Sivut kuvina



When the minister's wife pledged herself to the refined and scholarly man with fresh laurels from his Alma Mater on his brow, she cheerfully bade farewell to luxury, and gave herself up to the work of Christ, -not a new work to her, for she had walked through the furnace of fashion and vain pleasure, and come forth without the smell of fire on her garments. She had, however, looked forward to active and remunerating toil, and its perceptible fruits as her reward. She had expected to hear her husband's voice in the large assembly, moving many souls heavenward, and had expected to give her life to the poor and sinning in garret and cellar of the great city, and to rejoice over many penitents who should be her joy and crown in the final day. Her worthy friends, who looked on her purpose as the throwing away of a bright young life, warned her of the step she was taking, and advised her to "count the cost.” She did it; and although all her plans were thwarted, and her early hopes crossed, she never repented the step she had taken. She had given her life to Christ, and if He chose to immure her in Eastwood instead of serving Himself with her in the city of her love, it was well with her in the end, although the discipline which brought her to say it was not joyous,

The humble parsonage, the miracle-working of economy, the precariousness and deficiency of help, the many demands, and the little strength, were obstacles easily overcome; for she soon resolved that

farm hands to be cared for." It did chafe her spirit to know that her tasteful garments,- she had others, — were thought altogether too nice for a minister's wife, and that the example of wearing them was ruinous to the young people; it worried her to feel that she was looked on as a lady of ease and leisure, while she entertained all the ministers and the parishioners when they chose to visit her, morning, noon, and night.

If she had taken everybody's advice she would have been a very active Christian indeed. Aunt Hepsy Seamen, who, being lame at the pen herself, was amazed at the haste with which the minister's wife could get up a society report, or write a letter to go in a missionary box, once said to her : “ You ought to write books; the minister's wife at Denton does! For one of your leisure and talents, it's too bad not to lay up something agin a rainy day.” There were only three babies in the parsonage at this time. “Why don't you talk in meetin's,-that rather tries me. Suppose I should sit dumb in meeting, as you dowhat then?” The lady wanted to say the world would be no loser; but she knew how to bridle her tongue as well as her spirit, and only replied, “When that is presented to me as a duty, I shall try to do it."

would be happy and make her family so, whatever might be her trials. But when she sacrificed cheerfully, toiled hard, and economized closely, it did pain her sensitive heart to know that some sisters felt that “she ought to board the two school teachers, and that it was great extravagance to keep a girl when there were neither dairy nor

Nancy Mayhew, who had the honour of being alive among the sleepers of Eastwood, gave her opinion of the minister's wife thus: "I set a heap by her, for she is at heart a sincere Christian. She wants a little shakin' up; but she's more of a woman than most that's been dandled and trotted on the lap of luxury as she's been! A few trials, now-say a touch of poverty, or the loss of a few children --would make a bright and shinin' light of her. The furnace is what she wants• The dross to consume and the gold to


but grievous.

She was spoilt with pettin' when a girl, and I guess the minister's keepin' it up still: they say he stoops down and puts her goloshes on with his own hands afore she goes out in the rain! If he had stock to feed, and she had a dairy, I guess she'd larn to put on her own. goloshes! I wish I had her larnin', tho' I told her she ought to go into the tavern with her fine language, and read 'em a lesson on drinking. But she couldn't do it. She's a dear, lovin', faithful soul; but she's pretty much of a baby for all that."

The saintly woman knew all this, and a great deal more; and she knew, or thought she knew, that she would be far more useful in a wider sphere. But no wider sphere

opened before them; so she accepted the thankless yoke and toiled on, striving to make herself all things to all men. She, like a strong helper, held up the heart and the hands of the man of God, when otherwise they would have failed. She ordered her house, and trained her little ones in a way to make her family happy, and to please God. She welcomed scores of wearisome good people, and made their oftrepeated visits pleasant: and over all her trials and weariness she gloried in the fact that Christ counted her worthy to do any work in His kingdom; and rejoiced more over the conversion of one soul on that sterile soil than many do over scores gathered in from sunnier and more fruitful fields.


