A DOUBLE KNOCK AT THE DOOR OF THE YOUNG.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“I have a message from God unto thee.” — Judges 3:20.
My message is not sharp and deadly like that of Ehud, who when he had pronounced the words drove at once his dagger into the heart of the tyrant king. That was the sharp message from God to him. Mine is a message not of death but of life. It anything be killed by it, I trust it may be that sin which otherwise would have killed us. Young man, young woman, “I have a message from God unto thee!”
In ordinary correspondence through the post there are four special marks which occasionally distinguish our letters, any one of which is sure to draw attention to them. There are, in like manner, four attractive features about the message I have to deliver. You sometimes receive a, letter marked “Important ,” or another upon which there is written “Immediate .” You will: see to those at the first moment. Perhaps a third comes, “On Her Majesty’s service,” and you will look to that; but I should not wonder if the most pleasing of all in your eyes is that which is tied round with a green string. It is registered, and contains something of value, which you hope may be as precious as you wish. I have four such letters to deliver at this time to my young friends, and I shall ask: their earnest attention to them.
The first-message I have to deliver is “IMPORTANT!”
I cannot take you by the button hole and hold you fast, but I should like you to think I am doing so, while I try to chain your ears and engage your hearts. Like the old mariner in Coleridges rhyme who detained the wedding guest with his story, so would I try to detain you. Not that I have to tell. you any strange legend, or to relate any re-mantic narrative; but with something practical and earnest I would hold you. Here you find yourself with a career just opening up before you, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, or it may be of one-and-twenty, or five-and-twenty. Infancy at least is behind you, and immediately before you there is the sharing of your life. The reflection you have in your mind, if you judge righteously, will be that since God has created you. and endowed you with all the faculties you possess, he has a. first claim upon you. From your own point of view it is reasonable what the Creator should demand and expect that the creatures he has formed, should answer the ends for which he save them being, and fashioned them as men, for if you construct a machine you expect to get the benefit of your own handicraft, and if after making it you spend money in its maintenance yea expect it to be useful to you. God has made us, and not we ourselves, and we are bound to render service to him. The breath in our nostrils and the pulsing in our veins come to us from an immediate act of God, and, therefore, every second of our lives we ought to live to him, else we do. not live honestly. We are raider solemn obligations that our whole life should be spent for him, and to neglect this is to rob God.
Young men and women, will you not acknowledge this obligation? As you have any justice in your souls, I charge you. to do so. Will you defraud your God? I pray you be not so unjust. You see I am not trifling, I am pleading for God, my message is IMPORTANT, most IMPORTANT.
It may encourage you to accept this duty cheerfully if you remember that the service due to God which he asks of you is by no means injurious to yourself In fact his law, when condensed into a sentence, is just this, “Do thyself no harm.” There is not a sin which can by any possibility be really for our benefit, neither is there a divine command, which can be for our hurt. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all ]his paths are peace.
Though in the pursuit of right we may have to suffer, the trials which are necessitated by doing right are not for a moment comparable to those pangs of conscience and agonies of remorse which are sure to follow upon the heels of doing wrong. Notwithstanding that the road to heaven is rough in places, it is a smoother road take it for all in all than yonder attractive road to hell, which so many choose. You shall find the service of God to be liberty. If ye be men, ye shall be the more manly through being servants of God. If you be happy by nature and constitution, you shall be the happier through being devoted to his service; and if you be somewhat dull and inclined to gloom by nature, you shall find the sweetest alleviation of your constitutional depression in the grateful love and devoted service of the Most High. I have known the Lord and served him now since I was fifteen years of age through his love and mercy, and if he were a bad master I would tell you. I would not lie even for him. But I must bear him witness that it; is sweet to do his bidding, and had I done it more perfectly I had been happier than I am. But as it is, to have given my heart to him, and to have sought his glory has conferred upon my life its highest joy and its deepest satisfaction. May I ask you to think of this, and to keep on thinking about it; until you have come to this conclusion, that God is God, and. you will serve him.. I think I hear the good resolve to which you have come..
Your heart is yielding to the truth. I hope it is, for the matter is
But I have other important things to remind you of. One is that you have not to choose how you shall begin life; for you have begun it already.
Unconverted as I suppose you now to be, just reflect where the beginning of life has already placed you. You have already broken God’s commands.
I am not going to raise the question as to at what; time a child is capable of knowing right from wrong’, and therefore becomes charged with responsibility. You have passed the period of your childhood, and you have gone through, or are nearly through the days of your youth. You have sinned, you know you have, from childhoods earliest days till now. Now before you can talk about; serving God, remember the past has to be condoned or rather to be atoned for. How is that to be done? I pray you attend to me while in a few words I deliver the glad tidings of forgiveness by Jesus Christ. It is not the first time you have heard this story, but it may be the first time you ever heeded it. Oh, believe it as I tell you it again, practically embrace it, and obey it, and it will give you relief from the guilt of your past transgressions. God was pleased out of infinite mercy to his elect to lay their sins upon Jesus Christ, his Son, their substitute and sacrifice; and Jesus Christ took at1 that mass of sin up to the cross, and there and then so suffered for it, that the sin he carried has been put away for ever, and now God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. You say to me, “Did he carry my sin? That is the point I want to know.” Those for whom Jesus was an effectual substitute are in due time known by their faith. He laid down his life for his sheep, and he has said, “My sheep hear my voice.” If you believe on him your sin was laid upon him. To believe on him is to trust him. You have therefore to put; this question to yourself, Am I trusting my whole soul with Jesus Christ, the God-appointed Savior?
