Safe and Happy,
Words of Help and Encouragement to Young Women
George Everard, 1871
1. Safe and Happy
2. Under the Wing
3. Life's Work. Preparation
4. Heart Work
5. Home Work
6. Receiving a Kindness
7. A Necklace of Pearls
8. Putting First Things First
9. The Master Becomes a Servant
10. Dangerous Ground
11. The Best Friend
12. Stand up for Jesus!
13. The Privilege of Prayer
14. The Oak of Weeping
15. Good Bye
1. Safe and Happy
It has long been in my heart to write some words of help and counsel to my young sisters, near and far away, who may have to battle with many temptations, and may be exposed to many dangers. It is probable that these pages may be read by some whom I know, and by many more whom I have never seen — yet I would desire, if I could, to lend a helping hand to all. Do not think you are without sympathy. You have more who care for you than perhaps you have hitherto imagined. And I would send forth this little book with a mission to tell you this. I want to comfort you when you feel sorrowful and cast down. I want to stretch out my hand to prevent your sinking in despondency and fear. I want to assist you in standing firm when temptation is near. What is my desire for you? It is this — that you may evermore be Safe and Happy. How blessed would you then be! Fight onward through your course, whether that course is short or long, rough or smooth, among friends or strangers — may you still be safe and happy!
Such is my prayer for each reader as I write these lines. O Lord Jesus, who came to guide our wandering footsteps into the way of peace, pour into each young heart the gift of Your Spirit, that she may know and love You. Give to each reader the true joy of Your presence. Keep her from every perilous snare. May she be safe and happy in Your love now! May she be safe and happy in Your heavenly kingdom hereafter!
Safe and Happy! It is possible in a measure to be one and not the other — as far as concerns this present life. A man may for the present be apparently safe — and yet not happy! He may be in perfect health, he may be guarded on all sides by the good providence of God — and yet within the heart there may be the canker-worm of some hidden grief.
On the other hand he maybe happy — and yet not safe. He may be surrounded by every blessing; he may be happy in his home, or with friends, or in the prospect of anticipated pleasure — and yet unknown danger may be close at hand, and before another hour has passed he may be numbered with the dead.
But if, my young sister, you have peace with God, if your sins are forgiven, if your name is enrolled in the Lamb's book of life — in the very highest and truest sense you are both safe and happy.
You are SAFE — for as the mountains surround about Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people. Like those mountains, His power, His love, His truth, His faithfulness are around you on every side. You are safe, because your fortress and castle can never be captured by an enemy. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe. You are safe because the angel of the Lord compasses those who fear Him and delivers them. You are safe especially, because Jesus, the angel's Lord Himself is near, and He has pledged His word that none of his sheep shall be lost by the way.
And you are as HAPPY as you are safe. I do not mean that Christians always feel alike. They have cloudy days — as well as days of sunshine. They have dark hours — as well as bright ones. Not many can say, as a Christian once said to me, "Happy! I am always happy. I can always go to God, and He is ever the same."
But if the Christian cannot always feel this — yet he has always a right to be happy. God bids us be happy. He bids us to rejoice always. He calls on His people to shout for joy, because He compasses them with favor and loving-kindness.
And they have joy in the midst of sorrow. A Christian in the greatest affliction, is really happier than a child of the world in the greatest prosperity. Paul and Silas could burst forth in songs of praise even in the gloomy prison cell, their feet fast in the stocks, and their bodies bruised with the cruel stripes.
The truth is, that a Christian has a little spring of living water in his heart, and all the power of the world and of Satan can never hinder it from flowing forth! It is true, a little pebble in the way may stay its course for a moment. Some anxiety or sorrow may come in and fill the heart, and then the joy is not felt, but by and by it will revive. A promise will lift up the fainting spirit. A whisper of the Comforting Spirit will remind the soul of Christ as the Good Shepherd, or as the mighty, living Friend — and then the stream will burst forth again, and cheerfulness and peace will be restored.
Safe and happy! Yes! You shall be thus even in the valley which to the unforgiven sinner, is so gloomy and cheerless.
A Christian African was accustomed, when his day's work was over, to go around among those who lived near and to read to them the words of eternal life. One night he came home with his clothes wet through from rain — yet hearing that a neighbor was dying, he went out to see him without changing. This brought on a fatal illness. He lost his life through his eagerness to save another's soul. But it was well with him, and he feared not death's approach. He bade his beloved wife to refuse admittance to any who would come and trouble him with worldly matters. "Tell them," said he, "all is peace within."
It was a blessed testimony to the truth that Christ can give peace even in a dying hour.
Not long ago a Christian lady whom I knew bore the same testimony. She had an illness which brought much suffering, and which lasted many weeks, but she was ever full of gratitude for the mercies granted to her, and full of confidence and hope in Christ. She could tell of Him whom she believed, and knew that He was able to keep that which she had committed unto Him. One remark she often made: "It is a happy time for me!"
Yes, safe and happy, sister, were you in all your sufferings. Still more safe and happy are you now, sleeping in Jesus — your spirit at rest in His loving guardianship, your sorrows past, your fullest joy awaiting you at the coming of the Lord.
Yes, safe and happy too are you, my sister in Christ, who yet sojourn in this valley of tears. Your toil is not yet over, your crown is not yet won — but your name is in the Lamb's book, and He himself will always be your refuge, your portion, and your exceeding great reward.
Safe and happy! Let me be
Freely justified in Thee:
Cleansed in Your atoning blood,
Nourished by Your faithful word.
Safe and happy! For I know
All the life I live below
Shall be guided by Your love,
Until I reach my home above.
Safe and Happy, for I read
You will grant me all I need:
Nothing of my own have I —
Grace and strength will You supply.
Safe and happy, Angel bands
Shall uphold me in their hands;
Death itself shall lose its sting
As I rest beneath Your wing.
Safe and happy! Yes I praise,
Heaven and earth shall pass away:
Yet in Your eternal rest
Shall I be forever blessed!
2. Under God's Wing
"Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." Psalm 57:1
A single thought from God's own blessed Word may cheer the Christian through many a dark hour. Here is just such a one: the wing of the Almighty is my refuge, my shelter, my hiding-place. Under the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings shall you trust. It has often been a source of comfort to me when everything seemed to go wrong, to repeat to myself a few simple words telling of this safe resting place:
Retreat beneath His wings,
And in His grace confide;
This more exalts the King of kings
Than all your works beside.
Dear reader, may the wing of your Redeemer be likewise unto you a place of rest and safety! How condescending was our blessed Lord as He uttered over Jerusalem that sorrowful lamentation — O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone those who are sent unto you — how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not.
Here is the high and lofty One, the Monarch of all worlds — pointing to the hen with her brood nestling beneath her wing, and bids Jerusalem see there an image of His own tender love. And it is written for our instruction. He is ever the same. He is as willing to gather together the outcasts now, as then. He is as ready to receive to His care the daughters of England, as the children of Jerusalem.
Have you been very rebellious, very disobedient? Still He has compassion. Jerusalem was in God's sight the guiltiest of all cities. She had killed her prophets, she had stoned God's messengers, she had abused her privileges, she had rejected the Savior who for three years had been pleading with her, and she was now about to crucify Him — yet He had compassion — He yearned to save her.
You too may be very guilty. A secret whisper may be heard, "You are too bad ever to be saved." Nay, it is not so. Your thoughts are not Christ's thoughts. He pities — He forgives — He saves to the uttermost. You may have been a mocker of Christ's people, you may have rejected His mercy times without number, you may have been a hypocrite — yet if now there is only in your heart a sense of your sin, and a turning towards Him — He will never cast you out.
But what will you find if you flee to the wing of Christ? You will find safety; you will be safe from condemnation and from wrath. When the rain and the hail are falling, and the young ones are sheltered under the mother's wing, the shower falls upon her, but it cannot touch them — not a drop of rain, not a particle of the driving hail can reach them. Even thus is it with Christ and His people. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The storm fell on the head of our great Surety, when He died for us on the tree. Every portion of that wrath so justly due for our sins, He willingly endured for our sake, so that we in Him might be safe forever.
What a contrast will there be one day between those in Christ — and those out of Christ. In a fierce storm of wind and pelting rain, I have seen a poor homeless man seeking a moment's shelter near a covered doorway, but he was shortly obliged to turn away and go elsewhere, while all who lived there made haste to reach its friendly shelter. I have thought how thus in vain will men seek a shelter from the storm of wrath which will by and by descend upon our sinful world. How thankful then will those be who are safely hidden in Christ beyond the reach of danger!
But more than this: you will be safe from the power of the destroyer. How carefully does the mother guard her brood from any creature that might come near! To the utmost of her power, will she keep and protect them. And will not Jesus shield you when the enemy is near? You are sure to be tempted — Satan will never let you alone — he will endeavor in every way to turn you aside from the right path. But Jesus will keep you safe — He is able to do so. Though He compares Himself to the hen to signify His tender condescension — yet we read of Him also as the eagle, who flutters over her young. The eagle is the strongest bird — and Jesus is stronger than all the power of the enemy. "Their Redeemer is strong — the Lord Almighty is His name." Keep near to Jesus, abide in Him — and none shall be able to harm you.
But beneath the wing of Christ, you will find comfort as well as safety. The young birds find the warmth of the mother's wing — perhaps they have been shivering in the cold north wind, but then they go to the wing of the hen and they are happy.
In this world you will find many cold, chilling winds. Perhaps it will be the cutting, north wind of unkindness — those about you may be hard and unfeeling. They may not think of you, or speak a word that might help you in trouble. Or it may be the cold, north wind of disappointment, or poverty, or some other great trial.
But you may always find comfort in Jesus.
He will never be unkind.
He will never speak rough, harsh words to you.
He will never forget you.
He will never refuse to support you in your trials, whether they be small or great.
He can be touched by the feeling of your infirmities — He has Himself been often tempted, so that you may rely upon His aid. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16
A lady once wrote to a friend about the loving-kindness she had found in Christ: "No one can tell how much I owe to the unkind words that have been spoken to me, for they always lead me to the Savior, and I never find unkindness in Him."
And whatever may be your sorrow or suffering, it will be still the same — Jesus will shed abroad in your heart a ray of hope and heavenly light.
An orphan girl in India was suffering intense pain. Her end seemed to be near, but Jesus was by her side. She was asked how she could endure all she had to bear. Settling her countenance, which had been contracted by sharp pain, she answered, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us." Thus did His presence strengthen and confirm her hope.
Oh, believe it, my young reader, if there is one truly happy spot in the whole universe it is here, and no where else — under the wing of Jesus.
You may seek it in vain in roaming from place to place; you may seek it in vain in changing your position; you may seek it in scenes of gaiety, and in what the world calls pleasure — and you will always be disappointed. But seek it in Jesus, and it shall be yours. Why will you delay? Shall He complain of you — How often would I have gathered you, and you would not?
Ah, these words will be changed one day! Now it is, "I would — you would not." Then it will be, "You would — I would not." "If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them!" Proverbs 1:23-32
The day of grace will be passed, only judgment will remain. You would give a world then if you had it, for a place under His wing — but you will only have a place before the Great White throne judgment!
Nay, my sister, let it not be thus. Embrace His free salvation — accept His loving call. Believe on Him, flee to Him — and you shall be safe in Him forever!
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me:
All my trust on You is stayed,
All my help from You I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Your wing.
