The Spare Half-hour

by Charles Spurgeon

These occasional papers, rescued from the pages of our monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel, are preserved in this form from the oblivion which awaits the bulk of periodical literature. We are in hopes that spare half-hours may be profitably spent in reading these brief essays. The book should be allowed to lie about in the parlor, the kitchen, or the waiting-room: it may catch the eye by its title, and interest by its contents. Our life has been mainly spent in direct religious teaching, and to that work we would dedicate our main strength; but men need also to hear common every-day things spoken of in a religious manner, for to some of them this roundabout road is the only way to their hearts. Theology is dull reading to the unconverted; but mixed with a story or set forth by a witty saying, they will drink in a great amount of religious truth and find no fault. They like their pills gilded, or at least sugar-coated, and if by that means they may be really benefitted, who will grudge them the gilt or the sugar?

In these pages the reader will find considerable variety, but not much of finish; and he will not wonder that it is so when he remembers that they were written by a very busy man in the intervals of his labor, and several of them in foreign lands during the brief leisure afforded by halting upon a journey. Our spare hours are very short ones, but in these we have to do all our work of this order, and hence we cannot round and polish our periods after the manner of those to whom literature is a profession. We value elegant writing; but while a thousand duties call us hither and thither, ours must remain rough-hewn. Such as it is, gentle reader, we present it to you, that it may amuse first, then suggest a holy or happy thought, and in all tend to edification. To this end may God grant His blessing on our pains, for in all things that is the first cause of success. Eight truly did the devout Herbert say:

"When You do favor any action,
It runs, it flies;
All things concur to give it a perfection.
That which had two legs before,
When you do bless has twelve,
One wheel does rise
To twenty then or more."


Chapter 1. Honeywood Park; or, a Tale of My Grandfather

The recurrence of the name of a village, a house, or a spot in one's family annals, interwoven with its most important events, is curious to observe. The superstitious imagine that a strange influence upon human destiny may be connected with peculiar places; we reject their theory, but all the more wonder at the facts upon which it is based. There is a spot in Essex, the name of which is as much associated with the life of my grandfather, now in Heaven, as if providence had rooted him to it, and constrained him to live and die within its bounds. What I am about to write is, as nearly as my recollection serves me, the story as I had it from himself. I had been preaching within twenty miles of Stambourne, where the good old man proclaimed the Gospel for about sixty years; and I received a pressing letter from him, saying, that as he was now eighty-eight years of age, if I did not drive across the country to see him, we might never meet again in this world. Little did the grandson need urging to so pleasant a duty. Starting early I reached the village at eight in the morning, and found the venerable man on the lookout for his boy. He was remarkably cheerful and communicative, talking of his tutor at Hackney College, of his early life, his trials and his deliverances, the good men who had gone before him, and the occasions upon which he had met them. He then touched on what was evidently a favorite topic, and remarked that there was formerly a wood in what I think he called Honeywood Park, which was a very memorable place to him. In that wood he had groaned and wept before the Lord while under the burden of sin, and under a tree, an oak, then only a sapling, he had received the grace of faith, and entered upon the enjoyment of peace with God. It was a lonely spot, but henceforth it was to him "none other than the house of God, and the very gate of Heaven." Often he resorted thither and praised the name of the Lord.

Some time after this happy event, having to go from Coggeshall to Halstead, his route was over the hallowed spot. On the night previous he dreamed very vividly that the devil appeared to him, and threatened to tear him in pieces if he dared to go along that footpath and pray under the oak as he had been accustomed to do. The evil one reminded him that there was another way through the farmyard, and that if he took the farmyard path all would go well with him. When my grandfather awoke, the impression on his mind was overpowering, and he reasoned thus with himself: Whether it be a dream or really a temptation from Satan I cannot tell, but anyhow I will not yield to it, but will show the devil that I will not do his bidding in anything, but will defy him to his face. This was the good man all over. Like Luther, he had a vivid impression of the reality and personality of the great enemy, and was accustomed to make short work with his suggestions. One day when in the pulpit it came into his head that the place where the sand was kept for sanding the brick floor of his manse ought to be boarded in. His next thought was, What business had the devil to make me think about the sand closet on a Sunday, and in the pulpit too? It shall not be boarded in at all. I will let Satan see that he shall not have his way with me. But to return to the story. My grandfather, then a young man, went on cheerily enough until he came to the stile where the two paths diverged, then a horrible fear came upon him, and he felt his heart beat fast. Suppose he really should meet the archfiend, and should find him too strong for him, what then? Better take the farmyard path. No, that would be yielding to Satan, and he would not do that for ten thousand worlds. He plucked up courage and tremblingly pressed on. The stile was leaped, the narrow track through the wood was trodden with resolution mingled with forebodings. The oak was in sight, the sweat was on his face, his pace quickened, a dash was made, and the tree was grasped, but there was no Satan there. Taking breath a moment, the young man uttered aloud the exclamation, "Ah, cowardly devil, you threatened to tear me in pieces, and now you do not dare show your face." Then followed a fervent prayer and a song of praise, and the young man was about to go on his way when his eye was caught by something shining on the ground. It was a ring, a very large ring, he told me nearly as large as a curtain ring, and it was solid gold; how it came there it would be hard to guess. Inquiries were made, but no claimant ever appeared, and my grandfather had it made into my grandmother's wedding ring, in memory of the spot so dear to him. Year by year he continued to visit the oak tree on the day of his conversion to pour out his soul before the Lord. The sapling had spread abroad its branches, and the man had become the parent of a numerous family, but the song of gratitude was not forgotten, nor the prayer that he and his offspring might forever be the Lord's; the angels of God, we doubt not, watched those consecrated seasons with delightful interest. The prayers offered there have been answered for sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons, who are now preaching the Gospel which the old man loved so well.

To add to the solemnity of the secluded wood, his father, while passing by the spot, was touched by the hand of God and suddenly fell dead. He could then feel even more deeply, "How dreadful is this place!" This made the annual visitations to the tree more deeply impressive, and we believe beneficial. They would have been continued until my grandfather's last year, were it not that the hand of modern improvement ruthlessly swept away tree and wood, and almost every relic of the past. His last prayer upon the dear spot was most ludicrously interrupted—as the wood was almost all felled, he judged by the pathway as nearly as possible where the long-remembered oak had stood; the place was covered with growing wheat, but he kneeled down in it and began to bless the name of the Lord, when suddenly he heard a rough voice from over the hedge crying out, "Maister, there be a creazy man a-saying his prayers down in the wheat over thay're." This startled the suppliant and made him beat a hasty retreat. Jacob must wrestle somewhere else, for Jabbok was gone. The man of God looked at the spot and went his way, but in spirit he still raised an altar in that Bethel, and praised the God of his salvation. He has gone to his rest after having fought a good fight, but the prayers of Honeywood Park are blessing his children and his children's children to the third generation, and, through them, many thousands more. To them and all the world, his testimony is, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," and equally does he instruct us to "Bless the Lord, and forget not all His benefits." It were well if all of us were as decided to overcome temptation, let it come whence it may. To indulge in that which may even seem to be sin is evil; to strive against its very appearance is safety. Forgive, gentle reader, the egotism which made me think this odd story might have an interest beyond my own family circle; it is no small pleasure to remember such a grandsire, and to recall an incident in his life is pardonable.


Chapter 2. Two Episodes in My Life

Superstition is to religion what fiction is to history. Not content with the marvels of providence and grace which truly exist around us, fanaticism invents wonders and constructs for itself prodigies. Besides being wickedly mischievous, this fabrication is altogether unnecessary and superfluous; for as veritable history is often more romantic than romance, so certified divine interpositions are frequently far more extraordinary than those extravaganzas which claim fancy and frenzy as their parents. Every believing man into whose inner life we have been permitted to gaze without reserve has made a revelation to us more or less partaking of the marvelous, but has generally done so under protest, as though we were to hold it forever under the seal of secrecy. Had we not very distinctly been assured of their trustworthiness, we should have been visited with incredulity, or have suspected the sanity of our informants, and such unbelief would by no means have irritated them, for they themselves expected no one to believe in their remarkable experiences, and would not have unveiled their secret to us if they had not hoped against hope that our eye would view it from a sympathizing point of view. Our personal pathway has been so frequently directed contrary to our own design and beyond our own conception by singularly powerful impulses, and irresistibly suggestive providences, that it were wanton wickedness for us to deride the doctrine that God occasionally grants to His servants a special and perceptible manifestation of His will for their guidance, over and above the strengthening energies of the Holy Spirit and the sacred teaching of the inspired Word. We are not likely to adopt all the peculiarities of the Society of Friends, but in this respect we are heartily agreed with them.

It needs a deliberate and judicious reflection to distinguish between the actual and apparent in professedly preternatural intimations; but if opposed to Scripture and common-sense, we must neither believe in them nor obey them. The precious gift of reason is not to be ignored; we are not to be drifted hither and thither by every wayward impulse of a fickle mind, nor are we to be led into evil by superstitious impressions; these are misuses of a great truth, a murderous use of most useful edged tools. But, notwithstanding all the folly of hair-brained rant, we believe that the unseen hand may be at times assuredly felt by gracious souls, and the mysterious power which guided the minds of the seers of old may, even to this day, sensibly overshadow reverent spirits. We would speak discreetly, but we dare say no less.

The two following incidents, however accounted for by others, have but one explanation to the writer: he sees in them the wisdom of God shaping his future in a way most strange. The first story needs a little preface to set it forth; pardon, therefore, gentle reader, trivial allusions. When I was a very small boy, I was staying at my grandfather's, where I had aforetime spent my earliest days, and, as the manner was, I read the Scriptures at family prayer. Once upon a time, when reading the passage in Revelation which mentions the bottomless pit, I paused and said, "Grandpa, what can this mean?" The answer was kind, but unsatisfactory: "Pooh, pooh, child, go on." The child, however, intended to have an explanation, and therefore selected the same chapter morning after morning, and always halted at the same verse to repeat the inquiry, hoping that by repetition he would importune the good old gentleman into a reply. The process was successful, for it is by no means the most edifying thing in the world to hear the history of the Mother of Harlots, and the beast with seven heads, every morning in the week, Sunday included, with no sort of alternation either of psalm or gospel; the venerable patriarch of the household therefore capitulated at discretion, with, "Well, dear, what is it that puzzles you?" Now the child had often seen baskets with but very frail bottoms, which in course of wear became bottomless, and allowed the fruit placed therein to drop upon the ground; here, then, was the puzzle—if the pit aforesaid had no bottom, where would all those people fall to who dropped out at its lower end?—a puzzle which rather startled the propriety of family worship, and had to be laid aside for explanation at some more convenient season. Queries of the like simple but rather unusual stamp would frequently break up into paragraphs of a miscellaneous length the Bible-reading of the assembled family, and had there not been a world of love and license allowed to the inquisitive reader, he would very soon have been deposed from his office. As it was, the Scriptures were not very badly rendered, and were probably quite as interesting as if they had not been interspersed with original and curious inquiries. On one of these occasions Mr. Knill, late of Chester, and now of the New Jerusalem, whose name is a household word, whose memory is precious to thousands at home and abroad, stayed at my grandfather's house on Friday, in readiness to preach for the London Missionary Society on the following Sabbath. He never looked into a young face without yearning to impart some spiritual gift; he was all love, kindness, earnestness, and warmth, and coveted the souls of men as misers desire the gold which their hearts pine after. He marked the case before him, and set to work at once. The boy's reading was commended—a little judicious praise is the sure way to the young heart; and an agreement made with the lad that on the next morning, being Saturday, he would show Mr. Knill over the garden and take him for a walk before breakfast: a task so flattering to juvenile self-importance was sure to be readily entered upon. There was a tap at the door, and the child was soon out of bed and in the garden with his new friend, who won his heart in no time by pleasing stories and kind words, and giving him a chance to communicate in return. The talk was all about Jesus and the pleasantness of loving Him, nor was it mere talk, there was pleading too. Into the great yew harbor—cut into a sort of sugar-loaf—both went, and the soul-winner knelt down with his arms around the youthful neck, and poured out vehement intercession for the salvation of the lad. The next morning witnessed the same instruction and supplication, and the next also, while all day long the pair were never far apart, and seldom out of each other's thoughts. The Mission sermons were preached in the old Puritan meetinghouse, and the man of God was called to go to the next halting-place in his tour as a deputation from the Society, but he did not leave until he had uttered a most remarkable prophecy. After even more earnest prayer alone with his little protégé he appeared to have a burden on his mind, and he could not go until he had eased himself of it. In after years he was heard to say that he felt a singular interest in me, and an earliest expectation for which he could not account. Calling the family together, he took me on his knee, and I distinctly remember his saying, "I do not know how it is, but I feel a solemn presentiment that this child will preach the Gospel to thousands, and God will bless him to many souls. So sure am I of this, that when my little man preaches in Rowland Hill's Chapel, as he will do one day, I should like him to promise me that he will give out the hymn beginning,

'God moves in a mysterious way
 His wonders to perform.'

This promise was of course made, and was followed by another, that at his express desire I would learn the hymn in question and think of what he said. A sixpence was also given to me as a reward for the task, which was duly accomplished. The prophetic declaration was fulfilled, and the hymn was sung both in Surrey Chapel and in "Wotton-under-Edge in redemption of my pledge, when I had the pleasure of preaching the Word of life in Mr. Hill's former pulpits. Did the words of Mr. Knill help to bring about their own fulfillment? I think so. I believed them, and looked forward to the time when I should preach the Word; I felt very powerfully that no unconverted person might dare to enter the ministry; this made me, I doubt not, all the more intent upon seeking salvation and more hopeful of it, and when by grace enabled to cast myself upon the Savior's love, it was not long before my mouth began to speak of His redemption. How came that sober-minded minister to speak thus of one into whose future God alone could see? How came it that he lived to rejoice with his young brother in the truth of all that he had spoken? We think we know the answer; but each reader has a right to his own: so let it rest, but not until we have marked one practical lesson. Would to God that we were all as wise as Richard Knill, and habitually sowed beside all waters. On the day of his death, in his eightieth year, Eliot, "the apostle of the Indians," was occupied in teaching the alphabet to an Indian child at his bedside. A friend said, "Why not rest from your labors now?" "Because," replied the man of God, "I have prayed God to render me useful in my sphere, and He has heard my prayers; for now that I am unable to preach, He leaves me strength enough to teach this poor child his letters." To despise no opportunity of usefulness is a leading rule with those who are wise to win souls. Mr. Knill might very naturally have left the minister's little grandson on the plea that he had other duties of more importance than praying with children, and yet who shall say that he did not effect as much by that act of humble ministry as by dozens of sermons addressed to crowded audiences? At any rate, to me his tenderness in considering the little one was fraught with everlasting consequences, and I must ever feel that his time was well laid out. May we do good everywhere as we have opportunity, and results will not be wanting.

Those who are curious as to further evidence of this story will find it in the biography of Richard Knill, though scarcely so fully told. No biographer was likely to know so much about it as myself, but yet the main facts are the same.

The second story is less remarkable, perhaps, but is not less true, nor less important in its bearing upon my life-course.

Soon after I had begun to preach the Word in the village of Waterbeach, I was strongly advised to enter Stepney, now Regent's Park, College, to prepare more fully for the ministry. Knowing that solid learning is never an incumbrance, and is often a great means of usefulness, I felt inclined to avail myself of the opportunity of attaining it; although I hoped that I might be useful without a college training, I consented to the opinion of friends that I should be more useful with it. Dr. Angus, the tutor of the college, visited Cambridge, and it was arranged that we should meet at the house of Mr. Macmillan, the publisher. Thinking and praying over the matter, I entered the house exactly at the time appointed, and was shown into a room where I waited patiently a couple of hours, feeling too much impressed with my own insignificance, and the greatness of the tutor from London, to venture to ring the bell and make inquiries as to the unreasonably long delay. At last, patience having had her perfect work, and my school engagements requiring me to attend my duties as an usher, the bell was set in motion, and on the arrival of the servant the waiting young man was informed that the doctor had tarried in another room until he could stay no longer, and had gone off to London by train. The stupid girl had given no information to the family that any one had called, and had been shown into the drawing-room, and consequently the meeting never came about, although designed by both parties. I was not a little disappointed at the moment, but have a thousand times thanked the Lord very heartily for the strange providence which forced my steps into another path.

Still holding to the idea of entering the collegiate institution, I thought of writing and making an immediate application, but this was not to be. That afternoon, having to preach at one of the village stations of the Cambridge Lay Preachers' Association, I walked slowly in a meditative frame of mind over Midsummer Common to the little wooden bridge which leads to Chesterton, and in the midst of the common I was startled by what seemed a loud voice, but which may have been a singular illusion; whichever it was, the impression was vivid to an intense degree: I seemed very distinctly to hear the words, "Seek you great things for yourself? seek them not!" This led me to look at my position from another point of view, and to challenge my motives and intentions. I remembered the poor but loving people to whom I ministered, and the souls which had been given me in my humble charge, and although at that time I anticipated obscurity and poverty as the result of the resolve, yet I did there and then solemnly renounce the offer of collegiate instruction, determining to abide for a season at least with my people, and to remain preaching the Word so long as I had strength to do it. Had it not been for those words, in all probability I had never been where and what I now am. I was conscientious in my obedience to the monition, and I have never seen cause to regret it.

Waiting upon the Lord for direction will never fail to afford us timely intimations of His will; for though the ephod is no more worn by a ministering priest, the Lord still guides His people by His wisdom, and orders all their paths in love; and in times of perplexity, by ways mysterious and remarkable, He makes them to "hear a voice behind them, saying, this is the way, walk you in it." Probably if our hearts were more tender, we might be favored with more of these sacred monitions; but also, instead thereof, we are like the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, and therefore the bit and bridle of affliction take the place of gentler means, else might that happier method be more often used, to which the Psalmist alludes when he says, "You shall guide me with your eye."

The two instances of divine guidance which we have given are specimens of those particular providences which are common in religious biographies. Out of scores which start up in our memory, we shall select one from the eminently useful life of Peter Bedford, of Spitalfields.

"One summer Mr. Bedford and two of his nephews were staying for a two weeks at Ramsgate, enjoying the fine weather and the sea breezes. They had nearly spent their allotted term of holiday, which would expire on the Monday ensuing. But on the morning of the preceding Saturday Mr. Bedford woke very early, with a strong impression on his mind that he must return that day to London. Accordingly he rose at once, and, going to the bedroom of each of his nephews, informed them that he should have occasion to proceed to the city that morning. They at once ordered an early breakfast, settled accounts, and all went on board the first packet for the metropolis.

"Mr. Bedford did not, however, know the particular object for his return, beyond the impulse of a strong and clear impression that it was his duty to do so.

"On arriving at his house in Stewart Street, Spitalfields, he found everything going on rightly; and the remainder of the day passed off quietly, as usual, and with no special occurrence whatever. He now began to feel suspicious that he had acted under a mistaken impression. Next day, Sunday, he attended worship as usual; both forenoon and afternoon passed, and still nothing particular took place. He now feared strongly that a delusion had actuated him.

"But in the evening, while sitting at the supper-table with two acquaintances, the door-bell rang violently, and a sudden conviction came into Mr. Bedford's mind that he was about to learn the cause of his impression at Ramsgate. He rose from table, leaving his friends to themselves, and went to meet his visitor in a private apartment. A tall young man, pale and agitated, entered and threw himself on a sofa. He was greatly excited, but presently communicated to Mr. Bedford the information that a very near relative had just left his home and family under most painful circumstances, and with the intention of totally deserting them and at once going off to America. He besought Mr. Bedford to endeavor, by his personal influence, to prevent the accomplishment of this ruinous and desolating resolve.

"After going into the particulars of the case more fully, and ascertaining the most probable means of effecting the desired object, Mr. Bedford returned to his friends in the other room, and informed them that circumstances of urgent necessity compelled him to leave them immediately. He and the young man accordingly hurried off together to obtain an interview with another relative of the fugitive. They were able to make arrangements with this person, of such a nature as to preclude the accomplishment of the intended flight to America. The delinquent relative was persuaded to remain in England, and became penitent for what had happened, and eventually peace was restored to his family. Thus the sudden and unexpected impression made on Mr. Bedford's mind at Ramsgate was entirely justified and confirmed by its results, the appropriate test of the nature of such impulses. It is worthy of observation that these special interpositions of Providence generally appear unexpectedly, and as things not to be looked for, or waited for, to the interruption of ordinary life and its reasonable arrangements, but as afforded merely on exceptional occasions, and by a higher wisdom than any in our possession for daily use."