For, if you are so trusting, then your transgressions were laid on him and are not on you, for they cannot be on two persons at the same time. Your transgressions are alerted for, and have ceased to be, and you are forgiven.
It all hinges on this — do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you rest simply, and alone in him? If so, you are reconciled to God. It seems strange that. any of us should hesitate when such a gospel as this is propounded to us. If the Lord asked some great thing of us we might hesitate, but when he says simply, “I ask nothing of thee, young man, but that thou trust in the blood and righteousness of my Son, and even. that trust I will bestow upon thee by the power of the Holy Spirit,” ‘tis passing strange, ‘tis wonderful, and if we did not know the baseness of the human heart it; would be incredible, that men should start back and. neglect the great salvation. Do not be yourself so unwise, for of all concerns this is the most IMPORTANT.
Do you know also, my dear young friend — I seem to throw myself back to the time when I was your age, and I freely speak to you as I would have liked at that time to have been spoken to myself — do you know that in addition to the sin you have committed there is in you a tendency to sin, as you must have perceived, even though you may not have examined yourself thoroughly. You never require a teacher to lead you. into the wrong path, but you do require a kindly word to conduct you aright. You know ‘that you. never want an incentive to evil, for your heart goes that way as a stone goes down hill, or as a spark ascends. There is a tendency that way. You have seen that; you must have done so. That tendency must be taken from you. The needle of your soul points now in the wrong direction; it must be magnetized in some such way that it shall point to Jesus, the true pole. Now this can. be done. You cannot change your own nature; as well might a stone turn itself into a bird, or a deadly upas into the vine which beareth goodly clusters. But there is one who can do it: it is the Holy Ghost. He can change the whole bent and current of the mind, can remove tendencies to evil, and inspire aspirations after perfection. “Oh,” say you, “how I wish he would do this for me!” If you believe in Christ Jesus that work is done, that change of nature has already commenced, for there never was reliance upon Christ yet in an unrenewed heart. Wherever there is simple faith in Jesus Christ, you may rest assured that the first principles of eternal life are already implanted, which will go on to grow, and operate yet more powerfully upon your character. “Oh,” says one, “that has taken a heavy weight from my mind: I have been looking for some great mystery!” That is all the mystery. Seeing you have believed in Jesus, you are forgiven: being forgiven, you love God for having forgiven you, and it is clear that you are a changed man, or you would not do that. Because the gospel thus reveals to you the intimate connection between the new birth, and faith, it is above all things
So, then, I have brought you this important message, that the Lord is able to meet your fallen, condition, — its sin by pardon, its sinful tendencies by renewal; and if this be done there is before you a useful, happy life, and a glorious immortality. Young woman, if you give your heart to Jesus you are safe for time and. eternity. Young man, you have, already thought of insuring your life, may your soul be insured and your character insured; and they will be if you believe in Jesus. He will not surer you. to fall away and perish. “I give,” saith he, “unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands..” The salvation which comes by faith is not temporary, but lasting;, yea, everlasting. When the Lord once renews a man, he suffers him not to go back like the dog to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; he turns the dog into a child, the sow into a sheep. Renewed men love purity and holiness, their tastes and desires are altered, and they cannot return to their former ways. Thrice happy is that young heart which entrusts itself to the hand of Christ, for when the evil days come and the keepers of the house do tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, you will have nothing to dread, but will accept the summons to depart with holy calmness and expectant delight. But ah, if there should be no yielding to God, and no faith in Christ, there remains only for you a life of disaster, a death of darkness, and a resurrection to shame, and everlasting contempt. The world’s mirage and pleasure’s will-o’-the-wisp will deceive for a time, but the sorrow that worketh death will be your portion here, and after death the “for ever! — the dreadful for ever! — the dreadful for ever of which we will not now speak, and which I pray you may never know by terrible experience.
So much, then, concerning the letter which is marked “IMPORTANT.”
We shall now pass on to speak of another letter — the same message indeed, but it is marked “IMMEDIATE!”
