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as a botanist will teach me a lesson as a Christian, nay, more than one lesson. For, let me see, what lessons have we found here? I must strive to attain to every grace and virtue. I shall naturally and necessarily, as I advance, find progress not so rapid as at first, therefore I need not be discouraged. And I must beware of mere fragmentary virtue, mildewed graces, and mistaken specimens, and not allow a mere human quality or characteristic to take the place of a Divine grace; and the great lesson of all is, that in Christian life we must always be adding, and always adding the right thing in the right place."
"Yes," said my friend, who was a true Christian as well as a cultured botanist, "that is the Apostolic exhortation: 'Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance ; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.'" 1
Jar away from where I now live, in a little town by the side of the sea, called Whitehaven, I spent the first few years of my life; and now, as I write, a clear picture rises before my mind's eye of the sea and the cliffs, and the long harbour walls, and the narrow dirty streets straggling up the steep hill-sides, with the bright summer sun resting everywhere, and making the place beautiful! I never visit any sea-side place and sniff the strong briny odours, not always the sweetest, of the harbour when the tide is out, without being reminded of my old home by the sea; and whenever I read of storms and disasters at sea, I think of the days when the waves used to
1 2 Peter i. 5-7.
leap right over the high parapet of the harbour, dashing even up to the lighthouse lantern, and when at nights I heard the howling winds and the unceasing surge of the waves as with long roll they beat against the cliffs.
On the heights overlooking the harbour are walls like those of a fortress in appearance, but these have long been disused for any warlike purpose, and now lorm part of the buildings erected at the mouth of a coal-mine. Deep down in the earth and for several miles beneath the sea, the coal is found, and here it is brought to the surface. There the valuable part is poured down long iron " shoots" into the ships waiting in the harbour to carry it to distant ports, while the refuse is thrown out on the other side of the cliff in huge heaps by the waterside. With mingled terror and delight I used to listen to the thundering roar with which the coals at intervals rattled down from the height into the deep holds of the ships; but I remember well the different feeling with which, even then as a child, I used to look at the sight presented on the other side of the cliff.
There on the beach might be seen a number of miserable grimy-looking creatures, all stooping down and busily at work among the rubbish heaps, carefully picking out the best pieces of the coal, and then carrying away their heavy burdens up the long flight of steps into the town, to sell them at a cheap rate among the poor, or to provide warmth in their own dwellings during the hard winter. Nearly all of those who toiled there were children, wild, uncared-for, almost starved, and there were few in those days who gave ever a thought of pity to, or sought to teach and help these poor outcasts.
But my dear mother, though her health was never very strong, almost from the very day when she first came to reside in the town, busied herself in visiting the narrow streets and alleys, where, huddled together in damp cellars and rooms to which it seemed as if the breath of heaven could never come, these and other poor children lived. Ah! she had learned the lesson, so simple and yet so hard for many of us, that the love of Jesus means a great deal more than a mere sentiment locked up in one's heart; that it means this as well, that we are to love every one, however poor and wretched, whom He loves and came from heaven to die for. So she went into their hovels with just the same friendly smile and gentle grace with which she visited her other friends in their drawing-rooms; and there was not a poor woman who, when she saw the " kind lady," as they called her, knocking at the door, did not come forward to welcome her heartily, and then rush away to dust a chair, often the only one, and that sometimes defective in the proper number of legs, for the visitor to sit on. "Shure, ma'am," I remember a poor old Irishwoman once saying, "when I look at your sweet face, it makes me think that heaven's not so far off, after all." And indeed in a few years the lady herself had passed away to the Better Land; but there are many still walking on the earth who first, in those days, learnt from her lips the way heavenwards.
Soon she invited a number of the girls to come to her house on Sunday afternoons, where she promised she would teach them to read and tell them the stories, that already they were fond of listening to, of the Lord Jesus Christ. So a number of them came, and, I remember, quite filled the kitchen on the first Sunday. But there was a difficulty. Some were tall and gaunt-looking, others small with wizened faces, but all were inexpressibly black and dirty. What else, poor things, could they be? Working all the week among the coals, the fine dust of which seemed to fill every pore and lodge in the very texture of their clothes, no wonder that the blackness was everywhere. The hymn-books and testaments that were provided would soon be ruined if something were not done. But at the close of the first lesson, all that my mother said was that she would expect them again next Sunday, and that every one must come with clean hands and face.
Next Sunday a surprise awaited the children. My mother had during the week had a number of long white pinafores made, and amid a good deal of rather noisy merriment each of the girls received one of these, and, the one helping the other to tie the strings behind, it was put on over the black work-a-day garments. And then they sat down, with clean hands and spotlessly white dress, and not an. atom of dirt for the future soiled the books, the chairs, or the kitchen floor. Every Sunday afterwards the girls knew that the first thing to be done was to put on the white pinafore; but I am glad to say that in a few years they had grown so industrious, and found, with the help of kind friends, so much better employment than their old one, that there was no longer any need for their meeting to retain its old name of the " Pinafore Class." . ' .
Often, as a tiny child, it used to be my delight to sit near the blazing fire in that comfortable old kitchen. Once, I remember, the lesson was on the parable of the "man without the wedding garment," and, long ago as it is, I can retain some memory of the words that the teacher then spoke.
"Wasn't he foolish in not taking that beautiful wedding garment? You would, wouldn't you?" It is so much more beautiful than anything I can make for you or give you. All that Jesus gives is beautiful, and, think of this, it makes those who wear it beautiful too. Under those white pinafores there are still the old black clothes, just as black as ever, are not they? However clean your faces may be, your hearts, unless Jesus has changed them, are still as stained and black with sin as ever. We can only hide and cover up the ugliness for a little time. Jesus can change it altogether. He can make you white and pure to the very centre of your heart; 'His blood cleanseth from all sin.' So, you see, there is a lesson that you can learn even from those long pinafores you wear. Whenever you look at them, think of the spotless wedding garment, not covering up but altogether cleansing away your sin, that Jesus, your dear Saviour, is waiting and will be so ghd to give you."