Our ordinary guides are right reason and the Word of God, and we may never act contrary to these, but still we accept it as a matter of faith and experience to us that, on exceptional occasions, special interpositions do come to our aid, so that our steps are ordered of the Lord and made to subserve His glory. Shepherd of Israel, guide you us evermore.


Chapter 3. Ten Thousand Skulls

The little village of Glys, at the commencement of the famous Simplon Road, has a church large enough to hold its inhabitants, should they all swell into Brobdingnags, and occupy a pew each. When we passed the stone steps which lead up to the porch, they were strewn with boughs and blocked up with poles—the raw materials of the rustic finery to be displayed on the morrow, which was a high fete day. Inside the very clean and spacious edifice was an image of the Virgin Mary, very sumptuously arrayed, and placed upon a litter, so as to be carried about the streets in solemn procession; just as the heathen of old were accustomed to do with their gods. "They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he makes it a God: they fall down, yes, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he stands." What made the travelers pause and enter the church? Certainly it was no respect for the idols or their shrines, but curiosity, excited by the grim information that here was a charnel-house filled with skulls, ten thousand or more at a rough computation. Now we had seen skulls and bones at Chiavenna, all clean and white and carefully placed, so as to form double-headed eagles, crowns, and all sorts of fanciful devices, and we had also passed bone-houses, where the heads of deceased villagers, all white as pipe-clay, were arranged in orderly rows upon shelves, labeled with their names and the dates of their decease; but ten thousand at once was a novelty of ghastliness not to be resisted. Was the information correct as to the number? Did it not sound like a gross exaggeration? It certainly struck us that we might allow a very liberal discount upon the sum total of horrors, and yet be perfectly content; but we had no necessity to make any deduction, for, like the heads of the sons of Ahab, they lay before us in two heaps, and were there in full number. Under a chapel, which was decorated with scenery and flowers, not unlike a theater, was the dreary home of the departed. From its unglazed windows, through the iron bars, peered out thigh-bones and skulls—these were the rear ranks of the army of the dead. We entered the portal, and for a moment could see nothing but a few skulls on the floor; but when our eyes were accustomed to the gloom we saw plainly that on each side of a long chamber was a wall of grinning heads, with a leg-bone under the chin of each. Here and there they had fallen down, and the wall was in need of the sexton's decorating hand; but for the most part the pile was complete from floor to ceiling, and was from six to eight feet thick. A kneeling figure, in plaster, stuck up in the corner, half made us shiver, as it seemed to rise from the floor of this hall of the dead like a sheeted Spirit. At the far end were the usual appurtenances of Popish worship, and a comfortable place whereon to kneel amid the many remembrances of mortality. It was hard to avoid a sickening feeling in the midst of this mass of decay, but in our case this was overcome by wonder at the want of human tenderness in the religion which allows such needless and heartless exposure of the sacred relics of mortality. There they were, by dozens, on the floor, the skulls of old and young, male and female, and one could scarcely avoid kicking against them; while, by hundreds, the grim congregation grinned from the wall on either side. Abraham said, "Bury my dead out of my sight," and one feels that his desire was natural, decent, tender, and manlike; but of that horrible collection, open to the bat or the dog, or to every idle passer-by, what could be said but that they were an abomination and an offence. As some years have passed since our visit, we hope that the march of improvement has closed the vault and buried the poor remains.

To what purpose have we brought our reader into this region of desolation? It is that he may ask, as we did, the question, "Who slew all these?" These thousands are but as the small dust of the balance, compared with the mountains of death's prey. These are but the ashes of the generations of one small hamlet—what vast mausoleum could contain the departed inhabitants of our great cities—the millions of Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, Pekin, London? What a mighty Alp might be formed of the corpses of the men of vast and populous empires, who these thousands of years have been born only to die! Surely the dust which dances in the summer's sun is never free from atoms once alive and human. The soil we tread, the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, in all these there must, doubtless, be particles once clothing an immortal soul. In lovely flower, and singing bird, and flitting insect, there may be, perhaps, there must be, the constituents of human flesh and bone, new molded by the Master-hand. How perpetually does that question press itself upon us: Whence come the shafts which so surely reach the heart of life, and lay humanity in rotting heaps? Men of skeptical views have appealed to science, and have tried to show that death is an inevitable law of nature, and is to be viewed as a matter of course, having no more to do with sin or holiness than the fall of a stone by gravitation; but we are content with the divine teaching that "by man came death." We confess that it is more than possible that creatures expired in agony and pain long before the time of man; but is it quite so clear that what may have occurred in periods before our age, upon animals alone, can be made to contradict a statement which relates to man, and to man only? From whatever cause animals may or may not die, the fact that man dies, as the result of Adam's sin, is not affected thereby. For anything we know, the law of mortality might have ruled over all non-intellectual creatures, and man made in the image of his Maker might have remained immortal evermore, had he never transgressed against the divine law. Such a state of things was prevented by the fall, but it is enough for our inquiry that it might have been so, and that the supposition is not irrational.

If it be contended that the condition of the animal creation is bound up with the state and position of man, without venturing into speculations, we are quite willing to accept the statement, and yet we are not at all perplexed by the apparent inconsistency of death before the fall, and the doctrine that death is the result of sin. He who foresees and foreordains all things may of old have constituted the creation upon the foresight of that death which he foresaw would reign, as the result of sin, over man and the creatures linked with him. Had not sin and death been foreseen, as part of the great epic of earth's history, it may be that there had been no brute creation at all, or else an undying one; but since the existence of evil in man, and his consequent fall, was a portion of the great scheme of history which was always present before the divine mind, he made the world a fitting stage for the triumphs of his redeeming love by permitting the creation to groan and travail under subjection to vanity, in solemn harmony with the foreknown state of fallen man.

We are not disposed to accept all the statements of geologists as facts, but even if we were credulous to the last degree concerning their discoveries, we should still hold the Bible in its every jot and tittle with unrelaxing grasp, and should only set our brain to work to find ways of reconciling fact and revelation, without denying either. We unhesitatingly accept the inspired declaration, that "sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." What a view of the evil and mischief of sin have we here in this charnel-house! What a murderer is transgression! What a deadly poison is iniquity. O earth, earth, earth, scarce can you cover the slain! Your caverns reek with death! And as for you, O sea, your waves are glutted with the bodies of the mariners, whom you have swallowed up! Sin is the great manslayer! Red-handed, with garments dyed in blood, sin stalks through the land, and leaves its awful tracks in tears, and pains, and graves, and charnel-houses, such as this. Would God it were no worse; but, alas, we must complete the picture, its trail is eternal damnation, it kindles the flames of Tophet, which burn even to the lowest Hell. As Abraham got up early to the place where he was accustomed to commune with God, and looked toward Sodom and saw the smoke thereof going up like the smoke of a furnace, so may we look toward the place of torment and cover our faces with solemn awe.

A gleam of sunlight strays into the gloomy assembly of the dead, and as our eye drinks it in, our heart cheerfully hears another question? "Can these dry bones live?" So dry, so chalk-like, so pierced by worms, so broken, so powdered, so scattered, so mixed up with other existences—blown by the winds, ground into dust, carried along by streams, lost, forgotten, unknown; can these dry bones live? As the top of one great mountain may be seen from another which towers to an equal height, so this one question may be breasted in all its greatness by another, and as the second inquiry deals with a familiar fact, it may ease the difficulties which faith and reason may find in the first: Have these dry bones lived? Is it possible that out of those sockets looked merry eyes, sparkling with laughter, or orbs of grief, flowing with tears? Did that hollow globe hold thought and emotion, love and hate, judgment and imagination? That yawning mouth, did it every cry, "Abba, Father," or chant the Morning Hymn, or utter discourses which thrilled the heart? How can it have been possible? How could mind be linked with such poor crumbling matter? How could this earthly substance which men call bone, be in intimate, rational, and vital connection with a soul which thought and reasoned? As well tell us that stones have walked, that rocks have danced, that mountains have fought in battle, as that spirits, full of intellectual and emotional power, have onee quickened this poor brittle clay; nay, more; walking, dancing, and lighting are actions which brutes might perform, for they involve no exercise of judgment and emotion, and therefore the wonder would not be so great as this before us, when we see the hollow circular box made of earth, and know that it was once essential to intellect and affection. Yet it is certain that these bones once lived; why not again? It is only because it is usual and common that life does not strike us as an equal miracle with resurrection. Let the wisest of our race attempt to animate the most accurate model which the most skillful anatomical modeller could prepare, and he would soon learn his folly. Omnipotence is needed to produce and maintain one life; granted omnipotence, and impossibility vanishes, and even difficulty ceases to exist: why cannot God give these bodies life again?

Believing that these shall live again, what then? In what body shall they come? What will be their future and where? Are these the bones of saints, and will they rise all fair and glorious in the image of their exalted Lord, just as the shriveled seed starts up a lovely flower, blooming and beautiful? Will they mount from the chrysalis of death into the full imago of perfection, just as yon fly with rainbow wings has done? Will they march, like the ten thousand Greeks, in dense phalanx, from this their narrow city? And will they know each other in their new condition, and preserve a manifest identity, even as Moses and Elijah did, when they appeared upon the mount? Many questions, both answerable and unanswerable, are suggested by these poor relies of humanity. They are great teachers, these silent sleepers! But it may be more profitable to leave them all, and our speculations too, and permit one reflection to abide with us, as we leave the close and dismal vault for the purer air without; that reflection is this, "I, too, shall soon he as these are." It may be, through the care of kindly survivors, that my body shall rest where no curious travelers shall gaze thereon; no moralist may muse on death with my skull in his hand; and yet I must be even as these are. How vain, then, is Jife! How certain is death! Am I ready for eternity? This is the only business worthy of my care. Go, you vanities, to those who are as vain as you are! Thoughtful men live solemnly, regarding this life as but the robing-room for the next, the cradle of eternity, the mold wherein their future must be cast. If we rightly think upon this well-known truth, it will have been a healthy thing to have visited the chambers of the dead.

On the Sacro Monte, at Varallo, is a supposed imitation of the sepulcher of the Lord Jesus. It was a singular thing to stoop down and enter it, of course finding it empty, like the one which it feebly pictured. What a joyful word was that of the angel, which we saw written there, "He is not here!" Sweet assurance—millions of the dead are here in the sepulcher, thousands of saints are here in the grave, but He is not here. If He had remained there, then all manhood had been forever imprisoned in the tomb; but He who died for His Church, and was shut up as her hostage, has risen as her representative, surety and head, and all His saints have risen in Him, and shall eventually rise like Him. Farewell, charnel-house, you have no door now, the imprisoning stone is rolled away. "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"


Chapter 4. The Dropping Well of Knaresrorough

What the guide-books have to say upon that most remarkable natural curiosity, called the Dropping Well of Knaresborough, we do not know; into the geology and chemistry of the wonder we have not inquired; we have only looked at it with the eyes of an ordinary sightseer of a meditative turn of mind, and have been well repaid. A huge mass of rock has fallen from the face of the cliff, and seems ready to take a still further leap into the stream beneath. A constant drip of water flows over the front of this rocky fragment, whose face is polished as smooth as marble. The water apparently rises out of the rock itself and does not percolate from the cliff above, for between it and the rock there is a wide crack into which the visitor may easily pass. A perpetual shower of the coolest crystal descends into a little pool below, and looks as if nature had determined to outdo all artificial shower-baths with one of her own. Depending from the rock are miscellaneous articles, enduring the full force of the drip: hats, shoos, toy-houses, birds, birds'-nests, and other objects, both elegant and uncouth, are hanging in the midst of the rainfall; they are all enduring the process of petrifaction, which the water accomplishes for them in a few months. Drop by drop the liquid falls, and leaves a minute deposit of stony matter every time; and thus slowly, but surely, the whole substance becomes coated and covered with lime, and absolutely transformed to stone. The old fable of the foes of Perseus turned into stone might have been actually accomplished here if the hero's enemies could have been induced to remain long enough in the shower-bath. We have heard of a certain damsel who wished to be considered a fine lady, and declared herself, upon some great occasion, to have been quite putrefied with astonishment; she might here have putrefied in the most wholesome manner. A little museum in the inn contains a small selection of petrifactions; these curiosities appear to command a rapid sale, for there were none to be disposed of, and many bespoken. It will amply repay any one going north, to break his journey at York, and take a run to Knaresborough, where, in addition to this marvelous well, and the cave where Eugene Aram hid his victim, there is a view from the castle which is scarcely to be excelled in England.

If there be sermons in stones, surely there must be discourses in a stone-making well. Lot's wife, who may be said to have been petrified by a saline or bituminous shower, has been a standing illustration of the sad results of looking back to the sins and follies of a condemned world; she is God's great petrifaction, preaching evermore a divinely eloquent sermon. The reverse of this transformation, namely, the turning of stubborn, senseless stone into sensitive and tender flesh, is the Lord's enduring miracle of grace, by which He shows at once His wisdom and His power. To make flesh into stone is but a natural process, as this dropping well testifies; but to change stone into flesh is a divine act known to none but the Holy Spirit. May every one of us know by personal experience what the transformation means!

The method of moral and spiritual petrifaction is most instructively imaged by the objects at Knaresborough. Men and women are quite as capable of petrifaction as birds'-nests and old shoes, and they petrify in very much the same manner, with no other differences than those essential distinctions which must exist between a mental and a material operation. Let the world with its temptations, pleasures, and cares represent the spring, and the specimens of consciences, energies, affections, emotions, and a hundred matters petrified in it are endless, and to be met with everywhere. Everything lifeless within range feels the stone-making influence of the world. Men with consciences utterly impervious to truth, and hearts entirely unaffected by noble sentiments are, alas! all too plentiful. Ministers whose lifeless performances of Heaven's work of mercy prove that their souls are passionless, and hearers who hear as with "the dull, cold ear of death," are far from rarities. The current of the customs and pursuits of the world favors religious insensibility, and creates it on all sides. As everything beneath the dropping well feels the influence of the shower, so all men in all their faculties are more or less affected by the hardening influences of the world. Spiritual life alone effectually throws off the slimy incrustations of the earthly drip; but were it not for frequent removals from the evil element, life itself would be unable to bear up against it. Drip, drip, drip! the soul forever in it, and never alone with God in prayer, would sooner or later, according to circumstances, become a melancholy proof that friendship with the world is enmity against God. Preserving grace at frequent intervals withdraws the favorites of Heaven out of the deadly shower, and so prevents their ruin, or else Martha's being cumbered with much serving is clear evidence that even true lovers of Jesus in their very desire to serve Him may get their thoughts sadly earthbound.

The work is very gradual but very constant. A day's deposit would scarcely be perceptible, and weeks would not complete the work; petrifaction is the achievement of innumerable drops following each other with unrelaxing perseverance. It could not be said of any one day's work that it petrified, or of any particular portion of the water that it wrought the change, but the whole together, throughout a long period, combined to effect the ultimate end. No one glaring sin may be adduced against the man whose heart is hardened, there may be no special season when he became incapable of feeling; but the whole course and tenor of his life in the world, and submission to its influence, must bear the blame of rendering his brow as brass, and his heart as a flint.

At the same time, the action of the world is never suspended, and all its customs, fashions, cares, and pleasures are but a continuance of the same hardening operation under varying forms. The ever-falling shower, which rustles amid the leafy groves upon the river's brink, pours forth its descending drops in unwearied armies, each drop bearing and depositing its burden of stone, and thus unceasingly petrifying everything within its range. Stars and sun alike see the well at its work. So both by night and by day, without fail or pause, carnal associations and earth-born attractions stultify the mind, and render it unfit for the sacred sensibilities of fellowship with God. Until we shall find the well of Knaresborough ceasing to petrify, we must not expect this present evil world to pause in its evil operations. The bands of Orion may be loosed, and the sweet influence of the Pleiades may be suspended, but the baleful effect of the world's evil eye can neither change nor cease. We need to watch against the honesties and graces of the world as well as against its rogueries and vices. Its influence is evil, only evil and that continually; and it has a power to penetrate the very soul of man and turn each bowel of compassion, each nerve of holy sensibility, each muscle of heroic energy into cold, cold stone; leaving the natural fashion and shape of manhood, but driving out from it everything warm and lovable; making the human form a sarcophagus for the true man, and so bringing him back to the earth from which he came by a worse method than even death itself; and all this by degrees so slow that the victim is almost and sometimes altogether unable to perceive the change through which he is passing.

When accomplished the work is exceedingly thorough and unmistakable. The substance is stone, clearly stone, and stone throughout, whatever it may have been before. We saw a raven whose glossy wings had often shone in the sunlight as he flew through the air, and there he was, a hard lump, utterly incapable of flight, although the wings were surely there, the very wings which once could mount so readily. Alas for the heavenward aspirations which once bade fair to elevate the youth to holiness; that earthbound money-hunter knows nothing of them, and yet he is the same man with all his former faculties. A have which had been under the spring had become so grotesque an object that one could hardly see in it the swift-footed creature which drinks the dew. Evil are the days which bring the zealous servant of God, who once ran in the ways of obedience, to become a mere stolid official, occupying a place which he cares not to use for its true ends. Asahel was fleet as a roe, how comes he to be slower than Mephibosheth? Has the world turned the man into a statue? Has the child of Abraham been cast down and deadened into a stone! All that was raven and have had become stone, and even so some men who once possessed hopeful qualities and redeeming characteristics, have become all worldliness, and money-grubbing hardness, until there is not a soft place in them, nor could a soul, as large as a pin's head, find a fleshy cavity in which to enshrine itself. It were better to grow poorer than Lazarus, and more full of sores than he, than to be the willing subject of the tyranny of worldliness. Rich, famous, learned, powerful, a man may be, but he is an object for the deepest pity if he has sacrificed the tenderness of his conscience, and the gentleness of his heart. It is death above ground, it is the curse before Hell, to be reduced to a mere lump of clay or a senseless block of stone.

This curse of death in life has fallen upon whole families; hard maxims have stagnated the blood of a race, and made a house notorious for its grim worldliness. Nabal's heart became like a stone within him, but he appears to have died childless; other churls have unhappily left their like behind them, and a race of stone men has cursed generation after generation. A birds'-nest with petrified eggs, and the mother-bird lying in stone upon it, which we saw at the well, is a far more pleasant sight than a family tutored in selfishness, and educated in the unhallowed wisdom of greed.

Nor is the petrifying power of the world exercised only upon men themselves, but matters which pertain to them are subject to the same power. Gloves, stockings, and divers articles of apparel were shown us, no longer comfortable garments fulfilling a most useful purpose, but stone; as much stone as if they had been carved from a rock. Who has not seen petrified sermons? Hard, dry, lifeless, cold masses of doctrine cut into the orthodox shape, but utterly unfit for food for the children of God. Who has not heard of petrified prayers? Mere blocks of granite in which warmth and life were the last things to be looked for. Have not Gospel ordinances themselves in the hand of formalists become rather the gravestones of religious enthusiasm than firebrands to kindle its sacred flame? Charity herself cannot deny that the world's great stumbling-block is a lifeless church, a powerless ministry, and formal ordinances. Life and its sensibilities of the highest spiritual order, are the mysterious powers by which true religion overcomes the world; take these away and it is not enough to say that the church is injured—it is destroyed outright. A worldly church makes sport for Hell, wins scorn from the world, and is an abomination in the sight of Heaven; and yet churches, like individuals, may in course of time succumb to the dangerous influences of worldliness, and religion may become a mere thing of stone, stately and tasteful, fixed and conservative, accurate and permanent, but inanimate and powerless; a record of the past rather than a power for the present.

It strikes the observer as he drinks of the apparently pure water of the Dropping Well, that its actual operation is not one which would apparently have resulted from, it. Your usual experience of water leads you to look for softening rather than hardening, and in the case before you this is the immediate result, and, indeed, the real result too, for it is not the water which petrifies, but the substance which it holds in partial solution and deposits upon the object suspended. The water must not be blamed, it is softening enough in itself, but the foreign ingredient does the petrifying business. The world's trials ought to soften the heart and lead to holy sensibility; and its joys should evoke the tenderness of gratitude and hallowed softness of love; but sin is abroad, and the world is polluted thereby, and hence its outward circumstances operate far otherwise upon us than they would have done had transgression never entered. It is not the scenery of this fair earth which is defiling, as some ultra-spiritual simpletons would have us believe; neither is there anything in a lawful calling which necessarily interferes with communion with the Lord Jesus; from man proceeds the vileness, it comes neither from hill nor dale, nor streaming river, nor even from the din of machinery and the hum of crowds; moral evil is the strange substance which poisons and pollutes, else earth might be the vestibule of Heaven, and the labors of time a preparation for the engagements of eternity. Our gardens are still fair as Eden, and our rivers bright as the ancient Hiddekel; the same sun shines over the self-same mountains, and the same heavenly blue canopies the earth, but the trail of the serpent is upon all things, and this is it which the spiritual have hourly cause to dread. The roses of Paradise are still with us, but we must beware of the thorns which sin has added to them.

