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I haven't believed in any God for years : if I had I the first time in a long life uttered words of earnest shouldn't be as I am now ! And I never did beat prayer to God. He gasped forth, “God in heaven, little Nellie, drunk or sober! Haven't I gone hungry have mercy upon my darling and upon me!” The myself many a time with little Nellie's halfpenny loaf barriers once broken down, the pent-up deluge burst safe in my pocket ?”
forth. With his daughter's arms round him, her hot Presently he reached the house where his daughter breath upon his tear-stained cheek, there the poor had found a good home as a servant. The master of drunkard pleaded earnestly for mercy; and though the the house answered his wavering knock at the door, words were laboured and interrupted, they were earnest and looked very sternly and doubtfully at the wet and heartfelt—and they were heard. draggled figure seeking admission to his clean home: “Amen!” responded Nellie, and then continued, but the emergency was allowed to overcome all scruples ; “I am going to be with Jesus,-one of His servants, and he informed Peter that he would find his daughter doing His will, and seeing Him always; and I want and a nurse at the top of the house. The nurse laid her you to promise to love and serve Him too, and so come finger on her lip as he entered, and motioned him to a to me again when you die!” chair close to the bedside. Laying his shoes aside and “I will, Nellie,” he said ; " indeed I will ! if He removing his wet coat, he sat down and looked will have a poor broken-down wretch like me!” attentively at his sick daughter. As he looked upon “Let me pray now, father,” she said ; and with her her, a dull, faint heart-sinking within him told him that last strength she poured forth humble, earnest entreaties hope was over, that his darling was passing away. A into the listening ear of Eternal Love for her father, low, wild cry that he could not repress broke from him; and her mother and the other children. Then still and then his face was covered by his hands, as he sank clinging closely round his neck, she faltered, “Father, upon his knees by the bedside.
one more promise : don't ever drink any more !" The sound roused the dying girl ; she looked wildly “I won't, Nellie !” he gasped; “I never will, God and unconsciously around until her eyes met the helping me: I will die and come to you, if He will let shrinking figure by the bedside. Then thought and me; but I will never touch strong drink again.” A the old love returned to her ; she gently raised the glad, peaceful smile lit up her face as the promise fell bowed head until it rested upon her hot labouring upon her ear; and then she faintly murmured, “ I al bosom; and his arms were flung around her with an going : father, pray !" intensity that said he knew not how to let her go.
He complied, and the words fell solemnly upon
the “Leave me alone with father a little while, nurse, air. Then the loving arms unclasped, the head fell dear,” said Nellie ; "I have something I must say to back, and Nellie “was not; for God had taken" her him before I go.” The woman left the room silently; to the land of which it is written, “There shall be no and they were alone.
night there !" “Father! darling father !" she said, her arms A few days, and poor Peter had to return to daily clinging lovingly round his neck, * I am dying, and I tempting torture, without his darling Nellie. Oftenwant you to pray to our Father in heaven for me!”
times his life appeared one long continuance of awful A low groan, that seemed wrung from the depth of craving—a terrible yearning that seemed as if it must a breaking heart, was the only reply he was able to
Yet his strong resolve never once give. “I want you to think of our old home, father, , wavered—he would die, or even go mad, if so it must where
you used to twine my hair round your fingers as but he would be able to look into Nellie's spiritI climbed upon your knee, and so remember how you eyes and declare that he had faithfully kept the last always loved Nellie! I wish such times may come promise he had given. again, though I shall not be with you : and so I ask It was well for him then that he had to strive hard for you to pray for me, and for yourself too."
honest means of living. He went to an old employer, "I cannot, I dare not, Nellie," he said; “I would saying, “My daughter Nellie is dead ! Before she if I could—if only because you ask me : but I cannot; died she made me promise never to drink any more ; and it would be useless ! I have sinned beyond forgive and if I die for it, I will keep my word. Now, if you ness ; He would not hear me."
will kindly employ me, and lend me money to redeem “No, no, father!" she replied ; "Jesus is able to my tools, I will work steadily for you till all is repaid.” save to the uttermost,' and He came to do it; and He “ Lift up your head and let me have a fair look at can and will save you. If you have been a great your face,” replied the employer. sinner, the greater honour to Him in saving you. Pray, Peter quietly obeyed the request; and the master father ; pray for yourself and for me! I shall soon fixed a keen scrutinising glance upon him, -replying be in heaven, but I want you to come there too. Father! at length, “All right, Peter, I'll trust you willingly.” darling father ! Nellie is dying! but before I go, I So Peter fought the hard strife,—and conquered; want to hear you pray! Only a few words, father! clinging to his work, to Nellie's Bible, and to prayer. Don't refuse such a thing to your darling Nellie! It Among the vilest he went on his way, speaking of is the last thing she will ever ask on earth of you !” Jesus, of Nellie, and of hope ; himself a living gospel to
With an outburst of sobs and tears, that shook the the drunkard, a breathing proof of the infinite willingdying girl as a leaf in the autumn wind, her father for ness of the Son of God to rescue and to save.
have its way.
"ONLY A JOKE." HERE is always a certain excitement when the
some excitement in postman's knock is heard at the house door.
the village of Hilton when it Sometimes the letter he leaves brings sorrow,
was rumoured that a certain sometimes joy; sometimes it tells of money lost, some
long-uninhabited cottage was times of money gained, and more often it deals with
and as the new-comers common, every day things.
had managed their arrival in Over two thousand five hundred years have passed
some unknown way and at since Hezekiah, king of Judah, received a very im
some unknown time, the boys portant letter. It reached him by no common hand,
and girls, as well as a few it was sent by special messengers. It was not a pleasant
of their elders, declared there letter to receive, for it told him that the great and mighty
was something strange about king of Assyria intended to make war against him.
the two women of whom they Hezekiah read his letter ; perhaps he trembled as he only obtained rare glimpses when going on necessary mastered its contents, but
errands to the village only for the moment: for
shop. he remembered he was
It was not long before not alone, he had a greater
the elder of the two for him than against him.
was known by the name He carried the letter
of “The Dumb Witch.” straight up to the house
And on the rare occaof the Lord, and spread
sions of her venturing it out before the King of
beyond her own cottagekings. Then he prayed
gate, a group of very earnestly. He knew
rude urchins followed perfectly well that he
her, shouting, hootcould not fight the
ing, and uttering every king of Assyria unless
hideous noise they could his God helped him.
invent. (Read the thirty-seventh
That the chapter of Isaiah.)
creature was dumb acThe Lord heard and
counted for her inaranswered this prayer of
ticulate cries of mingled faith, and said, by the
anger and fear. The lads mouth of His prophet
used to declare she was Isaiah, "I will defend
cursing them when she this city (Jerusalem) to
raised her thin hands
The Word of God is quick, save it for Mine own and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
waving them back from sake, and for My servant piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of pursuing her; but they David's sake." And it the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts still took delight in peris written, “The angel and intents of the heart.--Hebrews iv. 12.
secuting her, harmless of the Lord went forth,
though she was. When and smote in the camp of
a large and beautiful the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five black cat was discovered to belong to the cottage, it thousand.”
became quite a favourite pastime to lurk about, on the Hezekiah in his sore need trusted in God, and God chance of hitting it with pebbles, this being a sure helped him. That same God is ready to-day to help means of bringing out the so-called witch with her any of His children who cry after Him. How many stout ash stick, with which she threatened the offenders, letters we receive and answer without taking counsel of who were, however, too active and fleet to fall into the God, and yet we know Him in a closer relation than
old woman's power. even Hezekiah did, for Jesus came to reveal to us God Thus it came about that warfare reigned between as “Our Father.” We should have fewer anxious the villagers, both old and young, and the inmates of cares in this world of ours if we took everything to the lonely cottage, for the children invented stories of Him in prayer.
