journey, Tom looked for a moment into his great, wise eyes, and impulsively threw his arms around his shaggy neck. Tiger, on his part, was pleased with Tom's bright face, and most affectionately licked his smooth cheeks. So the league of friendship was complete in an hour.
Tom had a pleasant, round face, and you might live with him a week, and think him one of the noblest, most generous boys you ever knew. But some day you would probably discover that he had a most violent temper. You would be frightened to see his face crimson with rage, as he stamped his feet, shook his little sister, spoke improperly to his mother, and above all, displeased his great Father in heaven.
Now I am going to tell you of one great trial on this account, which Tom never forgot to the end of his life. Tiger and Tom were walking down the street together, when they met Dick Casey, a school-fellow of Tom's."O Dick!" cried Tom, "I'm going to father's grain store a little while. Let's go up in the loft and play."
Dick had just finished his work in his mother's garden, and was all ready for a little amusement. So the two went up together, and enjoyed themselves highly for a long time. But at last arose one of those trifling disputes, in which little boys are so apt to indulge. Pretty soon there were angry words, then (Oh, how sorry I am to say it!), Tom's wicked passions got the mastery of him, and he beat little Dick severely. Tiger, who must have been ashamed of his master, pulled hard at his coat, and whined piteously, but all in vain. At last Tom stopped, from mere exhaustion."There, now!" he cried, "which is right, you or I?" "I am," sobbed Dick, "and you tell a lie."
Tom's face flushed crimson, and darting upon Dick, he gave him a sudden push. Alas! he was near to the open door. Dick screamed, threw up his arms, and in a moment was gone. Tom's heart stood still, and an icy chill crept over him from head to foot. At first he could not stir; then--he never knew how he got there, but he found himself standing beside his little friend. Some men were raising him carefully from the hard sidewalk."Is he dead?" almost screamed Tom. "No," replied one, "we hope not. How did he fall out?" "He didn't fall," groaned Tom, who never could be so mean as to tell a lie, "I pushed him out." "_You_ pushed him, you wicked boy," cried a rough voice. "Do you know you ought to be sent to jail, and if he dies, maybe you'll be hung." Tom grew as white as Dick, whom he had followed into the store, and he heard all that passed as if in a dream. "Is he badly hurt?" cried some one.
"Only his hands," was the answer. "The rope saved him, he caught hold of the rope and slipped down; but his hands are dreadfully torn--he has fainted from pain."
Just then Tom's father came in, and soon understood the case. The look he gave at his unhappy son, so full of sorrow, not unmingled with pity, was too much for Tom, and he stole out, followed by the faithful Tiger. He wandered to the woods, and threw himself upon the ground. One hour ago he was a happy boy, and now what a terrible change! What has made the difference? Nothing but the indulgence of this wicked, violent temper. His mother had often warned him of the fearful consequences. She had told him that little boys who would not learn to govern themselves, grew up to be very wicked men, and often became murderers in some moment of passion. And now, Tom shuddered to think he was almost a murderer! Nothing but God's great mercy in putting that rope in Dick's way, had saved him from carrying that load of sorrow and guilt all the rest of his life. But poor Dick, he might die yet--how pale he looked--how strange! Tom fell upon his knees, and prayed God to "spare Dick's life," and from that time forth, with God's help, he promised that he would strive to conquer this wicked passion.
Then, as he could no longer bear his terrible suspense, he started for Widow Casey's cottage. As he appeared at the humble door, Mrs. Casey angrily ordered him away, saying: "You have made a poor woman trouble enough for one day." But Dick's feeble voice entreated, "O mother, let him come in; I was just as bad as he."
Tom gave a cry of joy at hearing these welcome tones, and sprang hastily in. There sat poor Dick with his hands bound up, looking very pale, but Tom thanked God that he was alive.
"I should like to know how I am to live now," sighed Mrs. Casey. "Who will weed the garden, and carry my vegetables to market? I am afraid we shall suffer for bread before the summer is over," and she put her apron to her eyes."Mrs. Casey," cried Tom, eagerly, "I will do everything that Dick did. I will sell the potatoes and beans, and will drive Mr. Brown's cows to pasture."
Mrs. Casey shook her head incredulously, but Tom bravely kept his word. For the next few weeks Tom was at his post bright and early, and the garden was never kept in better order. And every morning Tiger and Tom stood faithfully in the market-place with their baskets, and never gave up, no matter how warm the day, till the last vegetable was sold, and the money placed faithfully in Mrs. Casey's hand.
Tom's father often passed through the market, and gave his little son an encouraging smile, but he did not offer to help him out of his difficulty, for he knew if Tom struggled on alone, it would be a lesson he would never forget. Already he was becoming so gentle and patient, that every one noticed the change, and his mother rejoiced over the sweet fruits of his repentance and self-sacrifice.
After a few weeks the bandages were removed from Dick's hands, but they had been unskilfully treated, and were drawn up in very strange shapes. Mrs. Casey could not conceal her grief. "He will never be the help he was before," she said to Tom, "he will never be like other boys, and he wrote such a fine hand, now he can no more make a letter than that little chicken in the garden."
"If we only had a great city doctor," said a neighbor, "he might have been all right. Even now his fingers might be helped if you should take him to New York.""Oh, I am too poor, _too poor_," said she, and burst into tears.
Tom could not bear it, and again rushed into the woods to think what could be done, for he had already given them all his quarter's allowance. All at once a thought flashed into his head, and he started as if he had been shot. Then he cried in great distress:--"No, no, anything but that, I can't do _that_!"
Tiger gently licked his hands, and watched him with great concern. Now came a great struggle. Tom stroked him backward and forward, and although he was a proud boy, he sobbed aloud. Tiger whined, licked his face, rushed off into dark corners, and barked savagely at some imaginary enemy, and then came back, and putting his paws on Tom's knees, wagged his tail in anxious sympathy. At last Tom took his hands from his pale, tear-stained face, and looking into the dog's great honest eyes, he cried with a queer shake of his voice:--"Tiger, old fellow! dear old dog, could you ever forgive me if I sold you?"
Then came another burst of sorrow, and Tom rose hastily, as if afraid to trust himself, and almost ran out of the woods. Over the fields he raced, with Tiger close at his heels, nor rested a moment till he stood at Major White's door, nearly two miles away."Do you still want Tiger, sir?" "Why yes," said the old man in great surprise, "but do _you_ want to sell him?"
"Yes, please," gasped Tom, not daring to look at his old companion. The exchange was quickly made, and the ten dollars in Tom's hand. Tiger was beguiled into a barn, and the door hastily shut, and Tom was hurrying off, when he turned and cried in a choking voice--"You will be kind to him, Major White, won't you? Don't whip him, I never did, and he's the best dog--"
"No, no, child," said Major White, kindly; "I'll treat him like a prince, and if you ever want to buy him back, you shall have him." Tom managed to falter, "Thank you," and almost flew out of hearing of Tiger's eager scratching on the barn door.
I am making my story too long, and can only tell you in a few words that Tom's sacrifice was accepted. A friend took little Dick to the city free of expense, and Tom's money paid for the necessary operation. The poor crooked fingers were very much improved, and were soon almost as good as ever. And the whole village loved Tom for his brave, self-sacrificing spirit, and the noble atonement he had made for his moment of passion.
A few days after Dick's return came Tom's birthday, but he did not feel in his usual spirits. In spite of his great delight in Dick's recovery, he had so mourned over the matter, and had taken Tiger's loss so much to heart, that he had grown quite pale and thin. So, as he was permitted to spend the day as he pleased, he took his books and went to his favorite haunt in the woods.
