FOR THE FIRESIDE.
"Praise the Lord, who giveth
food to the hungry."
Jesus Christ forbids us to
be over-anxious about anything, so as to be unhappy and miserable, because
this state of mind arises from want of trust in God. It would always make
us strong in spirit, and keep us quiet and peaceful at heart, if we only
remembered that God is a Father who '' pities His children," and is always
thinking about them and caring for them. We would, then, attend to the one
thing absolutely needful, that of doing what is right; assured of this,
that our Father, in His own way and time, will help us according to our
necessities. Now, there are few times in which persons are more tempted to
distrust God, as if He neither knew them nor cared for them, than when in
need of food. Oh ! it is a very difficult thing indeed to believe then
that God is able and willing to provide for a family when, as in the case
of the poor widow who was helped by Elisha, the meal in the barrel is
almost done and the oil in the lamp nearly exhausted! And those who have
money to spare little know of what value a few pence are at such seasons
of trial to a poor family; for hunger and cold are urgent for immediate
relief. A day without food or fire, is a day of no small suffering to a
father and mother, especially when children suffer in their sight. ' If
people thought of this more than they do, and gave themselves the trouble
to find out the poor who required a little aid, they would feel what a
shameful thing is ingratitude, and forgetfulness of their own mercies;
what a severe trial poverty is, and what a blessed thing it is to be able
to share with our suffering Christian brothers and sisters, whose bodies
and souls are like our own, some of those good things which our Father has
given to ourselves in His mercy.
But while persons are in
poverty, what comforting words are those' which are spoken to them by Him
who always spoke the truth, and who was Himself so poor that He "had no
place where to lay His head!" "Consider," He says, "the ravens: for they
neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God
feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?" And how many
thousands of the poor are there who have trusted God, and who in their
distress have been provided for by Him in a manner so strange and
unexpected that they have said with the Psalmist, "Praise the Lord, who
giveth food to the hungry!"
It is not, indeed, possible
to limit the ways manifold in which God may thus supply the wants of His
children. Why are we surprised when we read of Elijah having been
nourished by ravens? Is it wonderful that God, who provides so
marvellously for bird and beast, should make these creatures themselves
minister to the wants of beings more precious to Him than all ? Let us
tell a story of God's kindness, assuring our readers that it is literally
In a certain village in
Scotland, we shall not further indicate its locality, there lived about
twenty years ago a respectable and well-to-do family in the humbler ranks
of life. The father and mother, with I forget how many sons and daughters,
lived under the same roof, and wrought at the same trade, which brought
them in regular though moderate wages. The family were, I really believe,
sincerely pious—I am quite sure the mother was so, for I knew her well. A
dreadful fever entered the village. Its cause was no mystery; for a worse
drained village did not exist. It was built on a flat; and a slow,
sluggish, almost motionless open drain was cut along the backs of the
houses. What stirred up, at the time I speak of, the slumbering wrath of
this enemy of the laws of God's pure and cleanly world, I know not. It was
probably the hot summer, with previous wet weather and stagnant pools
caused by the inundations of small streams. There was of course the usual
talk about what should be done to cure the offensive nuisance, which the
coarsest olfactory nerves perceived; but the horrible power of which was,
like demon possession, unperceived by flesh and blood, yet having to do
with both for all that. The grand problem was, who should cleanse the
sewers? Landlords or tenants?—parish board or proprietors? In vain the
intelligent medical man lectured, argued, proved, and coaxed. Seeing, with
the sage villagers, was believing; and because they saw no scourge with
their fleshly eyes, they believed not in its existence, its power, or its
cunning torture. But fever at last came to punish and to purify; to
vindicate God's laws, and to teach men by a severe but salutary discipline
to reverence them. Among its victims were the family of poor Robert Lauder
and his wife Jeanie. A worthier •couple never lived! They were not the
first seized, for many had died, and few had recovered; so that a panic
existed in the village, so deadly was the disease. Oh, for quiet, true,
self-sacrificing Christians at such a time as that, who would not count
their lives dear unto them if they could only save the lives of some, and
glorify the Son of man, who came to give His life a ransom for many! Such
martyrs would, under God, help to stay the plague, or make it minister to
undying love and goodness.