Among the curiosities we did not see petrified hearts, but our anatomical museums frequently contain them, and the disease of a literal hardening of the heart is by no means rare. Spiritually, the petrifying of the heart by the removal of restraining grace is a most terrible judgment from God, and is the precursor of eternal destruction. Pharaoh is the type of a class who are given up to hardness of heart; the stubborn rebellion of their life forebodes their endurance of overwhelming wrath throughout eternity. A tender heart which trembles at God's word, is, on the other hand, a token for good; let those who have it go to Jesus with it, and trust in His blood to make them still more sensitive under the hand of God; and let those who have it not go to Jesus to obtain it, for the awakened conscience and the tender heart are as much His gifts as pardon and eternal life. It is doubtful whether Hannibal melted rocks with vinegar; it is certain that Jesus dissolves them with vinegar and gall, but these were His own potion upon the tree. The dropping well of Calvary softens all upon whom it rains its precious floods; happy those who leave the world's shower, and sit beneath the atoning drops, they shall feel the tenderness which is acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Leaving the well of Knaresborough we fell to rhyming, and here is the result:

Though this well has virtues rare,
And excites a just surprise;
There is yet a well more fair
And more wondrous in mine eyes.

Blessed well on Calvary's mount,
Where the side of Jesus slain,
Mercy's own peculiar fount,
Pours a stone-removing rain.

See the heavenly blood-drops fall
On a heart as stern as steel!
Though 'twas hard and stony all,
Lo, it now begins to feel!

Legal hammers failed to break,
Flames of wrath could not dissolve,
None the stolid soul could shake,
Fixed in fatal, firm resolve.

But the blood performs the deed,
Softens all the heart of stone,
Makes the rock itself to bleed,
Bleed for Him who bled t' atone.

As the crimson shower descends
All the stone is washed away;
Stubbornness in sorrow ends,
And rebellious powers obey.

Hewn from out the pit of Hell,
And in Calvary's fountain laid;
By that sacred dropping-well
Be my soul more tender made.

Until my heart contains no more
Of the stone by which it fell,
But on Canaan's happy shore
Sings the sacred dropping-well.


Chapter 5. Voices From Pompeii

A rush of thought has hurried through our soul while traversing the streets of the long-lost city of Pompeii. Worn as its pavements are by the traffic of a thousand chariots in days of yore, it is all silent now, and its temples and palaces echo only to the footfalls of inquisitive visitors, who guess its life from its suggestive relics. The city was not destroyed by a fiery stream of molten lava, as is popularly supposed; but it would seem that first there fell a shower of ashes and cinders, with here and there a huge mass of volcanic matter; and then there followed torrents of liquid mud, which flowed over all and formed over the city a crust, preserving everything that remained from further injury or decay. Had the stream been burning lava it must have melted down the bronzes, calcined the marbles, and reduced all to one vast heap of molten matter; as it is, the most delicate frescoes remain uninjured, the most minute articles are found in their integrity, and even such readily combustible materials as thread and skeins of silk are gathered from the ruined dwellings. We have seen a glass jar of oil still retaining its contents, delicate bottles of perfume apparently as fresh as when purchased at the shop, and amphoræ of wine, with the age of the vintage as freshly marked thereon as though but yesterday placed in the cellar. How marvelous does all this seem when we remember that the city was buried in A.D. 79, and, therefore, has lain in its grave for close upon eighteen hundred years.

Comparatively few human remains have been found in the excavations; for, although the inhabitants of Pompeii had but scant warning, it appears that the bulk of the population were, at the time of the eruption, assembled in the great amphitheater, which is outside the town; and, finding themselves cut off from the rest of the city by the falling ashes, they made their escape from the impending doom. All of them were not, however, so fortunate, for some six hundred skeletons have been exhumed, and as yet a bare half of the city has been uncovered. In the ear of our imagination have sounded voices from the dead in Pompeii, and in a hurried moment we sit down to record the impressions they have made.

The full chorus of the disinterred chants one solemn line, "Be you also ready, for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man comes." To many in that fair abode of luxury and vice the outbreak of Vesuvius appeared to be the end of all things. When the darkness which might be felt settled down upon them, when the earth rumbled and reeled beneath them, when the groaning waves of the tortured sea foamed beyond them; when the scorching glare of vivid lightnings flashed above them, and huge rocks blazing and hissing with fire fell all around them; they believed that the world's death had come—and so, indeed, in a manner it had come to them, but in a fuller and truer sense it hastens on for us! Even now, while the ink is flowing from our pen, the Lord may be on His way, and may suddenly appear. In Pompeii's last tremendous hour the bread was in the oven, but the baker never saw it taken from it; the meat was seething in the pot never to be eaten; the slave was at the mill, the prisoner in the dungeon, the traveler at the inn, the money dealer in his treasury, but none of these saw anything of their labors, their pains, their pleasures, or their profits again. The burning dust fell over all, the poisonous vapors sought out every crevice, and the ocean of mud buried inhabitant and habitation, worshiper and temple, worker and all that he had wrought! Should a sudden overthrow come upon us also, are we ready? Could we welcome the descending Lord, and feel that for us His coming with clouds to recompense justice would be a joyful appearing, to be welcomed with exulting acclamation? The question is too important to be dismissed until honestly answered: may sincerity direct the examination it suggests.

A very large proportion of the dead were discovered in the barracks; thirty-four were found together, beyond all doubt the guard called out for the fatal night: discipline must have been powerful indeed to have kept men to their duty at such a time, especially when they were not far from the city gate. It would seem that the officers' wives and children shared in the same spirit, and remained with the band, and with them those ever-faithful friends of man, the dogs who had fed beneath their table. Soldiers are expected to endure hardness, and these Roman legionaries discharged their trust to the last. Christians are called soldiers of Christ: shall they be less firm, less bravely obedient, even unto death? Whoever flees in the evil day, a Christian must not. His it is to be at his post at all hazards, and faithless never. Christian and coward, saint and deserter, are words as much opposed as Heaven and Hell. Every one has heard of the lone soldier at the Herculaneum gate of Pompeii, who stepped under an arch to shelter himself from the hot ashes, and there remained close by the gate which he was set to guard, and was found there, spear in hand, faithful unto death. His martial voice rings in our ear, and bids us, even if alone, abide in our appointed place, come what may. It is ours not to consult personal ease or safety, but to abide where our great Captain has appointed our station until he himself shall release us from it. Like the dove which was found sitting upon her nest in the garden of Diomed, if we are entrusted with the care of others we must sooner perish than forsake our charge. If Jesus has said "feed my lambs," we must not flee when the wolf comes, but must, under evil report and good report, "feed the flock of God which He has purchased with His own blood." One of the first buildings seen by the traveler upon entering the excavations is the villa whose owner is supposed to have been named Diomed, because a tomb on the opposite side of the road bears that name. In the ample cellars of this house seventeen persons were found huddled in a corner, who from their ornaments and dress are believed to have been females, and some of them the ladies of the house. Where was the father, the master, the husband of the family?

Why did he not form the center of the group, and prove the mainstay of the tremblers in their hour of horror? A skeleton, believed to be that of the master of the house, was found near the garden gate, with the key of his villa firmly grasped in his hand; and behind him was an attendant with one hundred pieces of money in his belt. What was he about to do? He was, doubtless, fleeing for his life and perished in the attempt; but why escape alone? It would have been useless to carry the key if the door remained unlocked. Had he, then, fastened in his family and left them all to die? Let us not judge even the dead severely; perhaps the timid females would not venture with him, and he went to discover for them a way of escape. The taking of a considerable sum of money with him does not give much countenance to the theory, but this much is clear—for some reason or other the strong man left his household behind him and sought safety for himself. Meanwhile, outside his door, on the other side of the road, a lady stumbled through the heaps of small loose pumice stones which filled the roadway, and sought a shelter under the vault of the hemicycle, where many a traveler had rested before he entered the splendid city of pomps. She was not alone, but had two children clinging to her garments, and she carried another at her breast. Did she sever herself from the little ones? Did self-preservation drive her to drop her helpless burden? No; folded in each other's arms they fell into their last sleep, the mother still cherishing in death the children, about whose neck her love had hung pearls and finest gold while yet their days were happy. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" Man is too often hard and selfish, but a mother's heart is tender, and her love makes sacrifices and counts them sweet.

In the Street of Abundance, in the house of a moneychanger, in a dark vault-like room at the rear of the building, lies a skeleton upon a heap of rubbish, with outstretched arms and clutching fingers, as if he had been grasping at earth with his last life-throb. Near him the diggers found some four hundred coins, mostly of silver, with quite a little fortune in rings and cameos. Was he a thief. and were these the spoils he had gathered and purchased with his life? Was he a moneylender, and were these his capital and his securities for loans? No man can answer these questions, but the blending together of death and gold in one story is no new thing; it is, indeed, but another among a thousand instances in which death has slain men with gilded darts. In another place was found an adventurous pilferer, who, after the destruction of the city, had marked the spot where stood a rich man's house, had burrowed down into it, and had met his end through the falling in of the earth upon him. He dug for treasure, and knew not that he had prepared his grave; fit warning to other earth-worms among men that they also perish not in their grovelings, though it is to be feared the admonition is seldom heeded, and men continue to barter Heaven for yellow clay. Less ignobly died the prisoners in their cells and the soldiers in their stocks, for they were bound by no voluntary fetters, and may have been free in spirit while they lay in durance. Avarice both imprisons and degrades.

The skeleton in the large room behind the Temple of Isis reveals the overpowering energy of even a base animal appetite, for there it was found with bones of chickens, eggshells, fishbones, bread, wine, and a garland of flowers around it. He must have been a rare feeder who could find stomach for his meat amid such convulsions of nature; his worship of his belly had furnished him with a courage which far nobler devotions have not excelled. It shows how sottish he becomes who lives to eat instead of eating to live; he may one day die by his eating, and go from the banquets of Bacchus to the tortures of Tophet. Let all men beware of the tyranny of carnal passions, for no despots are so exacting as the appetites of the flesh. Suicide by one's own teeth is the meanest of deaths, and involves a man in everlasting contempt; the cruelest of tyrants have not demanded this of their victims. By all that we value for time and for eternity, let us conquer fleshly appetites, lest they conquer us.

Time would fail us to tell of the wretch who left his bones in a temple with all the evidence of his sacrilege about him. Will a man rob God? How will it fare with him should he perish in the act? Neither can we speak much of the gigantic personage, who with an axe had pierced a way through two walls of the Temple of Isis in his efforts to escape from the all-surrounding death. He at least was no sluggard or foolhardy glutton. He perished, but he made desperate efforts to be saved; many also will share this fate, in a spiritual sense, if they rely upon their own strength; but, blessed be God, none shall ever be left to die who labor against sin, trusting in the merits of the Redeemer. Vain also would it be to conjecture who was the owner of that remarkable brain which once filled a skull of such striking conformation that it has excited the speculations of many phrenologists. He whose eyes looked out from under that overhanging brow was crushed beneath a falling column, literally severed in twain by the prostrate mass. Had he lived and thought for God, for truth, for man? Or was he some arch deceiver, a deluder of the multitude? Echo alone answers to our inquiries, and she by mocking them. The tomb is silent, and so also are those to whom sepulture is denied. But one tiling is clear to the most superficial glance: these skeletons are the petrifactions of vitality, the abiding record of life's latest moments. As in the forum remain the half-finished columns, with the last mark of the sculptor's hand upon them; as in the chambers of the household remain the essences and rouge of ill-fated beauty; as in the bath remains the strigil, and in the hall the treasure-casket; so in the stone-like relics of the departed Pompeiians abide the records of their concluding acts; they are the finis of their own history, observed by all men. Behold, at this hour our moral history is being preserved for eternity; processes are at work which will perpetuate our every act, and word, and thought; not alone the last line, but every word and letter of our actual history is being stereotyped for the world's perusal in the day which shall reveal the secrets of men. We are not writing upon the water, but carving upon imperishable material—the chapters of our history are "graven with an iron pen and lead in the rocks forever."

Thus did we think amid the excavated streets of Pompeii, and if we have written to edification we are glad.


Chapter 6. Spirit Stories for Christmas

We may be very wrong, but we confess a weakness for a Spirit story, and cannot help listening to it, and all the more if it makes the blood curdle and blanches the cheek. It is a sort of stolen water, and that, as the wise man says, is sweet. We lived at one time among a people many of whom devoutly believed in apparitions, and wizards, and witches, and all that horrible rout, and often have we heard the most thrilling stories—stories, we believe, in more senses than one. We had sent us for review some little time ago a book upon apparitions, which claims to be a narrative of facts; and as we read it through we said, "Yes, these were facts where they were done," and we put the book aside, to be looked up somewhat nearer the end of the year, when the Christmas number of our magazine might excuse our inserting one or more of the aforesaid facts. We are afraid our readers will think as rather a Sadducee, although we are nothing of the kind, nor a Pharisee either; but we do not believe that in nine out of ten Spirit stories there is a Spirit of truth, and we are not quite sure that we believe the tenth one.

The Wesley family undoubtedly were favored with a very noisy visitant of some sort, and we have no idea what it was, only there is no accounting for the noises which rats make in old houses any more than for the foul gases in new ones. When we meet with a thing which puzzles us we pry into the cause as far as we can, and generally find it out; and if we cannot read the riddle we lay it by to be solved another day, never flying to the old-fashioned resort of dragging in the supernatural. We traced a spirit song after much investigation to a foot-warmer filled with hot water, which was being used by an invalid. We sought out a band of celestial visitants, who whispered to us all night in a country house, and found them to be a nest of birds in a hole in the plaster of the wall at our bed head, which hole nearly came through into the room. Nothing supernatural has ever been seen by our eyes, nor do we think we shall ever be blessed with such vision while in this body; for after seeing Robert Houdin and other wonder-workers we are case-hardened against the whole set of tricks and sham spirits, and these are the parents of most of the marvels which set silly people's hair on end. As a general rule, when we hear of an apparition, or anything of the kind, we do not believe it to be other than an illusion or a falsehood. The most wonderfully well-attested narratives seldom bear investigation, they are built up with hearsay and tittle-tattle, and will not endure a strict examination; like most rumors, they fall like card-houses as soon as the hand of truth touches them. Perhaps a few of them appear to be so far true that we may safely say that they are not yet accounted for except upon a supernatural hypothesis, but we should hesitate to say more. Some are evidently the result of strong imagination, and are true to the parties concerned, affecting their fears and stamping themselves upon their minds too firmly to allow them to doubt.

In many cases religious delusions and errors create a tendency to visions and the like, and the most vigorous repression should be exercised by ministers and other persons of influence. A woman once called upon us in great trouble, for she had seen a human form at the foot of her bed. We suggested that it might be her own gown hanging on a peg. No, that could not be, she believed it was either the Lord Jesus or Satan. We remarked it did not matter a pin which it was, for many saw the Lord when He was on earth, and were none the better, and our Lord Himself saw the devil, and yet was none the worse. To her, however, it was a test matter, and she informed us that she should have known all about it if she had seen its head. We inquired how that was, and to our astonishment she told us that she had a likeness of the Savior, and she should have known Him by it, and thereupon fetched out of her room a small woodcut which was supposed by her to represent the altogether lovely One. Our reply was an urgent entreaty to burn the horrid thing at once, and to feel certain that if ever she saw anybody at all like that she might be sure that it was as likely to be Lucifer himself as the Lord Jesus. She was evidently greatly surprised, and we fell fifty per cent in her estimation, for she had expected to have had the opinion of her own minister, a Methodist, contradicted by our authority. We told her that her minister was a very sensible man, and had dealt faithfully with her in telling her not to be deceived by optical delusions; we question, however, whether we shook her faith, for she had a budget of other wonders to tell us, only our declaration that they were "stuff and nonsense," and our plain statement of the spiritual character of true religion, made her cut the interview very short. Half-crazy people come to us in any quantity with such marvels, and we hope we have cured a good many by a little kindly raillery, but a considerable number leave us with the impression sadly confirmed in our minds that there are more lunatics outside of asylums than in them.

We do not affirm that ghosts have never been seen, for no one has any right to hazard so broad a statement; but all spirits, as such, must be invisible, and the two sorts of human spirits which we know of are both by far too seriously occupied to go roaming about this earth rapping on tables or frightening simpletons into fits. As for angels, though they also as spirits are not cognizable by the senses, no doubt they have been made visible to men, and there is no reason why they should not be made so now if God so willed it; it would certainly be a wonder, but we do not see that any of the laws of nature need to be suspended to produce it. We can readily believe that those messengers who keep watch around the people of God would be rendered visible to us and to others if some grand purpose could be accomplished thereby, and if the safety of the saints required it. Whether in these days angels or departed spirits ever do assume forms in which they can be seen is the question, and we have as yet seen nothing to lead us to believe that they do. Others assert that they have seen such things, but as they generally admit that they would not have believed unless they had seen for themselves, we hope they will allow us to exercise the same abstinence. Our two stories are so nicely balanced pro and con, that when they are read by the advocates of the positive and negative sides we hope they will admire our judicious impartiality. The first story is from "Apparitions: a Narrative of Facts," * and it is entitled

The Mysterious Horseman

"The Traethodydd, or 'Essayist,' a Welsh quarterly periodical for 1853, contains a biographical memoir of the late Rev. John Jones, of Holiwell, Flintshire; and in that memoir there is an account of as remarkable an interposition of Providence by means of an apparition, which resulted in the preservation of life, as any on record.

"I think it will be best to allow Mr. Jones to relate the incident in his own words, as he was often accustomed to do, merely premising that he was a minister of high principle and unblemished character, and renowned throughout the Principality for his zeal and fervor as a preacher of the Gospel, and one who showed by his life his just appreciation of what Plutarch has so finely said respecting—

Than which no greater blessing can man receive or God bestow.'

"'One summer day, at the commencement of the present century, I was traveling from Bala, in Merionethshire, to Machynlleth, in the neighboring county of Montgomery, in order to attend a religious meeting. I left Bala about 2 p.m., and traveled on horseback, and alone. My journey lay through a wild, desolate part of the country, and one which at that time was almost uninhabited. When I had performed about half my journey, as I was emerging from a wood situated at the commencement of a long steep decline, I observed coming toward me a man on foot. By his appearance, judging from the sickle which he carried sheathed in straw over his shoulder, he was doubtless a reaper in search of employment. As he drew near, I recognized a man whom I had seen at the door of the village inn of Llanwhellyn, where I had stopped to bait my horse. On our meeting he touched his hat and asked if I could tell him the time of day. I pulled out my watch for the purpose, noticing at the same time the peculiar look which the man cast at its heavy silver case. Nothing else, however, occurred to excite any suspicion on my part, so, wishing him a "good afternoon," I continued my journey.

"'When I had ridden about half way down the hill I noticed something moving, and in the same direction as myself, on the other side of a large hedge, which ran nearly parallel with the road, and ultimately terminated at a gate through which I had to pass. At first I thought it an animal of some kind or other, but soon discovered by certain depressions in the hedge that it was a man running in a stooping position. I continued for a short time to watch his progress with some curiosity, but my curiosity soon changed to fear when I recognized the reaper with whom I had conversed a few minutes before, engaged in tearing off the straw-band which sheathed his sickle.

"'He hurried on until he reached the gate, and then concealed himself behind the hedge within a few yards of the road. I did not then doubt for a moment but that he had resolved to attack—perhaps murder—me for the sake of my watch and whatever money I might have about me. I looked around in all directions, but not a single human being was to be seen; so reining in my horse, I asked myself in much alarm what I could do. Should I turn back? No; my business was of the utmost importance to the cause for which I was journeying, and as long as there existed the faintest possibility of getting there, I could not think of returning. Should I trust to the speed of my horse, and endeavor to dash by the man at full speed? No; for the gate through which I had to pass was not open. Could I leave the road and make my way through the fields? I could not; for I was hemmed in by rocky banks or high hedges on both sides. The idea of risking a personal encounter could not be entertained for a moment, for what chance could I—weak and unarmed—have against a powerful man with a dangerous weapon in his hand? What course then should I pursue? I could not tell; and at length, in despair rather than in a spirit of humble trust and confidence, I bowed my head and offered up a silent prayer. This had a soothing effect upon my mind, so that, refreshed and invigorated, I proceeded anew to consider the difficulties of my position.

