The Premium

"I think I am sure of one premium at least," said Edward, as he stood among his schoolfellows.

It was examination day, and many a young heart was beating quick with the hope of approbation and reward, or with the fear of disgrace.

Some had looked forward to this day, and applied to their tasks, knowing how carefully they would be examined, and commended or punished according as they deserved.

Others had chosen to forget that such a day must come, and idled away the time which they would now have given a great deal to have at their disposal again.

In the center of the schoolroom was placed a long table, covered with books of various sizes and of different value. There were Bibles and Testaments, both large and small, the histories of Rome, of Greece, and of England. There were volumes elegantly bound and pamphlets just stitched together.

The school was extensive, and it was desired that every one who had exerted himself to the best of his ability, however little that might be, should carry home with him some mark of encouragement, to remind him that diligence and perseverance were not overlooked.

Like the servants to whom the Lord intrusted the talents, some had five, and some had but one, yet these last could not be excused for hiding and neglecting it because it was small; even the youngest and the simplest child at school may make something of the reason and opportunities which the Lord has given him to improve.

With anxious hearts and earnest faces, the boys arranged themselves around the table; and were examined with great care and patience by their teachers, as to the progress they had made in their studies.

Now, Edward had set his heart on one particular premium, the Roman History, neatly bound, and making two very pretty volumes, which he thought would handsomely fill up a vacant space on his book-shelves.

He allowed himself to think of this until no other prize was of any value in his sight. This is a great fault, often committed by children, and grown people too; instead of thankfully receiving whatever the bounty of Providence assigns them, they would choose for themselves; they become discontented and unhappy in the midst of blessings, because the wisdom of God sees fit to withhold some one thing that their folly deems necessary to their happiness.

[Illustration: <i>The Teacher Presents the Bible</i>]

Edward passed his examination with much credit, and one of the first premiums was adjudged to him; but instead of the Roman History, a very neat Bible, in excellent large type, was placed in his hands.

Many of his school-mates had longed for that Bible, but Edward did not care for it.

The eyes of the foolish boy filled with tears, as he saw the elegant History of Rome presented to another, who, perhaps would gladly have exchanged with him.

The next day Edward returned home and related his disappointment to his parents, who thought his desire for the Roman History a mark of great learning and taste; but since he had distinguished himself so well, they did not much care what prize he received.

Edward's father lived in the country, not far from the seaside, in a most delightful and healthful situation.

At this time his mother's brother, whose health was very poor, came to enjoy the benefit of the sea breezes, and rest a little from the toil and bustle of active life in London.

Mr. Lewis was a young man of the most pleasing manners and appearance. He was gentle and serious, but not at all gloomy or severe.

His bad health only served to increase his patience in enduring it without a murmuring word or discontented look. Edward, who was really a kind-hearted and affectionate boy, soon became very much attached to his uncle, who had not seen him since he was an infant, and who was much pleased at the attentions his nephew delighted to show him.

Young hearts are soon won; and it was only three days after Edward's return from school, that he went bounding over the grounds in search of his uncle, whose society he already preferred to his usual amusements.

Mr. Lewis was seated under a fine old oak, the high and knotted roots of which served as a seat; while the soft moss, in which grew many delicate little flowers, was like a carpet beneath his feet.

A rich and extensive tract of country lay spread before his eyes; and, at a distance the mighty ocean, whose deep green waters were seen in beautiful contrast with the pale yellow cliff, bounded the prospect.

[Illustration: "<i>Is that a Bible, uncle</i>?"]

Thin clouds were floating past the sun every now and then, and threw all the varieties of light and shade upon the lovely scene below.

Mr. Lewis had a book in his hand, into which he frequently looked, and then raised his eyes again to gaze upon the beauties of nature that surrounded him.

So intent he seemed that Edward doubted whether he ought to disturb him, until his uncle, seeing him at some little distance, kindly beckoned him to come near.

"Is not this a pretty place, uncle?" asked Edward, as he seated himself beside him; "and do you not find the breeze from the water very refreshing?"

"It is beautiful indeed, my dear boy; and I am refreshed and instructed as I look around me."

[Illustration: <i>The Holy Bible</i>]

"Is that a Bible, uncle?"

"Yes. I always find it the best commentary upon His works;—they explain each other."

"I love the Bible too, uncle," said Edward, "and got much credit for my answering on Scripture questions last half-year."

"And which did you enjoy most, Edward, the Scriptures, or the credit you got for studying them?"

Edward looked a little embarrassed and did not immediately reply.

"It is quite right to take pleasure in the well-earned approbation of your teachers," continued Mr. Lewis, "and I was glad to hear that you were given a premium at the last examination also."

"Yes, uncle, but not the prize I wanted most. There was a Roman History that I should have liked better, and it was exactly of equal value with the Bible that I got."

"Of equal value, Edward?"

"I mean that it was not reckoned a higher prize, and it would have been a nicer book for me."

"Then you had a Bible already?"

"Why, no, uncle, not of my own, but it is easy to borrow one on the Sabbath; and I had gone through all my Scripture proofs, and do not want it on other days."

"Read these four verses for me," said Mr. Lewis, pointing to the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy "commencing with the sixth verse."

Edward read: "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."

"To whom did the Lord give this command, Edward?"

"To the Jews, uncle."

"Yes; and the word of God, which cannot pass away, is as much binding on us as on them, in everything excepting the sacrifices and ceremonies, which foreshowed the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and which were done away. For by His death He fulfilled all those types and shadows."

"Then," said Edward, "we are commanded to write the Bible on our hands and on our doorposts."

"No, my dear boy, not literally, but in a figure of speech; as the Lord, when declaring he never will forget Zion, says, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.'

"The meaning of the passage you first read is, that we must have the word of God as continually present in our minds as anything written on our hands, and on every object around us, would be to our bodily sight. And how are we to get our thoughts so occupied by it, Edward?"

"By continually reading it I suppose," replied Edward, rather sullenly.

"By reading it often, and meditating on it much," said his uncle; "and that we can do without interfering with our other business. Without prayer, you cannot obtain any spiritual blessing, nor maintain any communion with God; and without reading the Scriptures you will have but little desire to pray.

"We are like people wandering in the dark, while the Bible is as a bright lamp held out to direct us in the only safe path. You cannot be a child of God if you do not His will; you cannot do it unless you know it, and it is by the Bible that He is pleased to have that knowledge known. Do you begin to see, Edward, that the Bible is more suitable as an every-day book than your profane history?"

"Why, yes, uncle; but the Bible is a serious book, and if I read it so constantly, I never should be merry."

[Illustration]

"There is no merriment among the lost, Edward; and that dreadful lot will be your portion if you neglect the great salvation which the Scriptures set forth. Besides, there is no foundation for what you suppose to be the effect of reading the Bible. I have known people naturally melancholy and discontented, become cheerful and happy by studying it; but I never in my life saw an instance of persons becoming unhappy because they had a hope of going to heaven."

"I remember, uncle, that it is written concerning wisdom, that 'her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.'"

"Most true, my dear boy, 'quietness and assurance forever' is the portion of God's people.

"'Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.'

"'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.'

"Are such expressions as these likely to make us gloomy, Edward?"

"O no, uncle; and I often wonder that you, who suffer so much pain, and read the Bible constantly, are not melancholy."

[Illustration]

"How can I be melancholy, Edward, when the Bible tells me that all these things are working together for my spiritual good? that He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will with Him also freely give us all things?

"When I think of what my sins deserve, and see the Lamb of God bearing the chastisement that should fall upon me, how can I be melancholy!

"When I feel that the Spirit of God is bringing these things to my remembrance, and enabling me to love the Lord Jesus, who has done so much for me, must I not rejoice?

"I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; and since God has promised forgiveness to all who seek that blessing through His Son; and since I feel assured that I have sought that blessing, and feel peace and joy in believing, surely the song of praise, not the moan of lamentation, becomes me.

"Yet I do lament, Edward, daily lament my many offenses against God; but I am assured that Christ's blood cleanseth from all sin, and that in Him I have a powerful and all-prevailing Advocate with the Father. I know in whom I have believed, and that He will never cast off nor forsake me.

"I am sinking into the grave, my dear boy, but I do not shrink from that prospect, because the bitterness of death is taken away by my Saviour, who died for my sins, and rose again for my justification; and though this body returns to dust, I shall live again, and enter into the presence of my Redeemer, and rejoice there evermore."

Edward looked at the animated countenance of his uncle, and then cast down his eyes; they were full of tears. At last he said:—

"Indeed, uncle, I am a very sinful boy, neglecting the Bible, because I know it would show me my sin, and the consequences of it.

"But I will trifle no more with God's displeasure. I will get that precious Bible, worth a thousand Roman histories, and I will read it daily, with prayer, that I may be wise unto salvation."

Mr. Lewis did not live long after this. He died, rejoicing in hope of life eternal; and as often as Edward was allowed to return home from school, he was to be seen under the oak tree, with the Bible in his hand, from which he learned more and more the will of his God and Saviour, the utter sinfulness of his own nature, and his inability to help himself. From this holy word he learned to place all his dependence upon the merits of his Saviour, to follow the example of his Saviour, in prayer, in resignation, and in doing good to the poor.

He often thought of his dear uncle, and counted that day happy when he sat to listen to his kind advice, which brought him to a knowledge of himself and of his heavenly Father.


LESSONS FROM THE 119th PSALM

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

"Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies."

"I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation."

"I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts."