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"Did I not see you this morning upon your knees in prayer? Were you not then speaking to the Saviour of your wish to enter and be saved? What is that but personal application—looking, or coming to Jesus for salvation 7"
"I fear I was only repeating as usual, 'Our Father who art in heaven.'"
"But is God your Father, Eva, till you have first gone to Christ and been reconciled to him through faith in atoning blood? 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.'"
"I confess I never looked at it in that light before," said Eva, wondering at her guilty thoughtlessness in thus ignoring the only Mediator between God and man. "I must, in the first instance, make confession of my sin and application to Christ for pardon and deliverance. His blood cleanses, and he has power on earth to forgive. Then, and then only, as one of the Saviour's people, I can be presented to the Father, become a member of his family, receive the spirit of adoption, and have at all times access to his presence! I see it all now so clearly."
And, without waiting for a reply, Eva rose abruptly and hastened to her room. The door was shut and locked this time. No human eye beheld the prostrate form of the young seeker as she knelt at the feet of her Redeemer. No human ear heard the deep sobbings of that penitent heart as she confessed the guilt of having so long neglected the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No earthly friend was witness to the deep resolve to give up the world and self and live henceforth to Him who died for her. But one, a glorious one, stood by her, with an eye to pity, and a heart to love, and an arm to save. Nor did she change her posture at the mercy-seat till, in the deep stillness of the evening of the Lord's own day for working, and the absence of all other voices, she had heard the whisper of his gracious words, "I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me." Thus one gate—the strait one—was entered.
When several months had passed over their heads, and stern winter, in a two-fold sense, had given place to genial spring and leafy summer, the time came when the church with which her parents were connected was in the habit of observing the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.* It was now their anxious wish and frequent prayer that their daughter should confess Christ's name and sit down with them in fellowship at the table of the Lord. They agreed together to ask this of God; but they did not forget, as many do, to use the means, and watch for opportunities of introducing the subject, and at length their desire was gratified.
"It is long, Eva," said Mrs. Young, one evening in June, "since we had a reading in the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Suppose we resume where we left off—at the Palace Beautiful?"
"Very well, mamma, if you wish it; but I have found the gospels so new and interesting of late that I had almost forgotten the pilgrim."
"Only a page or two then, love, for I have no wish to put any book in the place of the Bible."
And so Eva read with growing interest, and, at some parts, with deep emotion, the story of Christian's entertainment :—The delight of the poor pilgrim at coming to the house prepared for such as he was by the Lord of the Hill, his fear of, in the first instance, and then his joy at escaping the lions,—the timely words of Watchful the porter, and the holy conversation of the other inmates of the dwelling,—and above all, the many sweet things that were said, at the table, about the Prince himself, "who would not dwell on Mount Zion alone," who so loved His pilgrims that " He made many of them princes, though by nature they were beggars born," and "who fought for them with their adversary," and "not without great hurt to himself, which made Christian love him all the more." Eva thought she had never read anything out of the Bible so beautiful, and would have read further, had not her mother gently interrupted her.
* It is the practice in many Presbyterian churches, to members in which this narrative refers, to celebrate the Lord's Supper only twice in the year.
"Do you remember, Eva, the last time we read that chapter together you expressed a wish to become a pilgrim, and to spend a night at that house on your-way to the Celestial City? I said then that the gates were all open. You have found one I trust as I described it. What do you say to try the second, to becoming now a communicant, showing forth the Lord's death?'
"I should like it much," was the reply, "but you know, mother, I am utterly unfit for this. Gne must be so 'consistent and devout, so grave and circumspect, so useful and liberal, so like the Master, in short,' as our minister says, that I tremble at the very thought of it,"
"But, Eva, surely you are forgetting who has said that He will make his grace sufficient for us; and perfect his strength in our weakness? Besides, tremble or not, it is our duty. 'This do in remembrance of Me.'"
"But is there any hurry about this matter? You know I am still young."
"Oh, Eva, my child! do not talk in that manner. There is hurry if you come to that. David says he 'made haste to keep God's law / and why should you require a year or two to consider whether you will obey Christ or not? You are speaking too as if life were quite certain; and you know not what a day may bring forth."
"But, mamma, what can I do as a member of the church? I have often heard you say we ought all to be working Christians, and not mere nominal professors."
"And would you not have that work for Christ in either case, Eva? But perhaps you are like the child who refused to say a lest he should also be made to repeat b and c? You seem afraid of work. You forget that this first duty is imperative, and that we have no choice but to obey. 'Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.'"
Thus earnestly counselled and encouraged, and not without much secret and earnest prayer, Eva sought an interview with her minister, with the view of being received into the fellowship of the church. She found this ordeal less formidable than she had anticipated. Having soon satisfied himself that he was dealing with a true pilgrim who had entered by the gate, all else was simple. Still' she- was asked to "confess with her mouth the Lord Jesus," whether she had accepted him as her personal Saviour and Lord? Was her trust for time and eternity in the Father's love, the Son's death, and the Holy Spirit's grace? Was the Bible her rule of faith and practice? Did she acknowledge the natural sinfulness of the heart and the constant necessity for resorting to the "Fountain opened?" Having thus "witnessed the good confession," and been solemnly, commended in prayer to the great Head of the church, she was brought along with other pilgrims into the King's "banqueting house," where "His banner over them was Love."
Eva found the guest-chamber of the palace all that Bunyan had described it. "Am I," she thought, "now among the ransomed? in the company of those who shall, one day, see the King in his beauty, and behold the land that is yet afar off? And is our Beloved with us this day at his table? And may I speak to him as one speaketh to his friend? And will he answer me again in his word and ordinance? What is this put into my hand? The bread? And was his body indeed broken for me, and do I thus signify that I accept his atonement as mine? The wine? Oh, let me realise that it is he, even he, that blotteth out mine iniquity for his name's sake, and who will not remember my sin."
"Jerusalem the Golden" yet shone dimly in the distance; and far before her on the road she could hear the voices of innumerable pilgrims approaching the gates of a still more beautiful palace, and singing, as they journeyed, the songs of Zion.
"O sweet and blessed country, the home of God's elect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest,
Wonder why it is," said Ellen Douglas to her aunt, "that now and then things seem to be so at cross-purposes, as they have been all this week through? I am really quite glad Saturday night has come."
"How did you begin the week?" asked her aunt.
"Yes: look back to Sunday, and recall, if you can, how you passed the day."
"That I can easily do, for I had a series of misfortunes to try me. I began to write a letter after I was ready for church, and tipped the ink into my lap and had to change my dress. That made me late; and father was displeased, as he always is if we go in after service has commenced. Willie teazed me about having such a good chance to show my new hat, and that provoked me so I tore my glove, pulling it off—not very gently, I suppose. Then I wanted to finish my letter at noon, and forgot to look over the Sabbath-school lesson; and because I answered wrong Miss Howard talked about careless reading of the Bible being inexcusable, and that made me cross again."
"You had quite a trial of good-nature, certainly," said her aunt, smiling.
"But that isn't all," replied Ellen. "At tea-time, father asked about the texts, and I couldn't remember either of them, and I was so confused that I dropped the creamjug and broke it, and spilled the cream on the carpet. Then Fred Joyce came, and what did mother do but tell him that we did not receive callers on Sunday! I was at the head of the stairs and heard her. I was so mortified, that I sat down and cried in despair over the unlucky day."
"I think you have shown pretty fairly, Ellen, that breaking the sabbath was the beginning of your troubles. We
cannot expect a blessing on any day if we do not enter upon