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THE LAD AT THE COAL-SHED.
At one time of my life. I was superintendent of a Sabbath-school, in the neighbourhood of London. It was situated in the midst of a poor district, through which there was
no leading thoroughfare. Our school-house stood at the further end of a large quadrangle, on either side of which were the dwellings of many of our scholars. I am living many miles away from the spot now, yet I can distinctly see the vacant space between the houses, with my children at play there, and I can clearly hear their
On Sabbath mornings, when on the way to the scene of my labours, I had to pass a house, one half of which was used as a greengrocer's shop, with fruit and sweet things for children in the window, while the other half was an open coal-shed. In this latter place a number of women would nearly always be congregated, buying and laughing, with rude and boisterous talk. I never could bear that shop. I felt sure that it was a sad temptation to my poor children. And I think I never heard any of them repeat the fourth commandment without recollecting the coalshed.
When I reached our quadrangle, I generally met coming out of it a lad who wheeled a barrow, having a number of empty coal sacks thrown across it. He worked at that very shed. From his appearance, I should judge that he was about sixteen years of age. He would give me a cheerful, and somewhat saucy look. And, as I have no doubt my countenance expressed the feelings of my lieart towards him, I must have returned it with a look of rebuke and pity. His whole deportment was full of life and good humour. He whistled with spirit, and ma saged his barrow with a jaunty air. Although his face was covered with smut, yet I could see that his features were regular, and that the glow of youth was on his counte
eyes were fine and intelligent. I took an interest in the lad. I am sure I prayed for him nearly
every time we met. But I am grieved and ashamed to acknowledge that I never spoke to him ; and although I had tracts in my pocket, yet I never offered him one. I cannot imagine how I could be so neglectful. I feel that this was a great sin, which I have many times confessed before God, and I humbly hope that he has forgiven it. But surely I shall never forgive myself.
In the autumn of 1851, I went out of town to recruit my health. One morning, having received my London letters, I put them into my pocket, intending to read them during my walk. And following a path which led under an old gateway into a nobleman's park, I walked up and down perusing them under the shade of some oaks. They were chiefly from my poor children. For it was at the time of the Great Exhibition, and they had been taken in two omnibuses to see it. You may easily imagine what lively and extravagant descriptions these notes would contain. Having finished them, I opened a letter from the schoolmistress, and was immediately struck with the difference of its character. So great and sudden was the change, that it seemed to me like stepping at once out of dazzling sunlight, into a dense forest. But I soon solved the mystery of this change. One short sentence plained it immediately. “ William Martin,” said she,"is dying.” Now William Martin was the lad with the wheelbarrow.
On my return to town, I found that Martin was dead and buried. “I shall never feel that I did my duty by that lad,” said the mistress to me, with many tears. It seems, that one day while she was busy in school with the children, a strange woman stepped in.
• Come and pray with a dying lad,” said she. The mistress had no very favourable opinion of her visitor, and could not make out who the boy was, and so she neglected to go. But on the following morning a little boy entered, and exclaimed with much earnestness, “ William Martin is dying, and he begs that you will come and pray with him.” The mistress immediately went up stairs, and putting on her bonnet and shawl, set out for his house. When she reached it,
she was immediately shown into his room. It was a comfortless-looking apartment; and on a bed, but scantily covered with clothes, lay the now pale and dying youth. Over a chair-back, (hard by, were hung the clothes which he had worn when in health. As she went in, he looked at her with solemnity and affection; and sitting down on his bed, she began the following conversation
Well, Martin, why have you sent for me?” “ Because I think I am dying.”
And what do you believe will become of you ?” “ I believe that I shall go to hell.” 6 How so ?” “ Because I have been such a wicked boy.”
Yes, Martin, I must tell you the truth ; you have been a very wicked boy."
He fixed his eyes steadily upon her.
“ You have constantly broken God's holy day, although you knew better, Martin.”
I have, I have; and I had been taught better at the River-lane school.”
The River-lane school, which he had attended nearly three years before, was about two miles off.