3. Life's Work.
Every Christian has a work to do. There ought to be no drones in God's hive. There ought to be no idlers in God's vineyard. One has to work with the hands, another with the head. One has quietly to perform household duties, and another to go out and work in the shop or the factory, or to carry out the duties of some profession. But the Lord Jesus has appointed our different tasks. When He left this world for His kingdom, He gave to every man his work; and the great matter is that we should do it heartily and cheerfully out of love to Him. And we must remember no one can do our work for us. I cannot do your work — and you cannot do mine. Paul could not do Peter's work — and Peter could not do Paul's. Mary cannot do Jane's work — and Jane cannot do Mary's. Each one has their own niche to fill, and if it is not filled, much work will be left undone that ought to be done.
And we must remember too, that we have only a little time for our work. Life is very short and uncertain — and when our short life is over our working time is past. There is no work in the grave where we are going. How careful then should you be to treasure up life's hours and minutes, and use them to the best advantage.
If you had a little bottle of water, and you were shut up in a besieged city and could not get a drop more — how careful would you be to waste none of it. Now this is just like your life. You have so many years, months, days, hours, minutes — and not one more. When this is finished — you must go to give up your final account. Do not forget this. Do not throw your life away, or any part of it. Live, while you live. Often use the prayer, "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
But remember also, my young friend, that to do life's work aright, you must be in a right position. How you begin is of great importance. The result will depend mainly on the aims you desire and the strength for good that you possess.
The right position, is to be on terms of friendship with God. You must be at peace with Him: you must know that He is reconciled to you, and that He loves you.
How may you enjoy this blessing? How may you have peace with God?
You must inquire what terms God offers. You know when there has been a great war, and one country has been vanquished — there is great anxiety as to the terms which the conqueror will impose. Will they be very severe? Will he demand a large payment? Will they ask ships, or money, or a strip of territory, or all these? And then if the terms are very harsh, they are almost ready in despair to go on fighting, though they scarcely hope to win.
Now in the great war which man wages against his Creator, by his disobedience and rebellion — it is certain that in the end he must be utterly crushed and defeated.
Paris could not overcome the iron legions of Germany — still less can man prosper when fighting against God. Yet though our cause in opposing God is utterly hopeless, still He offers most favorable terms of peace. He demands no monies, and no lands. He asks for nothing that will bring any dishonor for us to yield. Yes, on the contrary, His terms will make us more happy and prosperous and honorable, than we have ever been before. It is a peace that will infinitely enrich us.
For what is it that He would have us do? He bids us lay down our arms, and accept all the love and mercy which have been purchased for sinners by the death of Christ. He bids us humbly confess to Him our offences, and believe that He loves and freely forgives us. He promises a treaty of close covenant relationship, which will ensure our safety against all our foes. He will take our part, and fight our battles, and stand by us in the presence of every danger.
How strong would a country be, if it were known that she had an alliance with another power which was invincible! Yet the weakest child of God has such an alliance — he is under the shield of the Most High God. The Lord Himself is his Strength, and Fortress, and Deliverer.
I would affectionately invite you therefore to be reconciled to God. He waits to be gracious; He has opened the way by giving for you His only begotten Son; He has laid iniquity on Jesus; He earnestly calls to you: "Peace, peace, to him that is afar off, and to him that is near, says the Lord."
Can you feel happy while you know that you have God for your enemy? Is he not angry with the wicked every day? And can you do any work happily while you know that the King of Heaven has marked all your sins, and that He sets them in the light of His countenance?
But come and believe in His promises to you — and then all will be changed. You will then have nothing to fear. His love in Christ will yield sunshine all the way. The Holy Spirit will shed abroad His love in your heart, and this will make any work lighter and easier.
If you had someone close by you all the day long whom you loved very much, and who was always kind to you — would it not lighten any burden you had to bear? And the true Christian has this. The best Friend is by his side and will never leave him.
This is the true preparation for life's work. Without it life will be sure to end in failure. You may succeed for this world — you may rise higher step by step on the ladder of earthly prosperity. Yes, and you might rise to have a comfortable home yourself, and a servant under you. You might be able to store up money and feel that you had something to depend upon for a rainy day. All this in its place is very desirable, and you may reasonably look for something of this as a reward for diligent, persevering work — but after all, my young sister, without God's love, it will not in the end profit you. It will not make you really happy. A few years at the best, and you will say good-bye to it all! If you live the longest, soon old age will creep on, and then comes the grave — and what then will profit all that you have gained?
But if you begin with obtaining the enjoyment of God's love, you will always have a light to shine upon your path. You will be able happily and cheerfully to fulfill the work you may have to do.
Imagine the younger son mentioned in the parable, who was so lovingly welcomed by his father. After the ready forgiveness and all the tokens of love he had received — how heartily would he have done any work which his father appointed for him. He could do it with a song of gladness in his heart.
Just so, if you receive by faith the blessed sense of God's free love, it will set your heart at liberty to do all for Him. You will not work in the spirit of a slave, with a fear lest you should not do enough, and therefore be cast off at last — but you will work in the spirit of a loving child, whose greatest pleasure it is to please your Father in everything. You will have something of the mind of Jesus when He said, My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. It will be, as it was to Jesus, food and drink to you to do God's will.
If a person is in health, it is a pleasure to him to partake of the food which God provides — he does not look upon dinner-time as a burden, but as a refreshment. So is it with God's children — if they are in spiritual health, if their souls are happy in God — it is their delight to serve God. Even their work itself is both food and wages to them. They reap while they sow — they receive while they give.
Lord! You need not, I know,
Service such as I can bring:
Yet I long to prove and show
Full allegiance to my King:
You an honor are to me,
Let me be a praise to Thee!
"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
It is very important for you to know what duties and which part of your work demands your first thought. You might be very busy all day from early in the morning until late in the evening — yet perhaps through forgetfulness you might leave undone some work that required your attention more than all the rest.
Now what work requires most pains and effort? I have no doubt whatever, that it is heart-work. Watch over your heart with all diligence — or as you find in the margin, above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life. However important may be your daily occupations in the house where you live, or in your particular calling — yet the chief matter is to keep the heart right. Take a very simple illustration: look at the clock in your room, or the watch that perhaps you wear; you want them to keep good time. But if either of them stops or goes wrong, what course do you take?
You would not move the hands, perpetually putting them backwards or forwards according as the time might be. This would do no good — it is the inner works that need looking after. Perhaps there needs a new mainspring, or perhaps a chain has gone off the wheel, or perhaps it only requires cleaning, or regulating. But when the inner works go right, you may be quite sure the hands will go right — the second-hand, and the minute-hand, and the hour-hand will each point out the right time.
Act with yourself with the same common sense. Remember that the heart regulates the life. If the heart is right, then . . .
the hands will do right; they will not steal or be idle, but do their work faithfully;
the feet will move right, not going where they should not, standing in the way of sinners, or treading forbidden paths — but walking straight in the ways of godliness;
the eyes will look right, not coveting forbidden fruit, or reading debasing literature — but spying out work that ought to be done, and looking kindly and pleasantly on those around;
the ears will hearken aright, not eagerly drinking in idle reports, or the advice of those who have not yet learned to teach themselves — but ever willing to listen to a faithful reproof, or to a word of wise counsel;
the lips will speak aright, not uttering words of slander, or falsehood, or folly — but words of truth and purity and love, words of earnest prayer and of grateful praise.
But how shall the heart be kept right? First of all, remember that He alone who made the heart, can fashion and dispose it to that which is good. Whatever is amiss, He knows how to remedy it. He gives it a new mainspring: He puts within it the love of Christ instead of the love of the world. He sends His Holy Spirit to control and order its unruly passions and affections. He can cleanse it from all its defilements. When the chain is off the wheel He can replace it — I mean when something has turned our desires from their right object, He can restore them.
Then ask earnestly for grace. Create in me a clean heart, O God! Incline my heart to Your testimonies! Let my heart be sound in Your statutes that I may honor You!
But then, He bids us to be workers together with Him in this matter. There is that which He alone can do — but there is that which is our part by His grace to do also.
You must take care not to run into scenes of temptation. If a man carried a bag of gunpowder with him, he would be very careful not to go where sparks were flying about — he would feel that in a moment a spark might be his destruction. Now your heart is very like that gunpowder — a little thing may set it all alight with evil passions. Words may be spoken that may arouse unholy thoughts or desires — therefore be careful. Never go near places where the devil is accustomed to come. Keep far away from the theater, the dancing-room, and never enter the bar of a tavern if you can avoid it.
"He who loves danger, shall perish in danger."
You must watch against any evil thoughts lodging in your mind. You may not be able to prevent them arising, but endeavor to drive them away as soon as you can. A flock of birds may fly over your head, but you would not let them build a nest in your hair! Little flies or insects in summer are very troublesome sometimes, but you take pains to keep them from getting into your eye, or irritating your face and hands. In the same way watch against every bad thought.
Remember that among the thousands of thoughts that pass through your mind in a day, there is not one hidden from God. He understands your thoughts afar off, and in His sight the thought of foolishness is sin. Therefore be watchful — do not dwell on anything that may pollute the mind. Cast away murmuring thoughts, angry thoughts, impure thoughts — and pray that God would preserve you from them. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord!"
But to keep away thoughts that do harm — nourish thoughts that will do you good. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." Philippians 4:8
There is a good old proverb, "Fill the sack with wheat — and there will be no room for chaff!" Fill your heart with kind thoughts, grateful thoughts, holy thoughts — and you will be safe. Let God's thoughts which are given to us in the Bible — leaven all your thoughts. Hide in your heart the promises and precepts of His Word. In the morning, take a text of Scripture about Christ, about His love, or His coming again — and make it your friend and companion through the day. When something has occurred to trouble you, go back to your text. When some temptation is near to turn your thoughts aside, think of it again — so it will strengthen you, and help you to overcome.
With thoughts of Christ, and things divine,
Fill up this foolish heart of mine.
"Do not be overcome by evil — but overcome evil with good."
But above all, live in a spirit of prayer. Believe that God is always ready to hear you, and often go to Him for help. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Nothing will keep your heart in a holy, happy frame, so much as prayer.
A little boy was coming home from India. He was obliged to come to England because of his health, but he very much grieved to come away from his father, who was not able to accompany him. But on the voyage one thing gave him great comfort — he would go down into his cabin every day, and write out for his father what he did all day long, and this brought his father to mind, and it almost seemed as if he were speaking to his father. He would call these hours his heart-visits to India.
Now why should not you each day pay heart-visits to Heaven? If the boy could have made his father hear him in some way when he went into the cabin, or have received messages from him — it would have given him still more pleasure. But this is just what you can do. When you pay a heart-visit to Heaven — you can make your Father understand the very least word you speak. And more than this — He can send you a message in return — He can speak to you by His Spirit teaching you out of the Scriptures. In this way He can fill your heart with peace and joy. He can make you so happy in His love, that your heart is at liberty to love Him and serve Him.
Oh, then pray to Him often in the name of Jesus; often shoot upwards the arrow of an earnest petition, and it will never be in vain.
Here is my heart! Ah, Holy Spirit, come,
Its nature to renew,
And consecrate it wholly as Your home —
A temple, fair and true;
Teach it to love and serve You more,
To fear You, trust You, and adore.
Here is my heart!
5. Home Work
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16
Home work stands only second to heart work. The true Christian must shine in the household where God has placed him. He is compared to a candle, and the nearer you come to a candle the more you see its light. It ought to be so with each of you, my young sisters. But alas! does not conscience whisper that it has been too often the very reverse? I have known young women at the Bible Class, who could give the best answers, and who could write letters full of religion — and yet their profession was as hollow as a drum. They could not live a week in a family without wasteful extravagance, yes more, they practiced deceit and dishonesty, and thus gave the plainest proofs that they had not as yet the guiding principle of the fear of God. But I hope better things of you. I trust you may be desiring to walk circumspectly, and to do God's will in everything. If this be so, I am sure you will value a few friendly hints as to your home duties.
