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or two her nimble fingers had fashioned out of it what they agreed should be the "wishing cap."
"Now who is to put the cap on first?" asked Mr. Pringle.
"I think," said mamma, "as Nelly proposed the game, she should begin."
Nelly had no objection, and everybody else applauded; so the cap was put on her head. Everybody looked towards her; and, except a suppressed titter from the youngest children, all waited in silence to hear what was Nelly's wish.
Nelly pursed up her mouth, closed her eyes, and sat a minute or two apparently in deep thought. At length a bright smile passed over her face, which seemed to say, "I have got it;" and then she said, "Willy poked my doll's eyes out, and then left her on the fender, when the fire was hot; so now she has neither mouth, nor chin, nor eyes. I should like to have a new doll, bigger and nicer than the old one—as big as cousin Fanny's, and a new cradle to put it in."
"Aha !" shouted Arthur, "that's jnst like a girl. Girls never think about anything but dolls and such like."
"Well, well," said papa, "I don't think Nelly's too old for a doll yet; and perhaps if all our wishes were as moderate, we might have a good chance of getting what we wished."
"Done into English," said Tom; "I suppose that means Nelly's to have a new doll."
"Well, who is to have the cap next?" asked Mr. Pringle.
The three little ones hereupon pressed their claims very urgently; and, to quiet their importunities, they were allowed to put on the cap in turn. As their wishes were very juvenile, we need not mention them; although, as they were uttered, they' occasioned a good deal of merriment.
"It will be Arthur's turn next," said Mary. "Ton know, papa, it really began with him and his book."
Arthur put on the cap. Arthur's ideas had been greatly enlarged—so he thought, at any rate—by the stories he had been reading, so that, unlike Nelly, no playthings of any sort would satisfy him. After a little consideration he said, "I wish I had plenty of money, so that I could have a nice large house, and ever so many servants, and be able to go just where I wanted, and to do just what I liked."
"Large notions, Arthur," said his papa. "A great many people, however, wish for all that as well as you, my boy. Thousands are trying with all their might to get rich; and I am afraid there are vast numbers who are sadly disappointed because they can't. But do you really think that if you had ever so much money, you would be so happy as to desire nothing more?"
"Well, papa," said George, who thought he had seen a great deal more than Arthur, having been two years in his father's office in the city, "don't you think it would go a great -way to make him so?"
"I don't deny," said Mr. Pringle, "that money can do a great deal. A man who has money can buy with it many very nice and very useful things; it wins for him friends and influence; it puts within his power many pleasures which poor people cannot enjoy; and I don't doubt that a man will feel very proud as he looks round him on a beautiful house and great possessions, and says, 'All these are mine.' But we must have something else than either money or the best things that money can buy, if we are to be truly happy. Who is the richest king mentioned in the Bible?"
"Solomon," said several of the children.
"Then was he the happiest man about whom we read?"
"No, papa," replied Mary, "I think not; for after he
had enjoyed everything that his riches could procure for
him, he had still to cry, 'All is vanity and vexation of
"Don't we find, too," said Mr. Pringle, "that where a man's great wish is to be rich, he is exposed to strong temptations to do things which are wrong, and which will involve him in much trouble? Tom, the Bible is just behind you. Will you just turn to the last chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy and see if you can find anything about it there?"
Tom reached the Bible, opened it at the place his father mentioned, and read the ninth and tenth verses: "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
"Then," resumed Mr. Printrle, "if.you look at the close of the chapter, you will find the apostle speaks of riches -as "uncertain riches;" and you remember the Lord Jesus speaks of moth and rust corrupting all earthly treasures, and of thieves breaking through to steal. But how long, think you, at the very longest, can a man keep his money?"
"Only till he dies, papa," said several of the children.
"Veiy true; and if my memory serves me rightly, the apostle says in that very chapter from which Tom has been reading, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." The richest man in all the earth must leave all his riches behind him when he dies."
"It's Tom's turn now," cried out one of the younger children, who began to think it was time to have a little change.
"Never mind the cap, Tom," said Mr. Pringle, as he saw some marks of unwillingness on Tom's part to have it put on his head. "Just go on without it."
"Well, if I must keep up the game," replied Tom, "I would say that I don't care a great deal about money, although I should not like to be in want; but there are several fellows who have gone to the university from our school, who have made themselves ever so famous. Now I should like to win the first honours of the university."
