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return you can make is too great. And, my dear, you have made and are making that return. You willingly— now that you are able—do much to sustain them in comfort: you do what you can. You cheer their declining years; you make home happy: your first thought is for them in all that concerns yourself. And yet you have asked—' How can a young dressmaker be useful?' Useful, Lucy! Why, you know that the heaviest blow that could be inflicted on them would be, in any way, to lose you. your cheering presence, your efficient help."
"Oh, please Mrs. Gee; dear Mrs. Gee, do not say any more!" Lucy cried.
"I must, my dear Lucy; for I have not half answered your question yet: but I will turn to something else connected with it. You spent some of your leisure time in visiting your poor neighbours—not to gossip with them—"
"Oh, but I am afraid I do gossip sometimes, sadly," said Lucy, deprecatingly.
"Well, you were not gossipping when you took the word of life to that poor ignorant dying woman, who had never heard intelligently of Christ and his great salvation; and by whose bedside you sat when even hired nurses avoided her,—so loathsome her disease had made her,— while you poured the knowledge of the gospel into her soul, so that—God being pleased to bless your efforts and answer your prayers for her salvation—she at last died rejoicing in the truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. And yet, Lucy, you say, 'How can a young dressmaker be useful?' How! Why, in the way your Saviour was himself useful—in seeking the salvation of the perishing and lost."
"But it was not I," said Lucy, earnestly: "it was God's own word; and his blessed Spirit; and his great mercy in Christ Jesus."
"Yes, my dear; and so the most successful minister of the gospel must say. The language of all sincere Christians, however much they may labour for Christ, and however many souls they may be instrumental in saving, will be, 'Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake.' But dare any one who has been made instrumental in saving a soul from death say ' I am of no use in the world: how can I be useful ?'"
"But how can any Christian help doing all they can for
Christ, knowing what Christ has done for him?" asked Lucy, softly.
"That is another question entirely, Lucy. Of course, where the love of Christ is shed abroad in the heart by God's Holy Spirit, and it is not choked with the cares or the pleasures of this world, that heart will make what returns it can, and still feel and say, 'I am an unprofitable servant; I have done only what it was my duty to do:' but if the Lord is pleased to accept and bless the efforts of even an otherwise unprofitable servant, his blessing makes that servant useful."
"But when one's time is so much—so very much taken up with the things of this life, the opportunities of usefulness are, must be, few and small. I think ma'am, that this is what I felt when I asked that question a year ago."
"I dare say it is what you felt, Lucy. You felt that if you were a rich lady instead of a poor dressmaker, you would have more time and money both at your command for usefulness in the cause of Christ. Well, we will come to this in a minute or two; but there is something else that comes before it. You are a Sunday-school teacher, Lucy."
"A very inefficient one, I am afraid," said Lucy.
"We are all inefficient in whatever we undertake for the Lord, until he gives efficiency," said the elder Christian; "and then we are not inefficient. What did the apostle Paul say ?—« Not that we are sufficient of ourselves—but our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament;' and again, in another place, he reminds us that 'neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.' Now, dear Lucy, God has evidently been pleased to bless your efforts as a teacher of the young and ignorant very largely, so that many of your soholars have even now good reason to be thankful that you taught them. There are some, you know, who have obtained respectable situations in life, and are filling them with credit, who would otherwise have been unable to make any advance in their young life; while through you they have gained a knowledge of those Scriptures which are able to make wise unto salvation. And yet you ask, 'How can I—a young dressmaker—be useful?' as though this were not usefulness."
"Oh, dear Mrs. Gee, you make me feel ashamed of myself, that I should have spoken so hastily; for though I cannot think of anything I have ever done or can do, as you speak of it, yet 1 see that even 'a poor dressmaker ' need not be altogether useless. But yet ."
"Stop, my dear; I have not quite finished my lecture," continued her friend; — "you have companions, you know; and there is a field for usefulness which no one can measure. And though, I am afraid we have all reason to lament our backwardness in this respect, yet I cannot but think that] the intercourse of a Christian girl—even though she is but a dressmaker, as you say—must have a beneficial effect on those around her. I am sure that your influence has been good in this way in our work-room, and yet you ask me how you can be useful? as though such a thing were altogether out of the question.