I stood a very short time ago by a sick bed, and on it there lay a woman advanced in life, who was gasping heavily for breath. I saw that I had little opportunity for speaking to her about her soul, unless I spoke shortly and quickly to her, as I tried to do. I warned her that she would soon die, and begged her to remember that it would be terrible to pass into another world unprepared. Now you are not gasping as she was; I do not observe any sunken cheeks and glazed eyes, that look like speedy death; but, yet we are all dying men and women, and it becomes us to hear the message of God as such, for persons in hale strength, seeming perfectly well, have on a sudden died, as you know. There is no reason known to you why you may not die while yet these words are under your eye. My message, then, is marked “IMMEDIATE.” And immediate first, because, young friend, you have already lingered long enough. As the prophet said, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” You that are the children of godly parents, you have been already a long time turning over these matters. You have sojourned long enough in the dangerous realms of indecision. Oh, immediately may God grant you grace to decide; immediately, I say, because your character is forming at this very moment. I remember a remark of Mr. Ruskin, which I cannot quote in his beautiful language, but the substance is this, that if particles of chaff or dust fall upon the Venice glass while it is being fashioned, you may in vain invoke the north wind to come and blow upon it until it shall become clear and transparent, for the spots will never depart. So with the flaws of youth. The chaff which falls upon the character while yet in process of formation will leave its trace in: after years. In the erection of a building, if there should be any mistake in the upper part of the structure it will discover itself by and by, and probably may be repaired; but who has not seen a faulty public structure in which the difficulty of rectifying faults of construction was extreme, because the fault was in the foundation? A crack here, a settlement there, how it spoils the whole! Young man, your early days are the foundation of your life-character. Young woman, these bright days of yours represent the time when your vessel is being freighted for its future voyage; when your barque is far out to sea you will have to suffer for the errors or defects of her lading. Your youth, dear friends, is a very beautiful thing to be presented to God. God asks for sacrifice the firstlings, a bullock or a ram of a year old; this shows us that the Lord would have our prime of life dedicated to his praise. You will not have another youth: soon it will no; be in your power to offer to God your beauty and freshness. You may be able to give him the ripeness of middle age, but not the beauty of youth, unless you at once attend to the message which is marked “IMMEDIATE.” Is there not an exceeding preciousness about youth? They gave out that there was a fountain somewhere in the western main whereof if men would drink it would renew their youth, and straightway a gallant Spaniard, as foolish as gallant, Ponce de Leon, with his flotilla scoured the seas for months to discover the fountain of immortal youth, but never found it. His vain quest only shows how precious a thing man counts it, and God counts it precious too. My young sister, give my Lord and Master the flower of your being while yet it is in the bud. Bring him your first ripe clusters, a basket of summer-fruit sweet unto his taste, for well doth he deserve it. But let it be now, for the bloom will soon be gone, and the dewdrops will have exhaled.
Your immediate conversion is the object of our prayers. Your mother never ]prays for you to be converted in years to come, her prayer is for your immediate salvation; our anxiety always leads us to that desire. Have I the faith to believe that this writing of mine will be made useful to your souls? Well, if I cannot go so far as that, I can say my soul thirsteth, yea even panteth that you may be led to give your hearts to Jesus at this instant. That is our prayer, and if it be your parents’ prayer, and your friends’ prayer, oh, that the grace of God might hear it, and might hear it at this very moment, while yet the last month of the year is with us.
Dear friend, it is possible that if’ your heart be not given to Christ; immediately it never will be, for you may not live to have another warning, or to receive another invitation. Remember, yet again, that if you should be converted in after life, it is probable that your conversion will cost you great pain., which it may not now. When the Lord’s children come to him early in the morning they generally come to him rejoicing; but if late in the flay they come to him (as they do, for sovereign grace will not. lose its own), they frequently come limping and sorely wounded. Oh it is happy, seeking Christ early in the morning. “ They that seek me early shall find me,” saith he. It is often hard seeking him amid the shades of evening.
Sharp affliction is often necessary to men, they will not come to Christ without it; but oh, if we do come without it how much better it is. A gentleman was riding on a coach one day, and the driver observed to him, “You see that off-leader, sir?” “Yes.” “Well, when he gets to that white gate over yonder he will shy terribly.” What are you going to do with him?” “Why, just before he gets there, I shall give him something to think about;” and so he did, in the form of several sharp cuts of the whip. Many of us have been like the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. May you have grace to yield to the influence of gentler means, and it shall be well with you. May his sweet Spirit incline you to do so immediately.
I say “immediately,” because if you should be converted afterwards, the sins of your youth will always trouble you. Mahomet in his early days was poisoned by a Jewish maid, who thought that she should do a. good deed if she put; poison into his meat. His life was preserved, but when he lay dying, and was full of pain, he said to those around him, “I can feel the poison still in my veins.” Many a saved man has felt the sins of his younger days in his bones. I have heard good men say that when a hymn has been sung, a snatch of an old lascivious song has come up before them; and sights which to the unsullied would have suggested nothing but purity, have awakened in them recollections of unclean acts in early youth which have been a cross and a curse to them. May God grant that we may be led in the paths of righteousness from the earliest period, that we may not have to go down to our grave with regrets.
Beloved young friend, wherever you may be, it is not I that invent that word “IMMEDIATE.” It is the gospel’s call. “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” What God saith ought to have weight with us. “Today,” then I pray you, believe in the Lord Jesus. You cannot possibly yield your heart to Christ too soon. Too soon? Too soon? Ah, it is never too soon to be forgiven when you have committed a fault! It is never too soon to have the kiss from the Father’s lips when you have offended him, and to hear him say, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” It is never too soon to be happy; it is never too soon to be safe; it is never too soon to be a child of God; it is never too soon to gain an inheritance in heaven. It is never too soon to put on the armor of the holy war, never too soon to enlist beneath the banner of Jesus, never too soon to be the Lord’s for time and for eternity.
Thus I have dwelt upon the immediateness of it. May the urgency be felt, and tend to arouse you.
Let us now devote a few minutes to the consideration of a third form of message. A letter marked O. H. M. S. would command prompt attention. “ON HER MAJESTY’S SERVICE.”
It may be some very unimportant matter, peradventure it is of no consequence whatever, still one is sure to look directly when the envelope bears these royal words on his face.
Now the message I have to you young people is most distinctly”ON HIS MAJESTY”SSERVICE.” We want to enlist you in His Majesty’s army. One occasionally sees in certain places announcements such as this, “Smart young men wanted for the Guards.” Well, I am a recruiting sergeant. My colors are crimson, and I am eager to enlist both young men, and women. I would be glad if I could do a bit of business, and gather up recruits for Christ. Some more aged reader inquires. “Will you not have us old. people?” I would be glad enough, but I am not after you just now. The Lord have mercy upon you and save you, but I have just now a message for the young folks. We want them beyond all others to join the ranks of the covenanted warriors of the Lord.
Why? Because they bring fresh energy into the church. This is much to be desired. A young man, all aglow with youthful ardor and spiritual life, coming into a church sets us all aflame. Everybody wakes up when he begins to pray. Any church in which there is a large preponderance of persons who have passed middle age is likely to be very respectable and excellent, and to possess many of the virtues, perhaps all, but it is not very likely to be consumed with zeal. I seldom hear of persons over sixty setting the Thames on fire. At that mature age people have not, as a rule, any strong proclivities for fervent excitement, and they are of opinion that the Thames had better be let atone. The elders seldom exhibit the enterprise of youth, their business is to take the Conservative side of questions. They are valuable to the church, and cannot be spared, but the church wants some of the fire of youth, sanctified by grace, and made into genuine zeal for the kingdom of Christ. We want you, beloved youths, because the older soldiers are going off the field, and others of us will soon have to think of ourselves as in the same category. Nobody in our army ever retires on halfpay; blessed be God they shall have their full joy, even when they can do but little, and they have the pledge of a fall heaven hereafter. Still many have been taken away from us, and our ranks are thinned. Oh for recruits to fill up the vacancies! Good women, earnest matrons who were serving in the schools, and in the classes; good men who were preaching in the streets, and doing good in all ways, are falling asleep. Young men and women, step forward and fill the places of your fathers and mothers! We cannot have a better stock; none could be more welcome than your fathers’ sons and daughters.
Young men are valuable when converted, for by God’s grace how much they may do while yet young. Do you know that John Calvin wrote his famous “Institutes” — a most wonderful production for thought if not for accuracy — before he was twenty-seven years of age? Though Martin Luther did a grand work after he was five-and-forty years old, it is something to say of Calvin, the clearer of the two, that he had commenced his work and wrought wonders when he was seven-and-twenty. Many a Christian man has won his hundreds and some even thousands for Christ before attaining that age. There is power in youth, let it. then be consecrated to HIS MAJESTY’ SSERVICE. I am eagerly desirous that many of you should be converted, because your influence will tell against the truth and the cause of God if you are not, salved. A young man died in New York some time ago whose last. expression was this, “For God’s sake gather up all my influence and bury it with me!” That was impossible. He might be penitent for his wrong doing, but his evil influence was gone forth and could never be stayed. He had perverted many. His brilliant talk had led some into skepticism, and his immoralities had plunged others into vice; and this mischief could not be undone. Every man bring bears in his hand a box. Take off the lid (and it must be taken off, and from it. will either stream the seeds of the disease of sin, or a sacred perfume of grace bearing healing for the nations. Our influence will either, under God, be a channel by which his grace works among the sons of men, or else, if let alone, it will become the means by which Satan destroys multitudes.
What shall I say to you with regard to this service of the Lord Jesus Christ?
I will write this inquiry — Who is on the Lord’s side? Who? Young people, if you have believed, and are on his side, come forward and say so.
Take up Christ’s yoke early; make a profession of your saith even in your first days, and to life’s latest hour you shall never have cause to regret either that Jesus blessed you, or that you lived for him. You shall love him better every day, and the more your days multiply the more will you rejoice in your Lord.
And now the last thing was the letter marked “REGISTERED.”
Is it for you? Registered letters are only for those they are sent to. This letter is directed to the young man who has by grace believed. Here is another addressed to the young woman who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will show you the contents: “I have loved thee” — -thee Mary — thee John — thee William — “I have loved then with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. I have loved thee and giver: myself for thee.” (latch the words: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels.” That is; for you, young believer, for yourself, all for yourself. Take it; to yourself. Wear these gems, for the Lord presents them to you. You are his chosen; you are his redeemed. He will be with you for ever, and you shall be with him for ever. “What, all these mine?” says one; “I have only lately believed in him.” They are just as much yours as if you had believed in him seventy years ago, for the possessions of the covenant as much belong to the babe in grace of an hour old as to the man who has fulfilled his threescore years and ten in the ways of the Lord. Take that registered letter, rejoice in the sure promises of the God of grace, and may God the Holy Spirit open them up to you, and give you to see that they are all yours, since you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
Farewell, my message is ended as far as I am concerned, what have you to say to it?
IS THERE ANY ANSWER?
GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS WE may be very wrong, but we confess a weakness for a ghost story, and cannot help listening to it, and all the more if it makes the blood curdle and blanches the cheek. It is a sort of stolen water, and that, as the wise man says, is sweet. We lived at one time among a people many of whom devoutly believed in apparitions, and wizards, and witches, and all that horrible rout, and often have we heard the most thrilling stories — stories, we believe, in more senses than one. We had sent us for review some little time ago a book upon apparitions, which claims to be a narrative of facts; and as we read it through we said “Yes, these were facts where they were done,” and we put the book aside, to be looked up somewhat nearer the end of the year, when our Christmas number might excuse our inserting one or more of the aforesaid facts. We are afraid our readers will think us rather a Sadducee, but we are nothing of the kind, nor a Pharisee either; but we do not believe that in nine out of ten ghost stories there is a ghost of truth, and we are not quite sure that we believe the tenth one. The Wesley family undoubtedly were favored with a very noisy visitant of some sort, and we have no idea what it was, only there is no accounting for the noises which rats make in old houses any more than for the foul gases in new ones. When we meet with a thing which puzzles us we pry into the cause as far as we can, and generally find it out; and if we cannot read the riddle we lay it by to be solved another day, never flying to the oldfashioned resort of dragging in the supernatural. We traced a spirit song after much investigation to a foot-warmer filled with hot water, which was being used by an invalid. We found a band of celestial visitants, who whispered to us all night in a country house, and they turned out to be a nest of birds in a hole in the plaster of the wall at our bed head, which hole nearly came through into the room. Nothing supernatural has ever been seen by our eyes, nor do we think we shall ever be blessed with such visions while in this body, for after seeing Robert Houdin and other wonder-workers we are casehardened against the whole set of tricks and sham spirits, and these are the parents of most of the marvels which set silly people’s hair on end. As a general rule, when we hear of an apparition, or anything of the kind, we do not believe it to be other than an illusion or a falsehood. The most wonderfully well-attested narratives seldom bear investigation, they are built up upon hearsay and tittle-tattle, and will not endure a strict examination; like most rumors, they fall like card-houses as soon as the hand of truth touches them. Perhaps a few of them appear to be so far true that we may safely say that they are not yet accounted for except upon a supernatural hypothesis, but we should hesitate to say more.
Some are evidently the result of strong imagination, and are true to the parties concerned, affecting their fears and stamping themselves upon their minds too firmly to allow them to doubt.
In many cases religious delusions and errors create a tendency to visions and the like, and the most vigorous repression should be exercised by ministers and other persons of influence. A woman once called upon us in great trouble, for she had seen a human form at the foot of her bed. We suggested that it might be her own gown hanging on a peg. No, that could not be, she believed it was either the Lord Jesus or Satan. We remarked that it did not matter a pin which it was, for many saw the Lord when he was on earth, and our Lord himself saw the devil, and yet was none the worse. To her, however, it was a test matter, and she informed us that she should have known all about it if she had seen its head. We inquired how that was, and to our astonishment she told us that she had a likeness of the Savior, and she should have known him by it, and thereupon pulled out of her pocket a small woodcut which was supposed by her to be like the altogether lovely One. Our reply was an urgent entreaty to burn the horrid thing at once, and to feel certain that if ever she saw anybody at all like that she might be sure that it was as likely to be Lucifer himself as the Lord Jesus. She was evidently greatly surprised, and we fell fifty per cent. in her estimation, for she had expected to have had the opinion of her own minister, a Methodist, contradicted by our authority. We told her that her minister was a very sensible man, and had dealt faithfully with her in telling her not to be deceived by optical illusions; we question, however, whether we shook her faith, for she had a budget of other wonders to tell us, only our declaration that they were “stuff and nonsense,” and our plain statement of the spiritual character of true religion, made her cut the interview very short. Half crazy people come to us in any quantity with such marvels, and we hope we have cured a good many by a little kindly raillery, but a considerable number leave us with the impression sadly confirmed in our minds that there are more lunatics abroad than there are in the asylums.
We do not affirm that ghosts have never been seen, for no one has any right to hazard so broad a statement, but all spirits, as such, must be invisible, and the two sorts of human spirits which we know of are both by far too seriously occupied to go roaming about this earth rapping on tables or frightening simpletons into fits. As for angels, though they also as spirits are not cognizable by the senses, no doubt they have been made visible to men, and there is no reason why they should not be made so now if God so willed it; it would certainly be a wonder, but we do not see that any of the laws of nature need to be suspended to produce it. We can readily believe that those messengers who keep watch around the people of God would be rendered visible to us and to others if some grand purpose could be accomplished thereby, and if the safety of the saints required it. Whether in these days angels or departed spirits ever do assume forms in which they can be seen is the question, and we have as yet seen nothing to lead us to believe that they do. Others assert that they have seen such things, but as they generally admit that they would not have believed unless they had seen for themselves, we hope they will allow us to exercise the same abstinence.
Our two stories are so nicely balanced pro and con that when they are read by the advocates of the positive and the negative side we hope they will admire our judicious impartiality. The first story is from “Apparitions: a Narrative of Facts,” and it is entitled THE MYSTERIOUS HORSEMAN.
