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Old Stephen, a character still well known in the neighbourhood of
L , Yorkshire, was, in the former part of his life, a very wicked
man. It might almost be said that he was notorious for wickedness. It was not until late in life that he became a subject of divine grace; a great change then took place in him; and now he delights to tell how great things God hath done for him. The grace of God shines out in him with unusual lustre, and his character commands the surprise and esteem of all who know him.
He lives quite alone, having only his "little bit of parish pay" to live on; and, in every other respect, he is deprived of those external comforts which would seem most essential to his happiness. And yet, under all circumstances, he is peaceful and contented. Those who have most frequently visited him say that they have never found him but in one state of mind. He is always happy, quite happy. His own most common reply to the ordinary enquiries regarding health, is, "I have a happy time;" and he often adds, "This is the happiest time I ever had in all my life." His health is sometimes very poor indeed. He suffers much from asthma and cough, and is often, on this account, awake during the night. His door, when he deems it needful, is left unlocked at night, so that if found dead in the morning, there may be no difficulty in entering. But though he lives thus in the prospect of death, it has no terrors to him. "I am ready at any time the Lord pleases, and I am quite willing to wait His time," is the oft-repeated saying of Old Stephen; and no one can doubt its truth.
To the word and the people of God, his love knows no bounds. It cannot be doubted but that he would readily lay down his life for the brethren. Though so poor, he is rich in a generosity which is perhaps never to be found apart from the deeper workings of divine grace. "I have all I want; I want nothing but a bare putting on," has been his reply when urged to accept a small sum of money, expressing a wish that it should be given to some one more needful than himself.
Yet this poor man is quite unlettered; he cannot read a word; and he is thus deprived of those means which so many possess, of alleviating his physical distress, and raising himself above the things of time. How forcibly does his case teach us the value of that religion which he professes! Apart from this, how dark would be his path, how miserable his condition. But now, poor and wretched though he appears, and despised though he may be by earth's great ones, he enjoys a blessedness which kings may envy, and which he would not exchange for the riches of the universe.
Reader, do not refuse to learn a lesson from the simple story of Old Stephen. Are you poor? The religion of Christ alone can comfort you. Are you rich? It alone can guide you. Remember, nothing else can bless you in time,—nothing else can prepare you for eternity.
The Infidel's Test In the United States of America, infidelity found an active champion in the well known Col. Allen, who made an open profession of his disbelief of revealed religion. It happened that a daughter of the Colonel's, to whom he was much attached, became ill. During the progress of her disorder, Dr. Elliott was one day dining with the Colonel, and after dinner, having adjourned to the Colonel's library, some deistical publications were introduced by the Colonel to the Doctor's notice. While they were occupied in looking at them, a servant came to announce that an alarming change had taken place in his daughter, and that his presence was required in her bedroom. Thither he went, accompanied by Dr. Elliott. As he approached her bedside, she took his hand and said, "Father, I feel that my end is drawing near; tell me, I intreat you, am I to believe what you have taught me, or what I have learned from my mother?" Her mother was a sincere christian, and had spared no opportunity of instilling christian truth into the mind of her child. The father paused a moment, he fixed his eyes on his dying child, his countenance changed, his frame seemed convulsed to its very centre, while his quivering lips could scarce give utterance to the words, "Believe, my child, what your mother has taught you." The struggle was too great, the conflict between the pride of human reason and the swelling of parental affection in the heart was more than he could bear, and even over his stubborn mind' the truth prevailed.
The Child's Appeal "Mother," said a poor "ragged school"
boy who lay dying, and his voice was very weak and broken, yet how great was its power to awaken the mother's sleeping conscience, "Mother, will you give up drinking, and go to the house of God, and
pray for a new heart? Mother, I want to meet you in heaven
"Father, I shall soon leave you, but I am going to my heavenly Father. Will you give up swearing, father, and read the bible, and go to a place of worship on Sunday, and seek a new heart? Then I shall meet you in heaven. Do, father."—Sabbath breaking, Sabbath neglecting parent, if such an one should read this letter, what should you think of such an appeal as this from a dying child? Would you not be filled with very bitter self-reproach that it was needed? And would you neglect it? Be persuaded, then, without such a painful reproof, to try an opposite course to that which hitherto you have followed. Let your language now be, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."—G. E. Sargent.
BECOME A CHRISTIAN.
It is appointed unto men once to die. The time at which any one of us will die is moreover completely hidden from us. The reader may live until eighty, but he may die before twenty. When he will die God only knows. As the time of death is so very uncertain, it is very important to be at once ready to die. That man is ready to die who—upon a sure basis—has a firm conviction that death will be gain to him, and that all the circumstances of his death are appointed by Divine wisdom and love. Real religion supplies this conviction. A young man, to whom an occasional sermon, preached in London a few years ago by the writer, was made useful, died in the year 1842. The following account is recorded of the closing scene:—
The night of his death, "about half-past ten, he was evidently sinking, but he was still able gently to wave his hand, bidding those around him 'Farewell,' and adding with a smile, 'Death! where is thy sting? Grave! where is thy victory?' After a little time he spoke once more, to beg all about him would be perfectly still: 'Don't speak, don't speak,' he feebly uttered, 'I am enjoying deep and blessed communion with God.' For above half an hour perfect silence was maintained, during which he seemed wrapt in meditation, a smile frequently playing about his face. About the end of that time his head gradually fell back, his eyes brightened, and, as if his ear caught the harmonies of the invisible world, he exclaimed in a calm and loud voice, expressive of admiration, 'reautiful! Beautiful!' A few moments more, and then, as if the veil had been withdrawn which hides from mortal eye the radiancy of the upper world, he added, 'glory! Glory!' And with these words dying on his lips, he fell back upon his pillow, and his purified and happy spirit took its flight to heaven."
Is it not blessed so to die? Is it not blessed to be patient, hopeful, and peaceful in suffering? Is it not blessed to escape all that is hard in the way of transgressors? Is it not blessed to have an enlightened mindj a cleansed conscience, a purified heart, a rightly disposed will? Is it not blessed to have in the Holy Spirit a teacher and comforter; to have in Jesus Christ a friend and redeemer; to have in God an almighty Father; to find death without a sting; to have in immortality a happy, bright, and holy home? Become A Christian, and, youthful reader, all this is yours.
“ BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.”
Singular words_strange command! God's ways are not as our ways, neither His thoughts as our thoughts. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts! Was it not at Jerusalem that Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver-basely betrayed by one of his own professed friends? Was it not at Jerusalem that he was apprehended as a common felon, and tried as a thief or a murderer? Was it not at Jerusalem that they bore false witness against him—that they smote him with a reed—that they clothed him in mock royalty--that they lacerated his back with stripes—and that they platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head? Was it not at Jerusalem that they cried, “Away with him—away with him-crucify him; his blood be upon us and our children?” Was it not there that they compelled him to bear his cross? Was it not there that they found the nail, the hammer, and the spear, that pierced his hands, his feet, and his side? And was it not there that they wagged the head, exclaiming, “He saved others, himself he cannot save?” Ah! the heart of Jesus! How strong his affection-how unsearchable his love! Where is the heart that can conceive it—where the tongue that can express it? “BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM,” may well be the watchword of the minister—the pole-word of the christianand the cheer-word of the sinner. Jerusalem sinners are the GREATEST of ALL sinners. But to them the Gospel was preached as well as to us. Many of them were saved. Sinner, so may you!
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