"And now about your opportunities for usefulness being few and small compared with theirs who have time and money at command. Well, this may be so or not, according to circumstances; but let me remind you, Lucy, that it is according to what we have, and not according to what we have not, that our Saviour expects service of us. At the same time, I believe that each of us may be as .usefully employed in his cause, while transacting the daily business of the world in which we live, as though we had no business in the world to transact. It is in the common work of life that Christian character and Christian usefulness often shows out most brightly. You remember those verses we sometimes sing together:—
".' If, on our daily course, our mind
* * * *
Oh, could we learn that sacrifice,
"And now, dear Lucy," said the kind and wise Christian friend, "I will not trouble you with any further lecturing; for I have answered your question, and that is enough. I could, however, tell you of one whom I very well knew some years ago—who, when an active man of business, was active too in Christian works of usefulness. But he used to lament that so much time had to be given to the world,. and that so little could be spared for what more directly related to the cause of Christ and the gospel . "Well, by-and-by he was enabled to retire from business. He built himself a bouse, and bad a fine garden, and all around him that heart could wish, with no ' trivial round and common task' of trade or worldly things to interfere with his higher aspirations. And what do you think followed, Lucy?"
Lucy shook her head. "You must tell me, if you please," she said.
"I will tell you. The poor rich man became a drone, my dear; a selfish voluptuary; a hindrance and not a help to the cause which he yet believed he had more at heart than all things else in the world. And perhaps he had; I • will not say that he bad not: but it is a sad story to think of—that life of total inactivity and uselessness. Oh, my dear, pray to be 'a poor dressmaker' all your life, rather than to get rich and sink into a do-nothing."
; CONSENT THOU NOT."
"I've come to thank you, sir, for all the trouble you have taken for me, and to say that I am going to Grey and Foster's on Monday morning."
The speaker was George Eutherford, a pleasant, interesting looking youth of between fifteen and sixteen years of age; and the words were spoken to Mr. Croft, a Christian minister in a large commercial and seaport town in the north of England. George's mother was the widow of an excellent man, who had now been dead about three years, and who had left her very slenderly provided for, with a family of five children, of whom George was the eldest. Mr. Croft, whose ministry Mr. and Mrs. Eutherford had attended from the commencement of their married life, had shown the bereaved widow much kindness, and had interested himself greatly in their welfare. It was through his intervention that George had obtained a situation at Grey and Foster's, who were large merchants and shipowners. Both he and his mother were deeply grateful to their kind friend and minister, and George very readily complied with his mother's suggestion that he should call on Mr. Croft a few days before, in order to thank him. On going to the house, he was shown into Mr. Croft's study, and there the two were now sitting together.
"I am glad to hear it, George," said Mr. Croft. "The opening is a good one, and if you are steady and attentive, as I hope you will be, you have an excellent prospect of success in life."
■" Everybody tells me that who has spoken to me about it," replied George. "I hope, sir, that I shall not disappoint you."
"It gives me much pleasure, George, to think that before entering on business you have been led to seek salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, and to commit yourself to the guidance of your heavenly Father. Let me remind you, however, that you have still great need for watchfulness and prayer. I do not know what sort of young men they are at Grey and Foster's, but it is most likely you will meet with temptations entirely new to you. But be encouraged to remember that others, trusting in God, have passed through such temptations unharmed, and that you may do so too."
"Thank you, sir," replied George, " I hope I shall."
"Let me recommend you, George," resumed Mr. Croft, "to be very careful in your choice of companions. See what young men are before forming any intimacy with them. Meet every inducement to do not only what is positively evil, but what tends to evil, with a resolute 'No.' Say it as though you meant it, and stand to it. A resolute decision at first will save you a world of trouble. You need not make a parade of your religion, but never be ashamed of it."
Such were a few of the counsels which Mr. Croft addressed to his young friend. Before they parted he commended him to God in fervent prayer.
"Decent looking fellow," said Edward Charlton to another of the clerks who stood by him, shortly after George Rutherford had been introduced into the office; "but he looks rather green. Who is he, I wonder?"
"His mother is a widow, I believe," was the reply. "I think his father was in the Customs."
"No doubt he is a very good, well-behaved boy; widows' sons generally are, at first. But we must try to take him out of his leading-strings."
"I don't think he's very promising," replied the other; "but we shall see."
At first George's duties took him very much out of the office. Sometimes he had to wait on shippers and tradesmen, and frequently he had to deliver messages to the