Make it a great aim and principle with you, that you home life is to be a daily sermon on the reality and happiness of the gospel. Perhaps you think that only Christ's Ministers have to preach sermons. You are greatly mistaken. Whether you know it or not, you are in the pulpit every day. You are always preaching sermons to aid the cause of Christ — or to hinder it. Every word you speak, and every action you do, is a sermon which many listen to. Sometimes you are telling those around you in this way, that religion is only an empty form to be used on Sunday. Sometimes you tell them that you prefer the sinful indulgences which Satan offers, to all the wine and milk and heavenly provisions of the Gospel feast. Or it may be the other way. You may be preaching better sermons in your daily life, than even our best and wisest preachers can in the pulpit. Your life may tell more — it may have a more lasting effect on men's hearts and consciences — than any spoken address can possibly have. If it is so, blessed forever are you! Your glory shall be brighter and more manifest one day than that of the most successful preachers who may have lacked the grace to live as they preached.
To vary the illustration, I would compare your life, not to a sermon, but to the sound of the church bell — and I want there to be a clear ring about it! I want it to be distinct and plain, that everyone may know what you are. I shall never forget one Sunday morning. Our church bell sounded so strangely — I listened, and listened, and such a wretched, dull, sound I never heard — the bell was cracked! But we sent it to the founder. He recast it, and mingled some new metal with the old so as to make it quite like a new bell, and then it was replaced in the tower, and it was quite a pleasure to hear it give out a sharp, clear sound, that could be heard for two or three miles around.
I want your life to be like this. I know that first there must needs be the work of the great Founder! The Lord must put you into His mold, renew you by His Word and Spirit, and make you a new creature in Christ Jesus. But then your life, especially in your own home, must bear witness that this has been a reality. Your life must give no uncertain sound, but give forth by God's grace the clear ring of truth, love, and godliness.
To carry this out let me say, take care, in the least things as in the greatest, to act as in God's sight. Remember there is an eye always upon you. It is the eye of One who loves you, and who delights in seeing you strive to please Him. It matters not what position you may be in. The youngest believing servant in the house is as dear to God as anyone else.
It is very instructive to read what the Apostle Paul writes on home duties. He writes to husbands and wives, to parents and children, to masters and servants, and he gives them all the same motive for acting rightly — they are all alike to keep Christ before them. He dwells especially on this with reference to servants. These servants were slaves — yet they were Christ's freemen; and the service they did for Him He would accept and reward. They should receive double wages: they should have the comfort of knowing that He accepted them now, and then they should have the reward of the inheritance hereafter.
If you believe that Jesus is always near, and will accept all your desires to please Him — let this motive influence you in everything. Be thoroughly trustworthy in word and deed: hate a lie, or the very least deceit, more than any rebuke, or any discomfort that might come to you through telling the plain truth. If you have done wrong, or have had an accident, or have been late in something required of you — do not gloss it over by laying the blame on someone else. It seems rather a strange thing to say, but I fear the cat has far more laid to her charge than she is guilty of! I have read of the cat in a few weeks charged with breaking I know not how many plates and dishes, devouring I know not how many good things, for which usually she has no appetite! Nay, my sister, bear with me: have the courage to speak the truth, and say, "I did it — I am sorry for it, and will do so no more."
If you speak the truth always, I need not add be thoroughly honest: never steal either the goods or the character of a master, a mistress, a fellow-servant, or of any one connected with you. If you take but a little tea that does not belong to you, whatever you call yourself, God calls you a Thief! Let those about you be able fully to rely upon your fidelity. Whether it be money, or food, or household property of any kind, or articles of dress, let them be able to feel that these things are as safe in your hands as in their own. I have at times left my purse by mistake on my dressing-table, having in it both gold and silver; and yet I have not felt the least uneasiness when I remembered it, as I knew the one who went to the room would rob herself as soon as me.
And be sure that to know you are trusted brings as much comfort to yourself, as it is a comfort to another to know that they can trust you. It brings a double pleasure and a double profit — and this is as important with respect to the character as the property of those you live with.
It is a very great sin and wrong you do, when you blacken or misrepresent the character of another. I have known a servant who would speak very smoothly to a mistress, and would speak of sermons and the like; and yet would tell lies about the family, to almost every one who came to the door. I suppose scarcely any reader would act in this way. But take heed what you say: don't make much of small matters, don't look at everything in the worst light, don't exaggerate.
If you meet a fellow-servant, could you not find out a few faults of your own to tell her — instead of speaking about those of your mistress?
I am very sure that slander and tittle-tattle brings great guilt to the door of many a young woman. Will you not watch against this evil? Speak kindly, speak hopefully, speak charitably of all around you. Throw a garment of forgiveness and charity over their faults, and be ready to see in them, whatever there may be that is kind and good.
I would give you another word of advice. Remember that minutes are gold dust, and one of them is too precious to lose. Be a great miser as to your time — you cannot be too careful in hoarding it. When you are at work, do it with a will. Never dawdle over what you have to do, stopping to look out at the window for two or three minutes, or taking up a book or a picture, or something of this kind, and then getting behind-hand, perhaps for half a day afterwards.
And remember how precious is the time of others: when you keep them waiting beyond the right time, for a room being ready, for breakfast or dinner or the like — you know not the loss you are causing them. Very possibly the loss of a quarter of an hour may be to them, sometime or other, the loss of money, yes, or even the loss of health or life itself. It may hinder them from keeping an appointment, or writing a letter, or speaking to someone; and this may bring incalculable injury.
Therefore be punctual in everything. If any meal is to be at such a time, let it be on the table before five minutes of the time appointed; if you promise to be home at nine o'clock, let the mistress know you so well, that before the clock strikes she can depend upon it you will be inside the door. These seem small matters, but they are very great ones in reality — they make all the difference between a good servant and a bad one. Many a truthful and honest girl has lost a good place, because in these things she could never learn to be punctual.
One word more. Strive to be a sunbeam — be bright and cheerful — take patiently contrary words. Very likely one person in the house has a very awkward temper: well, you can't help this, it is not your fault — therefore bear with it. Take everything by the smooth handle: curb your own temper and tongue, either speak softly or be silent. The Germans may be brave soldiers — they have taken Paris: but you may win a greater renown. He who is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city!
6. Receiving a Kindness
We should be careful how we reject anything which is given in real kindness, or how we refuse to allow another to assist us, where the desire to do so comes from a kindly feeling. The gift may not be really needful, or we could do without the help which is offered — but to refuse it may wound and chill a tender feeling heart. Never refuse either to do a kindness or to receive a kindness, if you can avoid it.
I remember a remark once made on this subject: it has often since occurred to me. I was walking with a young friend by the seaside, and I offered to carry something for him. He at once accepted my offer, and said, "For many years I refused the greatest kindness that could ever be granted to anyone; but since I received that, I never refuse anything done in a kind spirit."
It put the salvation of the gospel in somewhat of a new light to me. To receive it, is to receive a kindness from Christ — to refuse it, is to refuse the greatest kindness that can be offered to man! Is it not so? Oh, what a marvelous kindness is it which Jesus offers to men!
It is truly kindness, because it is the act of a kinsman, which the word implies — it means the act of one who is akin to you. Jesus is our Brother — He took our nature that He might be our Example, our sympathizing Friend, and our atoning Sacrifice.
And for this too is it not a marvelous kindness — because it cost so much? It cost His precious life. All the gold and silver in the world could not have purchased it — but Jesus bought it by His precious blood!
But what is this kindness that He offers? It is to give us the grant of a free and complete forgiveness — it is to raise us to the dignity of sons and daughters of the Most High — it is to bestow upon us as a present, without any works or deservings of our own, God's love as our portion here, and God's kingdom and glory hereafter. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
But how may you obtain this great benefit? It is very simple — you have only to accept it with a humble, thankful spirit. If I offered you, on your birthday, the gift of a new Bible, or some other book — what would you have to do? Merely to receive it, and then a feeling of gratitude would arise in your mind. If a mistress or an elder sister were to offer you a new dress, or some article of clothing, which you would feel a pleasure in wearing — what would you do, but at once with a pleased look receive it, and thank the one who has so kindly thought of you?
Transfer this thought to the gift of salvation. In your heart receive it gratefully at the hand of Jesus — and it is yours forever. When the Holy Spirit shows you how much you need it, and then shows you that it is close by you, ready for your acceptance, and your heart says to the Lord, "O Lord, grant me Your mercy, Your rich grace — give me everlasting life" then you believe, and in believing the gift is yours.
But if this blessing is so great, and the way to obtain it be so simple — then why is it that so many lose it? Why is it that so few partake of this great blessedness? Why is it, my young reader, that you, perhaps, are without the enjoyment of it?
Perhaps you have never thought of it: your mind has been filled with your work, or the little cares of daily life, or the foolish tales you may have read, or the talk of those who live with you — and you never pause to consider how near is Jesus to bless you and do you good.
Perhaps you are too proud — you have high thoughts of yourself, you imagine you are quite good enough, or your mind is full of vanity and dress, or you do not wish to be saved in such a humble way as going to Christ without anything of your own. It was for this reason Naaman nearly lost the gift of healing, which he came so many miles to obtain — he despised Jordan's stream, and but for the counsel of his servants, he would have gone back as leprous as he came.
Perhaps you will not accept this gift from Christ, because it would lay you under an obligation to Him. You wish to have your own way; you are not willing to be controlled — you are not willing to deny yourself and follow Christ — and you know well that if Christ gives you the blessing of His salvation, He will then look to you to give Him yourself — your best affections, your whole life. So you fear the obligation of coming near to Christ and receiving anything from Him, because you determine to deny Him the love and obedience which He has a right to claim.
Well, whatever is the cause, whether thoughtlessness or pride or ingratitude — be sure that you are acting very foolishly. He gives as a King, and all He asks is that you should be His faithful subject; and your loyalty to him would prove an addition to your happiness, as well as your plain duty. And does it not grieve the Savior when you refuse to allow Him the joy of saving you, and giving you a place in His kingdom? Will it not at length turn His love into anger? When the King invited the guests to the marriage feast, and they refused His kindness and would not come, He was angry and called others in, but declared that none of the men who had thus refused should taste of His supper. Even thus shall it be with all who will not move a foot to draw near to Christ, or stretch out their hand to receive all the goodness He waits to bestow. If you taste not His kindness — then you must taste his wrath. Oh, see that you refuse not Him that calls you!
But I trust some readers may be even now partakers of Christ's mercy. You are like the friend of whom I spoke at the beginning of this chapter. Once you refused Christ, but now you have received Him, and you can rejoice in His love. If you have received His kindness — then how will you repay it? You would inquire: What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? What return can I make to Him who has done so much for me?
Remember Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Christ had shown her great kindness; He had taught her the words of eternal life. He had loved her in her great sorrow; He had mingled His tears with hers, and then had given her back the brother who was so dear to her. Now what does she do? She brings her alabaster jar of very precious ointment; she breaks the jar and pours it on His feet and head, and the house is filled with the savor of it. Cherish the same spirit — keep near to Christ's feet — bring to Him a heart full of true affection — then break your alabaster jar. Let your love be manifest — let it be seen and felt by those around you. Let your daily life be influenced in every way by His love — let it be filled with a thousand little acts of self-denial and kindness. Kind looks, kind words, kind thoughts of others, kind deeds for those who love you — let these abound. Think of your brothers and sisters, if you live at home and have any — and try to be to them an example of a truly happy Christian. If you are in service, let your bright cheerful spirit and your readiness to assist a fellow-servant, or to do what may be required of you by your mistress, be a proof that your religion is not an empty name.