"'At this juncture my horse, growing impatient at the delay, started off; I clutched the reins, which I had let fall on his neck, for the purpose of checking him, when happening to turn my eyes, I saw to my utter astonishment that I was no longer alone. There, by my side, I beheld a horseman in a dark dress, mounted on a white steed. In intense amazement I gazed upon him; where could he have come from? He appeared as suddenly as if he had sprung from the earth. He must have been riding behind and overtaken me. And yet I had not heard the slightest sound: it was mysterious, inexplicable. But the joy of being released from my perilous position soon overcame my feelings of wonder, and I began at once to address my companion. I asked him if he had seen any one, and then described to him what had taken place, and how relieved I felt by his sudden appearance, which now removed all cause of fear. He made no reply, and, on looking at his face, he seemed paying but slight attention to my words, but continued intently gazing in the direction of the gate, now about a quarter of a mile ahead. I followed his gaze, and saw the reaper emerge from his concealment and cut across a field to our left, resheathing his sickle as he hurried along. He had evidently seen that I was no longer alone, and had relinquished his intended attempt.

"'All cause for alarm being gone, I once more sought to enter into conversation with my deliverer, bat again without the slightest success. Not a word did he deign to give me in reply. I continued talking, however, as we rode on our way toward the gate, though I confess feeling both surprised and hurt at my companion's mysterious silence. Once, however, and only once did I hear his voice. Having watched the figure of the reaper disappear over the brow of a neighboring hill, I turned to my companion and said, "Can it for a moment be doubted that my prayer was heard, and that you were sent for my deliverance by the Lord?" Then it was that I thought I heard the horseman speak, and that he uttered the single word, " Amen." Not another word did he give utterance to, though I tried to elicit from him replies to my questions, both in English and Welsh.

"'We were now approaching the gate, which I hastened to open, and having done so with my stick, I turned my head to look— the mysterious horseman was gone! I was dumbfounded; I looked back in the direction from which we had just been riding, but though I could command a view of the road for a considerable distance, he was not to be seen. He had disappeared as mysteriously as he had come. What had become of him? He could not have gone through the gate, nor have made his horse leap the high hedges which on both sides shut in the road. Where was he? Had I been dreaming? Was it an apparition, a specter which had been riding by my side for the last ten minutes? Could it be possible that I had seen no man or horse at all, and that the vision was but a creature of my imagination? I tried hard to convince myself that this was the case, but in vain; for, unless someone had been with me, why had the reaper resheathed his murderous-looking sickle and fled? Surely no; this mysterious horseman was no creation of my brain. I had seen him; who could he have been?

"'I asked myself this question again and again; and then a feeling of profound awe began to creep over my soul. I remembered the singular way of his first appearance—his long silence—and then again the single word to which he had given utterance; I called to mind that this reply had been elicited from him by my mentioning the name of the Lord, and that this was the single occasion on which I had done so. What could I then believe?—but one thing, and that was, that my prayer had indeed been heard, and that help had been given from on high at a time of great danger. Full of this thought, I dismounted, and throwing myself on my knees, I offered up a prayer of thankfulness to Him who had heard my cry, and found help for me in time of need.

"'I then mounted my horse and continued my journey. But through the long years that have elapsed since that memorable summer's day I have never for a moment wavered in my belief that in the mysterious horseman I had a special interference of Providence, by which means I was delivered from a position of extreme danger.'"

Our second extract is from the Christian at Work, a very lively, interesting, vigorously conducted paper, of which Mr. Talmage was the editor when I saw the story. It is entitled A True Tale of a Spirit

"The first settlers of many of the New England towns laid out their graveyards at the center of the town, and built up the village around the burying-ground as if to keep in sight and have a tender and watchful care over their dead. Upon this public square—a part of which was consecrated to burial purposes—were usually erected all the public buildings.

"About the time of which we write there was much being said and published about witches and ghosts in various parts of the country; very exciting accounts of their being seen and of their strange doings were told, until Spirit stories became the topic of gossip in the shop, at the tavern, and at all the village gatherings by night and by day. About this time the ghosts made such a demonstration at Morristown, New Jersey, as to call forth a printed pamphlet of some fifty pages, giving the details of their midnight behavior, etc., which was read and discussed by old and young, by mothers and grandmothers, until many actually became so timid that they dared not venture out after dark, and children would not go to bed alone. The more people talked about them, the more ghosts were seen; but always at night, and usually when it was very dark.

"It was late in the month of November that some persons in Guilford, Conn., returning from a party one dark, dismal night—when the winds whistled and the signs creaked upon their hinges as they passed the graveyard—saw a large white object moving slowly about among the tombstones, and they all unhesitatingly pronounced it a Spirit. It could be nothing else. Such an object in such a place, at such a time of night, must be a spirit of some departed one. Owing both to the fact of the parties being persons of character, and to the feverish state of the public mind, no small sensation was created in the usually quiet old town, and even the more intelligent people were made to wonder what it all meant. The next night it was seen again, and for several succeeding nights, by different persons, whose statements of the facts could not be questioned. At last curiosity ran so high, and the fact was so unquestioned, that there was a real live Spirit to be seen every night about midnight in the graveyard, that several young men of respectability, who supposed they possessed courage, agreed to arm themselves with lanterns and clubs, and go out the next night and ascertain what it really was that had wrought up so many minds to such a degree of apprehension; and if it was the unquiet spirit of some departed one, to learn, if possible, what it wanted or what was its object in coming every night to disturb the peace and quiet of so many harmless people. They accordingly all met a little before midnight to carry out their plan, but seemed rather reluctant to set forth upon their desperate errand. However, they approached the graveyard; but they had not proceeded far when, sure enough, there was the very identical Spirit confronting them, and slowly moving toward them. This brought them all to a halt: trembling with the cold chills of fear, in the stillness of midnight darkness, not a word spoken by any one. In a moment more they all simultaneously turned and fled.

"The very next night after these brave young men had failed to communicate with the Spirit, just at twelve o'clock, in the dead darkness of midnight, when the silence of the sepulcher brooded over the town, the people were aroused from their slumbers by the tolling of the bell high up in the belfry of the old 'meetinghouse,' upon the other end of the public square. The next night the same thing occurred again, and, in connection with the current stories of the Spirit, now began to excite no small degree of interest among all classes of the community. Several arose from their beds and went to the meetinghouse, and there called to the sexton to know what it meant. But they found the doors all locked and no sexton there. Was the town haunted? At last it was unanimously resolved that something must be done to unravel the mystery. So the next night six of the most resolute daredevils in the town were bargained with to go into the graveyard and await the approach of the Spirit, and when he appeared, to respectfully demand his business, and what his ghostship really wanted.

"The night was fearfully dark and dismal, and when all the inhabitants had retired for the night—with not a light to be seen in any dwelling, and the profound stillness of midnight darkness spread over the borough—these six young fellows walked out and took a stand where the Spirit had several nights been seen, and waited with no small degree of anxiety for nearly two hours, with their eyes turned in every direction, when, behold! in the dim distance was seen approaching a large white object moving slowly toward them, or toward the spot where they stood. They all watched with fearful tremor. They were near the center of the grounds inclosed. No one spoke aloud or moved a limb. Some began to feel cold chills creep over them as they cast about in their own minds for a chance to retreat now, as the object, with a heavy tread, approached, and uncertainty began to take possession of them all. But here they were, and they had all sworn to see the end of this mystery or perish in the attempt; and the end seemed fast approaching that was to put their courage and manhood to the test. The object on which all eyes were fixed, to discern through the darkness something more clearly, had now approached very near them, and as several were on the eve of turning to run, Fred Meigs, one of the party, who never knew fear under any circumstances, burst out laughing, when they all stepped forward, and, behold! Mr. Lot Benton's old white mare, that for several nights had found her way out of the barnyard near by, and quietly walked out to graze on the high grass in the graveyard. And here was solved the puzzle of the Spirit. But the bell tolling at midnight in a quiet old New England town for three successive nights, without the aid or knowledge of the sexton, yet remained an unsolved mystery. So the next day after the interview with the Spirit, that matter was taken in hand, and with more boldness since the Spirit had been discovered, when the fact was developed that a reckless fellow, who had become familiar with the excitement that had for some time existed concerning the Spirit in the graveyard, had one night, after dark, undiscovered, climbed, by ways best known to himself, into the belfry, tied a twine string to the tongue of the bell, descended again to the ground and led the string to his chamber window, and there he sat for three nights fanning the excitement of the Spirit stories by tolling the great church bell at midnight, until the whole town became alarmed or frightened with a superstitious dread of something—they knew not what. With these discoveries all interest in ghosts and witches ceased, and the people settled down into their usual quietness and sober orthodoxy."

Let the reader decide for himself whether Spirit stories are all fudge or no; but in any case, if he be a Christian, let him never fear, for he spoke truly who said, "Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither divination against Israel." "You shall not be afraid for the terror by night" is a divine promise which only needs faith in order to be realized by every child of God.


Chapter 7. The Great Pot and the Twenty Loaves

"Set on the great pot."—2 Kings 4:38.

"Then bring meal."—2 Kings 4:41.

"Give unto the people that they may eat."—2 Kings 4:42.

We scarcely need go over the story. There was a dearth in the land; Elisha came to the college of the prophets, which consisted of about a hundred brethren, and found that they were in want, as the result of the famine. While he was teaching the young men he observed that they looked as if they needed food, and he found that there was none in the house. Elisha, therefore, ordered his servant to take the great pot, which generally stood upon long legs over the fire, and make a nourishing soup in it. True, there was nothing to put in the pot, but he believed that God would provide. It was his to set the pot over the fire, and it was the Lord's to fill it. Certain of the young men were not so sure as Elisha that God could fill it without their help, and one with great eagerness went out to gather something from the fields; his help turned out to be of small service, for he brought home poisonous cucumbers, and cut them up and threw them into the broth; and, lo, when they began to pour it out, it was acrid to the taste, gave them a terrible colic, and made them cry out, "There is death in the pot."

Then the prophet said, "Bring meal." This was put into the steaming caldron, the poison was neutralized, the food was made wholesome, and the students were satisfied. This miracle was in due time followed up by another. A day or two afterward the young prophets were still needing food, and the larder was again empty. Just at that time a devout man comes from a little distance, bringing a present for the prophet, which consisted of a score of loaves similar to our penny rolls. The prophet bids his servitor set this slender quantity before the college. He is astonished at the command to feed a hundred hungry men with so little, but he is obedient to it; and while he is obeying the little food is multiplied, so that the hundred men eat and are perfectly satisfied, and there is something left. I believe there are lessons to be learned from these two miracles, and I shall try to bring out these lessons in three forms. First, as they shall relate to the present condition of religion in our land; secondly, as they may be made to relate to the condition of backsliders; and thirdly, as they may afford comfortable direction to seeking sinners.

First, then, our text as in a parable sets forth in a figure our course of action in connection with religion in our own land.

And, first, there is a great need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have not a hundred men famishing nowadays, but hundreds of thousands, and even hundreds of millions in this great world who are perishing for want of heavenly food. The church must feed the people. It is not for us to say, we hope they will be saved, and leave it there; or set it down as a work that cannot be done until the millennium, too difficult for us to undertake. Our business is in the strength of God to grapple with the present condition of things. Here are the millions famishing; shall we let them famish? I remember seeing a similar sentence under the likeness of the late Richard Knill. "The heathen are perishing! Shall we let them perish?" "But," says one, "how can we possibly supply them with food?" See what Elisha did: the people were hungry, and there was no food in hand, except a little meal, yet he said, "Set on the great pot." Faith always does as much as she can: if she cannot fill the pot, she can put it on the fire, at any rate. If she cannot find meat for the pottage, she pours in the water, lights the fire, and prays and waits. Some have not this faith nowadays, and until we have it we cannot expect the blessing. "Thus says the Lord, enlarge the place of your tent and stretch forth the curtains of your habitation." Why? Because "you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left." What was the command on a great occasion when the host lacked water? Did not the prophet cry, "Thus says the Lord, make this valley full of ditches"? They were to dig trenches before the water came, and thus show their confidence that the Lord would fill them. Few will regard such a summons as this. The feeble faith of our time finds it difficult to enlarge the tent even after the increase has come, and the people are there to fill it. Great faith would enlarge the tents before the necessity was apparent, and expect the Lord to keep His promise, and multiply us with men as with a flock. The Church of God greatly needs, not foolish confidence in herself, which would lead her to be Quixotic, but simple confidence in God, which would enable her to be apostolic, for she would then go forth believing that God would be with her, and great things would be accomplished by her. She would open her mouth wide, expecting that God would fill it, and fill it He would. Faith does what she can, and waits for her Lord to do what He can. Brother, what is your faith doing? Are you putting the great pot on the fire in expectation of a blessing?

"Set on the great pot," said the great prophet, "and see the pottage." He was not in jest, he meant what he said. Often when we get as far as setting on the pot, it is not for seething pottage. We feel the desire to carry out spiritual work, but we do not come to practical action as those who work for immediate results. Oh for practical common-sense in connection with Christianity! Oh for reality in connection with the idea of faith! When a man goes to his business to make money, he goes there with all his wits about him; but frequently when men come to prayer and Christian service they leave their minds behind, and do not act as if they were transacting real business with God. Elisha, when he said, "Put on the great pot," expected God to fill it; he was sure it would be so, and he waited in all patience until dinner was ready. O Church of God, set on the pot, and the great pot, too. Say, "The Lord will bless us." Get your granary cleaned out, that the Lord may fill it with good corn. Put the grist into the hopper, and look for the wind to turn the sails of the mill. O you doubters, throw up the windows, that the fresh breeze of the divine Spirit may blow in on your sickly faces. Expect that God is about to send the manna, and have your omers ready. We shall see greater things than these if we awake to our duty and our privilege. It is the Church's business to feed the world with spiritual bread; she can only do so by faith, and she ought to act with faith in reference to it.

The faith of Elisha was not shared by all the brethren. There were some who must needs go and fill the pot, and they were in such a hurry that they gathered the gourds of the colocynth vine and poisoned the whole mess, and it became needful to find an antidote for the poison. Their unbelief made them catch at anything which came to hand, so that it seemed likely to fill up the caldron; and, therefore, acting without discrimination, they had quantity but not quality, they had plenty of pumpkins, but death was in them. We here see our second duty— the church must provide an antidote for the heresies and poisonous doctrines of the present age. There has entered into the public ministry of this country a deadly poison. We may say of the church in general, "O you man of God, there is death in the pot!" Zealous persons whose zeal for God is not according to knowledge, have gone about and gathered the gourds of the wild vine. I think I could tell you what kind of gourds they are; some of them are very pretty to look at, and they grow best on the seven hills of Rome—they are called "ritualistic performances;" these they shred into the pot. There are gourds of another kind, very delicate and dainty in appearance, which are known as "liberal views," or "modern thought." As a philosopher once talked of extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, so these wild gourds are said to consist of "sweetness and light," but the light is darkness and the sweetness is deadly. They have shred these into the pot, and nobody can taste the doctrinal mixture which is served out from some pulpits without serious risk of soul-poisoning, for "there is death in the pot." What Scriptural doctrine is there which men do not deny and yet call themselves Christians? What truth is there which our fathers held which is indorsed by those who think themselves the leaders of advanced thought? Have they not polluted the entire sanctuary of truth, and lifted up their axes against all the carved work of the temple? On the other hand, have we not everywhere Christ put aside for the crucifix, and the blessed Spirit thrust into a corner by the so-called sacraments? Is not the outward made to drown the inward, and is not the precious truth of the Gospel overlaid by the falsehoods of Rome? There is death in the pot: how is the church to meet it? I believe it will be wise if it follows the example of Elisha. We need not attempt to get the wild gourds out of the pot; they are cut too small and are too cunningly mixed up, they have entered too closely into the whole mass of teaching to be removed. Who shall extract the yeast from the leavened loaf? What then? We must look to God for help, and use the means indicated here. "Bring meal." Good wholesome food was cast into the poisonous broth, and by God's gracious working it killed the poison: the church must cast the blessed Gospel of the grace of God into the poisoned pottage, and false doctrine will not be able to destroy men's souls as it now does. We shall not do much good by disputing, and denouncing, and refusing to associate with people. I call such things harking, but preaching the Gospel is biting. The surest remedy for false doctrine is preaching the truth. Christianity is the cure for Popery. Preach up Christ, and down go the priests; preach grace, and there is an end of masses. I am more and more persuaded that the good old Calvinistic truths, which are now kept in the background, are the great Krupp guns with which we shall blow to pieces the heresies of the day, if once more they are plainly and persistently preached in harmony with the rest of revealed truth. Like ships of war in time of peace, the glorious doctrines of grace have been laid up in ordinary, but now is the time to bring them out to the fight, and if well managed they will pour red-hot shot into the enemy! The people need Gospel teaching. "Bring meal," employ more and more the plain preaching of the Gospel, and evils of all sorts will be overcome. Is the remedy very simple? Do not, therefore, despise it. God be thanked that it is simple; for then we shall not be tempted to give the glory to man's wit and wisdom when the good result is achieved. In this work you can all help, for if only meal is needed a child may bring his little handful. One man may contribute more than another, but the humblest may put in his pinch of meal, and even the commonest servitor in the house may contribute a handful. Spread the Gospel. Spread the Gospel. Spread the Gospel. A society for prosecuting Puseyites—will that do the work? Appeals to Parliament—will they be effectual? Let those who choose to do so cry to lawyers and to Parliaments, but as for us we will preach the Gospel. If I could speak with a voice of thunder, I would say to those friends who are for adopting other means to stop the spread of error, "You waste your time and strength: give all your efforts to the preaching of the Gospel. Lift up Christ, and lay the sinner low. Proclaim justification by faith, the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, and the grand old doctrines of the Reformation, and your work will be done; but by no other means." "Bring meal," said the prophet, and our word at this time is, "Preach the truth as it is in Jesus."

Some of the grossest errors of our own day may yet be overruled by God for the promotion of His truth. There are men who believe in sacramentarianism, who love the Lord Jesus very ardently. When I read some of the poetry of this school, I cannot but rejoice to sec that the writers lore my Lord and Master, and it strikes me that if the whole Gospel could be put before them, we might expect to see some of them become noble preachers of the truth, and perhaps their influence might save the orthodox from dead dry doctrinalism by reviving a more direct devotion to the Savior. Perhaps they will not, after our fashion, talk often of justification by faith, but if they extol the merit of the precious blood and wounds of Jesus, it will come to much the same thing. For my part I care little for the phraseology, if essential truth be really taught, and the Lord Jesus be exalted; and hence the real piety which I see in some high churchmen makes me hope that God will prevent their errors from being so pernicious as otherwise they might he.

Some of the doubters, too—"thinkers," as they prefer to be called—if the Lord renewed them by His Spirit, might bring out the old truths with greater freshness than our more conservative minds are able to do. I love to hear those who have known the vanity of error speak out the truth. They put the old doctrines in new lights and call our attention to beauties which we had overlooked. They are more sympathetic toward the tempted, and are generally more conversant with the grounds of our faith.

Who knows? Who knows? I have a hope which may not prove a dream. I hope that thousands are feeling their way into light, and will come forth soon. Let us not despair, but keep to our work, which is Gospel preaching, telling about Jesus and His dear love, the power of His blood, the prevalence of His plea, the glory of His throne—who knows, I say, but a multitude of the priests may believe, and the philosophers may become babes in Christ's school. "Bring meal," and thus meet the poison with the antidote.

Another lesson comes from the second miracle; let us look at it, and read from the forty-second verse. "And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus says the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord." The loaves brought to Elisha were not quartern loaves like ours, but either mere wafers of meal which had been laid flat on a hot stone, and so baked, or else small rolls of bread. The store was but little, yet Elisha said, "Feed the people," and they were fed. That is the third lesson: the church is to use all she has, and trust in God to multiply her strength. Nowadays individuals are apt to think they may leave matters to societies, but this is highly injurious; we should every one go forth to work for God, and use our own talents, be they few or many. Societies are not meant to enable us to shirk our personal duty, under the idea that our strength is small. Little churches are apt to think that they cannot do much, and therefore they do not expect a great blessing. What can these few cakes do toward feeding a hundred men? They forget that God can multiply them. You limit the Holy One of Israel. Do you think He needs our numbers? Do you think He is dependent upon human strength? I tell you our weakness is a better weapon for God than our strength. The church in the apostolic times was poor, and mostly made up of unlearned and ignorant men, but she was filled with power. What name that would have been famous in ordinary history do you find among her first members? Yet that humble church of fishermen and common people shook the world. The church is for the most part too strong, too wise, too self-dependent, to do much. Oh that she were more God-reliant. Even those whom you call great preachers will be great evils if you trust to them. This I know, we ought never to complain of weakness, or poverty, or lack of prestige, but should consecrate to God what we have. "Oh, but I can scarcely read a chapter." Well, read that chapter to God's glory. You who cannot say more than half a dozen words to others, say that little in the power of the Spirit, and God will bless the effort. If you cannot do more than write a letter to a friend about his soul, or give away a tract to a stranger in the streets, do it in God's name. Brother, sister, do what you can, and in doing this God will strangely multiply your power to do good, and cause great results to flow from small beginnings. Active faith is needed, and, if this be richly present, the Lord in whom we trust will do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask, or even think. Thus much concerning the passage in reference to the Church of God.

