STORIES FOR THE YOUNG;
CHEAP REPOSITORY TRACTS:
BY HANNAH MORE AND OTHERS.
A NEW REVISED EDITION.
THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY,
150 NASSAU-STREET, NEW YORK.
BLACK GILES THE POACHER
THE HAPPY WATERMAN
ADDRESS TO PERSONS ATTENDING A FUNERAL.
PARLEY THE PORTER
A NEW CHRISTMAS TRACT
A NEW CHRISTMAS HYMN
BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS
THE STRAIT GATE AND THE BROAD WAY
THE PARABLE OF THE LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD
BLACK GILES THE POACHER:
CONTAINING SOME ACCOUNT OF A FAMILY
WHO HAD RATHER LIVE BY THEIR WITS THAN THEIR WORK[A]
BY HANNAH MORE.
This story exhibits an accurate picture of that part of
the country where the author then resided; and where, by her
benevolent zeal, a great reformation was effected among the poor
inhabitants of at least twenty parishes, within a circle of thirty
Poaching Giles lives on the borders of one of those great moors in
Somersetshire. Giles, to be sure, has been a sad fellow in his time;
and it is none of his fault if his whole family do not end their
career either at the gallows, or at Botany Bay. He lives at that mud
cottage, with the broken windows stuffed with dirty rags, just beyond
the gate which divides the upper from the lower moor. You may know the
house at a good distance by the ragged tiles on the roof, and the
loose stones which are ready to drop out from the chimney; though a
short ladder, a hod of mortar, and half an hour's leisure time would
have prevented all this, and made the little dwelling tight enough.
But as Giles had never learned any thing that was good, so he did not
know the value of such useful sayings as, that "a tile in time saves
Besides this, Giles fell into that common mistake, that a
beggarly looking cottage, and filthy, ragged children, raised most
compassion, and of course drew most charity. But as cunning as he was
in other things, he was out in his reckoning here; for it is neatness,
housewifery, and a decent appearance, which draws the kindness of the
rich and charitable, while they turn away disgusted with filth and
laziness: not out of pride, but because they see that it is next to
impossible to mend the condition of those who degrade themselves by
dirt and sloth; and few people care to help those who will not help
The common on which Giles' hovel stands is quite a deep marsh in a wet
winter, but in summer it looks green and pretty enough. To be sure, it
would be rather convenient, when one passes that way in a carriage, if
one of the children would run out and open the gate; but instead of any
one of them running out as soon as they hear the wheels, which would be
quite time enough, what does Giles do but set all his ragged brats, with
dirty faces, matted locks, and naked feet and legs, to lie all day upon
a sand-bank hard by the gate, waiting for the slender chance of what may
be picked up from travellers. At the sound of a carriage, a whole covey
of these little scarecrows start up, rush to the gate, and all at once
thrust out their hats and aprons; and for fear this, together with the
noise of their clamorous begging, should not sufficiently frighten the
horses, they are very apt to let the gate slap full against you, before
you are half way through, in their eager scuffle to snatch from each
other the halfpence which you may have thrown out to them. I know two
ladies who were one day very near being killed by these abominable tricks.
Thus five or six little idle creatures, who might be earning a trifle
by knitting at home, who might be useful to the public by working in
the field, and who might assist their families by learning to get
their bread twenty honest ways, are suffered to lie about all day in
the hope of a few chance halfpence, which, after all, they are by no
means sure of getting. Indeed, when the neighboring gentlefolks found
out that opening the gate was the family trade, they soon left off
giving any thing. And I myself, though I used to take out a penny
ready to give, had there been only one to receive it, when I saw a
whole family established in so beggarly a trade, quietly put it back
again into my pocket, and gave nothing at all. And so few travellers
pass that way, that sometimes, after the whole family have lost a day,
their gains do not Amount to two-pence.
As Giles had a far greater taste for living by his wits than his work,
he was at one time in hopes that his children might get a pretty penny
by tumbling for the diversion of travellers, and he set about
training them in that indecent practice; but, unluckily, the moors
being level, the carriages travelled faster than the children tumbled.
He envied those parents who lived on the London road, over the
Wiltshire downs, which downs being very hilly, it enables the tumbler
to keep pace with the traveller, till he sometimes extorts from the
light and the unthinking a reward instead of a reproof. I beg leave,
however, to put all gentlemen and ladies in mind, that such tricks are
a kind of apprenticeship to the trades of begging and thieving; and
that nothing is more injurious to good morals than to encourage the
poor in any habits which may lead them to live upon chance.
Giles, to be sure, as his children grew older, began to train them to
such other employments as the idle habits they had learned at the gate
very properly qualified them for. The right of common, which some of
the poor cottagers have in that part of the country, and which is
doubtless a considerable advantage to many, was converted by Giles
into the means of corrupting his whole family; for his children, as
soon as they grew too big for the trade of begging at the gate, were
promoted to the dignity of thieving on the moor.
Here he kept two or three asses, miserable creatures, which, if they
had the good fortune to escape an untimely death by starving, did not
fail to meet with it by beating. Some of the biggest boys were sent
out with these lean and galled animals to carry sand or coals about
the neighboring towns. Both sand and coals were often stolen before
they got them to sell; or if not, they always took care to cheat in
selling them. By long practice in this art, they grew so dexterous
that they could give a pretty good guess how large a coal they could
crib out of every bag before the buyer would be likely to miss it.
All their odd time was taken up under the pretence of watching these
asses on the moor, or running after five or six half-starved geese;
but the truth is, these boys were only watching for an opportunity to
steal an odd goose of their neighbor's, while they pretended to look
after their own. They used also to pluck the quills or the down from
these poor live creatures, or half milk a cow before the farmer's maid
came with her pail. They all knew how to calculate to a minute what
time to be down in a morning to let out their lank, hungry beasts,
which they had turned over night into the farmer's field to steal a
little good pasture. They contrived to get there just time enough to
escape being caught in replacing the stakes they had pulled out for
the cattle to get over. For Giles was a prudent, long-headed fellow;
and wherever he stole food for his colts, took care never to steal
stakes from the hedges at the same time. He had sense enough to know
that the gain did not make up for the danger; he knew that a loose
fagot, pulled from a neighbor's pile of wood after the family were
gone to bed, answered the end better, and was not half the trouble.
Among the many trades which Giles professed, he sometimes practised
that of a rat-catcher; but he was addicted to so many tricks, that he
never followed the same trade long, for detection will sooner or later
follow the best-concerted villany. Whenever he was sent for to a
farm-house, his custom was to kill a few of the old rats, always
taking care to leave a little stock of young ones alive sufficient to
keep up the breed; "for," said he, "if I were to be such a fool as to
clear a house or a barn at once, how would my trade be carried on?"
And where any barn was overstocked, he used to borrow a few rats from
thence, just to people a neighboring granary which had none; and he
might have gone on till now, had he not unluckily been caught one
evening emptying his cage of young rats under parson Wilson's
This worthy minister, Mr. Wilson, used to pity the neglected children
of Giles, as much as he blamed the wicked parents. He one day picked
up Dick, who was far the best of Giles' bad boys. Dick was loitering
about in a field behind the parson's garden, in search of a hen's
nest, his mother having ordered him to bring home a few eggs that
night, by hook or by crook, as Giles was resolved to have some
pancakes for supper, though he knew that eggs were a penny apiece. Mr.
Wilson had long been desirous of snatching some of this vagrant family
from ruin; and his chief hopes were bent on Dick, as the least
hackneyed in knavery. He had once given him a new pair of shoes, on
his promising to go to school next Sunday; but no sooner had Rachel,
the boy's mother, got the shoes into her clutches, than she pawned
them for a bottle of gin, and ordered the boy to keep out of the
parson's sight, and to be sure to play his marbles on Sunday, for the
future, at the other end of the parish, and not near the churchyard.
Mr. Wilson, however, picked up the boy once more; for it was not his
way to despair of any body. Dick was just going to take to his heels,
as usual, for fear the old story of the shoes should be brought
forward; but finding he could not get off, what does he do but run
into a little puddle of muddy water which lay between him and the
parson, that the sight of his naked feet might not bring on the
dreaded subject. Now, it happened that Mr. Wilson was planting a
little field of beans, so he thought this a good opportunity to employ
Dick; and he told him he had got some pretty easy work for him. Dick
did as he was bid; he willingly went to work, and readily began to
plant his beans with dispatch and regularity, according to the
directions given him.
While the boy was busily at work by himself, Giles happened to come
by, having been skulking round the back way, to look over the parson's
garden wall, to see if there was any thing worth climbing over for on
the ensuing night. He spied Dick, and began to scold him for working
for the stingy old parson; for Giles had a natural antipathy to
whatever belonged to the church.
"What has he promised thee a day?" said he; "little enough, I dare
"He is not to pay me by the day," said Dick, "but says he will give me
so much when I have planted this peck, and so much for the next."
"Oh, oh, that alters the case," said Giles. "One may, indeed, get a
trifle by this sort of work. I hate your regular day-jobs, when one
can't well avoid doing one's work for one's money. Come, give me a
handful of the beans; I will teach thee how to plant when thou art
paid for planting by the peck. All we have to do in that case is to
dispatch the work as fast as we can, and get rid of the beans with all
speed; and as to the seed coming up or not, that is no business of
ours; we are paid for planting, not for growing. At the rate thou
goest on, thou wouldst not get sixpence to-night. Come along, hurry
So saying, he took his hat-full of the seed, and where Dick had been
ordered to set one bean, Giles buried a dozen; so the beans were soon
out. But though the peck was emptied, the ground was unplanted. But
cunning Giles knew this could not be found out till the time when the
beans might be expected to come up; "and then, Dick," said he, "the
snails and mice may go shares in the blame; or we can lay the fault on
the rooks or the blackbirds." So saying, he sent the boy into the
parsonage to receive his pay, taking care to secure about a quarter of
the peck of beans for his own colt. He put both bag and beans into his
own pocket to carry home, bidding Dick tell Mr. Wilson that he had
planted the beans and lost the bag.
In the meantime Giles' other boys were busy in emptying the ponds and
trout-streams in the neighboring manor. They would steal away the carp
and tench when they were no bigger than gudgeons. By this untimely
depredation they plundered the owner of his property, without
enriching themselves. But the pleasure of mischief was reward enough.
These and a hundred other little thieveries they committed with such
dexterity, that old Tom Crib, whose son was transported last assizes
for sheep-stealing, used to be often reproaching his boys, that Giles'
sons were worth a hundred of such blockheads as he had; for scarce a
night passed but Giles had some little comfortable thing for supper
which his boys had pilfered in the day, while his undutiful dogs never
stole any thing worth having. Giles, in the meantime, was busy in his
way; but as busy as he was in laying nets, starting coveys, and
training dogs, he always took care that his depredations should not be
confined merely to game.
Giles' boys had never seen the inside of a church, and the father
thought he knew his own interest better than to force them to it; for
church-time was the season of their harvest. Then the hens' nests were
searched, a stray duck was clapped under the smockfrock, the tools
which might have been left by chance in a farm-yard were picked up,
and all the neighboring pigeon-houses were thinned; so that Giles used
to boast to tawny Rachel, his wife, that Sunday was to them the most
profitable day in the week.
With her it was certainly the most laborious day, as she always did
her washing and ironing on Sunday morning, it being, as she said, the
only leisure day she had; for on the other days she went about the
country telling fortunes, and selling dream-books and wicked songs.
Neither her husband's nor her children's clothes were ever mended, and
if Sunday, her idle day, had not come about once in every week, it is
likely they would never have been washed either. You might, however,
see her as you were going to church smoothing her own rags on her best
red cloak, which she always used for her ironing-cloth on Sundays, for
her cloak when she travelled, and for her blanket at night: such a
wretched manager was Rachel.
Among her other articles of trade, one was to make and sell
peppermint, and other distilled waters. These she had the cheap art of
making without trouble and without expense, for she made them without
herbs and without a still. Her way was, to fill so many quart bottles
with plain water, putting a spoonful of mint-water in the mouth of
each; these she corked down with rosin, carrying to each customer a
vial of real distilled water to taste, by way of sample. This was so
good that her bottles were commonly bought up without being opened;
but if any suspicion arose, and she was forced to uncork a bottle, by
the few drops of distilled water lying at top, she even then escaped
detection, and took care to get out of reach before the bottle was
opened a second time. She was too prudent ever to go twice to the same
THE UPRIGHT MAGISTRATE.
There is hardly any petty mischief that is not connected with the life
of a poacher. Mr. Wilson was aware of this; he was not only a pious
clergyman, but an upright justice. He used to say, that people who
were truly conscientious, must be so in small things as well as in
great ones, or they would destroy the effect of their own precepts,
and their example would not be of general use. For this reason he
never would accept of a hare or a partridge from any unqualified
person in his parish. He did not content himself with shuffling the
thing off by asking no questions, and pretending to take it for
granted in a general way that the game was fairly come at; but he used
to say, that by receiving the booty he connived at a crime, made
himself a sharer in it, and if he gave a present to the man who
brought it, he even tempted him to repeat the fault.
One day poor Jack Weston, an honest fellow in the neighborhood, whom
Mr. Wilson had kindly visited and relieved in a long sickness, from
which he had but just recovered, was brought before him as he was
sitting on the justice's bench. Jack was accused of having knocked
down a hare; and of all the birds in the air, who should the informer
be but Black Giles the poacher. Mr. Wilson was grieved at the charge;
he had a great regard for Jack, but he had a still greater regard for
the law. The poor fellow pleaded guilty. He did not deny the fact, but
said he did not consider it a crime, for he did not think game was
private property, and he owned he had a strong temptation for doing
what he had done, which he hoped would plead in his excuse. The
justice desired to know what this temptation was.
"Sir," said the poor fellow, "you know I was given over this spring in
a bad fever. I had no friend in the world but you, sir. Under God, you
saved my life by your charitable relief; and I trust also you may have
helped to save my soul by your prayers and your good advice; for, by
the grace of God, I have turned over a new leaf since that sickness.
"I know I can never make you amends for all your goodness; but I
thought it would be some comfort to my full heart if I could but once
give you some little token of my gratitude. So I had trained a pair of
nice turtledoves for Madam Wilson; but they were stolen from me, sir,
and I do suspect Black Giles stole them. Yesterday morning, sir, as I
was crawling out to my work, for I am still but very weak, a fine hare
ran across my path. I did not stay to consider whether it was wrong to
kill a hare, but I felt it was right to show my gratitude; so, sir,
without a moment's thought, I did knock down the hare, which I was
going to carry to your worship, because I knew madam was fond of hare.
I am truly sorry for my fault, and will submit to whatever punishment
your worship may please to inflict."
Mr. Wilson was much moved with this honest confession, and touched
with the poor fellow's gratitude. What added to the effect of the
story, was the weak condition, and pale, sickly looks of the offender.
But this worthy magistrate never suffered his feelings to bias his
integrity; he knew that he did not sit on that bench to indulge pity,
but to administer justice. And while he was sorry for the offender, he
would never justify the offence.
"John," said he, "I am surprised that you could for a moment forget
that I never accept any gift which causes the giver to break a law. On
Sunday I teach you from the pulpit the laws of God, whose minister I
am. At present I fill the chair of the magistrate, to enforce and
execute the laws of the land. Between these and the others there is
more connection than you are aware. I thank you, John, for your
affection to me, and I admire your gratitude; but I must not allow
either affection or gratitude to be brought as a plea for a wrong
action. It is not your business nor mine, John, to settle whether the
game-laws are good or bad. Till they are repealed we must obey them.
Many, I doubt not, break these laws through ignorance, and many, I am
certain, who would not dare to steal a goose or a turkey, make no
scruple of knocking down a hare or a partridge. You will hereafter
think yourself happy that this your first attempt has proved
unsuccessful, as I trust you are too honest a fellow ever to intend to
turn poacher. With poaching much more evil is connected: a habit of
nightly depredation, a custom of prowling in the dark for prey,
produces in time a disrelish for honest labor. He whose first offence
was committed without much thought or evil intention, if he happens to
succeed a few times in carrying off his booty undiscovered, grows
bolder and bolder; and when he fancies there is no shame attending it,
he very soon gets to persuade himself that there is also no sin. While
some people pretend a scruple about stealing a sheep, they partly live
by plundering of warrens. But remember, that the warrener pays a high
rent, and that therefore his rabbits are as much his property as his
sheep. Do not then deceive yourselves with these false distinctions.
All property is sacred; and as the laws of the land are intended to
fence in that property, he who brings up his children to break down
any of these fences, brings them up to certain sin and ruin. He who
begins with robbing orchards, rabbit-warrens, and fish-ponds, will
probably end with horsestealing, or highway robbery. Poaching is a
regular apprenticeship to bolder crimes. He whom I may commit as a boy
to sit in the stocks for killing a partridge, may be likely to end at
the gallows for killing a man.
"Observe, you who now hear me, the strictness and impartiality of
justice. I know Giles to be a worthless fellow, yet it is my duty to
take his information; I know Jack Weston to be an honest youth, yet I
must be obliged to make him pay the penalty. Giles is a bad man, but
he can prove this fact; Jack is a worthy lad, but he has committed
this fault. I am sorry for you, Jack; but do not let it grieve you
that Giles has played worse tricks a hundred times, and yet got off,
while you were detected in the very first offence, for that would be
grieving because you are not so great a rogue as Giles. At this moment
you think your good luck is very unequal; but all this will one day
turn out in your favor. Giles is not the more a favorite of heaven
because he has hitherto escaped Botany Bay or the hulks; nor is it any
mark of God's displeasure against you, John, that you were found out
in your very first attempt."
Here the good justice left off speaking, and no one could contradict
the truth of what he had said. Weston humbly submitted to his
sentence, but he was very poor, and knew not where to raise the money
to pay his fine. His character had always been so fair, that several
farmers present kindly agreed to advance a trifle each, to prevent his
being sent to prison, and he thankfully promised to work out the debt.
The justice himself, though he could not soften the law, yet showed
Weston so much kindness, that he was enabled, before the year was out,
to get out of this difficulty. He began to think more seriously than
he had ever yet done, and grew to abhor poaching, not merely from fear
but from principle.
We shall soon see whether poaching Giles always got off so
successfully. Here we have seen that worldly prosperity is no sure
sign of goodness; and that "the triumphing of the wicked is short,"
will appear in the second part of the Poacher, containing the
entertaining story of the Widow Brown's Apple-tree.
HISTORY OF WIDOW BROWN'S APPLE-TREE.
I think my readers are so well acquainted with Black Giles the
poacher, that they will not expect to hear any great good, either of
Giles himself, his wife Rachel, or any of their family. I am sorry to
expose their tricks, but it is their fault, not mine. If I pretend to
speak about people at all, I must tell the truth. I am sure, if folks
would but turn about and mend, it would be a thousand times pleasanter
to me to write their histories; as it is no comfort to tell of any
body's faults. If the world would but grow good, I should be glad
enough to tell of it; but till it really becomes so, I must go on
describing it as it is; otherwise I should only mislead my readers,
instead of instructing them. It is the duty of a faithful historian to
relate the evil with the good.