Robert Lauder was struck
down, and then one after another of his family—all, indeed, except Jeanie.
No one would enter the house. Neighbours knocked at the door, and spoke
through the window, but no one came in to face the pest. In the kitchen,
in the small room, in the garret, were fever patients. The doctor was,
like very many of his profession, a true hero, who risked his life without
honour save from a good conscience, and without reward save from that same
friend within, and from the Father of mercies above. Robert Lauder died,
and Jeanie stretched him out at midnight with her own tender hands, amidst
the delirious cries of her sons and daughters. Some were moaning, some
were laughing, some were silent, as if dead. Who will describe what Jeanie
felt? She never thought Robert could die. He had been her earthly life
long before they were married, and a part of her very being ever since.
But she never shed a tear, as she laid him decently and becomingly out,
arranging his hair, and making him neat and comely in death as he had been
in life. She uncovered his face, took the light and looked at it for a few
minutes, and never looked at it again. Robert was buried. His family knew
it not. Jeanie seemed to have been endowed with unconquerable strength.
People wondered how she stood it, night after night, week after week. But
no one assisted her. Yes, I forget; one did. This was a half-witted
creature to whom Jeanie had been often kind, and who seemed as a very
angel, when, entering her dwelling one evening, she said, ''Jeanie, woman,
ye ken naebody cares for me, and the fever will no heed me. I can tak care
o' the fire, and gie the lads and lasses a drink o' cauld water, forby
watching when ye are sleeping." One spark of His love makes the most
common things shine in beauty!
The family got better; and
the doctor at last pronounced all to have "got the turn." Days passed.
They required food. By this time all Jeanie's means had been exhausted.
Her credit was gone—anyhow she thought it was gone. Be that as it may, the
undoubted and stern fact was, that one evening, when all were craving for
food, Jeanie had none to give them, nor had it ever crossed her mind till
then that she was a beggar. Not a morsel in the house, nor a farthing to
buy any! Debt, debt for weeks, at the shop! No family near from whom she
would like to ask food! She might do so; she perhaps would; nay must— but
it never was so in Robert's days. She never supposed it would come to
this. Jeanie—why expose her many thoughts? She sat down in the old
arm-chair beside the fire, bent her head, turned round, and knelt down,
and bursting into a flood of uncontrollable tears, she said, "Oh, my
Father, lay not on me more than I can bear! If it is possible, take this
cup from me and provide for those starving ones! Lord help me, so that I
do not lose my trust in Thee and fall into despair."
She rose from her knees,
and sat on the chair with the repose of a statue, but with the peace of a
child. "Never," she told me, "did I feel my faith going until that night.
I felt like Peter, sinking, and hardly able to utter any other cry than '
Lord, help me, or I perish !'"
While thus sitting in
silence, thinking what to do, she "heard a scraping," as she described it,
at the back-door. It continued for a few minutes. She at last went to know
the cause. What was it? Can the reader believe it?—the large cat with a
leveret between its paws! Do you wonder if a cry came from that woman's
heart, "God has not forsaken me!"
She made soup of the
leveret. It was her all. She gave it to her children, and they declared
they had never tasted anything so good. Next day she was generously
assisted by some who had heard of her distress ; and from that day Jeanie
never more wanted. "It was the only poaching," said the keeper, with a
happy smile, "that was ever confessed and freely forgiven." I heard this
simple story from Jeanie's own lips, and would I could only convey to the
reader the impression which I myself received as I watched the countenance
of the mother and the tearful eyes of her family, as all were melted by a
remembrance of God's mercy, and while the large gray cat, as if conscious
of its importance, rubbed itself against the old chair with erect tail and
Some months afterwards I
again called on Jeanie and her family. When I alluded to this story they
had told me, every one was suddenly silent, and as suddenly sad. "I
trust," I said, "you have had no additional affliction in your family?"
"Oh yes, sir," said Jeanie, putting her apron to her eyes to dry her
honest tears; "we have met a great misfortune since you were here last—the
auld cat is dead."