the rage with which they were menaced and pursued, Let us follow Hezekiah's example, and in the great and the parents, without inquiring into the matter, took as well as small matters of this every-day life, cast all
the children's part. our cares on God, whose “hand is not shortened that As summer melted into autumn, a good many young it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot visitors were attracted to the place by the heavilyhear.”
laden apple trees, which grew in the “dumb witch's”
floor, her strange murmurings low and faint, and her daughter unable to tell what had befallen her. Jenkins, the head of the band whose joke had probably hastened the old woman's end, was the first to gain the cottage. “I never meant to hurt
it was all a joke at the beginning till we got angry,” he explained to the young woman who answered his knock. “ She was not injured, only frightened."
Silently she beckoned him to follow, and to his last day he never forgot that night. The low trestle bed was in the corner, upon which lay a form so still that no life could be in it, even the form of the poor old “ dumb witch” whose face
looked very peaceful, whose eyes would never unclose again in this world.
“She's better off," said the daughter, quietly wiping away a starting tear, “for she was fit to die. Many a time when you lads had been worrying her, I've caught her looking up to heaven and praying, as I've thought, for patience; for by nature she had a fiery temper, which would ill brook being laughed at. She'd learned to write a bit two years ago ; and see here what she put down just before she was struck with death last night.”
On the slate which had been kept for her use there was an ill-done scrawl, but plain enough for the boy to read it. “Father, forgive them, and forgive me !" she had said, and then laid down to die. Can I tell you the sorrow of those boys, who, though assured that she had died from some natural cause, always felt as if they had hastened her end? But it taught them that “only a joke" may have a serious ending; it taught them, too, that those whom their fellow-creatures ridicule and despise may be very dear to God.
All Hilton turned out to see the funeral of the “dumb witch," and many a tear was shed over her to whom in life they had shown no kindness; and
years after, when the children of the village had grown to manhood and womanhood, they would tell the story, and how in her own poor way the woman had left behind her the evidence that she forgave for Christ's sake, even as she trusted in Him for pardon when she had to appear before Him as her judge. Only a joke! Ah, many such things have ended very sorrowfully; so let us cultivate the spirit of kindness which was taught by the example and words of our Saviour, let us take His dealings with men as a model for our own, and then we shall be indeed the children of Him whose name is love, and who bids us love our neighbours as ourselves.
garden, finer and more fruitful trees, they seemed, than any others round about.
“Let's make up a party of six or seven," said one stout strong lad, "and demand apples as the price of letting her come outside her gate." And the thoughtless fellow found plenty of his comrades ready for the fun, as they called it.
So one day when the younger woman had been seen to go
in the direction of the town a few miles distant, a party of boys went up to the little cottage just as the “witch ” was closing the door behind her. “I say, old lady, give us some apples,” said Jenkins, the ringleader.
Before the words were off his lips she had pushed him aside and made her escape through the gate, followed by the whole party laughing, shouting and dancing round her like so many monkeys. When, however, she stood still and laid about her with her stout ash stick, a battle began in earnest, for the angry boys threw sticks and stones, and every missile which came to hand, and some serious disaster must have been the end of the affray, had not one of the Hilton men come by and put a stop to it.