"How different from my last birthday," thought Tom. "Then Tiger had just come, and I was so happy, though I didn't like him half so well as I do now." Tom sighed heavily; then added more cheerfully, "Well, I hope some things are better than they were last year. I hope I have begun to conquer myself, and with God's help I will never give up trying while I live. Now if I could only earn money enough to buy back dear old Tiger." While Tom was busied with these thoughts he heard a hasty, familiar trot, a quick bark of joy, and the brave old dog sprang into Tom's arms."Tiger, old fellow," cried Tom, trying to look fierce, though he could scarcely keep down the tears, "how came you to run away, sir?" Tiger responded by picking up a letter he had dropped in his first joy, and laying it in Tom's hand:--
"My Dear Child: Tiger is pining, and I must give him a change of air. I wish him to have a good master, and knowing that the best ones are those who have learned to govern _themselves_, I send him to you. Will you take care of him and greatly oblige"Your old friend, Major White." Tom then read through a mist of tears-- "P. S. I know the whole story. Dear young friend, 'Be not weary in well-doing.'" WHAT COUNTS.
Did you tackle the trouble that came your way, With a resolute heart and cheerful,
Or hide your face from the light of day With a craven face and fearful.
O, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce. A trouble is what you make it.
It isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts, But only, HOW DID YOU TAKE IT?
You are beaten to the earth? Well, what of that? Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down _flat_; But to LIE THERE--that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, the higher you'll bounce, Be proud of your blackened eye.
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts, But, HOW did you fight, and WHY?
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce, And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're DEAD that counts, But only HOW DID YOU DIE?
It was examination day, and many a young heart was beating quick with the hope of approbation and reward, or with the fear of disgrace. Some had looked forward to this day, and applied to their tasks, knowing how carefully they should be examined, and commended or punished according to their deservings. Others had chosen to forget that such a day must come, and idled away the time which they would now have given a great deal to have at their disposal again.
In the center of the schoolroom was placed a long table, covered with books of various sizes and of different value. There were Bibles and Testaments, both large and small, the histories of Rome, of Greece, and of England. There were volumes elegantly bound and pamphlets just stitched together. The school was extensive, and it was wished that every one who had exerted himself to the best of his ability, however little that might be, should carry home with him some mark of encouragement, to remind him that diligence and perseverance were not overlooked.
Like the servants to whom the Lord entrusted the talents, some had five, and some had but one, yet these last could not be excused for hiding and neglecting it because it was small; even the youngest and the simplest child at school may make something of the reason and opportunities which the Lord has given him to improve.With anxious hearts and busy faces the boys arranged themselves around the table; and were examined with great care and patience by their teachers, as to the progress they had made in their studies.
Now, Edward had set his heart on one particular premium, the Roman History, neatly bound, and making two very pretty volumes, which he thought would handsomely fill up a vacant space on his little book-shelves. He allowed himself to think of this until no other prize was of any value in his sight, a great fault, often committed by children, and grown people, too; who instead of thankfully receiving whatever the bounty of Providence assigns them, would choose for themselves; and become discontented and unhappy in the midst of blessings, because the wisdom of God sees fit to withhold some one thing that their folly deems necessary to their happiness.
Edward passed his examination with much credit, and one of the first premiums was adjudged to him; but instead of the Roman History, a very neat Bible, in excellent large type, was placed in his hands. Many of his schoolmates had wished for that Bible, but Edward regarded it not; and the eyes of the foolish boy filled with tears, as he saw the elegant history of Rome presented to another, who, perhaps, would gladly have exchanged with him.
The next day Edward returned home and related his disappointment to his parents, who thought his desire for the Roman History a mark of great learning and taste; but since he had distinguished himself so well they did not much care what prize he received.
Edward's father lived in the country, not far from the seaside, in a most delightful and healthy situation; and at this time his mother's brother, who was in a very sickly state, had just arrived there to enjoy the benefit of the sea-breezes, and rest a little from the toil and bustle of his employments in London.
Mr. Lewis was a young man of the most pleasing manners and appearance. He was very gentle and serious, but not at all gloomy or severe. His bad health only served to show forth his patience in enduring it without a murmuring word or discontented look; and Edward, who was really a kind-hearted and affectionate boy, soon became very much attached to his uncle, who had not seen him since he was an infant, and who was much pleased at the attentions his nephew delighted to pay him.
Young hearts are soon won; and it was only three days after Edward's return from school, that he went bounding over the grounds in search of his uncle, whose society he already preferred to his hoop and ball.
Mr. Lewis was seated under a fine old oak-tree, the high and knotted roots of which served as a seat; while the soft moss, interspersed with many delicate little flowers, was like a carpet beneath his feet. A rich and extensive tract of country lay spread before his eyes; and, at a distance the mighty ocean bounded the prospect, whose deep green waters were seen in beautiful contrast with the pale yellow cliff, that with a graceful, yet abrupt curve, interrupted the view to the right. Thin clouds were floating past the sun every now and then, and threw all the varieties of light and shade upon the lovely scene below.
Mr. Lewis had a book in his hand, into which he frequently looked, and then raised his eyes again to gaze upon the varieties that surrounded him; and so intent he seemed, that Edward doubted whether he ought to disturb him, until his uncle, seeing him at some little distance, kindly beckoned him to come near.
"Is not this a pretty place, uncle?" said Edward, as he seated himself beside him; "and do you not find the breeze from the water very refreshing?""It is beautiful indeed, my dear boy; and I am deriving both refreshment and instruction while I look around me." "Is that a Bible, uncle?" "Yes. It is God's word, which I always find the best commentary upon his works; they explain each other." "I love the Bible too, uncle," said Edward, "and I got much credit for my answering on Scripture questions last half-year." "And which, Edward, afforded you the greater satisfaction, the Scriptures, or the credit you got for studying them?" Edward looked a little embarrassed and did not immediately reply.
"It is quite right to take pleasure in the well-earned approbation of your teachers," continued Mr. Lewis, "and I was glad to hear that you obtained a premium at the last examination also."
"Yes, uncle, but not the prize I wished for. There was a Roman History that I should have liked better, and it was just of equal value with the Bible that I got."
"How of equal value, Edward?" "I mean that it was not reckoned a higher prize, and it would have been a nicer book for me.""Then you had a Bible already?"
"Why, no, uncle, not of my own, but it is easy to borrow one on the Sabbath; and I had gone through all my Scripture proofs, and do not want it on other days.""Read these four verses for me," said Mr. Lewis, pointing to the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy "commencing with the sixth verse."
Edward read: "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up; and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates.""To whom was this command given, Edward?" "To the Jews, uncle."
"Yes; and the word of God, which cannot pass away, is as much binding on us as on them, in everything excepting the sacrifices and ceremonies, which foreshowed the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and which were done away with, by his death's fulfilling all those types and shadows.""Then," said Edward, "we are commanded to write the Bible on our hands and on our door-posts."
"No, my dear boy, not literally, but in a figure of speech; as the Lord, when declaring he never will forget Zion, says, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.' The meaning of the passage you first read is that we must have the word of God as continually present to our minds as anything written on our hands, and on every object around us, would be to our bodily sight. And how are we to get our thoughts so occupied by it, Edward?""By continually reading it, I suppose," replied Edward, rather sullenly.
"By reading it often, and meditating on it much," said his uncle; "and that we can do without interfering with our other business. Without prayer you cannot obtain any spiritual blessing, nor maintain any communion with God; and without reading the Scriptures you will have but little desire to pray. We are like people wandering in the dark, while the Bible is as a bright lamp held out to direct us in the only safe path. You cannot be a child of God if you do not his will; you cannot do it unless you know it, and it is by the Bible he is pleased to communicate that knowledge. Do you begin to see, Edward, that the Bible is more suitable to be an every-day book than your profane history?""Why, yes, uncle; but the Bible is a grave book, and if I read it so constantly I never should be merry."
"There is no merriment among the lost, Edward; and that dreadful lot will be your portion if you neglect the great salvation which the Scriptures set forth. Besides, there is no foundation for what you suppose to be the effect of reading the Bible. I have known people naturally melancholy and discontented, to become cheerful and happy by studying it; but I never in my life saw an instance of a person's becoming unhappy because he had a good hope of going to heaven."
Edward paused a moment, and then said, "Uncle, I remember it is written concerning wisdom, that 'her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.'"
"Most true, my dear boy, 'quietness and assurance forever' is the portion of God's people. 'Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.' 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' Are such expressions as these likely to make us gloomy, Edward?""O, no, uncle; and I often wonder that you, who suffer so much pain, and read the Bible constantly, are not melancholy."
