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days of long ago; and that you and she played together as boy and girl.”
"Why, why! What's her name?”
I told him. Instantly the fountains of memory seemed unlocked, and a tender sort of look stole over his black face as he recalled the days of boyhood. His heart was not all hardened.
“Ay, I mind her well. She was a bonnie girl. She used to play with us children in my mother's garden. Ah, me! it's miserable to be old. Nobody cares for ye.” A sort of shudder accompanied the words. “Yes, we do. I care for you.
You have been upon my mind a great deal of late, and I want to do you good. Now, that message shows you that somebody cares for you and remembers you. Now, I want you to come to our cottage service. I'll engage you shall be welcomed, and have a good place.”
“Ah! but, mister, I couldn't," replied the old man, in a softened tone. “I can't walk very well ; I've been lame with the rheumatics for years." “But if you'll come I'll carry you.
I will really.” “Carry me! You're making fun of me now;" and unconsciously Sam stretched out his hand to take a huge stake with which he was accustomed to frighten the boys who molested him. I, not unnaturally, shrunk back—a movement which the poor old man noticed in a moment. “Oh, ye needn't shrink.
I won't hurt ye.
But ye're making fun.”
“No, not a bit of it. I'll fetch you and carry you on my shoulders to the cottage, if you'll only consent. I mean it.' My looks and manner attested the sincerity of my words, so that Sam was really convinced of the disinterestedness of
“Well, not now; I'll just think that over a bit. I've no decent clothes to go in, ye know.” And for the first time, perhaps, for many years Sam looked down at his habiliments with a consciousness that they were unsuitable and uncleanly.
“ But why do you sew patches of cloth on your clothes in that strange manner ?” I queried, pointing to the odds and ends of cloth and the fragments of twine which were sticking about in all directions in anything but a picturesque fashion.
“Don't know ; because they keeps me warm, I'm thinking."
“ But you can have warm clothes without those pieces. However, never mind, old friend; you'll do better yet, I'm convinced. Still, whatever you may wear on earth, you must be sure to wear the robe of the Saviour's righteousness, in order to get into heaven. Nobody is ever admitted there without it. Suppose I read to you a little bit out of my Testament?”
My eyes had grown so accustomed to the semi-darkness now, that, by drawing a little nearer to the opening, I could read to the old man from my large-print New Testament, my inseparable companion in my village visiting. And, to do the old man justice, he listened with great attention and a certain amount of interest, although I could detect, by the vacant look in his eyes and the curious wonder depicted upon his face, that he could understand but little. However, it was a great gain to have entered his house, and a still greater to induce the old recluse to accept a tract, or listen to the Word of Truth. After a few more words of kindly counsel and explanation, I took my leave, offering to call upon
him again soon. Some germ of goodness had dropped into his heart, and had borne fruit, although the soil was so unpromising, for, on a succeeding visit, I found that he had purchased a new “slop,” or smock-frock. He held the garment up to me with pride, and received my commendation of the purchase with evident satisfaction. In addition, he asserted that he had been tempted to commit this piece of extravagance in order to attend the cottage service. I listened amazed.
The barrier was broken down, and old “Sam, the Scarecrow," made the effort. You may suppose that he was “the observed of all observers ;" and such was the case. Everybody, old and young, looked, listened, and wondered. The poor old man seemed as if he had come into a new world ; and I doubt not but that the truths he heard sunk in some measure into his benighted mind.
But one great obstacle to his gaining all the good of the service was his deafness. Finding this, I purchased, by the aid of friends, a small ear-trumpet for him, and then Sam was proud indeed. With this in his hand he would attend our service and listen intently to the message of mercy to the poor sinner. And who can tell what ultimately may be the result, seeing that "faith cometh by hearing?"
Sam is still an attendant at the little cottage service, and I am hopeful that he begins to see a beauty in Jesus which he did not of old. As the mists of ignorance and darkness clear away he becomes more receptive of Divine truth, and more obedient to it. He has only the one talent-hardly that, therefore we cannot expect a bright display of intelligence and faith. Poor old Sam may, and will yet, doubtless, be found among the numerous host which have “ washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." He will always be somewhat of a hermit. The habits of years are strong upon him, and he cannot alter altogether his lonely life ; but he has wonderfully improved it. No longer cursing and swearing proceed from his lips; no longer threatenings and abuse; but he is always glad to welcome the visitor who comes to tell him of Jesus. It is a blessed thing that in God's kingdom there is room for the swarthy Malay, the dusky Indian, the black negro, and the semicivilised hermit, whom the village people wondered at and despised for so many years. They shall come from east and west, north and south, to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.
E. R. P.
A FEW WORDS TO THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BACK.
ETURN! It is a father's voice. A child has gone
astray. Once he knew the comfort and peace of home life. He shared the love of a kind and
tender parent. But in an evil hour he has turned aside. Allured by a companion, attracted by the glare of the world, he has forsaken his home. He has gone far away. He is sinking deeper each day in the mire of sin. Perhaps a sense of despair drives him farther and farther. But his father sends him a message. He bids him come back. There is a welcome for him still. The past shall be forgiven. The wanderer shall be restored. The joy of a father's kindness and love shall again be his portion.
It is thus our Father in heaven speaks to you. You have turned aside from the path of true peace.
There was a time when you walked in God's ways. You knew something of the Saviour's love. But now it is far otherwise. Perhaps you shrank from bearing the reproach of the cross. You would not confess Christ in the world. So, through the fear of man, you went back and walked no more with Him.
Or perhaps it arose through the snare of worldly pleasures. You knew that you could not serve Christ and follow the world. There were amusements you would not give up, and companions you would not part with. So you forsook the Saviour. Little by little you neglected the throne of grace, and became careless about reading your Bible. And now your earlier and better thoughts are like a dream that is past.
You are living without Christ and without hope in the world.
Perhaps, too, it seems quite in vain any more to seek Christ. You imagine that it would be no use. When better thoughts for a moment return, it may be you think that the Saviour would close His door against you, or that you have vexed and quenched the Spirit, and can never be forgiven. So you try to forget all that once you loved. You try to
drown the thought of Christ and His kingdom by plunging deeper into worldly pursuits and pleasures. But again there comes to you the call of mercy.
It is true you have sinned grievously. You have brought dishonour on the Saviour's name. You have said to the enemies of Christ_“I have tried Christ and I have tried the world, and the world is the best master.” You have injured your own soul and have grieved the good Spirit of God. But in spite of all there comes to you a message of pity and love. Your Father is still willing to receive you. Hear His gracious invitations : “Return, ye backsliding children, and I wili heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto Thee ; for Thou art the Lord our God.” 1 “ Take with you words, and turn to the Lord : say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously : so will we render the calves of our lips. ... I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him.”
With invitations and promises like these you need not despair. However guilty you may be, there is pardon for the past through the Saviour's blood. However unable to stand for the future, there is power to help you through the Holy Spirit. Do not listen to the tempter when he bids you give way to dark and gloomy thoughts. Humble yourself for your fall, but rise up to a new hope and new life, through the Saviour's name. There are some happy, useful Christians, working for Christ, and rejoicing in His love, who once had drawn back as you have. So you must come back again. You must return to your Father in heaven, and trust Him for Christ's sake to cleanse you from all sin. You must look up to the Good Shepherd to restore you to His fold, and henceforth to keep you from going astray. He cannot and will not refuse. He will in no wise cast you out. He will bless you with His free love, and strengthen you abundantly with His grace. An example may encourage you thus to seek the Saviour, Jer. iii. 22.
: Hos. xiv. 2, 4.