If you are in any occupation where you mingle with other young people, let there be a quiet self-restraint, a something in your walk and conversation that compels them to respect you; and with this a genial warmth and an unselfish kindliness that will constrain them to love you. In this way you will best honor Christ. Your light will shine before men, and they will glorify Him who has bought you by His blood.
Let grace our selfishness expel,
Our earthliness refine;
And kindness in our bosoms dwell,
As free and true as Thine.
7. A Necklace of Pearls
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self of unfading beauty, the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4
I would ever persuade young people to wear little in the way of ornament, as it is very often a proof of vanity. The best ornament is a meek and quiet spirit, and a holy consistent life. But there are jewels worth wearing. The wisdom of days gone by, is often treasured up in short, pithy sentences: I will call these pearls. I will string five of them together, and ask you to put them on. Bind them about your neck, write them on the table of your heart, carry them about with you, and never forget them.
1. No Pains — no Gains.In matters of everyday life we find this true. Toil, effort, care, striving after doing your very best, is essential to success. In business, in farming, in gardening, there is no profit without it. Leave things to take their chance, do them in an idle, thoughtless spirit — and they will be sure to go wrong.
It is the same in household work. Unless care and trouble is taken, there will be perpetual discomfort to all in the family: there will be no cleanliness, no punctuality; clothes will be badly made or mended, food is spoiled in the cooking, and all through forgetfulness of this proverb. Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
"I don't care!" "It is no consequence!" such sayings as these do great mischief. Dig a deep grave fifty feet deep and bury them forever out of sight.
The proverb is equally true in still greater matters. Reading your Bible, times of secret prayer, going to God's house — all these often bring no benefit through lack of mental effort. You don't bring your heart to them, and so they are all without blessing. Learn the better plan — fight against sloth in all shapes; do everything with a hearty good-will; take pains about the least things and the greatest. Work will then be far happier, for it is always pleasant to do that in which we succeed. You will find far more of the joy of God's service, for the diligent soul shall be made fat. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
2. The Cranes of Ibycus.This proverb hangs upon a story of ancient history. A gang of robbers once attacked a man named Ibycus, upon a lonely road: they robbed him and then murdered him. In the midst of their wicked work a flock of cranes flew over their heads; the dying man called out, "Be my avengers!" Months passed away: men could hear nothing of Ibycus, for his murderers had hidden his body out of sight. One day, however, two of these men were sitting together in an amphitheater; some cranes were flying a little distance off; one said to the other, with a laugh, "The Cranes of Ibycus!" The word was heard: attention was directed to the men; they were questioned, and seemed confused. Their guilt was afterwards brought home to them, and they were condemned. So it passed into a proverb: "The Cranes of Ibycus." It means — sin will come to light, the most unlikely means will often discover it: a bird of the air may carry the matter.
The Great Judge and Heart-searcher knows how to bring men's sins unto the clear day-light. It may be a word, a look, some article of clothing left about, a footstep, a child's cry, a ring at the door-bell, an unexpected call — something of this kind has often tinged the cheek with a guilty shame, and made a guilty conscience tremble. Remember how God revealed Achan's theft, and Ahab's cruel murder of Naboth, and the deceit of Gehazi, and the lying of Ananias and his wife — will you not learn the lesson? Do nothing that you are afraid to come out — be thoroughly honest and true — let everything be open and straightforward. If it is otherwise, you will find in some way "the Cranes of Ibycus" will prove true in your case. If not before, at the great final day every secret shall be known. For God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
3. The River passed — God is forgotten.This proverb teaches us that men seek unto God in their trouble — but when the trouble is over they go back to the world. When the hand of God was on Pharaoh, he promised again and again, that he would sin no more; but afterwards his heart was hardened. When Christ healed the ten lepers, only one returned to give glory to God — the other nine went their way, and forgot the kindness of the Savior. How has it been with you? Have you had seasons of great trial, seasons of sickness, or of sorrow? What were your thoughts and feelings then? Did not God seem to come near? Did you not feel that He alone could preserve you? Did you not see that death without God's favor and mercy, would be a terrible thing? Did you not try then to pray as you had not prayed before? And perhaps God has answered your prayer, and given you back again life and health, for a season at least.
But what has followed? Now that the river has been passed — has the mighty Friend who brought you safely through been indeed forgotten? Has the solemn promise you then made to live a new life, been lost sight of? Oh, if it has — recall it now! Ask the grace of His Spirit to give you a tender conscience — place yourself in thought upon that sick bed, and think of those solemn truths, which then seemed so important — be sure they are just as important still. Yes, by and by, they will look to you of far more importance, than as yet you have seen them to be.
And remember you have another river to pass — if you forget God now, then what will you do in the swellings of Jordan? Can you look for the living and loving One then to stand by you and hold your hand, and show you the stepping-stones of promise as the waves roll over you — unless now you choose Him for your own? If now you turn your back upon Him, may He not then be far from you? And perchance a secret voice within tells you that it is too late to seek for mercy, when it is the time of judgment?
4. There is no Way to Heaven but by Weeping-Cross. Do you wish to know the way to the better land? Jesus tells you: He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." And He becomes the way, because He died on the cross — He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, He received the stripes we deserved — He was punished and smitten in our stead.
A story is told of two lads at school. The one taller and stronger was a great friend to the other, who was weak and delicate. One day the latter had committed a fault, and the master called for the lad who had done it to come up to the desk. His friend bade him sit still, and he would go up as if he were the offender — so he received the correction which the other deserved. Thus has Jesus borne our stripes and taken our place. But what must we do? We must confess with sorrow all that we have done amiss, and in our hearts trust only in His precious death. A few words written up over the chimney-piece of the late Earl Roden, taught many who saw them the true way of life:
In peace let me resign my breath,
And Your salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.
We remember too, the story of Christian in "Pilgrim's Progress", how he came to the cross on his way to the celestial city: there his burden of sin was unloosed, and he saw it no more.
This shows us the only right path. It is not looking at any material cross, or wearing one, which many do — who yet live with uncrucified hearts. But it is the humble, contrite spirit, which perpetually turns to Him, Who once died as the atonement and ransom of our souls. Follow any other path, and you will lose your way forever. No man comes unto the Father but by Christ — nor by Him, except through faith in His finished work upon the cross. His precious blood cleanses from all sin. Oh, come and thus believe in Christ! Delay is dangerous; our only safety is to come now. We learn this from our last proverb.
5. By the street of By-and-by, we come at last to the House of Never.Too many are waiting for something before they turn to God. Some wait for better feelings, some wait for more leisure time, some wait until they have had more of the world's gaiety and dissipation, some wait until those around them become Christians. But all these agree in one thing — they walk along the street of By-and-by: tomorrow will do better than today; the future will be a more convenient season than the present.
Nay, my sister, do not believe it; your enemy whispers this in your ear, that he may rob you of your soul's salvation. In this way he will lead you on, step by step, until he has brought you to the gate of Hell, and then he will tell you plainly, It is too late! Believe rather the voice of your Father — Behold now is the accepted time! Now is the day of salvation! Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Boast not yourself of tomorrow, for you know not what a day may bring forth.
8. Putting First Things First
This is a great principle — it is the teaching of the whole Bible. When God spoke on Mount Sinai, when the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled, and the mountain quaked greatly, and on the top of the mountain the glory of God appeared like a consuming fire — what was the very first command that He gave? Was it not the proclaiming of this very principle? He, the great Jehovah, must ever stand first. He must be trusted, and obeyed, and served before all others. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
And was it not one of the great lessons which Jesus taught in His wonderful sermon on the mount? Treasures in Heaven were to be preferred to treasures on earth — men could not serve two masters, and therefore they must serve God and not mammon.
They were not to be over-anxious and careful about food and clothing, for these things were only God's lesser gifts; they were to seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and these lesser things would be added to them. As if he would say to them, "Do you think that if your heavenly Father gives you His righteousness, His forgiving mercy, His quickening and comforting Spirit, if He gives you His tenderest love, and a place in His glorious kingdom — that will He deny you what is needful along the road? Will He grudge you the common necessities which are for the body — if He gives you the far higher gifts that are for the salvation of your souls?
A heathen lad, a few years ago, was turning his face Zionward. He put the truth, of which I am speaking, in a very forcible way: he had been awakened by seeing a very sudden death; he had asked himself if he were ready for such a change, and he felt that he was not. When he began to serve Christ, his relations made his life miserable through their cruel persecutions. They fastened him up in a room — they beat him without mercy. So he escaped, and was afterwards brought before a magistrate and questioned.
"What do you want?"
"I want to save my soul."
"But cannot you save your soul in your own religion?"
"No, it is a lie, and I can prove it. None can be saved unless they believe in Christ."
Then his mother came, and besought him not to bring shame on her and his family, by becoming a Christian, or at least to wait until she were dead. Then he gave the answer to which I referred. It was very short, but very pithy. He said, "God first — and mother second." Never was there a better lesson. Making the change of a word in the sentence, we might apply it to a great many things. We might say,
God first, friends second;
God first, money second;
God first, pleasure second;
God first, the world second;
God first, self second.
It would be a safe rule to go by. It would often show you very plainly what was right to do, when you felt in a difficulty. It would cut many a hard knot.
Scripture gives us very blessed examples of those who carried out this principle. We read of faithful Abraham, and the trial God appointed him, with reference to his son. He bade him take him to a mountain, and there offer him up for a burnt offering. What shall he do? He dearly loves Isaac; he was the child of promise, and the heir of the land which God had said that He would give him. But he loves God best and we find he acts in this spirit. He says in his heart, "God first — Isaac second." So without delay or hesitation, he sets off on his way, and never changes his purpose until God calls to him out of Heaven to stay his hand. Then God speaks again, and multiplies blessings upon him because of his willing obedience.
A similar example is that of the three Jewish young men in Babylon. They are bidden by the king's command, to bow down and worship the golden image: they are threatened in case of refusal, with being cast into the fiery furnace. "What shall they do? Shall they consent for once to break God's law? Nay, they will not yield! In their hearts they say, "God first, the king second!" Yes, "God first, life second," as well. They flatly refuse to do as Nebuchadnezzar bids them. They tell him that God is mightier than he, and that He can and will deliver them — but let this be as it may, even though life is sacrificed, they will not worship the gods which he had set up.
Side-by-side with the three young men, we may place brave Daniel. God bids him pray — man bids him cease. God promises to hear his prayer and to bless him — but man threatens him with being torn asunder by wild beasts.
He never doubts the course he should pursue. He still honors God, and puts Him first; and you know the result. He puts God first, and God puts him first. While his enemies perish, he is exalted to honor.
This principle needs to be carried out in everything. There is scarcely any part of your life to which it does not apply. If it be rooted by God's grace deep, deep in your heart — then it will be manifested in a variety of ways. If you should ever be required by another to do what your own conscience tells you ought not to be done, you will have the courage to say so.
If a mistress were to tell you to say she is not at home when she is, you will refuse. If a fellow servant wishes you to act dishonestly, or to deceive your mistress by covering her fault, you will do nothing of the kind. In some way you will reprove her, and if it be anything important, you will put those over you on their guard against her.
