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PAUL IN PRISON,
WRITING THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.
THEREFORE, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds. But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things; whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts."
PRISONS DO NOT EXCLUDE GOD. TRONG are the walls around me, Thy love, O God, restores me
That hold me all the day ; From sighs and tears to praise; But they who thus have bound me And deep my soul adores Thee, Cannot keep God away :
Nor thinks of time or place. My very dungeon walls are dear, I ask no more in good or ill, Because the God I love is here. But union with Thy holy will. They know, who thus oppress me,
'Tis that which makes my treasure; 'Tis hard to be alone,
'Tis that which brings me gain ; But know not One can bless me, Converting woe to pleasure,
Who comes through bars and stone; And reaping joy from pain. He makes my dungeon's darkness Oh! 'tis enough, whate'er befal, bright,
To know that God is all in all. And fills my bosom with delight.
[Madame Guyon, the writer of these lines, was imprisoned about ten years in the Bastile and other French prisons for holding doctrines contrary to the Church of Rome. During her imprisonment, she employed herself chiefly in writing hymns. ]
A PRAYER FOR OUR CHILDREN.
Meek, obedient, pure, and mild ; When their least command was heard,
Such may our dear children be! May we, Lord, our children see
Thou in duty didst rejoice ;
See our children follow Thee !
would that this injunction were engraven on
you by God when he gives you a child ? The child is yours,—yours to tend, to mould, to educate ; and, rely upon it, he will be very much what you make him. According to the seed we implant in his little pliable heart, so will the fruit be. The laws of nature teach us this. Sow good grain in the earth, and good grain will spring from it; flowers will come up flowers if we plant them, yielding in return their beauty and their perfume. But, if we plant noxious and poisonous plants, they can but come up such: if we plant nothing, but let the ground run to waste, there will be a desert of bare earth or a crop of ugly weeds. Jesus Christ Himself asks us whether we can grow grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles.
In every other respect a child is specially trained. He is taught to ride, to dance, to read, to write. He would never learn to read and write of himself. A child can thump upon the keys of a piano with his fingers, but he cannot play on it and bring out its harmony unless he learns how to play. Look at the process of his education,-how that goes on, step by step, from teacher to teacher. How much patient instruction,-and through how many years and degrees is that instruction necessary, before he is deemed fit to go out and take his part in life! Try and think of any calling-any business, trade, profession—which does not require special training-up to, and much practice, before it can be exercised. I know of none. A'prentice-artisan takes seven years to learn his craft; a doctor must go through his books and his lectures and his hospitals, stage by stage; a statesman must begin at the foot of the political ladder to acquire the experience necessary to work his way to the top. Nothing can be acquired without going through some special training for it,—without work, practice, labour. Put a landsman to navigate a ship to the opposite side of the world; where would he and the ship soon be ? But a practised sailor will take her out and home in safety. Even so.
There is only one thing that we do not train our children for, and that is,-heaven. Most carefully and anxiously do we educate them for this world, and it is quite right that we should, but not at all for the next. We cultivate, as it is our bounden duty to do, the intellect and the physical powers and the mental capacities; but we let alone the soul. That is left (save perhaps for some little elementary instruction) to run along of itself, to take its own chance. And yet, heaven is to be our final home,
and to learn how to get to it the one thing needful. You know Who said it.
Not for a moment, as you perceive, would I imply that that other education is not essential. It is essential, and in the highest degree. We are placed in the world to work ; our talents were bestowed upon us to cultivate and use to the uttermost. The mischief lies in our forgetting that another world has to be also prepared for. And it is so easy to forget-seemingly as almost without sin-amid the noise and strife and social obligations of life. But that other world, remember, will be our eternal home; this one is but the short journey to it.
How can your son, whether a child or youth or man, learn the way to heaven unless he be taught? If he is not shown in childhood that it is a desirable place, he may never acquire any anxious wish to got hither,-may never of himself discover the road to it. Cultivation is necessary in all things. Look at the watchful care, late and early, bestowed by a gardener on some flower that his skill has made rare. It might have been, untended, a very commonplace flower, a hedge-blossom growing by the road side; but the constant, untiring culture has made it beautiful. Compare the little insignificant strawberry, trailing in woods, with the magnificent specimens sold at half a guinea a plate. In what lies the difference?-in care, in training, in cultivation. And ought the soul of a child to be the only thing in this world that is not cultivated, -watchfully, anxiously, untiringly? Oh, my friends, what shall it profit him if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?
As soon as your child can comprehend, begin. Have a place apart. A little quiet room that, may be, is not used for much else: failing such a room use your own chamber. At the same hour, as nearly as can be, take the child daily; say, after breakfast in the morning, and (as often as you can) after tea at night. Put him upon your knee, and in a low, loving, gentle voice, tell him of God, of his Saviour, of heavenly things. Show him, in simple language adapted to him, what he must do to please God, to gain heaven. Impress upon him, I say, the great facts that God is ever near him, watching him ; that Jesus waits to welcome him. Show him that this world is not our home, but only a state of probation to fit us for the real home to come. Teach him not to fear death, only to try and be ever ready for it. Practically inculcate on him his duties to his fellow-creatures that elbow him in the world: kindness, forbearance, gentleness, love, preferring their convenience to his own; humanity to dumb animals; fearless truth, honour, uprightness, patience, unselfishness. Read to him pretty Bible stories ; let them pave the way for the Bible itself, and for other books telling of God.