As to Giles and his boys, I am sure old widow Brown has good reason to
remember their dexterity. Poor woman, she had a fine little bed of
onions in her neat and well-kept garden; she was very fond of her
onions, and many a rheumatism has she caught by kneeling down to weed
them in a damp day, notwithstanding the little flannel cloak and the
bit of an old mat which Madam Wilson gave her, because the old woman
would needs weed in wet weather. Her onions she always carefully
treasured up for her winter's store; for an onion makes a little broth
very relishing, and is, indeed, the only savory thing poor people are
used to get.
She had also a small orchard, containing about a dozen apple-trees,
with which, in a good year, she has been known to make a couple of
barrels of cider, which she sold to her landlord towards paying her
rent, besides having a little keg which she was able to keep back for
her own drinking.
Well, would you believe it? Giles and his boys marked both onions and
apples for their own. Indeed, a man who stole so many rabbits from the
warren, was likely enough to steal onions for sauce. One day when the
widow was abroad on a little business, Giles and his boys made a clear
riddance of the onion-bed; and when they had pulled up every single
onion, they then turned a couple of pigs into the garden, who, allured
by the smell, tore up the bed in such a manner, that the widow, when
she came home, had not the least doubt but the pigs had been the
thieves. To confirm this opinion, they took care to leave the little
hatch half open at one end of the garden, and to break down a bit of a
fence at the other end.
I wonder how any body can find in his heart not to pity and respect
poor old widows. There is something so forlorn and helpless in their
condition, that methinks it is a call on every body, men, women, and
children, to do them all the kind services that fall in their way.
Surely, their having no one to take their part, is an additional
reason for kind-hearted people not to hurt and oppress them. But it
was this very reason which led Giles to do this woman an injury. With
what a touching simplicity it is recorded in Scripture, of the youth
whom our blessed Saviour raised from the dead, that he was the only
son of his mother, and she was a widow.
It happened, unluckily for poor widow Brown, that her cottage stood
quite alone. On several mornings together—for roguery gets up much
earlier than industry—Giles and his boys stole regularly into her
orchard, followed by their jackasses. She was so deaf that she could
not hear the asses, if they had brayed ever so loud, and to this
Giles trusted; for he was very cautious in his rogueries, since he
could not otherwise have contrived so long to keep out of prison; for
though he was almost always suspected, he had seldom been taken up,
and never convicted. The boys used to fill their bags, load their
asses, and then march off; and if, in their way to the town where the
apples were to be sold, they chanced to pass by one of their neighbors
who might be likely to suspect them, they then all at once began to
scream out, "Buy my coal? buy my sand?"
Besides the trees in her orchard, poor widow Brown had in her small
garden one apple-tree particularly fine; it was a redstreak, so
tempting and so lovely that Giles' family had watched it with longing
eyes, till at last they resolved on a plan for carrying off all this
fine fruit in their bags. But it was a nice point to manage. The tree
stood directly under her chamber window, so that there was some danger
that she might spy them at the work. They therefore determined to wait
till the next Sunday morning, when they knew she would not fail to be
at church. Sunday came; it was a lone house, as I said before, and
most of the parish were safe at church. In a trice the tree was
cleared, the bags were filled, the asses were whipped, the thieves
were off, the coast was clear, and all was safe and quiet by the time
the sermon was over.
Unluckily, however, it happened, that this tree was so beautiful, and
the fruit so fine, that the people, as they used to pass to and from
church, were very apt to stop and admire widow Brown's redstreaks; and
some of the farmers rather envied her, that in that scarce season,
when they hardly expected to make a pie out of a large orchard, she
was likely to make a cask of cider from a single tree. I am afraid,
indeed, if I must speak out, she herself rather set her heart too much
upon this fruit, and had felt as much pride in her tree as gratitude
to a good Providence for it; but this failing of hers was no excuse
for Giles. The covetousness of this thief had for once got the better
of his caution; the tree was too completely stripped, though the
youngest boy Dick did beg hard that his father would leave the poor
old woman enough for a few dumplings; and when Giles ordered Dick in
his turn to shake the tree, the boy did it so gently that hardly any
apples fell, for which he got a good stroke of the stick with which
the old man was beating down the apples.
The neighbors, on their return from church, stopped as usual; but it
was—not, alas, to admire the apples, for apples there were none left,
but to lament the robbery, and console the widow. Meantime the
redstreaks were safely lodged in Giles' hovel, under a few bundles of
hay, which he had contrived to pull from the farmer's mow the night
before, for the use of his jackasses.
Such a stir, however, began to be made about the widow's apple-tree,
that Giles, who knew how much his character laid him open to
suspicion, as soon as he saw the people safe in church again in the
afternoon, ordered his boys to carry each a hatful of the apples, and
thrust them in at a little casement window, which happened to be open
in the house of Samuel Price, a very honest carpenter in that parish,
who was at church with his whole family. Giles' plan, by this
contrivance, was to lay the theft on Price's sons, in case the thing
should come to be further inquired into. Here Dick put in a word, and
begged and prayed his father not to force them to carry the apples to
Price's. But all that he got by his begging was such a knock as had
nearly laid him on the earth.
"What, you cowardly rascal," said Giles, "you will go and peach, I
suppose, and get your father sent to jail."
Poor widow Brown, though her trouble had made her still weaker than
she was, went to church again in the afternoon; indeed, she rightly
thought that her being in trouble was a new reason why she ought to
go. During the service she tried with all her might not to think of
her redstreaks; and whenever they would come into her head, she took
up her prayer-book directly, and so she forgot them a little; and,
indeed, she found herself much easier when she came out of the church
than when she went in—an effect so commonly produced by prayer, that
methinks it is a pity people do not try it oftener.
Now it happened oddly enough, that on that Sunday, of all the Sundays
in the year, the widow should call in to rest a little at Samuel
Price's, to tell over again the lamentable story of the apples, and to
consult with him how the thief might be brought to justice. But O,
reader, guess, if you can, for I am sure I cannot tell you, what was
her surprise, when, on going into Samuel Price's kitchen, she saw her
own redstreaks lying in the window! The apples were of a sort too
remarkable for color, shape, and size, to be mistaken. There was not
such another tree in the parish.
Widow Brown immediately screamed out, "'Las-a-day! as sure as can be,
here are my redstreaks; I can swear to them in any court." Samuel
Price, who believed his sons to be as honest as himself, was shocked
and troubled at the sight. He knew he had no redstreaks of his own; he
knew there were no apples in the window when he went to church; he did
verily believe these apples to be the widow's. But how they came there
he could not possibly guess. He called for Tom, the only one of his
sons who now lived at home. Tom was at the Sunday-school, which he had
never once missed since Mr. Wilson the minister had set one up in the
parish. Was such a boy likely to do such a deed?
A crowd had by this time got about Price's door, among which was Giles
and his boys, who had already taken care to spread the news that Tom
Price was the thief. Most people were unwilling to believe it. His
character was very good, but appearances were strongly against him.
Mr. Wilson now came in. He was much concerned that Tom Price, the best
boy in his school, should stand accused of such a crime. He sent for
the boy, examined, and cross-examined him. No marks of guilt appeared.
But still, though he pleaded not guilty, there lay the redstreaks in
his father's window.
All the idle fellows in the place, who were most likely to have
committed such a theft themselves, fell with great vengeance on poor
Tom. The wicked seldom give any quarter. "This is one of your
sanctified ones!" cried they. "This was all the good that
Sunday-schools did! For their parts, they never saw any good come by
religion. Sunday was the only day for a little pastime; and if poor
boys must be shut up with their godly books, when they ought to be out
taking a little pleasure, it was no wonder they made themselves amends
by such tricks."
Another said he should like to see parson Wilson's righteous one well
whipped. A third hoped he would be clapped in the stocks for a young
hypocrite as he was; while old Giles, who thought it was the only way
to avoid suspicion by being more violent than the rest, declared,
that "he hoped the young dog would be transported for life."
Mr. Wilson was too wise and too just to proceed against Tom without
full proof. He declared the crime was a very heavy one, and he feared
that heavy must be the punishment. Tom, who knew his own innocence,
earnestly prayed to God that it might be made to appear as clear as
the noonday; and very fervent were his secret devotions on that night.
Black Giles passed his night in a very different manner. He set off as
soon as it was dark, with his sons and their jackasses laden with
their stolen goods. As such a cry was raised about the apples, he did
not think it safe to keep them longer at home, but resolved to go and
sell them at the next town; borrowing without leave a lame colt out of
the moor to assist in carrying off his booty.
Giles and his eldest sons had rare sport all the way in thinking, that
while they were enjoying the profit of their plunder, Tom Price would
be whipped round the market-place at least, if not sent beyond sea.
But the younger boy, Dick, who had naturally a tender heart, though
hardened by his long familiarity with sin, could not help crying when
he thought that Tom Price might perhaps be transported for a crime
which he himself had helped to commit. He had had no compunction about
the robbery, for he had not been instructed in the great principles of
truth and justice; nor would he, therefore, perhaps have had much
remorse about accusing an innocent boy. But, though utterly devoid of
principle, he had some remains of natural feeling and of gratitude.
Tom Price had often given him a bit of his own bread and cheese; and
once, when Dick was like to be drowned, Tom had jumped into the pond
with his clothes on, and saved his life, when he was just sinking: the
remembrance of all this made his heart heavy. He said nothing; but, as
he trotted, barefoot, after the asses, he heard his father and
brothers laugh at having outwitted the godly ones; and he grieved to
think how poor Tom would suffer for his wickedness, yet fear kept him
silent: they called him sulky dog, and lashed the asses till they
In the meantime, Tom Price kept up his spirits as well as he could. He
worked hard all day, and prayed heartily night and morning.
"It is true," said he to himself, "I am not guilty of this sin; but
let this accusation set me on examining myself, and truly repenting
of all my other sins; for I find enough to repent of, though I thank
God I did not steal the widow's apples."
At length Sunday came, and Tom went to school as usual. As soon as he
walked in, there was a great deal of whispering and laughing among the
worst of the boys; and he overheard them say, "Who would have thought
it? This is master's favorite! This is parson Wilson's sober Tommy! We
sha'n't have Tommy thrown in our teeth again, if we go to get a
birdsnest, or gather a few nuts on a Sunday." "Your demure ones are
always hypocrites," says another. "The still sow sucks all the milk,"
says a third.
Giles' family had always kept clear of the school. Dick, indeed, had
sometimes wished to go: not that he had much sense of sin, or desire
after goodness, but he thought if he could once read, he might rise in
the world, and not be forced to drive asses all his life. Through this
whole Saturday night he could not sleep. He longed to know what would
be done to Tom. He began to wish to go to school, but he had not
courage—sin is very cowardly: so, on the Sunday morning, he went and
sat himself down under the church-wall. Mr. Wilson passed by. It was
not his way to reject the most wicked, till he had tried every means
to bring them over; and even then he pitied and prayed for them. He
had, indeed, long left off talking to Giles' sons; but, seeing Dick
sitting by himself, he once more spoke to him, desired him to leave
off his vagabond life, and go with him into the school. The boy hung
down his head, but made no answer. He did not, however, either rise up
and run away, or look sulky, as he used to do. The minister desired
him once more to go.
"Sir," said the boy, "I can't go; I am so big I am ashamed."
"The bigger you are, the less time you have to lose."
"But, sir, I can't read."
"Then it is high time you should learn."
"I should be ashamed to begin to learn my letters."
"The shame is not in beginning to learn them, but in being contented
never to know them."
"But, sir, I am so ragged."
"God looks at the heart, and not at the coat."
"But, sir, I have no shoes and stockings."
"So much the worse; I remember who gave you both." Here Dick colored.
"It is bad to want shoes and stockings; but still, if you can drive
your asses a dozen miles without them, you may certainly walk a
hundred yards to school without them."
"But, sir, the good boys will hate me, and wont speak to me."
"Good boys hate nobody; and as to not speaking to you, to be sure they
will not keep you company while you go on in your present evil
courses; but as soon as they see you wish to reform, they will help
you, and pity you, and teach you; so come along." Here Mr. Wilson took
this dirty boy by the hand, and gently pulled him forward, kindly
talking to him all the way.
How the whole school stared to see Dick Giles come in! No one,
however, dared to say what he thought. The business went on, and Dick
slunk into a corner, partly to hide his rags, and partly to hide his
sin; for last Sunday's transactions sat heavy on his heart, not
because he had stolen the apples, but because Tom Price had been
accused. This, I say, made him slink behind. Poor boy, he little
thought there was One saw him who sees all things, and from whose
eye no hole or corner can hide the sinner; for he is about our bed,
and about our paths, and spieth out all our ways.
It was the custom in that school for the master, who was a good and
wise man, to mark down in his pocketbook all the events of the week,
that he might turn them to some account in his Sunday evening
instructions: such as any useful story in the newspaper, any account
of boys being drowned as they were out in a pleasure-boat on Sundays,
any sudden death in the parish, or any other remarkable visitation of
Providence; insomuch, that many young people in the place, who did not
belong to the school, and many parents, also, used to drop in for an
hour on a Sunday evening, when they were sure to hear something
profitable. The minister greatly approved this practice, and often
called in himself, which was a great support to the master, and
encouragement to the people.
The master had taken a deep concern in the story of widow Brown's
apple-tree. He could not believe Tom Price was guilty, nor dared he
pronounce him innocent; but he resolved to turn the instructions of
the present evening to this subject. He began thus: "My dear boys,
however light some of you may make of robbing an orchard, yet I have
often told you there is no such thing as a little sin, if it be
wilful or habitual. I wish now to explain to you, also, that there is
hardly such a thing as a single solitary sin. You know I teach you
not merely to repeat the commandments as an exercise for your memory,
but as a rule for your conduct. If you were to come here on a Sunday
only to learn to read and spell, I should think that was not employing
God's day for God's work; but I teach you to read, that you may, by
this means, so understand the Bible and the catechism, as to make
every text in the one, and every question and answer in the other, to
be so fixed in your hearts, that they may bring forth the fruits of
MASTER. "How many commandments are there?"
MASTER. "How many did that boy break who stole widow Brown's apples?"
BOY. "Only one, master; the eighth."
MASTER. "What is the eighth?"
BOY. "Thou shalt not steal."
MASTER. "And you are very sure that this was the only one he broke?
Now, suppose I could prove to you that he probably broke, not less
than six out of those ten commandments, which the great Lord of heaven
himself stooped down from his eternal glory to deliver to men, would
you not then think it a terrible thing to steal, whether apples or
BOY. "Yes, master."
MASTER. "I will put the case. Some wicked boy has robbed widow Brown's
orchard." Here the eyes of every one were turned on poor Tom Price,
except those of Dick Giles, who fixed his on the ground. "I accuse no
one," continued the master; "Tom Price is a good boy, and was not
missing at the time of the robbery: these are two reasons why I
presume he is innocent; but whoever it was, you allow that by stealing
these apples he broke the eighth commandment?"
BOY. "Yes, master."
MASTER. "On what day were these apples stolen?"
BOY. "On Sunday."
MASTER. "What is the fourth commandment?"
BOY. "Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath-day."
MASTER, "Does that person keep holy the Sabbath-day, who loiters in an
orchard on Sunday when he should be at church, and steals apples when
he ought to be at prayer?"
BOY. "No, master."
MASTER. "What command does he break?"
BOY. "The fourth."
MASTER. "Suppose this boy had parents, who had sent him to church, and
that he had disobeyed them by not going; would that be keeping the
BOY. "No, master; for the fifth commandment says, 'Thou shalt honor
thy father and thy mother.'"
This was the only part in the case in which poor Dick Giles' heart did
not smite him; for he knew he had disobeyed no father—for his father,
alas, was still more wicked than himself, and had brought him up to
commit the sin. But what a wretched comfort was this. The master went
MASTER. "Suppose this boy earnestly coveted this fruit, though it
belonged to another person; would that be right?"
BOY. "No, master; for the tenth commandment says, 'Thou shalt not
MASTER. "Very well. Here are four of God's positive commands already
broken. Now, do you think thieves ever scruple to use wicked words?"
BOY. "I am afraid not, master."
Here Dick Giles was not so hardened but that he remembered how many
curses had passed between him and his father while they were filling
the bags, and he was afraid to look up. The master went on.
"I will now go one step further. If the thief to all his other sins
has added that of accusing the innocent to save himself—if he should
break the ninth commandment, by bearing false witness against a
harmless neighbor, then six commandments are broken for an apple!
But if it be otherwise, if Tom Price should be found guilty, it is not
his good character shall save him. I shall shed tears over him, but
punish him I must, and that severely."
"No, that you sha'n't," roared out Dick Giles, who sprung from his
hiding-place, fell on his knees, and burst out a crying. "Tom Price is
as good a boy as ever lived; it was father and I who stole the
It would have done your heart good to have seen the joy of the master,
the modest blushes of Tom Price, and the satisfaction of every honest
boy in the school. All shook hands with Tom, and even Dick got some
portion of pity. I wish I had room to give my readers the moving
exhortation which the master gave. But while Mr. Wilson left the
guilty boy to the management of the master, he thought it became him,
as a minister and a magistrate, to go to the extent of the law in
punishing the father.
Early on Monday morning, he sent to apprehend Giles. In the meantime,
Mr. Wilson was sent for to a gardener's house, two miles distant, to
attend a man who was dying. This was a duty to which all others gave
way, in his mind. He set out directly; but what was his surprise, on
his arrival, to see, on a little bed on the floor, poaching Giles
lying, in all the agonies of death! Jack Weston, a poor young man,
against whom Giles had informed for killing a hare, was kneeling by
him, offering him some broth, and talking to him in the kindest
manner. Mr. Wilson begged to know the meaning of all this; and Jack
Weston spoke as follows:
"At four this morning, as I was going out to mow, passing under the
high wall of this garden, I heard a most dismal moaning. The nearer I
came, the more dismal it grew. At last, who should I see but poor
Giles, groaning and struggling under a quantity of bricks and stones,
but not able to stir. The day before, he had marked a fine large net
on this old wall, and resolved to steal it; for he thought it might do
as well to catch partridges as to preserve cherries: so, sir, standing
on the very top of this wall, and tugging with all his might to loosen
the net from the hooks which fastened it, down came Giles, net, wall,
and all; for the wall was gone to decay. It was very high, indeed, and
poor Giles not only broke his thigh, but has got a terrible blow on
his brain, and is bruised all over like a mummy.
"On seeing me, sir, poor Giles cried out, 'Oh, Jack, I did try to ruin
thee by lodging that information, and now thou wilt be revenged by
letting me lie here and perish.'
"'God forbid, Giles,' cried I; 'thou shalt see what sort of revenge a
Christian takes.' So, sir, I sent off the gardener's boy to fetch a
surgeon, while I scampered home, and brought, on my back, this bit of
a hammock, which is indeed my own bed, and put Giles upon it: we then
lifted him up, bed and all, as tenderly as if he had been a gentleman,
and brought him in here. My wife has just brought him a drop of nice
broth; and now, sir, as I have done what I could for his poor
perishing body, it was I who took the liberty to send to you to come
and try to help his poor soul, for the doctor says he can't live."