It will guide you as to the way in which your money should be spent. You will listen to the claims of others; you will consider parents who may be old and needy; you will consider what will be really best for yourself; you will see the wisdom of laying aside a little for days to come; you will not waste your money on show and mirthful attire, or some little momentary pleasure, but will rather buy that which will last. Who can tell the benefit you might gain from a shilling or two spent on a useful book, such as "Doing Good," "Ourselves," or some valuable memoir; or in taking in some monthly periodical, like "Home Words," "The Family Friend," or "Sunday at Home"?
I will only mention one other point in which it will guide you: I refer to the value you will have for God's day. If God has given you one day in seven to help you to love and serve Him better, and to prepare you for that blessed home above — then how careful should you be to use it well. Never, never go out on Sunday as if you were going to church, and then forget your duty to your Father in Heaven, and spend the hour or two in company with other young people in light and frivolous conversation. I have known young women who have sunk to the very lowest depths of vice, and when I have asked them how they took the first step in their downward course, they have told me that it has been the Sunday evening walk when they should have been in God's house.
Very different was the conduct of a young woman who so loved attendance at public worship, that she felt she must give up a really good situation in other respects, because she could not have it. She had learned the lesson that I would teach you — she put first things first. Elizabeth opened her mind to her mistress, and told her how she felt being deprived of the means of grace. She did it however in a very humble, Christian spirit.
"You seem very sincere," said her mistress, "and I cannot but respect your piety; but on many accounts I would not choose to alter the rules of my family."
"Madam," she replied, "though I am obliged to leave you, I hope I shall never forget the many kindnesses I have received. In many things you have treated me more like a mother than a mistress. I can truly say that your favor is more to me than that of anyone except God; but He tells me that I have a soul that must be saved or lost forever. I find that I cannot live without hope, and I can have no hope but in His ways. May He abundantly bless you and your family, while I trust Him to provide for me."
May every one who reads these pages have the same desire and the same purpose to seek God's favor and the hope which He gives, beyond all beside!
Courage, sister! do not stumble,
Though your path is dark as night;
There's a star to guide the humble:
Trust in God, and do the right.
Let your path be long and dreary,
And its end far out of sight,
Foot it bravely, strong or weary:
Trust in God, and do the right.
Trust no forms of sinful passion —
Friends may look like angels bright;
Trust not custom, rank, or fashion:
Trust in God, and do the right.
Blessed rule and safest guiding,
Inward peace and inward light,
Star upon our path abiding,
Trust in God, and do the right.
9. The Master Becomes a Servant
"So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him." John 13:4-5
The Son of God is the mighty Creator and Preserver of the universe; He is one with the eternal Father; He is before all things, and by Him all things are held together. More than this, all things were made for Him. He is the great Monarch, King, Lord, and Master of all worlds, and of all creatures! Yet He humbled Himself; He took upon Him the form of a servant; He says to the Father, "My ears have You opened — I delight to do Your will, O my God!" The allusion here is to the servant in the Jewish household. If in the year of release he refused to leave his master and preferred remaining with him, his master brought him to the door, and then bored his ear through with an awl, fastening him to the door, in token that he should henceforth be his servant forever.
So when Jesus said, "My ears have You opened," it was as if He said, "I yield Myself up to You, evermore to serve and please You."
But Jesus stooped far lower than this — He made Himself the servant of man, as well as of God. He took the very lowest place. When upon earth He did not seek others to render Him acts of service, but He was perpetually acting as the servant of others. He said Himself, "The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and give himself up as a ransom for many."
This was the spirit of Christ's life from the beginning to the close. He never sought His own ease or comfort. He was ever serving others. He was ever busied in doing them good. He would go hither and thither, when men asked Him to come and help them in their troubles. He would deny Himself food or rest, that He might instruct the ignorant, or heal the sick. He would stop on His journey to answer the cry of a blind beggar, or to restore a woman long diseased.
But one narrative very specially illustrates this thought: look at that scene in the upper chamber the night before Christ's crucifixion. He girds Himself with a towel, takes the basin and washes the feet of the twelve. To do this kind of work was the part of the lowest menial in the household. So the Baptist meant it when he declared that he was unworthy to loose the latchet of Christ's shoe — that is, he felt unworthy to do for Christ the very humblest act of service.
Oh, what condescension was it then in Christ, to stoop down and touch the feet of his poor disciples! But He taught us all in this way, far better than by any words He could speak, how truly He became a servant for our sakes.
Several precious lessons may be gathered from remembering this blessed fact.
1. We learn that service is honorable work. If the very Son of God became a servant, who need despise such a position? Or who ought to think meanly of those who fulfill it? Be sure of this — that to fill a very lowly place, with wages perhaps not more than a shilling or two a week, while at the same time, you strive in God's fear to please Him in everything — is as honorable work in God's sight as to rule a kingdom, or to administer the affairs of an Empire. Joseph was as honorable in God's sight when faithfully serving Potiphar, as when ruling over the realm of Egypt.
I confess I always feel as anxious for the welfare and salvation of the servant who opens the door to me, as for that of the mistress upon whom I may have called.
In another respect the example of Jesus may be very useful to you.
2. It may teach you the happiness of a meek and quiet spirit. It may teach you to avoid all vain show and empty display. If you wish to follow Him, you will not for a moment yield to the temptation to wear such dress and finery as young people often take pleasure in. What is the best ornament? Listen to the words of Peter, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4
How often has the love of dress been a first step on the downward path. The sight of the Babylonish garment attracted Achan, and led to his sin and his miserable end. It is often so now — it often drives away the desire for a new life. It often leads to dishonest practices, for the purpose of obtaining some coveted article of clothing or of jewelry. It often goes side by side with light, giddy, behavior, and with company that ought to be avoided, and with places from which you are far better away. It often leads to that sin which is so deadly, which always leaves behind a black spot on the memory, and which casts its dark shadow over the remainder of life.
You may have heard of the young woman who before her death bade her mother hang at the foot of her bed a certain dress, in which she had gone out to spend an evening with some frivolous companions. She then pointed to the dress, and said that for it, she had lost her soul. It was the attraction that had led her to forsake the Savior.
Oh, beware my young friends of a like danger! Err on the safe side: be too quiet in your dress — rather than too mirthful. Choose the ornament of meekness, humility, love. It is the truest beauty — it will still adorn you when your body lies silent in the grave! It will be your adorning in the very presence of God.
3. But in the fact of Christ being a servant, we see that He has left an example for servants, in any position whatever.
He gladly took this position. He gave Himself up to do work for others. He was faithful, diligent, unselfish. He thoroughly cast self aside, and went on steadily to the end, fulfilling His work. And you will find it your happiness and interest to do the same. Do not permit self to rule on the throne of your life. It is the misery of many to have a will uncurbed and unrestrained — they will brook no interference; they will receive neither counsel nor reproof; they will only do their work in a heartless, grudging spirit, and are angry with anyone who would wish them to do better. But I trust, dear young reader, you are of a different mind; whatever you do, do it heartily. Think how Jesus would have done it had He been in your place, and then try to follow in His footsteps.
Do not say in your heart, "Who is Lord over me?" But rather say, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" Happy are you if you learn daily at the feet of Jesus! Happy are you if His Spirit rests upon you! Happy are you if pride and self-pleasing have been cast out — and generous, unselfish labor has taken their place!
But learn again:
4. A servant may rely on the special sympathy of our great High Priest. Christ has been a Servant Himself, therefore He can feel for you. He had to bear much from those whom He endeavored to serve and benefit, and therefore the better He can sympathize with your trial, if unhappily you should meet with unkind words, or unkind treatment in the house where your lot is cast. In every place, there is a cross to bear, and it is often a very heavy one. It may arise from the ill temper of a fellow servant, or from thoughtlessness in young children, or from some lack of management in household matters, or from your not being well able to do all that falls upon you, or from someone expecting too much from you, or from your own lack of care and forethought.
Do not shut your eyes to your own failings, but be willing to see and recognize these, and then cast your trials and difficulties on your great High Priest — be quite certain, if you do, that He will care for you and help you. He will give you the comfort of feeling, "My Savior loves me, He will order everything for the best, and deliver me out of all my troubles."
One thought more.
5. Jesus became a Servant to raise to the very highest honor the least of His faithful ones. He became poor — that you might be rich. He became a Servant — that you might become a child of God, an heir of His kingdom, and a partaker of everlasting glory. Who shall say how many of those who were once dependent upon others, who had lowly work to do, and who often felt overdone with hard toil, and cast down through their many trials, shall then be raised far above all their sorrows and temptations, and shine as the stars forever and ever?
Oh, think of this blessed hope! Look beyond all the darkness of the present life — to the joy and gladness of the great home prepared for you, if you are Christ's. And let your life manifest every day that you really do serve the Lord Jesus. Trusting in His precious blood, leaning on the hope of His heavenly grace, delighting in the assurance that He is always at your right hand — go forward to walk as He walked, and live as He lived.
Cheerful and happy Your children should be,
Ever confiding, dear Savior, in Thee:
No trial or danger we ever need fear,
Since all turn to blessings when You Lord, are near;
And sorrow itself is a friend in disguise,
If it make us more holy, more trusting and wise.
Loving and lovely Your children should be,
Evermore striving to imitate Thee:
Soothing the weary, consoling the poor,
Helping each other life's ills to endure;
Caring for all men, and leading the way
To the kingdom where darkness is turned into day.
Holy and harmless Your children should be,
Looking up to Heaven, and leaning on Thee:
Faithful in duty, and earnest in prayer,
Ever willing the cross of the Savior to bear;
Shrinking from nothing that ought to be done,
Nor wishing for rest until the victory's won.
10. Dangerous Ground
A very striking account is given by Dr. Livingstone of the way in which some of the African tribes catch their prey. A trap is made, which is called the hopo. It is formed somewhat in this way: two fences of great length are placed in the form of the letter V. The opening at the extremities of the two hedges is about a mile apart, and at the place where the two meet, a large deep pit is dug, secured on all sides and covered with green bushes. Hunters then scour the country, and drive the animals into this hopo. With shouting and cries and brandishing of spears they drive them on further and further, and before danger is perceived their escape becomes impossible: they are forced on in the direction of the pit, and at length they fall in and are thus taken and killed.
This account has often seemed to me as a sort of parable. It reminds us of the craft and power of our enemy; it shows the peril in which many poor souls are placed, before they know it; it teaches the reason why so many fall and perish and are lost forever — they know not the trap which has been set for them; they are beguiled into a fatal security; they know not how danger is closing them in on every side; they think that at any time they can easily turn round, while every moment it is becoming more difficult to do so; they see not the fatal pit to which their sins are bringing them, and where soon they will be overwhelmed in utter and hopeless ruin.
Consider the path of Herod Antipas. He has taken pleasure in hearing the Baptist preach, he has done many things that he taught — but he will not give up his adulterous passion for Herodias. Hence he is within the fatal fence. He is hurried along an evil course; the early dawn of religious impressions fades away; the faithful preacher is no longer heard, but is cruelly imprisoned. But he is driven on still further: Satan has a fresh temptation prepared. On his birthday he makes a great supper, and the daughter of Herodias dances before him. He is intoxicated with the draught of vanity and pleasure, and she draws from him a foolish promise: he will give her all she desires, though it were up to the half of his kingdom. She asks for the head of the Baptist; and then he becomes a murderer, yes, and a murderer of one of God's faithful servants! Still further does he tread the same path — he becomes a mocker of the Lord Jesus, and then shares with Pilate and the Jews the guilt of His crucifixion. Nor have we any reason to think that he ever turned again into the path of holiness and life.