Briefly, but very earnestly I desire further to speak to backsliders. In all our churches there are members who are no better than they should be. It is very questionable whether they ought to be allowed to be members at all; they have gone very far back from what they used to be, or ought to be. They scarcely ever join the people of God in public prayer, though they once professed to be very devout. Private prayer is neglected, and family prayer given up. Is it not so with some to whom I address myself? Have you not lost the light of God's countenance and gone far away from happy communion with Christ? It is not for me to charge you; let your own consciences speak. I hope that you are now beginning to feel an inward hunger, and to perceive that your backslidings have brought famine upon you. What shall I bid you do? Go and attempt your own restoration by the works of the law? By no means: I bid you bring your emptiness to Christ, and look for His fullness. Yours is a great empty pot: set it on the fire, and cry to God to fill it. Jesus says to lukewarm Laodicea, "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him." "Alas!" says the Laodicean, "I have nothing in the house." Your confession is true, but when our Lord comes to sup He brings His supper with Him. He stands at the door of every backslider and knocks. Will you let Him in? "Oh," say you, "I wish He would enter." Dear brother, open your heart now, just as you did at the first, when as a poor sinner you went to Him. Say unto Him, "Blessed Lord, there is nothing in me but emptiness, and here is the guest-chamber. Come in all your love and sap with me and let me sup with you. I am nothing, come and be my all in all." "But," says the backslider, "may I really come to Jesus, just as I did at the first?" Listen. "Return, you backsliding children, for I am married unto you, says the Lord." He is married unto you, and though you have behaved badly, the marriage bond is not broken. Where is the bill of divorcement which He has sued out? Is it not written, "He hates putting away"? Come just as you are and begin anew, for He will accept you again.

"But," say you, "alas for me, I have been gathering wild gourds!" What have you been doing, professor? You have left undone what you ought to have done, and you have done the things you ought not to have done, and therefore there is no health in you. You have been trying to find pleasure in the world, and you have found wild vines? You have been tempted by love of music, love of mirth, love of show, and you have gathered "wild gourds, a lap full," almost a heart full. You have been shredding death into the pot, and now you cannot feel as you used to feel, the poison is stupefying your soul. While God's people are singing you are sighing, "I want to sing as saints do, but there is no praise in me." When you meet with a man who is mighty in prayer you say, "Alas, I used to pray like that, but my power is gone"—the poison is paralyzing you. If you are a worldling, and not God's child, you can live on that which would poison a Christian; but if you are a child of God you will cry out, "O you man of God, there is death in the pot!" Some of you are rich, and have fallen into worldly, fashionable habits—these are the colocynth cucumbers which poison many. Others of you are poor, and necessarily work with ungodly men, and perhaps their example has lowered the tone of your spirit and led you into their ways. If you love this condition I grieve for you, but if you loathe it I trust you are a child of God, notwithstanding your decline. What are you to do who have in any way fallen? Why, receive afresh the soul-saving Gospel. "Bring meal"—simple, nourishing, Gospel truth, and cast it into the poisoned pottage. Begin anew with Jesus Christ, as you did at first; say to Him, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." "Repent and do your first works." Do you not recollect the period when first your eyes lighted on His cross, and you stood there burdened and heavy laden, fearing that you would sink to Hell, until you read in His dear wounds that your sins were put away? There you found peace as you saw transgression laid on Jesus and removed from you. Oh, how you loved Him. Come, brother, let us go tonight again to the cross, and begin to love Him again. That will cure you of the world's poisonous influences, and bring back the old feelings, the old joys, the old loves, and take the death out of the pot. Backslider, you need now exactly what you needed at first, namely, faith in Jesus. Come repenting, come believing, to the Savior, and He will remove the ills which the gourds of earth's wild vines have brought upon you.

"Ah," say some of you, "we can understand how the Lord Jesus can fill our emptiness and heal our soul's sicknesses, but how shall we continue in the right way? Our past experience has taught us our weakness, and we are now afraid that even the great pot will only last us for a little while, and then our souls will famish." Then remember the other part of our text, in which we read that when the few loaves, and the ears of corn in the husks, were brought to Elisha, the Lord multiplied them. Though you have very little grace, that grace shall be increased. "He gives more grace." We receive grace for grace—daily grace for daily need. Between this and Heaven you will want a Heaven full of grace, and you will have it. No one knows what draughts you will make upon the sacred treasury of the King of kings, but His treasury will not be exhausted. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and truly you shall be fed."

Our third and last word is to the seeking sinner. Many of you, I trust, desire salvation. The subject before us has much comfort in it for you. You are hungering and thirsting after Christ, and have not yet found peace in Him. You lament your own emptiness of all that is good. Then, poor soul, do just what the prophet bade his servant do—"set on the great pot"; that is, confess your emptiness unto the Lord. Tell the Lord what a sinner you are. I know not whether the story be true of Mr. Rowland Hill's leading the landlord of an inn to pray. Mr. Hill would have family prayer wherever he stayed, and if this was refused he would order out his horses and go on. On one occasion he is reported to have asked the landlord to act as priest in his own house, but the man replied, "I can't pray, I never prayed in my life." However, after a while Mr. Hill had him on his knees, and when the man said, "I cannot pray," Mr. Hill cried out, "Tell the Lord so, and ask Him to help you." The man exclaimed, "O God, I can't pray, teach me." "That will do," said Mr. Hill, "you have begun." Whatever your state may be, if you desire salvation, go and tell the Lord your condition. Say, "Lord, I have a hard heart; soften it." If you cannot feel, tell Him so, and ask Him to make you feel. Begin at the root of the matter; set on the great pot, empty as it is. Be honest with the Most High; reveal to Him what He so well knows, but what you so little know—the evil of your heart, and your great necessity. If you cannot come with a broken heart, come for a broken heart. If you cannot come with anything good, the mercy is that nothing good is needed as a preparation for Christ. Come just as you are. Do not wait to until the pot, but set it on to be filled. Do I hear you reply, "Ah, you don't know who I am! I have lived many years in sin." Yes, I know you: you are the young man that found the wild vine and went and gathered of its gourds a lapful—a horrible lapful. Some of you rebellious sinners have ruined yourselves, in body and in soul, and perhaps in estate as well, by your sins. We hear of people sowing their wild oats: that is a bad business. They had better never do it, for the reaping of those wild oats is terrible work. You have poisoned your life, man, with those wild gourds. Can the pottage of your life be made wholesome again? Yes, you cannot do it with your own efforts, but "bring meal," and it will be done. If you Believe on the Lord Jesus, He will be the antidote for deadly habits of sin. If you will simply trust in Him who bled for you, the tendency of your soul to sin shall be overcome, the poison which now boils in your veins shall be expelled, and your soul shall escape as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. Your flesh upon you, in a spiritual sense, shall become fresher than a little child's. You are full of the poison, until every vein is ready to burst with it; the great Physician will give you an antidote which shall at once and forever meet your case. Will you not try it? Incline your ear and come unto Him; hear, and your soul shall live. May God put the meal of the Gospel into the pot even now.

"Ah," say you, "but if I were now pardoned, how should I hold on? I have made a hundred promises and always broken them; I have resolved scores of times, but my resolutions have never come to anything." Ah, poor heart, that is when you have the saving of yourself; but when God has the saving of you, it will be another matter. When we begin to save ourselves we very soon come to a disastrous shipwreck; but when God, the eternal lover of the souls of men, puts His hand to salvation-work, and Jesus puts forth the hand once fastened to the cross, there are no total failures then. He saves indeed, and saves to the end. The little grace received by the soul at first shall never be exhausted; it shall grow and grow so long as need remains. The barley loaves and the ears of corn in the husks shall be increased, and you shall have enough and to spare.

I have tried to preach a very simple sermon, and to say some earnest things; but it is likely I may have missed the mark with some, and therefore I will again draw the Gospel bow in the name of the Lord Jesus. O Lord, direct the arrow. If God will bring souls to Jesus, I will bless His name throughout eternity. Poor lost souls, do you know the way of salvation, do you know how simple it is? Do you know the love of God to such poor souls as you are, and yet do you refuse to attend to it? Do you know that He does not exact any hard conditions of you, but He points to His Son on the cross, and says, "Look"? Can it be that you will not look? Does Jesus die to save, and do you think it is not worth your while to think about salvation? What is the matter with you? Surely you must be mad. When I look back on my own neglect of Christ, until I was fifteen years old, it seems like a delirious dream, and when I think of some of you who are thirty or forty, and yet have never thought about your souls, what can be invented to excuse you? I see some of you with bald heads, or with the snow of wintry age lying upon them, and you have not yet considered the world to come; I would say to you, "Men, are you mad?" Why, you are worse than mad, for if you were insane, you would be excused. Alas, the madness of sin has responsibility connected with it, and therefore it is the worst of all insanities. I pray you by the living God, you unsaved ones, turn unto the Savior at once. If you be saved or lost it cannot so much matter to me as it will to you. If I faithfully beseech you to look for Jesus, I shall be clear, even if you reject the warning; but for your own sakes, I beseech you to turn to Jesus. By death, which may be so near to you; by judgment, which is certain to you all; by the terrors of Hell, by the thunderbolts of execution, by eternity, and, better still, by the sweets of Jesus' love, by the charms of His matchless beauty, by the grace which He is prepared to give, by the Heaven whose gates of pearl are glistening before the eye of faith, by the sea of glass unruffled by a single wave of trouble, where you shall stand forever blessed if you believe in Jesus, by the Lord Himself, I entreat you, seek Him while He may be found. May His Holy Spirit lead you so to do. Amen and Amen.


Chapter 8. The Saint of the Smithy

Latter-day saints are very objectionable people on account of their peculiar ideas upon marriage; but we have a great liking for every-day saints. The taste of the medieval ages was enchanted with holy men who could sail over seas upon outspread table-cloths, or fast for forty consecutive days, or carry their heads in their hands after decapitation; but such specimens of sanctity, besides being in these degenerate times most hard to get at, are too unearthly, we mean too little human to enlist our sympathy St. Francis, when described as so elevated by his devotions that his disciples could only kiss the soles of his feet as he floated in the air, is too ethereal for our liking, we want a little more gravity than this in a saint, perhaps it may turn out that a little more levity would do as well.

The grace which unfits a man for the duties of this present life is a doubtful blessing; in a romance your superfine mystic may have a conspicuous place allotted him, but in real life he is a nullity, a chip in the porridge, or worse. He who can pray like Elijah is all the better an example for mankind if he avoids all affectation of superhuman refinement, and lets us see that, like the grand old prophet, he is a man of like passions with us. We admire Paul caught up into the third Heaven; but those who were thrown into his company felt the power of his godliness all the more because he could make a tent or light a fire as occasion demanded. Holiness in white gowns or black silk aprons, or lace half a yard deep, reminds us of love in a valentine, very romantic, roseate, and all that, but quite another thing from flesh-and-blood affection. One longs to see the popular idea of holiness once for all dissociated from anything unreal and unpractical, and yoked with the common virtues of every-day life. The smashing up of the whole caravan of sanctified wax-works which, in years gone by, have attracted ignorant admiration, would be a special benefit to our race; and the exhibition of real, household, common-sense religion in its most vigorous form, would be under God one of the greatest blessings which our age could receive.

Our remarks will not, we hope, be misunderstood. Sanctification cannot be carried too far, holiness unto the Lord can never be too complete; the very highest forms of elevated character are to be our models, and we ought not to rest until we have equaled them; but we have lived long enough in this world to be afraid of squeamish and pretentious sanctity. The grossest hypocrites we have ever been deceived by were superfluously unctuous in expression; and the faultiest professors whose falls have saddened us, were superlatively fastidious in their religious tastes. We have come to be afraid of gold that glitters too much, and bread that is too white. Men always will be imperfect, and when they profess perfection, and become too good to attend to their duties as husbands, or servants, or children, or parents, so as to make others happy, they prove themselves to be but "worse for mending; washed to fouler stains." If they could manage to be perfect without making everybody else miserable, they should have our reverent admiration, but while we can find in the life of the only truly perfect man so much that is genial and intensely human, we shall never enshrine mere unearthliness in the heavenly places. Our Savior could not have been more a man had He been sinful; His humanity though immaculate was not effeminate, though without sin he was not therefore abridged of any essential attribute of every-day manhood; He was no walker on stilts, His holiness trod on terra firma with other men; He was no recluse, He ate and drank with the many; He was not even an ascetic, but was found at marriages and festivals. A man among men, nothing that concerned mankind was alien to Him, no joy of humble men was to Him ridiculous, no sorrow of mournful women contemptible. Give to the world an exhibition of such holiness on a wide scale, and while convents and monasteries would moulder into ruins, the whole earth would be gladdened by a golden era worthy to match with the millennial glory. Let the parlor and the drawing-room be adorned with cheerful piety, let the kitchen and the scullery be sanctified with unobtrusive godliness, let the shop and the office, the shed and the factory, be perfumed with unassuming holiness; let forge and bench, and stall and lathe and spinning-jenny, all be holiness unto the Lord, and the better times long sighed for will have come at last. We do not mean that men should become abject slaves of mere external religiousness; far from it, the true piety of which we write will give them the fullest freedom; when hearts are right, wills are rectified, and goodness becomes the highest delight of the soul: the reign of righteousness will be the era of liberty and joy. Men will be all the more men when they become God's men; and even the peculiarities of their individual temper and constitution will not be extinguished, but made to subserve the glory of the Lord by exhibiting in charming variety the beauty of holiness.

Such thoughts came into our mind as we took up the memoir which we read years ago, and which we dare say some of our readers have even now fresh in their memories: we refer to the "Life of the Village Blacksmith," Samuel Hick, or more correctly, Sammy Hick. Sammy was a Yorkshireman, belonging to no readily specified order of men. If you sort and arrange mankind, he comes under no genus; he was one by himself, after his own order; he was—well, he was Sammy Hick, and nobody else. Simple, yet shrewd; bold, yet cautious; generous to a fault, thoroughly original, quaint to a proverb, humorous, devout, full of faith, zealous, sufficiently self-opinioned, humble, rough, gentle, pure, dogmatic, resolute—he was as a Christian a very remarkable amalgam of much gold and silver, with here and there a lump of iron or clay. Called by grace while wielding the hammer, he continued in his honest calling, and made his smithy the center of evangelical activities, which entirely changed the appearance of the society among which he moved. He was a man who could not be hid, and though poor and illiterate, the force of his character made him a power among all around. O that all our church members would make it their ambition to make their worldly avocations a vantage ground for fighting their Master's battles!

While Sammy was yet a mere seeker, he showed the force of his nature by defending an open-air preacher against a clergyman. Just as his reverence was about to pull down the Methodist evangelist from the preaching-block, the youthful neophyte clinched his fists, and holding them in a menacing fashion before his face, accosted the surprised divine with the summary remark: "Sir, if you disturb that man of God, I'll drop you as sure as ever you were born." The emphasis of the words prevented the necessity of the blows, and having secured a hearing for his teacher, the muscular Christian subsided into the attentive listener. When at length led to the cross, and admitted into peace with God, Sammy thought that he could make all the world believe, and resolved to commence operations upon the landlady of an inn, which he had frequented in his unregenerate days. The woman was surprised to hear words of warning and instruction from such a mouth, and indignantly turned him out of her house. Having but lately proved the power of prayer on his own account, Sam withdrew to a quiet corner, and poured out his soul to God on her behalf. No sooner was the cry lifted up to Heaven than it was heard: the woman, on his return to the house, begged his pardon for her rudeness, entreated him to kneel down and ask the Lord to save her, and lived and died a lover of the truths which she had once despised. Thus encouraged, Hick became a leader among a zealous band of Wesleyans, who were incessantly seeking the conversion of souls; and so absorbed did he become in soul-winning, that one night, awaking suddenly from a dream, he aroused his wife, and accosting her by name, exclaimed, "Matty, I believe I am called to preach the Gospel." Martha, who was his guardian angel, and an admirable make-weight in the direction of prudence, bade him go to sleep again, at the same time casting considerable doubts upon the authenticity of the call. His brethren in the circuit judged otherwise than Martha, and Sammy was allowed to deliver his singular but powerful addresses from the Methodist pulpits around his native village. His harangues would, doubtless, have been the reverse of edifying to our educated readers, but they created no small stir among the colliers and laborers of the district. Hick, as a preacher, was adapted to his hearers, a matter of the first importance; it is of no use to try to open oysters with a Mappin's razor, and, on the other hand, delicate surgery is not to be performed with a bill-hook; every instrument must be adapted to its end. In so wide a world as this, it is a man's own fault if he does not find a sphere for which he is better fitted than any other man. Some of the quieter Methodists could not stand Samuel's noise. "But," said Samuel, "it was a mercy they went out, for it rid the place of a deal of unbelief, which they took away with them." No good man can hope to please everybody, and no brave man will break his heart when he finds that he has failed in this respect, as others have done before him. Our hero went on with his praying and preaching, and left others to criticize or censure who felt a leaning in that direction. His discoursings were once condemned as terribly rambling, and the good man, instead of denying the charge, claimed some sort of merit for it. "For," said he, "those who go straight on may perhaps hit one, but my talk, as it goes in and out among the crowd, knocks many down." His best preachings, however, were not from the pulpit, but by the smithy fire. Though he ranged his circuit with burning zeal, and had his name on two sets of plans, because, as he said, "There is no living with half work," yet it was at the forge that he dealt the heaviest strokes, there he melted the hardened, and riveted his life-work. A neighboring squire rode up to Sam's forge, upon a horse which had lost a shoe in the heat of the chase. His squireship commenced swearing at some other smith who had yesterday put on the shoe so clumsily; whereupon, without further ceremony, the worthy blacksmith quietly informed him that he paid the rent of the shop, and that while it was in his hands he would suffer no man to take God's name in vain within those walls, and that if he swore again he would not set the shoe on. Many a man with a cleaner face would have hesitated before he so consistently maintained his Maker's cause. The rebuke was kindly taken, and when the horse was shod, a piece of silver was offered in payment, which he was expected to retain, but Sam, as honest as he was bold, returned the change, saying, "I only charge a poor man two-pence, and I shall shall charge you, sir, no more." Shoeing must have been cheap in those days; but the return of the change has a nobility about it, grandly like the princely independence of Abraham, when he said to the king of Sodom, "I will not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet, lest you should say, I have made Abraham rich."

His rebuke of certain fox-hunting parsons was as clever as it was catting. "'They met anent (opposite) my shop,' says Samuel, 'and stopped until the hounds came. Among the party were the Hon. C. C—, vicar of K—, the Earl's brother; the Rev. W—, rector of G—; the late Rev. C—, vicar of A—; and Dr. E—, who followed the medical profession at K—. It came into my mind,' continued Samuel, 'that the three clergymen had no business there.' His movements generally corresponding with the rapidity of his thoughts, he instantly 'threw down the hammer and the tongs,' darted out of the shop door, and appeared in the midst of them with his shirt sleeves turned up, his apron on, his face and hands partaking of the hue of his employment, as fine game, in the estimation of some of them, to occupy the lingering moments, until other game should be started, as any that could present itself in human shape. 'Most of them,' says he, 'knew me. I said to them, Gentlemen, this is one of the finest hunts in the district. You are favored with two particular privileges; and they are privileges which other districts have not.' This excited curiosity, which was as quickly gratified; for the inquiry relative to 'privileges' was no sooner proposed than the answer was given: 'If any of you should happen to slip the saddle, and get a fall, you have a doctor to bleed you; and three parsons to pray for you: and what are these but privileges? Three parsons! Oh! yes, there they are.'"