Mr. Wilson could not help saying to himself, "Such an action as this
is worth a whole volume of comments on that precept of our blessed
Master, 'Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you.'"
Giles' dying groans confirmed the sad account Weston had just given.
The poor wretch could neither pray himself, nor attend to the
minister. He could only cry out, "Oh, sir, what will become of me? I
don't know how to repent. O my poor wicked children! Sir, I have bred
them all up in sin and ignorance. Have mercy on them, sir; let me not
meet them in the place of torment to which I am going. Lord, grant
them that time for repentance which I have thrown away!" He languished
a few days, and died in great misery—a fresh and sad instance, that
people who abuse the grace of God, and resist his Spirit, find it
difficult to repent when they will.
Except the minister and Jack Western, no one came to see poor Giles,
besides Tommy Price, who had been so sadly wronged by him. Tom often
brought him his own rice and milk or apple-dumpling; and Giles,
ignorant and depraved as he was, often cried out that "he thought now
there must be some truth in religion, since it taught even a boy to
deny himself, and to forgive an injury." Mr. Wilson, the next
Sunday, made a moving discourse on the danger of what are called
"petty offences." This, together with the awful death of Giles,
produced such an effect, that no poacher has been able to show his
head in that parish ever since.
OR, THE FORTUNE-TELLER.
WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF DREAMS, OMENS, AND CONJURERS
BY HANNAH MORE.
Tawney Rachel was the wife of poaching Giles. There seemed to be a
conspiracy in Giles' whole family to maintain themselves by tricks and
pilfering. Regular labor and honest industry did not suit their idle
habits. They had a sort of genius at finding out every unlawful means
to support a vagabond life. Rachel travelled the country with a basket
on her arm. She pretended to get her bread by selling laces,
cabbage-nets, ballads, and history-books, and used to buy old rags and
rabbit skins. Many honest people trade in these things, and I am sure
I do not mean to say a word against honest people, let them trade in
what they will. But Rachel only made this traffic a pretence for
getting admittance into farmers' kitchens, in order to tell fortunes.
She was continually practising on the credulity of silly girls; and
took advantage of their ignorance to cheat and deceive them. Many an
innocent servant has she caused to be suspected of a robbery, while
she herself, perhaps, was in league with the thief. Many a harmless
maid has she brought to ruin by contriving plots and events herself,
and then pretending to foretell them. She had not, to be sure, the
power of really foretelling things, because she had no power of seeing
into futurity; but she had the art sometimes to bring them about
according as she had foretold them. So she got that credit for her
wisdom which really belonged to her wickedness.
Rachel was also a famous interpreter of dreams, and could distinguish
exactly between the fate of any two persons who happened to have a
mole on the right or the left cheek. She had a cunning way of getting
herself off when any of her prophecies failed. When she explained a
dream according to the natural appearance of things, and it did not
come to pass, then she would get out of that scrape by saying, that
"this sort of dreams went by contraries." Now, of two very opposite
things the chance always is, that one of them may turn out to be true;
so in either case she kept up the cheat.
Rachel, in one of her rambles, stopped at the house of farmer Jenkins.
She contrived to call when she knew the master of the house was from
home, which indeed was her usual way. She knocked at the door. The
maids being out haymaking, Mrs. Jenkins went to open it herself.
Rachel asked her if she would please to let her light her pipe. This
was a common pretence, when she could find no other way of getting
into a house. While she was filling her pipe, she looked at Mrs.
Jenkins, and said she could tell her some good fortune. The farmer's
wife, who was a very inoffensive, but a weak and superstitious woman,
was curious to know what she meant. Rachel then looked about very
carefully, and shutting the door with a mysterious air, asked her if
she was sure nobody would hear them. This appearance of mystery was at
once delightful and terrifying to Mrs. Jenkins, who, with trembling
agitation, bade the cunning woman speak out.
"Then," said Rachel in a solemn whisper, "there is to my certain
knowledge a pot of money hid under one of the stones in your cellar."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Jenkins, "it is impossible; for now I think of it,
I dreamed last night I was in prison for debt."
"Did you indeed?" said Rachel, "that is quite surprising. Did you
dream before twelve o'clock, or after?"
"O, it was this morning, just before I awoke."
"Then I am sure it is true, for morning dreams always go by
contraries," cried Rachel. "How lucky it was you dreamed it so late."
Mrs. Jenkins could hardly contain her joy, and asked how the money was
to be come at.
"There is but one way," said Rachel; "I must go into the cellar. I
know by my art under which stone it lies, but I must not tell."
Then they both went down into the cellar, but Rachel refused to point
at the stone, unless Mrs. Jenkins would put five pieces of gold into a
basin, and do as she directed. The simple woman, instead of turning
her out of doors for a cheat, did as she was bid. She put the guineas
into a basin, which she gave into Rachel's hand. Rachel strewed some
white powder over the gold, muttered some barbarous words, and
pretended to perform the black art. She then told Mrs. Jenkins to put
the basin quietly down within the cellar; telling her, that if she
offered to look into it, or even to speak a word, the charm would be
broken. She also directed her to lock the cellar-door, and on no
pretence to open it in less than forty-eight hours.
"If," added she, "you closely follow these directions, then, by the
power of my art, you will find the basin conveyed to the very stone
under which the money lies hid, and a fine treasure it will be." Mrs.
Jenkins, who believed every word the woman said, did exactly as she
was told, and Rachel took her leave with a handsome reward.
When farmer Jenkins came home, he desired his wife to draw him a cup
of cider; this she put off doing so long that he began to be
displeased. At last she begged he would drink a little beer instead.
He insisted on knowing the reason, and when at last he grew angry, she
told him all that had passed; and owned that as the pot of gold
happened to be in the cider-cellar, she did not dare to open the
door, as she was sure it would break the charm. "And it would be a
pity, you know," said she, "to lose a good fortune for the sake of a
draught of cider."
The farmer, who was not so easily imposed upon, suspected a trick. He
demanded the key, and went and opened the cellar-door; there he found
the basin, and in it five round pieces of tin covered with powder.
Mrs. Jenkins burst out a crying; but the farmer thought of nothing but
getting a warrant to apprehend the cunning woman. Indeed, she well
proved her claim to that name, when she insisted that the cellar-door
might be kept locked till she had time to get out of the reach of all
Poor Sally Evans. I am sure she rued the day that ever she listened to
a fortune-teller. Sally was as harmless a girl as ever churned a pound
of butter; but Sally was ignorant and superstitious. She delighted in
dream-books, and had consulted all the cunning women in the country to
tell her whether the two moles on her cheek denoted that she was to
have two husbands, or only two children. If she picked up an old
horseshoe going to church, she was sure that would be a lucky week.
She never made a black-pudding without borrowing one of the parson's
old wigs to hang in the chimney, firmly believing there were no other
means to preserve them from bursting.
She would never go to bed on Midsummer-eve without sticking up in her
room the well-known plant called Midsummer-men, as the bending of the
leaves to the right or to the left, would not fail to tell her whether
Jacob, of whom we shall speak presently, was true or false. She would
rather go five miles about than pass near a churchyard at night. Every
seventh year she would not eat beans, because they grew downward in
the pod, instead of upward; and she would rather have gone with her
gown open than have taken a pin of an old woman, for fear of being
Poor Sally had so many unlucky days in her calendar, that a large
portion of her time became of little use, because on these days she
did not dare set about any new work. And she would have refused the
best offer in the country if made to her on a Friday, which she
thought so unlucky a day, that she often said what a pity it was that
there was any Friday in the week. Sally had twenty pounds left her by
her grandmother. She had long been courted by Jacob, a sober lad, with
whom she lived a fellow-servant at a creditable farmer's. Honest
Jacob, like his namesake of old, thought it little to wait seven years
to get this damsel to wife, because of the love he bore her, for Sally
had promised to marry him when he could match her twenty pounds with
another of his own.
Now, there was one Robert, a rambling, idle young gardener, who,
instead of sitting down steadily in one place, used to roam about the
country, and do odd jobs where he could get them. No one understood
any thing about him, except that he was a down-looking fellow, who
came nobody knew whence, and got his bread nobody knew how, and never
had a penny in his pocket. Robert, who was now in the neighborhood,
happened to hear of Sally Evans and her twenty pounds. He immediately
conceived a longing desire for the latter. So he went to his old
friend Rachel, told her all he had heard of Sally, and promised if she
could bring about a marriage between them, she should go shares in the
Rachel undertook the business. She set off to the farm-house, and fell
to singing one of her most enticing songs just under the dairy
window. Sally was so struck with the pretty tune, which was unhappily
used, as is too often the case, to set off some very loose words, that
she jumped up, dropped the skimming dish into the cream, and ran out
to buy the song.
While she stooped down to rummage the basket for those songs which had
the most tragical pictures—for Sally had a most tender heart, and
delighted in whatever was mournful—Rachel looked steadfastly in her
face, and told her she knew by her art that she was born to good
fortune, but advised her not to throw herself away. "These two moles
on your cheek," added she, "show you are in some danger."
"Do they denote husbands or children?" cried Sally, starting up, and
letting fall the song of the Children in the Wood.
"Husbands," muttered Rachel.
"Alas, poor Jacob," said Sally mournfully; "then he will die first,
"Mum for that," quoth the fortune-teller; "I will say no more."
Sally was impatient, but the more curiosity she discovered, the more
mystery Rachel affected. At last she said, "If you will cross my hand
with a piece of silver, I will tell you your fortune. By the power of
my art, I can do this three ways: by cards, by the lines of your hand,
or by turning a cup of tea-grounds; which will you have?"
"O, all, all," cried Sally, looking up with reverence to this sunburnt
oracle of wisdom, who knew no less than three different ways of diving
into the secrets of futurity. Alas, persons of better sense than Sally
have been so taken in; the more is the pity.
The poor girl said she would run up stairs to her little box, where
she kept her money tied up in a bit of an old glove, and would bring
down a bright queen Anne's sixpence very crooked. "I am sure," added
she, "it is a lucky one, for it cured me of a very bad ague last
spring, by only laying it nine nights under my pillow, without
speaking a word. But then you must know what gave virtue to this
sixpence was, that it had belonged to three young men of the name of
John; I am sure I had work enough to get it. But true it is, it
certainly cured me. It must be the sixpence you know, for I am sure I
did nothing else for my ague, except indeed taking some bitter stuff
every three hours, which the doctor called bark. To be sure, I lost
my ague soon after I took it, but I am certain it was owing to the
crooked sixpence, and not to the bark. And so, good woman, you may
come in if you will, for there is not a soul in the house but me."
This was the very thing Rachel wanted to know, and very glad she was
to learn it.
While Sally was above stairs untying her glove, Rachel slipped into
the parlor, took a small silver cup from the beaufet, and clapped it
into her pocket. Sally ran down lamenting that she had lost her
sixpence, which she verily believed was owing to her having put it
into a left glove, instead of a right one. Rachel comforted her by
saying, that "if she gave her two plain ones instead, the charm would
work just as well."
Simple Sally thought herself happy to be let off so easily, never
calculating that a smooth shilling was worth two crooked sixpences.
But this skill was a part of the black art in which Rachel excelled.
She took the money, and began to examine the lines of Sally's left
hand. She bit her withered lip, shook her head, and bade her, poor
dupe, beware of a young man, who had black hair.
"No, indeed," cried Sally, all in a fright, "you mean black eyes, for
our Jacob has got brown hair; 'tis his eyes that are black."
"That is the very thing I was going to say," muttered Rachel; "I meant
eyes, though I said hair; for I know his hair is as brown as a
chesnut, and his eyes as black as a sloe."
"So they are, sure enough," cried Sally; "how in the world could you
know that?" forgetting that she herself had just told her so. And it
is thus that these hags pick out of the credulous all which they
afterwards pretend to reveal to them.
"Oh, I know a pretty deal more than that," said Rachel, "but you must
be aware of this man."
"Why so?" cried Sally with great quickness.
"Because," answered Rachel, "you are fated to marry a man worth a
hundred of him, who has grey eyes, light hair, and a stoop in the
"No, indeed, but I can't," said Sally; "I have promised Jacob, and
Jacob I will marry."
"You cannot, child," returned Rachel, in a solemn tone; "it is out of
your power; you are fated to marry the grey eyes and light hair."
"Nay, indeed," said Sally, sighing deeply, "if I am fated, I must; I
know there is no resisting one's fate." This is a common cant with
poor deluded girls, who are not aware that they themselves make their
fate by their folly, and then complain there is no resisting it.
"What can I do?" said Sally.
"I will tell you that too," said Rachel. "You must take a walk next
Sunday afternoon to the churchyard, and the first man you meet in a
blue coat, with a large posy of pinks and southernwood in his bosom,
sitting on the churchyard wall, about seven o'clock, he will be the
"Provided," said Sally, much disturbed, "that he has grey eyes, and
"O, to be sure," said Rachel; "otherwise it is not the right man."
"But if I should mistake," said Sally; "for two men may happen to have
a coat and eyes of the same color."
"To prevent that," replied Rachel, "if it is the right man, the two
first letters of his name will be R.P. This man has got money beyond
"Oh, I do not value his money," said Sally, with tears in her eyes,
"for I love Jacob better than house or land; but if I am fated to
marry another, I can't help it; you know there is no struggling
against my fate."
Poor Sally thought of nothing and dreamed of nothing all the week but
the blue coat and the grey eyes. She made a hundred blunders at her
work. She put her rennet into the butter-pan, and her skimming dish
into the cheese-tub. She gave the curds to the hogs, and put the whey
into the vats. She put her little knife out of her pocket, for fear it
should cut love; and would not stay in the kitchen, if there was not
an even number of people, lest it should break the charm. She grew
cold and mysterious in her behavior to faithful Jacob, whom she truly
loved. But the more she thought of the fortune-teller, the more she
was convinced that brown hair and black eyes were not what she was
fated to marry, and therefore, though she trembled to think it, Jacob
could not be the man.
On Sunday she was too uneasy to go to church; for poor Sally had never
been taught, that her being uneasy was only a fresh reason why she
ought to go thither. She spent the whole afternoon in her little
garret, dressing in all her best. First she put on her red ribbon,
which she had bought at last Lammas fair; then she recollected that
red was an unlucky color, and changed it for a blue ribbon, tied in a
true lover's knot; but suddenly calling to mind that poor Jacob had
bought this knot for her of a pedlar at the door, and that she had
promised to wear it for his sake, her heart smote her, and she laid it
by, sighing to think she was not fated to marry the man who had given
it to her.
When she had looked at herself twenty times in the glass—for one vain
action always brings on another—she set off, trembling and quaking
every step she went. She walked eagerly towards the churchyard, not
daring to look to the right or left, for fear she should spy Jacob,
who would have offered to walk with her, and so have spoiled all. As
soon as she came within sight of the wall, she spied a man sitting
upon it. Her heart beat violently. She looked again; but alas, the
stranger not only had on a black coat, but neither hair nor eyes
answered the description. She now happened to cast her eyes on the
church-clock, and found she was two hours before her time. This was
some comfort. She walked away and got rid of the two hours as well as
she could, paying great attention as she went not to walk over any
straws which lay across, and carefully looking to see if there were
never an old horseshoe in the way, that infallible symptom of good
While the clock was striking seven, she returned to the churchyard,
and, O the wonderful power of fortune-tellers, there she saw him!
there sat the very man: his hair as light as flax, his eyes as blue as
buttermilk, and his shoulders as round as a tub. Every tittle agreed,
to the very nosegay in his waistcoat buttonhole. At first, indeed, she
thought it had been sweet-briar, and glad to catch at a straw,
whispered to herself, It is not he, and I shall marry Jacob still; but
on looking again, she saw it was southernwood plain enough, and that
of course all was over. The man accosted her with some very
nonsensical, but too acceptable compliments. Sally was naturally a
modest girl, and but for Rachel's wicked arts, would not have had
courage to talk with a strange man; but how could she resist her fate,
you know? After a little discourse, she asked him with a trembling
heart, what might be his name.
"Robert Price, at your service," was the answer.
"Robert Price! that is R.P. as sure as I am alive, and the
fortune-teller was a witch. It is all out; it is all out! O the
wonderful art of fortune-tellers!"
The little sleep she had that night was disturbed with dreams of
graves, and ghosts, and funerals; but as they were morning dreams, she
knew those always went by contraries, and that a funeral denoted a
wedding. Still, a sigh would now and then heave, to think that in that
wedding Jacob could have no part. Such of my readers as know the power
which superstition has over the weak and credulous mind, scarcely need
be told, that poor Sally's unhappiness was soon completed. She forgot
all her vows to Jacob; she at once forsook an honest man whom she
loved, and consented to marry a stranger, of whom she knew nothing,
from a ridiculous notion that she was compelled to do so by a decree
which she had it not in her power to resist. She married this Robert
Price, the strange gardener, whom she soon found to be very worthless,
and very much in debt. He had no such thing as "money beyond sea," as
the fortune-teller had told her; but, alas, he had another wife there.
He got immediate possession of Sally's £20. Rachel put in for her
share, but he refused to give her a farthing, and bade her get away,
or he would have her taken up on the vagrant act. He soon ran away
from Sally, leaving her to bewail her own weakness; for it was that
indeed, and not any irresistible fate, which had been the cause of her
ruin. To complete the misery, she herself was suspected of having
stolen the silver cup which Rachel had pocketed. Her master, however,
would not prosecute her, as she was falling into a deep decline, and
she died in a few months of a broken heart, a sad warning to all
Rachel, whenever she got near home, used to drop her trade of
fortune-telling, and only dealt in the wares of her basket. Mr.
Wilson, the clergyman, found her one day dealing out some very wicked
ballads to some children. He went up with a view to give her a
reprimand; but had no sooner begun his exhortation than up came a
constable, followed by several people.
"There she is, that is she, that is the old witch who tricked my wife
out of the five guineas," said one of them. "Do your office,
constable; seize the old hag. She may tell fortunes and find pots of
gold in Taunton jail, for there she will have nothing else to do."
This was that very farmer Jenkins, whose wife had been cheated by
Rachel of the five guineas. He had taken pains to trace her to her own
parish: he did not so much value the loss of the money, but he thought
it was a duty he owed the public to clear the country of such vermin.
Mr. Wilson immediately committed her. She took her trial at the next
assizes, when she was sentenced to a year's imprisonment.
In the meantime the pawnbroker to whom she had sold the silver cup,
which she had stolen from poor Sally's master, impeached her; and as
the robbery was fully proved upon Rachel, she was sentenced for this
crime to Botany Bay; and a happy day it was for the county of
Somerset, when such a nuisance was sent out of it. She was transported
much about the same time that her husband Giles lost his life, in
stealing the net from the garden wall, as related in the second part
of Poaching Giles.
I have thought it my duty to print this little history, as a kind of
warning to all young men and maidens, not to have any thing to say to
cheats, impostors, cunning women, fortune-tellers, conjurers, and
interpreters of dreams. Listen to me, your true friend, when I assure
you that God never reveals to weak and wicked women those secret
designs of his providence, which no human wisdom is able to foresee.