"How can I be melancholy, Edward, when the Bible tells me that all these things are working together for my spiritual good? that He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things? When I think of what my sins deserve, and see the Lamb of God bearing the chastisement that should fall on me, how can I be melancholy? When I feel that the Spirit of God is bringing these things to my remembrance, and enabling me to love the Lord Jesus, who has done so much for me, must I not rejoice? I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; and since God has promised forgiveness to all who seek that blessing through his Son; and since I feel assured that I have sought that blessing, and feel peace and joy in believing, surely the song of praise, not the moan of lamentation, becomes me. Yet I do lament, Edward, daily lament, my many offenses against God; but I am assured that Christ's blood cleanseth from all sin, and that in him I have a powerful and all-prevailing Advocate with the Father. I know in whom I have believed, and that he will never cast off nor forsake me. I am sinking into the grave, but I do not shrink from that prospect, because the bitterness of death is taken away by my Saviour, who died for my sins, and rose again for my justification; and though this body returns to dust, I shall live again, and enter into the presence of my Redeemer, and rejoice there evermore."
Edward looked at the animated countenance of his uncle, and then cast down his eyes; they were full of tears. At last he said, "Uncle, indeed I am a very sinful boy, neglecting the Bible, because I know it would show me my sin, and the consequences of it. But I will trifle no more with God's displeasure. I will get that precious Bible, worth a thousand Roman histories, and I will read it daily, with prayer, that I may be wise unto salvation."
Mr. Lewis did not live long after this. He died, rejoicing in hope of eternal life; and as often as Edward was permitted to return home from his school, he was to be seen under the old oak, with the Bible in his hand, from which he learned more and more the will of his God and Saviour--the utter sinfulness of his own nature--his inability to help himself; and from this holy word he learned to place all his dependence on the righteousness of his Saviour--to follow the example of his Saviour, in prayer, in resignation, and in doing good to the poor around him.
He often thought of his dear uncle, and counted that day happy when he sat to listen to his kind advice, which, as a means, brought him to a knowledge of himself and of his heavenly Father.OUR NEIGHBORS.
"Somebody near you is struggling alone Over life's desert sand;
Faith, hope, and courage together are gone; Reach him a helping hand;
Turn on his darkness a beam of your light;
Kindle, to guide him, a beacon fire bright;
Cheer his discouragement, soothe his affright, Lovingly help him to stand.
Somebody near you is hungry and cold; Send him some aid to-day;
Somebody near you is feeble and old, Left without human stay.
Under his burdens put hands kind and strong;
Speak to him tenderly, sing him a song;
Haste to do something to help him along Over his weary way.
Dear one, be busy, for time fleeth fast, Soon it will all be gone;
Soon will our season of service be past, Soon will our day be done.
Somebody near you needs now a kind word;
Some one needs help, such as you can afford;
Haste to assist in the name of the Lord; There may be a soul to be won."
Within each soul the God above Plants the rich jewel,--human love. The fairest gem that graces youth Is love's companion,--fearless truth.
William and Henry were clerks in a large wholesale establishment. They met one morning on their way to the store and proceeded together. After talking awhile on various subjects, the following dialogue took place:--"By the way, William," said Henry, "I understand you were last evening at ----'s," naming a fashionable billiard saloon. "A mistake, Henry. I was never in a billiard saloon." "Well, I thought it very strange when I heard it." "Why so?" "Why?" said Henry in astonishment. "Why, because you are a religious young man and a church member." "Do you ever visit such places, Henry?" "Oh, yes; but that is quite a different matter. I don't profess to be a Christian, you know." "You would think it wrong for me to be there?" "Of course I should." "And right for you?" "Well, yes; there's no harm in my being there." "_Why_ not?" "Why, because--because I do not profess to be bound by the same obligations that you are." "And who has released you from those same obligations and imposed them upon me?"
"Oh, well, now, there's no use in talking, William; you know that Christians do not and ought not to engage in what they consider pernicious amusements.""I certainly do know that they ought not; but I wish to know why it is wrong for them and right for others." "You know the fact that it is so."
"No, I do not know that it is; and I wish to call your attention to the truth that the obligation to refrain from evil rests upon every rational human being in a Christian land, for God has commanded _all_ men to love and obey him; also, to the fact that the difference between the Christian and the sinner is that one acknowledges the obligation, while the other denies it; and that the denial does not remove the obligation. God has not invited you to love him if you prefer to do so; but he has absolutely commanded you and me to love and obey him. I have the right, if you have, to engage in any kind of amusement, and to follow my inclinations in all things; and it is your duty, equally with mine, to honor our Master's law by shunning every wicked way. Think of this, friend Henry, I entreat you, and acknowledge the responsibility which you cannot remove; and from which, after accepting, you will not desire to be released."
They had arrived at the store, and each went to his own department. These young men had entered the employment of A. B. & Sons at the same time, about two years before the above conversation occurred. William had gained the confidence of his employers, and had risen in position. The senior partner intended retiring from business, and was looking about for a Christian young man of ability and energy to propose as a partner for his sons; and had lately been thinking of William as a suitable person. He had observed him closely, and thought he saw in him the habits and qualifications necessary to make a successful business man.
He had also been watching Henry's course. He had heard of him at places where a young man who aspires to positions of truth and honor will never be seen, and was about proposing his discharge to the other members of the firm. He knew that a clerk whose style of living requires more money than his salary gives him will be very likely, indeed almost sure, to resort to dishonest practices to make up the deficiency. Instances of this kind are every day occurring in our cities; and as long as we meet, as we may every morning and evening in the Broadway stages, dainty looking young men, dressed in finer and fresher broadcloth than their employers wear, with heavy gold chains, fine chronometers, and diamond pins and rings, we may expect to hear of a great many more.
That morning's conversation made a deep impression upon Henry's mind. The subject had never been presented to him in that light before. He had imagined, as young persons are apt to suppose, that no moral responsibility rested upon him till he assumed it publicly by uniting with the church. Henry did not mean to die a sinner. Oh, no; he fully intended, after he had enjoyed what he considered the pleasures of youth, to settle down into Christian manhood. After this talk with William he could not get rid of the idea of accountability to his God. His wicked amusements and extravagant habits appeared to him as they never had done before, and he began to see their inevitable tendency. The result was an entire change in his aims and conduct. This was so marked that it very soon became known to all of his associates, and, of course, to his employers.
He remained in that house; gradually rising to the highest clerkship, and, finally, becoming the junior partner of the firm of which William had for some time been a member. His happiness and prosperity he always attributed to the word kindly spoken at the right time by his fellow clerk. He has been successful not only as a merchant, but as a Christian, exerting a powerful influence for good upon all about him, but particularly upon the young men employed in his house. "Live for something! All created Nature doth reciprocate
Her kindness. Should the animated This great law invalidate?
Rather show thy grateful praises To thy God who reigns above, In acts that Sorrow's soul releases-- 'Words of kindness,' 'deeds of love.'"
A new presiding elder, Mr. N., was expected in the district; and as all the ministers stopped with Brother W. and his wife, every preparation was made to give him a cordial reception. The honest couple thought that religion in that part consisted in making parade, and therefore the parlor was put in order, a nice fire was made, and the kitchen replenished with cake, chickens, and every delicacy, preparatory to cooking. While Mr. W. was out at the wood-pile, a plain-looking, coarsely dressed, but quiet-like pedestrian, came along and asked the distance to the next town. He was told it was three miles. Being very cold, he asked permission to enter and warm himself. Assent was given very grudgingly, and both went into the kitchen. The wife looked daggers at this untimely intrusion, for the stranger had on cowhide boots, an old hat, and a threadbare, but neatly patched coat. At length she gave him a chair beside the Dutch oven which was baking nice cakes for the presiding elder, who was momentarily expected, as he was to preach the next day at the church a mile or two beyond.