Methodists are great at begging, and our hero never flinched from his share of that hardest of labors. His success was remarkable, but his courage was more so. His begging was not confined within the limit which decorum usually suggests. "'I went to Ricall," says he; 'and I purposed going to all the houses in the town; I thought there would be no harm in calling upon the church clergyman. I did so, and found him in his garden. I presented my book, which he gave me again, and looked at me.' The look would have had a withering effect upon many of Samuel's superiors; but the same spirit and views which had emboldened him to make the application, supported him in the rebuff with which he met. 'I am surprised,' said the clergyman, 'that you should make such a request; that you should ask me to support dissenters from the Church of England!' Samuel instantly interposed with, 'No, sir, we are not dissenters; the church has dissented from us. The Methodists are good churchmen, where the Gospel is preached. And as for myself, I never turned my back on a collecting paper when I went to church. I think there is no more harm in you helping to support us, than there is in us helping to support you.' The clergyman here took shelter under the wing of the State—his only ground of defense—by replying, 'You are obliged to support us; the law binds you to do it.' Samuel, in return, resorted to the only code of laws with which he had any acquaintance, and which he consulted daily, the Christian code, saying, 'Ours is a law of love; and if we cannot all think alike, we must all love alike." Though foiled by the ecclesiastic, he succeeded better with the laity, and notably on the occasion when he carried a miser by storm. He had stated the needs of the Lord's work, but found his friend utterly immovable. Down on his knees fell Samuel, and commenced fervently pleading for the miserly soul, that God would forgive him for daring to plead poverty when he had thousands of gold and silver, and for venturing to profess to be a Christian while he worshiped his pelf. "Sam," cried the farmer, with great vehemence, "I'll give you a guinea if you will give over." This availed nothing, for the suppliant only began to plead with the greater fervor that pardon might be given to the miserly creature who could only give a single guinea toward the evangelization of the world, when the Lord had done so much for him. This last assault made the farmer alarmed lest he should be induced to give too much, and therefore he roared out, "Sam, I tell you to give over: I'll give you two guineas, if you will only give it up," The two guineas were instantaneously secured, and borne away in triumph. Shockingly bad taste no doubt all this, but the man could no more help it than an eagle can help flying. His heart and soul were as red hot as his own coals when the bellows were going, and there was no room in his case for deliberations as to taste and propriety. His own giving was always beyond the point which prudence and Martha would have tolerated; he emptied his pockets on all missionary and collecting occasions, with far more glee than money-grubbers feel when they are filling theirs. He had a right to fetch another man's donkey for his Master, since he was delighted to put his own clothes upon it.

Sammy was great at a sick-bed, though even there the eccentric element would occasionally crop out, as for instance, when upon going to visit a Roman Catholic, he was repulsed by the priest, but urged as a reason for admittance that he could help the priest, for "two are better far than one." Prayer was his delight, and his power in it with his God made many wonder. We personally know that prayer is a reality, and therefore we cast no doubts upon the recorded instances in which this childlike man prevailed in supplication. One of those most often caviled at is thus narrated by his biographer, Mr. Everett: "Samuel was at Knottingly, a populous village in the neighborhood of Ferrybridge, in 1817, where he took occasion to inform his hearers that there would be a love-feast at Micklefield on a certain day, when he should be glad to see all who were entitled to that privilege. He further observed, with his usual frankness and generosity, that he had six bushels of corn, and that they should be ground for the occasion. These comprised the whole of the corn left of the previous year's produce. When, therefore, he returned home, and named his general invitation and intention, Martha, who had as deep an interest in it as himself, inquired very expressively, 'And did you tell them, when all the corn was done, how we were to get through the remainder of the season until another crop should be reaped?' Tomorrow, alas! rarely entered into Samuel's calculations, unless connected with the church. The day fixed for the love-feast drew near—there was no flour in the house—and the windmills, in consequence of a long calm, stretched out their arms in vain to catch the rising breeze. In the midst of this death-like quiet, Samuel carried his corn to the mill nearest his own residence, and requested the miller to unfurl his sails. The miller objected, stated that there was no 'wind.' Samuel, on the other hand, continued to urge his request, saying, 'I will go and pray while you spread the cloth.' More with a view of gratifying the applicant than from any faith he had in Him who holds the natural winds in His fists, and who answers the petitions of His creatures, the man stretched his canvas. No sooner had he done this, than, to his utter astonishment, a fine breeze sprung up, the fans whirled round, the corn was converted into meal, and Samuel returned with his burden rejoicing, and had everything in readiness for the festival. A neighbor who had seen the fans in vigorous motion, took also some corn to be ground; but the wind had dropped, and the miller remarked, 'You must send for Sammy Hick to pray for the wind to blow again.'" We have more faith in this story than in all the Papist miracles put together, laugh who may. His plain personal remarks to individuals were frequently the means of conversion. Would to God that we all were more skillful in the like means of usefulness. "A young lady, who had been known to him from her childhood, and whose palfrey had lost a shoe, called at his shop to have it replaced. She appeared delicate. He looked compassionately upon her, and asked, 'Do you know, barn, whether you have a soul?' Startled with the question, she looked in return; but before she was permitted to reply, he said, 'You have one, whether you know it or not; and it will live in happiness or misery forever.' These and other remarks produced serious reflections. Her father perceived from her manner, on her return home—her residence being not far from Samuel's dwelling—that something was preying upon her spirits. She told him the cause: 'What!' he exclaimed, 'has the old blacksmith been at you, to turn your head? but I will whack (beat) him.' So saying, he took up a large stick, similar to a hedge-stake—left the house—posted off to Samuel's residence—found him at the anvil—and without the least intimation, fetched him a heavy blow on the side, which, said Samuel, when relating the circumstance, 'nearly felled me to the ground,' adding, 'and it is not a little that would have done it in those days.' On receiving the blow, he turned round, and said, 'What are you about, man? what is that for?' Supposing it to be out of revenge, and that religion was the cause of it, he made a sudden wheel, and lifting up his arm, inclined the other side to his enraged assailant, saying, 'Here, man, hit that too.' But either the man's courage failed him, or he was softened by the manner in which the blow was received; beholding in Samuel a real disciple of Him who said, 'Whoever shall smite you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.' He then left him; and Samuel had the happiness of witnessing the progress of religion in the daughter. Some time after this, the person himself was taken ill, and Samuel was sent for. He was shown into the chamber, and, looking on the sick man, he asked, 'What is the matter with you? are you bown to die?' He stretched out his arm to Samuel, and said, 'Will you forgive me?' Not recollecting the circumstance for a moment, Samuel asked, 'What for? I have nothing against you, barn, nor any man living.' The case being stated, the question was again asked, 'Will you forgive me?' 'Forgive you, barn? I tell you I have nothing against you! But if you are about to die, we will pray a bit, and see if the Lord will forgive you.' Samuel knelt by the side of the couch, and the dying man united with him; and from the penitence, fervor, and gratitude which he manifested, there was hope in his death. The daughter continued an object of his solicitude; she grew up to womanhood—became a mother, and he afterward exulted to see her and two of her daughters members of the Wesleyan Society. Four conversions are here to be traced in regular succession, and attributable apparently" to a word fitly and seasonably spoken by one of the weak things of this world becoming mighty through God."

So accustomed to success was our friend, that when he was in London he felt an impulse to try his hand at the conversion of a Jew, who kept a silversmith's shop opposite his lodging. The result was such as one could have prophesied. Jacob eyed Samuel with keenness, thinking to himself, "Here is a greenhorn from the country, I will make some monish out of him." Samuel, on the contrary, with childlike simplicity, said within himself, "Here is a soul to be saved, I will tell him the blessed Gospel." They exchanged looks, and Samuel opened fire. "Bless the Lord! here is a fine morning!" Jacob replied, "It ish, it ish fery fine. Yat be the besht news in city?" The best news that I can hear," replied Samuel, "is that Jesus Christ is pardoning sinners and sanctifying believers." "Poh, poll," rejoined Jacob, turning as red as scarlet, "tuff and non-shensh! It ish all telusion." Whereat Samuel replied with the testimony of his own experience of this Messed delusion, which for forty years had comforted and sanctified his soul; but Jacob had banged the shop door, and beaten a retreat into the little room, leaving Samuel to bless the Lord that he had not been left to be numbered with unbelievers. Such a man would beard the Pope himself, and tell the Grand Turk to his face that in Jesus alone is salvation. The fact is, he lived an artless life; he believed unquestioningly, and was strong; he acted conscientiously, and had no need to fear; he served his Lord unwaveringly, and his reward was power both with God and men. The reader may inquire concerning his death, but we shall give no details; far more important is it to gather wisdom from his life. Like him we may expect to die, singing "Glory, glory, glory," if we have lived under the power of grace.

We should be sorry to see any man imitate Sammy Hick, the copy would be disgusting; but if all our working men and women who are saved by grace would in some such way as he did live and labor for the spread of the Gospel, the day would soon break and the shadows flee away. More genuine, simple, personal piety, and less burnish and mimicry of religion, and the world would behold the church as "terrible as an army with banners."


Chapter 9. In a Fog

That Gog and Magog are legitimate sovereigns of our great city of London we will not venture to dispute; but there is a third potentate whose reign is far more real, and whose dominion is vastly more oppressive—his name is Fog. The other day we rode through London at noonday; through London we said; we meant through a mass of vapor looking almost as thick as melted butter,

"with a sordid stain
Of yellow, like a lion's mane."

A stinging savor of smoke made our eyes run with tears, and a most uncomfortable, clinging, cobwebby dampness surrounded us like a wet blanket, and sent a cold chill to the very marrow of our bones. Light had departed, and darkness, like a black pall, hung horribly over every street—a dense gloom which could not be cheered even by the lamps which in all the shops were burning as if night had set in. The fog sensibly affected all the organs of our body.

"Vapor importunate and dense,
It wars at once with every sense.
The ears escape not. All around
Returns a dull unwonted sound."

Few were the passengers in the streets, and those few flitted before us like shadows, or passed shivering by us like wet sparrows looking out for shelter in a heavy rain. It was of no use to be wretched, and therefore we became thoughtful, and condensed a little of the black mist into drops of meditation.

Are we not all more or less traveling in a fog through this land of cloud and gloom? What is life? 'Tis but a vapor; and that vapor is often a thick, light-obstructing mist! Of the forms around us in God's fair universe have we much more discernment than a fog-picture? To some extent "a formless gray confusion covers all." Where we see one trace of our glorious God, do we not fail to perceive a thousand of the divine touches of His pencil? We may not dare to say even of earthly things that "we see," or those who have formed some guess of what true seeing means will soon declare us to be blind. As to the revelation with which our heavenly Father has so graciously favored us, how little have we gazed upon it in the clear daylight of its own glory. Our prejudices, predilections, fancies, infirmities, follies, iniquities, unbeliefs, and vanities have raised a marsh-mist through which Heaven's own stars can scarcely dart their cheering rays. There is light enough abroad if the dense fog would suffer it to reach us, but for want of the wind of Heaven to chase away the obscuring vapors we walk in twilight and see but glimmerings of truth. We are proud indeed if we dream of attaining a clear view of heavenly things by our own carnal minds, while we grope under moral, mental, and spiritual glooms, which have made the best of men cry, "Enlighten our darkness, good Lord." Well did Paul say, "Here we know in part," and, "here we see through a glass darkly." We have not yet attained face-to-face vision: happy day shall it be when we escape from this cloud-land, and come into the true light where they need no candle, neither light of the sun. We who have believed are not of the night nor of darkness, but yet the smoke of things terrestrial dims our vision and clouds our prospect. When we think of the doctrines of grace, of the person of Christ, of the inward work of the Spirit—when we think of these simpler matters—to say nothing of the Heaven which is to be revealed, of the prophetic apocalypse, or of the glorious coming of the Son of man, how great does our ignorance appear and how small our knowledge! Faith believes what her God has told her; but by reason of "the turbid air" in which we live, how little do we understand of what we believe! When our fellows boastingly cry, "We see," how readily may we detect their blindness. Those men who claim to know all things—who are incapable of further enlightenment—whose creed is made of cast iron and can never be altered—these are the most blind of us all, or else they dwell amid the thickest and densest mists. Surely, we are in a fog—the best of us feel the dread shadow of the fall hovering over us. O Sun of Righteousness, shine forth! Remove our darkness; in your light let us see light. Then will our glad voices ring out your praises, when we shall see you as you are, and shall be like you! We would not give up what little we do see of our Beloved for all the world, for though it be but a glimpse, it is, nevertheless, a vision so blessed that it enables us to wait patiently until we shall see "the King in His beauty, and the land that is very far off."

Being once surrounded by a dense mist on the Styhead Pass in the Lake District, we felt ourselves to be transported into a world of mystery where everything was swollen to a size and appearance more vast, more terrible, than is usual on this sober planet. A little mountain tarn, scarcely larger than a farmer's horse-pond, expanded into a great lake whose distant shores were leagues beyond the reach of our poor optics; and as we descended into the valley of Wastwater, the rocks rose on one side like the battlements of Heaven, and the descent on the other hand looked like the dreadful lips of a yawning abyss; and yet when one looked back again in the morning's clear light there was nothing very dangerous in the pathway or terrible in the rocks. The road was a safe though sharp descent, devoid of terrors to ordinary mountain-climbers. In the distance through the fog the shepherd "stalks gigantic," and his sheep are full-grown lions. Into such blunders do we fall in our life-pilgrimage; a little trouble in the distance is, through our mistiness, magnified into a crushing adversity. We see a lion in the way, although it is written that no ravenous beast shall go up thereon. A puny foe is swollen into a Goliath, and the river of death widens into a shoreless sea. Come, heavenly wind, and blow the mist away, and then the foe will be despised, and the bright shores on the other side of the river will stand out clear in the light of faith!

Men often mistake friends for foes because of the fog in which they walk. Mr. Jay tells us us of one who saw a monster in the distance. He was greatly afraid, but having summoned courage enough to meet it, the monster turned out to be his own brother John. We frequently keep aloof from the best of people for want of knowing them: if we could see them as they are we should love them. The fog so marvelously magnifies faults and distorts peculiarities—we think men dragons, if not devils, in the distance, when a closer view assures us that they are saints and brethren. We all need to be cautioned against misjudging one another.

If the world-fog operates upon Christians who are the children of light, it is little wonder if it has a far worse influence upon unconverted men. They wander in a day of gloom and of thick darkness, in a "darkness which may be felt." Concerning them we may say that their mists shut out the sun. The mercy revealed in the Gospel reaches not the sinner's eyes; his doubts, his sins, his follies keep it away from him. We have full often held up Christ crucified before the sinner, but he could not see Him. We have preached a full salvation to the guilty one, but he could not discern it. The beams of Gospel light are obstructed by the dense mist of carnality in which the worldling lives. Alas for the ungodly! their state is one of such darkness that they lose their way. In the firm belief that they are traveling to Heaven, they choose the path which leads to destruction. They go gayly on, dreaming that they shall reach the rest which remains for the people of God, but they stumble to fall forever. False teaching, sinful inclination, prejudice and predilection, cast a cloud over the sinner's reason, so that he chooses his own damnation. Even when partially convinced of sin he betakes himself to his own self-righteousness, and wanders like a blind man upon a vast plain, toiling hard to reach his destination but making no progress, for there is darkness over all his paths.

It is likely that in such a state as this the sinner may he very near the home where there is rest to he had, and yet he may not know it; in a dense fog it is no unusual thing for a person to be standing before his own door in total ignorance of his whereabouts. The sinner has heard the Gospel preached, but he does not know it as good news for him. He has been present when the Spirit of God has been moving over the assembly, but he did not feel its power. When a mother's tears fell on his forehead he did not perceive that she was God's angel of mercy to him. When, afterward, affliction came and he was laid on the bed of sickness to meditate, he did not know that God had designs of love toward him in bringing him low. Oh that the Spirit of God would dispel these soul-destroying clouds, and make the sinner see that the knocker of mercy's gate is near his hand, and that if he do but use it with earnestness the door will surely be opened, and he shall enter in to be housed, to be welcomed, to be feasted, to be blessed forever!

This darkness, if it continue always, will lure the sinner on to his own destruction. It makes him wretched now, for to walk in spiritual darkness is misery indeed. Our London fog finds its way through your clothing, your flesh, and your bones, right into your very marrow; there is hardly anything more cold and penetrating; and the sinner's life is very like it; he tries to keep out the feeling of despondency, and fear and apprehension, by a thousand inventions which the world calls pleasure, but he cannot do it. He is "without God," and he is therefore without hope; he is without Christ, and he is consequently without rest. He is well pictured by those poor shivering, half-clad, hungry creatures whom we see in a foggy night hurrying on to get a cold seat on the workhouse doorstep. The worst of all is, that the sinner is hastening to his own destruction. He little knows what is before him. His last step was on the firm earth, but his foot now hangs over the jaws of perdition. Beware, O man. Beware, for you are on the brink of a precipice! The fog conceals your danger, but it is none the less real. Beware! for when that fatal plunge is once taken, remonstrances from friends and remorse from self will be all in vain!

To change our line of thought. Is there not a darkness which God sends on men—not moral darkness, for "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all," but the gloom of adversity and affliction? The believer may be in thick darkness as to his circumstances, and as to his soul's enjoyment of the comforts of religion. Some Christians are favored with constant sunlight, but others, like nightingales, sing God's praises best in the night. How dense is this fog just now! Well, what about it? We do not recollect ever thanking God in family prayer for the light of the sun, but we will do so tonight right heartily, for the fog has taught us the value of sunlight. It may be that we should never value the sun if he did not sometimes hide himself behind a cloud. How thankful is the Christian for peace of mind when doubts and fears are gone! How grateful we are to God for prosperity when adverse days are over!

As one sees the lamps all lit, it strikes us that the darkness makes us value the means of light. On foggy nights every twopenny linkboy is a jewel. He is. of no use in the day; we drive the urchin away; but when it is very thick and foggy we are glad to see the blaze of his torch. When we are high and lifted up, and are marching on joyously, we are apt to despise the means of grace; but when we are troubled, the throne of grace, the prayer-meeting, and the preaching of God's Word are highly prized. Certain professors, who cannot hear anybody except their favorite minister would be glad of consolation from any lip, if soul trouble should overtake them. The candle of the promise stands us in good stead when we walk in the shades of sorrow, and the Word becomes a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

When we are seeking our home in a fog how we prize company! When you do not know where you are going, and have only half an idea that you are steering right, how cheerfully you make a friend of any poor laboring man who is going your way! If it be a rough-looking navvy, it does not matter, he is in the same distress, and you salute him. There is a close kinship in trouble. There are no gentlemen on board sinking ships: every man then is taken for what he is practically worth. When Christians are in the darkness of affliction, it is delightful to observe how "they that fear the Lord speak often one to another." Some poor old woman who knows the things of God by experience becomes of more value to you in your hour of grief than the dainty gentleman whose company bewitched you aforetime. Let all who are mourning open their hearts to true brethren, and in sympathy they will find solace.

We have harped long enough on this string, but we must strike it once more. When it is dark and misty abroad the traveler longs the more earnestly to reach his home; and it is one of the blessings of our heavy crosses, our sicknesses, and our troubles, that they set us longing for Heaven. When everything goes well with us we exclaim, like Peter, "Lord, let us build three tabernacles, for it is good to be here." But the mists cover Tabor's brow, and we fear as we enter into the cloud, and long to be away where glooms can never come. After a long journey on a dismal, dreary, beclouded road, how delightful will it be when our Father shall shut to the door of His house above, and shut out every particle of darkness and sorrow forever and ever.

Thus far we have thought of the believer's trials; but those who are not saved may yet he caught in a fog of trouble. We think we can see a lost one as we look into the haze around us. Yes—here is the picture. Up until lately he has always prospered. He was considered by all about him to be a knowing man; he knew "what's what," as the world says; he felt but little uneasiness of conscience or trouble of mind. All at once he has come into a state of doubt and distress. He is enveloped in a fog; he does not know which way to turn, he is nonplused. He guided others, he wants a guide himself now, but dares not trust any man. All the old accustomed landmarks are gone from sight; whether to go this way or that he cannot tell. His health fails; he is depressed in spirits and feels broken down. A mighty one has taken the old lion by his beard, a mysterious influence has cowed the valor of the boaster. Man in the mist, we salute you, and are glad that you are where you are! Do not think that we rejoice in your sorrow for its own sake, but we hail it for its after consequences. We are rejoiced that your wisdom is turned to folly, for God's wisdom will now be displayed! Now you are beginning to feel uneasiness in the world we are greatly in hopes that you will give it up, and seek your lasting good elsewhere. O man in the mist! you have come to a dead stop; prudence has cried, "Halt!" While you are thus perplexed we pray that you may prayerfully consider your ways. You have been in a bad way up until now; for that road is always bad in which God is forgotten and Jesus slighted! You have had troubles and sicknesses, these have been mercy's fog-signals laid down on your road, and they have startled you with their explosion; but you have gone on, and on, until you dare not proceed further, for you cannot see an inch on either side. Stop, poor friend, and listen to the voice of one who cares for the sons of men: "He who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved, but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." When a ship is enveloped in fog, what can she do better than cast her anchor? But you have no anchor, for you are without hope in Christ. God give you of His grace to obtain the hope most sure and steadfast, and then your vessel shall ride at anchor and fear no ill. A simple reliance upon the work of Jesus brings salvation with it.


Chapter 10. A Visit to Christ's Hospital

"Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhors all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing."—Psalm 107:17-22.

It is a very profitable thing to visit an hospital. The sight of others' sickness tends to make us grateful for our own health, and it is a great thing to be kept in a thankful frame of mind, for ingratitude is a spiritual disease, injurious to every power of the soul. An hospital inspection will also teach us compassion, and that is of great service. Anything that softens the heart is valuable. Above all things, in these days, we should strive against the petrifying influences which surround us. It is not easy for a man who has constantly enjoyed good health and prosperity to sympathize with the poor and the suffering. Even our great High Priest, who is full of compassion, learned it by carrying our sorrows in His own person. To see the sufferings of the afflicted, in many cases, would be enough to move a stone, and if we go to the hospital and come back with a tenderer heart, we shall have found it a sanatorium to ourselves. I purpose at this time to take you to an hospital. It shall not be one of those noble institutions so pleasingly plentiful around the Tabernacle; but we will take you to Christ's Hospital, or, as the French would call it, the Hôtel Dieu, and we shall conduct you through the wards for a few minutes, trusting that while you view them, if you are yourself healed, you may feel gratitude that you have been delivered from spiritual sicknesses, and an intense compassion for those who still pine and languish. May we become like our Savior, who wept over Jerusalem with eyes which we no strangers to compassion's floods; may we view the most guilty and impenitent with yearning hearts, and grieve with mingled hope and anxiety over those who are under the sound of the Gospel, and so are more especially patients in the Hospital of God.

We will go at once with the psalmist to the wards of spiritual sickness.

And, first, we have set out before us the names and characters of the patients. You see, in this hospital, written up over the head of every couch the name of the patient and his disease, and you are amazed to find that all the inhabitants belong to one family, and, singularly enough, are all called by one name, and that name is very far from being a reputable one. It is a title that nobody covets, and that many persons would be very indignant to have applied to them— "Fool." All who are sick in God's hospital are fools, without exception, for this reason, that all sinners are fools. Often, in Scripture, when David means the wicked, he says, "the foolish;" and in this he makes no mistake, for sin is folly. Sin is foolish, clearly, because it is a setting-up of our weakness in opposition to omnipotence. Every wise man, if he must fight, will choose a combatant against whom he may have a chance of success; but he who wars with the Most High commits as gross a folly as when the moth contends with the flame, or the dry grass of the prairie challenges the fire. There is no hope for you, O sinful many of becoming a victor in the struggle. How unwise you are to take up the weapons of rebellion! And the folly is aggravated, because the person who is opposed is one so infinitely good that opposition to Him is violence to everything that is just, beneficial, and commendable. God is love: shall I resist the infinitely loving? He scatters blessings: wherefore should I be His foe? If His commandments were grievous, if His ways were ways of misery, and His paths were paths of woe, I might have some pretense of an excuse for resisting His will. But, O my God, so good, so kind, so boundless in grace, 'tis folly, as well as wickedness, to be your enemy. Besides this, the laws of God are so supremely beneficial to ourselves that we are our own enemies when we rebel. God's laws are danger signals. As sometimes on the ice those who care for human life put up "Danger" here and there, and leave all that is safe for all who choose to traverse it, so God has left us free to enjoy everything that is safe for us, and has only forbidden us that which is to our own hurt. If there be a law which forbids me to put my hand into the fire, it is a pity I should need such a law, but a thousand pities more if I think that law a hardship. The commands of God do but forbid us to injure ourselves. To keep them is to keep ourselves in holy happiness; to break them is to bring evil of all kinds upon ourselves in soul and body. Why should I violate a law, which if I were perfect I should myself have made, or myself have kept, finding it in force? Why need I rebel against that which is never exacting, never oppressive, but always conducive to my own highest welfare? The sinner is a fool, because he is told in God's word that the path of evil will lead to destruction, and yet he pursues it with, the secret hope that in his case the damage will not be very great. He has been warned that sin is like a cup frothing with a foam of sweetness, but concealing Hell in its dregs; yet each sinner, as he takes the cup, fascinated by the first drop, believes that to him the poisonous draught will not be fatal. How many have fondly hoped that God would lie unto men, and would not fulfill His threatenings! Yet, be assured, every sin shall have its recompense of reward; God is just and will by no means spare the guilty. Even in this life many are feeling in their bones the consequences of their youthful lusts; they will carry to their graves the scars of their transgressions. In Hell, alas, there are millions who forever prove that sin is an awful and undying evil, an infinite curse which has destroyed them forever and ever. The sinner is a fool, because, while he doubts the truthfulness of God as to the punishment of sin, he has the conceit to imagine that transgression will even yield him pleasure. God says it shall be bitterness: the sinner denies the bitterness, and affirms that it shall be sweetness. Oh fool, to seek pleasure in sin! Go rake the charnel to find an immortal soul; go walk in the secret springs of the sea to find the source of flame. It is not there. You can never find bliss in rebellion. Hundreds of thousands before you have gone upon this search and have all been disappointed; he is indeed a fool who must needs rush headlong in this useless chase, and perish as the result. The sinner is a fool—a great fool—to remain as he is in danger of the wrath of God. To abide at ease in imminent peril and scorn the way of escape, to love the world and loathe the Savior, to set the present fleeting life above the eternal future, to choose the sand of the desert and forego the jewels of heaven—all this is folly in the highest conceivable degree.

Though sinners are fools, yet there are fools of all sorts. Some are learned fools. Unconverted men, whatever they know, are only educated fools. Between the ignorant man who cannot read a letter and the learned man who is apt in all knowledge there is small difference if they are ignorant of Christ; indeed, the scholar's folly is in this case the greater of the two. The learned fool generally proves himself the worst of fools, for he invents theories which would be ridiculed if they could be understood, and he brings forth speculations which, if they were judged by common-sense, and men were not turned into idiotic worshipers of imaginary authority, would be scouted from the universe with a hiss of derision. There are fools in colleges and fools in cottages.

There are also reckless fools and reckoning fools. Some sin with both hands greedily: "A short life and a merry one" is their motto; while the so-called "prudent" fools live more slowly, but still live not for God. These last, with hungry greed for wealth, will often hoard up gold as if it were true treasure, and as if anything worth the retaining were to be found beneath the moon. Your "prudent," "respectable" sinner will find himself just as much lost as your reckless prodigal. They must all alike seek and find the Savior, or be guilty of gross folly. So, alas! there are old fools as well as young ones. There are those who after an experience of sin burn their fingers at it still. The burnt child dreads the fire, but the burnt sinner lovingly plays with his sin again. Hoar hairs ought to be a crown of glory, but too often they are fools' caps. There are young sinners who waste the prime of life when the dew is on their spirit, and neglect to give their strength to God, and so miss the early joy of religion, which is the sweetest, and makes all the rest of life the sweeter: these are fools. But what is he who has one foot hanging over the mouth of Hell, and yet continues without God and without Christ, a trifler with eternity?

I have spoken thus upon the name of those who enter God's hospital; permit me to add that all who go there and are cured agree that this name is correct. Saved souls are made to feel that they are naturally fools; and, indeed, it is one stage in the cure when men are able to spell their own name, and when they are willing to write it in capital letters and say, "That is mine! If there is no other man in this world who is a fool, I am. I have played the fool before the living God." This confession is true; for what madness it is to play the fool before the Eternal One, with your own soul as the subject of the foolery? When men make sport they generally do it with trifling things. A man who plays the fool and puts on a cap and bells is wise in comparison with him who sports with his God, his soul, Heaven, and eternity. This is folly beyond all folly. Yet the sinner, when he is taken into God's hospital, will be made to feel that he has been such a fool, and that his folly is folly with an emphasis. He will confess that Christ must be made unto him wisdom, for he himself by nature was born a fool, has lived a fool, and will die a fool, unless the infinite mercy of God shall interpose.

Now, for a minute, let us notice the cause of their pains and afflictions. "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted." The physician usually tries to find out the root and cause of the disease he has to deal with. Now, those souls that are brought into grief for sin, those who are smarting through the providential dealings of God, through the strikings of conscience or the smitings of the Holy Spirit, are here taught that the source of their sorrow is their sin. These sins are mentioned in the text in the plural. "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities." How many have our sins been! Who shall count them? Let him tell the hairs of his head first. Sins are various, and are therefore called "transgressions and iniquities." We do not all sin alike, nor does any one man sin alike at all times. We commit sins of word, thought, deed, against God, against men, against our bodies, against our souls, against the Gospel, against the law, against the week-day duties, against the Sabbath privileges—sins of all sorts, and these all lie at the root of our sorrows. Our sins also are aggravated; not content with transgression, we have added iniquities to it. No one is more greedy than a sinner, but he is greedy after his own destruction. He is never content with revolting; he must rebel yet more and more. As when a stone is rolled down hill its pace is accelerated the further it goes, so with the sinner, he goes from bad to worse.

Perhaps I speak to some who have lately come into God's hospital. I will suppose a case. You are poor, very poor, but your poverty is the fruit of your profligate habits. Poverty is often directly traceable to drunkenness, laziness, or dishonesty. All poverty does not come from that. Blessed be God, there are thousands of the poor who are the excellent of the earth, and a great many of them are serving God right nobly; but I am now speaking of certain cases, and probably you know of such yourselves, where, because of their transgressions and iniquities, men are brought to want. There will come to me sometimes a person who was in good circumstances a few years ago, who is now without anything but the clothes he tries to stand upright in, and his wretchedness is entirely owing to his playing the prodigal. He is one of those whom I trust God may yet take into His hospital. At times the disease breaks out in another sort of misery. Some sins bring into the flesh itself pains which are anticipatory of Hell; yet even these persons may be taken into the hospital of God, though they are afflicted, to their shame, through gross transgression. Oh, how many there are in this great city of London of men and women who dare not tell their condition, but whose story is a terrible one indeed, as God reads it. Oh that He may have pity upon them, and take them into His lazar-house, and heal them through His abundant grace!

In more numerous cases the misery brought by sin is mental. Many are brought by sin very low, even to despair. Conscience pricks them; fears of death and Hell haunt them. I do remember well when I was in this way myself; when I, poor fool, because of my transgression and my iniquities, was sorely bowed in spirit. By day I thought of the punishment of my sin; by night I dreamed of it. I woke in the morning with a burden on my heart—a burden which I could neither carry nor shake off, and sin was at the bottom of my sorrow. My sin, my sin, my sin, this was my constant plague. I was in my youth and in the heydey of my spirit; I had all earthly comforts, and I had friends to cheer me, but they were all as nothing. I would seek solitary places to search the Scriptures, and to read such books as "Baxter's Call to the Unconverted" and "Alleine's Alarm," feeling my soul ploughed more and more, as though the law, with its ten great black horses, was dragging the plough up and down my soul, breaking, crushing, furrowing my heart, and all for sin. Let me tell you, though we read of the cruelties of the Inquisition, and the sufferings which the martyrs have borne from cruel men, no racks, nor firepans, nor other instruments of torture can make a man so wretched as his own conscience when he is stretched upon its rack. Here, then, we see both the fools and the cause of their disease.

Now, let us notice the progress of the disease. It is said that "their soul abhors all manner of meat," like persons who have lost their appetite, and can eat nothing; "and they draw near unto the gates of death," they are given over, and nearly dead.

These words may reach some whose disease of sin has developed itself in fearful sorrow, so that they are now unable to find comfort in anything. You used to enjoy the theater; you went lately, but you were wretched there. You used to be a wit in society, and set the table on a roar with your jokes; you cannot joke now. They say you are melancholy, but you know what they do not know, for a secret arrow rankles in your bosom. You go to a place of worship, but you find no comfort even there. The "manner of meat" that is served to God's saints is not suitable to you. You cry, "Alas, I am not worthy of it." Whenever you hear a thundering sermon against the ungodly you feel, "Ah, that is me!" but when it comes to, "Comfort you, comfort you my people," you conclude, "Ah, that is not for me." Even if it be an invitation to the sinner, you say, "But I do not feel myself a sinner. I am not such an one as may come to Christ. Surely I am a castaway." Your soul abhors all manner of meat, even that out of God's kitchen. Not only are you dissatisfied with the world's dainties, but the marrow and fatness of Christ Himself you cannot relish. Many of us have been in this way before you. The text adds, "They draw near unto the gates of death." The soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and feels that it cannot bear up much longer. I remember using those words of Job's once in the bitterness of my spirit, "My soul chooses strangling rather than life;" for the wretchedness of a sin-burdened soul is intolerable. All do not suffer the same strong conviction, but in some it bows the strong man almost to the grave. Perhaps, my friend, you see no hope whatever; you are ready to say, "There cannot be hope for me. I have made a covenant with death and a league with Hell; I am past hope. There were, years ago, opportunities for me, and I was near unto the kingdom; but, like the man who put his hand to the plough and looked back, I have proved myself unworthy." Troubled heart, I am sent with a message for you: "Thus says the Lord, your covenant with death is broken and your league with Hell is disannulled. The prey shall be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive shall be delivered." You may abhor the very meat that would restore you to strength, but He who understands the human heart knows how to give you better tastes and cure these evil whims; He knows how to bring you up from the gates of death to the gates of Heaven. Thus we see how terribly the mischief progresses.

But now the disease takes a turn. Our fourth point is the interposition of the physician. "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saves them out of their distresses. He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." The Good Physician is the true healer. Observe, when the physician comes in—"then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble." When they cry, the physician has come. I will not say that He has come because they cry; that would be true, but there is a deeper truth still—they cried because He came. For whenever a soul truly cries unto God, God has already blessed it by enabling it to cry. You would never have begun to pray, if the Lord had not taught you. God is visiting a soul, and healing it when it has enough faith in God to cast itself, with a cry, upon His mercy. I cannot hope that there is a work of grace in you yet, until I know you pray. Ananias would not have believed Paul to be converted, had not it been said, "Behold he prays!" Note the kind of prayer here: it was not taken out of a book, and it was not a fire prayer in language, whether extempore or precomposed; it was a cry. You do not need to show your children how to cry: it is the first thing a new-born child does. It wants no schoolmaster to teach it that are. Our School Boards have a great deal to teach the children of London, but they need never have a department for instruction in crying. A spiritual cry is the call of the new-born nature expressing conscious need. "How shall I pray?" says one. Pour your heart out, brother. Turn the vessel upside down, and let it run out to the last dreg, as best it can. "But I cannot pray," says one. Tell the Lord you cannot pray, and ask Him to help you to pray, and you have prayed already." "Oh, but I don't feel as I should!" Then confess to the Lord your sinful insensibility, and ask Him to make your heart tender, and you are already in a measure softened. Those who say, "I don't feel as I should," are very often those who feel most. Whether it be so or no, cry. If you are a sin-sick soul, you can do nothing toward your healing but this—you can cry. He who hears your cries will know what they mean. When the surgeon goes to the battle-field after a conflict, he is guided to his compassionate work by the groans of the wounded. When he hears a soldier's cry he does not inquire, "Was that a Russian or a Turk, and what does he mean?" A cry is good Russ, and excellent Turkish too; it is part of the universal tongue. The surgeon understands it, and looks for the sick man. And, whatever language, O sinner, you use, uncouth or refined, if it be the language of your heart, God understands you without an interpreter.

Note well, that as we have seen when the physician interposed, we shall see next what He did. He "saved them out of their distresses," and "delivered them from their destructions." Oh, the infinite mercy of God! He reveals to the heart pardon for all sin; and, by His Spirit's power, removes all our weaknesses. I tell you, soul, though you be at death's door at this moment, God can even now gloriously deliver you. It would be a wonder if your poor burdened spirit should within this hour leap for joy, and yet, if the Lord visit you, you will do so. I fall back upon my own recollection; my escape from despondency was instantaneous. I did but believe Jesus Christ's word, and rest upon His sacrifice, and the night of my heart was over; the darkness had passed, and the true light had shone. In some parts of the world there are not long twilights before the break of day, but the sun leaps up in a moment; the darkness flies, and the light reigns; so is it with many of the Lord's redeemed, as in a moment their ashes are exchanged for beauty, and their spirit of heaviness for the garments of praise. Faith is the great transformer. Will you cast yourself now, whether you live or die, upon the precious blood and merits of the Savior Jesus Christ? Will you come and rest your soul on the Son of God? If you do so, you are saved; your sins which are many are now forgiven you. As of old, the Egyptians were drowned in a moment in the Red Sea—the depths had covered them, there was not one of them left; so, the moment you Believe, you have lifted a mightier rod than that of Moses, and the sea of the atoning blood, in the fullness of its strength, has gone over the heads of all your enemies; your sins are drowned in Jesus' blood. Oh, what joy is this, when, in answer to a cry, God delivers us from our present distresses and our future destructions!

But how is this effected? The psalmist says, "He sent His word and healed them," "His word." How God ennobles language when He uses it! The term "word" is uplifted in Scripture into the foremost place, and put on a level with the Godhead. " The Word." It indicates a Godlike personage, for, "in the beginning was the Word;" nay, it denotes God Himself, for, "the Word was God." Our hope is in the Word—the incarnate Logos, the eternal Word. In some aspects our salvation comes to us entirely through the sending of that Word to be made flesh, and to dwell among us. He is our saving health, by His stripes we are healed. But here the expression is best understood of the Gospel, which is the word of God. Often the reading of the Scriptures proves the means of healing troubled souls; or else, that same word is made effectual when spoken from a loving heart with a living lip. What might there is in the plain preaching of the Gospel! No power in all the world can match it. They tell us nowadays that the nation will go over to Rome, and the Gospel candle will be blown out. I am not a believer in these alarming prophecies; I neither believe in the Battle of Dorking, nor in the victory of Pius the Ninth. Leave us our Bibles, our pulpits, and our God, and we shall win the victory yet. Oh, if all ministers preached the Gospel plainly, without aiming at rhetoric and high flights of oratory, what great triumphs would follow! How sharp would the Gospel sword be if men would but pull it out of those fine ornamental, but useless, scabbards! When the Lord enables His servants to put plain Gospel truth into language that will strike and stick, be understood and remembered, it heals sick souls, that else might have lain long at death's door! Still the word of God in the Bible and the word of God preached cannot heal the soul unless God send it in the most emphatic sense. " He sent His word." When the eternal Spirit brings home the word with power, what a word it is! Then the miracles of grace wrought within us are such as to astonish friends and confound foes. May the Lord, even now, send His word to each sinner, and it will be his salvation. "Hear, and your soul shall live." Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and faith brings with it all that the soul requires. When we have faith, we are linked with Christ; and so our salvation is insured.

This brings us to the last point— the consequent conduct of those who were healed. First, they praised God for His goodness. What rare praise a soul offers when it is brought out of prison! The sweetest music ever heard on earth is found in those new songs which celebrate our late deliverance from the horrible pit and the miry clay. Did you ever keep a linnet in a cage and then bethink yourself that it was hard to rob it of its liberty? Did you take it out into the garden and open the cage door? Oh, but if you could have heard it sing when it had fairly escaped the cage where it had been so long, you would have heard the best linnet music in all the wood. When a poor soul breaks forth from the dungeon of despair, set free by God, what songs it pours forth! God loves to hear such music. Note that word of His: "I remember you, the love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness." God loves the warm-hearted praises of newly emancipated souls; and He will get some out of you, dear friend, if you are set free at this hour.

Notice that these healed ones praised God especially for His goodness. It was great goodness that such as they were should be saved. So near death's door and yet saved! They wondered at His mercy and sang of "His wonderful works to the children of men." It is wonderful that such as we were should be redeemed from our iniquities; but, our Redeemer's name is called Wonderful, and He delights in displaying the riches of His grace.

Observe that in their praises they ascribe all to God; they praise " Him for His wonderful work." Salvation is God's work, from beginning to end. Their song is, moreover, comprehensive, and they adore the Lord for His love to others as well as to themselves; they praise Him "for His wonderful works to the children of men."

Forget not that they added to this praise sacrifice: "Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving." What shall be the sacrifices of a sinner delivered from going down into the pit? Shall he bring a bullock that has horns and hoofs? Nay, let him bring his heart; let him offer himself, his time, his talents, his body, his soul, his substance. Let Him exclaim, "Let my Lord take all, seeing He has saved my soul." Will you not lay yourselves out for Him who laid Himself out for you? If He has bought you with a price, confess that you are altogether His. Of your substance give to His cause as He prospers you; prove that you are really His by your generosity toward His church and His poor.

In addition to sacrifice, the healed ones began to offer songs, for it was to be a "sacrifice of thanksgiving." May those of you who are pardoned sing more than is customary nowadays. May we, each one of us, who have been delivered from going down to the pit, enter into the choir of God's praising ones, vocally singing as often as we can, and in our hearts always chanting His praise.