To consult these false oracles is not only foolish, but sinful. It is
foolish, because they are themselves as ignorant as those whom they
pretend to teach; and it is sinful, because it is prying into that
futurity which God, in mercy as well as wisdom, hides from men.
God indeed orders all things; but when you have a mind to do a
foolish thing, do not fancy you are fated to do it. This is tempting
Providence, and not trusting him. It is, indeed, "charging God with
folly." Prudence is his gift, and you obey him better when you make
use of prudence under the direction of prayer, than when you madly run
into ruin, and think you are only submitting to your fate. Never fancy
that you are compelled to undo yourself, or to rush upon your own
destruction, in compliance with any supposed fatality. Never believe
that God conceals his will from a sober Christian who obeys his laws,
and reveals it to a vagabond gypsy, who runs up and down, breaking
the laws both of God and man. King Saul never consulted the witch till
he had left off serving God. The Bible will direct us what to do,
better than any conjurer; and no days are unlucky but those which we
make so by our own vanity, folly, and sin.
THE HAPPY WATERMAN
A gentleman and lady walking on the bank of the river Thames, spied a
small ferry-boat, with a neatly-dressed waterman, rowing towards them;
on his nearer approach, they read on the stern of his boat these
words, THE HAPPY WATERMAN. Without taking any notice of it, they
determined to enter into conversation with him; and inquiring into his
situation in life, they found that he had a wife and five children,
and supported also an old father and mother-in-law by his own labor.
The gentleman and lady were upon this still more surprised at the
title he had given himself, and said,
"My friend, if this is your situation, how is it that you call
yourself 'the happy waterman'?"
"I can easily explain this to your satisfaction," answered the young
man, "if you will give me leave;" and they desiring him to proceed, he
spoke as follows: "I have observed that the greatest blessings in life
are often looked upon as the greatest distresses, and are, in fact,
made such by means of imprudent conduct. My father and mother died a
few years ago, and left a large family. My father was a waterman, and
I was his assistant in the management of a ferry-boat, by which he
supported his family. On his death, it was necessary, in order to pay
his just debts, to sell our boat. I parted from it, even with tears;
but the distress that I felt spurred me on to industry, for I said, 'I
will use every kind of diligence to purchase my boat back again.' I
went to the person who had bought it, and told him my design; he had
given five guineas for it, but told me, as I was once the owner,
that I should have it whenever I could raise five pounds. 'Shall the
boat be mine again?' said I; and my heart bounded at the thought.
"I was at this time married to a good young woman, and we lived at a
neighboring cottage; she was young, healthy, and industrious, and so
was I, and we loved one another. What might we not undertake? My
father used to say to me, 'Always do what is right; labor diligently,
and spend your money carefully, and God will bless your store.' We
treasured up these rules, and determined to try the truth of them.
"My wife had long chiefly supported two aged parents: I loved them as
my own; and the desire of contributing to their support was an
additional spur to my endeavors to repurchase the boat. I entered
myself as a day-laborer in the garden of our squire; and my wife was
called occasionally to perform some services at the house, and
employed herself in needle-work, spinning, or knitting at home. Not a
moment in the day was suffered to pass unemployed. We spared for
ourselves, and furnished all the comforts we could to the poor about
us; and every week we dropped a little overplus into a fairing-box, to
buy the boat. If any accident of charity brought us an additional
shilling, we did not enlarge our expense, but kept it for the boat.
The more care we took, the more comfortable we felt, for we were the
nearer the possession of our little boat. Our labor was lightened by
looking forward to the attainment of our wishes.
"Our family indeed increased, but with it our friends increased also;
for the cleanliness and frugality which furnished our cottage, and the
content and cheerfulness that appeared in it, drew the notice of our
rich neighbors—of my master and mistress particularly, whose rule was
to assist the industrious, but not to encourage the idle. They did not
approve of giving money to the poor, but in cold winters, or dear
times, allowed us to buy things at a cheaper rate; this was money to
us, for when we counted our little cash for the week's marketing, all
that was saved to us by our tickets to purchase things at reduced
prices, went into our 'little box.' If my children got a penny at
school for a reward to buy gingerbread, they brought it home, they
said, to help me to buy the boat—for they would have no gingerbread
till father had got his boat again. Thus, from time to time, our
little store insensibly increased, till one pound only was wanting of
the five, when the following accident happened.
"Coming home one evening from my work, I saw in the road a small
pocketbook: on opening it, I found a bank-note of ten pounds, which
plainly enough belonged to my master, for his name was upon it, and I
had also seen him passing that way in the evening: it being too late,
however, to return to the house, I went on my way. When I told my
family of the incident, the little ones were thrown into a transport
"'My dears,' said I, 'what is the matter?'
"'Oh, father, the BOAT! the BOAT! we may now have two or three boats!'
"I checked them by my looks, and asked them if they recollected whose
money that was. They said, 'Yours, as you found it.' I reminded them
that I was not the real owner, and bade them think how they would all
feel, supposing a stranger was to take our box of money, if I should
happen to drop it on the day I went to buy back the boat."
"This thought had the effect on their young minds that I desired; they
were silent and pale with the representation of such a disaster, and I
begged it might be a lesson to them never to forget the golden rule of
'doing as they would wish others to do by them;' for by attention to
this certain guide, no one would ever do wrong to another. I also took
this opportunity to explain to them, that the possession of the boat
by dishonest means would never answer, since we could not expect the
blessing of God upon bad deeds."
"To go on with my story: The next morning I put the pocketbook into my
bosom, and went to my work, intending, as soon as the family rose, to
give it to my master; but what were my feelings when, on searching
in my bosom, it was nowhere to be found! I hasted back along the road
by which I came, and looked diligently all the way, but in vain; there
was no trace of any such thing. I would not return into my cottage,
because I wished to save my family the pain I felt; and in the hope of
still recovering the book, I went to my work, following another path
which I recollected I had also gone by. On my return to the
garden-gate, I was accosted by the gardener, who, in a threatening
tone, told me I was suspected; that our master had lost a pocketbook,
describing what I had found, and that I being the only man absent from
the garden at the hour of work, the rest of the men also denying that
they had seen any such thing, there was every reason to conclude that
I must have got it.
"Before I could answer, my distressed countenance confirmed the
suspicion; and another servant coming up, said I was detected, for
that a person had been sent to my house, and that my wife and family
had owned it all, and had described the pocketbook. I told them the
real fact, but it seemed to every one unlikely to be true; every
circumstance was against me, and—my heart trembles to look back upon
it—I was arrested, and hurried away to prison. I protested my
innocence, but I did not wonder that I gained no credit.
"Great grief now oppressed my heart; my poor wife, my dear children,
and my grey-headed parents, were all at once plunged into want and
misery, instead of the ease and happiness which we were expecting; for
we were just arriving at the height of our earthly wishes. I had,
however, one consolation left—that I knew I was innocent; and I
trusted that by persevering in honesty, all might come right at last.
My resolution was, as I had certainly been the cause, though without
any design, of the second loss of the property, that I would offer the
whole of our little store, to make it good as far as in my power; and
I sent for my wife to give her this sad commission, but she informed
me that even this sacrifice could be of no avail; 'for,' said she, 'my
master has been at the cottage, when I told him freely how you had
found the note, but, unfortunately, had lost it again; and I added,
that I was sure both I and my husband would make the best return in
our power; after which I produced our little fairing-box, and begged
him to accept the contents, which had been so long raising, as all we
had to offer.' But, sir," said the waterman, "conceive my agony, when
she added, that my master angrily refused, saying, that our being in
possession of all that money was of itself the clearest proof of my
guilt; for it was impossible, with my large family, and no greater
opportunities than my neighbors, that I could come honestly by such a
sum; therefore he was determined to keep me in jail till I should pay
"My unhappiness was very great; however, my mind by degrees began to
be more easy, for I grew confident that I should not trust in God and
my own innocence in vain—and so it happened: one of my
fellow-laborers proved to be the person who had picked up the note
after I had dropped it, having come a few minutes after me along the
same road to his work, and hearing that the suspicion had fallen
altogether upon me, he was tempted to turn the accident to his own
advantage, and conceal the property; which having kept in his own box
for a few weeks, till he thought no suspicion would rest upon him, he
went and offered the note for change, and being then suspected, my
master had him taken up, and I was released.
"The second change, from so much misery to happiness, was almost too
much for us. My master sent for me, and with many expressions of
concern for what had passed, made me give him an account of the means
by which I had collected the little fund that fixed his suspicions so
strongly upon me. I accordingly related the history of it as I have
now done; and when I came to that part where I checked my children for
their inconsiderate joy on finding the note, he rose with much
kindness in his looks, and putting the bank-bill into my hand, he
"'Take it; the bank-note shall be theirs. It is the best and only
return I can make you, as well as a just reward of your honesty; and
it will be a substantial proof to your children of the goodness of
your instructions, for they will thus early see and feel the benefit
of honesty and virtue.'
"This kind and worthy gentleman interested himself much in the
purchase of my boat, which, in less than a week, I was in full
possession of. The remainder of my master's bounty, and the additional
advantage of the ferry, has placed me in comfortable circumstances,
which I humbly trust God will continue to us as long as we continue
our labor and honest diligence; and I can say from my long experience,
that the fruit of our own industry is always sweetest. I have now also
the pleasure of being able to help others; for when a rich passenger
takes my ferry, as my story is well known in the neighborhood, he
often gives me more than my fare, which enables me to let the next
poor person go over for half price."
The lady and gentleman were extremely pleased with the waterman's
story, and willingly joined in calling him the happy waterman. They
passed over in his ferry-boat for the sake of making him a handsome
present. And from this time becoming acquainted with his family, they
did them every service in their power, giving books and schooling to
the little ones, and every comfort to the old father and mother-in-law
as long as they survived. They were very desirous of knowing what
became of the unfortunate fellow-laborer, who had so dreadfully gone
aside from the principles of honesty, and they learned that he was,
after a short imprisonment, set at liberty by his master at the
earnest entreaty of the honest waterman, as he said it was partly
through his carelessness in losing the note, that the temptation had
fallen in his fellow-laborer's way; he had, moreover, a very large
family. His master also was so good as to consider that he was a man
who had not been blessed with a good education in his youth; so that
having little fear of God before his eyes, and having a great
temptation in his way, he had been the more easily led to commit this
very wicked action, by which he would have enriched himself at the
expense of an innocent man.
I have great pleasure in adding, that the thought of what he had done,
together with the generosity of the waterman, had so strong an effect
upon this poor fellow, that he afterwards had it written upon his
cottage door, DO AS YOU WOULD BE DONE UNTO. And he has resolved to
follow this rule himself in future, and also taught it to all his
children. Indeed, it became a rule well known over the whole parish;
for every little child having been informed of this story, was told
that he ought to consider, before he did any action, whether he would
like his brother, or sister, or school-fellow to do the same by him;
and if not, that the action was wrong, and not to be done, let the
profit be ever so great. Surely, then, those who have lived long, and
seen much of life, and have had much religious instruction also,
should never depart from this simple and certain rule. And it is the
same to all ranks—it requires neither learning nor abilities to "do
as you would be done unto;" nor can any station, however great, no,
nor any circumstances, however trying, excuse men from giving their
constant attention to this golden rule.
Here rests in peace a Christian wife,
Safe from the cares and ills of life;
Taught by kind Heaven's afflicting rod,
She well had learned her way to GOD.
Once a gay girl, she trod the green,
The foremost in the festive scene;
'Twas then she followed all her will,
And wedded William of the hill.
No heart had he for prayer and praise,
No thought of God's most holy ways:
Of worldly gains he loved to speak,
In worldly cares he spent his week;
E'en Sunday passed unheeded by,
And both forgot that they must die.
While thus by Satan quite beguiled,
The God of mercy smote her child:
Bereft of one sweet infant dear,
She shed the mother's mournful tear;
A second next she tried to save,
Then bore the second to the grave;
Both on one day the parent led
To silent mansions of the dead.
There, while she wept her children's fate.
She learned to feel her mortal state;
Stood pondering all her errors past,
As if that day had been her last;
And as she held the mournful bier,
Dropt for herself a secret tear.
Once she believed her sins were few,
But this one moment cleared her view;
Then first she felt a Saviour's need,
Sinner in thought, and word, and deed.
Of her own worth she ceased to dream,
For Christ's redemption was her theme.
Henceforth her ways were ordered right,
She "walked by faith, and not by sight;"
She read God's word, believed it true,
And strove to practise what she knew.
Her husband saw the mighty change,
And thought at first her humor strange;
Deemed his own worldly ways the best—
But soon his error stood confessed.
Ceased is the noise, the jarring strife,
For now how humble is the wife!
He proudly feels each cross event,
While she, poor sinner, is content;
No more she has her stubborn will,
Returns him daily good for ill;
And though her love is still the same.
She loves him with a purer flame.
Oft would she pray the God of grace
His lofty spirit to abase;
Upward his grovelling thoughts to raise,
And teach him humble prayer and praise.
Heaven heard her voice: the youth so gay,
The thoughtless sinner, learned to pray;
Sad sickness too, with pain and smart,
Was sent to soften all his heart.
She followed next her husband's bier,
She wiped his last repenting tear;
She heard him mourn his former pride,
She heard him thank her when he died.
Here, then, in hope of endless life,
Rest both the husband and the wife;
Here too, the babes whom God hath given,
And such, we trust, shall enter heaven.
ADDRESS TO PERSONS ATTENDING A FUNERAL.
Ye mourners, who in silent gloom
Bear your dear kindred to the tomb,
Grudge not, when Christians go to rest;
They sleep in JESUS, and are blest.
Call then to mind their faith, their love,
Their meetness for the realms above;
And if to heaven a saint is fled,
O mourn the living, not the dead;
Weep o'er the thousands that remain,
Deep sunk in sin, or racked with pain;
Mourn your own crimes and wicked ways,
And learn to number all your days;
Gain wisdom from this mournful stone,
And make this Christian's case your own.
PARLEY THE PORTER.
SHOWING HOW ROBBERS WITHOUT
CAN NEVER GET INTO A HOUSE
UNLESS THERE ARE TRAITORS WITHIN.
BY HANNAH MORE.
There was once a certain gentleman who had a house, or castle,
situated in the midst of a great wilderness, but inclosed in a garden.
Now there was a band of robbers in the wilderness, who had a great
mind to plunder and destroy the castle; but they had not succeeded in
their endeavors, because the master had given strict orders to "watch
without ceasing." To quicken their vigilance, he used to tell them
that their care would soon have an end; that though the nights they
had to watch were dark and stormy, yet they were but few; the period
of resistance Was short—that of rest would be eternal.
The robbers, however, attacked the castle in various ways. They tried
at every avenue; watched to take advantage of every careless moment;
looked for an open door, or a neglected window. But though they often
made the bolts shake and the windows rattle, they could never greatly
hurt the house, much less get into it. Do you know the reason? It was,
because the servants were never off their guard. They heard the noises
plain enough, and used to be not a little frightened, for they were
aware both of the strength and perseverance of their enemies. But what
seemed rather odd to some of these servants, the gentleman used to
tell them, that while they continued to be afraid, they would be
safe; and it passed into a sort of proverb in that family, "Happy is
he that feareth always." Some of the servants however, thought this a
One day when the master was going from home, he called his servants
all together, and spoke to them as follows: "I will not repeat to you
the directions I have so often given you; they are all written down in
the book of laws, of which every one of you has a copy. Remember, it
is a very short time that you are to remain in this castle; you will
soon remove to my more settled habitation, to a more durable house,
not made with hands. As that house is never exposed to any attack, so
it never stands in need of any repair; for that country is never
infested by any sons of violence. Here, you are servants; there, you
will be princes.
"But mark my words, and you will find the same truth in the book of my
laws: Whether you will ever attain to that house, will depend on the
manner in which you defend yourselves in this. A stout vigilance for
a short time will secure your certain happiness for ever. But every
thing depends on your present exertions. Don't complain and take
advantage of my absence, and call me a hard master, and grumble that
you are placed in the midst of a howling wilderness, without peace or
security. Say not, that you are exposed to temptations without any
power to resist them. You have some difficulties, it is true; but you
have many helps and many comforts to make this house tolerable, even
before you get to the other. Yours is not a hard service; and if it
were, 'the time is short.' You have arms if you will use them, and
doors if you will bar them, and strength if you will use it. I would
defy all the attacks of the robbers without, if I could depend on the
fidelity of the people within. If the thieves ever get in and destroy
the house, it must be by the connivance of one of the family. For it
is a standing law of this castle, that mere outward attack can never
destroy it, if there be no traitor within. You will stand or fall as
you observe this rule. If you are finally happy, it will be by my
grace and favor; if you are ruined, it will be your own fault."
"When the gentleman had done speaking, every servant repeated his
assurance of attachment and firm allegiance to his master. But among
them all, not one was so vehement and loud in his professions as old
Parley the porter. Parley, indeed, it was well known, was always
talking, which exposed him to no small danger; for as he was the
foremost to promise, so he was the slackest to perform. And, to speak
the truth, though he was a civil-spoken fellow, his master was more
afraid of him, with all his professions, than he was of the rest, who
protested less. He knew that Parley was vain, credulous, and
self-sufficient; and he always apprehended more danger from Parley's
impertinence, curiosity, and love of novelty, than even from the
stronger vices of some of the other servants. The rest, indeed, seldom
got into any scrape of which Parley was not the cause, in some shape
I am sorry to be obliged to confess, that though Parley was allowed
every refreshment, and all the needful rest which the nature of his
place permitted, yet he thought it very hard to be forced to be so
constantly on duty.
"Nothing but watching," said Parley; "I have, to be sure, many
pleasures, and meat sufficient; and plenty of chat in virtue of my
office; and I pick up a good deal of news of the comers and goers by
day; but it is hard that at night I must watch as narrowly as a
housedog, and yet let in no company without orders, only because
there are said to be a few straggling robbers here in the wilderness,
with whom my master does not care to let us be acquainted. He pretends
to make us vigilant through fear of the robbers, but I suspect it is
only to make us mope alone. A merry companion, and a mug of beer,
would make the night pass cheerfully."
Parley, however, kept all these thoughts to himself, or uttered them
only when no one heard—for talk he must. He began to listen to the
nightly whistling of the robbers under the windows with rather less
alarm than formerly; and he was sometimes so tired of watching, that
he thought it was even better to run the risk of being robbed once,
than to live always in fear of robbers.
There were certain bounds in which the gentleman allowed his servants
to walk and divert themselves at all proper seasons. A pleasant garden
surrounded the castle, and a thick hedge separated it from the
wilderness, which was infested by the robbers. In this garden they
were permitted to amuse themselves. The master advised them always to
keep within these bounds. "While you observe this rule," said he, "you
will be safe and well; and you will consult your own safety, as well
as show your love to me, by not venturing even to the extremity of
your bounds. He who goes as far as he dares, always shows a wish to go
farther than he ought, and commonly does so."
