Page images
PDF
EPUB

that 'a crown of rejoicing' is prepared for them also," said my mother.

"And those who had no opportunities will not be responsible for the absence of the honour," I said; "so I must be thankful and content."

"There are none without opportunities, Euth. God has many missionaries, and appoints to each the proper sphere of duty. She who preaches Christ by patience under suffering, thankfulness, and contentment through privation, a word in season to the visitor, or the wayfarer, is as really, though not so manifestly, at work for Christ, as the evangelist to the heathen, who takes ship amidst the prayers and blessings of a Christian congregation. Yes, dear Euth, she may be a missionary, who never moves beyond her cottage door. The outward stimulus, the charm of sympathy, and the pressure of excitement is not there; but the spring and spirit is the same: 'The love of Christ constraineth us.'"

"Dear mother, pray then that my very helplessness may be of use to somebody. I cannot tell you how I feel tempted to mourn over the suspension of all my pleasant duties among the poor and ignorant."

"If you cannot go to them, doubt not that, if such be God's purpose, some will be sent to you, my daughter. 'A word fitly spoken,' you know, ' is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.' I believe the true meaning of the word translated 'pictures' is, in reality, ' baskets,' which, in that connexion, is a more intelligible figure for value and beauty. You can select your apples, the pure truth of that holy word which is more precious than gold, and present it in a manner so loving, so winning, so graceful, that, as a 'silver basket,' it may be worthy of, and commend to acceptance, the treasure it bears. Seek then the fit word; and, 'fitly 6poken,' it shall not go forth void."

Long I pondered on my sweet comforter's words, resolving to select some golden apples in readiness for any opportunity, and not forgetting the " basket of silver;" for even "golden apples" ought not to be tossed about indiscriminately, Jest they share the fate of "pearls before swine:" there must be some connexion with, some adaptation to, time and circumstance, else the word may not be "fitly spoken."

If any one had asked me who was likely to afford the

first opportunity, I should perhaps have perplexed myself in the choice; but when a willing heart is on the watch for God's opportunities, they will prove neither rare nor difficult.

Let not any one be displeased or disgusted if I go on to tell that, as I sat out as usual the next day, knitting and meditating, our village butcher came briskly up the walk to ask for orders, stopping in the midst of a tune he was whistling, and raising his hat with genuine politeness when he perceived me.

Understanding that my mother was engaged just then, and saying he could wait a few minutes, he turned again with a look of kindness towards me.

"I'm very sorry to hear that you aren't likely to be about again this good while, ma'am; but I hope it's a good sign to be out in the fresh air here."

"Oh, yes, perhaps I may be well again some day; but it pleases God that weakness and pain are best for me at present."

"Well, to be sure now, do you really think so, Miss Euth?" said Mr. Bell, incredulously.

"Yes, really, for ' whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and is not that a blessed reason for affliction? Besides, it is -written, that 'all things work together for good to them that love him.'"

"And by all I ever hear tell, you do love him, Miss Ruth; but I can't help being sorry to see you afflicted for all that; though, mayhap, you don't believe me, for some people seem to think that we butchers have no feeling because of what we have to do in the way of our trade."

"I do believe you, and thank you for your sympatlvy too. There is no reason why persons in your trade should be unfeeling; it is a lawful calling, and a needful, though not an agreeable one, and may be carried on on Christian principles just as well as any other."

"I like to hear you say that, ma'am;" and Mr. Bell's round, rosy face shone with pleasure; "for I see to everything myself, and all my creatures are killed in the easiest, mercifullest way."

"' The merciful man is merciful to his beast.' No doubt you recollect that. I don't think there is any lawful calling in the world that has not a voice to remind us in some way or other of God and heavenly things, and yours has some very precious memorials."

"Mine! dear me, I never went so far as that, ma'am: may be you would just hint any of them."

"Well, you know that you and I are sinners, Mr. Bell, and our Bible tells us that if we are saved from the penalty we have incurred, it can only be by ' the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot;' for 'without shedding of blood is no remission' of sin. From the beginning of the history of our race after the fall of our first parents, we are taught this in the type of a lamb offered in sacrifice, up to the time when John the Baptist, pointing to Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed the grand fact. 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'"

"Well, indeed, I can't deny that I might have thought about this; but, sure enough, it's slipped past me."

"Then there is the character of Christ, as well as his atonement, often, in its scriptural figure, before your eyes: 'He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.' We are bidden to imitate the meekness and gentleness of Christ; to feed on Christ; to put on Christ; and so, in the shed blood, the smitten victim, the food it supplies, the garments it provides, you have God's chosen emblems of holy and instructive things."