Once more, the grateful ones were to add to their gifts and psalms a declaration of joy at what God had done for them. "Let them declare His works with rejoicing." You who are pardoned should tell the church of the Lord's mercy to you. Let his people know that God is discovering His hidden ones. Come and tell the minister. Nothing gladdens him so much as to know that souls are brought to Jesus by his means. This is our reward. You are our crown of rejoicing, you saved ones. I can truly say, I never have such a joy as when I receive letters from persons, or hear from them personally the good news, "I heard you on such-and-such a night, and found peace;" or, "I read your sermon, and God blessed it to my soul." There is not a true minister of Christ but would willingly lay himself down to die if he could thereby see multitudes saved from eternal wrath. We live for this. If we miss this, our life is a failure. What is the use of a minister unless he brings souls to God? For this we would yearn over you, and draw near unto God in secret, that He would be pleased in mercy to deliver you. But, surely, if you are converted, you should not conceal the fact. It is an unkind action for any person who has received life from the dead through any instrumentality, to deny the worker the consolation of hearing that he has been made useful; for the servant of God has many discouragements, and he is himself readily cast down, and the gratitude of those who are saved is one of the appointed cordials for his heavy heart. There is no refreshment like it. May God grant you grace to declare His love, for our sake, for the church's sake, and, indeed, for the world's sake. Let the sinner know that you have found mercy, perhaps it will induce him to seek also. Many a physician has gained his practice by one patient telling others of his cure. Tell your neighbors that you have been to the hospital of Jesus, and been restored, though you hated all manner of meat, and drew near to the gates of death; and, maybe, a poor soul, just in the same condition as yourself, will say, "This is a message from God to me." Above all, publish abroad the Lord's goodness, for Jesus' sake. He deserves your honor. Will you receive His blessing, and then like the nine lepers give Him no praise? Will you be like the woman in the crowd, who was healed by touching the hem of His garment, and then would gladly have slipped away? If so, I pray that the Master may say, "Somebody has touched me," and may you be compelled to tell us all the truth, and say, "I was sore sick in soul, but I touched you, O my blessed Lord, and I am saved, and to the praise of the glory of your grace I will tell it; I will tell it, though devils should hear me; I will tell it, and make the world ring with it, according to my ability, to the praise and glory of your saving grace."

Thus have we seen the patients in the hospital, and seen them coming forth from it, leaping and praising God, and now our visit terminates as we breathe the prayer, "Heal us, O Lord."


Chapter 11. St. Brelade's Bay

Never dispute about scenery. Besides the old rule which warns you against arguing upon matters of taste, there is the other, that it is better not to compare things which were not meant for comparison. We were one day at the Plemont Caves, and the next in St. Brelade's Bay; the first, rugged and grand beyond description; the second, fair and beautiful. The question as to which was the finer scenery was suggested, but was dismissed as a topic not to be tolerated by sensible people. Each was, in its own way, surpassing; contrast was conspicuous, but comparison was absurd. You cannot take the fields all flower-bedecked, and the waves flashing and forever changing, and the clouds fleecy, gray, or blazing with the red sunset, and say of them, "Here we have positive, comparative, and superlative." No, they are each and all superlative. God's works are all beautiful in their season, all masterpieces; there is nothing second-rate among them. Jersey may glory in Plemont and its other rugged headlands, and it may equally rejoice in the more quiet beauty of the bays of which St. Brelade's is the type.

The propensity to compare is frequently indulged in equally foolish and far more injurious ways. It cuts us to the heart when we hear excellent ministers decried, because they are not like certain others. Persons will actually discuss the graded rank and comparative merit of Punshon and Talmage, Landels and McLaren, forgetting that the men are different persons, and no more to be placed as first, second, third, and fourth, than cowslips and oysters, gazelles and dolphins. You cannot logically institute comparisons where they do not hold. Rugged Cephas has his place and order, and he is neither better nor worse, higher nor lower in value, than polished Apollos. No one inquires which is the more useful—a needle or a pin, a spade or a hoe, a wagon or a plough; they are designed for different ends, and answer them well; but they could not exchange places without serious detriment to their usefulness. It is true that A. excels in argumentative power; let him argue then, for he was made on purpose to convince men's reason; but because B.'s style is more expository, do not despise him, for he was sent, not to reason, but to teach. If all the members of the mystical body had the same office and gift, what a wretched malformation it would be; it would hardly be so good as that, for it would not be a formation at all. If all ears, mouths, hands, and feet were turned into eyes, who would hear, eat, grasp, or move? A church with a Luther in every pulpit would be all fist; and, with a Calvin to fill every pastorate, she would be all skull. Blessed be God for one Robert Hall, but let the man be whipped who tries in his own person to make a second. Rowland Hill is admirable for once, but it is quite as well that the mold was broken. There is a great run just now for little Robertsons of Brighton, but there will soon be a glut in the market.

Why not appreciate the good in all true preachers of the Gospel, and glorify God in each of them? Never let us say, "This is my man, and there is no other equal to him." It may be that our favorite is the most notable in his own peculiar order; but, then, other orders of men are needed and fulfill an equally important function. The sublime and commanding style of Isaiah should not put us out of patience with the plaintive tones of Jeremiah, nor with the homeliness of Hosea, or the abruptness of Haggai.

So much for moralizing on that point; we must make a halt, dismount, and come to closer quarters with this bay of St. Brelade.

What is to be seen? The guide-book tells of "a delicious little cove, with fantastic rocks and recesses, known as the Creux Fantomes, or Fairy Caves." Come along, worthy comrades, we will explore them first of all, and rest afterward in some cool grot, where neither shall the sun light on us nor any heat. Shall we inquire the way? It may be as well; for where these fairy dwellings are we are only vaguely informed; they lie somewhere on the western side; but a mile or two more or less makes a difference to a limping traveler. Does anybody know of these wonders? It seems not. We get information at last about these "unknown, mysterious caves, and secret haunts;" but then we learn, also, that "there is no practical way to them." Not the first things which we have desired to look into which have been beyond our reach. It is disappointing though! Instructive, at least; suggestive also. There are unapproachable men as well as caves. How many preachers have affected mystery and educated themselves into obscurity. They have become, by laborious are, little else than spiritual painted windows, which admit; only a dim religious light. Few have the presumption to try to understand them. They do not claim to be infallible; but none would question their right, if they styled themselves "incomprehensible." Their thoughts may be as wonderful as these Creux Fantomes; but, alas, there is no path to their meaning which an ordinary understanding can follow. Their jargon, it is to be hoped, is to themselves its own exceeding great reward; to others, it is sound, and nothing more.

Adieu, then, to the fairies. Let us examine some more ordinary and accessible places. Here is the ancient church. Who was this Saint Brelade? Was he any relation of Ingoldsby's renowned St. Medard, who was so remarkably hard and solid about the parietal bone that his pate was not crushed even when the arch enemy of all saints hurled at it the weight of a great, big stone? We hope he was not at all of that breed, for we are not partial to those of whom the witty satirist sings:

"St. Medard, he was a holy man,
A holy man I ween was he,
And even by day,
When he went up to pray,
He would light up a candle that all might see."

Well, well, what matters who the good soul was? here is his church, and a native ready to open the churchyard gate. Here on the left of the entrance is a good notion, a money-box for the poor, with an inscription in French: " Jesus, étant assis vis-à-vis du tronc, regardait comment le peuple mettait de l'argent dans le tronc." Mark 12:41. A text even more suitable in French than in its English form: "Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury." With that text before their eyes, surely many professing Christians would contribute more, and in a better spirit. We should be ashamed to give grudgingly, if we felt sure that Jesus looked on. This Scripture needs to be put over weekly-offering boxes, for it is generally neglected in the reading, all persons being in a hurry to get to the widow's mites. With all due respect to that most admirable widow, we are afraid that she has innocently been a shield for covetous hypocrites. Rich men contribute a guinea to some enterprise requiring tens of thousands, and they modestly say, "Put it down as the widow's mite." My dear sir, it was in the plural, two mites, so please make it two guineas, so as to be accurate in number, at any rate; and then remember that she gave all her living, and you defraud the woman if you call your donation by her name, and yet do not give a tenth nor a hundredth, nay, perhaps not even a thousandth part of your substance, to the Lord. It were to be wished that some minute subscribers out of magnificent incomes would become "widows indeed;" or, at least, give "widow's mites" indeed and of a truth.

The church—we are in it now—is a plain, decent, Christian place of worship, thoroughly well whitewashed. Capital stuff that lime-white to kill the Tractarian bug or worm, a pest very discernible in many of our parish churches, and about as destructive as the white ant in India. Churchwardens could not do better than try a coat of lime, at the same time remembering that the insect will cling to altar cloths, processional banners, or any other old rags which may be cumbering the place. If crosses, holy candlesticks, censers, and other trumpery to which these creatures attach themselves could be removed, it would be well; but we beg the purifiers not to carry these implements anywhere near dissenting chapels for fear the plague should spread there also. If a gracious providence should command a mighty strong east, west, north, or south wind to take away these creatures, we should greatly rejoice, for they cover the face of the earth, so that the land is darkened.

There were other evidences of purity in St. Brelade's church besides the fair white upon its walls. There stood a plain communion table, with four legs, simple and unadorned, and over it, as usual, was the apostles' creed, Lord's prayer, and decalogue. No frippery here. Moreover, there were suitable texts above and below each of these inscriptions; and we specially marked that over the creed were these words: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved," with this most appropriate text by way of interpreter, beneath: "With the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." We commend these parallel Scriptures to the careful and prayerful consideration of all our readers.

In the graveyard were the hillocks and stones which memorialize, not only the rude forefathers of the hamlet, but many from far and near, who came to Jersey, saw it, and died. Inscriptions there were, English and French, a few in unmitigated doggerel, and many more of the usual rhymes of the sort, to which Pope's criticism might be applied:

"Wherever you find 'the cooling western breeze,'
In the next line 'it whispers through the trees;'
If crystal streams 'with pleasing murmurs creep,'
The reader's threatened, not in vain, with 'sleep.'"

There surely should be some censorship of churchyard poetry, which ought to be elevating in sentiment and expression, but is too often neither. We were fortunate enough, however, to stumble on one epitaph which we copied eagerly, for it seemed to us, in its way, to be quite a gem:

"Weep for a seaman, honest and sincere,
Not cast away, but brought to anchor here;
Storms had o' erwhelmed him, but the conscious wave
Repented, and resigned him to the grave.
In harbor, safe from shipwreck, now he lies,
Until Time's last signal blazes through the skies;
Refitted in a moment, then shall he
Sail from this port, on an eternal sea."

The Eton boy's lines upon "The conscious water," which "saw its God and blushed," were evidently in the versifier's mind in line three; and the ring of some of the expressions reminds us much of Watts's Lyrics.

We looked into the very ancient building called the "Chapelle des Pêcheurs," or Fishermen's Chapel, and marked the rude frescoes, now happily passing into well-deserved decay. What men of taste can see in the worse than childish daubs of the medieval times we know not; they are not merely grotesque, but comic, and in many cases revolting and blasphemous. Venerate the old if you will; but led old idols and abominations, "portrayed upon the wall round about," be devoured as speedily as possible by the tooth of time. We should like half an hour with a stout hammer and a ladder in several of our parish churches, and we would leave behind us improvements in architecture worthy of imitation by future architects.

Reformations which another,
Hating much the Popish reign—
Some faint, evangelic brother,
Seeing, might take heart again.

We certainly did not cross the Channel to spend our time inside a vaulty and dilapidated building; so away to the sea. What a splendid plain of sand; but see how it is stirred and moved by the wind. Such fine particles, in such constant motion, will assuredly blind us. Let us make a rush through it for the rocks, and then we can sit by the side of Mr. Disraeli's melancholy ocean; or, what Pollock calls the "tremendous sea." Judge our surprise when we find that the raging sandstorm reaches no higher than our knees, and all above is clear enough. Odd, very odd, to be beaten about the ankles by a torrent of blowing particles; and up here, in the region of breathing and seeing, to be serenity itself. If our daily trials could be kept under foot in the same manner, how happily might we live. The things of earth are too inconsiderable to be allowed to rise breast high. "Let not your heart be troubled."

Out on the rocks, we enjoy the breeze and the view; and, looking back on the bay of St. Brelade, half envy the cottagers whose profound quiet is unmolested by the shriek of locomotives, the roll of cabs, and the discord of barrel organs. By us, the blue wave must be left for the black fog, and the yellow sands for the dingy bricks; but there are souls to be won by thousands amid the millions of London, and, therefore, we will return to duty with willing step. With all the advantages of a country life—and they are many and great—the active servant of God will prefer the town, because there he sows in wider fields, and hopes for larger harvests. Dr. Guthrie once said, "I bless God for cities;" and he rightly called them "the active centers of almost all church and state reforms, and the cradles of human liberty." We, also, bless God for cities, for there the willing crowds hang on the preacher's lips, there the laborious church is gathered, the student trained, the evangelist tutored, the mind inflamed by contact with mind, and the pulse of godliness quickened. We pronounce Raleigh's blessing on the country:

"Blessed silent groves! oh, may you be
 Forever mirth's best nursery."

But we choose to spend our days where larger human harvests, white for the sickle, wait for the reaper's coming.


Chapter 12. Sundew, A Strange Plant

In a swampy part of the New Forest, in Hampshire, we met with a plant which was quite new to us. To our unlearned eyes it looked like a lichen or a small red cactus, and yet it almost as much resembled a zoophyte; we did not know what to make of it, it was so old-world and weird-like. An abundance of red glandular hairs covered each leaf, and upon its surface glistened sparkling dew-drops. To gather specimens and send them home by post in a box was a process suggested and carried out by a friend; our samples, however, did not endure the transit, and so we have not since seen our floral novelty. Upon making inquiry, the plant turns out to be the Sundew, or, as the learned call it, Drósera from the Greek word drosys, dew. The older writers call it Ros-solis, which is but the Latin of its English name. From Anna Pratt's most interesting work, entitled, "The Flowering Plants, Grasses, Sedges, and Ferns of Great Britain," we have gathered several facts which may not unfitly be woven into parables, and made to illustrate truth.

Sundew is the tempting name of this plant, and what would seem more safe, attractive, and proper for an insect to light upon? Surely it might wisely sip the crystal drop and fly away refreshed; but "things are not what they seem," and there are lovely names which cover deadly evils. The gauzy-winged insect alights, drinks of the shining drops, and becomes henceforth a captive.

"For when there's moisture in the brake,
The clammy sundew's glistening glands
'Mid carmine foliage boldly make
Slaves of invading insect bands."

That dew was never born of the sun, neither was it exhaled by it; it is so viscid that when touched with the finger it will draw out in threads of more than an inch in length, and it is hardly possible that a small insect once caught by its glue can ever escape; in fact, the more it struggles the more it is covered with the clammy moisture, and the more surely it is held. It is too late now, you pretty victim, you have been beguiled to an untimely fate, and escape is impossible. Like Jonathan, you may complain, "I did but taste a little honey, and I must die;" only that which seemed a tempting sweetness to you was not so, but acrid to the last degree, so that you have a double disappointment to bewail. Struggle you may, but your case is hopeless. A watchful naturalist has seen the hairs upon the leaves close in upon the insect victim, and the edges of the leaf itself curl inward, remaining in that condition long after the captive had died. The Sundew is an ogre toward flies, a cunning fowler among little winged wanderers, a vegetable spider, a deceiver and a devourer. Flies, much like our common house flies, have been seen to be captured by one of the leaves and held fast until the relaxing hairs of the plant have laid bare the blackened remains of their prey. One might naturally expect this from a plant bearing the name of Snapdragon, Catch-fly, or Swallow-wort; but who would have conjectured that Sundew would be the name of a deadly trap? Yet all around us are such deluding names and flattering deceits. Do not men call unhallowed lust by the sacred name of love? Is not drunkenness spoken of as good cheer? Are not profligate habits labeled generosity? and is not slavery to the basest passions denominated free living? There is much in a name after all, as Satan knows full well, and well pleased is he to get a name, bright and fresh as that of Sundew, wherewithal to disguise the true character of his temptations. Fascinating are the counterfeit dews of youthful lusts; does it not seem a Puritanic harshness to deny them to the young? May they not taste and away? Nay, the dew is not dew, but clammy birdlime for the soul; it will hold the youth and hold the man, and he will be utterly unable to escape, though he may become aware of his captivity and alarmed at the destruction which will follow upon it. The pleasures of sin cannot be enjoyed for a season and relinquished just when we will. We may say of them, as Virgil does of Hell,

"Avernus' gates are open night and day,
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way;
But to return to Heaven's pure light again,
This is a work of labor and of pain."

True, the grace of God may interpose to rescue the prisoner from the fetters which he has forged for himself; but no man has a right to reckon upon such a deliverance, much less to tempt the Lord by plunging into enslaving habits on the ground that others have been, through infinite mercy, emancipated from them. Who in his senses would take poison because in some cases an antidote has been supplied before death has closed the scene? Who wishes to be plague-stricken because a few survive amid the general mortality? O man, be wise, and shun the tempter and his honeydew, lest you be fatally ensnared and fastened down to certain ruin. Flies have no warning, but men have, therefore let them take it, and flee far away from the destroyer. Leave off vice before it be meddled with, is an allowable alteration of the wise man's proverb. Prevention is better than cure, abstinence is better than reformation. Touch not, taste not, handle not that Sundew which is not from Heaven and prepares for Hell. We have not done with the singular tenant of the bog, but will use it for another purpose. Its flower is very seldom seen expanded. For some reason unknown to botanists, and apparently in no way dependent on the shining of the sun, this flower often remains closed during the greater part of its flowering season. One inquirer asks, "Has any person ever seen the blossoms of the round-leaved Sundew fully expanded? Wishing to obtain a specimen of this little plant in full bloom, to sketch from, I have visited in almost every hour of the day a bog traversed by a small rivulet, whose margin is thickly dotted with its glowing leaves, looking as if they had, indeed, impaled drops of the morning dew to cool them through the day. I have watched it from the time in which its slender scape first rises from amid a bunch of circinate leaves to that in which it forms at top into a nodding raceme, but never have I seen its minute white flower-buds unclose." Many other watchful observers declare that even in the fairest weather and brightest sunshine, they have looked in vain for opened flowers. Here and there a watcher has seen a flower unfold itself in the morning and close at noon to open no more, but the sight seems to be a great rarity even to the most attentive naturalists. One would not wish to follow the example of so rare a blooming, yet are there men of kindred spirit. They must surely have good times, seasons of affection, moments of generous impulse, when the soul reveals its best self; but those around them have looked in vain for such rare occasions. They are so miserly that seldom are they moved to pity and relieve the needy, so churlish that scarcely ever can they utter a kind encouraging word, so cold that never are they seen to warm into enthusiasm. Children of the marsh, they are damp even to the core, sunlight cannot woo them into blossoming, the genial influences which rule other hearts scarcely affect them for good. Woe to those who are compelled to live with them; they watch in vain for sympathy or love. Unhappy is the Abigail who is married to such a Nabal. Perhaps now and then to some favored companion they become for the moment cordial, but they scarcely forgive themselves for the aberration, and relapse into the closed-up state again, to unfold their affections no more. Around them are men and women full of love, smiling and flourishing the various seasons through, perfuming their surroundings with kindly fragrance of good thoughts and deeds, yet do they abide shut up within themselves. May Heaven pity them in boundless mercy, and save them from themselves. 'Twere better far to die of love than live without loving. Disappointment and heartbreak are infinitely to be preferred to selfishness and isolation; the one is an affliction which may happen to the noblest, the other is the vice of the base and groveling. Give the heart, room to blossom like the rose, even though the hand of the cruel should pluck it; our nature sinks even below its natural depravity when we refuse to love. Be it ours to open wide our full soul beneath the smile of the Sun of Righteousness, and so to grow as the lily, and give forth a sweet smell as Sharon's ruddy flower; and never, never may we yield to the power of selfishness, which is as deadly to the heart itself as it is pernicious to those whom it despises.

Old writers highly praise the essence of the Sundew as a remedy for many diseases: it was celebrated under the name of spirit of Sundew. One old herbalist declares that it is good for the lungs, and for nervous faintness, and, though it will raise blisters upon the skin, he considers it to be very useful inwardly, and puts it down as a great cordial. Ladies used it as a cosmetic, and perhaps do so still, but we are not learned in such matters; the country people use it to destroy warts and corns, so that after all it may have some good qualities, and perhaps this brief paper may conserve a measure of its virtues, to the benefit of manners and of men. Good lies latent in things evil, but the hand of wisdom extracts it: be you thus wise, dear reader, and your profiting shall be known unto all.