It was remarkable, that the nearer these servants kept to the castle,
and the farther from the hedge, the more ugly the wilderness appeared.
And the nearer they approached the forbidden bounds, their own home
appeared more dull, and the wilderness more delightful. And this the
master knew when he gave his orders, for he never either did or said
any thing without a good reason. And when his servants sometimes
desired an explanation of the reason, he used to tell them they would
understand it when they came to the other house; for it was one of
the pleasures of that house, that it would explain all the mysteries
of this, and any little obscurities in the master's conduct would be
then made quite plain.
Parley was the first who promised to keep clear of the hedge, and yet
was often seen looking as near as he durst. One day he ventured close
up to the hedge, put two or three stones one on another, and tried to
peep over. He saw one of the robbers strolling as near as could be on
the forbidden side. This man's name was Flatterwell, a smooth, civil
man, "whose words were softer than butter, having war in his heart."
He made several low bows to Parley.
Now Parley knew so little of the world, that he actually concluded all
robbers must have an ugly look, which should frighten you at once; and
coarse, brutal manners, which would, at first sight, show they were
enemies. He thought, like a poor ignorant fellow as he was, that this
mild, specious person could never be one of the band. Flatterwell
accosted Parley with the utmost civility, which put him quite off his
guard; for Parley had no notion that he could be an enemy who was so
soft and civil. For an open foe he would have been prepared. Parley,
however, after a little discourse, drew this conclusion, that either
Mr. Flatterwell could not be one of the gang, or if he was, the
robbers themselves could not be such monsters as his master had
described, and therefore it was a folly to be afraid of them.
Flatterwell began, like a true adept in his art, by lulling all
Parley's suspicions asleep, and instead of openly abusing his master,
which would have opened Parley's eyes at once, he pretended rather to
commend him in a general way, as a person who meant well himself, but
was too apt to suspect others. To this Parley assented. The other then
ventured to hint by degrees, that though the gentleman might be a good
master in the main, yet he must say he was a little strict, and a
little stingy, and not a little censorious. That he was blamed by the
gentlemen in the wilderness for shutting his house against good
company, and his servants were laughed at by people of spirit for
submitting to the gloomy life of the castle, and the insipid pleasures
of the garden, instead of ranging in the wilderness at large.
"It is true enough," said Parley, who was generally of the opinion of
the person he was talking with; "my master is rather harsh and
close. But, to own the truth, all the barring, and locking, and
bolting, is to keep out a set of gentlemen who he assures us are
robbers, and who are waiting for an opportunity to destroy us. I hope
no offence, sir, but by your livery I suspect you, sir, are one of the
gang he is so much afraid of."
FLATTERWELL. "Afraid of me! impossible, dear Mr. Parley. You see I do
not look like an enemy. I am unarmed; what harm can a plain man like
PARLEY. "Why, that is true enough. Yet my master says, that if we were
once to let you into the house, we should be ruined, soul and body."
FLATTERWELL. "I am sorry, Mr. Parley, that so sensible a man as you
are so deceived. This is mere prejudice. He knows we are cheerful,
entertaining people; foes to gloom and superstition; and therefore, he
is so morose, he will not let you get acquainted with us."
PARLEY. "Well, he says you are a band of thieves, gamblers, murderers,
drunkards, and atheists."
FLATTERWELL. "Don't believe him: the worst we should do, perhaps, is,
we might drink a friendly glass with you to your master's health, or
play an innocent game at cards just to keep you awake, or sing a
cheerful song with the maids; now is there any harm in all this?"
PARLEY. "Not the least in the world. And I begin to think there is not
a word of truth in all my master says."
FLATTERWELL. "The more you know us, the more you will like us. But I
wish there was not this ugly hedge between us. I have a great deal to
say, and I am afraid of being overheard."
Parley was now just going to give a spring over the hedge, but checked
himself, saying, "I dare not come on your side; there are people
about, and every thing is carried to my master."
Flatterwell saw by this that his new friend was kept on his own side
of the hedge by fear rather than by principle, and from that moment he
made sure of him. "Dear Mr. Parley," said he, "if you will allow me
the honor of a little conversation with you, I will call under the
window of your lodge this evening. I have something to tell you
greatly to your advantage. I admire you exceedingly. I long for your
friendship; our whole brotherhood is ambitious of being known to so
amiable a person."
"O dear," said Parley, "I shall be afraid of talking to you at night;
it is so against my master's orders. But did you say you had something
to tell me to my advantage?"
"Yes," replied Flatterwell, "I can point out to you how you may be a
richer, a merrier, and a happier man. If you will admit me tonight
under the window, I will convince you that 'tis prejudice, and not
wisdom, which makes your master bar his door against us; I will
convince you, that the mischief of a 'robber,' as your master
scurrilously calls us, is only in the name—that we are your true
friends, and only mean to promote your happiness."
"Don't say we," said Parley, "pray come alone, I would not see the
rest of the gang for the world; but I think there can be no great harm
in talking to you through the bars, if you come alone; but I am
determined not to let you in. Yet I can't say but I wish to know what
you can tell me so much to my advantage; indeed, if it is for my good,
I ought to know it."
"Dear Mr. Parley," said Flatterwell, (going out, but turning back,)
"there is one thing I had forgot, I cannot get over the hedge at night
without assistance. You know there is a secret in the nature of that
hedge: you in the house may get over to us in the wilderness of your
own accord, but we cannot get to your side by our own strength. You
must look about and see where the hedge is thinnest, and then set to
work to clear away here and there a little bough for me; it wont be
missed: and if there is but the smallest hole made on your side, those
on ours can get through; otherwise, we do but labor in vain."
To this Parley made some objection through the fear of being seen.
Flatterwell replied, that "the smallest hole from within would be
sufficient, for he could then work his own way."
"Well," said Parley, "I will consider of it. To be sure, I shall even
then be equally safe in the castle, as I shall have all the bolts,
bars, and locks between us; so it will make but little difference."
"Certainly not," said Flatterwell, who knew it would make all the
difference in the world. So they parted with mutual protestations of
regard. Parley went home charmed with his new friend. His eyes were
now clearly open as to his master's prejudices against the "robbers,"
and he was convinced there was more in the name than in the thing.
"But," said he, "though Mr. Flatterwell is certainly an agreeable
companion, he may not be so safe an inmate. There can, however, be no
harm in talking at a distance, and I certainly wont let him in."
Parley, in the course of the day, did not forget his promise to thin
the hedge of separation a little. At first he only tore off a handful
of leaves, then a little sprig, then he broke away a bough or two. It
was observable, the larger the breach became, the worse he began to
think of his master, and the better of himself. Every peep he took
through the broken hedge increased his desire to get out into the
wilderness, and made the thoughts of the castle more irksome to him.
He was continually repeating to himself, "I wonder what Mr.
Flatterwell can have to say so much to my advantage? I see he does not
wish to hurt my master, he only wishes to serve me." As the hour of
meeting, however, drew near, the master's orders now and then came
across Parley's thoughts; so, to divert them, he took the book. He
happened to open it at these words: "My son, if sinners entice thee,
consent thou not." For a moment his heart failed him. "If this
admonition should be sent on purpose," said he; "but no, 'tis a
bugbear. My master told me that if I went to the bounds, I should get
over the hedge. Now I went to the utmost limits, and did not get
over." Here conscience put in, "Yes, but it was because you were
watched." "I am sure," continued Parley, "one may always stop where
one will, and this is only a trick of my master's to spoil sport; so I
will even hear what Mr. Flatterwell has to say so much to my
advantage. I am not obliged to follow his counsels, but there can be
no harm in hearing them."
Flatterwell prevailed on the rest of the robbers to make no public
attack on the castle that night. "My brethren," said he, "you now and
then fail in your schemes, because you are for violent beginnings;
while my soothing, insinuating measures hardly ever miss. You come
blustering and roaring, and frighten people, and set them on their
guard. You inspire them with terror of you, while my whole scheme is
to make them think well of themselves, and ill of their master. If I
once get them to entertain hard thoughts of him, and high thoughts of
themselves, my business is done, and they fall plump into my snares.
So, let this delicate affair alone to me. Parley is a softly fellow:
he must not be frightened, but cajoled. He is the very sort of man to
succeed with, and worth a hundred of your sturdy, sensible fellows.
With them we want strong arguments and strong temptations; but with
such fellows as Parley, in whom vanity and sensuality are the leading
qualities—as, let me tell you, is the case with far the greater
part—flattery, and a promise of ease and pleasure, will do more than
your whole battle array. If you will let me manage, I will get you all
into the castle before midnight."
At night the castle was barricaded as usual, and no one had observed
the hole which Parley had made in the hedge. This oversight arose that
night from the servants neglecting one of the master's standing
orders—to make a nightly examination of the state of the castle.
The neglect did not proceed so much from wilful disobedience, as from
having passed the evening in sloth and diversion, which often amounts
to nearly the same in its consequences.
As all was very cheerful within, so all was very quiet without. And
before they went to bed some of the servants observed to the rest,
that as they heard no robbers that night, they thought they might soon
begin to remit something of their diligence in bolting and barring.
That all this fastening and looking was very troublesome, and they
hoped the danger was now pretty well over. It was rather remarkable,
that they never made this sort of observations, but after an evening
of some excess, and when they had neglected their private business
with their master. All, however, except Parley, went quietly to bed,
and seemed to feel uncommon security.
Parley crept down to his lodge. He had half a mind to go to bed too.
Yet he was not willing to disappoint Mr. Flatterwell; so civil a
gentleman. To be sure, he might have bad designs. Yet what right had
he to suspect any body who made such professions, and who was so very
civil. "Besides, it is something for my advantage," added Parley. "I
will not open the door, that is certain; but as he is to come alone,
he can do me no harm through the bars of the windows. And he will
think I am a coward, if I don't keep my word; no, I will let him see
that I am not afraid of my own strength; I will show him I can go what
length I please, and stop short when I please." Had Flatterwell
heard this boastful speech, he would have been quite sure of his man.
About eleven Parley heard the signal agreed upon. It was so gentle as
to cause little alarm. So much the worse. Flatterwell never frightened
any one, and therefore seldom failed of any one. Parley stole softly
down, planted himself at his little window, opened the casement, and
spied his new friend. It was pale starlight. Parley was a little
frightened, for he thought he perceived one or two persons behind
Flatterwell; but the other assured him it was only his own shadow,
which his fears had magnified into a company. "Though I assure you,"
said he, "I have not a friend but what is as harmless as myself."
They now entered into earnest discourse, in which Flatterwell showed
himself a deep politician. He skilfully mixed up in his conversation a
proper proportion of praise on the pleasures of the wilderness, of
compliments to Parley, of ridicule on his master, and of abusive
sneers on the book in which the master's laws were written. Against
this last he had always a particular spite, for he considered it as
the grand instrument by which the master maintained his servants in
allegiance; and when they could be once brought to sneer at the book,
there was an end of submission to the master. Parley had not
penetration enough to see his drift. "As to the book, Mr.
Flatterwell," said he, "I do not know whether it be true or false; I
rather neglect than disbelieve it. I am forced, indeed, to hear it
read once a week; but I never look into it myself, if I can help it."
"Excellent," said Flatterwell to himself; "that is just the same
thing. This is safe ground for me. For whether a man does not believe
in the book, or does not attend to it, it comes pretty much to the
same, and I generally get him at last."
"Why cannot we be a little nearer, Mr. Parley?" said Flatterwell; "I
am afraid of being overheard by some of your master's spies, the
window from which you speak is so high. I wish you would come down to
"Well," said Parley, "I see no great harm in that. There is a little
wicket in the door, through which we can converse with more ease and
equal safety. The same fastenings will be still between us." So down
he went, but not without a degree of fear and trembling.
The little wicket being now opened, and Flatterwell standing close on
the outside of the door, they conversed with great ease. "Mr. Parley,"
said Flatterwell, "I should not have pressed you so much to admit me
into the castle, but out of pure, disinterested regard to your own
happiness. I shall get nothing by it, but I cannot bear to think that
a person so wise and amiable should be shut up in this gloomy dungeon,
under a hard master, and a slave to the unreasonable tyranny of his
book of laws. If you admit me, you need have no more waking, no more
Here Parley involuntarily slipped back the bolt of the door.
"To convince you of my true love," continued Flatterwell, "I have
brought a bottle of the most delicious wine that grows in the
wilderness. You shall taste it; but you must put a glass through the
wicket to receive it; for it is a singular property in this wine, that
we of the wilderness cannot succeed in conveying it to you of the
castle, without you hold out a vessel to receive it."
"O here is a glass," said Parley, holding out a large goblet, which he
always kept ready to be filled by any chance comer.
The other immediately poured into the capacious goblet a large draught
of that delicious intoxicating liquor with which the family of the
Flatterwells have, for near six thousand years, gained the hearts and
destroyed the souls of all the inhabitants of the castle, whenever
they have been able to prevail on them to hold out a hand to receive
it. This the wise master of the castle well knew would be the case,
for he knew what was in men—he knew their propensity to receive the
delicious poison of the Flatterwells; and it was for this reason that
he gave them the book of his laws, and planted the hedge, and
invented the bolts, and doubled the locks.
As soon as poor Parley had swallowed the fatal draught it acted like
enchantment. He at once lost all power of resistance. He had no sense
of fear left. He despised his own safety, forgot his master, lost all
sight of the house in the other country, and reached out for another
draught as eagerly as Flatterwell held out the bottle to administer
it. "What a fool have I been," said Parley, "to deny myself so long."
"Will you now let me in?" said Flatterwell.
"Aye, that I will," said the deluded Parley. Though the train was now
increased to near a hundred robbers, yet so intoxicated was Parley,
that he did not see one of them, except his new friend. Parley eagerly
pulled down the bars, drew back the bolts, and forced open the locks,
thinking he could never let in his friend soon enough. He had,
however, just presence of mind to say, "My dear friend, I hope you are
alone." Flatterwell swore he was. Parley opened the door—in rushed,
not Flatterwell only, but the whole banditti, who always lurk behind
in his train. The moment they had got sure possession, Flatterwell
changed his soft tone, and cried out in a voice of thunder, "Down with
the castle; kill, burn, and destroy."
Rapine, murder, and conflagration by turns took place. Parley was the
very first whom they attacked. He was overpowered with wounds. As he
fell, he cried out, "O my master, I die a victim to my unbelief in
thee, and to my own vanity and imprudence. O that the guardians of all
other castles would hear me with my dying breath repeat my master's
admonition, that all attacks from without will not destroy, unless
there is some confederate within. O that the keepers of all other
castles would learn from my ruin, that he who parleys with temptation
is already undone. That he who allows himself to go to the very
bounds, will soon jump over the hedge; that he who talks out of the
window with the enemy, will soon open the door to him; that he who
holds out his hand for the cup of sinful flattery, loses all power of
resisting; that when he opens the door to one sin, all the rest fly in
upon him, and the man perishes as I now do."
A NEW CHRISTMAS TRACT;
THE RIGHT WAY OF REJOICING AT CHRISTMAS,
SHOWING THE REASONS WE HAVE FOR JOY
AT THE EVENT OF OUR SAVIOUR'S BIRTH.
There are two ways of keeping Christmas: some seem to keep it much
in the same way in which the unbelieving Jews kept their feast in
honor of the calf which they had made. "And they made a calf in Horeb
in those days, and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up
to play." But what a sad sort of Christianity is this! I am no enemy
to mirth of a proper kind, and at proper seasons; but the mirth I now
speak of, is the mirth of inconsideration and folly, and is often
mixed with much looseness of conduct and drunkenness. Is this, then,
the sort of mirth proper for Christians? Let us suppose, now, that a
man should choose a church as the place in which he was to sit and
sing his jolly song, and to drink till he was intoxicated; surely this
would imply that he was a person of extraordinary wickedness. But
this, you will say, is what nobody is so bad as to be guilty of; well,
then, let us suppose, that instead of choosing a church as the place,
he should choose Christmas as the time for the like acts of riot and
drunkenness: methinks this must imply no small degree of the same kind
of wickedness; for, as he that should get intoxicated in a church,
would insult the church, so he that gets intoxicated at Christmas,
which is the season for commemorating the birth of Christ, insults
Christ and his religion.
I know it may be said, that those who take these liberties at
Christmas do not mean to insult Christ, and that they act from
inconsideration: to which I answer, that they are very guilty in
being so inconsiderate; for I would just remark by the way, that these
people who are so very inconsiderate in some things, are apt to be
very considerate in others. For instance, they are very considerate
about their pleasures, but very inconsiderate about their duty. They
are often, perhaps, very considerate about this world, always very
inconsiderate about eternity; very considerate for themselves, and
very little so about other people; extremely considerate on their own
side of a bargain, but as inconsiderate about the side of the other
party; and when they have committed a sin, they are apt to be very
considerate in finding excuses for it, but very inconsiderate in
tracing out the guilt and mischief of their wickedness. In short,
then, let it be remembered, that inconsideration is often neither more
nor less than another word for wickedness, and that the inconsiderate
way of spending Christmas which has been spoken of, is only, in other
words, the wicked way of spending it.
But now let us come to the true way of keeping it.
First, then, in order to know how the time of Christ's birth ought to
be remembered by us, I would observe, that it is necessary to
understand well who Christ was, and for what purpose he came on
earth. How absurd would it be to celebrate the fifth of November,
without knowing, that on that day the houses of parliament were saved
from fire, and our happy constitution, as well as our religion, was
preserved to us. Again, how absurd would it be for any man to
celebrate the king's birthday, or coronation-day, who did not feel
within his heart loyalty and affection towards his sovereign, and who
did not think that any blessings were derived from our kingly
Let every one, therefore, who wishes to spend Christmas aright, get
acquainted with the benefits which have followed from Christ's
coming into the world. We will endeavor, now, to show very briefly
what these benefits have been. The world, at the time of Christ's
appearing, was divided into Jews and Gentiles. The word Gentiles
signifies nations, that is, all the nations except the Jews. Let us
speak of the Gentiles first, and of the Jews afterwards.
The Gentiles were worshippers of false gods; some of one kind, some of
another. They all, however, agreed in this, that they thought one god
as good as another, and no one among them had any anxiety to bring his
neighbor over to his religion, which is a plain proof that they had no
true religion among them; for whoever is possessed of true religion,
is possessed of a great comfort and blessing, which he will therefore
be glad to convey to other people also. It was the custom of some of
these Gentiles to worship stocks and stones; others bowed down to
living animals, such as bulls, or goats, or lizards; and others paid
their stupid adoration to the sun, instead of the Author of it. Many
of them worshipped their deceased fellow-creatures; and the dead men
who were thus turned into gods had been, in general, some of the most
wicked and abominable of the human race.
Now this ignorance of the true God was followed—as all ignorance of
him is apt to be—by great wickedness in their practice. They were
"given over" on this account, as St. Paul, the inspired apostle,
declares, "to a reprobate mind; to work all uncleanness with
greediness." They learned to confound good and evil; vices were then
commonly practised, such as are not named among Christians. False
principles and false maxims of every kind abounded. Slavery prevailed,
even in the most civilized lands; for almost all servants were slaves
in those days. The earth was filled with violence. He that had killed
the greatest number of his fellow-creatures got usually the greatest
praise. "Wars were carried on with dreadful ferocity, and multitudes
were massacred at the public games, in battles fought for the
amusement of the people. Humanity, kindness, and benevolence, were
made of no account; and such a thing as a hospital was not known.
Revenge was both practised and recommended; and those excellent
Christian graces, humility, universal charity, and forgiveness of
injuries, were considered as weaknesses and faults."
I shudder to think of the dreadful state of mankind in those days. God
grant that the same evils may never return. They are the natural
consequences of being without Christianity in the world; for when
Christianity is gone, there is no rule to go by. Every man may then
set up a false goodness of his own. Morals, of course, grow worse and
worse; a fierce and proud spirit comes in the place of Christian
meekness and benevolence, and claims the name of virtue; and the
Saviour of the world, with all his works of mercy, being forgotten,
man becomes cruel, and unjust, and selfish, and implacable, and
unmerciful; for all the violent passions of our nature are let loose.
If we inquire also into the character of the Jews who lived before the
coming of our Saviour, we shall find them to have been deplorably
corrupt, though they expected his coming, and were, in some measure,
acquainted with true religion. The little knowledge which they had
seems to have been perverted through the wickedness of their hearts;
and the Scriptures assure us, that "both Jews and Gentiles were all
under sin." Such was the state into which the world was sunk before
the time of our Saviour's appearance in it.
Let us describe, next, who Christ was, and what were the consequences
of his coming. He is called in Scripture, "the Son of God;" and in
some places, "God's only Son;" which shows that there is no other
being like unto him. We know that a son, by his very birth, derives
privileges from his father which belong to no other person; that he
partakes of the same rank and inheritance with his father; and that he
possesses also, in an especial manner, his father's favor, and
altogether differs from a stranger or a servant. Christ, then, is to
be considered, in all such senses as these, as the Son of God. It is
true, he is called also the Son of man, for he was born of a woman,
namely, of the virgin Mary, and he took upon him our nature, dwelling
on earth for thirty years. We should take great care, however, that
his appearance among us as a man, does not lead us to form any low and
unworthy notions of him.
Suppose, now, that the son of a king was to travel, in the dress of a
private subject, on some merciful and condescending errand to a
distant and obscure part of his territory. Surely it would be very
ungenerous and ungrateful, if the poor villagers, whom he came to
serve, were to deny to him the honors of a king's son merely because
they could not believe that so great a person could stoop so low as to
come among them, especially if he brought proofs of his power and
greatness along with him.
Just so, methinks, are all those persons ungenerous and ungrateful who
refuse to Christ that divine honor which belongs to him, merely
because he condescended to be made flesh and blood, and to dwell among
us. Let us, then, receive with simplicity and humility the scripture
testimony concerning him. It speaks of him in terms that are quite
astonishing. "His name," says the prophet, foretelling his birth,
"shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the
everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; and the government shall be
on his shoulders." The evangelist John tells us, that "the Word,"
meaning Christ, "was with God", and the "Word was God." "By him," it
is said in the Hebrews, "God made the world;" and again, "Let all the
angels of God worship him." "All power hath been given him, both in
heaven and earth," and God "hath committed all judgment to the Son."
"The hour also cometh when they that are in the graves shall hear the
voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth: they that have done
good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to
the resurrection of damnation."
Such are a few of the expressions used in Scripture concerning Christ.
Let us learn from these to adore his divine Majesty, and trust his
power, as well as to fear his wrath, and to account him able to fulfil
all the purposes of his coming.
But let us next describe what these purposes were. It may be said in
general, that "it was for us men, and for our salvation, that he came
down from heaven;" or, as the Scripture expresses it, "The Son of man
came to seek and to save that which was lost, and to give his life a
ransom for many."
The world, as hath already been shown, was sunk in sin, and not in sin
only, but in condemnation also. Ever since the fall of our first
parent Adam, man had been a sinful creature. But as in Adam all died,
even so in Christ were all who would receive him, "to be made alive."
Christ, then, was the second Adam: as Adam was the destroyer, so
Christ was the restorer of our race. The devil, who is called the
Prince of darkness, had, as we are told in Scripture, become the god
and the prince of this world. Christ, therefore, came into the world,
as a conquerer comes, to recover an empire that was lost, and to bring
back the rebels to their obedience and to happiness. He came to
overthrow that kingdom of darkness which, through the power of the
devil and the corruption of man, had been set up. "For this purpose
the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the
devil." He came "to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto
himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
But how does Christ fulfil his purpose of delivering us? First, I
would observe, that he lived a most holy life, hereby setting us an
example that we should tread in his steps. He went about doing good:
never was any one so kind and gracious to all who came to him as Jesus
Christ. I would here observe also, that he preached the gospel to
mankind; he told us what we must believe and do, in order to enter
into the kingdom of heaven. Through him also the Holy Spirit of God is
granted to us. And, to crown all, he died for us. He was nailed to the
cross, and suffered a cruel death for our sakes, bearing the wrath of
God in our stead. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he
loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Christ is that Lamb of God "which has been offered up as a sacrifice,"
and "which taketh away the sins of the world." Now, then, let us
rejoice, and say triumphantly, with the prophet of old, "Unto us a
child is born, unto us a son is given." "Behold," said the angels, "I
bring you good tidings of great joy; for unto you is born this day, a
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." "Glory to God in the highest, on
earth peace, good will towards men."
Oh, how many thousands have had reason to bless the season which we
are now commemorating—the season of the birth of Jesus Christ. The
world, it is true, is still wicked, for there are many who do not
believe in this Saviour; and there are not a few who think they
believe in him, and who do not. Nevertheless, even the world in
general has been the better for his coming, for the thick darkness is
past, and the true light now shineth. Through Christ's coming,
iniquity has been lessened even among unbelievers; for real
Christians, though few, have held up to view the nature of true
goodness, and even bad men have, in some measure, been constrained to
imitate them; they have also grown more ashamed than they otherwise
would have been of their vices.
But who can calculate the blessing which Christianity hath been to
thousands of true believers? How many lives have been made holy here
on earth; how many hearts have been cheered and comforted by it; how
many deaths, which would otherwise have been most gloomy, have been
rendered joyful and triumphant; and, above all, how many immortal
souls have been saved and made happy to all eternity, through faith
in this blessed Redeemer. "My sheep," says Christ, "hear my voice, and
they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall
never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." "I go to
prepare a place for them, that where I am there they may be also."
And now, reader, what are your thoughts on the subject of our
Saviour's appearance on this earth of ours? If you are a true
Christian, your language will be such as the following: "It is through
the coming of Christ into the world that I have learned to know
myself, and to know the God who made me. I am by nature blind and
ignorant; I am also sinful and undone; I am utterly without hope,
except through the mercy of my Saviour; and even though I have been
born in a Christian land, I can trace back, in my recollection, many
proofs of this my natural ignorance and corruption and hardness of
heart. I was once like a sheep going astray, but I am now returned to
the Shepherd of my soul. I followed the bent of my own foolish will,
but the grace of God in Jesus Christ has changed my sinful heart; the
knowledge of my corruption has humbled me; the thought of my
Saviour's dying for me has stirred up gratitude within me, and that
acquaintance with his gospel which I have gained has changed my whole
views of life.
"Christ's character delights me: I read the history of his humble
birth, his painful death, and his glorious resurrection, as it is
recorded in Scripture, with hope and joy, and with holy confidence and
trust. How shall I sufficiently bless God for Jesus Christ? Whatever
change has been wrought in me, I trace to Christ's coming into the
world. If Christ had never come, how corrupt should I be at this
moment; how blind, how dark, how ignorant, how different from what,
through the grace of God, I now am. How miserable, in comparison of my
present happiness. I am engaged, indeed, in a sharp conflict with my
sins; but, through my Saviour's help, I hope to gain ground against
them. I have, occasionally, doubts and fears; but in general, I feel
confident that the promises of God are sure and certain in Christ
Jesus; for I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he
is able to keep that soul which I have committed to him till the great
A NEW CHRISTMAS HYMN.
O how wondrous is the story
Of our blest Redeemer's birth!
See, the mighty Lord of glory
Leaves his heaven to visit earth.
Hear with transport, every creature,
Hear the gospel's joyful sound:
Christ appears in human nature,
In our sinful world is found!
Comes to pardon our transgression,
Like a cloud our sins to blot;
Comes to his own favored nation,
But his own receive him not.
If the angels who attended
To declare the Saviour's birth,
Who from heaven with songs descended,
To proclaim good will on earth;
If, in pity to our blindness,
They had brought the pardon needed;
Still, Jehovah's wondrous kindness
Had our warmest hopes exceeded!
If some prophet had been sent
With salvation's joyful news,
Who that heard the blest event
Could their warmest love refuse?
But 'twas He to whom in heaven
Hallelujahs never cease;
He, the mighty God, was given—
Given to us a Prince of peace.
None but he who did create us,
Could redeem from sin and hell;
None but he could reinstate us
In the rank from which we fell.
Had he come, the glorious stranger,
Decked with all the world calls great—
Had he lived in pomp and grandeur,
Crowned with more than royal state—
Still, our tongues, with praise o'erflowing,
On such boundless love would dwell—
Still, our hearts, with rapture glowing,
Speak what words could never tell.
But what wonder should it raise,
Thus our lowest state to borrow!
O the high mysterious ways—
God's own Son a child of sorrow!
'Twas to bring us endless pleasure,
He our suffering nature bore;
'Twas to give us heavenly treasure,
He was willing to be poor.
Come, ye rich, survey the stable
Where your infant Saviour lies;
From your full, o'erflowing table,
Send the hungry good supplies.
Boast not your ennobled stations,
Boast not that you're highly fed;
Jesus, hear it all ye nations,
Had not where to lay his head.
Learn of me, thus cries the Saviour,
If my kingdom you'd inherit:
Sinner, quit your proud behavior;
Learn my meek and lowly spirit.
Come, ye servants, see your station
Free from all reproach and shame;
He who purchased your salvation,
Bore a servant's humble name.
Come, ye poor, some comfort gather,
Faint not in the race you run;
Hard the lot your gracious Father
Gave his dear, his only Son.
Think, that if your humble stations
Less of worldly food bestow,
You escape those strong temptations
Which from wealth and grandeur flow
See, your Saviour is ascended;
See, he looks with pity down:
Trust him, all will soon be mended;
Bear his cross, you'll share his crown.
BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS;
or, THE VALLEY OF TEARS.
BY HANNAH MORE.
Once upon a time methought I set out upon a long journey, and the
place through which I travelled appeared to be a dark valley, which
was called the Valley of Tears. It had obtained this name not only on
account of the many sorrowful adventures which poor passengers
commonly meet with in their journey through it, but also because most
of these travellers entered it weeping and crying, and left it in a
very great pain and anguish. This vast valley was full of people of
all colors, ages, sizes, and descriptions; but whether white, or
black, or tawney, all were travelling the same road, or rather, they
were taking different little paths which all led to the same common
Now it was remarkable, that notwithstanding the different complexions,
ages, and tempers of this vast variety of people, yet all resembled
each other in this one respect, that each had a burden on his back,
which he was destined to carry through the toil and heat of the day,
until he should arrive, by a longer or shorter course, at his
journey's end. These burdens would in general have made the pilgrimage
quite intolerable, had not the Lord of the valley, out of his great
compassion for these poor pilgrims, provided, among other things, the
following means for their relief.
In their full view, over the entrance of the valley, there were
written in great letters the following words:
BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS.
Now I saw in my vision, that many of the travellers hurried on without
stopping to read this inscription; and others, though they had once
read it, yet paid little or no attention to it. A third sort thought
it good advice for other people, but very seldom applied it to
themselves. In short, I saw that too many of these people were of the
opinion, that they had burdens enough of their own, and that there
was therefore no occasion to take upon them those of others; so each
tried to make his own load as light, and his own journey as pleasant
as he could, without so much as once casting a thought on a poor
Here, however, I have to make a rather singular remark, by which I
shall plainly show the folly of these selfish people. It was so
ordered and contrived by the Lord of this valley, that if any one
stretched out his hand to lighten a neighbor's burden, in fact he
never failed to find that he at that moment also lightened his own.
Besides, the obligation to help each other, and the benefit of doing
so, were mutual. If a man helped his neighbor, it commonly happened
that some other neighbor came, by and by, and helped him in his turn;
for there was no such thing as what we call independence in the
whole valley. Not one of all these travellers, however stout and
strong, could move on comfortably without assistance; for so the Lord
of the valley, whose laws were all of them kind and good, had
I stood still to watch the progress of these poor wayfaring people,
who moved slowly on, like so many ticket-porters, with burdens of
various kinds on their backs, of which some were heavier, and some
were lighter; but from a burden of one kind or other, not one
traveller was entirely free.
A sorrowful widow, oppressed with the burden of grief for the loss of
an affectionate husband, would have been bowed down by her heavy load,
had not the surviving children with great alacrity stepped forward and
supported her. Their kindness, after a while, so much lightened the
load, which threatened at first to be intolerable, that she even went
on her way with cheerfulness, and more than repaid their help, by
applying the strength she derived from it, to their future assistance.
I next saw a poor old man tottering under a burden so heavy, that I
expected him every moment to sink under it. I peeped into his pack,
and saw it was made up of many sad articles: there were poverty,
oppression, sickness, debt, and what made by far the heaviest part,
undutiful children. I was wondering how it was that he got on even so
well as he did, till I spied his wife, a kind, meek, Christian woman,
who was doing her utmost to assist him. She quietly got behind, gently
laid her shoulder to the burden, and carried a much larger proportion
of it than appeared to me when I was at a distance. She not only
sustained him by her strength, but cheered him by her counsels. She
told him that "through much tribulation we must enter into the
kingdom;" that "he that overcometh shall inherit all things." In
short, she so supported his fainting spirit, that he was enabled to
"run with patience the race that was set before him."
THE KIND NEIGHBOR.
An infirm blind woman was creeping forward with a very heavy burden,
in which were packed sickness and want, with numberless other of those
raw materials out of which human misery is worked up. She was so weak
that she could not have got on at all, had it not been for the kind
assistance of another woman almost as poor as herself; who, though she
had no light burden of her own, cheerfully lent a helping hand to a
fellow-traveller who was still more heavily laden. This friend had
indeed little or nothing to give; but the very voice of kindness is
soothing to the weary. And I remarked in many other cases, that it was
not so much the degree of help afforded as the manner of helping, that
lightened the burdens.
Some had a coarse, rough, clumsy way of assisting a neighbor, which,
though in fact it might be of real use, yet seemed, by galling the
travellers, to add to the load it was intended to lighten; while I
observed in others, that so cheap a kindness as a mild word, or even
an affectionate look, made a poor burdened wretch move on cheerily.
The bare feeling that some human being cared for him, seemed to
lighten the load.
But to return to this kind neighbor. She had a little old book in her
hand, the covers of which were worn out by much use. When she saw the
blind woman ready to faint, she would read her a few words out of this
book, such as the following: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are they that mourn; for
they shall be comforted." "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" and one of
these little promises operated like a cordial on the sufferer.
A pious minister sinking under the weight of a distressed parish,
whose worldly wants he was totally unable to bear, was suddenly
relieved by a good widow, who came up, and took all the sick and
hungry on her own shoulders. The burden of the parish thus divided
became tolerable. The minister being no longer bowed down by the
temporal distresses of his people, applied himself cheerfully to his
own part of the weight. And it was pleasant to see how those two
persons, neither of them very strong, or rich, or healthy, by thus
kindly uniting together, were enabled to bear the weight of a whole
parish; though singly, either of them must have sunk under the
attempt. And I remember one great grief I felt during my whole journey
was, that I did not see more of this union and concurring kindness, by
which all the burdens might have been easily divided. It troubled me
to observe, that of all the laws of the valley, there was not one
more frequently broken than the law of kindness.
I now spied a swarm of poor black men, women, and children, a
multitude which no man could number; these groaned, and toiled, and
sweated, and bled under far heavier loads than I had yet seen. But for
a while no man helped them; at length a few white travellers were
touched with the sorrowful sighing of those millions, and very
heartily did they put their hands to the burdens; but their number was
not quite equal to the work they had undertaken: I perceived, however,
that they never lost sight of these poor, heavy-laden wretches; and as
the number of these generous helpers increased, and is continually
increasing, I felt a comfortable hope, that before all the blacks got
out of the valley, the whites would so apply themselves to the burden,
that the loads would be effectually lightened.
Among the travellers, I had occasion to remark, that those who most
kicked and struggled under their burdens, only made them so much the
heavier; for their shoulders became extremely galled by these vain
struggles. The load, if borne patiently, would in the end have turned
even to the advantage of the bearers—for so the Lord of the valley
had kindly decreed; but as to these grumblers, they had all the smart
and none of the benefit. But the thing that made all these burdens
seem so very heavy was, that in every one, without exception, there
was a certain inner packet, which most of the travellers took pains to
conceal, and carefully wrap up; and while they were forward enough to
complain of the other part of their burdens, few said a word about
this, though in truth it was the pressing weight of this secret packet
which served to render the general burden so intolerable.
In spite of all their caution, I contrived to get a peep at it. I
found, in each, that this packet had the same label: the word sin
was written on all as a general title, and in ink so black that they
could not wash it out. I observed that most of them took no small
pains to hide the writing; but I was surprised to see that they did
not try to get rid of their load, but the label. If any kind friend
who assisted these people in bearing their burdens, did but so much as
hint at the secret packet, or advise them to get rid of it, they took
fire at once, and commonly denied that they had any such article in
their portmanteau; and it was those whose secret packet swelled to the
most enormous size, who most stoutly denied they had any such packet
I saw with pleasure, however, that some who had long labored heartily
to get rid of this inward packet, at length, by prayers, and tears,
and efforts, not made in their own strength, found it much diminished,
and the more this packet shrunk in size, the lighter was the other
part of their burdens also.
Then, methought, all at once, I heard a voice as it had been the voice
of an angel, crying out, and saying, "Ye unhappy pilgrims, why are ye
troubled about the burden which ye are doomed to bear through this
Valley of Tears? Know ye not, that as soon as ye shall have escaped
out of this valley, the whole burden shall drop off, provided ye
neglect not to remove that inward weight of sin which principally
oppresses you? Study, then, the whole will of the Lord of this valley.
Learn from him how the heavy part of your burdens may now be lessened,
and how at last it shall be removed for ever. Be comforted. Faith and
hope may cheer you even in this valley. The passage, though it seems
long to weary travellers, is comparatively short; for beyond it there
is a land of everlasting rest, 'where ye shall hunger no more, neither
thirst any more; where ye shall be led by living fountains of waters,
and all tears shall be wiped away from your eyes.'"
THE STRAIT GATE AND THE BROAD WAY:
BEING THE SECOND PART OF
THE VALLEY OF TEARS.
BY HANNAH MORE.
Now I had a second vision of what was passing in the Valley of Tears.
Methought I saw again the same kind of travellers whom I had seen in
the former part, and they were wandering at large through the same
vast wilderness. At first setting out on his journey, each traveller
had a small lamp so fixed in his bosom, that it seemed to make a part
of himself; but as this natural light did not prove to be sufficient
to direct them in the right way, the King of the country, in pity to
their wanderings and their blindness, out of his gracious
condescension, promised to give these poor wayfaring people an
additional supply of light from his own royal treasury.
But as he did not choose to lavish his favors where there seemed no
disposition to receive them, he would not bestow any of his oil on
such as did not think it worth asking for. "Ask, and ye shall
receive," was the universal rule he laid down for them. Many were
prevented from asking through pride and vanity, for they thought they
had light enough already; preferring the feeble glimmerings of their
own lamp, to all the offered light from the King's treasury.
Yet it was observed of those who rejected it as thinking they had
enough, that hardly any acted up to what even their own natural light
showed them. Others were deterred from asking, because they were told
that this light not only pointed out the dangers and difficulties of
the road, but by a certain reflecting power it turned inward on
themselves, and revealed to them ugly sights in their own hearts to
which they rather chose to be blind; for those travellers "chose
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Now it was
remarkable that these two properties were inseparable, and that the
lamp would be of little outward use, except to those who used it as an
internal reflector. A threat and a promise also never failed to
accompany the offer of this light from the King: a promise, that to
those who improved what they had, more should be given; and a threat,
that from those who did not use it wisely, should be taken away even
what they had.
I observed that when the road was very dangerous, when terrors and
difficulties and death beset the faithful traveller, then, on their
fervent importunity, the King voluntarily gave large and bountiful
supplies of light, such as in common seasons never could have been
expected; always proportioning the quantity given to the necessity of
the case: "As their day was," such was their light and strength.
Though many chose to depend entirely on their own lamp, yet it was
observed that this light was apt to go out, if left to itself. It was
easily blown out by those violent gusts which were perpetually howling
through the wilderness, and indeed it was the natural tendency of that
unwholesome atmosphere to extinguish it; just as you have seen a
candle go out when exposed to the vapors and foul air of a damp room.
It was a melancholy sight to see multitudes of travellers heedlessly
pacing on, boasting they had light enough, and despising the offer of
But what astonished me most of all was, to see many, and some of them,
too, accounted men of firstrate wit, actually busy in blowing out
their own light, because, while any spark of it remained, it only
served to torment them, and point out things which they did not wish
to see. And having once blown out their own light, they were not easy
till they had blown out that of their neighbor's also; so that a good
part of the wilderness seemed to exhibit a sort of universal
blind-man's-buff, each endeavoring to catch his neighbor, while his
own voluntary blindness exposed him to be caught himself, so that each
was actually falling into the snare he was laying for another; till at
length, as selfishness is the natural consequence of blindness, "catch
he that catch can," became the general cry throughout the wilderness.
Now I saw in my vision, that there were some others who were busy in
strewing the most gaudy flowers over the numerous bogs, precipices,
and pitfalls, with which the wilderness abounded; and thus making
danger and death look so gay, that the poor thoughtless creatures
seemed to delight in their own destruction. Those pitfalls did not
appear deep or dangerous to the eye, because over them were raised gay
edifices with alluring names. These were filled with singing men and
singing women, and with dancing, and feasting, and gaming, and
drinking, and jollity, and madness. But though the scenery was gay,
the footing was unsound. The floors were full of holes, through which
the unthinking merrymakers were continually sinking. Some tumbled
through in the middle of a song, many at the end of a feast; and
though there was many a cup of intoxication wreathed with flowers, yet
there was always poison at the bottom.
But what most surprised me was, that though no day passed over their
heads in which some of these merry-makers did not drop through, yet
their loss made little impression on those who were left. Nay, instead
of being awakened to more circumspection and self-denial by the
continual dropping off of those about them, several of them seemed to
borrow from thence an argument of a directly contrary tendency, and
the very shortness of the time was only urged as a reason to use it
more sedulously for the indulgence of sensual delights. "Let us eat
and drink; for to-morrow we die." "Let us crown ourselves with
rose-buds before they are withered." With these, and a thousand other
such little mottoes, the gay garlands of the wilderness were
Some admired poets were set to work to set the most corrupt sentiments
to the most harmonious tunes: these were sung without scruple,
chiefly, indeed, by the looser sons of riot, but not seldom also by
the more orderly daughters of sobriety, who were not ashamed to sing,
to the sound of instruments, sentiments so corrupt and immoral, that
they would have blushed to speak or read them; but the music seemed to
sanctify the corruption, especially such as was connected with love or
Now I observed, that all the travellers who had so much as a spark of
life left, seemed every now and then, as they moved onwards, to cast
an eye, though with very different degrees of attention, towards the
Happy land, which they were told lay at the end of their journey; but
as they could not see very far forward, and as they knew there was a
dark and shadowy valley, which must needs be crossed before they
could attain to the Happy land, they tried to turn their attention
from it as much as they could. The truth is, they were not
sufficiently apt to consult a map which the King had given them, and
which pointed out the road to the Happy land so clearly, that the
"wayfaring man, though simple, could not err." This map also defined
very correctly the boundaries of the Happy land from the land of
Misery, both of which lay on the other side of the dark and shadowy
valley; but so many beacons and lighthouses were erected, so many
clear and explicit directions furnished for avoiding the one country
and attaining the other, that it was not the King's fault, if even one
single traveller got wrong. But I am inclined to think, that in spite
of the map, and the King's word, and his offers of assistance to get
them thither, the travellers in general did not heartily and truly
believe, after all, that there was any such country as the Happy land;
or at least, the paltry and transient pleasures of the wilderness so
besotted them, the thoughts of the dark and shadowy valley so
frightened them, that they thought they should be more comfortable by
banishing all thought and forecast.
Now I also saw in my dream, that there were two roads through the
wilderness, one of which every traveller must needs take. The first
was narrow, and difficult, and rough, but it was infallibly safe. It
did not admit the traveller to stray either to the right hand or to
the left, yet it was far from being destitute of real comforts or
sober pleasures. The other was a broad and tempting way, abounding
with luxurious fruits and gaudy flowers to tempt the eye and please
the appetite. To forget the dark valley, through which every traveller
was well assured he must one day pass, seemed, indeed, the object of
general desire. To this great end, all that human ingenuity could
invent was industriously set to work. The travellers read, and they
wrote, and they painted, and they sung, and they danced, and they
drank as they went along, not so much because they all cared for these
things, or had any real joy in them, as because this restless activity
served to divert their attention from ever being fixed on the dark
and shadowy valley.
The King, who knew the thoughtless temper of the travellers, and how
apt they were to forget their journey's end, had thought of a
thousand little kind attentions to warn them of their dangers. And as
we sometimes see in our gardens written on a board in great letters,
"Beware of spring-guns"—"Man-traps are set here;" so had this King
caused to be written and stuck up, before the eyes of the travellers,
several little notices and cautions, such as, "Broad is the way that
leadeth to destruction;" "Take heed, lest ye also perish;" "Woe to
them that rise up early to drink wine;" "The pleasures of sin are but
for a season."
Such were the notices directed to the Broad-way travellers; but they
were so busily engaged in plucking the flowers, sometimes before they
were blown, and in devouring the fruits, often before they were ripe,
and in loading themselves with yellow clay, under the weight of
which millions perished, that they had no time so much as to look at
the King's directions.
Many went wrong because they preferred a merry journey to a safe one,
and because they were terrified by certain notices chiefly intended
for the Narrow-way travellers, such as, "Ye shall weep and lament,
but the world shall rejoice;" but had these foolish people allowed
themselves time or patience to read to the end, which they seldom
would do, they would have seen these comfortable words added: "But
your sorrow shall be turned into joy;" also, "Your joy no man taketh
from you;" and, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
Now I also saw in my dream, that many travellers who had a strong
dread of ending at the land of Misery, walked up to the Strait gate,
hoping, that though the entrance was narrow, yet if they could once
get in, the road would widen; but what was their grief, when on
looking more closely they saw written on the inside, "Narrow is the
way:" this made them take fright; they compared the inscriptions with
which the whole way was lined, such as, "Be ye not conformed to this
world"—"Deny yourselves, take up your cross," with all the tempting
pleasures of the wilderness.
Some indeed recollected the fine descriptions they had read of the
Happy land, the Golden city, and the river of Pleasures, and they
sighed; but then, those joys were distant, and from the faintness of
their light they soon got to think that what was remote might be
uncertain; and while the present good increased in bulk by its
nearness, the distant good receded, diminished, disappeared. Their
faith failed; they would trust no farther than they could see: they
drew back and got into the Broad-way, taking a common but sad refuge in
the number and gayety of their companions.
When these faint-hearted people, who yet had set out well, turned
back, their light was quite put out, and then they became worse than
those who had made no attempt to get in; "for it is impossible," that
is, it is next to impossible, "for those who were once enlightened,
and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and the good word of God, and
the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew
them again to repentance."
A few honest, humble travellers, not naturally stronger than the rest,
but strengthened by their trust in the King's word, came up by the
light of their lamps, and meekly entered in at the Strait gate. As
they advanced farther they felt less heavy, and though the way did not
in reality grow wider, yet they grew reconciled to the narrowness of
it, especially when they saw the walls here and there studded with
certain jewels called promises, such as, "He that endureth to the
end shall be saved;" and, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Some, when they were almost ready to faint, were encouraged by seeing
that many niches in the Narrow-way were filled with statues and
pictures of saints and martyrs, who had borne their testimony at the
stake, that the Narrow-way was the safe way; and these travellers,
instead of sinking at the sight of the painted wheel and gibbet, the
sword and the furnace, were animated by these words written under
them: "Those that wear white robes came out of great tribulation;"
and, "Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit
In the meantime there came a great multitude of travellers, all from
Laodicea: this was the largest party I had yet seen; these were
neither cold nor hot; they would not give up future hope, they could
not endure present pain; so they contrived to deceive themselves by
fancying, that though they resolved to keep the Happy land in view,
yet there must needs be many different ways which led to it, no doubt
all equally sure without being all equally rough; so they set on foot
certain little contrivances to attain the end without using the means,
and softened down the spirit of the King's directions to fit them to
their own practice.
Sometimes they would split a direction in two, and only use that half
which suited them. For instance, when they met with the following
rule, "Trust in the Lord, and do good," they would take the first
half, and make themselves easy with a general sort of trust, that
through the mercy of the King all would go well with them, though they
themselves did nothing. And on the other hand, many made sure that a
few good works of their own would carry them safely to the Happy land,
though they did not trust in the Lord, nor place any faith in his
word: so they took the second half of the spliced direction. Thus some
perished by a lazy faith, and others by a working pride.
A large party of Pharisees now appeared, who had so neglected their
lamp that they did not see their way at all, though they fancied
themselves to be full of light; they kept up appearances so well as to
delude others, and most effectually to delude themselves with a notion
that they might be found in the right way at last. In this dreadful
delusion they went on to the end, and till they were finally plunged
in the dark valley, never discovered the horrors which awaited them on
the dismal shore. It was remarkable, that while these Pharisees were
often boasting how bright their light burned, in order to get the
praise of men, the humble travellers, whose steady light showed their
good works to others, refused all commendation, and the brighter their
light shined before men, so much the more they insisted that they
ought to glory, not in themselves, but their Father which is in
I now set myself to observe what was the particular let, molestation,
and hinderance, which obstructed particular travellers in their
endeavors to enter in at the Strait gate. I remarked a huge portly
man, who seemed desirous of getting in, but he carried about him such
a vast provision of bags full of gold, and had on so many rich
garments which stuffed him out so wide, that though he pushed and
squeezed like one who had really a mind to get in, yet he could not
possibly do so. Then I heard a voice crying, "Woe to him that loadeth
himself with thick clay." The poor man felt something was wrong, and
even went so far as to change some of his more cumbersome vanities
into others which seemed less bulky; but still he and his pack were
much too wide for the gate.
He would not, however, give up the matter so easily, but began to
throw away a little of the coarser part of his baggage; but still I
remarked, that he threw away none of the vanities which lay near his
heart. He tried again, but it would not do; still his dimensions were
too large. He now looked up and read these words: "How hardly shall
they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The poor man
sighed to find that it was impossible to enjoy his fill of both
worlds, and "went away sorrowing." If he ever afterwards cast a
thought towards the Happy land, it was only to regret that the road
which led to it was too narrow to admit any but the meagre children of
want, who were not so encumbered by wealth as to be too big for the
passage. Had he read on, he would have seen that "with God all things
Another advanced with much confidence of success; for having little
worldly riches or honors, the gate did not seem so strait to him. He
got to the threshold triumphantly, and seemed to look back with
disdain on all that he was quitting. He soon found, however, that he
was so bloated with pride, and stuffed out with self-sufficiency, that
he could not get in. Nay, he was in a worse way than the rich man just
named, for he was willing to throw away some of his outward luggage;
whereas this man refused to part with a grain of that vanity and
self-applause which made him too big for the way. The sense of his own
worth so swelled him out, that he stuck fast in the gateway, and could
neither get in nor out.
Finding now that he must cut off all those big thoughts of himself, if
he wished to be reduced to such a size as to pass the gate, he gave up
all thoughts of it. He scorned that humility and self-denial which
might have shrunk him down to the proper dimensions: the more he
insisted on his own qualifications for entrance, the more impossible
it became to enter, for the bigger he grew. Finding that he must
become quite another manner of man before he could hope to get in, he
gave up the desire; and I now saw, that though when he set his face
towards the Happy land he could not get an inch forward, yet the
instant he made a motion to turn back into the world, his speed became
rapid enough, and he got back into the Broad-way much sooner than he
had got out of it.
Many, who for a time were brought down from their usual bulk by some
affliction, seemed to get in with ease. They now thought all their
difficulties over; for having been surfeited with the world during
their late disappointment, they turned their backs upon it willingly
enough. A fit of sickness perhaps, which is very apt to reduce, had
for a time brought their bodies into subjection, so that they were
enabled just to get in at the gateway; but as soon as health and
spirits returned, the way grew narrower and narrower to them; they
could not get on, but turned short, and got back into the world.
I saw many attempt to enter who were stopped short by a large burden
of worldly cares; others by a load of idolatrous attachments; but I
observed that nothing proved a more complete bar than that vast bundle
of prejudices with which multitudes were loaded. Others were fatally
obstructed by loads of bad habits which they would not lay down,
though they knew they prevented their entrance. Some few, however, of
most descriptions who had kept their light alive by craving constant
supplies from the King's treasury, got through at last by a strength
which they felt not to be their own.
One poor man, who carried the largest bundle of bad habits I had seen,
could not get on a step; he never ceased, however, to implore for
light enough to see where his misery lay: he threw down one of his
bundles, then another, but all to little purpose, still he could not
stir. At last, striving as if in agony—which is the true way of
entering—he threw down the heaviest article in his pack: this was
selfishness. The poor fellow felt relieved at once, his light burned
brightly, and the rest of his pack was as nothing.
Then I heard a great noise as of carpenters at work. I looked to see
what this might be, and saw many sturdy travellers, who, finding they
were too bulky to get through, took into their heads not to reduce
themselves, but to widen the gate: they hacked on this side, and hewed
on that; but all their hacking and hewing and hammering was to no
purpose, they got only their labor for their pains: it would have been
possible for them to have reduced themselves, but to widen the
Narrow-way was impossible.
What grieved me most was, to observe that many who had got on
successfully a good way, now stopped to rest, and to admire their own
progress. While they were thus valuing themselves on their attainment,
their light diminished. While these were boasting how far they had
left others behind, who had set out much earlier, some slower
travellers, whose beginning had not been so promising but who had
walked circumspectly, now outstripped them. These last walked, "not as
though they had already attained," but "this one thing they did,
forgetting the things which were behind, they pressed forward towards
the mark for the prize of their high calling." These, though naturally
weak, yet by "laying aside every weight, finished the race that was
Those who had kept their "light burning," who were not "wise in their
own conceit," who "laid their help on One that is mighty," who had
"chosen to suffer affliction rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin
for a season," came at length to the Happy land. They had indeed the
dark and shadowy valley to cross; but even there they found "a rod and
a staff" to comfort them. Their light, instead of being put out by
the damps of the valley of the Shadow of Death, often burned with
Some, indeed, suffered the terrors of a short eclipse; but even then
their light, like that of a dark lantern, was not put out, it was only
hid for a while; and even these often finished their course with joy.
But be that as it might, the instant they reached the Happy land, all
tears were wiped from their eyes; and the King himself came forth and
welcomed them into his presence, and put a crown upon their heads,
with these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou
into the joy of thy LORD."
THE PARABLE OF THE LABORERS
IN THE VINEYARD.
The kingdom of heaven is compared by our Saviour to "a householder
which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his
vineyard. And again he went out about the third hour, and saw others
standing idle in the market-place, and said unto them, Go ye also into
the vineyard: and they went their way. And he went out about the sixth
and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went
out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye
here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired
us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever
is right, that shall ye receive."
By the householder here spoken of, our Saviour himself is intended;
and by the laborers hired into the vineyard, those persons are
meant who enter into his service. These laborers are said to be found
standing idle in the market-place; for the gospel finds men idle,
that is, not employed in God's service. They are working busily
enough, perhaps, for themselves; for men will rise up early, and go to
bed late, for the sake of getting money, or following pleasure; but
then their diligence is of a wrong kind. They are not diligent in the
way of duty to their Maker. They may be likened to a certain kind of
servants, who though they may seem busy, and may get from ignorant
persons some credit for being so, are nevertheless merely running on
their own errands, and doing their own work, so that they are no
better than idle in respect to the work which they ought to be doing
for their householder or master.
But when they become true Christians they are no longer like those
idle fellows who are always sauntering about with their arms folded,
in the market-place, pretending that they are in want of employment,
no man having as yet hired them: they may now be compared to a set of
laborers in the vineyard or garden, who, whenever you look at them,
are sure to be seen either digging, or planting, or watering, or
doing, in short, whatever is most wanting in the place where they are
working; and they have always an eye, moreover, to the honor and
interests of the great Householder their Master.
The householder is said to go out at different hours of the day to
hire these servants. This signifies that the light of revelation was
sent at different periods of the world to the different people in it,
and in particular to the Jews at one period, and the Gentile nations
at another. The Jews had been much offended at seeing Christ address
himself to the Gentiles, who, as they thought, not having been called
into the church or vineyard of God at an early period of the world,
ought not to be received at a later hour. Our Saviour, therefore,
makes use of this parable, or story, as a convenient means of showing
how unreasonable these Jewish prejudices were.
I mean here, however, to accommodate the parable to the purpose of
showing in what manner the gospel often addresses itself to men in
different periods of life, calling one at an early age, and one much
later, into the same vineyard of Christ. We are in no danger of
erring exactly as the Jews did, by raising objections to Christ's
calling the great body of the Gentile nations into his church. We may
be in great danger, however, of acting much in the same spirit with
the Jews, and if we do so, that spirit is most likely to show itself
in our objecting to extend the privileges of the gospel to some poor
outcasts or aged sinners among ourselves.