Dear young reader, as you value your peace of mind, as you value your happiness in this life, above all, as you value your eternal salvation — let me most affectionately entreat you to keep away from dangerous ground! Do not mingle, more than you can possibly help, in the society of the careless and ungodly. Make friends of those who are the friends of Jesus. Walk not in the way of the wicked — join not their company, nor take pleasure in their conversation.
To follow this rule will save you from many a dangerous pitfall. Avoid very carefully, scenes and places where you may be tempted to evil — the theater, the concert-hall, the dancing-room, and the like. Probably Herod would never have slain the good faithful man who had sought his salvation so earnestly, unless he had been dazzled and bewildered by the feasting and the dancing. Keep away from such scenes altogether if you would be safe.
You may imagine you can go without any mischief, but you don't know the treachery or depravity of your own heart. Not a few, but thousands of young people have been drawn aside at such places from the plain path of peace and virtue — it has been step by step. The safe-guard of the fear and dread of evil has been broken down — dress and vanity and display have taken the lead, Christ and His words have been forgotten, the corrupt passions of the heart have been excited — and then at Satan's convenient season, temptation has come; and the young sister whose course might have been so bright and happy and useful, forfeits her birthright and her blessing, and gains instead a harvest of shame and sorrow!
Whatever you may think about it, such places are dangerous ground, and it is safer far to avoid them altogether. A young man who was condemned to death for murder was asked how he entered upon a course of crime: he gave a very short account of it. He said, "I gave up prayer, I gave up reading my Bible; I took to bad company." Be sure these are doors to the pit of Hell — be wise and walk in an opposite direction.
There is another very dangerous spot I would mention — By-path Meadow. I mean that it is wise to watch against the beginnings of anything wrong. Questionable courses, thoughts and feelings and habits that may not seem very decidedly contrary to that which is commanded, but yet are likely to lead you astray — such things are perilous to souls. I would name such a habit as loitering near the door or the gate, and wasting, perhaps five or ten minutes, which ought to have been otherwise employed. Or, again, taking something from another that you had no right to, or with an idea of restoring it when you had opportunity; or asking in a friend to a mistress's house, or going to some other place which you knew was not allowed. Things of this kind which you feel are questionable, and make you uncomfortable and afraid of being straightforward with those about you.
Or, again, I might name the danger of yielding to a sullen and discontented spirit, like King Ahab, when Naboth refused him his vineyard. Such things as these are like the little thieves which creep in at the window and open the door for the greater ones that follow.
Avoid also, as most dangerous ground, any place of worship where anything is taught contrary to the plain doctrines of God's Word. Such places may be very attractive, the singing may be very cheerful and pleasant, but you may there learn to believe that which may ruin your soul. Whatever cannot be plainly proved by Holy Scripture, is not to be believed as necessary to salvation. There is great peril in looking upon the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, as so holy that you must bow your head to them; or in thinking you must confess your sins to a priest before you can be forgiven. These are only human traditions — do not believe them for a moment. By all means go to the Lord's Supper, go in true penitence and faith; you will feed on Christ in your heart, and will find it a precious means of grace. But do not regard the bread and wine with superstitious reverence, as if they were the body and blood of Christ. Christ's body is in Heaven and not on earth. It is in your heart by faith, and not with your mouth that you can partake of Him. Then, as to confession, it ought to be to your great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Tell Him all your sins, and He will at once blot them out through His precious blood. He has not told His ministers to hear confessions, but their office is to declare and pronounce forgiveness of sins to all those who truly repent and believe.
In all these matters, my young friend, be sure your only safety is to read and search the Scriptures, and receive nothing beside that which they teach you. If thus you do, the Spirit of God will be your teacher: He will guide you into all truth, and your feet will stand firm on the Rock of God's truth which can never be shaken.
Oh, watch young friend, against all these various perils. You may be within the hopo before you know it; and when the first step has been taken, it is not easy to retrace it. God only knows the terrible end to which it may lead you.
Before I leave the subject, I would address a few words to any who may have been drawn aside, more or less, into crooked paths, and would now gladly return into the way of peace.
Whatever be your present condition, and whatever be your sins, remember there is a Savior, a mighty Savior, who can help and deliver you. The trap set for your overthrow may have been well laid. Satan, like Nimrod of old, may be a mighty hunter, experienced in catching and destroying his prey; your own efforts to escape the meshes and toils of the snare may be utterly unavailing: but Jesus can save to the uttermost. He can open a way of escape — He can break down the highest fence that your spiritual foes have raised to obstruct you; He can raise up a friend to help you; He can give you a praying heart; He can reveal to you His great readiness to forgive and cleanse you; He can overcome your bad habits; He can dispose you to think and speak and act aright; He can work in you both to will and do of His good pleasure.
Only arise and look to Him for grace. Be really in earnest: be willing to take pains and trouble. Watch and pray, that you enter not afresh into temptation or yield to old sins. Trust only in Him, and He will surely deliver you. Your cheerful song shall be that of David: "Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and earth." Psalm 124:6-8
From the arts that would allure us,
From the toils that would ensnare,
You, who slumber not, secure us
By your ever watchful care;
And if e'er from You we roam,
Fetch, oh fetch, Your wanderers home!
11. The Best Friend
A lad in Canada had been brought up a strict Roman Catholic: during his mother's absence, a school-fellow had lent him a copy of the New Testament. He was much interested in reading it, and especially the Gospel of John. Lessons for school were forgotten, and far past midnight he was still busy in searching into its treasures. One thing came to him as something entirely new: Jesus called His disciples friends. "You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. I have not called you servants, but I have called you friends." It struck him as such a glorious privilege. And so it is! Think what a happiness to have in Jesus a Friend — a true Friend — a tried Friend. Whatever is your position, to have Him as a Friend, will be riches, consolation, and life eternal. And He is a Friend very different to most other friends. Look a little at this point.
Jesus is a Friend toward those whom others would despise.Men scoffed at Him as being the Friend of publicans and sinners. But it was quite true — He was ready to receive the worst. You may think you are not worthy of having such a Friend. You have done nothing to deserve His favor. You may think that if anyone knew how sinful you had been, how ungrateful, how often you had done wrong — he would never speak to you, or in any way show kindness to you. But Jesus knows all, yes, far better than you do — and yet He stands at the door of your heart, and waits to come in and abide with you.
This friendship all begins on one side.A man was once asked how much he did toward his own salvation: he said that he hindered all he could, and Jesus did the rest. His meaning was that his own sinful heart opposed Jesus, but that every good desire and right feeling had been given him by the Savior. So let nothing stand in your way — however bad or hard-hearted you may be, Jesus desires to be your Friend! He will take all the evil away, and put into your heart His grace and love. Oh, ask Him to do this: "Lord, draw me, and I will run after You! Teach me to seek You, teach me to desire You, teach me to love You."
The friendship of Jesus is wholly unselfish and self-sacrificing.He can gain nothing by your love, but the joy of saving you. But more than this: He sacrificed His own life for your sake. He reckoned nothing too great to give up: He gave up His glory, He lived and then He died, to prove how faithful a Friend He was. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
A story is told of Diego, the companion of Columbus, that may illustrate this point. Columbus and a few others had been wrecked on a desolate shore. Their only hope of escape was to send a message over the sea several hundred miles, and they had only a little skiff that would carry but one man. When none of the rest dared to venture, Diego volunteered for the perilous enterprise: at the risk of his own life he made the voyage, and saved the lives of his fellows. Here was a true friend. But this is only a faint shadow of the love of Christ — He passed over a far darker ocean, for He braved the wrath of God for man's sin; yes, and He yielded up His precious life in shame and suffering and sorrow, to bring to us life and salvation.
But there is another thing that makes the friendship of Jesus very precious: it can bear all the strain you put upon it. Christ has a very large heart and very large resources. Earthly friends are soon tired out if we trouble them much with our sorrows and troubles, and especially if we often look to them for help. But Jesus is never weary of His people, but delights that they should often apply to Him. You might go to one friend in a great sorrow, and because he had never been much tried himself, he might repel you by his lack of feeling. Jesus however, has experience of all our woes, and has all the sympathy we can possibly need.
I need You, precious Jesus, I need a Friend like Thee —
A Friend to soothe and sympathize, a Friend to care for me;
I need the heart of Jesus to feel each anxious care,
To tell my every want, and every sorrow share.
You might go to another friend and he might feel most deeply for you, but his means might be small, or he might be quite unable to assist you in the particular matter in which you asked his help.
But Jesus can help you in any matter, temporal or spiritual; there are no limits to His resources. He can open a way for you when hedged in by difficulties. All the powers in this world are under His control. If in want, He can send you whatever is needful. Your debt of sin may distress you, but He has paid it, and can assure you of a free pardon. You may be fearful, and troubled, and weak — but His faithful right hand can support and uphold you.
And remember that the friendship of Jesus is changeless and unwavering. Amidst all changes, He remains ever the same. Health may fail, circumstances alter, those around us prove fickle and false, but He loves still and loves forever.
I love the story of the old Christian who placed his finger on the precious assurance, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and then told his daughter that as he had breakfasted with her so he should sup with Christ, and then quietly fell asleep in Jesus.
I have read of another Christian dying, who bade good bye to all he loved, and then exclaimed, "Now where is Jesus, my true and never-failing Friend!" and so looking to Him, passed away.
Oh, never forget it! Jesus is the best Friend: He is the wisest, the richest, the kindest, the most powerful and faithful Friend that ever any poor sinner had! He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is the Friend far better than all other friends together.
Surely, then, you should love Christ best. He who loves father or mother, friend or child, more than Christ, is not worthy of Him. He must ever be dearer to you than kindred, or wealth, or ease, or life itself. Be ready to part with all, rather than grieve Him. A woman had gained her livelihood by illicit distillation of spirits, but she learned to love her Savior. One day she went home and took out of the cupboard a stone jar which she had used for the purpose I have named. She placed it on the table and addressed it: "Jar, you and I have lived together many years, but Jesus is coming to live with me, and you and He won't agree — so you must go." And so saying she dashed it on the ground and broke it into fragments. Go and do likewise — go, and break the jar. Whatever be your sin, be as determined to put it away as she was — whether it be deceit, or dishonesty, or idleness, or a bad temper, or any other sin, in the strength of Jesus forsake it forever. He will not live in company with sin, and so you must either part with your sin, or your Savior.
And if you would not grieve your Friend, never distrust either His kindness or His power. "Whatever straits you may be in, fix your eye on Him, call upon Him, and believe that He will help you. If He seems to delay an answer to your prayers, He has a wise purpose in it — in the end He will show you that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy. When Lazarus grew worse and worse and at last died, the sisters thought it very strange that Jesus did not come and heal him. But they knew the reason afterwards, and they saw far more of His power and love than they would otherwise have done. Be sure that Jesus loves to be trusted. You cannot please Him more than rolling every fear and every care upon Him .
O be my rejoicing, my stronghold of love,
My aim and my end;
My glory on earth and my glory above,
Oh, Jesus, my Friend!
12. Stand up for Jesus!
I was much interested a little while ago in a visit I paid to a very deaf man in a town in the North. He was a very earnest and consistent Christian. His pastor said of him that he was a Christian all around — it was a word worth remembering. It is a great matter not to be a Christian in some things, but a Christian in everything. It is not enough to be a Christian on the Sunday side of you, but on the Monday side as well — to be as much in the fear of God in the kitchen as in the church. When I went to see this man he looked very hard at me, and then began to speak for his Master. He told how Christ had lifted him up out of the mire, and how much he owed Him. Then in a very earnest way, he said, "Oh, stand up for Jesus, stand up for Jesus!"