The stranger, after warming himself, prepared to leave, but the weather became inclement, and as his appetite was aroused by the viands about the fire, he asked for some little refreshment ere he set out for a cold walk to the town beyond. Mrs. W. was displeased, but on consultation with her husband, cold bacon and bread were set out on an old table, and he was somewhat gruffly told to eat. It was growing dark, and hints were thrown out that the stranger had better depart, as it was three long miles to town.
The homely meal was at last concluded--the man thanked him kindly for the hospitality he had received, and opened the door to go. But it was quite dark and the clouds denoting a storm filled the heavens. "You say it is full three miles to D----?"
"I do," said Mr. W. coldly. "I said so when you first stopped, and you ought to have pushed on, like a prudent man. You could have reached there before it was quite dark.""But I was cold and hungry, and might have fainted by the way." His manner of saying this touched the farmer's feelings a little.
"You have warmed and fed me, for which I am thankful. Will you now bestow another act of kindness upon one in a strange place, who if he goes out into the darkness, may lose himself and perish in the cold?"The particular form in which this request was made, and the tone in which it was uttered, put it out of the farmer's heart to say no. "Go in there and sit down," he answered, pointing to the kitchen, "and I will see my wife and hear what she says."
And Mr. W. went into the parlor where the supper table stood, covered with snow-white cloth, and displaying his wife's set of blue-sprigged china, that was brought out only on special occasions.The tall mold candles were burning thereon, and on the hearth blazed a cheerful fire. "Hasn't that old fellow gone yet?" asked Mrs. W. She heard his voice as he returned from the door. "No, and what do you suppose, he wants us to let him stay all night." "Indeed, we will do no such thing. We cannot have the likes of him in the house now. Where could he sleep?" "Not in the best room, even if Mr. N. did not come." "No, indeed!" "But really I don't see, Jane, how we can turn him out of doors. He doesn't look like a strong man, and it's full three miles to D----." "It's too much; he ought to have gone on while he had daylight, and not lingered here, as he did, till it got dark." "We can't turn him out of doors, Jane, and it's no use to think of it. He'll have to stay somehow." "But what can we do with him?" "He seems like a decent man at least; and doesn't look as if he had anything bad about him. We might make a bed on the floor."
When Mr. W. returned to the kitchen, where the stranger had seated himself before the fire, he informed him that he had decided to let him stay all night. The man expressed in few words his grateful sense of their kindness, and then became silent and thoughtful. Soon after the farmer's wife, giving up all hope of Mr. N.'s arrival, had supper taken up, which consisted of coffee, warm short-cake, and broiled chicken. After all was on the table, a short conference was held as to whether it would do not to invite the stranger to take supper. It was true they had given him as much bread and bacon as he could eat, but then, as long as he was going to stay all night, it looked too inhospitable to sit down to the table and not ask him to join them. So, making a virtue of necessity, he was kindly asked to come to supper--an invitation which he did not decline. Grace was said over the meal by Mr. W., and the coffee poured, and the bread helped, and the meat carved.
There was a fine little boy, six years old, at the table, who had been brightened up and dressed in his best, in order to grace the minister's reception. Charles was full of talk, and the parents felt a mutual pride in showing him off, even before their humble guest, who noticed him particularly, though he had not much to say. "Come, Charley," said Mr. W., after the meal was over, and he sat leaning in his chair, "can't you repeat the pretty hymn mamma taught you last Sabbath?"
Charley started off without any further invitation, and repeated very accurately two or three verses of a camp-meeting hymn, that was then popular."Now let us hear you say the commandments, Charley," spoke up the mother, well pleased with her son's performance. And Charley repeated them with a little prompting. "How many commandments are there?" asked the father. The child hesitated, and then looking at the stranger, near whom he sat, said innocently:-- "How many are there?" The man thought for some moments, and said, as if in doubt, "Eleven, are there not?" "Eleven!" ejaculated Mrs. W. in unfeigned surprise.
"Eleven?" said her husband with more rebuke than astonishment in his voice. "Is it possible, sir, that you do not know how many commandments there are? How many are there, Charley? Come, tell me--you know, of course.""Ten," replied the child.
"Right, my son," returned Mr. W., looking with a smile of approval on the child. "Right, there isn't a child of his age in ten miles who can't tell you there are ten commandments.""Did you ever read the Bible, sir?" addressing the stranger.
"When I was a boy I used to read it sometimes. But I am sure I thought that there were eleven commandments. Are you not mistaken about there being ten?"Sister W. lifted her hands in unfeigned astonishment, and exclaimed:-- "Could any one believe it? such ignorance of the Bible!"
Mr. W. did not reply, but rose, and going to the corner of the room where the good book lay upon the stand, he put it on the table before him, and opened to that portion in which the commandments are recorded."There," he said, placing his finger upon the proof of the stranger's error, "There, look for yourself." The man came around from his side of the table and looked over the stranger's shoulder. "There, do'ye see?"
"Yes, it does say so," replied the man, "and yet it seems to me there are eleven. I'm sure I always thought so."
"Doesn't it say ten here?" inquired Mr. W. with marked impatience in his voice.
"Oh, yes, I believe the Bible; and yet it strikes me somehow that there must be eleven commandments. Hasn't one been added somewhere else?"
Now this was too much for Brother and Sister W. to bear. Such ignorance of sacred matters they felt to be unpardonable. A long lecture followed, in which the man was scolded, admonished, and threatened with divine indignation. At its close he modestly asked if he might have the Bible to read for an hour or two before retiring for the night. This request was granted with more pleasure than any of the preceding ones.[Illustration: Christ Blessing Little Children]
Shortly after supper the man was conducted to the little spare room, accompanied by the Bible. Before leaving him alone, Mr. W. felt it to be his duty to exhort him to spiritual things, and he did so most earnestly for ten or fifteen minutes. But he could not see that his words made much impression, and he finally left his guest, lamenting his obduracy and ignorance.
In the morning he came down, and meeting Mr. W., asked if he would be so kind as to lend him a razor, that he might remove his beard, which did not give his face a very attractive appearance. His request was complied with."We will have prayers in about ten minutes," said Mr. W., as he handed him the razor and shaving box.
The man appeared and behaved with due propriety at family worship. After breakfast he thanked the farmer and his wife for their hospitality, and parting went on his journey.
Ten o'clock came, but Mr. N. had not arrived. So Mr. and Mrs. W. started for the meeting-house, not doubting they would find him there. But they were disappointed. A goodly number of people were inside the meeting-house, and a goodly number outside, but the minister had not arrived.
"Where is Mr. N----?" inquired a dozen voices, as a crowd gathered around the farmer.
The day was cold, and Mr. W., after becoming thoroughly chilled, concluded to keep a good lookout for the minister from the window near which he usually sat. Others, from the same cause, followed his example, and the little meeting-house was soon filled, and one after another came dropping in. The farmer, who turned towards the door each time it was opened, was a little surprised to see his guest of the previous evening enter, and come slowly down the aisle, looking on either side, as if searching for a vacant seat, very few of which were now left. Still advancing, he finally got within the little enclosed altar, and ascended to the pulpit, took off his old grey overcoat and sat down.By this time Mr. W. was by his side, and had his hand upon his arm. "You mustn't sit here. Come down and I will show you a seat," he said, in an excited tone. "Thank you," replied the man in a composed voice. "It is very comfortable here." And the man remained immovable.
Mr. W., feeling embarrassed, went down, intending to get a brother "official" to assist him in making a forcible ejection of the man from the place he was desecrating. Immediately upon his doing so, however, the man rose, and standing up at the desk, opened the hymn-book. His voice thrilled to the finger ends of Brother W. as in a distinct and impressive manner he gave out the hymn beginning:
"Help us to help each other, Lord, Each other's cross to bear;
Let each his friendly aid afford, And feel a brother's care."
The congregation rose, after the stranger had read the entire hymn, and had repeated the first two lines for them to sing. Brother W. usually started the tunes. He tried this time, but went off on a long meter tune. Discovering his mistake at the second word, he balked and tried it again, but now he stumbled on short meter. A musical brother came to his aid and led off with a tune that suited the measure in which the hymn was written. After singing, the congregation knelt, and the minister--for no one doubted his real character--addressed the throne of grace with much fervor and eloquence. The reading of a chapter in the Bible succeeded. Then there was a deep pause throughout the room in anticipation of the text, which the preacher prepared to announce.The dropping of a pin might have been heard. Then the fine, emphatic tones of the preacher filled the room:-- "_A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another._" Brother W. had bent forward to listen, but now he sunk back in his seat. This was the eleventh commandment.