BY THE REV. L. B. BROWN. “What profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?”Job xxi. 15. WHETHER prayer ought to have any place in the sphere of human life, is clearly a question of very grave importance. So far as Christians are concerned, this moot-point is settled beyond all reach of angry controversy, or“ doubtful disputation.” To them, prayer is the simple necessity of a new-born life,—the instinctive utterance of conscious want; and God can no more disregard it, than a tender mother can jest with the cry of her helpless babe. It is a golden key, with which they unlock the gates of the morning, and fasten the gates

of evening, a silken border, which prevents the web-work of their daily life from becoming a mere tangled waste,-a swift-winged messenger, which carries their petitions to heaven, and returns laden with blessing from the bounty of heaven's great King. Without it, religious duty would degenerate into treadmill-drudgery,-begun with reluctance, ended with a sigh of relief; without it, spiritual enjoyment would sicken and die, like a flower bereft of air and sunshine; and without it, would be lost for ever the good man's best resource amid the struggles and sorrows of his earthly pilgrimage. But while feeling all this, with a depth of conviction which neither vulgar scoff nor refined sneer can shake, it is well known that, outside the pale of the Christian Church, too many there are in every social grade who look on prayer as a symptom of intellectual feebleness, of superstitious alarm, or of fanatical delusion.

[ocr errors]

In times of danger and suffering, when overwhelmed by misfortune, or standing face to face with death, this prayerless creed often fails them, and their avowed indifference melts away into anxious yearnings for Divine succour. But “in prosperity no altars smoke,"—the river past, God is forgotten; for when they increase in riches, and sickness and judgment seem far from them,—when they grow mighty in power, and their children are established before them, and timbrel and harp make life a gay round of song and dancing, -it is easy enough, and, alas! common enough, then, to turn the back on Him whose centre is everywhere, but whose circumference is nowhere ; and to regard all prayer addressed to Him as altogether a vain and unprofitable thing, as meaning simply so much wasted breath and so many fallacious hopes. Let us briefly examine the grounds on which this notion rests, more especially as it is held by those who have picked up a smattering of our modern science and philosophy.

Prayer, then, is assumed to be useless, because of the immutability of God's character. There is no logical resting-place between Theism and Atheism,-between a God absolutely perfect, and no God at all. Grant His existence, and every excellence must belong to Him, so completely and finally, as to be incapable either of addition or subtraction. Man's nature is a bundle of contradictions; a patchwork of many colours; a strange compound of good and evil: prone to fickleness and Protean changes, amid the ceaseless play of conflicting impulses and claims. But Infinite Perfection is free from such weaknesses—changes not-is without variableness or shadow of turning : and, while all created things are passing through processes of perpetual revolutionary vicissitudes, the Eternal Maker of them still rəmaineth "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Why hope to move such a Being with mortal entreaties ? What response can they have but their own sad echoes ? How can they result otherwise than as ashes thrown upwards, or as snow-flakes beating upon the rock? Now, the objection thus urged is based on a fundamental misconception. Rightly understood, prayer is not intended to change God, as if He were some pagan image, and could be fashioned into any shape to suit the fancy of His worshippers. It is designed rather, by its reflex influence, to change ourselves ; to lift us into the circle of His transforming fellowship; to make us more pure, reverent, loving, trustful; to break up our fallow ground,” so that the celestial elements which never fail may no longer harden it into mere desolate barrenness, but cover it with flowery verdure and precious fruits. Besides, immutability must not be confounded with insensibility. He who made us is not a divinity “ cast in bronze, or carved in alabaster,” sitting behind the clouds serenely unaffected by our wants and miseries. No view could be more unworthy of God than this, or more opposed alike to reason and revelation. The crowning glory of His nature is, that He feels appropriately towards all things, unalterably pained with what is wrong, unalterably pleased with what is right;

and the supreme object of prayer is to bring us into such relations to Him, that the benignant


[ocr errors]

fulness of His Godhead, free from all fitful caprices, may flow forth with unvarying willingness and certainty for our help and happiness.

Prayer, again, is assumed to be useless, because of the fixity of God's purposes. Every being gifted with intelligence acts more or less from deliberate pre-determination, choosing the end, counting the cost, and providing the ways and means for securing the desired issue. How much more must this be the case with Him who is the great fountain of intelligence, and who ordereth all things according to the counsel of His own mind! The works and ways of the Almighty are formed, not on blind peradventures, or random experiments, but on a definite, far-seeing, universal plan, which lacks nothing, forgets nothing, leaves nothing to what men call“ chance." There can be no hitch in His arrangements whose wisdom is infinite, no baffling of His aims whose power is invincible. In stately procession, His ancient decrees must march inflexibly onward to their accomplishment without the least risk of failure or abortion ; for as He hath thought, so shall it come to pass; and as He hath purposed, so shall it stand. Now all this is the simple truth ; but does it present any valid argument against the worth of prayer? Does not prayer run parallel with God's designs ; not counter to them? Does it not ask what is agreeable to His will; not what is contrary to it? Is it not a method of getting whatever He is pleased to grant; not whatever we are pleased to desire ? Nay, more; is it not itself an ordained part of the Divine scheme, –a something enjoined by the Eternal Maker and Ruler of us, to do which is an act of loyalty to His throne; not to do which is impious and treasonable? Heaven's decrees no more forbid supplication than they forbid effort: and, to ascribe to them any such effect, is to preach the dreariest Fatalism, to rob humanity of its freedom, and to render life itself an intolerable curse. As a question of fact, they do not prevent the arts, literatures, and industries of mankind from being transacted with wonderful energy and success: neither do they prohibit, but rather ingite, the holier outworkings of the soul in spiritual worship. Intercession with God, therefore, is not an attempt to frustrate His purposes, but to obey and carry them into harmonious fulfilment; and the vanished glories of Eden will return when men, the wide world around, have learnt to kneel at His footstool, saying, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.

Prayer, also, is assumed to be useless, because of the unchangeableness of God's laws. “Laws of Nature,

“Laws of Nature," as they are styled by those who never rise above the region of secondary causes, and who shut their eyes against the obvious induction of facts,—"Laws of God, whereby nature is governed,” would be a more accurate and equally scientific definition. The Creator has so formed and adjusted material bodies and their inherent forces, that one series of effects follows another in necessary sequence, uniform, regular, unvarying; and neither can the chain of unity be broken, nor the order of events reversed or modified. What good can prayer do for any sane man confronted by such inexorable truths ? Is it not at once a nullity and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

an absurdity ? Will it alter, by so much as a hair-breadth, the course of that huge machinery named " System of the Universe," any more than the shriek of perishing villages will arrest the avalanche, or extinguish the volcano ? And would not said machinery come to a stand-still, or end in utter chaos, were it made responsive to the endlessly diversified wishes of human petitioners ? Now, be observed, that this adverse reasoning leaves untouched the whole realm of the supernatural; and, after all, it is spiritual benedictions with which prayer is chiefly concerned, and which constitute the richest heritage God can bestow or man receive. Moreover, with respect to things physical, it is not sound philosophy to represent the world as a piece of clock-work, wound up millenniums ago, and left to run its round without further dependence on its Divine artificer. He who made the world sustains it; is the source of all its energies, and the guide of all its movements; not the slave of nature, but its sovereign Master and Lord. It is acknowledged that even human skill can utilize nature's laws,-can alter the current of seas, change the condition of atmospheres, reduce the winds to service, make electricity its courier, and well-nigh bridge over time and space. Is the Creator more impotent than the creature ? Surely what man can do on a smaller scale, the Almighty can do on a much grander scale, and by means unknown to us. All the complex forces of the universe are under His control, from that which moves the insect's wings, to that which turns revolving orbs; and, without disturbing the harmony of His works, or producing a succession of miraculous phenomena, He can still act through the rolling ages as the Hearer of prayer, in whom the weak find refuge amid the mysteries and miseries of their present lot.

Prayer, once more, is assumed to be useless, because of the infinitude of God's wisdom and love. "The eyes of the Lord go to and fro through all the earth, beholding both the evil and the good." No incident in our chequered history, be it great or small, is hidden from His Omniscient gaze.

Our character and circumstances, our temptations and conflicts, our wants and weaknesses, our sins and sufferings, are all minutely known to Him who notices the falling of a sparrow, and numbers even the hairs of our head. Why tell Him that of which He is already fully cognisant? Wherefore hold a flickering taper to the sun ? Since He comprehends what we need better than we do ourselves, will He not grant or deny all the same, whether we ask or not? Now, prayer was never meant for any purpose so impertinent as to inform the Deity, or to teach wisdom and understanding to the Most High; for “your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” But it does not therefore follow that "these things" will be dispensed alike, sought or unsought. You may be perfectly aware of your neighbour's poverty, and perfectly willing to help him ; but you may know also that he cares little about his poverty,—that it is selfcaused and self-continued,--that in his present mood

any help rendered would be squandered away in deeper profligacy and dissipation,—and

[ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »