Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

journey over the mountains, to find himself once more in his own home, and with his wife and children, who were delighted to see him again; but their joyful meeting was not unmixed with pain, for during his absence a serious accident had happened to his wife. Coming down from the mountains, one day, with a heavy bag of chestnuts on her back, she fell and broke one of her arms, which, for want of medical assistance, was never set, and hung at her side, useless for life. With part of his savings Jean bought a goat. By God's blessing he had not had a single day's illness, and there would be no want of necessaries for his family during the winter. Each member had worked hard, and a good store of wood, hay, and chestnuts had been gathered.

During the long, dark evenings the father had plenty to tell. He spoke of the town which had been destroyed by fire, and told them the wonderful history of his dear walled-up Bible. He had no longer any fear in reading it aloud to them, for his country had just acquired her liberty. Some of his neighbours came in occasionally to listen to a chapter, and found it much more interesting and intelligible than they had expected. Before the end of the winter the story of the Bible was known to every one in the village, including the priest, who knocked one day at Jean's door and asked to see it.

"I will show it to you, willingly, sir," said Jean, "but only on condition that you do not take it away, as it was a gift to me from God himself."

"Ignorant fool!" replied the priest; "you do not know all the harm this book does when it falls into the hands of people in your class of life."

But the power of the priesthood had diminished; the Italian people were beginning to assert their right to think for themselves in matters of conscience and belief; and the various states, so long divided and oppressed, were uniting their forces to drive the Austrians beyond their frontiers, and to curtail the temporal power of the pope. Knowing something about this, Jean refused to let the priest take his Bible, and the latter was obliged to give up the point, and left the house, threatening to excommunicate him, to the terror of his wife and children.

An English gentleman having heard of Jean's firmness on this occasion in resisting the demands of the priest, sent to ask him if he would undertake to sell Bibles in Lombardy for a few weeks. Jean had not yet left the Eoman Catholic church, and still attended mass, but he had read in his Bible that " all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of iGod may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."* He accepted the offer with pleasure and gratitude, and notwithstanding his wife's fears of the malediction of the priest, he started with a load of Bibles on his back.

Though he had many difficulties to contend with, Jean at first sold his books rapidly. He was well received in most places, especially in the large towns, when he opened his pack in the market-place and displayed his merchandize. His explanations, though simple, were listened to attentively enough. Encouraged by success, though it was out of his way, he determined to go to Lugano, the chief town of the canton of Tessin, where he had many acquaintances among the working masons. It was fair day when he arrived, and he was soon surrounded by a crowd more inclined to laugh at him than to buy his goods. Amongst the bystanders there was a young man who said to him, scoffingly and profanely, that if he wanted a Bible he could have one for nothing, as he had built one up in the wall of a house at Glaris five years before; and though since then the town had been completely destroyed by fire, he was sure the devil had taken care of it for him.

"That Bible was preserved by a miracle," replied Jean. And he related how God and not Satan had placed it in his hands.

"Sh$w it to me," cried Antonio, for it Was he; "I shall know it again by some marks I made upon the coyer with my hammer."

Jean took it out of his pocket arid handed it to Antonio, who was astonished, and not a little startled, to see it safe and sound.

"Every man who worked with me at Glaris last summer will tell you the same story," added Jean. "Come, buy another Bible from me; and, instead of walling it up, read it, and learn to be a Christian."

But the slight impression made upon Antonio had passed away.

"Let me alone with your Bibles," he cried, "we don't * 2 Tim. iii. 16.

want them here." And, assisted by his companions, he assailed poor Jean, upset his table, and hunted him and his books out of Lugano.

Bruised and disheartened, Jean returned home, and having made up his accounts and honestly paid all the money he had received for the books he had sold to the agent for the Bible Society, he took his trowel and started again for Switzerland. It happened that summer that Antonio was employed in the same town and at the same building as Jean. Struck by the respect universally paid to the good man, he learned at last to love him, and tried to make up to him for his former unkind conduct. Jean forgot the past, and received his advances kindly; but one day Antonio, climbing up a steep ladder with a heavy stone upon his back, made a false step, and fell from a height of fifty feet to the ground. He was carried to the hospital, and there the poor fellow lay for weeks on a bed of suffering. Jean, who had often reasoned with him on his bad habit of drinking, which, no doubt, had weakened his limbs and impaired his health, often went to see him; but as he could only spend a few minutes at a time with him, having to go to bed early, that he might get sufficient rest to be able to get up again in time to commence work at four o'clock, he lent him his precious Bible, having first made him promise to take the greatest care of it. Antonio received it with great indifference; but one day, tired of doing nothing, he opened it, and having once commenced he went on reading it, and with the help of some Christians who often visited and prayed with him during his long illness, he little by little began to understand its precious truths. His heart, which had so long been closed to the things of God, was softened; he felt that he was a sinner, and sought for help and salvation from Him "whose blood cleanseth from all sin." It was six months before he could put his foot to the ground, or drag himself about with crutches—his thigh had been broken by the fall, and he was lamed for life. His kind visitors had persuaded him, as he could never hope to resume his employment as a mason, to devote the long hours of his forced inactivity to study.

Antonio is now master of a Protestant school in Italy, and is married to Jean's eldest daughter, who has also been led to a knowledge of the truth, and following the example of her father and mother, has renounced the errors of the Roman Catholic church. They live in a little town surrounded by villages, in which there are many converted families; and as Antonio has as yet no school-house, he teaches the children three times a week at his own house, and sets them tasks to do on the other days at their own homes, when they are not working in the fields with their parents. The rest of his time is devoted to Scripture reading. His health is quite re-established, and with the help of a stick he is able to walk without much fatigue.

Jean has promised, when he dies, to leave him the walled-up Bible, which Antonio never sees without a feeling of shame and remorse. In the mean time Jean reads it constantly, and learns every day more and more to appreciate the great mercy of the Almighty in leading him to renounce a religion of eye service and ceremonies for that which the Saviour announced to the woman of Samaria. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." *

FAITH IN CHRIST.

Faith is belief upon testimony. Most of the knowledge which we possess we obtain through faith; that is, through belief of what we read, or of what some one tells us. Tor example, you never saw Napoleon Bonaparte, and yet you are as fully convinced that ho lived as if you had personally known him. Why are you so thoroughly convinced that there was such a man? Simply because you have testimony to prove the fact, which you cannot doubt any more than you can doubt your own existence.

It may be you never saw the city of Eome, but you are perfectly sure there is such a city; and if business or pleasure called you to visit it, you would leave your own country, feeling certain of beholding this renowned capital if you continued your journey. The testimony in this case you do not think of calling in question even for one moment.

It is probable that you have never determined for yourself the size and distance from the earth of the sun and the

* John iv. 23, 24.

moon, and the various planets belonging to our solar system; and yet you accept, without hesitation, the testimony of practical astronomers on this subject.

The truth is, God has so constituted us that we are bound to receive and to act upon credible testimony with as much confidence as we rely upon the evidence of our own senses. If a person whom you had known from your childhood, and whom you knew to be strictly truthful, were to come to you while reading these words, and say that a building had just fallen, and buried beneath its ruins a very dear friend of yours, would you not believe him, and would you not rush to the scene of the disaster in a state of excitement and grief? You would not only accept his testimony as true, but his testimony would control the feelings of your heart, and govern your conduct.

But if this person, who had never deceived you, and had never jested, should make a distinct and solemn promise that he would do for you on a certain day something for which you were exceedingly anxious, would you not expect the fulfilment of the promise? Would you not rely on him to be as good as his word? Would not the bare promise impart to you a feeling of relief and of pleasure? I am sure it would, and simply because you believe that he is able and willing to do what he says he will do. Let us suppose that you are in business, and, owing to sudden reverses, find yourself unable to pay a bill which is due. You go to this person, who has heretofore aided you when in need, and ask him to lend you the necessary amount. He replies, " I am sorry I cannot do it, for my own obligations require the use of all the money I can command." You turn away in distress and perplexity, not knowing where to apply for assistance. But suppose the next morning after this interview your old and tried friend comes to you and says, " Since our conversation yesterday I have unexpectedly made arrangements by which I can let you have the money you want, and if you will come to my office at eleven o'clock to-day, I will give you a cheque for it."

Now, what is the ground or the reason of the satisfaction and delight with which you would receive this announcement? Clearly your faith in the man. You would believe that he could lend you the money, that he was willing to do it, and, inasmuch as he had promised to do it, that he would do it; and hence, by simply believing what has

« AnteriorContinuar »