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Let us enter his house. We find that he is now an invalid'. His days of activity are over. Others now care for his property, and are looking to the time when it will pass from his possession to theirs. We find him seated in his arm-chair, with a pensive expression of countenance and a wearied look.
"Mr. M—, you must find it very lonesome sitting by yourself so much of the day."
"Yes, indeed; I often am very lonely, and hardly know how to pass the hours."
"How do you occupy yourself?"
"Why, sometimes a neighbour comes in to talk to me; sometimes my children tell me how their business goes on, or about the crops; and sometimes they read to me."
"Do you like to hear the Bible read?"
"Well, yes, I do, now and then."
"As you sit here alone, I suppose you have many thoughts passing through your mind?"
"Yes, a good many."
"Many sweet passages of Holy Scripture doubtless come to your recollection."
"No, no; I don't remember any."
"Are there no chapters or texts that suggest themselves to your thoughts?"
"No, no; I have none. I haven't in my memory a single text of the Bible."
"Why, how does that happen? Did you not, when a child, learn Bible lessons at home or at school?" .
"No; T learned none."
"Was not the Bible taught at school in your younger days?"
"No, I wasn't taught to read the Bible then."
Could anything be more melancholy than the sight of this aged man, so near the eternal world, sitting day after day in moody silence, without a word of Scripture in his memory; not a single verse of the Bible occurring to him to comfort him in his lonelhnss, or point him to "the Lamb of God," our only refuge from sorrow and sin.
We pass on a few doors, and enter the humble dwelling of an aged woman, Mrs. D—. She was the child of pious parents. Early she chose their Saviour, and for very many years has adorned the gospel in her life.
We find her with a copy of the Psalms, in very large type, spread out upon the table before her, and she is repeating aloud a verse of the twenty-third psalm; yet we see that her eyes are not fixed upon the printed page, bat closed: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
When she becomes aware of our entrance, she welcomes us, and says, "I was just enjoying a few dainties from my Father's table."
"Then you still find God's word precious?"
"Oh yes. 'His words are sweet to my taste; yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.'"
"You are much afflicted, and your long confinement by infirmities must be trying."
"Yes, sometimes I am tempted a little to murmur; but then I recall to mind the goodness and love of God who has led me thus far on my pilgrimage, and I see that his way has been a good way for me, and I trust and rejoice in him still."
"Are you not frequently lonely?"
"Why, no. The word of God is a continual feast. Even in the night, over and over again, when I wake up, my mind is full of passages of Scripture."
"What passages come to you most frequently?"
"I suppose those that I learned when I was youngest; and how thankful I am that God put it into the hearts of my parents to teach me so many chapters and verses of the Bible when I was little. Many portions seem so connected together that one after another comes to my mind, I can hardly tell how. Last night 1 woke, and it was very dark, but the text came to me: 'The darkness hideth not from thee; but the night ehineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee;' and when I saw here and there a star, I remembered, 'He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names; he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.' Soon a noise was heard, and I thought how easily we might be harmed; but there were the words, 'The Lord is thy keeper: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.' As I sat down to my morning meal, I could say with the psalmist, 'Thou preparest a table before me.' These dear texts from God's word are a great comfort to me."
"You find the promises of God sweet."
"The promises—yes, indeed; and how many there are, and how rich. When I'm tempted and tried, they often come to me as if they were new and just spoken to me. The other day, sister and I had news that we were to be losers of a considerable portion of our little income, and for a moment I was at a stand, fearing that we might suffer want; but instantly I remembered God's promise: 'His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.' With this promise my soul was sweetly comforted: bless God for his holy word."
Do we need to point the moral of this striking contrast? How important that our memories be stored with texts from God's word. The years of childhood are like the seven years of plenty in Egypt. Every parent, every teacher should become a Joseph, to fill the garners of memory with the precious corn of Bible truth for the future necessity and famine which would otherwise starve the soul. How varied, how delightful are the promises of God's word! Those whom they address need no other riches, no other recreation, no other solace for weary hours.
"LIVING NEAR TO GOD."
"That is a very mysterious expression to me, Aunt Euth— 'living near to God '—I do not understand it."
"You know what it is to live near earthly friends."
"Yes, that is simple enough; I see their face, hear their voice, clasp their hand, sit or walk by their side, give and receive communications of mutual interest and sympathy."