“The Traethodydd, or ‘ Essayist,’ a Welsh quarterly periodical for 1853, contains a biographical memoir of the late Rev. John Jones, of Holiwell, Flintshire; and in that memoir there is an account of as remarkable an interposition of Providence by means of an apparition, which resulted in the preservation of life, as any on record. “I think it will be best to allow Mr. Jones to relate the incident in his own words, as he was often wont to do, merely premising that he was a minister of high principle and unblemished character, andrenowned throughout the Principality for his zeal and fervor as a preacher of the gospel, and one who showed by his life his just appreciation of what Plutarch has so finely said respecting- ‘Truth ‘Than which no greater blessing can man receive or God bestow.’ “One summer day, at the commencement of the present century, I was traveling from Bala, in Merionethshire, to Machynlleth, in the neighboring county of Montgomery, in order to attend a religious meeting. I left Bala about 2 p.m., and traveled on horseback, and alone. My journey lay through a wild, desolate part of the country, and one which at that time was almost uninhabited. When I had performed about half my journey, as I was emerging from a wood situated at the commencement of a long steep decline, I observed coming towards me a man on foot. By his appearance, judging from the sickle which he carried sheathed in straw over his shoulder, he was doubtless a reaper in search of employment. As he drew near, I recognized a man whom I had seen at the door of the village inn of Llanwhellyn, where I had stopped to bait my horse. On our meeting he touched his hat and asked if I could tell him the time of day. I pulled out my watch for the purpose, noticing at the same time the peculiar look which the map cast at its heavy silver case. Nothing else, however, occurred to excite any suspicion on my part, so wishing him a ‘good afternoon,’ I continued my journey. “When I had ridden about half-way down the hill, I noticed something moving, and in the same direction as myself, on the other side of a large hedge, which ran nearly parallel with the road, and ultimately terminated at a gate through which I had to pass. At first I thought it an animal of some kind or other, but soon discovered by certain depressions in the hedge that it was a man running in a stooping position. I continued for a short time to watch his progress with some curiosity, but my curiosity soon changed to fear when I recognized the reaper with whom I had conversed a few minutes before, engaged in tearing off the strawband which sheathed his sickle. “He hurried on until he reached the gate, and then concealed himself behind the hedge within a few yards of the road. I did not then doubt for a moment but that he had resolved to attack — perhaps murder me for the sake of my watch and whatever money I might have about me. I looked around in all directions, but not a single human being was to be seen, so reining in my horse, I asked myself in much alarm what I could do. Should I turn back? No; my business was of the utmost importance to the cause for which I was journeying, and as long as there existed the faintest possibility of getting there, I could not think of returning. Should I trust to the speed of my horse, and endeavor to dash by the man at full speed? No; for the gate through which I had to pass was not open. Could I leave the road and make my way through the fields? I could not; for I was hemmed in by rocky banks or high hedges on both sides. The idea of risking a personal encounter could not be entertained for a moment, for what chance could I — weak and unarmed — have against a powerful man with a dangerous weapon in his hand? What course then should I pursue? I could not tell; and at length, in despair rather than in a spirit of humble trust and confidence, I bowed my head and offered up a silent prayer. This had a soothing effect upon my mind, so that, refreshed and invigorated, I proceeded anew to consider the difficulties of my position. “At this juncture my horse, growing impatient at the delay, started off: I clutched the reins, which I had let fall on his neck, for the purpose of checking him, when happening to turn my eyes, I saw to my utter astonishment that I was no longer alone. There, by my side, I beheld a horseman in a dark dress, mounted on a white steed. In intense amazement I gazed upon him; where could he have come from? He appeared as suddenly as if he had sprung from the earth. He must; have been riding behind and have overtaken me. And yet I had not heard the slightest sound: it was mysterious, inexplicable. But the joy of being released from my perilous position soon overcame my feelings of wonder, and I began at once to address my companion. I asked him if he had seen any one, and then described to him what had taken place, and how relieved I felt by his sudden appearance, which now removed all cause of fear. He made no reply, and, on looking at his face, he seemed paying but slight attention to my words, but continued intently gazing in the direction of the gate, now about a quarter of a mile ahead. I followed his gaze, and saw the reaper emerge from his concealment and cut across a field to our left, resheathing his sickle as he hurried along. He had evidently seen that I was no longer alone, and had relinquished his intended attempt. “All cause for alarm being gone, I once more sought to enter into conversation with my deliverer, but again without the slightest success.
Not a word did he deign to give me in reply. I continued talking, however, as we rode on our way towards the gate, though I confess feeling both surprised and hurt at my companion’s mysterious silence. Once, however, and only once did I hear his voice. Having watched the figure of the reaper disappear over the brow of a neighboring hill, I turned to my companion and said, ‘ Can it for a moment be doubted that my prayer was heard, and that you were sent for my deliverance by the Lord?’ Then it was that I thought I heard the horseman speak, and that he uttered the single word, ‘ Amen.’ Not another word did he give utterance to, though I tried to elicit from him replies to my questions, both in English and Welsh. “We were now approaching the gate, which I hastened to open, and having done so with my stick, I waited at the side of the road for him to pass through; but he came not; I turned my head to look — the mysterious horseman was gone! I was dumbfounded; I looked back in the direction from which we had just been riding, but though I could command a view of the road for a considerable distance, he was not to be seen. He had disappeared as mysteriously as he had come. What could have become of him? He could not have gone through the gate, nor have made his horse leap the high hedges which on both sides shut in the road. Where was he?
