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Rust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He
shall direct thy paths.” How easy should be obedience to this precept on their part who believe that God ruleth over all, that He seeth the end from the beginning, and that He careth for them. Yet how hard do the people of God often find it to choose the way of His commandments when, according to their own short-sighted understanding, another way would better serve their interests. Much sorrow and bitter regret should we spare ourselves by always acting on the hearty belief that no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly
—that the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous. How should we ever learn the blessed practice of trust in our God—what opportunity should we have of honouring Him, if it was always shown to our own understanding that the following of His precepts would answer best even now?
We believe He has set His love upon us in a past eternity, that in an eternity to come we shall live in the enjoyment of His love, and practically doubt that we may cast ourselves on His wisdom and love as we travel our earthly way, and practically believe we shall profit by turning aside from His precepts into the path of our own understanding. We feel, as we stand before the temptation, as a hungry one might feel, were he asked to relinquish a loaf of bread for the prospect of a distant tract of waving corn.
Often, when I have been thus sorely tried, the following occurrence has come to my mind with helpful power, as affording practical proof of God's faithfulness in this matter.
I was staying with friends in a remote part of Ireland. The autumn season, with its accompaniments of sportsmen and general county sociability, had given way to winter, throughout which season I was to remain an inmate of Ballybrook; a somewhat dreary prospect, for most of the surrounding landowners had left, to winter elsewhere, and it was unlikely that for months we should have much opportunity of intercourse with the outer world. This was a great trial to me, for I had been accustomed to a good deal of society; I also sorely missed the religious privileges of my London home-privileges which I had only lately begun to value. My Irish friends, while conscientious and, I believe, religious people, were not of the sort to help me in the things of the spiritual life. They thought that religion consisted in obeying God, and not in speaking of Him; while I felt that, to me, at least, Christian communion in the family of faith was very helpful to a right feeling towards one another, and sometimes doubted whether there could be real enjoyment of His love, when that love was never spoken of.
But Sunday brought me some compensation; we used to go once in the day to a small private chapel, on an estate whose owner was under obligation to provide for the performance, every Sunday of the year, of the service of the Church of England. At the time of which I speak the chaplain was an experienced, highly-gifted minister of Christ. He had accepted the post for a few months, in the hope that the bracing mountain air might restore the health of a delicate wife. His ministry was very refreshing to my hungry spirit, and the very sight of his face, with its únmistakeable stamp of peace and joy in the Lord, used to do me good. I often turned away from the church with a great longing to know him personally; such a longing as young Christians are peculiarly wont to feel regarding those whose teaching or example has helped them in the heavenward course. But there seemed no likelihood of this desire being gratified, for the Ballybrook party did not attempt to become acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. Things had gone on thus for some weeks, and I was beginning to wonder at the providential arrangement by which I was required to lead so apparently profitless a life, when one morning there came an invitation for my host and hostess and one young lady of their household to a dinner-party at the house of a
friend some miles away; it was mentioned in the note that Mr. and Mrs. Hartley would be there. Mr. and Mrs. O'Neill decided to accept it, and asked me, as a visitor, to accompany them. Under ordinary circumstances, I should have declined in favour of one of the family, but the attraction of meeting the clergyman and his wife was too great, and I at once agreed to go, though I saw a look of disappointment in the face of the eldest daughter; but I said to myself, “She could not really wish me to be left at home alone; besides, is not this a providential opportunity for my having a little spiritual communion ?"
But when next I opened my Bible, and read in one of the Psalms for the day, “ Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land; and verily thou shalt be fed," my conscience smote me, and the question arose in my mind, “Was it not better to wait till the Lord should send me the help I needed in His own time and way? ' Could my soul be really profited by an act of selfishness?” I knelt down and prayed for strength to give up my own will in the matter, and He enabled me to overcome it. I went to Miss O'Neill and begged her to go to the dinner-party in my stead.
And so it was settled, and, when the day arrived, I felt quite satisfied and happy in the sense of my heavenly Father's approval. While we were sitting at lunch there came a ring at the front door bell ; we heard a visitor conducted to the drawing-room, and the servant brought us in a card, “Rev. Mr. Hartley.” “Strange,” said my hostess, “when we were to meet them this evening. At all events, I had better go and ask him to come and have some lunch.”
I felt my heart throb with excitement; and the thought occurred to me, “How good of God to let me see him to-day, after all !"
I was not disappointed in Mr. Hartley on a nearer acquaintance. A holier atmosphere seemed to pass over us all before he had been many minutes in our midst; while still he was very friendly and full of interest in all our concerns. Presently Mrs. O'Neill said to him, “I believe we are to have the pleasure of meeting you this evening?"
“No, I am sorry to say,” he answered; “my wife is laid up with a cold, and I couldn't leave her alone so long. I should not have been out to-day, but that I was sent for to a poor English labourer in these parts who attends my church; and I took the opportunity of calling here, which I have long been wishing to do. Are you all going ?” he asked, looking kindly at Miss O'Neill and myself.
“No," replied Mrs. O'Neill; "only one of the young ladies.”
“Indeed !” answered he, "might I ask the other young lady to come home with me? it would be such a pleasure to my wife ; she has often wished to invite them ; indeed, she asked me to fix something to-day about their coming, if you would allow it.”
“You are very kind,” answered Mr. O'Neill. “Miss Rutherford has insisted on being the one to remain at home, but the distance- ".
“Oh! about getting her back,” broke in Mr. Hartley; “ if you would have the kindness to spare her till Sunday, she could join you after service; but we're disposing of you very coolly, Miss Rutherford,” he said, turning to me, with his bright, gentle smile.
I gave a hasty assent to the arrangement, and turned away, for my eyes were full of tears; such an overpowering sense of God's love came over me. What a gracious, overflowing compensation was here for my poor little grudging sacrifice for His sake!
I did not return to Ballybrook on Sunday, but stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Hartley for some weeks, and that visit laid the foundation of a friendship to which I owe much of the happiness and blessing I have since enjoyed; while the memory of the incident which led to it has, as I said before, oftentimes encouraged me, when called to suffer in well-doing what appeared present loss, to leave all my interests in the hands of my heavenly Father in satisfied and never-disappointed confidence as to the result.
The Old Woman of Fairlight Mill.
contrive, by some means or other, to reach the
summit of Fairlight Down, on which, not many years ago, stood an ancient mill? that might have been
Fairlight Mill (of which the above is from a sketch taken more than fifty years ago) was burnt down about four years ago, and has not been rebuilt.