"Well, that is a good definition of nearness to God, your Father and Saviour. Look at his face, as it shines in his word and works; hear his voice in the Scriptures and in his providence; lay your hand in his for daily guidance; seek his sympathy and help in every pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow; and strive to please him in all you do. Thus will you walk by his 6ide, sit with him in heavenly places, and feel your nearness to him as real and actual."
The quick tears came to the eyes of Alice as her aunt thus answered her inquiry. Alice was young in the Christian life, and previous to her conversion had been trained to feel that what is called experimental religion was a mystery little understood by its professors, and beyond her comprehension. Her aunt had been the means of leading her young heart to Jesus, and to her kind and patient ear she naturally came with her doubts and perplexities.
Alice's aunt was a living example of the duty and privilege she had so well defined. Her first waking thoughts were of Him who had watched her slumbers and lightened her eyes, that she slept not the sleep of death. Thus she gave to her Divine Preserver the morning salutation which renewed her daily intercourse with heaven. Before entering on her daily duties and cares, she read a portion of God's word, that she might hear his voice speaking to her! in the cool of the day. Then she earnestly and heartily asked his blessing upon the new lease of life thus given her, and entered upon her daily household cares leaning upon his heavenly arm.
Little crosses and trials, too trivial to name, but which vex the spirit and ruffle the temper, she bore serenely, by lifting her heart a moment to Him who was "in all points tempted like as we are," the assurance of his sympathy robbing each vexation of its sting. Pain and distress were calmly endured by looking to Jesus, who took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses; and each pleasure and delight was acknowledged to him who, she believed, is as ready a listener to our gladness as to our sorrow.
Every kindness which she could do for others—and these were not few—she did in the light of the Divine example and approval; and walking thus so closely to Jesus, it was easy and natural to speak a word for him to those who knew him not. When affluence was hers, she was a ready and a liberal giver, looking upon herself as a steward of the heavenly bounty, and remembering that Christ, though Lord of all, gave even his own life for others. When adversity overtook her, she drew still closer to Jesus, and felt that he who knew poverty pitied and would help her, and that she had still a Friend and Brother in him.
But Aunt Ruth was not perfect, though the admiring gaze of others could scarcely see a fault in her. "I wish I was always as good as you," said her niece, after the conversation already related. "Don't, dear Alice; dont say so," was the quick and earnest response. "I am a sinner; and if a sinner saved, it is ' by grace alone.' Christ is the only model, the sole perfect example: follow him."
"But I Cannot think of you as a sinner, auntie; I never see you do or feel wrong; and you are always so happy, while the consciousness of sin makes one wretched."
"That I am not tempted to actual and outhroken transgression is due, Alice, to the Divine mercy. Sins of thought and feeling, God, who knows the heart and sees it not as man seeth, beholds in me daily. But though every such offence ought to and does humble me, yet it is only sin unrepented of and unforgiven that could make me wretched."
"How can that be, Aunt Euth? "Will you explain it?"
"How is it with a child and its earthly parent, Alice? The little one has disobeyed, and thus displeased a kind and good father. So long as the child is stubborn and unsubdued, the consciousness of the disobedience and of the parent's displeasure only makes it sullen and wretched; but if, with confession and penitence, the offender seeks a father's pardon, and is restored to the embrace of his loving arms, is he not happy?
"If it is thus with our earthly relations, shall it not be much more so with our heavenly Father and his sinning children? True, our sins are base and black ingratitude; we should heartily repent of and abhor them; but we should not let them keep us away from our Father in heaven; no, not for a moment. Sorry and ashamed and covered with confusion as we may be on account of them, we should only fly the more quickly to the open arms of our loving and forgiving Saviour, who has promised to wash them away in his atoning blood, and to bestow on each penitent believer justification and peace. It was to pardoned sinners that the exhortation was addressed, 'Eejoice evermore.'
"While the sweet experience of Divine forgiveness makes us happy, it also increases our abhorrence of sin. The more we see and feel the great love of God in pardoning and saving us, the more careful we shall be not to grieve and displease him; and this will lead us to more diligent study of his will, and more fervent prayer for grace and strength to do or suffer it."
GEMS FROM CARYL.
Godliness.—To follow God is our duty. Godliness is godlikeness, or an imitation of God; and practical Christianity