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Listen to the following story, which I am going to relate to you, and you will then think that I was justified in using the terms which at present you believe to be so cruel.
On a wide and desolate moor, far distant from human habitation, a shepherd was in the daily occupation of tending and pasturing his flock. One afternoon, while the sheep were scattered and quietly feeding around him, he perceived the sky becoming rapidly obscured. Large masses of black dense clouds were ascending from the horizon with a most threatening aspect; and a partial whirlwind, which is not unfrequently seen on large plains to precede a storm, gave warning of its near approach.
The good shepherd, perceiving these ominous signs, hastened immediately to collect his flock, and to drive them to the fold, which was erected on a certain part of the moor, and afforded secure shelter. No sooner, however, had he brought them to the gate of the fold, than they refused to enter. Some of the sheep turned round and ran back again. Others dispersed themselves to the right, and the rest to the left. In short, they fled in all directions.
“With untiring efforts, seeing the imminency of the danger, did the good shepherd again and again collect his perverse sheep, and direct them towards the place of refuge ; but with equally unsuccessful results. On each attempt they were so wilful and obstinate,” said the fair missionary, looking significantly at her auditors, " that they would not pass through the gate into their safe retreat, either by gentle or rough
At length, his long-enduring patience began to fail, as well it might; especially as large drops of rain began now to fall, and a vivid flash of lightning, succeeded by a loud clap of thunder, betokened the nearness of the danger. Not a moment was to be lost, a happy thought struck him on the instant, which he as instantaneously put in execution. He rushed at once into the midst of the flock, and seizing a Jamb, wrapped his arms around it, and carried it off to the fold. The triumph was complete. The refractory animals hesitated no longer. They saw a little one of their flock taken from them, and they now prepared immediately to follow it. Without further delay they hurried after the shepherdentered the gate-pursued him to the shelter of a large shed, where the little lamb was again placed on the ground, and where their preservation was secured.
“And now,” said Mrs. Gracelove, “ I will apply the moral in strict illustration of your own case. The good Shepherd is God; you are his refractory flock; and the fold is the Kingdom of Heaven. The Almighty has, for a length of time, graciously dealt with you as a tender father dealeth with his children. He gave you his Holy Word, as you will remember, two years ago, through the humble medium of myself, for the purpose of instructing and guiding you in the right way. He has given you advice, and warning, and exhortation, through private individuals and visitors who were anxious for your everlasting welfare. He has given you the public instruction of his sacred temple--the ministry of reconciliation'-in the persons of his ordained servants. God has finally striven with you, by the operations of his Holy Spirit upon your obdurate hearts. And now let me ask," said their faithful monitor, " what have all these beneficent tokens of God's love and compassion towards you produced ?- ingratitude! and that towards your best and Almighty Friend !-a murmuring heart-wanton disobedience--a rebellious mind !
“ The long-suffering patience of God was at length wearied with your awful perverseness; and in order to bring you to a repentant sense of your violated duty towards Him- by a rougher course of dealing with you as you resisted the smoother course-He has taken away your child !
ever hope, or wish to see again, the darling son you have lost, you must prepare to follow him to heaven; as the sheep followed the little lamb, in the arms of the good Shepherd, to the protecting fold on the moor. “ Let me now," said this zealous Christian,
warn you most emphatically, and yet most kindly, that such a glorious result will never be obtained, unless your conduct for the future be the very reverse of that of the past. To afford me an encouraging hope that such will be the case, let me beg of you to kneel down with me, at the present moment, while I put up a prayer in your behalf, as well as in my own, to that great and good Being, who alone, by his Holy Spirit, can convert the sinner“ from the error of his ways.'”
The impression had been happily made. The force of truth, so wisely and so energetically displayed, had brought conviction to their souls. With subdued manners, and a contrite expression of countenance, they now followed the example of their kind visitor, and knelt down for the first time that she had ever been able to persuade them to this act of penitence and faith.
My gentle reader may well conceive what was the nature, as well as the fervency, of those prayers and petitions which she addressed to Heaven on this solemn occasion.
With a thanksgiving heart for the good she had been permitted to effect, Mrs. Gracelove rose from her knees, and at length left the cottage. She placed, at the same time, in the hands of each of her seeming penitents one of the admirable little papers of that noble institution, the Religious Tract Society, which has so largely benefited the world by its wisdom and its efforts.
One of the tracts contained that beautiful and evangelical hymn by Toplady, here given, and which was so calculated to bring before the minds of these ignorant cottagers the great leading doctrine of the Bible.
“ Rock of ages ! cleft for me,
Should my tears for ever flow,
my zeal no languor know,
While I draw this fleeting breath,
Similar in its exposition of the sublime doctrine of Christ crucified—the only salvation of man-contained in the hymn of one of the tracts, was the following hymn by Watts, forming part of the other, and composed in the same spirit of faith and devotion.
The author makes no apology for their insertion, as he feels quite confident that his reader will require none. tition of such religious themes can never weary the pious mind. And as the writer has always felt his own devotion quickened whenever he has read them, so, in like manner, is he convinced that the same effect will be produced on the minds of those who honour these pages with a perusal.
“ Not all the blood of beasts,
On Jewish altars slain,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away ;
And richer blood than they.
My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of thine,
And there confess my sin.
My soul looks back to see
The burdens Thou didst bear,
And hopes her guilt was there.
Believing we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
And sing his bleeding love."
In concluding this little episode, and in anticipation of the wish of my reader, he will be gratified to learn that the “ good work” had been begun in the hearts of the two cottagers, whose little history has been just related, from the day of the important visit in question. Mrs. Gracelove had the gratification in this, as in various other instances, to the increase of her faith, of witnessing the fulfilment of that gracious scripture _“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”*
In addition, however, to these frequent ministrations of benevolence in the cottages of the poor, this lady
# Phil. i. 6.