Had I been dreaming? Was it an apparition, a specter which had been riding by my side for the last ten minutes? Could it be possible that I had seen no man or horse at all, and that the vision was but a creature of my imagination? I tried hard to convince myself that this was the case, but in vain; for, unless some one had been with me, why had the reaper resheathed his murderous-looking sickle and fled? Surely no; this mysterious horseman was no creation of my brain. I had seen him; who could he have been? “I asked myself this question again and again; and then a feeling of profound awe began to creep over my soul. I remembered the singular way of his first appearance — his long silence — and then again the single word to which he had given utterance; I called to mind that this reply had been elicited from him by my mentioning the name of the Lord, and that this was the single occasion on which I had done so. What could I then believe? — but one thing, and that was, that my prayer had indeed been heard, and that help had been given from on high at a time of great danger. Full of this thought,! dismounted, and throwing myself on my knees, I offered up a prayer of thankfulness to Him who had heard my cry, and found help for me in time of need. “I then mounted my horse and continued my journey. But through the long years that have elapsed since that memorable summer’s day, I have never for a moment wavered in my belief that in the mysterious horseman I had a special interference of Providence, by which means I was delivered from a position of extreme danger.”
Our second extract is from Mr. Talmage’s “Christian at Work,” a very lively, interesting, vigorously conducted paper; the extract is entitled TRUE TALE OF A GHOST.
“The first settlers of many of the New England towns laid out their graveyard at the center of the town, and built up the village around the burying ground as if to keep in sight and have a tender and watchful care over their dead. Upon this public square — a part of which was consecrated to burial purposes — were usually erected all the public buildings. “About the time of which we write, there was much being said and published about witches and ghosts in various parts of the country; very exciting accounts of their being seen and of their strange doings were told, until ghost stories became the topic of gossip in the shop, at the tavern, and at all the village gatherings by night and by day. About this time the ghosts made such a demonstration at Morristown, New Jersey, as to call forth a printed pamphlet of some fifty pages, giving the details of their midnight behavior, etc., which was read and discussed by old and young, by mothers and grandmothers, until many actually became so timid that they dared not venture out after dark, and children would not go to bed alone. The more people talked about them, the more ghosts were seen; but always at night, and usually when it was very dark. “It was late in the month of November that some persons in Guilford, Conn., returning from a party one dark, dismal night — -when the winds whistled and the signs creaked upon their hinges as they passed the old graveyard — saw a large white object moving slowly about among the tombstones, and they all unhesitatingly pronounced it a ghost. It could be nothing, else. Such an object in such a place, at such a time of night, must be a spirit of some departed one. Owing both to the fact of the parties being persons of character, and to the feverish state of the public mind, no small sensation was created in the usually quiet old town, and even put the more intelligent people to wonder what it all meant. The next night it was seen again, and for several succeeding nights, by different persons, whose statements of the facts could not be questioned. At last curiosity ran so high, and the facts being unquestioned that there was a real live ghost to be seen every night about midnight in the graveyard, several young men of respectability, who supposed they possessed courage, agreed to arm themselves with lanterns and clubs, and go out the next night and ascertain what it really was that had wrought up so many minds to such a degree of apprehension; and if it was the unquiet spirit of some departed one, to learn, if possible, what it wanted or what was its object in coming every night to disturb the peace and quiet of so many harmless people. They accordingly all met a little before midnight to carry out their plan, but seemed rather reluctant to set forth upon their desperate errand. However, they approached the graveyard; but they had not proceeded far when, sure enough, there was the very identical ghost confronting them, and slowly moving on towards them. This brought them all to a halt, trembling with the cold chills of fear, in the stillness of midnight darkness, not a word spoken by any one. In a moment more they all simultaneously turned and fled. “The very next night after these brave young men had failed to communicate with the ghost, just at twelve o’clock, in the dead darkness of midnight, when the silence of the sepulcher brooded over the town, the people were aroused from their slumbers by the tolling of the bell high up in the belfry of the old ‘ meeting-house,’ upon the other end of the public square. The next night the same thing occurred again, and, in connection with the current stories of the ghost, now began to excite no small degree of interest among all classes of the community. Several arose from their beds and went out to the meeting-house, and there called to the sexton to know what it meant. But they found the doors all locked and no sexton there. Was the town haunted? At last it was unanimously resolved that something must be done to unravel the mystery. So the next night six of the most resolute dare-devils in the town were bargained with to go into the graveyard and await the approach of the ghost, and when he appeared, to respectfully demand his business, and what his ghostship really wanted. “The night was fearfully dark and dismal, and when all the inhabitants had retired for the night — with not a light to be seen in any dwelling, and the profound stillness of midnight darkness was spread over the borough — these six young fellows walked out and took a stand near where the ghost had been several nights seen, and waited with no small degree of anxiety for nearly two hours, with their eyes turned in every direction, when, behold! in the dim distance was seen approaching them a large white object moving slowly towards them, or towards the spot where they stood. They all watched with fearful tremor. They were near the center of the grounds enclosed. No one spoke aloud or moved a limb. Some began to feel cold chills creep over them as they cast about in their own minds for a chance to retreat now, as the object, with a heavy tread, approached, and uncertainty began to take possession of them all. But here they were, and they had all sworn to see the end of tams mystery or perish in the attempt: and the end seemed fast approaching that was to put their courage and manhood to the test. The object on which all eyes were fixed, to discern through the darkness something more clearly, had now reached very near them, and as several were on the · eve of turning to run, Fred Meigs, one of the party, who never knew fear under any circumstances, burst out laughing, when they all stepped forward and, behold! Mr. Lot Benton’s old white mare, that for several nights had found her way out of the barn-yard near by, and quietly walked out to graze on the high grounds in the graveyard. And here was solved the puzzle of the ghost. But the bell tolling at midnight in a quiet old New England town for three successive nights, without the aid or knowledge of the sexton, yet remained an unsolved mystery. So the next day after the interview with the ghost, that matter was taken in hand, and with more boldness since the ghost had been discovered, when the fact was developed that a reckless fellow, who had become familiar with the excitement that had for some time existed concerning the ghost in the graveyard, had one night, after dark, undiscovered climbed, by ways best known to himself, into the belfry, and tied a twine string to the tongue of the bell, descended again to the ground and led the string to his chamber window, and there he sat for three nights fanning the excitement of the ghost stories by toiling the great church bell at midnight, until the whole town became alarmed or frightened with a superstitious dread of something — they knew not what. With these discoveries all interest in ghosts and witches ceased, and the people settled down into their usual quietness and sober orthodoxy.” C.H.S.