This is exactly what everyone who bears Christ's name ought to do. When you were baptized, you pledged to fight manfully under Christ's banner, against sin, the world, and the devil. And has not our great Master told us that this is absolutely necessary? He has promised that those who confess Him before men, He will confess before His Father. And He has also said, that if any man shall be ashamed of Him and His words in this adulterous and sinful generation — of him will the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
But why should you be ashamed of Christ? It may be hard sometimes to bear a laugh or a few unkind words, or even rough conduct from others, because you are trying to live as a Christian, but think how much Jesus bore for you, how much scorn and shame and suffering, and all to save you and bring you to honor. When you think of this, will you not be willing to bear a little for Him? Think, too, of the high honor which it is to be permitted to serve Christ. John the Baptist was unwilling at first to baptize Christ, because he felt unworthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe. And when we remember that there is not a bright angel in Heaven who does not love to glorify and praise Him — shall we be ashamed to glorify Him too?
No, my young sister, in the strength of Jesus determine to hold fast His banner and stand up for Him. Perhaps you have only lately begun to love Him, and now this cross comes upon you and you shrink from taking it up. But cast fear aside — do not fear those who kill the body and afterward have no more that they can do; rather fear Him who has power to save and to destroy forever. God is on your side, and He will take your part, and His peace and joy shall more than make up for anything you have to bear. You may be sure that if you are bold and consistent, those about you will in their hearts respect you. The greatest trial will be the first few weeks or months, and if you brave this storm manfully, the rest of your journey will probably be less difficult.
Never be ashamed to refuse taking any part in what may be wrong — be not, through fear, a partaker in others' sins. Never be ashamed of being called over-religious — you can never have too much of a good thing, and true religion is the very best thing to be found on earth. Never be ashamed of being seen on your way to church. Perhaps others may meet you who are spending their Sunday very differently; but you will be gaining blessings, while they will be sowing the seeds of future misery. Never be ashamed of being found on your knees: Satan trembles, Jesus rejoices; and why should you mind if a careless girl, who has no fear or love of God in her heart, should laugh? Perhaps by your example she may learn to pray herself. John A. James, of Birmingham, was awakened and led to the Savior by seeing a cousin kneel down and pray. Never shirk this duty by saying to yourself, "I can as well say my prayers in bed." It is not the same, for it is yielding to Satan's persuasion. If you think so little of prayer as this, is it not being ashamed of Christ, and can you expect God to hear you?
Never be ashamed of having your Bible open before you. The Ethiopian, a man of great authority, was not ashamed to read in his chariot the prophet Isaiah, and he was rewarded by Philip the Evangelist revealing from its pages the Savior of which it testifies.
A young girl in Norfolk had begun to love her Bible. She went up to live in service in London, full of good resolutions. When she began to read her Bible she was laughed at by the other servants, but she bore it for a time; then she read it privately when she could go up to her room alone; then she hid it in her box, and then by degrees she gave up reading it altogether. After a while she became ill, and returned home in consumption — her pastor often visited her, but she always seemed to have some weight on her mind. At last she said that those words of Christ perpetually haunted her, "If any man is ashamed of Me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed." She died at length with only a glimmer of hope.
Let us take a contrast: the late Duchess of Gordon lived to old age, a very bright and useful Christian. An incident is given of her beginning to read the Scriptures: she had been led to do so by seeing some gross acts of ungodliness in those around, and this had so wounded her feelings that she turned for comfort to her Bible. A young companion chanced hastily to come into her room and found her so engaged. "So you are turned Methodist!" she said, and left the room. "I don't know what Methodist means," she thought within herself, "but if it is reading the Bible, I'll try to continue doing so." Thus she became more steadfast instead of being driven back by the taunt. It was like the blind man near Jericho: the more the people rebuked him, the greater he cried after Jesus. So was it with this young lady: she was not ashamed of Christ and His Word — and the result was that she became a disciple of the Savior, and was a blessed instrument in His hands of doing good to many around her.
May it be ever so with you! May you cleave to Him with all your heart, though everyone around you were against Him. You will never be a loser: all earthly loss shall be heavenly gain. If you lose one friend, He can raise you up others, if you lose your place, He can find you a better; and remember His favor and friendship will outweigh that of the highest and noblest on earth.
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee:
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
You from hence my all shall be.
And while You shall smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and foes may shun me,
Show Your face and all is bright.
I have called You, Abba, Father;
I have stayed my heart on Thee;
Storms may rage and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.
Man may trouble and distress me,
T'will but drive me to Your breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
13. The Privilege of Prayer
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16
Imagine for a moment that on a set day in each year, our beloved Queen were to take her seat upon the throne. She had caused it to be proclaimed far and wide that, as a memorial of some great event, she will then be ready to grant any petition made to her. What crowds would flock around her! How many would anticipate the hour when they might obtain some long-sought blessing!
This thought sets before us a great reality. What would be impossible in any earthly sovereign, is actually the case with the great and glorious King who reigns in Heaven. His throne of grace is open to the poor and wretched, to those who feel burdened with ten thousand sins, and troubled by ten thousand wants and sorrows. It is open to the man who comes the first time weighed down by the remembrance of a life's iniquity. It is open to the child of God who comes again and again for the supply of grace which he needs. It is open, not once a year, but every day, every hour, every moment!
The way to this throne of grace is all paved with golden promises: Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. Over that throne, the eye of faith can discern, in letters glittering like the bright stars of Heaven, some such invitations as these: Ask, and it shall be given you. Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Great and precious are the gifts ready to be granted to those who earnestly seek them at the mercy seat.
Years ago an Indian Prince was greatly indebted to one high in authority for the aid and support he had rendered him. The Indian Prince desired to give the Englishman some strong proof of his gratitude, so he took him into a vast underground chamber where were collected the most costly and precious jewels, gold and silver almost without limit. The Prince then bade him choose what he would — nothing should be denied him. Whatever he named, he might call his own.
There is, likewise, a rich storehouse of costly treasures open to you. Jesus, as the exalted King of Zion, has the key, and opens it to all who come to Him in prayer. Every precious gift is within reach of the earnest seeker. You may beg yourself rich — if you will only stretch out your withered hands to the Friend of sinners. He will grant you your requests with respect to this present life. Whatever earthly comfort you desire, small or great, go and ask of Jesus, and He will give it you — if it is indeed for your best interests. He will give you . . .
rich blessings for your soul,
daily pardon for daily sin,
more light to understand Divine truth,
more strength in the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and to walk with God,
more faith and love, more joy and peace — all these will He delight to give you.
You are coming to a King,
Large petitions with you bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much!
Oh, that every reader of these pages might know the preciousness of true prayer! "I thank God He has given me a praying heart," were the words often on the lips of a young girl about nineteen, shortly before she went to her rest. Surely a praying heart is a gift beyond all price, because it opens the door to the reception of every other blessing.
I want to talk with each reader of these pages about your habits of prayer. Do you pray at all? If so, how do you pray? What are your prayers? I have sometimes asked young people about this, and the answers I have received have often made me very sad. I have found some use some short form which they learned as young children. I have found others using the Lord's prayer and nothing besides, and this in a very formal way. I have found others, again, using the creed, which of course is no prayer at all. Very, very few have I found who prayed really — asking God for what they needed, or speaking to Him as if they believed that He heard them.
May it be otherwise with you, my young reader. Let your prayer be prayer indeed. Speak to God in your own words, just what you feel — if you use a form occasionally, take care that you really desire the blessings it refers to. Let every prayer be so real and true, that God who searches your heart will say, Behold she prays! For this purpose remember three important things in prayer — earnestness, humility, and faith.
1.There must be earnestness. You must not be content with an idle, dreamy prayer — a few words muttered on your bed before you go to sleep or when you rise. No, no — this will never do. Go on your knees; think of your great necessities, and then pray as for your life. By the help of the Spirit, plead earnestly with God to grant you everything you need. Be in earnest when you go in to family prayer — do not regard it as a mere part of your duty, but go in with a real desire to learn something and to gain something. Be so earnest that you are not content with your morning and evening prayer, but often send up to Heaven a cry for grace and help. A short prayer may bring down a lasting blessing — it may keep you from a sin that would have brought you sorrow even to your dying day. Let there be in your prayers something of the spirit of Jacob: "I will not let You go except You bless me!"
Then let there be true humility. You must take the lowest place — you must not go to God thinking that you can bring anything of your own — either right feelings or good deeds — as a ground of your hope; but come as having nothing of your own but sin and evil. Come empty-handed, like the beggar who pleads nothing but his poverty and need.
A woman once told me that she was not afraid of God hearing her, as she had more religion than thousands of others. This is a very sorry way of coming to God. What would you say of a beggar who said that as he had so many shillings he wished you to give him more. Nay, this is not the spirit which God loves to see. Go to God's gate, poor, needy, and wretched, waiting for the crumbs which fall from His table — and He will then supply all you really need.
We need in prayer the spirit of Abraham, who confessed that he was but dust and ashes.
We need the spirit of Jacob, who came to God confessing that he was not worthy of the least of all God's mercies.
We need the spirit of Daniel, who began his supplication by casting off all hope in his own righteousness and acknowledging how he and his people had rebelled against God.
We need the spirit of the publican, who stood afar off and smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
But with earnestness and humility, there must be faith — you must come to God with confiding expectation of a gracious answer to your petition. Come even as a little child — take a child's place. True, you are a sinful child, an unworthy child, a rebellious child, but as soon as ever you are willing to come back to God, He puts into your lips the precious word — Father. We see this plainly in the story of the prodigal. He came back, saying, "Father, I have sinned," and he was welcomed as a child.
God gives you ground for this confidence. He tells you that you may come to Him in the name of Jesus — you may come through His merit and death. You may say, I don't deserve that God should hear my prayers, and this is quite true. But then God does not look at you as you are in yourself, but through His well beloved Son. God listens to the prayers which He offers for you.
While, therefore, I can scarcely bear
What in myself I see,
How vile and black must I appear,
Most holy God, to Thee.
But since the Savior stands between
In garments dyed in blood,
Tis He instead of me is seen
When I approach to God!
Oh, what a blessed thought is this! Though altogether undeserving in myself — yet in Christ I may come as deserving everything. In His name I have a right to expect, because God has promised it, every good thing. Therefore cast away all doubt and unbelief; expect much and you shall receive much; believe much and you shall be much blessed.
Before I finish this paper let me ask you who are now reading it whether you know anything of this spirit of prayer? I have seen a physician take a stethoscope and place it on the chest of a patient, and then place his ear to the other end, and in this way he has sounded the lungs to see if there is anything vitally wrong. My young friend, I should like to put something like this to your bosom, to find out your true condition. I ask you, Do you pray, truly, earnestly, with real desire for a blessing?
This will tell you what life there is within. If there is no prayer — then be sure there is very, very great danger to your soul. But why not begin to pray at once? If you never prayed before, begin now; God will help you; He promises His Spirit; He will hear your very first cry; and the beginning of prayer will be the beginning of everlasting life. May our Father grant you the Spirit of grace and supplication, and abundantly answer all your petitions.
14. The Oak of Weeping
"Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel. So it was named Allon Bacuth." Genesis 35:8
We see a company of mourners. They are standing near a tree, beneath whose shadow they have laid the remains of an aged woman. She has been Rebekah's nurse. It is likely that she came with her from Mesopotamia, and had lived with her many a long year. She is spared to see the children and grand-children of her mistress grow up, and now in her old age she has been called to her rest, and is buried in Bethel, amidst the tears and lamentations of a family that had long known her worth.