"So there is; and yet I don't think, in the whole course of my business up to this very day, such a thought ever came across me before. However, the next lamb we kill will remind me of something more than its number of good joints."

"And may it also speak a word for the poor sometimes, Mr. Bell? Pardon me for reminding you that the Lamb of God died for high and low, rich and poor; and he that hath no money may come and buy of him without money and without price. You have a charity shelf in your shop, I dare say."

"Well, I have so; but it might be better filled, Miss Ruth; and perhaps it may from this time forth. I'm not a hard man, though I oughtn't to blow my own trumpet.'

"The Lord takes note of everything done for his sake; and, if you can feed on him by faith as the life and nourishment of your own soul, you will not forget to feed as far as you can both the bodies and souls of others."

"I'm sure I'm greatly obliged to you, Miss Ruth, for this nice bit of talk. You see one gets to think that religion has nothing to do with one's business in this world."

"And so it becomes a godless toil, unsanctified by those holy links which should unite it and us to God, and make it honourable."

"Why, you see one just tries to make aa much money as one honestly can, and then one looks forward to retire, and be comfortable in one's old age; and we think it time enough to begin serving God when we've got nothing else to do."

"A miserable mistake," said my mother, who then joined ne, "to give him the dregs of a life spent without him in the world, when he condescends to allow us to glorify him if we will, even while serving ourselves: 'Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,' that is the true wisdom of a man who has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

"Well, you see, ladies, I've been used to think myself as good a Christian as my neighbours, though I can't say that it seems all right with me either."

"It is very likely you are, Mr. Bell, and a great deal better than many of them, in all that is upright and good among men; but it is not our neighbour, it is Christ whom we are to follow; and 'if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his,' whatever all around him may be. Let us trust him truly, and we shall love him dearly; and if we love him we shall strive to keep his commandments and tread in his steps."

"Ah! but I question if it's as easy as it sounds, ma'am," said Mr. Bell: "there's a deal to do with ourselves even to keep temper and tongue in order among the vexations of business; and, if one sets up for a special sort of a Christian, one ought to be very particular you see."

"Very true; but it was the experience of a deeply tried believer, a special sort of Christian, that he could ' do all things through Christ,' who strengthened him. 'The Lamb, as it had been slain,' is in heaven, 'ever living to make intercession for us,' ever ready to give 'grace and strength to help in time of need.'"

"Well, ma'am, I hope to think more of these things; for the putting off of them is neither wise nor good I see; and I have to thank Miss Buth there for bringing them to mind so kindly this morning. Good day, ladies; and the Lord bless you."

"Apples of gold in a basket of silver, evidently," said my mother, with a loving smile. "Who knows but that this man, in the multitude that cannot be numbered, may cause you the coveted joy that is like unto the joy of Jesus, in the day when he makes up his jewels."

THE INFIDEL SHOEMAKER.

In a country town near which I resided, it was my habit to use opportunities to make acquaintance with cottagers and others, with a view to be of use to them in regard both to outward matters and to spiritual good. Kindly sympathy and friendly conversation would often lead to the Scriptures and to other books and tracts; and happy results were not wanting for my encouragement.

All, however, was not bright. In one part of the town several shoemakers, professing to be infidels, were banded together in determined rejection of all such aids and sympathies. Why so many of this occupation were opposed to the doctrines of our common faith, it would be hard to say. They were in the habit of meeting together of an evening in a debating society. There a shallow species of infidelity was promoted; and a discontent with things as they are, and a rebel spirit against the powers that be, had been nourished.

There were a few leading minds more deeply versed in positive infidelity; and among these Thomas Sumner's was conspicuous. His was a fine natural understanding, with unusual powers of argument. Plausible, and easy of speech, he was readily listened to. He read, but all in one line; he read with an object. The Bible he never opened but to cavil at its contents. His acute ridicule, and bitter irony, were freely launched against its holy truths; and the smile of a miserable triumph was on his lips when he could master a well meaning, but less skilful reasoner of his own class when pleading for God's truth. It was his boast that he had ordered a Christian minister out of his house; and he waged war especially against those small, silent messengers, which often speak so forcibly to the conscience—tracts. The human mind, he declared, was free to judge for itself, and needed no such helps as the ordinances and services of religion; and he taught others so. A socialist in principle, what wonder if his outward life was unholy and impure? Nor did he listen to the

« PreviousContinue »