ONE CONVERT WINS OTHERS.
R.WILLIAM BOOTH, in his magazine, writes: — “ About a month ago one of our people, who had herself been a drunkard, was standing at one of the open-air services on the waste, when she observed a woman who had formerly been one of her bad companions suddenly leave the crowd and walk quickly away. Hurrying after her, she found this poor drunkard in great distress about her soul. ‘ Oh!’ she said, ‘I listened to the speakers ; but when I saw you standing there ,o wonderfully changed from what you used to be, I could stand it no longer.’ She was induced, however, to return to the meeting, and then to attend the service in the hall, where she found salvation. She is now another living witness of the power of Christ to save the drunkard. May God preserve her faithful unto death!”
OUR ORPHANAGE WHEN the Stockwell Orphanage was built we caused to be printed upon one of pillars of the entrance gate the words, “THE LORD WILL PROVIDE,” as seen in the accompanying wood block. This we did as a public testimony of faith in the living God, and as a lesson to all who entered. Often have the words refreshed us as we have gone into the building; we felt that we had publicly pledged ourselves to rest in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father, and had put his own word in the forefront to he tried and proved. How has it turned out? Glory be to God, he has provided all along, and at the close of another year we bear witness to his faithfulness. There have been several pinches, but never a want, never an hour in which we have stood in real need, and this is much to say when, including all the staff, there are some two hundred and sixty mouths to be filled. Of late we have had a serious source of difficulty, but we shall surmount it by divine be]p, though for awhile it operates against us. A deceased gentleman left us a legacy, of which we heard some three months ago; this was published in the newspapers, and everybody at once said, “The Orphanage has Plenty of funds, there is no need to send any donations.” They forgot that legacies are not generally paid for twelve months after death, and that in the meanwhile we could not feed our boys upon the air, neither dare we run in debt on the strength of money yet to come. We have not received a penny yet, and cannot reasonably expect to do so for some months, yet meanwhile the brook Cherith runs low. The Lord will, however, bring us through right enough, and we publish again our assured conviction that
THE LORD WILLPROVIDE. We have .just lately buried from the Orphanage a sweet child, named Willis Young. He has been pining away a long time, but it has been delightful to see in how holy and happy a manner he has passed away. The Infirmary has long been his abode, but his chamber has not been a sad room, but as cheerful as any in the place. Mr. Charlesworth has gathered up a few of his last words, which we now subjoin. “When I am gone ask Mr. Charlesworth to tell the boys to love God, to give their hearts to Jesus while young.” “Give my love to Shook,” (another invalid boy, now at Ventnor) “tell him ] shall be looking out for him.” “God is so good to send me medicine to ease my pain: I do thank him.” “Do you think I shall he in heaven to-night? I hope I shall.” “Call mother: I want her! ‘ Mother, I am safe in the arms of Jesus.’” (repeated several times.)
His face was a true index of the state of his soul. He was full of joy, and his face was radiant with smiles. Once he said, “My pains are sharp,” and when asked if he was not happy in Jesus in spite of pain, he exclaimed, “Oh, yes.”. When he experienced a relief from pain, he said, “Thank God, the pain is removed from my chest.”
He never uttered a single word of impatience, and never received the slightest attention from his devoted nurse without expressing his gratitude.
When too ill to speak, he smiled and nodded his head in grateful acknowledgment of kindness shown. Towards the last, when his sufferings were very great, he said, “Ask God to take me home soon.” Those who were watching by his bedside spent a few seconds in prayer, and in three minutes afterwards the dear little sufferer was gone to be with Jesus.
Happy release! Glorious victory!
Other dear lads who have gone from us with a similar disease have died happily also, and though we have rich fruit on earth in the lives of boys now occupying honorable posts in life, we reckon these in glory to be among the choicest flowers of our dear Orphan Home at Stockwell.