The sermon was deep, searching, yet affectionate and impressive. The preacher uttered nothing that could in the least wound the brother and sister of whose hospitality he had partaken, but he said much that smote upon their hearts, and made them painfully conscious that they had not shown as much kindness to the stranger as he had been entitled to receive on the broad principles of humanity. But they suffered more from mortification of feeling. To think that they had treated the presiding elder of the district after such a fashion was deeply humiliating; and the idea of the whole affair getting abroad interfered sadly with their devotional feelings throughout the whole period of service.
At last the sermon was over, the ordinance administered and the benediction pronounced. Brother W. did not know what was best for him to do. He never was more at a loss in his life. Then Mr. N. descended from the pulpit; but he did not step forward to meet him. How could he do that? Others gathered around him, but still he lingered and held back."Where is Brother W.?" he at length heard asked. It was the voice of the minister. "Here he is," said one or two, opening the way to where the farmer stood. The preacher advanced, and catching his hand, said:-- "How do you do, Brother W., I am glad to see you. And where is Sister W.?"
Sister W. was brought forward, and the preacher shook hands with them heartily, while his face was lit up with smiles.
"I believe I am to find a home with you," he said, as if it was settled.
"Brother R. is sick," replied Mr. N., "and I had to come alone. Five miles from this my horse gave out, and I had to come the rest of the way on foot. But I became so cold and weary, that I found it necessary to ask a farmer not far from here, to give me a night's lodging, which he was kind enough to do. I thought I was still three miles off, but it happened that I was very much nearer my journey's end than I supposed."
This explanation was satisfactory to all parties, and in due time the congregation dispersed, and the presiding elder went home with Brother and Sister W.THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. I Thou shalt have no other gods before me. II
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.III Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. IV
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.V Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. VI Thou shalt not kill. VII Thou shalt not commit adultery. VIII Thou shalt not steal. IX Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. X
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.MAKE IT PLAIN.
On the sixteenth day after the battle of Gettysburg, I entered the room where a young wounded colonel was apparently near to death. As I entered, he was roused from his stupor and beckoned me to his bedside, and threw his feeble arms around my neck.
"O my father, how glad I am to see you. I was afraid you would not come till it was too late. I am too feeble to say much, though I have a great many things to say to you; you must do all the talking. Tell me all about dear mother and sister."
I soon perceived by the appearance of those in the house, that there was no hope entertained of his recovery. But as I could no longer endure the agony of suspense, I at last inquired of the doctor, "Doctor, what do you think of my son's case?""Entirely hopeless." "But is there nothing more that can be done to save him?"
"No, sir. Every thing that human skill and kindness can do has been done. Your son has been a brave and very successful officer; has been a great favorite in the army; has won the highest esteem of all who have known him, but he now must die. Immediately after the amputation the gangrene set in, and defies all efforts to arrest it.""Well, Doctor, how long do you think he can live?"
"Not more than four days. He may drop away at any hour. We are constantly fearing that an artery will give way, and then it is all over with the colonel. What you wish to do in reference to his death, you had better do at once.""Have you, or has any one, told him of his real condition?" "No. We have left that painful duty for you to do, as we have been expecting your arrival for several days." As I entered the room with the dreadful message of death pressing on my heart, the eyes of my son fastened on me. "Come, sit by my side, father. Have you been talking with the doctor about me?" "Yes." "What did he tell you? Does he think I shall recover?" There was a painful hesitation for a moment. "Don't be afraid to tell me just what he said." "He told me you must die." "How long does he think I can live?" "Not to exceed four days, and that you may drop away any hour,--that an artery may slough at any moment which you cannot survive." With great agitation he exclaimed,
"Father, is that so? Then I must die! I cannot. I must not die! Oh! I am not prepared to die now. Do tell me how I can get ready? Make it so plain that I can get hold of it. Tell me, in a few words, if you can, so that I can see it plainly. I know you can, father, for I used to hear you explain it to others."'T was no time now for tears, but for calmness and light, by which to lead the soul to Christ, and both were given. "My son, I see you are afraid to die." "Yes, I am." "Well, I suppose you feel guilty." "Yes, that is it. I have been a wicked young man. You know how it is in the army." "You want to be forgiven, don't you?" "Oh, yes! That is what I want. Can I be, father?" "Certainly." "Can I know it before I die?" "Certainly." "Well now, father, make it so plain that I can get hold of it."
At once, an incident which occurred during the school days of my son, came to my mind. I had not thought of it before for several years. Now it came back to me, fresh with its interest, and just what was wanted to guide the agitated heart of this young inquirer to Jesus. "Do you remember while at school in ---- you came home one day, and I having occasion to rebuke you, you became very angry and abused me with harsh language?"
"Yes, father, I was thinking it all over a few days ago, as I thought of your coming to see me, and felt so bad about it, that I wanted to see you, and once more ask you to forgive me."
"Do you remember, how, after the paroxysm of your anger had subsided, you came in, and threw your arms around my neck, and said, 'My dear father, I am sorry I abused you so. It was not your loving son that did it. I was very angry. Won't you forgive me?'""Yes, I remember it very distinctly." "Do you remember what I said to you as you wept upon my neck?" "Very well. You said, 'I forgive you with all my heart,' and kissed me. I shall never forget those words." "Did you believe me?" "Certainly. I never doubted your word." "Did you then feel happy again?"
"Yes, perfectly; and since that time I have loved you more than ever before. I shall never forget how it relieved me when you looked upon me so kindly, and said, 'I forgive you with all my heart.'"
"Well, now, this is just the way to come to Jesus. Tell him you are sorry just as you told me, and ten thousand times quicker than a father's love forgave you, will he forgive you. He says he will. Then you must take his word for it, just as you did mine.""Why, father, is this the way to become a Christian?" "I don't know of any other." "Why, father, I can get hold of this. I am so glad you have come to tell me how."
He turned his head upon his pillow for rest. I sank into my chair and wept freely, for my heart could no longer suppress its emotions. I had done my work, and committed the case to Christ. He, too, I was soon assured had done his. The broken heart had made its confession, had heard what it longed for, "I forgive you," and believed it. It was but a few moments of silence, but the new creation had taken place, the broken heart had made its short, simple prayer, and believed, and the new heart had been given. A soul had passed out from nature's darkness into marvelous light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God.I soon felt the nervous hand on my head, and heard the word "father," in such a tone of tenderness and joy, that I knew the change had come.
"Father, my dear father, I don't want you to weep any more, you need not. I am perfectly happy now. Jesus has forgiven me. I know he has, for he says so, and I take his word for it, just as I did yours. Wipe your tears. I am not afraid to die now. If it is God's will, I should like to live to serve my country, and take care of you and mother, but if I must die, I am not afraid to now, Jesus has forgiven me. Come, father, let us sing,--"'When I can read my title clear,'" And we did sing. "Now, father, I want you should pray, and I will follow you." We did pray, and Jesus heard us. "Father, I am very happy. Why, I believe I shall get well. I feel much better." From that hour all his symptoms changed--pulse went down, and countenance brightened. The current of life had changed.
The doctor soon came in and found him cheerful and happy--looked at him--felt his pulse, which he had been watching with intense anxiety, and said,--"Why, Colonel, you look better."
"I am better, Doctor. I am going to get well. My father has told me how to become a Christian, and I am very happy. I believe I shall recover, for God has heard my prayer. Doctor, I want you should become a Christian, too. My father can tell you how to get hold of it."
In the evening three surgeons were in consultation, but saw no hope in the case, and one of them took his final leave of the colonel. Next morning the two surgeons, who had been in constant attendance, came in and began as usual to dress the wound.On opening the bandage, they suddenly drew back, and throwing up their arms, exclaimed,-- "Great God, this is a miracle! The gangrene is arrested, and the colonel will live! God has heard your prayers!"