The oak tells its own tale. It was called Allon Bacuth, or the Oak of Weeping; and it tells how greatly Deborah was prized by Jacob's household, and how her death was felt to be a family misfortune, a sad and painful loss. She was doubtless precious in God's sight likewise. Her name and the grief caused by her death are written on the page of Holy Scripture for our instruction. "The memory of the just is blessed!"
The example of Deborah bears especially upon those who have the charge of children. As far as I know, it is the only mention of a nurse in Scripture, except for the mother of Moses, who was bidden by Pharaoh's daughter to take the child and nurse him for her. Such a position has an importance distinct from that of any other servant. If you have the charge of the young, remember that your words and your every day life will have a lasting influence upon them. For hours together you are in the place of a parent. In little matters, and often in greater ones, you have a power to enforce obedience to your wishes. Hence you are continually molding the character of the little flock around you.
If in any case you act without right principle, who can calculate the harm you may do to them?
I will not speak of the injury that might come to their health through any neglect on your part — how a limb might be injured, or an accident might prove their death. But consider how impressible are the minds of the young. You may pollute them by a word lightly spoken. You may terrify them by threats which you do not mean. You may make them deceitful by teaching them to hide their own faults or yours. You may destroy their confidence in their parents by speaking of them in a way that you ought not. If you are selfish, or slothful, or yield to an unruly temper — they may learn to walk in your crooked footsteps.
But rather strive to follow in the path of Deborah. Be thoroughly conscientious. Act always in the fear of God. Let your conduct be the same in the absence, as in the presence of the mistress. If she should come in unexpectedly, let it not be necessary that you should change your voice or manner.
Consider the real interest and welfare of the children, rather than their present gratification, or your own ease and comfort. Combine firmness with love. Never let them have their own way, when they wish to do wrong. Never let a serious fault, a lie, or an act of positive disobedience pass by without being punished. Yet strive also to brighten their young lives with the sunshine of perpetual kindness. Avoid rough handling and hasty words when you are upset. Find out little ways of making them happy, and never frighten them with ghost-stories or the like.
Teach them in spare moments short prayers, or Scripture texts, or hymns; and when you kneel down in prayer for yourself, mention the names of each of the little ones before the mercy-seat.
If only you have the love of Christ in your heart, who can tell how wide an influence for good you may thus exert? Who can say but someone of those whom you now strive to nourish with the sincere milk of the Word, may through your instructions and prayers become a blessing to tens of thousands?
Only consider the influence exerted by the Earl of Shaftesbury in improving the condition of the poor in London and elsewhere; and what was the source and origin of it all? Thus he writes to one who had sought information: "My daughter has asked me to tell you something about the dear and blessed old woman (her name was Maria Millas) who first taught me in my earliest years to think on God and His truth. She had been my mother's maid at Blenheim before my mother married. After the marriage she became housekeeper to my father and mother, and very soon after I was born, took almost the entire care of me. She entered into her eternal rest when I was about seven years old; but the recollection of what she said and did and taught me, even to a prayer that I now constantly use, is as vivid as in the days that I heard her. The impression was, and still is very deep that she made upon me; and I must trace, under God, very much, perhaps all, the duties of my later life to her precepts and to her prayers."
Another example might be given of a nurse whose efforts for the good of those under her care were crowned with much success, and several of whom became very earnest Christians. In early days, when about fifteen, she found peace with God through the Savior's blood. She thus speaks of herself:
"On hearing the words of twenty-fifth Psalm sung in church, the words, 'Good and gracious is the Lord' sounded so sweet to me, and melted my heart with a sense of pardoning mercy."
After many trials she found a comfortable home. She spent many hours in communion with God. Walking with her mistress's child, she loved to meditate on the Savior's love. "Every day," she would say, "was to me a Sabbath, and every Sabbath like a communion day." Then her master and her mistress died, and she manifested a most unselfish spirit in bringing up the orphan family. All day long she would labor for them, and then spend sometimes half her night in prayer for their spiritual well-being.
She fell asleep in Jesus after a life spent in serving God, and declared with her dying breath, her confidence in the Word of God: "There is not one promise of this blessed book which can be experienced in life, but I have experienced it. Not one has failed."
May your life, dear reader, be spent in the same happy service. May your last testimony be, like her's, a witness of the faithful love and care of God.
Go labor on; spend and be spent —
Your joy to do the Father's will:
It is the way the Master went,
Should not the servant tread it still?
Go labor on; 'tis not for nothing:
Your earthly loss is heavenly gain;
Men heed you, love you, praise you not:
The Master praises — what are men?
Go labor on; your hands are weak,
Your knees are faint, your soul cast down;
Yet falter not: the prize you seek
Is near — a kingdom and a crown.
Toil on, and in your toil rejoice;
For toil comes rest, for exile home:
Soon shall you hear the bridegroom's voice,
The midnight cry, "Behold I come!"
15. Good Bye!
In writing this little book I seem to have been talking to a great many young friends. Some may live in a quiet village — and others in a large town. Some may spend their time in the midst of smoke and noise and bustle — and others in a retired country scene, where everything is green and beautiful. Some may live at home with parents — and others at service in the house of another. There may be some among you who may be in sorrow; and if so, I would share your sorrows. Some of you may be able to thank God for an even course, without any great trial to bear; and if so, I would rejoice with you.
But now we must part company. Perhaps you may lay aside your book, or give it to another young friend, and never look at it again. Still I hope some thoughts may remain with you, and assist you in fighting the battle of life. If so, I shall be richly rewarded.
Good bye! There is something in these words to make us think. Who can tell when two friends say farewell to each other whether they will ever meet again on earth? In traveling by railway I have often found a Christian brother, and we have had a pleasant talk together for a short time, and then perhaps I have given him a little printed messenger of peace — a tract or leaflet; and then the train has stopped, and one has alighted, and we never again see each other during our pilgrimage.
Ah, but, young sister, we shall all meet when the Lord comes! The Apostle Paul in his day seemed to have before his eye a great cloud of witnesses — witnesses of God's truth and goodness and love. But how far greater will be that gathering of God's saints, when all are added that since then have won their crown. Blessed indeed will be that great gathering! But there will meet before the Great White Throne, those that have rejected Christ and His salvation! And will not every faithful minister of Christ be compelled then to bear witness against those to whom he has preached the Word? And will not this book be a witness also against any one who has read it — and yet has continued to walk in the way of evil? Whatever it has spoken to you of sin, or the Savior, or the power of prayer, or God's willingness to receive you — will be a testimony on that day, that upon your own head lies the burden of your eternal condemnation. Oh, shall it be so?
We say Good bye one to the other now; but why should not our meeting be a joyful one? When you see for the first time face to face, the writer of "Safe and Happy," if by God's infinite mercy he is among those washed and redeemed through the blood of the Lamb — what a joy would it be if you likewise should be among that blessed throng, and you should acknowledge the words written here to have been an instrument in the hand of the Spirit to lead you to the Savior! Why should it not be so? God uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty; and the plain and simple truths you have read in this book are enough to save you. Only believe — and live forever! Only look in your heart to the crucified Savior with the prayer, "Lord, save me!" and He will hear and bless you!
Good bye! There is something sorrowful about this saying. Partings are often very painful. When Paul was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders, we are told that they all wept freely, sorrowing most for the words he spoke, that they should see his face no more.
A young girl leaves her home and all she has loved for the first time to go among strangers, and she feels that she may not see her home for many a month, and then the gushing tear starts to the eye. When the last scene comes to one dear to us, and the dark river will henceforth separate us from a long familiar face — then there is a sorrow here that is beyond words to express.
A solitary lot often follows the "good bye." And few trials are harder to bear than a lonely path.
But here comes the consolation.
The very expression — Good bye — suggests it. For what does it mean?
Good bye means, "God be with you." It is only shortened for convenience. What a wish for one who is desolate and alone! What a wish for one who has been left to mourn over a lost friend, or parent, or child!
God be with you!
The God of Jacob, who so faithfully led him through his pilgrimage;
the God of all comfort, who comforts them that are cast down;
the God of all grace, who makes His strength perfect in weakness;
the God of peace, the God of hope, the God whose name is Love
— may He be with you!
With you, my young sister, as your own God, as your Father, as your Guide, as your Keeper!
May He be with you to bless you!
May He who made Heaven and earth bless you out of Zion!
May He bless you indeed, and enlarge your heart to desire more of His grace, and to rejoice more in His love!
May He increase your usefulness!
May His hand ever be with you, that He may keep you from evil, that it may not grieve you!
May He bless you with present comforts more than ever you have anticipated!
May He bless you with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ!
May He bless you with a sure and certain hope of life eternal!
May He bless you with His everlasting favor!
And will you not join with me in asking this?
Will you not ask for yourself a Father's blessing? Isaac had no blessing left for Esau — at least, not the best blessing; but your Father has a blessing — the richest, the sweetest — for each who seeks it!
"May God's blessing be with you," said a Christian man, as he parted from a lady at the door of her house. "God's blessing be with me!" she said to herself. "I never think of it — I never ask it. How can it be? But I will ask it." And so she sought and found the blessing that makes rich, and brings no sorrow with it!
And you may find also this same blessing! Be this your prayer: "Great Father, bless me, and make me a blessing for Jesus' sake!" And when it shall be well with you, ask a blessing for all who read this book, and for him who wrote it. If you have gained any blessing from its perusal, forget not to do this, that all may receive benefit, and that our Father may be glorified.
Once more, Good bye! Farewell! Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace — and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
[The writer only desires that these prayers should be a guide and help. Every true Christian woman must learn to tell her own particular sins and wants and sorrows to our Heavenly Father, in her own words and by the teaching of His Spirit.]
A Morning Prayer for Every Day
O Lord, my Heavenly Father, I bless You for Your care over me during the past night. Keep me this day from all danger. Keep me from all sin and temptation. Waken my heart to think of You and to love You. Oh, fill me with Your loving Spirit! Cleanse my thoughts from everything defiling. Make me watchful over my words. Give me the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. May I see Jesus ever near me. O good Shepherd, lead me and guide through this troublesome world! Let me cast all my care on You! Let me trust only in Your precious blood, and in Your perfect righteousness! Plead my cause, and send me grace to help in time of need. Feed me evermore with the Bread of life! Nourish my soul with the promises of Your Word. Strengthen me for my daily work, and bring me at last to the mansions of the Father's house.
O Father, bless all those who dwell in this house! Bless all whom I love with Your favor on earth, and with Your presence in Heaven. Grant this for Your dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
An Evening Prayer for Every Day
O God, I come to You tonight. I am not worthy to come, for I have sinned against You.
I have been ungrateful for Your mercies. I have lived too much for myself. I have done the things I ought not to have done — and I have left undone the things I ought to have done. But I come to you for pardon. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let the death of Jesus answer for all my guilt. For His sake, O Lord, heal my backslidings, and love me freely! May I never more offend and displease You! Make me watchful over all I say and do. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by Your Holy Spirit. Make me as holy as You are holy!
Teach me to remember how short my time is! Every night I am nearer my grave. May I be nearer to You, and nearer to Heaven. Make me live for eternity! Fill me with earnest desires after You and Your kingdom! Make me anxious to do good to others!
O God, my Heavenly Father, bless me tonight! May I lie down in peace! May my last thoughts be of You, and of Your love!
Bless all who live under this roof! Pour upon all who live here the dew of Your Spirit. May we all be prepared to live with You forever in Your kingdom. Hear me, O my Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, my only Savior and Advocate. Amen.