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“Yes," I replied, “and I think I know them also. You believe in men's right to liberty, and to do just what they please?"
“Of course I do," said he.
I may here state that John Gardner was a Cockney by birth, a brushmaker by profession, a tippler by practice, and a wretched and miserable man in consequence; his wife, and their children also, suffering their full measure of poverty and woe. For although the whole family worked hard every day, the most of their earnings were spent at the “ Irish Harp," at one end of the court, or at the
Barley Mow," which stood at the other end. And as Gardner spent all his evenings in drinking, their poverty was great and continuous. Having known this family for several years, I could always speak plainly without giving offence.
“But how do you know what I feel about this matter?” said Gardner.
“How can any one avoid knowing what your sentiments are, when your very appearance at once declares them? Your toes sticking through your aged boots, proclaim by the act their love of liberty. Your elbows, refusing to be confined within the limits of your coatsleeves, push their way through the cloth, and announce to all beholders their warm attachment to freedom. Your very--"
“ Come, come,” said he, with a good-humoured smile, “it is too bad to make sport of my poverty thus. And it is hardly like yourself to do so."
Well," I said, “you know I should not be likely to insult any man's poverty. But, honestly and candidly, is not your poverty your own fault? Is not your income sufficient, if wisely spent, to keep you and
your wife and family in respectability and comfort? And is not the liberty you desire simply opportunity and means to spend the whole of your time in the same way and manner as you spend your evenings? Come, now, speak out truthfully."
“I admit that there is some truth in what you suggest,” said Gardner.
“Is it not all true? Be sincere."
“Perhaps 80," said he. “But look here, I could earn half as much more money if my tools were at home. They are at my uncle's (meaning the pawnbroker's), and he won't let me have them without the cash. And I have none. And I am miserable when I have to work without proper tools."
“But with your present love of drink, and the society found at
the 'Irish Harp,' more money would be an injury rather than a benefit.”
He looked earnestly at me for a few seconds, and then said, “I wish I was a better man."
“Do you mean that?”
“I do. And you can help me to be a better man if you will. I have an uncle—my father's brother-living at Greenwich, who is a wealthy man. I went to see him the other day, and intended to ask him to lend me the money to get my tools out of pawn; but he was so displeased with my appearance, that I did not venture to ask him. Now if you would write to him, state my case, and my desire to do better, I believe he would help me through you. And if you can take my word, I promise that from this day I will try and become a sober man."
“If I should do so, and the application is successful, and you recovered your tools, and earned more money, I fear the temptation to the ‘Irish Harp' would only be strengthened.”
“Trust me, sir, and try me,” said he. “I will make the attempt. May God help me to succeed!"
“ He will if you earnestly ask Him.”
I did as he requested. His uncle sent me the money. I went with him to the different pawnbrokers’ shops where the tools were, and redeemed them. He was grateful, and he appeared determined to pursue a new course, or, as he said, “Gather himself up again.” I visited him now more frequently than usual, and spoke words of encouragement and hope to him, and was gratified to find that he kept from the public-house, and was really seeking to get clothing for himself and family-working each evening, in order to avoid the temptation which unoccupied time would present, and of course this helped greatly in securing his object.
One day I remarked that he had on a former occasion said to me, “Happiness is not for poor people.” I asked, “Is that true?”
His wife replied, “I don't think that we shall ever be really happy until we get to heaven.”
Then, Mrs. Gardner,” said I, "you will never be happy; for I am sure neither you nor your husband could ever be happy in heaven.”
• What, sir ! not happy in heaven? Is not that the place of happiness ?”
“ Yes; but not for you.”
“But why?” said both at once.
For this simple reason. For more than four years I have tried much to persuade you both to attend a place of worship, but have not been successful, which shows me that you have no love for the house and worship of God. You have used all sorts of excuses not one of which would have kept you away if you had desired to attend. And therefore I take it that if you could not once, during the four years that I have known you, find one hour's happiness in the house and worship of God on earth, it would be utterly impossible for you to be happy in heaven, where the worship is eternal.”
I stopped here; both were silent. Presently I said, “Am I right ? ”
They both confessed their inability to deny the force of my words. “But,” Gardner said, “I believe in God's mercy and willingness to forgive sin.”
He is merciful, and willing to forgive sin," I replied ; through what Jesus Christ has done, pardon may be secured on the condition of faith and repentance. But pardon alone would not make you happy in heaven, nor even take you there."
Why not?" said both at once. “Because, unless you were both made different in heart and feeling, there could be no fitness for the society and worship of heaven. You would not be happy for a day in the society of the Queen and the royal family, should you ?”
“Of course we should not,” said Gardner, “amongst the grand folks in the palace.”
“Then do you not see that in your present state you could not be happy in the presence of God in heaven."
I left them to think over what I had said.
The next Sunday evening they were in the house of God, listening to the Gospel, and learning how human souls may not only be pardoned, but renewed and fitted for the society of heaven. Again and again they came to the sanctuary. Eventually they sent their children to the Sunday school, decently clad, and their own attendance became regular and constant. In their home there was as great an alteration as in their personal appearance.
In due time they removed to more respectable apartments in a better neighbourhood; and were able at last to say that they found happiness in the place of worship, and had good reason to hope they should be happy in heaven.
Many have been the grateful expressions uttered to me by both Gardner and his wife for the way in which I corrected their ideas respecting liberty and happiness, and for my instrumentality in leading them to the enjoyment of both.
Several years have passed since I last saw them, but I have every reason to hope and believe that the good work begun in them, and thus far carried on, has by Divi grace been continued, and that I shall meet them again in the better land.
Let those who seek the salvation of the poor bear in mind that a helping hand extended in temporal matters is often introductory to the higher purpose of spiritual good.
ÑO MOTHER. SITTING in the schoolroom, I overheard a conversation between
a sister and brother. The little boy complained of insults or wrongs received from another little boy. His face was flushed with anger. The sister listened awhile, and then, turning away, she answered, “I do not want to hear another word: Willie has no mother.” The brother's lips were silent, the rebuke came home to him, and, stealing away, he muttered, “I never thought of that.” He thought of his own mother, and the loneliness of “Willie” compared with his own happy lot. “ He has no mother." Do we think of it when want comes to the orphan, and rude words assail him ? Has the little wanderer no mother to listen to his little sorrows? Speak gently to him, then.
BORN. IT is related, we believe, of the missionary, Samuel J. Mills, that
when under deep conviction of sin, and oppressed with the burden of his guilt, he remarked to his godly mother who was conversing with him, that he wished that he had never been born! The good woman, standing erect before him, replied with great earnestness, But you are born, and must live for ever, and you can't help it!” And that which was true of him, is also, reader, true of you-born for immortality.
Often to Marah's brink
Have I been brought;
Help I have sought;
Sweetening the draught.
Closer with Thee ;
Ever to be;
of New York.