"Why, Doctor," replied the colonel, "I told you yesterday, that I believed I should get well, for I asked Jesus that I might live to do some good. I knew he heard my prayer, and now you see he has. Bless the Lord with me, Doctor."
Meanwhile, "_Our son must die_," had gone over the wires, and made sadness at home. Next day, "_Our son will live, and is happy in Christ_," followed, and joy came again to the loved ones.
After his recovery, the colonel returned to the people whose sons he had led with honor through fifteen hard-fought battles. They, in return, gave him the best office in the gift of a loyal and grateful people. Among them he now lives in prosperity and honor, he is a member of the church of Christ, and the father of a happy family growing up around him, and consecrated to the service of his Redeemer.
I, too, was made a better man and better minister by that scene, where this dear son, struggling with his guilt and fear of death, was led to Jesus, and found the pardon of his sins. I there resolved never to forget that charge he made me, in his extremity: _"Make it so plain that I can get hold of it."_I have made this the motto of every sermon I have preached, and God has blessed the effort. A CHRISTIAN LIFE.
"A Christian life, have you ever thought How much is in that name?
A life like Christ, and all he taught We must follow, to be the same.
How little of ease the Saviour knew With his life of labor and love!
And if we would walk in his footsteps too, We must look not to earth, but above.
The darkest hour the Christian knows Is just before the dawn;
For as the night draws to its close, It will bring in the morn.
So if you trust, though shadows fall, And dark your pathway be,
The light, which shines from heaven for all, Will surely fall on thee."
A London merchant engaged in Mediterranean commerce, had successfully prosecuted his business, and amassed what all merchants desire, an ample fortune. His, indeed, was a princely one. He had purchased a large and beautiful estate in the country, and had built and furnished a splendid mansion in town, on the Surrey side of the river, and now that he was verging towards sixty, he concluded to retire and enjoy the remnant of his life in peaceful leisure.
He negotiated for the sale of his abundance-making business, and sold it for another fortune. He then retired. He was a bachelor. He had his halls, his parlors, dining-rooms, and drawing-rooms, his library and cabinets of curiosities. The floors were covered with the most mosaic specimens of Brussels and Turkey carpetings, the furniture was of the most complete and exquisite selections, the walls were adorned with splendid mirrors and with classic paintings, and fine linen decorated all.
Carriages, horses, grooms, and servants were at his command. Books, pictures, and engravings were at hand to interest him. The daily and the weekly papers, and the periodicals, brought to his table all the news of the great world, and his friends and his acquaintances paid him homage. How happy must the man be who has all this!
_He_ was not happy. He had no aim, no motive. The zest with which he read the papers when he was a merchant, he had lost now he had ceased to be engaged in commerce. A storm, a fleet, a pestilence along the Mediterranean shores, was full of interest to him before, because he had investments there. Now, they were of no consequence to him. The views and aims of government were watched by him before with searching scrutiny, because his destiny was bound up with theirs. The parliamentary debates were of the greatest consequence before, as indicating British policy; but that to him now ceased to be an object of importance. His fortune was achieved, his course was run, his destiny fulfilled.
Soon, every thing and place appeared to him one uniform and universal blank. His beautiful apartments were unused, his carriage and horses unemployed, his books unread, his papers unopened, his meals untasted, and his clothes unworn. He had lost all enjoyment of life, and contemplated suicide.
Saturday night arrived, and he resolved on Sunday morning early, before the busy populace were stirring, he would make his way to Waterloo bridge and jump into the river, or tumble off.
At three o'clock, he set out on his final expedition, and had nearly reached the bridge, the shadows of the night protecting him from observation, when a figure stood before him. Amazed at being seen by any one, he turned out of the path, when the figure crouching low before him, revealed a tattered, miserable man, baring his head in abjectness."What are you doing here?" inquired the retired merchant.
"I have a wife and family, whom I can't help from starving, and I am afraid to go and see them. Last night I knew they would be turned into the streets," replied the man.
"Take that," replied the merchant, giving him his purse, with gold and silver in it--thinking to himself, "how much more useful this will be to him, than in my pockets in the water.""God bless you, sir--God bless you, sir," exclaimed the man several times, kneeling before the astonished merchant. "Stop," said the merchant, "do not overwhelm me so with your thanksgivings--but tell me where you live." "In Lambeth, sir." "Then why are you _here_ this morning?" said the merchant. "I do not like to tell you," said the man. "I am ashamed to tell a gentleman like you." "Why so?" replied the merchant.
"Well, sir," replied the man, "as I had not a single penny, and did not know how to get one, I came here to drown myself, although I knew 't was wicked!"
The merchant was astonished and appalled, and after a long silence, said, "Sir, I am overwhelmed with wealth, and yet I am so miserable that I came here this morning for the same purpose as yourself. There's something more in this than I can understand at present. Let me go with you to see your family."The man made every excuse to hinder the merchant, but he would go. "Have you lost your character?" said the merchant.
"No, sir," replied the man, "but I am so miserably poor and wretched--and, for anything I know, my wife and children may be turned into the street.""Why are you out of work and pay?" resumed the merchant.
"I used to groom the horses of the stage-coaches," said the man, "but since the railroads are come up the coaches are put down, and many men, like me, have no employment."
They plodded on their way, two miles of brick and mortar piled on either side. At last they came to a third-rate house, when a rough, common-looking woman opened the door and shutter. As soon as she saw the man, she let loose her tongue upon him for all the villainy in the world, but something which passed from his hand to hers hushed her in an instant; and observing the merchant, she courtesied to him civilly.
The man ran up-stairs, leaving the merchant and woman together, which gave the former an opportunity to make inquiries. Having satisfied himself that want was the crime of the family, he told the woman who he was, promised to see her paid, and induced her to set on and cook a breakfast for the family, and supply them with any thing which they needed.
The man returned, and the merchant went up-stairs to see, for the first time, the wretched family in rags, dirt, and misery. He comforted them with hope of better days, and bidding the man take a hasty meal below, took him with him, and helped with his own hands to load a cart with bed, bedding, clothes, furniture, and food for the family.
The man was gone, and the merchant for the first moment, reflected on all that had passed. He was relieved of his misery by doing something for another, and out of mere selfishness he resolved on doing good to others, to prevent the necessity for drowning himself.
He employed the man in his stable, removed the family near, and placed them in a cottage, sending the children to school. Soon he sought out misery to relieve, and was led to consider the cause of all
misery--sin. He turned to God and found him, and sought to turn his fellow sinners.
He aided every good word and work, and was the humble teller of his own humbling story. He had been a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, and having found the pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it; and the retired earthly merchant became an active heavenly merchant.
"Better the valley with peace and love
Than the desolate heights some souls attain;
Lonely is life on the hills above
The valley lands and the sunny plain.
What is fame to love? Can it satisfy
The longing and lonely hearts of men?
On the heights they must hunger and starve and die, Come back to the valley of peace again!"
On the romantic borders of a beautiful river, in one of our Northern States, there is situated an elegant mansion. Spacious grounds surround the dwelling, and, what is not usual in this country, it has a terraced garden. This is a hill, situated at the side of the house, presenting a mass of living verdure. You ascend gradually, step by step, each platform, as it were, richly embroidered with brilliant flowers.
In this retreat of elegance and retirement, lived Mr. and Mrs. M., their daughter, and a French governess. No expense or labor had been spared to make this daughter an accomplished woman; but not one thought was ever bestowed upon the immortal interests of her soul. At the age of sixteen, she was beautiful and intelligent, but utterly destitute of all religious principle. Enthusiastically fond of reading, she roamed her father's spacious library, and selected whatever books best pleased her. Of an imaginative turn, earnest and impassioned, hers was the very mind that required the strong, controlling hand of a matured judgment. Yet it was left to feed at will upon the poisoned fruits that lie scattered around. She naturally turned to the novels that stored the library shelves; and at sixteen was as much at home in the pages of Bulwer as she was in her French grammar. The ridiculous romances of Mrs. Radcliffe were laid aside with disgust, and Bulwer, James, and others, took their place. But she descended a step, many steps lower, and, supplied by the governess, eagerly devoured the very worst fictions of Eugene Sue and George Sand. Next she was heard discussing and excusing the most heinous crimes of which human nature can be guilty.