The sitting need not be long, ten minutes, or so; but let it be persevered in from day to day, week to week, month to month,
year to year. You can have no idea how intensely the teachable and impressionable little child will learn to love these short moments, and to look for them; you can have still less idea of the blessing they may prove to him in his future life,—the safeguard they may be. As
your other children come on, take them also to join him : their eager faces, upturned to yours, will form a picture as they sit around your knee. There is no other teaching can supplant this: you may read the Bible amidst your household, you may hold family prayer, but that cannot make up for the neglect of this. This is what will lay the good foundation for the time to come.
It will be some trouble to you, costing a little time and a good deal of patient perseverance, but you will be working on for a rich reward. Watch the children when they are with you at other times; subject them to discipline; stop the quarrelsome word, the rising temper,—but always stop it gently, and reason with the child for a minute, showing him how wrong and foolish it is. A child's temper may be brought under discipline as well as its mind. Never let them hear a truly unkind word from you, or tones raised in passion.
Oh, mothers ! ladies of high degree, women of humble station, for
your own peace' sake, train your child! There must arise an hour when the recollection of this most vital duty will come home to you, bringing to your heart comfort or despair, according to the manner in which you shall have sought to fulfil it. "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame,” says that great and wise king to whom God gave more than earthly wisdom. Look out into the world, mark and note, and you will see that it is only too true. Your untrained, untaught son-trained only for himself and the world, that is, not for God-may not bring you to outward shame in the sight of men, but he will bring you to shame and remorse of heart.
“Train up a child in the way he should go : and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Nothing can be fraught with more earnest truth than this injunction. Precepts imparted in childhood, trained with the child, become part and parcel of his nature. You cannot root them out. They are his for life. They grow with his growth, and strengthen with his strength. Though he may yield for a while to the sins society recks of, in the hot blood of his spring-time, when life's morning is fair and young, and evil wears its most specious aspect to delude the inexperienced and unwary, he will return when he is old. Believe me, for I tell you truth. Take your child's heart to Heaven in his early years, and to Heaven he will turn in his later ones. Do
think that God will let him be lost? No. He has heard the prayers of that child, and seen that his heart was set aright. He has heard your prayers for him : and though the snares of the world may have drawn him astray for a time, God will assuredly bring his heart home again ere the last final scene shall come. That is a beautiful saying,-one I like to believe in : that the child of a praying mother will never be lost. Yes. Those early lessons will come back again in the time of need, for they were implanted within him in characters of adamant. What a child learns in infancy he learns for life.
When man is old and his faculties begin to fail, it is not the present daily occurrences he remembers and dwells upon. Perhaps he will hardly recal what has happened the day before. But question him on the memories of his childhood, and you will find his recollections vivid and bright as ever. They cannot leave him; he holds to them with clinging fondness; believes in them, cherishes them, takes them down with him to the grave. No power in earth-I had almost written in heaven,
-can disenchant us in regard to our childhood's home. We believe in the grand hills around; in the green fields ; in the bright flowers growing amid the tall grass; in the shrubs and trees; in the old rooms, be they ever so homely. We learnt to believe in them with our earliest years, as being the dearest and best objects the world contained, and they became part and parcel of ourselves, not to be effaced in after-life. Dormant they may lie for the most part, but they are there within us. And thus it is with our childhood's lessons, the precepts we learnt at our mother's knee. What she impresses upon the teachable young heart is impressed for
Can I say more than I have already said ? Is it, or is it not essential to train our children so that they may not fail in gaining the life after this life? Christ calls it the one thing needful; the treasure hid in a field ; the pearl of great price, which pearl, when found, the finder in his joy sells all that he has, and buys it. How inestimable must be this treasure ! What can compare with the joy of the finder ? to know that he possesseth it, and is saved, and will live for ever! O mothers ! help your dear ones to find it! You can only do it when they are young. Delay it, and they will miss the way. No duty laid upon you is so impressive as this; no neglect is so irredeemable if you pass it by. Do not weary in it. It will make your own journey in life pleasant, whatever may be that life's vicissitudes; it will soothe its cares : for while you are striving untiringly to bring your children to God, God will not forget you. For your own sake, and your children's sake, I pray you, neglect it not.
And whenever you yourself may be called away, be it sooner or later, you will have the unspeakable comfort of knowing that you may with confidence leave your children in Heaven's hands. For you have given unto their hearts a safeguard ; you have taught them to love and fear God, to rely upon their Saviour; and you know that He who has begun a good work in them shall assuredly make it complete.—Abridged from Sunday Magazine.