“ You often mocked me, Martin, when I warned you to leave off
ways." Shutting his
eyes, “ Yes, yes !” And
you have set your little brother a sad example. You can't tell how much harm you may have done him."
“I own to it all. It is all true. I have been a very wicked boy. I am a great sinner. Oh, that God would have mercy on my soul! Will you pray with me ?”
All this was said with intense earnestness and grief.
The mistress took off her bonnet, and knelt down by his bedside to pray with him, while he put his now thin hands together, and lifted up his large, eloquent eyes to heaven. When she began to pray, he repeated after her the petitions which she offered. But when she came to ask that his sins might be forgiven, the words she employed were not strong enough to express his feelings. So he backed them by his own earnest entreaties. You may
have heard a poor little boy beg hard of his stern father not to beat him so much; but you never heard any entreaties so piteous and urgent as were poor Martin's.
When the prayer was over, he said that he felt more easy in his mind; for he had a hope that God would for Christ's sake pardon his guilty soul. But he exclaimed, “ If I must go to hell, I will go there crying for mercy all the way.”
And he kept his word; for he never ceased begging for forgiveness while consciousness lasted. It was literally his one occupation. He listened meekly to the instructions of any Christian friend who called in. He freely and solemnly confessed how wicked he had been, and he joined fervently in any prayers which were offered up on his behalf. When one said, “Do you suffer much pain ?" He answered, “Oh, very much. But I should not mind that a bit, could I but have my sins forgiven."
I come now to the saddest part of this altogether sad story. Some of you may not be aware that there are wretches who call themselves men (but I really think they cannot be men), who will sit down and deliberately write vile books, that they may pollute and ruin young minds. And there are monsters who will furnish type and paper in order to multiply these abominable productions. And there are fathers and mothers who will set up in their windows this detestable poison to catch the unwary, and destroy their souls. Do they destroy souls? Do they not, with every soul they defile, destroy anew their own souls ? Oh, what punishments await such miscreants as these ! Oh, who shall pity them in the day of their merited calamity!
Alas! Martin had frequented one of these infernal shops, and had drunk in greedily the defilement which was dispensed there. How sad an influence it had exerted over his thoughts became at this period but too evident; for now delirium came on, and imagination being no longer controlled by reason, forced his young lips to babble the foulest things. It is not necessary to say more, than that everybody kept away from his room, excepting
just the one or two who must needs wait upon him. But, thank God, Martin did not die in the midst of this terrible scene.
As life was slowly ebbing out, reason came and now he lay for a while perfectly still. But soon he began to speak with a feeble voice; and the attendant coming to listen, found that he was repeating the Lord's Prayer. It was very slowly, and with long pauses. When he reached the concluding sentences, his articulation became very indistinct. For a moment he was quiet again. And then the young head drooped gently on one side, and Martin was dead.
Poor Martin ! shall I meet thee in heaven? Methinks if I do, that I shall cry for joy ; but surely I shall be ashamed to look thee in the face. I shall dread the tender reproaches which those speaking eyes cannot fail to express. But if I never find thee there !-Sunday-school Teachers' Union Magazine.
DUTY OF OBEYING ORDERS. “COME, what shall we do this afternoon, John ?" said two boys, stopping before the front yard of a neighbour's house, where one of their schoolmates was standing.
It was Wednesday afternoon. To go a-fishing, or raspberrying, or up to the mills, or over to Back Cove-they could not decide which of all these would be, on the whole, the pleasantest. At last it was agreed to go over to Back Cove, which was a strip of land running out into the sea, where there were trees, rocks, and water, cake-and-ale houses, and one or two low taverns.
Off the boys started, with no clear notions of what they meant to do ; only it was Wednesday afternoon, and they meant to make the most of it. After reaching the Cove, they amused themselves with skipping stones on the water, carving their names upon the trees, looking about here and there, until they came in sight of the bowling-alley, a noted gambling-house, where a great deal of wickedness had been carried on. There were several carriages here, many boys