Her parents heard with horror her freely expressed sentiments, and wondered where she had inhaled such lax ideas. They never thought of looking into her library for the cause, or at the unprincipled governess. The poison began to do its work; she could no longer live this tame life; she must have something more exciting, more exhilarating. The resolution was formed; with a beating heart she collected her mother's jewels; took one long look at her indulgent parents; bade a silent farewell to the scenes of her happy childhood, and left the house forever. No warning voice implored her to return; no hand was stretched out to save. On, on she went, until she reached the far-off city. Its lights dazzled her, its noise confused her, but she never regretted the peaceful home she had so culpably deserted. Her plan was to go on the stage, and become a renowned actress, like the heroine of one of her French novels. But this was not so easily achieved as she imagined; and after a most unsuccessful attempt, she was compelled to act only in subordinate parts. She had lost home, happiness, and respectability, and had not gained that fame for which she had sacrificed so much.
But it would be too painful to follow her through all her wretched life, and tell how each succeeding year she grew more degraded and more miserable, until at length having run a fearful career of vice she sank into a dishonored and early grave. No mother's hand wiped the cold death-dew from her brow; no kind voice whispered hope and consolation. Alone, poor, degraded, utterly unrepentant, she will appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; we pause; for we dare not follow it further.
The sound of her name never echoed through the halls of her childhood. Her father, stern and silent, buried all memories of his guilty child deep within his heart; whilst the mother, wan, broken-hearted, hopeless, wept in secret those tears of bitter agony whose fountain was perpetually welling afresh.
It is "to point a moral" that we have opened these annals of the past; and we would have the young ponder well the lesson that this history teaches. There _is_ a danger in novel reading; it vitiates the taste, enervates the understanding, and destroys all inclination for spiritual enjoyment. The soul that is bound in fetters of this habit, _cannot_ rise to the contemplation of heavenly things. It has neither the inclination nor the power. We knew one, who, even with death in view, turned with loathing away from the only Book that could bring her peace and salvation, to feed greedily on the pages of a foolish romance. It matters not that some of the finest minds have given their powers to this style of writing; that bright gems of intellect flash along their pages. The danger is so much the greater; for the jewels scattered by Genius, blind even while they dazzle. "Some of the greatest evils of my life," said a remarkable woman, "I trace to the eager perusal of what are called 'well-written novels.' I lived in a world of delusion. I had no power to separate the false from the real. My Bible lay covered with dust; I had no desire for its pages." Oh, then, if the young would reach a heavenly haven; if they would be guided unto "the still waters" of everlasting bliss, let them avoid the dangerous rock of novel reading, upon which so many souls have been shipwrecked and utterly lost.TO-DAY'S FURROW.
Sow the shining seeds of service In the furrows of each day,
Plant each one with serious purpose, In a hopeful, tender way.
Never lose one seed, nor cast it
Wrongly with an hurried hand;
Take full time to lay it wisely,
Where and how thy God hath planned.
This the blessed way of sharing With another soul your gains,
While, though losing life, you find it Yielding fruit on golden plains;
For the soul which sows its blessings Great or small, in word or smile,
Gathers as the Master promised, Either here or afterwhile.
BE JUST BEFORE GENEROUS.
My friend Peyton was what is called a "fine, generous fellow." He valued money only as a means of obtaining what he desired, and was always ready to spend it with an acquaintance for mutual
gratification. Of course, he was a general favorite. Every one spoke well of him, and few hesitated to give his ears the benefit of their good opinion. I was first introduced to him when he was in the neighborhood of twenty-two years of age. Peyton was then a clerk in the receipt of six hundred dollars a year. He grasped my hand with an air of frankness and sincerity, that at once installed him in my good opinion. A little pleasure excursion was upon the tapis, and he insisted on my joining it. I readily consented. There were five of us, and the expense to each, if borne mutually, would have been something like one dollar. Peyton managed everything, even to paying the bills; and when I offered to pay him my proportion, he said:--
"Not a word more. The bill's settled, and you needn't trouble your head about it," was his reply; and he seemed half offended when I still urged upon him to take my portion of the cost."What a fine, generous fellow Peyton is!" said one of the party to me, as we met the next day. "Did he also refuse to let you share in the expense of our excursion?" I asked. "After what he said to you, I was afraid of offending him by proposing to do so." "He certainly is generous--but, I think, to a fault, if I saw a fair specimen of his generosity yesterday." "We should be just, as well as generous."
"I never heard that he was not just." "Nor I. But I think he was not just to himself. And I believe it will be found to appear in the end, that, if we are not just to ourselves, we will, somewhere in life, prove unjust to others. I think that his salary is not over twelve dollars a week. If he bore the whole expense of our pleasure excursion, it cost him within a fraction of half his earnings for a week. Had we all shared alike, it would not have been a serious matter to any of us.""Oh! as to that, it is no very serious matter to him. He will never think of it." "But, if he does so very frequently, he may _feel_ it sooner or later," I replied.
"I'm sure I don't know anything about that," was returned. "He is a generous fellow, and I cannot but like him. Indeed, every one likes him."
Some days afterwards I fell in with Peyton again, and, in order to retaliate a little, invited him to go and get some refreshments with me. He consented. When I put my hand in my pocket to pay for them, his hand went into his. But I was too quick for him. He seemed uneasy about it. He could feel pleased while giving, but it evidently worried him to be the recipient.
From that time, for some years, I was intimate with the young man. I found that he set no true value upon money. He spent it freely with every one; and every one spoke well of him. "What a generous, whole-souled fellow he is!" or, "What a noble heart he has!" were the expressions constantly made in regard to him. While "Mean, stingy fellow!" and other such epithets, were unsparingly used in speaking of a quiet, thoughtful young man, named Merwin, who was clerk with him in the same store. Merwin appeared to set a due value upon time and money. He rarely indulged himself in any way, and it was with difficulty that he could ever be induced to join in any pleasures that involved much expense. But I always observed that when he did so, he was exact about paying his proportion.
About two years after my acquaintance with Peyton began, an incident let me deeper into the character and quality of his generosity. I called one day at the house of a poor widow woman who washed for me, to ask her to do up some clothes, extra to the usual weekly washing. I thought she looked as if she were in trouble about something, and said so to her.
"It's very hard, at best," she replied, "for a poor woman, with four children to provide for, to get along, if she has to depend upon washing and ironing for a living. But when so many neglect to pay her regularly"--"Neglect to pay their washerwoman!" I said, in a tone of surprise, interrupting her. "Oh, yes. Many do that!" "Who?" "Dashing young men, who spend their money freely, are too apt to neglect these little matters, as they call them." "And do young men for whom you work really neglect to pay you?"
"Some do. There are at least fifteen dollars now owed to me, and I don't know which way to turn to get my last month's rent for my landlord, who has been after it three times this week already. Mr. Peyton owes me ten dollars and I can't"--"Mr. Peyton? It can't be possible!" "Yes, it is though. He used to be one of the most punctual young men for whom I washed. But lately he never has any money." "He's a very generous-hearted young man."
"Yes, I know he is," she replied. "But something is wrong with him. He looks worried whenever I ask him for money; and sometimes speaks as if half angry with me for troubling him. There's Mr. Merwin--I wish all were like him. I have never yet taken home his clothes, that I didn't find the money waiting for me, exact to a cent. He counts every piece when he lays out his washing for me, and knows exactly what it will come to; and then, if he happens to be out, the change is always left with the chambermaid. It's a pleasure to do anything for him.""He isn't liked generally so well as Mr. Peyton is," said I. "Isn't he? It's strange!" the poor woman returned, innocently. On the very next day, I saw Peyton riding out with an acquaintance in a buggy.
"Who paid for your ride yesterday?" I said to the latter, with whom I was quite familiar, when next we met.
