At last word came that nothing more could be done; that the house could not be saved. Seeing that further effort was useless and that each moment increased the danger of their own lives, the men left off fighting the fire, in order to save themselves and to help, if possible, the Worthington family. They soon reached the house. The next question was, where to go. The lake seemed to be the nearest place of safety. Confusion was everywhere, but through it all Mrs. Worthington sat quietly holding her dying baby.
"O Mama," said Bessie, "aren't you going with the rest?"
"No," answered her mother positively; "I shall remain right here with my dying child. I can not move him now and add to his suffering. I know that God can take care of me here as well as anywhere else. Why, Bessie, where is your faith? God can yet send rain and put out the fire."
"Oh! but if God doesn't send rain, you will burn up; for the fire is almost here," cried Bessie. "Do come as far from the house as you can, won't you?"
"No, Bessie, I told you, no. I shall sit just where I am," answered Mrs. Worthington; and Bessie knew that it would be useless to press the matter further.
With throbbing heart Bessie ran to her room, which was already getting hot from the fire: she fell upon her knees by the window where she could see the flames leaping from tree to tree, and began to call mightily upon God. "O God!" she prayed, "do send rain or change the wind." After repeating this prayer several times, she noticed some large drops of water upon the window pane. She knew what it meant: once before God had sent rain to help her in time of danger. Hastening down stairs, she said, "Mama, it's raining." "Thank God!" said Mrs. Worthington, "I knew he wouldn't let baby and me burn up."
By that time the rain was pouring down; the wind had ceased; and the danger was over. The rain did not put out the fire, but so checked it that, by hard work, it could be kept under control until it died out.
Little Clement lived only a short time after the fire; but just before he died, he looked into his weeping mother's face and smiled three times. As he had never smiled before, Mrs. Worthington always thought that God took that way to encourage her heart.
LOST IN THE WOODS.
As Leroy was too young to drive the cows home in the evening, Bessie enjoyed many a long walk in search of them. One evening she had some difficulty in finding them. It was one of those evenings when everything is quiet and sound travels a long distance. After listening carefully for the tinkling of the cow-bells, Bessie was bewildered, for she could seemingly hear them in every direction. At last, thinking she had located the sound, she set out in that direction. When she had walked about two miles, she stopped to listen again. The bells were still tinkling, but they seemed to be just as far away. She knew, though, that the cows sometimes went a long distance. She had been following the road, but thinking the sound came from the woods, she started off in that direction. She saw that the sun was just going down behind the trees; that she was on an unfamiliar path, and was getting farther and farther from home. But she must get the cows, and on she went, stopping now and then to locate the sound of the bells.
She suddenly found herself standing upon a point of land where a deep, wide ravine extended on either side. The distance across the ravine she could not see on account of the shadow and the trees. What should she do? A few minutes previously she had thought about its being late, but had hoped to find the cows and to make them guide her home. This hope failing, she did not know what to do. The bells were still tinkling ahead of her; but she did not dare to try to cross the ravine in the darkness, now fast gathering around her, and how could she return through those dense woods! She thought of calling for help, but as quickly realized how useless the effort would be, since there were no houses near.
As she stood wondering what to do, these words from a psalm she had committed to memory a short time before, came to her mind: "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." Two more precious promises came to her mind: "I will guide thee with mine eye" and "He leadeth me beside still waters." Oh, what encouragement those words were to Bessie! Surely God would guide her home. With a thankful heart, Bessie started to return. As she had passed through several clearings in her search for the cows, she had no little difficulty in finding her way; but the moon rose early and gave her considerable light, and as she neared home, she began to recognize some familiar objects.
But, in the meantime, how were her parents feeling? The cows returned early and were milked. Mrs. Worthington wondered why Bessie did not come with them, but thought she might have been delayed and would come soon. She prepared supper; but when she got it ready, Bessie was still absent.
"What can be keeping Bessie tonight?" Mrs. Worthington said anxiously to her husband. "She should have come home an hour ago."
"Oh, I suppose she has stopped somewhere to play," said Mr. Worthington carelessly.
"No; I don't think so," replied his wife. "Bessie always tries to be prompt, and I'm afraid something has happened. If she doesn't come soon, you had better go to look for her."
"Well, wait until dark," said Mr. Worthington; "and, if she isn't here then, I'll get some men and we'll search in different directions. Did you notice which way she went!"
"No," answered his wife, "but I think she went east."
At dark Mr. Worthington started out with the searching party. Mrs. Worthington tried not to worry; but when nine o'clock passed and half-past nine came, she felt a great anxiety creeping into her heart. Many times she offered an earnest prayer for Bessie's protection. After putting Leroy to bed she stationed herself in front of the house to watch.
About ten o'clock some one returned to say that he could find no trace of Bessie.
With straining eyes, Mrs. Worthington looked in the direction in which Bessie had gone, and at last thought that she could see some one approaching. As the figure drew nearer, she could see that it was her child, and with a glad cry ran to meet her. "O Bessie," cried the mother, "what has happened to detain you? Your father and a company of men are out searching the woods for you. Dear child, where have you been?"
Bessie was very tired and hungry; but she related all that had happened and said: "I'm sorry I couldn't go farther; for I believe the cows were just a short distance beyond the point where I turned back. But I did not dare to cross the swampy place and go into the woods on the other side."
"Why, the cows have been home a long, long time, Bessie; and that is what had made your delay seem so strange," said her mother. "But were you not afraid, dear, when you found that you were so far from home!"
Bessie explained how she had felt and how the Lord had encouraged her and helped her to be brave.
"What time was that?" asked her mother; and when she learned, she said, "Bessie, that was when I was so earnestly praying for you. Surely our God is a mighty God and one who is ever faithful."
When the searching party returned, they were all glad to know that Bessie was safe at home.
As Bessie approached her sixteenth year, Mrs. Worthington became very anxious about her. The mother thought that she could notice a change in her daughter's actions and disposition. Instead of being confiding and happy, she seemed listless, forgetful, and nervous. At first the mother could not understand this change; but by close observation she found that her daughter was indulging in light reading.
Some magazines and weekly papers containing continued love-stories had found their way into the Worthington home. At first they were not attractive to Bessie. She would merely glance through the pages; but she gradually came to overlook the good, substantial reading and to enjoy the part that stimulated the romantic and imaginative part of her nature. The effect upon her mental and moral powers was much the same as that produced upon the digestive organs by rich and stimulating foods. Her mind was thus weakened and robbed of its relish for wholesome reading. She was ever looking forward for something to excite or satisfy her abnormal desire for the romantic or the dreadful.
As soon as Mrs. Worthington realized her daughter's danger, she sought an opportunity to instruct her on the dangers of novel-reading. "Some effects of novel-reading," said she, "are worse even than those produced by dancing. Many novels are hurtful because of the many false ideas interwoven in the stories. Some novels attract the pure-minded by their morality; but it is unsafe to read them, for the reason I have already given you, and because, as with any bad habit, the exciting influences must be constantly increased. In this way some persons are deceived and drawn into many of Satan's snares.
"In most novels there is much that is good and true; but the immoral, the worldly, and the untrue are so interwoven with it that the reader unconsciously finds himself taking pleasure in thoughts which, before he began reading novels, would have been disgusting. In this way the reader's sense of right is lowered and an appetite created—an appetite that can not be satisfied; the more it is fed, the more depraved and exacting it becomes. Gradually the desire for the romantic increases until the novel-reader longs to have a romance of her own. Her sense of duty is so blunted and her better judgment so blinded that she often agrees to a secret marriage with some one who is wholly unfit to be her life companion. It is in this way that many a girl has been deceived and led into sin. Many times, too, habits have been formed, from which nothing but the grace of God could deliver. In looking back over a wasted life, many a person can see that his or her downfall had its origin in the first novel.
"My dear child, there are many good books that you will find both helpful and interesting, but the Bible should be the pattern of your life. Let it be the principal food for your mind and soul. Your time all belongs to God, and you should waste none of it in reading unwholesome literature."
As Mrs. Worthington finished speaking, she was glad to see a changed look in Bessie's face. She knew that God was talking to her daughter; and as she arose to go, she said: "Bessie, do not forget from whom you may expect strength. I am praying that God will entirely take away the unnatural appetite which you have been fostering."
It was not long until Bessie rejoiced in full deliverance from her taste for novel-reading, and her interest in her mother's talks returned. As they read the Bible together and praised God for the precious truths it contained, cherishing them within their hearts as priceless treasures, Bessie's understanding seemed to open, and she was able to comprehend many of the deep truths of God's Word. The reading of God's Word gave her such unbounding joy, such complete spiritual happiness, that nothing could compare with it. Its truths, so simple and yet so grand, were at once a guide and a reproof to keep her feet from straying from the narrow way.
In a small house about two miles from Bessie's home lived a very old lady. She loved the Lord and enjoyed telling of his goodness and of his dealings with her. Bessie, who was now about sixteen years of age, enjoyed these talks very much.
One day while Bessie and her mother were visiting this aged saint, she brought forth a much-worn paper and handed it to Mrs. Worthington, saying, "My daughter sent me this paper. You may take it home, if you like," she continued; "but I must ask you to return it, as my daughter wants it again." As Mrs. Worthington took the paper, Bessie saw at the top of the page, in large letters, "The Gospel Trumpet." After reading a few minutes Mrs. Worthington exclaimed: "This paper is certainly the work of a people who understand the plan of salvation. Things are fully explained here that have been plain to me for years—things that I dared not mention publicly lest I be thought fanatical."
On their return home Mrs. Worthington said: "It must have been in answer to prayer that Sister Moore let me see that paper. I have prayed for many years that God would help me to find a people who were not afraid to preach his whole Word. I believe we have found them. Who knows but this is God's way of starting a series of meetings here. Oh, the wonderful God we serve! I shall subscribe for the paper at once and also send my poem on sectism to see if they will publish it." The subscription was sent, and the poem soon appeared in the paper.
Mrs. Worthington was truly thankful to find that God had others in the world who were willing to teach the whole Bible without construing any part to suit their own ideas.
It was not long until a testimony appeared from a minister living a few miles away; and, agreeably with Mrs. Worthington's request, a series of meetings was started in the neighborhood.
The news of the good meetings spread rapidly, and the attendance constantly increased. The gospel as preached was a new message to the people, and yet it was the very same that Jesus and his disciples taught. Every point of doctrine presented had a "thus saith the Lord" to confirm it.
Many saw that the Bible had been misunderstood and had been misconstrued by mankind to prove minor points, while the deep and vital truths had been so covered over with prejudice and unbelief that the majority of the people were blind to the true meaning of the Word; and that, in their confusion, each had gone to the denomination that seemed most nearly to correspond to his clouded views. It was also clearly shown that there is no way to heaven except the straight and narrow way that Jesus taught, and that God's Word is the only true measure of a Christian experience.
Mrs. Worthington felt now that her cup of joy was full since she could hear the way of salvation and the true church explained from the pulpit just as God had revealed them to her. She was also glad that Bessie, who was now old enough to understand deep spiritual truths for herself, was in perfect harmony and fellowship with her.
About forty souls were saved in the meetings; some gained the experience of sanctification; and the Spirit of the Lord worked mightily upon the hearts of many others.
Oh, the deep and wonderful love of God! Oh, the richness and fulness of his grace! How glorious Bessie now found her walk with God! How precious to commune with him and feel that she was growing deeper into his love! Truly it was a taste of heaven!
BESSIE SEES HER DUTY.
Among those converted in the meetings was a girl a little younger than Bessie. Her name was Cora. Being an orphan and living in the home of an infidel uncle, where she had no one to understand or sympathize with her views, she often sought Bessie for counsel and advice. The uncle did not oppose his niece, but others in his family did.
As time went on, the two girls became anxious to be doing something for the Lord. While they were pondering over the matter, a company of ministers came to the place to hold another series of meetings. From them the girls learned that The Gospel Trumpet was published by consecrated labor, that the workers received no stated salary, but that they trusted the Lord for their food and clothing.
It seemed a strange story to the girls, but Cora felt that she should like to go and help in the work. Though her uncle was not pleased with her plan, yet finally, after he had investigated and had found the place respectable, he gave his consent. It was several months, however, before she expected to leave. Toward the close of this time Bessie began to feel some anxiety for her friend, and one day said to her, "Cora, do you really want to go to The Gospel Trumpet office to work? Now, if you don't want to go, God will not be pleased with your service." "Bessie, I have lost all desire to go," Cora answered. "It seems to me that God is calling you instead of me. You could be a much greater help than I, because you have known and understood this truth all your life."
If Bessie had received a severe blow, it could not have hurt her more. Her precious mother! How could she leave her! Many of her cherished hopes for the future arose before me. Her plan, to do all she could for her mother in her declining years, came up before her; and as she thought of it, she became very sad. When the two girls parted at the door, Bessie's heart was very heavy; and when she was at last alone, she wept bitterly. She remembered that she had consecrated to do anything the Lord might require of her, but she did not see how she could do this. For many days Bessie bore this heavy burden; and, not being strong, she began to fail in health. From appearances, she had a malignant form of quick consumption. The course of the disease was rapid, and in a few weeks she was not only confined to her bed, but seemingly very near death. Mr. Worthington desired to consult a physician, but reluctantly heeded to Bessie's earnest entreaties to let her trust the Lord. She said to her father, "I know that God would heal me, if for the best; and, if not, I would rather die." And she added mentally, "I would rather die than to leave home."
Bessie at last became so low that she could not be left alone night or day. As her mother sat beside her one day, holding her hand, she said: "I believe, dear, that God wants to heal you and use you for himself. I feel like asking our elder, Sister Smith, to come and anoint you with oil according to Jas. 5:14, 15. I am sure God will heal you."
Sister Smith was brought as soon as possible; but, to Mrs. Worthington's surprise, she did not offer to anoint Bessie until the next day. She said: "I can not understand this case. There is something here that seems very strange. Bessie appears to be perfectly resigned to die, but she only answers yes or no to my questions. I shall talk to her again." Returning to the bedside, she said, "My dear, if God heals you, are you willing to leave your father, mother, and home to preach the gospel"—but she got no farther. Bessie, with all the emphasis she could command in her weak state, interrupted, "No; I will never preach."
"Ah! there is the point in your consecration that you have not reached," replied Sister Smith. "You must be willing to do anything that will bring the most honor to God's name, and to work where he can get the most glory out of your service. It may be the Lord will never require you to preach; but he wants the willingness on your part, just as much as if he wanted to make a minister of you."
It was some time before Bessie could answer; but when she did, it was to say that she would do anything, only that she must know that it was God who required it.
"God will make you to know that," said Sister Smith; "and now I feel that everything is out of the way, and we can ask God to heal you."
As she applied the oil and called earnestly upon God, there seemed to be a heavenly atmosphere filling the room. Bessie felt a soothing sensation passing through her body; and when the prayer was ended, she felt perfectly well, though exceedingly weak. Her strength soon returned, however, and it was not long until the Lord told her plainly that he wanted her at The Gospel Trumpet office. She remembered her consecration and felt willing in her heart to obey; but she shrank from telling her parents. For two weeks she endured severe mental suffering. She tried to gain sufficient courage to speak to her mother about the call, but her tongue refused to form the words. One day while she and her mother were in the cosy sitting-room, Mrs. Worthington said, "Bessie, I believe that God wants you at The Gospel Trumpet office and that he has used Cora's plan and your sickness to show you your duty." Looking up through eyes filled with tears, Bessie related all that God had revealed to her. A great calm then came into her soul.
But the test was not entirely over. Mr. Worthington must be told, and—would he be willing? Embracing the first opportunity, Bessie told him her plans and begged his approval upon them; but his reply nearly crushed her.
"Bessie," said her father, "if you must leave us, you may go; but I have one thing to say and I mean it. If you go, you can never return; for your going is heartless indeed. I can not see why you should choose to go from your comfortable home and those who love you so dearly, and leave your mother, who so much needs your help."
"Father, Father!" exclaimed Bessie, "Oh, don't talk that way! You know how much I love you all. You know I never wanted to leave home before; and if you won't let me return, what shall I do?"
As she stood there before her father almost broken-hearted, a sweet voice whispered, "I will be with thee; be not afraid." The words sounded like music in her soul and reminded her of her recent decision to obey the Lord at any cost; and she said quietly:
"Well, Father, if you refuse to let me return home, it will have to be that way; but I must obey the Lord, and he has called me into his service"
"Very well," he answered, "but remember my words," and he left her.
Seeking her mother, Bessie told her of the interview and of her father's refusal to allow her to return home. For a moment they stood looking at one another; and then, with great tears filling her eyes, her mother said:
"Remember the words of Jesus, 'There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.' Dear, child, I know your dutiful nature, and how you long to obey your parents; but the Bible says to obey them in the Lord. When you have to choose whom you will serve, God or your parents, you must choose the Lord."
"I will obey God," said Bessie quietly; and she began at once to prepare to leave home.
When all was ready and the morning of departure had come, Mr. Worthington went out to prepare to take his daughter to the train. He had been very silent all the morning, but Bessie's heart was so full that she had taken little notice of his behavior. Oh, how she longed for his consent for her to return! Her mother gave her every encouraging word possible. At last they looked out and saw that the horse was ready. As Bessie picked up her last bundle, the door opened, and her father, stepping in quickly, caught her in his arms. "O my child," he sobbed, "will you forgive me and come back as soon as the Lord will let you? I didn't mean what I said; but it is so hard to give you up. If you need anything, write to me at once and let me know about it, won't you?" and he tenderly kissed her. Bessie's heart was filled with joy, and she said that he could expect her home just as soon as the Lord would let her come.
"Read 1 Cor. 10:13 and Jas. 1:12 just as soon as you have time, dear," whispered Mrs. Worthington in her daughter's ear as she kissed her again before she jumped into the buggy beside her father. Then they drove away from the home and the mother that were so dear to Bessie's heart.
Very few words were spoken on the way to town, and after a long ride Bessie found herself on the train. It all seemed like a terrible dream; but there was a sweet peace and quietness in her soul, and her father's loving words rang again and again in her ears.
In the days that followed Bessie's arrival at the Trumpet office, she found many ways in which she could help spread the gospel. She found, too, that she could preach in a way that was not at all distasteful to her; for she could set up many lines of type to be used in printing the gospel message in the Trumpet, which was carrying light and truth into many homes and preaching to hungry souls. But oh, how often she thought of the dear ones at home and of how they were missing her!
One evening, when she sought her room and sat down beside the window, as she had so often done at home, she began to review her life. As the soft shadows gathered slowly about her, she seemed to be at home again close beside her mother's knee, listening to her tender, loving words of sympathy and advice. Bessie could now see what they had been worth to her. They not only had prepared her for a common sphere in life, but had given her a thorough understanding of God's great plan of salvation. As she recalled her mother's prayers and talks, she realized that, through them, she had many times escaped what other girls had ignorantly blundered into, and had been spared a great many of the bitter sorrows that come into the lives of girls not taught at their mother's knee. In her thankfulness, she offered a fervent prayer to her heavenly Father that many more earnest, noble, and prayerful mothers might be found to guide their children through the critical period of childhood.
After three months Bessie returned home for a short visit with her parents. Upon her arrival she not only found a loving and tender welcome, but also learned that both her parents had accepted her call as from God. After a happy visit of two weeks she returned to her work. With the blessing of God upon her labors, we shall here bid her good-by.
In conclusion, we wish to say that what she became was principally in answer to her faithful mother's prayers. Had she been left—as many girls are—without a mother's tender love and confidence, mingled with many earnest prayers, she would have fallen into temptations that she never knew. She had fully proved the worth of a praying mother.
A PLEA TO MOTHERS.
Home as God intended it is built upon the corner-stone of virtue and prayer. It makes no difference how beautiful the house nor how grand its contents, if the mother is a woman who does not care for God or virtue, the corner-stone of that home is lacking. Such a home can not stand when trial and temptation enter.
A stream never rises above its source, nor a home above the ideals of its founders. No matter how humble the home, do not belittle its possibilities. Anything so sacred as home can command heaven's choicest and best blessings. The humblest cabin may contain that element which makes home the shrine of happiness and the temple of peace, and will cause it to send forth saints and heroes.
Oh that parents, especially mothers, could realize their influence in the home, their power to direct the young minds around them into the proper channel! Let us so educate and train the children that they will be able to get the greatest good from their natural endowment and that they may use it in such a manner as will bring the most glory to God. So train them and so live before them in the home that in after-years they will say with pleasure: "This precept was always taught me by my parents. Father and Mother's holy example has been a priceless birthright to me."
This is true parenthood. It should be the ideal in every home. By this I mean parents who realize their responsibility and have their children's best interest at heart; parents who will sacrifice any pleasure of their own for the benefit and happiness of their little ones; parents who will not only bid their children a hearty welcome into the world, but will care for their future from that moment, and who have the love and respect of their entire household.
You may say that parents like these are few and hard to find. True, but it is equally so that, with proper knowledge and understanding, many would approach this standard. Perhaps some have allowed years to slip carelessly by and their darlings to pass seemingly beyond their control. To such I would say, It is never too late to pray.
Observe the wayward boy whose chief inheritance is a wild, wilful nature. He is nearing his fourteenth birthday. Having been allowed to have his own way while small, he has cultivated an ungovernable desire to do as he pleases. Let the mother of that boy cease her old habit of saying, "I don't know what will become of that boy! I don't understand how he can treat me so rudely. I've done all I can, and he just grows worse," and take a more rational method. Have you gone to that boy and told him the sweet, simple story of Jesus and why he came from his beautiful home; that a part of his mission was to teach you how to make your home after the pattern of his heavenly home; that his heart is touched with compassion when he beholds any one in trouble; that he is grieved because you have made a mistake; but that you are sorry and are decided to do your duty? Have you told the boy all that? Have you knelt beside his bed at night with your tear-dimmed eyes pressed upon his hand, and told him the great dangers that are before him, even surrounding him, and informed him how to avoid them? Have you told him that he is at the most critical time in his life, that a mistake now will mean a life of suffering for both him and you, and that he can with you begin over and remove some of his past mistakes? Have you talked thus to your boy? If not, why not? It is your privilege as well as your duty.
The first duty of father and mother to their child is to see that they are a unit on family government. Second, they must study themselves and their failures, trying to make the weak places strong. Third, study the disposition of the child, gain an understanding of its inner life, and find out what pleases and displeases it; and, while cultivating the good, hold in check the bad. A mother should understand her children better than any one else. If she is a thoughtful mother, she knows not only the surroundings of her children, but many of the impressions that she has stamped upon their undeveloped minds.
Children are not putty that can be moulded into any form to suit our fancy, but there is a method by which we can fashion their young lives. Much patience, devotion to the child, and fervent prayer will be needful to accomplish anything worth while.
Every parent should see that their attitude toward their children is what it should be. Consider their feelings and show them respect, remembering that they have rights upon which you must not intrude; but never loosen the reigns of home government. Make any rules that you think practicable and necessary; explain each rule carefully to your child, giving your reason for making it, and then demand obedience. Never, unless for some special reason, ignore any good rule. Should your child happen to break one of these rules, do not punish without first finding out the cause. He may not have understood your meaning, or he may have forgotten. Take him quietly aside; and, after finding out why he has disobeyed, gently tell him again your reasons for making the rules and the necessity of his obedience. You might have to do this several times, but do not excuse him too long. When it is necessary to punish, ask for wisdom from above, and then punish in a way that he will understand you and remember the punishment. When you make a statement, stand by it, if possible, unless you see error in it. If such be the case, confess your fault. If your child does not show you due respect and obedience, there is a cause for it, and it is your duty to find out what that cause is.
All children have to contend with bad qualities that have been inherited. Do not flatter yourself that because the child is yours it will escape temptation; for all must be tempted, if they would be strong. Teach your children, according to their ability to comprehend, all that they should know to be able to shun evil. Do not think that because your child has inherited some moral weakness, you are helpless to teach him to overcome it. You can explain to him his danger and tell him what yielding to the temptations that come to him because of this weakness will lead to. Point out the effect of this sin upon the one from whom it was inherited. Tell the child that the only chance to overcome this inherited tendency will be by constantly avoiding those things that will lead to temptation. You may find the task difficult and you may sometimes feel disheartened, but you must put that wayward child of yours right, if possible, or God will hold you accountable. Perhaps the inherited sin may lie at your own door. If it does, you will understand better how to help him from under its power.
In the public school, on the street, and in his various associations, your child will be exposed to the evil of hearing impure language from vile lips; and if he be not warned, who can blame him for listening? Your home teaching must overbalance all that he hears outside.
Should some question concerning the mysteries of his own body or of his own origin be aroused in his mind by impure stories or by any other cause, you must at once arise to meet the difficulty before harm is done that will be very difficult to overcome. But some mother will say: "I do not know what answer to make my child when he asks questions of such a delicate nature. Would it not be best to leave his mind free from these ideas until he is older?" Doubtless it would, if the child would be contented to wait; but when he has learned enough to ask the question, he is able to tell whether you speak the truth when you say you do not know, and he will not be satisfied by the flimsy pretest, "Oh, run away and don't bother me; I'm too busy."
Above all else, keep the confidence of your child, so that he will come to you with every trouble of life. Confidence of children in their parents is a gift from God. All children have it at first. See the tottering baby cling to its mother for support; watch it run to her when it is frightened. Can it not have the same confidence when it is older? I answer from experience that it can and should. Truth inspires trust in your child. If you do not think it best to answer all his questions fully at the time when he asks them, tell him at least enough to satisfy his curiosity, and promise him that, if this remains a secret between you and him, he may come to you whenever he wants more information. Do not be afraid of having secrets with your child. The matter may be trifling, but the fact that he is helping you to keep secrets will teach him to value his word and will increase his confidence in you. On the other hand, if you tell him an untruth, do not think that he will come to you again. No, he will doubtless go to some friend who he thinks will tell him, and thus get his young mind tainted with impure thoughts. And little better in results than telling an untruth is putting the child off till some future time. These questions must be met when they arrive.
You may say, "I don't know how much to tell at any one time." Wisdom is necessary here. No more should be told than will satisfy the present curiosity of the child. A few questions on your part will readily discover what information he has gained and how much he wishes to know.
A boy of scarce six summers once came to his mother with a question of life. The mother was shocked; but, offering an earnest prayer for wisdom, she questioned the child and found that he had heard remarks made by older boys. As his mind was developed enough to comprehend part of their conversation, his curiosity was aroused. Having perfect confidence in his mother, he had sought her for an explanation of the points that perplexed him. As simply as possible, that mother gave the information, ending with the words, "Now, darling, this is to be a perfect secret between us; and when you are old enough, I will tell you more." Years passed by until the boy was in his eleventh year; then he once more went to his mother for information. "Mama," he began, "do you remember the time you told me a secret?" She answered that she did, and he continued: "Well, I have kept that secret. I have never mentioned it to any one. And do you remember that you said some time you would tell me more?" When she answered, "Yes," he said quickly, "Don't you think I'm old enough now?" In answer, the mother put her arms about him and said, "My son, you shall hear all you wish to hear. What is it, dear?" Then as each question came, she gave him a satisfactory answer, and ended by saying, "Whenever you want to know more, come to me, and I will tell you." That boy continued to go to his mother; and when he entered the most trying period of his life, her advice kept him from the dangers into which so many fall. In hours of trial she was able to point him to the Savior. Never neglect the duty of warning your child of danger.
Teaching of this kind will endear you to your children long after you are resting in the grave. They will recount, "My mother told me this. My father taught me that. They must have understood God's plan of salvation, or they would never have known how to tell me these things." But the task will require your highest talents. Sympathy and love, constant watchfulness, and earnest prayer will be the most needful. Since the child does not know himself, you must learn to know him. You must search for the secret springs that govern his actions and for the master key that will unlock his heart.
One dear young woman, relating her experience to me, said: "My mother died when I was only six years old; but I know she must have been a Christian, because some friends who knew her told me of her devoted life and of earnest pleadings for her children when she saw that she must leave them. All that I can remember about her was seeing her bowing in prayer or talking to us children. There are desires in my nature that I know must have been planted within me in answer to her prayer. After her death I was cast out upon the world. I went to live with a very ungodly family, but that sense of right and wrong within me made me shun and despise their evil ways. I loved to read my Bible. From it I learned that, if I would gain heaven, I must forsake sin and live a pure life. To live such a life was a pleasure until I found that the denomination whose meetings I attended would not allow me to say much about a holy life, because their creed did not teach it. Then I promised the Lord that I would be a Christian if I had to be one all by myself. This was not necessary, for I found many true Christians who believed all that the Bible teaches."
That mother's prayers had fashioned and governed the life of her daughter long before the child was able to understand her mother's meaning. Parents can not begin too early to win the child's love and confidence, and they should spare no pains to maintain these to mature years. Those who do will find that their children will never, even to old age, fail to come to them for sympathy and advice. Children so reared will always love and honor their father and mother as the Bible says they should, and will look upon their parents' lives as examples for them to imitate. See to it that you show yourself a good pattern, in thought, word, and deed, for them to follow.
There is no definite rule whereby parents may control their home, except to seek advice from God, for no two families have the same environment. Any method that will bring about the desired result may be applied; but the method must be systematic and thorough. A positive attitude is good, and should be encouraged, but harshness ought never to be used. The latter will tend to discouragement and resentment in the child, while the former will teach the difference between right and wrong.
Be charitable to your children in regard to their faults and failings, so that they may learn by your example to be charitable to each other and to their fellows. Teach them the blessings that charity will bring to them; show them that it is the greatest of God's gifts and that without it they will meet many buffetings from their contact with the world. Remember that Paul speaks of it as "the more excellent way" and admonishes us to desire it above all things else.
Children must have entertainment. Rich and costly furniture, elaborate parties, or even guests are not necessary. Children may be entertained in a very simple manner. What child does not enjoy the old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek, tag, or some such innocent amusement with Papa and Mama? It may take a little of your time, but what of that? Do all you can to make your home the happiest place on earth for your children.
"Yes," says one, "that will do while the children are little; but just wait until they grow up, and then they will seek other company." I did not say that they must always stay with you. Of course they will desire to go from home sometimes. What I mean is that we can make home so attractive that they will note the difference between it and the outside world. The interest we take in them will constrain them to remain at home and to return when away from it. Home! Oh that beautiful word! Poets have written about it, choirs have sung about it, but who can fathom the meaning of that little word, home! None but the child who has been taught to revere, cherish, and enjoy it, and then looking back remembers the happy years spent in the home circle.
I think that I hear a father say, "When I return from my work, I am so tired I can not stand the children's noise." Is that so? Do you not love your children, and are you not working for their welfare! If so, do you not think that a little less labor with your hands and a little time spent with them would be more profitable? Perhaps a little romp or chat with them would rest you. Try it anyway. You who are desk workers can afford it: it will help you to cast off the responsibilities of the day and the better prepare you for the morrow. A romp with the children is not lost; but, on the other hand, is a benefit for both parent and child. Thoughtful parents can think of many things that will increase the interest in home and will draw them closer to their children.
Sometimes it is good for the children to visit their friends, but parents should always be acquainted with these friends. Never let your child go where games are played that you would not allow played in your own home. Here is where conscience and confidence will help you. Be cautious about allowing your child to go somewhere to stay all night. In this way many a child has learned evil practises and in some cases been ruined. Then, too, it draws his mind away from the home circle.
"But," you say, "all this I have done, and yet my children are now forgetful of it all. They are indulging in many things that they were taught to be harmful to the soul." My dear friend, can you not remember when this state of things began? Can you not point to a time when there was a drifting from your home circle? when home life began to seem too narrow for your child? when he began to crave the association of others more than that of his own brothers and sisters? Did you at that time lift up your home banner and shield? Did you tell him of the rapids in the distance? "No," you falteringly answer; "I thought there could be no harm in allowing him to mingle with his chums at school and to visit them in their homes. I was afraid to be too particular, lest he should think me too strict with him." Ah! friend, that was your golden opportunity, and you failed to see it. After instructing the child, you should have bowed with him in prayer, giving him over to God's keeping. Then, if he chose to go—remembering that your prayers were following him—nine chances out of ten he would have returned with words similar to those spoken by a youth who had been permitted to attend a party. In answer to his father's question he said, "Yes; I had a good time, but I have better times at home." "Better times at home!" Think of it, parents! Is it not worth some self-denial, some sacrifices, on pour part, to have your home spoken of in this manner?
"Yes," says a mother, "that is all right when both parents are in harmony and have salvation; but suppose that the parents are poor and that one is unsaved?" I have seen just such homes as this governed in the manner whereof I speak. God gave more grace and strength to the saved companion; and, although there were many difficulties to encounter, yet the saved one was able to influence the home for God. "All things are possible to him that believeth," said Christ in olden times, and his statement is still true.
Again, I hear a parent whose loved companion has recently died say, "What can I do now to train my children aright?" There comes before my mind a beautiful scene of a faithful mother with her son and daughter whom she had brought up to God's glory. She was left alone with these two precious ones to guide and rear to manhood and womanhood. She bade adieu to the words "I can't" and with determination went about her task. As God never lets such zeal go without assistance, this mother found help in time of need. Another scene which I love to recall is that of a devoted father and by his side his two motherless daughters just entering womanhood. He gives them every spare moment that he has, and both are real examples of trust and purity.
In your zeal to find entertainment for your children, do not forget that they must have employment. See that every member of your household has certain work to do. This work should be suited to the years and the strength of the individual and, if possible, to his likes and dislikes. Work of the proper kind will strengthen the muscles, improve the health, keep out many evils, and create in the young a desire to help bear the burdens of life. Periods of rest may be made profitable by having on hand as much wholesome literature as you are able to secure. By this means much useful knowledge may be stored. The reading need not be confined wholly to religious works; reliable treatises on science, art, mechanics, cooking, chemistry, domestic economy, health, etc., are all profitable if not indulged in to the exclusion of religious literature. If you trust God, he will help you to know what to do.
A lady once said, "Our children are what we make them, and we get out of them just what we put in." These words contain much truth. God holds all parents, according to their light and understanding, responsible for the training of their children.
If you have a preference among your children, never reveal it. On the contrary, endeavor to place the less favored ahead in your care and attention. You can justly do this, for the favorite will get all the attention he deserves anyway. I well remember a case where the mother's favorite son brought sorrow and shame to the entire household by stealing from his own father, simply because she had humored and petted him in childhood. Parents can not be too careful in this respect.
Many a mother does not realize how highly her children value her opinion. A boy had met with an accident that somewhat disfigured him for a time. While he was preparing to leave for school, his mother said, "You will no doubt be made sport of today; are you able to bear it?" His answer was, "Oh, I don't care what any one says about me but you; but if you were to make fun of me, I couldn't stand it."
SWEET GEM OF THE HOME.
_Thou formal home, so graced, so blest, With earthly treasures rare; Within thy portals we expect All graces rich and fair.
We gaze, we search, but all in vain; The gem we love so well, "Sweet innocence," doth not remain, Nor in thy chambers dwell.
Thy children, as the world they greet, Are bearing tales of thee; "I was not warned," they oft repeat, Nor taught at Mother's knee.
Sweet Innocence, thou heav'nly grace, Rich gem from God above! Thy touch upon the human face Reveals but peace and love.
Thy treasures richer far than gold, Thy gifts of greatest worth, Might grace our homes, except for sin, Whose curse now sweeps the earth.
We look for thee within the maid, With beauty, grace, and charm, But find thy flight she hath not stayed, Nor doth she feel alarm.
Then in the lad, whose noble brow Thy presence might suggest; With closer view we must allow By thee he is not blest.
E'en when we look within the child And laud his graces sweet, We find his mind so soon defiled For thee 'tis no retreat.
"And why?" we ask, "oh! why is this? Such need and dearth abound. Oh! why in homes of promised bliss May not this gem be found?"
The mystery, so deep, so great, Is simply lack of prayer; Is bidding timely warning wait For daily toil and care.
Allowing things that crumble, waste, Our whole attention claim, We cause sweet Innocence in haste To leave our homes to shame.
But thee, sweet grace, we find in some— Thank God thou art not lost!— We see thee in the Christian home As royal guest and host.
We note the mother as she pleads For counsel from God's throne, Then goes with wisdom that she needs And strength to make it known.
We watch the child in this true home, And in its face so fair We recognise what doth become A faithful mother's prayer.
Sweet Innocence! may we extol, Within the home, thy art; Thy power to beautify the soul, To teach the pure in heart.
Thou gift divine! thou fairest gem! Thy presence may we crave, That thou mayst grace our diadem In life beyond the grave.
Reveal, O grace, unto the world Thy beauties rich and rare, That all may understand and know What mothers find in prayer_.