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close to the roses, they can get nothing from them but poison. They have their uses, and their good points, those folks, I suppose, same as the scorpions; but they're uncommonly disagreeable customers to come across in life.”
“So they are,” said Farmer Dean, preparing to drive on. "Well, good day, Benjamin, and thank ye for the warning. I don't altogether like the notion of being a human scorpion, but I fear I'm getting into a mighty suspicious, uncharitable way of thinking and talking, too. Good-day to you, neighbour."
“Good-day, farmer; and success to your marketing.”
LLEN B. was a zealous, faithful young Christian.
She had yielded to the strivings of God's good
and had consecrated her powers and life to her Master's service. Since taking this decisive step, and coming out from the world, not a few trials had fallen to her lot; for her friends were wealthy and worldly, and opposed the “ fanatical action” of their young relative with bitterness. In their opinion, it would be preferable to enjoy the world; be merry in the laugh and the dance, and "shine in society." Not so thought Miss B. She could not forget the Master's solemn words: “He that loveth father or mother, or son or daughter, more than Me, is not worthy of Me. Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” So, in her measure, amid the darkness and the sin of that scattered mining population, she endeavoured to “confess Christ.”
This work was anything but cheering at first, but strength was given according to her requirements. Her home was situated in a wild mining district, inhabited mostly by rough miners and a few agricultural labourers. Here lay an important field of labour; and, remembering the Divine injunction, she strove to sow the seed of Scripture truth among the rough, hardened men. By means of her ministrations to them and their families, she gained their confidence, so that most of the men had a kindly word for Miss B., while not a few went in wholesome dread of her faithful rebukes to their superstition and ungodliness. Among other agencies set in motion by her was a weekly meeting for expounding the Scriptures and for prayer, at which meeting a goodly number of the men attended. One of the wildest and fiercest of the miners was a tall, thick-set fellow called “ Bill.” He was the terror of the neighbourhood, and by his reckless daring and evil habits had earned a repute for sin far outreaching all the rest.
Once now and then, Bill would attend at this weekly meeting, but as mostly he was flushed with drink, and upon occasion repulsive with blasphemy, his presence was rather feared than desired by the other attendants. On such occasions Miss B. would silence him with some terrible warning passage from the Word of God, publicly rebuking his transgressions and his vileness. Then he would go away, swearing still, but in an undertone, for fear of the faithful rebuker.
Not content with publicly rebuking the sinner, when imperatively called upon to do so, Miss B. visited at Bill's home-for he had a home, such as it was—and talked and prayed with him there. Bill's wife, a thin, worn, wretched woman, shrunk from the violence of her husband; but she hoped and longed to see good result from Miss B.'s efforts for her own good, and that of the poor unfortunate children who owned such a father ; but notwithstanding all the lady's entreaties and efforts at these visits, he still continued hard and scoffing, resisting the gentle strivings of the Spirit, and spurning all the offers of salvation. Many times did Miss B. leave Bill's wretched home in tears, after unavailing prayers with and for him.
The Spirit of God works in many ways. He bloweth where He listeth, and operates according to Divine determination, choosing His own agents. Miss B. sat at work in her parlour one afternoon, pondering over the results of her labours in that unpromising field, when a strong impression came to her—an impression which she could not shake off—that she should go to see Bill. “ Go to Bill," the inward voice said, “and tell him that this is the last time I shall send to him. This is his last offer of mercy.” Thinking that it might be only a passing thought, she strove to put it from her ; but it returned again and again, with such pertinacity that it made her very restless. “Go, go to Bill," the voice repeated. “Warn him for the last time." At last, unable to resist longer, she put on her hat and went to Bill's house. His wife was at home, and in answer to the young visitor's eager inquiries, she said that her husband was at work.
“I must go to him," said Miss B. "I cannot delay my message."
“Oh, don't, miss!" replied the woman. “He'll be so angry with us all !don't !"
“ I must,” replied the young Christian. “The message I have for him is come straight from God, and I dare not delay it."
So saying, she started off, over rough bleak moorland, up the side of a hill, along a rocky road, in the midst of a black, dreary mining country ; but she stayed not to think of its length or difficulty. At length she reached the mine where Bill worked, and going straight to the offices, inquired where the man could be found. As it turned out, he was in the engine-room, lolling and smoking with some companions as reckless and idle as himself. Miss B. encountered a look of surprise on the man's face; but she spoke gently, asking him to come out, as she had a message for him. For a wonder, he assented without foul language, perhaps silenced by the unusual character of the visit. Miss B. walked on until they had gained a place secure from observation and hearing, and then, turning round, she faced the bold blasphemer, saying :
“God has sent me to you with a message, Bill. He says this is your last offer of mercy; your last hope of pardon ; the last entreaty of His Spirit. Will you listen ?—and will you come to Him now ?”
“Oh, I can't, miss! I have no time,” replied the man, somewhat awed.
“You had time just now for idling, when you were in the engine-room. Oh! do listen to the Saviour's voice now and turn, ere it be too late. There is mercy for you, even though you may be one of the chief of sinners. God says: • Come now, and let us reason together. Though your
sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.' Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.'”
“Another time will do, miss. Next Tuesday I'll come to your meeting," he replied, uneasily.
“ That may be too late, Bill. This is the last message. To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart. My Master sent me with it," she urged again.
He turned away with a low, bitter, unbelieving laugh, saying, as he did so, “I don't believe in your Master! He is nothing to me!"
“Oh, my friend ! you must fight against this bitter, scoffing unbelief. Have you no emotion of fear for the God who made you, and could crush you? Just consider ; you are no more than a grasshopper in His hand. As I can crush that tiny insect there in the grass of this moor, so He could crush you—and He surely will do it, if you will not listen. 'He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.' God can destroy as well as save; but He delighteth in mercy,
• He waiteth to be gracious still,
He doth with sinners bear.'
And He beseeches you by me to become reconciled to Himself, to-day. No one is too vile; no one too unwelcome. You are not; and the proof of this lies in the fact that I am sent to you with a special message. This message is, Come now to Christ; come to-day; to-morrow you may be shut out."
“I can't attend to it now, miss,” returned the man, a little more softly; " but I'll come to your meeting next Tuesday, certain sure.”
“You must not put it off so, Bill. The Spirit of God is striving with you, and you know not if ever you will have another chance ; indeed, it is strongly impressed upon my mind that
will not. Have you forgotten when you were a little boy; when your mother led you to the chapel, Sunday after Sunday? Do you remember her consistent life, and her happy, triumphant death? Did she not plead with you, and pray for you, that you might be numbered among the sons of God? These prayers niust ring in your ears yet.”