Next day there was a strange revulsion of feeling, for news came about that the old woman of the cottage was dead or dying. In the night the village surgeon had been sent for, and found her lying motionless on the
his Sunday afternoons being generally spent in ringing things of God." "Their talk," he says, " was about a merry peals for the villagers' diversion. It was only new birth, the work of God in their hearts, as also how by degrees that he was able to abandon this favourite they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; pastime. " What if one of the bells should fall ?” he they talked how God visited their souls with His love thought. To provide against this contingency, he took in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises his stand under a beam fastened across the tower. they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported “But what if the falling bell should rebound from against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they one of the side walls, and hit me after all ?” This reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by what means trouble when it comes upon us? We do not know they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up
what we can bear till the trouble comes. We do not under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own know what strength God can give us, or what a strong wretchedness of heart, and of their unbelief; and did
God He can be to us. contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, Observe that God is not only our refuge and our as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.
strength, but our help also : help to support under “And methought,” he continues, “they spake as if trouble-help to comfort us while trouble lasts, till wo joy did make them speak; they spake with such are helped quite over it-quite through it. pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such And see what a help He is—"a very present help.” appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to It cannot be said of our God,"Perhaps He is asleep, me as if they had found a new world ; as if they were or talking, or gone a journey.” No; “He that keepeth 'people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Therefore,” among their neighbours.'
says David, “will we not fear.” And the believer “At this I felt my own heart began to shake, and may say, “Of whom shall I be afraid? What shall I mistrust my condition to be nought; for I saw that in fear? Shall I fear that my God will leave me, when all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new He says, 'I will never leave thee? Shall I fear that my birth did never enter into my mind; neither knew I
God will not succour me ?" No, says David, “though the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitful
the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; ness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though secret thoughts, I took no notice of them ; neither did the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,” I shall I understand what Satan's temptations were, nor how
not fear. “ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of they were to be withstood and resisted.
Jacob is our refuge." "Thus, therefore, when I had heard and considered But you would know how is tho strength that supwhat they said, I left them, and went about my employ- ports and comforts the believer conveyed to him? ment again. But their talk and discourse went with Well, this is explained in the psalm. “There is a me; also my heart would tarry with them, for I was
river,” said David, “the streams whereof make glad greatly affected with their words, both because by them
the city of God.” If by this river we understand the I was convinced that I wanted the true tokens of a
covenant of grace, then the promises of God are the truly godly man, and also, because by them I was con- streams that flow from it; and none but the believer vinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that knows how glad the heart is made by the promises. was such a one."
Since, then, there is a river, the streams whereof One day, as he was passing into a field, these words make glad the city of God- since God is our refugefell upon his soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.”
since God is our strength—since God is our help“I saw, moreover," he says, “ that it was not my good since God is a “very present help in trouble,” blessed frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor
be God, we shall not fear. Nay, though the king of my bad frame that made my righteousness worse,
terrors himself should come against us, we shall not be
afraid. my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same
“ Yea," says David, “though I walk through yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” He was now loosed the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no from his bondage ; his temptations fled away; and he
evil.” went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.
Oh, what a blessed thing it is that we have this to
comfort us when under any The words, " Thy righteousness is in heaven,” were not
we have to be found in the Bible, but then there were these,
a refuge to which to flee, and strength to enable us “He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteous
to flee there, and keep us safe when we shall have ness, and sanctification, and redemption."
reached it! This blessed truth was his peace with God. He
"God is our refuge and strength,” says the psalmist. was complete in Christ Jesus.
Now, upon our being able to appropriate this word “our” depends everything. All the promises of the Gospel, all that is said of God and of Christ, can do us
no good, except that God and Christ be ours—not only THE REFUGE IN TROUBLE.
whether He be so in a general sense, but that He is
our God in particular. He has said of His people in “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."--Ps. xlvi. 1.
general, “A new heart will I give them.” “I will put
My laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts.” od's people in every age of the world have their But all this is comparatively good for nothing to us
troubles. Indeed, we must all through much unless He has said at the same time of us, “I will be
tribulation enter the kingdom ; but we have a their God, and they shall be My people.” It is everysanctuary to which to flee. “God is our refuge and thing to be able to say "our God,” “our strength," our strength ;” that is, by His grace He enables us to “our refuge." bear the trouble-. by His power He carries us through it. Now, if we call God “ our God," we shall endeavour We sometimes think, how shall we bear this or that to be like God, that is, “whether we eat or drink, or