"Oh, Peyton, of course. He always pays, you know. He's a fine, generous fellow. I wish there were more like him."
"No, not that," said he. "But you know there is so much selfishness in the world; we hardly ever meet a man who is willing to make the slightest sacrifice for the good of others."
"True. And I suppose it is this very selfishness that makes us so warmly admire a man like Mr. Peyton, who is willing to gratify us at his own charge. It's a pleasant thing to ride out and see the country, but we are apt to think twice about the cost before we act once. But if some friend will only stand the expense, how generous and whole-souled we think him! It is the same in everything else. We like the enjoyment, but can't afford the expense; and he is a generous, fine-hearted fellow, who will squander his money in order to gratify us. Isn't that it, my friend?"He looked half convinced, and a little sheepish, to use an expressive Saxonism.
On the evening succeeding this day, Peyton sat alone in his room, his head leaning upon his hand, and his brow contracted. There was a tap at his door. "Come in." A poorly clad, middle-aged woman entered. It was his washerwoman.The lines on the young man's brow became deeper. "Can't you let me have some money, Mr. Peyton? My landlord is pressing hard for his rent, and I cannot pay him until you pay me."
"Really, Mrs. Lee, it is quite impossible just now. I am entirely out of money. But my salary will be due in three weeks, and then I will pay you up the whole. You must make your landlord wait until that time. I am very sorry to put you to this trouble. But it will never happen again."The young man really did feel sorry, and expressed it in his face as well as in the tone of his voice.
"Can't you let me have one or two dollars, Mr. Peyton? I am entirely out of money."
"It is impossible--I haven't a shilling left. But try to wait three weeks, and then it will all come to you in a lump, and do you a great deal more good than if you had it a dollar at a time."
Mrs. Lee retired slowly, and with a disappointed air. The young man sighed heavily as she closed the door after her. He had been too generous, and now he could not be just. The buggy in which he had driven out with his friend on that day had cost him his last two dollars--a sum which would have lightened the heart of his poor washerwoman.
"The fact is, my salary is too small," said he, rising and walking about his room uneasily. "It is not enough to support me. If the account were fully made up, tailor's bill, bootmaker's bill, and all, I dare say I should find myself at least three hundred dollars in debt."
Merwin received the same salary that he did, and was just three hundred dollars ahead. He dressed as well, owed no man a dollar, and was far happier. It is true, he was not called a "fine, generous fellow," by persons who took good care of their own money, while they were very willing to enjoy the good things of life at a friend's expense. But he did not mind this. The want of such a reputation did not disturb his mind very seriously.
After Mrs. Lee had been gone half an hour, Peyton's door was flung suddenly open. A young man, bounding in, with extended hand came bustling up to him."Ah, Peyton, my fine fellow! How are you? how are you?" And he shook Peyton's hand quite vigorously. "Hearty!--and how are you, Freeman?" "Oh, gay as a lark. I have come to ask a favor of you." "Name it." "I want fifty dollars." Peyton shrugged his shoulders. "I must have it, my boy? I never yet knew you to desert a friend, and I don't believe you will do so now." "Suppose I haven't fifty dollars?" "You can borrow it for me. I only want it for a few days. You shall have it back on next Monday. Try for me--there's a generous fellow!"
"There's a generous fellow," was irresistible. It came home to Peyton in the right place. He forgot poor Mrs. Lee, his unpaid tailor's bill, and sundry other troublesome accounts."If I can get an advance of fifty dollars on my salary to-morrow, you shall have it."
"Thank you! thank you! I knew I shouldn't have to ask twice when I called upon Henry Peyton. It always does me good to grasp the hand of such a man as you are."
On the next day, an advance of fifty dollars was asked and obtained. This sum was lent as promised. In two weeks, the individual who borrowed it was in New Orleans, from whence he had the best of reasons for not wishing to return to the North. Of course, the generous Henry Peyton lost his money.
An increase of salary to a thousand dollars only made him less careful of his money. Before, he lived as freely as if his income had been one-third above what it was; now, he increased his expenses in like ratio. It was a pleasure to him to spend his money--not for himself alone, but among his friends.
It is no cause of wonder, that in being so generous to some, he was forced to be unjust to others. He was still behindhand with his poor washerwoman--owed for boarding, clothes, hats, boots, and a dozen other matters--and was, in consequence, a good deal harassed with duns. Still, he was called by some of his old cronies, "a fine, generous fellow." A few were rather colder in their expressions. He had borrowed money from them, and did not offer to return it, and he was such a generous-minded young man, that they felt a delicacy about calling his attention to it.
"Can you raise two thousand dollars?" was asked of him by a friend, when he was twenty-seven years old. "If you can, I know a first-rate chance to get into business.""Indeed! What is the nature of it?" The friend told him all he knew, and he was satisfied that a better offering might never present itself. But two thousand dollars were indispensable. "Can't you borrow it?" suggested the friend. "I will try." "Try your best. You will never again have such an opportunity."
Peyton did try, but in vain. Those who could lend it to him considered him "too good-hearted a fellow" to trust with money; and he was forced to see that tide, which if he could have taken it at the flood, would have led him on to fortune, slowly and steadily recede.
To Merwin the same offer was made. He had fifteen hundred dollars laid by, and easily procured the balance. No one was afraid to trust him with money.
"What a fool I have been!" was the mental exclamation of Peyton, when he learned that his fellow-clerk had been able, with his own earnings, on a salary no larger than his own, to save enough to embrace the golden opportunity which he was forced to pass by. "They call Merwin _mean_ and _selfish_--and I am called a _generous fellow_. That means, he has acted like a wise man, and I like a fool, I suppose. I know him better than they do. He is neither mean nor selfish, but careful and prudent, as I ought to have been. His mother is poor, and so is mine. Ah, me!" and the thought of his mother caused him to clasp both hands against his forehead. "I believe two dollars of his salary have been sent weekly to his poor mother. But I have never helped mine a single cent. There is the mean man, and here is the generous one. Fool! fool! wretch! He has fifteen hundred dollars ahead, after having sent his mother one hundred dollars a year for five or six years, and I am over five hundred dollars in debt. A fine, generous fellow, truly!"
The mind of Peyton was, as it should be, disturbed to its very center. His eyes were fairly opened, and he saw just where he stood, and what he was worth as a generous man.
"They have flattered my weakness," said he, bitterly, "to eat and drink and ride at my expense. It was very easy to say, 'how free-hearted he is,' so that I could hear them. A cheap way of enjoying the good things of life, verily! But the end of all this has come. One year from to-day, if I live, I will owe no man a dollar. My kind old mother, whom I have so long neglected, shall hear from me at once--ten dollars every month I dedicate to her. Come what will, nothing shall touch that. This agreement with myself I solemnly enter into in the sight of Heaven, and nothing shall tempt me to violate it.""Are you going to ride out this afternoon, Peyton?" inquired a young friend, breaking in upon him at this moment. "Yes, if you'll hire the buggy," was promptly returned. "I can't afford that." "Nor I either. How much is your salary?" "Only a thousand." "Just what mine is. If you can't, I am sure I cannot." "Of course, you ought to be the best judge. I knew you rode out often, and liked company."
"Yes, I have done so; but that's past. I've been a 'fine, generous fellow' long enough to get into debt and mar my prospects for life, perhaps; but I am going to assume a new character. No doubt the very ones who have had so many rides, oyster suppers, and theater tickets at my expense, will all at once discover that I am as mean and selfish as Merwin, who has refrained from not only injurious, expensive indulgences, but even denied himself many innocent pleasures to save time and money for better purposes. I now wish I had been as truly noble and generous in the right direction as he has been."
Peyton went to work in the matter of reform in right good earnest, but he found it hard work; old habits and inclinations were very strong. Still he had some strength of mind, and he brought this into as vigorous exercise as it was possible for him to do, mainly with success, but sometimes with gentle lapses into self-indulgence.
His mother lived in a neighboring town, and was in humble circumstances. She supported herself by keeping a shop for the sale of various little articles. The old lady sat behind her counter, one afternoon, sewing, and thinking of her only son.