"Well done, Tom," said George.
"Well wished, you mean, I suppose," said his father. "But Tom, what is the purpose for which you would like to do all that? Is it because you would like to have everybody praising you and saying, 'What a wonderfully clever fellow Tom Pringle is?' or is it that you may use your learning, and the influence it will give you, to do men good and to glorify God? I remember reading in the 'Life of Henry Martyn,' who was senior wrangler at Cambridge, that after he had won the distinction, he felt that he had grasped but a shadow. I am afraid, however, that a good many would like the honours and praises of learning, who don't care very much about the hard work that is needed to take only a very moderate position."
"I've just been thinking, papa," said Jane, "what a world of disappointment this must be. How few people get half their wishes!"
"Very true, my dear," replied Mr. Pringle; " but you might have said much more than that. How few people get a tithe, or even a hundredth part of the things they wish for? Sometimes they wish for impossible things; and no wonder they don't get them. Or wish for things which they might get if they were not too indolent to put forth the effort which is needful to win them. Sometimes, too, for good and wise purposes, God denies us things which seem to us very desirable. But there are other things in which men are disappointed; for instance, when they get things they have desired, and then find that they are worthless, and don't make them happy. There are some wishes, moreover, that need never be disappointed. Can you tell me what they are?"
"I think I know what you mean, papa,' said Mary; "but perhaps you will tell us."
"If you wish for the blessing of God's salvation—for pardon, for a new heart, for sonship with God; and if we seek them through Jesus, believing in his name, we can be as certain as that we live—as certain as that God lives —that we shall get them; for his promise is, 'They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.' But what is far better, we shall find them all and more than all that we ever expected from them; for the 'joy' of the Lord's salvation is 'unspeakable and full of glory.'"
"A Contented mind," says the old proverb, "is a continual feast." But the proverb does not say enough, at any rate does not tell all the truth about the matter. A continual feast would not be altogether a pleasant thing. We should soon get wearied of dainties and delicacies, and the continual feast would be almost worse than scanty food and occasional hunger. But a state of contentment is one of which we never get tired; for the longer we possess it, the niore thoroughly we enjoy it, and the more contentment we have, the happier we are.
It seems strange that so cheap a blessing should be possessed by so few, at least that there should be so many -whose whole lives show that they do not possess it. Somehow or other most people find something to grumble at. I should be as happy as need be, says one, if only this or that matter were different. It's impossible for me to be contented, says another, for I haven't enough. Well, for the matter of that, says a third, I have enough, and am better off than many; but then I have troubles that they haven'fe. I shouldn't care if I could only get as good a position as So-and-so, for instance, says a fourth. Ah! and if you all bad what you want now, you'd be miserable next week for the want of something else, wisely replies the fifth. Contentment lies not in our possessions, but in ourselves.
There is an old story that once upon a time all mankind were to be permitted to exchange their troubles for others which they should prefer, and which they might think easier to bear. So the lame gave up their lameness, and became blind or deaf, or what else they chose. And the poor laid down their poverty, and took instead of it some other burden which they thought would press less painfully. But, strange to say, soon after they had all fitted themselves with their burdens there was nothing but complaints, lamentations, and groans. And when permission was given them to lay down their new burdens and take up the old ones again they were filled with delight. Then the story goes that a beautiful form, whose aspect was both serious and cheerful, whose eyes were frequently cast towards heaven, and whose name was Patience, appeared; and giving to each man his own proper burden, taught him how to bear it in the best and most convenient manner; after which they all marched off contented, thankful that they had not been left to their own choice as to the evils which should fall to their own lot.
So ends the story which professes to have been a vision; and, dream or no dream, it teaches us a very good lesson. It teaches us the folly of repining at misfortunes of our own, and of fancying others better off than ourselves; and it points us to the great importance of a spirit of contentment; for if we possess that we shall neither envy others nor repine at our own lot.
What, then, is contentment? It is evidently worth having, for the Bible tells us "that with godliness it is great gain." * And it is evidently possible that we may have it, for Paul could say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." J So now we ask what is it?
A dictionary is a very useful and very interesting book to those who desire to understand the true meaning of words; and if we look in a good dictionary for the meaning * 1 Tim. vi. 6. t Phil. iv. 11.