First, then, I will put the case of one who is brought to obey the
gospel in the morning of life, and is one of the youngest of the
laborers in our Lord's vineyard. He sets out well, as I will suppose,
and goes on well through all the following stages of life; even his
most early prayers are not a mere matter of form, but they spring out
of a persuasion already rising up in his mind, that he is entirely
dependent on God, and needs the help of his Holy Spirit. It pleases
God, in answer to his infant prayers, to strengthen this child against
his early temptations, so that he does as Christ commands, and not as
wicked children may require or expect of him. Such a child as this
will also be diligent in learning his lessons, and improving his time;
for he will be like the laboring men in the vineyard, spoken of in
the parable, and not like the idle ones in the market-place.
Now what a vast quantity of good may such a person be the means of
doing in the course of a long life on earth. First of all, he is a
blessing to his young connections and school-fellows, for he will
often reprove vice and irreligion in them, even though it should be
much against the modesty of his own natural inclinations. Then he
grows up to be a bold witness for God in the face of all the gay and
unthinking young men or women among whom he is thrown in early life.
Next, he proceeds to do good about the village or town where he is
settled. After this, perhaps, he marries, when his wife, and all her
connections, and his own offspring also, have the advantage of
observing him. They remark his humble, candid, pious, and affectionate
spirit, and his diligent and self-denying life, and they profit both
by his kind services and his example.
Now, too, his income very probably increases through his good
character and industry, and hence he is able to assist the poor, the
fatherless, the widow, and to pay for the instruction of the ignorant;
for he spends little on himself. Having no vices he has few wants,
and his family, being trained to religious habits, and preserved from
the gay and expensive customs of the world, have few wants also. Thus
is happiness of all kinds spread abroad. He explains, also, as he has
opportunity, those Christian doctrines which have led him into this
life of usefulness, and is a great promoter of the gospel, so that a
little world of Christians is continually gathering together around
him, and even a new generation is coming forward, which shall, by and
by, rise up and call him blessed.
In the midst of all this usefulness, however, he is very modest and
lowly. He gives God the praise of every good thing he does, and he is
sincerely pained when flattering and inconsiderate people load him
with their extravagant commendations; for he sees a thousand faults in
himself which he is much engaged in overcoming, though others perceive
them not. He is conscious of neglecting many an opportunity of doing
good, and of failing to suppress sufficiently many an evil thought;
and though some irreligious people may fancy that he already carries
things too far, as they absurdly term it, yet there is nothing of
which he is himself more sure than that he falls short in every duty,
and especially in those things of which they least see the
importances—in zeal for religion, in the duties of prayer and praise,
and in all the feelings and expressions of gratitude to his Creator
But while we are thus describing the amiable character of a Christian,
let it be remarked also, that he meets with various difficulties, and
is exposed to not a few misrepresentations, His virtuous singularity,
for instance, is considered by some, who do not understand his
principles, to be unnecessary preciseness, and is thought to arise
from a conceited or disobliging spirit. His courage in reproving vice,
if unsuccessful, is called, by those whom he reproves, impertinence.
His activity in doing good is not seldom ascribed to forwardness. Even
his extraordinary liberality is accounted for, by those who do not
care to follow his example, by saying that it is mere vanity, or
lavish imprudence. And, above all, his piety is apt to be thought, by
the impious and irreligious, to be mere hypocrisy, or at best a poor,
pitiable sort of weakness.
Thus, then, while the Christian has many peculiar hopes, and joys, and
consolations on the one hand, he experiences many trials and hardships
on the other. Nevertheless, he bears up under them all; many of them,
indeed, appear light to him in comparison of what they seem to other
men, and grow more and more light as he becomes used to them. He goes
on, therefore, cheerful and contented: he labors much, he suffers
much, he renounces much, he contends much in the cause of Christ; and
he does this in every place to which he moves, in every changing
situation and circumstance, and in every season of life through which
And now at last, after a long life, death closes in upon him; he looks
with thankfulness back to what is past, and with composure to the
important and decisive hour that is approaching. He trusts, indeed,
not in himself, but in his Saviour, for, after all, he is but "an
unprofitable servant, having done no more than it was his duty to do;"
but he has much comfortable proof that his Christian faith has not
been a mere name; and he is able to take up the same language with the
apostle, and to say, with a measure of the same confidence, "I have
fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;
henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the
Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day." This then is one
of those who, to borrow the phrase in the parable, may be said to have
"borne the burden and heat of the day."
There is another class of persons who may now be spoken of as entering
into the vineyard of Christ at a somewhat later hour; at the age, we
will suppose, of twenty-five or thirty. These have lost an hour
indeed; they have idled away one precious season of life. Alas, it is
also to be feared, that during the heat and self-confidence of youth,
they have done much evil, as well as neglected to do good. Perhaps it
has also happened that they have already formed some rash connection,
and established themselves on some irreligious plan; but now they
repent; they break through all difficulties; they turn away from the
path in which they had set out in life, and they turn into the
vineyard of Christ. They become humble, diligent, and useful
Christians; for even those also give a good part at least of their
health and strength to the cause of their Saviour, and with grief and
shame at having been thus far idle, they become fellow-laborers with
those happier persons already spoken of.
But let us come to a class of persons who repent somewhat later still;
I mean at the age of forty or fifty. How affecting is the condition
of such persons when it is well considered. They now discover that
they have been all their lives living, as it were, to no purpose; that
the whole of these forty or fifty years has been idly thrown away, or
if spent in labor, it has been mere labor in vain. For even though
they may have been diligent, yet they have been merely diligent in
doing their own will, and not the will of God; they have been working
in their own vineyard, and not in the vineyard of Christ; they have
been year after year pushing their own fortune, building up their own
credit, exalting their own consequence, indulging their own ease,
following their own pleasure, caring about their own interest, or
family interest, while the great interests of the kingdom of Christ
have been quite out of the question.
Now, therefore, they have to repent perhaps of the very things they
have been the most proud of. They have also to resist many sinful
habits which have become, as it were, a second nature; they have to
disentangle themselves from a multitude of irreligious connections,
whose opinions have hitherto ruled over them; they have to unteach
even their own children many a false principle which they had taught
them. With many a weary and painful step, they have to measure back
the whole ground which they have been treading; and they have to undo,
as it were, every thing which for fifty years they have been doing.
When more than half of life is over, they have to enter upon the work
which they were sent into the world to do; but at length they hire
themselves into the vineyard of Christ, and he receives them, though
it is the ninth hour: and now they husband well their time, and begin
to be fruitful in every good work; and whatever they do, they do all
to the glory of God: they perform what he commands, and simply because
he commands it: they become a part of the church of Christ, and are
numbered among the laborers in his vineyard.
But if the case of such as were last spoken of is affecting, what
shall be said of those aged persons whom it still remains for us to
describe? Some there are—but, alas, it is to be feared, that it is
the case of very few—who even at seventy, or more than seventy years
old, repent, and become the servants of Christ When scarcely an hour
of life remains, when the evening is closing in, and the "night cometh
in which no man can work," then it pleases God to send his grace
possibly to a few of these also, and they go for the short hour that
remains into the same vineyard of Christ.
How mournful is the view which we have now to take of such an aged
sinner's condition. Here is a person, the whole term of whose earthly
existence, one poor uncertain hour excepted, has been spent in a
sinful course. How plain is it in his case, that there can be no such
thing as merit, and that if ever he is saved, it must be through the
mere mercy of God—a doctrine, indeed, which is equally true in the
case of all. Let us run over the woful tale of his wicked life, and as
before we thought fit to describe an eminent and distinguished
Christian, so now, by way of making the difference more particularly
striking, let us draw the picture of one who, though no thief or
murderer, and therefore not accounted one of the most abandoned of
mankind, yet is lying under a load of much more than ordinary guilt.
Those persons who feel themselves guilty of any part of the crimes we
shall enumerate, should take their share of the reproof, and if they
have not repented, so as to enter into the vineyard of Christ, they
should remember, that though they may be criminals of a smaller size,
yet they are still remaining under condemnation.
To a perverse and disobedient childhood has succeeded, as we will
suppose, a wild and vicious youth, and then a proud and ambitious
manhood, and after this a fretful or covetous old age. In the course
of his long life many temptations have broken in upon him, and by
turns he has yielded to them all. Many different situations have been
filled by him, and in each, as he now sees, he has either neglected or
betrayed his trust. He has been a negligent and bad father, an
unreasonable, nay, secretly an unfaithful husband, a careless
inattentive brother, a hollow, flattering, and designing friend;
perhaps, also, a mean time-serving politician, and even a mischievous
common acquaintance. Do you ask what has been the turn of his common
conversation? Instead of being pious, useful, benevolent, candid, and
sincere, it has at one time been proud and passionate, at another vain
and flourishing, at another slanderous and revengeful; now again, it
has been selfish, crafty, and dissembling, often also daringly
impious and profane, and not seldom exceedingly polluting and impure.
Do you ask what have been the sinful deeds he has done? O what a
dreadful variety has there been in them! At one time he has been
trying to overreach his fellow-trader; at another, he has been
endeavoring to seduce some unhappy maiden: at one time he is seen
quarrelling with his neighbor; at another, he falls out with one of
his own family, after which he grows mad with every one around him,
and, at last, equally mad and out of humor with himself. He has been
selfish, griping, and avaricious on all occasions, and what he has
saved or gained by oppression and fraud, he has spent on his
profligacy: he has got drunk with the money which he has acquired by
dishonesty, and he has paid for his debauchery at night by the sum
which he has contrived in the morning to keep back from the poor. At
the same time he has been turbulent, factious, and complaining—always
talking of what is amiss in others, and very sudden and severe in
judging them, but very proud and confident in himself, disdaining even
the smallest blame. Would you get into favor with him, you must
flatter him at every word; and you will please him best by doing it
grossly and to his face, for he is quite used to praise: he has long
lived among those who look up to him as their patron, or gape at him
as their principal wit, or glory in him as their chief songster,
possibly as the chairman of their drinking club, and as their merry
leader in debauchery.
To all these sins he adds that of being the decided enemy of every
religious man. Is the gospel preached at his very door, he stands in
the front rank of its enemies; he denies its efficacy, makes a joke of
its doctrines, reviles its followers, and is the avowed hinderer of
its progress. Christianity, indeed, is against him, and therefore it
is no wonder that he is against Christianity. Hence it is, that the
religion of every man around him, however pure and excellent, if it is
but zealous and fervent, is declared, without distinction, to be mere
hypocrisy, enthusiasm, bigotry, and cant.
But let us look a little also to the various consequences of his
life of sin. Who can trace a thousandth part of the miseries which
have arisen even from one single source; I mean from the levity and
inconsideration which have made one leading feature in his character?
Who can calculate the effects of all those evil principles which he
has scattered at random, reaching even to distant places and
generations? Who can calculate the mischief which he may have caused
even in one of his light convivial hours? View the inscription on that
gravestone, which is now almost overgrown with thorns. Ah, it is the
name of an old companion, an ale-house friend, who once used to sing
with him, in one joyful chorus, "the praises of the flowing bowl," and
who thus was encouraged in those habits of intemperance which led to
that untimely grave.
Let us open one other source of no less painful reflection. Behold
that miserable female, once the gay partner of his guilty pleasures,
whom if he has not been the first to seduce, he has at least carried
on and confirmed in a life of sin, and whom he has left afterwards to
sink in want, to grow loathsome through disease, and to become a
nuisance to the village or the town. He has helped to ruin but not to
deliver her; he has soon left her to the tender mercies of some of her
own sex as hardened as herself, among whom she has sunk, and groaned,
Which way, then, shall this aged sinner turn his eyes? Every scene,
every place, every month and day of his life, which he can call to
remembrance, reminds him of some sin. Shall he look to some of his
more reputable actions? Alas, even when his conduct has been most
creditable, his motives have been unchristian and impure. "True, I
have had some character," he now says to himself, "but I have had no
title to it. Men have not known me; or if a few have known me, and yet
praised me, they have praised me because they have wanted to carry
some point of their own by pleasing me: nay, my companions have even
praised me for what was evil, for the same people seem now, methinks,
to blame me in proportion as they discern any thing in me that is
good." Thus the recollection of the applauses he used to receive from
these wicked men is one aggravation of his pain.
But shall he look to his more innocent and early years? Alas, the
review of his infancy only serves to remind him how naturally and how
soon he went astray; how soon "he forsook the guide of his youth, and
forgot the covenant of his God." Thus, if he looks backward, all is
misery, and horror, and despair. Shall he then look forward and
comfort himself by thinking how effectually he will repair all the
evil he has done? But how shall he now repair it? Of those whom he has
corrupted many are dead, and of the survivors very few can now be
found. Go, then, and bring these few back to God. Alas, one will mock,
another will dissemble, a third will despise. Go, try to reclaim even
the children of thine own loins, who are all trained through thy means
in an evil course. Nay, even these also will scoff at thy rebuke, and
say, "Our old father is grown troublesome and peevish through age; he
is turned religious only because he has just done with this life, and
has one foot in the grave."
What then, I say, can this aged sinner do to remedy the evils he has
caused? He can only abhor himself for what is past, and repent
sincerely of all that he has done. See him then at length abhorring
himself, and "repenting in dust and ashes." See him retiring to his
chamber, and, for the first time, communing seriously with his own
heart. See him reviewing the whole of his past life, from the first
dawn of reason to the present hour, endeavoring to survey with
exactness his thoughts, words, and actions, and all his most secret
practices, intentions, and inclinations. See him meditating also on
his numberless omissions, taking the law of God for his rule, and
beginning now, for the first time, to discover what manner of person
he has been. How does he stand amazed at his own former stupidity and
blindness and hardness of heart, and how astonished also at the
patience of God, which has so long borne with him.
And now his heart relents, the tears of penitential sorrow begin to
flow; the lion also is changed into a lamb, and the same person who
before might have been compared to the woman in the gospel, "out of
whom there went seven devils," or to "Saul breathing out threatenings
and slaughter," may now be likened to the Magdalen weeping at the feet
of Jesus, or to Paul trembling and astonished, and crying out, as he
lay on the ground, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" or to the
same Paul, when it was afterwards said of him, "Behold, he prayeth."
With trembling limbs, and with a body bowed down with age, behold then
this repenting sinner walking to that public worship which he had so
long neglected; with weak and failing eyes he opens the scripture; at
the age of seventy he begins to inquire with childlike simplicity into
the nature of the gospel, and knowing how short his time is, he makes
haste to obey it.
And now, perhaps his old companions deride him; for as he once sneered
at others who were religious, and called them all hypocrites, so is he
now sneered at, and called a hypocrite in his turn: he becomes the
scoff of the drunkard and the merry jest of the profane, and they that
"sit in the gate make songs of him." Now also the very sins of his
youth, which had been scarcely mentioned before, are brought forward
by his former favorites and friends as present evidence against him;
his crimes are even aggravated, and are all blazed abroad; but it is
one proof of his sincerity, that even these cutting reproaches do not
shake him from his purpose, nor induce him to turn back to his old
companions. No, they may laugh, they may smile at what they call his
pretended sanctity, but in truth he is no hypocrite.
That drops upon his Bible is sincere."
He is disposed to doubt, indeed, for a time, his own sincerity; for
his guilt is so great, and the blessings of the gospel, including as
they do the gift of eternal life, appear so large in his eyes, that he
cannot at once raise his hopes so high. His sincerity is proved,
however, by his proceeding to repair, as far as he has opportunity,
each evil that he has done; by his mourning over what he cannot cure,
and by the determination of his mind, through the help of divine
grace, to walk for the future in newness of life. In short, he feels
that if his life were prolonged a thousand years, and youth and health
were restored to him, he should choose to spend his strength and the
utmost length of his days in the service of the same Master, and to be
a laborer in the same vineyard.
But here, methinks, some objector rises up, and says, "What then,
shall this man be accepted of God, like him who has been moral and
orderly all his days, or like the first person you mentioned?" We
shall now answer this objection by proceeding with the parable.
The Jews are there represented as murmuring against the good man of
the house, on account of his rewarding the more late and early
laborers, the ancient Jews and the newly converted Gentiles, by giving
each of them a penny, "saying, These last have wrought but one hour,
and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden and
heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do
thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that
thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last even as unto
thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" It was
no injury to the Jews that the poor Gentiles were admitted, though at
a later hour, into the church, and the Jews had therefore no right to
complain; on the contrary, they ought to have rejoiced at it. In like
manner, it can be no injury to those among us who may have served
Christ from our youth, that any poor outcast should be admitted to the
same Christian privileges with ourselves; and we also ought to
rejoice, as the angels of God are said to do, over one sinner that
repenteth. Again it may be remarked, that even the first calling of
the Jews arose not from any superior merit in them, but from the
sovereign goodness of God. Surely, therefore, it was most unreasonable
in those people to complain of God's extending the same mercy to the
Gentiles. Much in the same manner, it may be remarked in respect to
the present day, that the salvation even of the best of men arises not
from any merit of their own, but merely from God's free mercy in
Christ; and surely, therefore, one pardoned sinner among us ought not
to complain of the extension of the same pardon to another.
But the parable, in the two last verses of it, proceeds a step
further, for it is there added by our Saviour, "Is thine eye evil
because I am good?" which is as if he said, "What, do you take offence
then at my being so merciful? Does it provoke your envy to see a vile
Gentile called at the eleventh hour, and made equal to yourselves, who
profess to have been the people of God from the beginning, and to have
borne the whole burden and heat of the day?" Some very awful words are
then added, wherein it is implied, that they who are ready to make
this objection, brought thereby their own religious character into
suspicion; and that these very penitents of the eleventh hour, whom
they now presumed to despise, should hereafter even take place above
them—for it is said, "So the first shall be last, and the last first;
for many are called, but few chosen."
These words appear to be a prophecy of our Judge, which relates to the
great day of judgment. Then many a popular but irreligious character,
many a one who has been praised to the stars in this ignorant and
misjudging world, and whose supposed virtues have both deceived
himself, and dazzled all around him, shall sink at once into
everlasting shame and disgrace; while many a poor, despised, yet
repenting sinner, shall come forward and receive his crown of glory.
O, what a wonderful change in many of the appearances which we now
see, shall we witness on the day of judgment. Let us not fail to
remark, that then also many a false though flaming professor of the
gospel, many a vain, forward, and conceited teacher, many a
self-confident enthusiast, and many a narrow-minded and fiery bigot,
who has spent his life in little else than in judging and condemning
others, shall be brought forward in the face of the assembled world,
and shall receive his own condemnation. Then also many a diffident and
trembling believer, and many a meek and lowly Christian, who has been
laboring with little noise in some obscure corner of his Lord's
vineyard, and on whom the bigots, not seeing him among their party,
have presumptuously dealt damnation, shall take that prize which has
been denied to those who set themselves up as judges over him, and
shall be bid to enter into the joy of his Lord. "So the first shall be
last, and the last first; for many are called, but few chosen."