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The Baldwin Library
GIDEON'S NIGHT ATTACK ON THE MIDIANITES
A. L. O. E.
A author of The Shepherd of Bethlehem," Exiles in Babylon,"
"Rescuedfrom Egyf/," &_c.
T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
N attempting to illustrate the history of the
victory of Gideon, I am conscious that I am
entering on well-trodden ground. Others have
gathered the lessons and examined the types
with which that portion of the Scripture-field is so
richly studded. I lay claim to little originality of
thought on the subject which I have chosen. A humble
task has been mine; that of endeavouring to show that
the same faith by which heroes of old out of weakness
were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to
flight the armies of the aliens, is still, as the gift of God's
grace, bestowed on the lowliest Christian. Writing, as
I have done, under the depressing influence of domestic
sorrow, and the languor of weak health, I feel how very
imperfectly I have executed my task; but I humbly
commend my little work to Him who despiseth not the
feeble, and whose blessing on the humblest instrument
can make it effectual in His service.
A. L. O. E.
THE RETURN, ...
BROKEN BUBBLES, ... ...
LECTURE I.-MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION,
THE LITTLE MAID, .......
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE, ... ...
LECTURE II.-FAITH IN THE PROMISE,
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE, ...
THE SISTER S VISIT,
LECTURE III.-FAITH IN OBEDIENCE,
OPENING THE CASKET, ...
LECTURE IV.-FAITH IN TRIAL, ...
EVIL TONGUES, ...
LECTURE V.-FAITH CONFIRMED,
. 0 &
MERCY AND SELF-DENIAL, ...
LECTURE VI.-FAITII VICTORIOUS,
A SISTER S VOICE, .
LECTURE VII.--FAITH CROWNED,
TRIUMPH OVER MIDIAN.
^^ OME, once more at home !" how joyful sounded
the exclamation from the lips of Edith Le-
strange, and how brightly sparkled her eyes
as she uttered it, as, with a step light as a
fawn's, she revisited each spot which five
years' absence had only made more dear. With joyous
impatience she ascended the broad oaken staircase of
Castle Lestrange, to flit like a fairy from room to room,
lingering longest in the old nursery, where she had
known childhood's pleasures, with not a few of its
sorrows-and the playroom, in which her toys were still
stored. There was the doll that had been to her as a
companion, to which the lonely little heiress had whis-
pered many a trouble; the pretty picture-books, the
miniature tea-things of delicate china, that had been
such sources of amusement. It was a pleasure to Edith,
from recollections of "auld lang syne," to touch and
handle these childish treasures, though at the age of
eleven she deemed herself no longer a child.
Then to the newly-returned traveller how great were
the delights of the garden and the park,-the one bright
with the flowers of spring, the other donning its light
green robe, while in the sheltered mossy dells fragrance
of violets filled the air. Edith almost wondered that
the light-footed deer should bound away on her ap-
proach : her heart felt so full of joy and kindness, that
it seemed strange that any living creature should fear
her. The heiress of Lestrange took pleasure in visiting
the cottage of her father's steward, where the familiar
faces of Holdich and his wife were as the faces of old
friends, bright with hearty welcome. Her canary, cared
for by Mrs. Holdich during her absence, was tamer than
ever, and its quivering notes of delight seemed to its
youthful mistress an echo of the music of happiness
which sounded within her own soul.
For Edith did not return to the castle of her ancestors
as she had left it five years before-a feeble, fragile
invalid. She no longer painfully dragged her weary
limbs along, with languor oppressing her spirits; spring-
ing and elastic was the step which now bounded over
the mossy turf. The cheeks that had been almost as
colourless as the snowdrop, had now a faint dawn of
colour upon them, like that on the opening buds of the
apple-blossom. Edith was still a delicate plant, like an
exotic reared in a hot-house, but an exotic skilfully
tended, expanding its petals in healthful life.
"( Oh, how true it is that there is no place like home !"
exclaimed Edith, as she sauntered up the broad avenue,
with sunshine on her path, and the blue cloud-flecked
sky smiling above her.
The observation was addressed to her cousin, Isa
Gritton, who was spending a day at the Castle, a short
time after the return of Sir Digby Lestrange and his
daughter. Isa was a young lady whose age might be
about two or three and twenty, and who might therefore
have scarcely been deemed a suitable companion for one
so youthful as Edith, had not the little heiress possessed
a mind so early matured by the discipline of trial that
she was scarcely regarded as a child by those who in-
timately knew her. Isa Gritton was a tall and grace-
ful girl, with auburn hair, and eyes like those of the
gazelle-large, soft, and expressive : mirroring each
passing emotion, whether it were that of mirth and
gladness, or, as was now the case, a shadow of painful
Do you not feel with me," said Edith, "that there
is a charm in the very name of home ?"
" I did so
replied Isa, with
" but for
the last two years, since the loss of my dear father, I
cannot be said to have had a real home."
But you have one now, dear Isa," said Edith; "and
oh, how glad I am that your brother chose to build one
at Wildwaste, so near us. Why, even I-who never
perform great feats in the walking line-will be able to
manage the distance on foot; it is barely a mile, I hear.
I dare say that Mr. Gritton kindly chose the site of his
house there on purpose that you might be near youi
uncle and cousin. To meet you often, very often, will
be such a pleasure to me; I shall feel as if I had at last
what I have so often longed for, a sister to share all my
sorrows and joys. I will soon return your visit, and
you shall show me your brother's new house. Has he
not built a charming retreat, with a pretty garden and
shrubbery round it ? "
Isa Gritton laughed: but there was a little bitterness
in the laugh. Tastes differ," she replied; "and Gaspar
having been his own architect, he doubtless admires his
work. But my ideal of beauty is hardly realized by a
house that looks as if a geni had transplanted it bodily
from one of the smaller streets of London, in all the
newness of yellowish brick as yet undarkened by soot,
and had dropped it on the edge of a morass-not a tree
within half a mile of it-where it stands staring out
of its blindless windows as if wondering how it came
there, with nothing to remind it of London but the great
soap manufactory, which is the most conspicuous object
in the view, the smoke of which might do duty for that
of a whole street in the city."
How could Mr. Gritton build such a house, and in
such a place !" exclaimed Edith in surprise; "I could
not fancy you in a home that was not pretty and pic-
turesque. I have no clear remembrance of Wildwaste
save as a wide flat common sprinkled with gorse, for I
seldom or never visited the hamlet when I was a little
You will scarcely care to visit it often now, except
out of compassion for me," said Isa, smiling. Mr.
Eardley tells me, however, that Wildwaste, bad as it is,
is greatly improved from what it was some years ago,
when it had nothing in the shape of a school."
"Mr. Eardley-then you know him ? cried Edith,
brightening at the mention of the pastor whom she
reverenced and loved.
"Yes," replied Isa; though, Wildwaste not being in
the parish of Axe, we do not belong to his flock. Mr.
Eardley had heard, through your steward's wife, I be-
lieve, that we wanted a girl to help in the house. He
called to recommend to us a young protegee of his own,
a black-eyed gipsy-looking little creature, who blushes
scarlet when she is spoken to, and seems to be afraid of
the sound of her own voice. I think, however, that with
a little training Lottie Stone will suit us very well."
Do you not like Mr. Eardley ? said Edith, looking
as if assured that the answer must be in the affirmative.
Very much; I wish that he were our clergyman in-
stead of Mr. Bull, who must be nearly eighty years old,
and who-but I don't think it well to criticize preachers."
"We attend the service at Axe-we drive there, for
it is much too far off for a walk," said Edith Lestrange.
"You shall come with us every Sunday-that is to say,"
she added, with a little hesitation, "if you don't mind
leaving your brother. Papa does not like more than
three in the carriage."
"Perhaps I ought not to leave Gaspar," said Isa,
gravely; and she added, but not aloud, if I were not
with him, I fear that he would not go to a place of wor-
ship at all.-No, Edith," she said to her cousin, I am
afraid that I cannot accompany you to Axe on Sundays,
but I have promised Mr. Eardley to bring Lottie twice
a week to the little cottage-lectures which he gives in the
dwelling of Holdich the steward."
Then we shall always meet there," observed Edith.
"I have such a sweet remembrance of those cottage-
meetings, though I was such a little girl when I went
to them that of course I could not understand .all that
I heard. I felt as if there were such peace, and holiness,
and Christian kindness in that quiet home-church, where
young and old, and rich and poor, gathered to hear God's
truth, and pray and praise together. And Holdich him-
self is such a good man," continued Edith warmly: it
is not merely that he does not mind openly confessing
his religion-whatever people may think of it-but that
he lives up to what he professes. Papa went on the
Continent, you know, rather in haste, and there had
been a little confusion in his affairs, and no time to set
them right. Papa was always so generous, and those
about him had abused his confidence so sadly."
"Yes, I heard something of that," observed Isa, who,
like the rest of the world, was aware that Sir Digby's
ostentatious extravagance had plunged him into pecuniary
difficulties, and that change of air for his invalid child,
though the ostensible, had not been the only cause of
"But Holdich has brought everything into such
beautiful order," continued Edith,-" he has quite sur-
prised papa by the way in which he has managed the
estate. He has cared for his master's interests as much,
I think more than if they had been his own. Papa used
to suspect people who had the name of being very pious,
but he said this morning at breakfast, A man like my
steward, who brings his Christianity into his daily deal-
ings, does more to convince infidels of the real power of
faith than all the learned books that ever were written.'
I treasured up the words to repeat them to Holdcich's
wife. I think that she and her husband are the hap-
piest people that I know, and especially now that their
son is doing so well as a schoolmaster under Mr. Eardley."
The subject of the new series of cottage-lectures is
to be Gideon's Triumph over Midian," observed Isa.
And the first is to begin at seven this evening," said
Edith. Papa has given me leave to be always present
-at least when the weather is fine; and some of our
servants will go too. They are not all able to get to
church on Sundays, for Axe is five miles from the
The cousins, slowly sauntering up the avenue, had
now reached a grassy mound at the end of it, on which
a tall weather-cock stood, and which might be ascended
by a flight of marble steps. Having mounted these
steps, a very extensive and beautiful prospect lay before
Isa and Edith, while a rural seat invited them to rest
and enjoy it.
I have looked upon many lovely views in Italy,"
observed Edith, as her eye wandered with delight over
the scene; but, to my mind, there is none to compare
with this. I always missed that dear little spire seen
in the distance yonder, where I knew that Sunday after
Sunday the real truth was preached in my own native
tongue by a servant of God. It always seems to me
with Mr. Eardley as if he were like the disciples, who
went to their Master and had their directions in the
morning straight from His lips; and that in the even-
ing, when his labour was over, he would go and 'tell
Jesus' all that he had done, and all that he had tried to
do-receive the Lord's smile and His blessing, and then
lie down to rest at His feet."
18 THE RETURN.
"It seems so with some clergymen," said Isa. "When
they feed the people with the bread of the Word, we
feel that they have just taken it from the hands of the
Lord-that He has given thanks, and blessed, and
broken it; so that we look from the servant to the
Master, and realize that the ministry of the gospel is
hallowed service indeed."
" 0 you especially enjoyed your stay at Florence,"
^ ~ said Isa, after the conversation had taken a
less serious turn.
I was very happy there; it was so beauti-
ful, and we knew such very nice people. I, should have
liked to have stayed there much longer."
And why did you not remain there ?" asked Isa.
" Did not Sir Digby enjoy Florence too ?"
Very much indeed, until-until a lady came to stay
there who spoilt all his pleasure in the place."
How was that ? said Isa.
Why, the lady was witty; at least people said so;
but if her kind of talking was wit, I wish that there
were no such thing in the world. All her delight
seemed to be to gossip and make her friends merry;
and so long as they laughed, she did not much mind
what they laughed at. You see," continued Edith in a
confidential tone, her mother
had lived in tl
and she talked a great deal about that.
in papa to let strangers
come here while we were away-and
as you know-but
he did not like its
talked about to every one.
Isa could easily comprehend that her proud uncle had
been very sensitive on the subject of
" she mixed
was true with
what was not true ;
and how could
strangers tell whether she spoke in
jest or in earnest ?
She said that papa had
and violent to
servants; and that was shamefully
false !" exclaimed
with a flush
of indignation on the
so gentle and calm-" he
had been only too indulgent
unpleasant by her gossip, that papa could bear
He said that he would never willingly
be for a
day in the same city with Cora Madden."
Madden repeated Isa,
a little start;
and Edith, who had been looking up at her cousin, saw
surprise a stern, gloomy
countenance like a shadow.
"Do you know Miss
"Do I know her?"
hazel eyes bent on the ground. Then suddenly she
raised them, as she uttered the abrupt question, Edith,
do you know what it is to hate ? "
Hate ? no, not exactly," replied the gentle girl;
but there are some persons whom I do not like at all
-some with whom I feel angry at times. I was angry
with Miss Madden one day when she was laughing at
Mr. Eardley, and mimicking his manner. I thought her
doing so was so silly, so wrong. Besides, rudeness to
one's friends tries one's patience a great deal more than
unkindness to one's self."
Cora reminds me of the description of the wicked
in the Psalms," observed Isa-" They shoot out their
arrozvs, even bitter words.' She cares little where the
darts alight, or how deep they may pierce."
Edith, who had a very tender conscience, was very
doubtful whether such an application of a text from
Scripture was consistent with Christian charity. With-
out venturing, however, to reprove, she merely observed
in her gentle tone, I am sorry that I spoke of Cora at
all. It was breaking a rule which I had made."
What is your rule ? asked Isa.
Never to speak of those whom I cannot like, except
to God," replied Edith.
And what do you say of them to God ? "
Oh, if I speak of them to God, I must speak for
them," answered little Edith ; I dare not do anything
for the Lord has told us to love our enemies, and
we could not bring malice into our prayers.
" Yours is a good rule, darling," said
turned to imprint a kiss on the forehead
" Let us speak no more of Cora Madden, and may
help us to obey the most difficult command
in all the Bible "
To explain why the command appeared
one to the young maiden-why the very name of
called up bitter remembrances to her mind-it is need-
ful that I should let the reader know something of
previous history of Isa Gritton.
Like her cousin Edith, Isa had
and had been the only daughter
but otherwise there had been liti
in her father's home;
tle resemblance between
the early childhood
of the two.
had been the unmurmuring
and in her splendid mansion had
had more to endure than many of the
Isa, on the contrary, fondly tended
children of the
by a devoted
vigorous, and full
her childhood flow pleasantly past, like a stream
in sunshine and
had scarcely known what it was
Her father called her his
to feel weary, sick,
little lark, made only to
sing and to soar.
She was beloved
by all who knew
her affectionate nature
disposed her to love all in return. The religion which
was carefully instilled into Isa partook of the joyful
character of her mind. Isa was troubled. by no doubts
and few fears. The thoughts of heaven and bliss which
were suggested to her, were congenial to the spirit of
the child. Isa looked forward to the joys of Paradise
without letting imagination dwell either on the dark
valley or the narrow stream." Her idea of death was
simply a peaceful removal to a yet brighter and happier
There were some spiritual dangers attending this
existence of ease and joy. The very sweetness of Isa's
disposition dimmed her perception of inward corruption.
If she was tempted to make an idol of self, it was an
idol so fair that she scarcely recognized it as one.
Sometimes, indeed, Isa's conscience would accuse her of
vanity as she lingered before her mirror, surveying with
girlish pleasure the smiling image within it, or recalled
words of fond admiration, or committed some little ex-
travagance in regard to dress, for Isa at that time had a
weakness for dress. But the accusation was made in a
whisper so soft, that it scarcely disturbed her serenity.
It affected her conduct, however; for on the day when
Isa first received a regular allowance of her own, she
made on her knees a resolution which never was broken
-not to spend' money on the adornment of her person
without devoting an equal sum to the relief of the poor.
Thus early the love of God combated the love of the
world; a bridle was placed upon vanity, which was still
but a bridle of flowers; for Isa felt as much pleasure in
helping the poor as in wearing a new robe, or in clasp-
ing the jewelled bracelet round her soft white arm.
Isa's brightness of spirit did not pass away with
childhood; it rather increased, as the bud expands into
the perfect flower. But in life's school Providence has
appointed various teachers, and few of God's children
pass many years upon earth without coming under the
discipline of disappointment, bereavement, and care.
Isa was to know all three. The first came to her when
the blooming girl felt herself at the very summit of
earthly bliss, when a halo of happiness was thrown
around every object near her. Isa believed herself to
be the most blest of women in being beloved by Lionel
Madden. Young and inexperienced as she was, Isa's
fancy invested her hero with every noble and sterling
quality; she believed all that she desired, and the bright
bubbles blown by hope glittered with all the prismatic
tints of the rainbow. The bubble suddenly broke !
Lionel became cold, alienated, shortly after the arrival
of his sister, who seemed to have taken an instinctive
dislike to Isa. What had been said against her Isa
never exactly knew; but whatever poisoned shaft had
destroyed her hopes, she knew that it came from the
quiver of Cora. What marvel if bitter, resentful feel-
ings arose towards the author of her deep, though
hidden, anguish ? As Isa.'s gaiety was suddenly
changed into gloom, so her kindly loving nature for
awhile seemed altered into one sternly vindictive. Like
Satan intruding in a paradise of peace, and blighting its
flowers by his presence, hatred, and even a lurking desire
for vengeance, suddenly arose in a soul which had pre-
viously appeared to be formed only for happiness and love.
26 BROKEN BUBBLES.
But had Cora really injured Isa ? Nay; the mali-
cious enemy had done more to shield the young maiden
from misfortune than her most tender friend could have
done. Cruel may be the hand which tears to pieces the
half-formed nest which a bird is building on a hedge by
the wayside, but it is well for the bird if it be thus
constrained to choose a higher and safer bough. Lionel
was unworthy of the affection of a faithful, confiding
young heart. It was well for Isa that her bubble was
broken, that her cherished hopes were scattered to the
winds. She did not think so, she could not feel so ;
even Lionel's very worldly marriage, which took place a
few months afterwards, did not fully open her eyes to
this truth. Isa deemed all that was unworthy in the
conduct of young Madden the result of the influence of
his sister; and regarded Cora not only as her own evil
genius, but that of the man whom she had loved.
Startled and alarmed by the fierce passions which, for
the first time, struggled for the possession of her heart,
Isa looked upon Cora as the cause not only of misery,
but of sin also. Isa's self-knowledge was deepened by
trial, but it was a self-knowledge that mortified and
pained her. She found that she was far from what she
had hoped to become, from what the world believed her
to be; she was no calm angel soaring above earth and
its trials, but a weak tempted woman, who found it hard
not to murmur, and almost impossible truly to forgive.
And yet Cora had been but an instrument in a
higher Hand, and to Isa an instrument for good. We
may praise God in another world even more for the
malice of our bitter enemies, than for the tender love of
our friends. Jacob's paternal affection would have
shielded his best-beloved son from every touch of misfor-
tune; but it was the hatred of Joseph's brethren, the
malice of his false accuser, that led. him-through the
pit and the prison-to exaltation and to honour. Satan
himself became, through God's over-ruling goodness, an
instrument of blessing to Job; his cruel assaults led to
deeper experience in the man whom he sought to de-
stroy, more close communion with God, and doubtless
more exalted blessedness hereafter. No enemy, human
or infernal, has power to do us aught but good, except by
leading us into sin. Could we realize this, our wounded
hearts might find it less difficult to forgive the wrongs
which are "blessings in disguise."
Not a year after the stroke of disappointment had
fallen upon Isa, she had to endure that of sudden be-
reavement. A few-very few-days of anxious watch-
ing by a parent's sick-bed, and Isa found herself father-
less as well as motherless in the world. Very heavy lay
the burden of loneliness upon the young orphan's heart.
It is true that Isa had a half-brother yet living, but
Gaspar was many years older than herself, and Isa had
seen very little of him, as the greater part of his life had
been passed in Jamaica.
Still the affections of Isa clung
fondly around the nearest relative left
for her to love,
especially as she knew her
health; and she resolved that to watch over him
minister to his comfort
existence from which all
be the object thenceforth
the brightness appeared
to have departed.
thoughts of Gaspar, however, were linked
associations of mystery and pain.
Isa had never im-
parted to any one a care which to her young
more oppressive than sorrow itself.
She had never told
how, when the
on her father, when the
fixed his glazing eyes upon his daughter,
at that midnight
The dying man had seemed
the sole watcher
anxious to disburden
self of something that weighed on his mind; he struggled
to speak, but his parched lips could scarcely frame articu-
Isa strained her ear to catch the
inaudible accents, bending down so low that she could
feel the dying man's breath on her cheek.
A few scat-
tered sentences were gathered,
imprinted on her
the solemnity of the time when they were
-the Orissa-not her money lost-he should deal fairly
by that orphan--tell him from me--
" But whatever was
the message intended, death silenced the lips that would
have sent it, and Isa was left to ponder painfully over
what could be wrong," and how Gaspar could have not
" dealt fairly by an orphan, at least in the opinion of
The remembrance of these dying words, the dread of
some painful explanation with Gaspar, alone threw a
damp upon the earnest desire with which Isa looked for-
ward to her only brother's return to England. Her
affectionate spirit yearned for the sympathy of one bound
to her by the tie of blood, and she longed once more to
possess a settled home. About a year after Mr. Gritton's
death, Gaspar arrived from Jamaica. Isa was at the
time residing with a friend in London, and her brother
took a lodging near her. Being a good deal occupied
with business during the day, and too much an invalid
to venture out in the evening, Gaspar did not see much
of his sister,-far less than Isa desired. Her brother's
manner towards her was gentle and courteous, his kind-
ness won her gratitude, his broken health her sympathy.
Isa wished to devote herself to the care of her brother,
but he preferred delaying the time when they should
reside together in a settled home, until he should have
built a house into which he could receive his young
sister. During this period spent in London, Isa either
found no opportunity of speaking to Gaspar on the sub-
ject of their father's mysterious message, or she put off
till a more quiet season,
brother might have recovered his health.
bear to risk exciting
She could not
him when he was so delicate,
offending him when he was so kind.
Isa gladly availed
herself of any excuse to delay the performance of a duty
from which she intuitively shrank.
Isa felt grateful to her half-brother for selecting as the
of their future
residence a spot near Castle
She had paid many a
visit to her
uncle's lordly mansion, both
of his wife,
and she deemed it a
after the death
of Gaspar's con-
for herself, that
he should purchase a
site for his
house but a mile from the dwelling of those
who were her relat
have wished, indeed,
Lives, but not his own.
that it had
not been on the Wild-
side of the
Castle, as memory recalled a flat ex-
panse of common surrounding a miserable hamlet, and
an unsightly manufactory;
but she had not visited
uncle's home for
and many changes
might have taken place during that period.
encouraged herself with the
dise might stand even in the
thought that a little para-
midst of a barren heath,
like an oasis in a desert; and that as Gaspar had chosen
to build a house instead
of buying one,
it was evident
that his was a taste which could not be satisfied by any
ordinary attractions in a dwelling.
During the time when Gaspar was building, Isa never
once saw her brother. He took a lodging above the
single shop in Wild waste, that he might superintend
operations. He kept a sharp eye over the workmen
who were brought from London, not suffering them, it
was said, to mix with the cottagers around, or spend
their evenings at the small county inn. There was no
doubt that Gaspar Gritton was eccentric, and Isa was
aware of the fact ; but she was disposed to look at her
only brother in the most favourable light, and persuaded
herself that she rather liked a dash of eccentricity in a
character; it redeemed it from being commonplace.
Isa was very impatient for the completion of her new
home, and would, if permitted, have entered it before
it was sufficiently dry to be a safe residence for her.
Buoyant hope had again sprung up within her young
heart, long cast down, but not crushed by affliction.
Life might yet have joys in store for the bright girl.
Isa would be, as she thought, everything to her brother;
his nurse, companion, and friend. She would make his
home a fairy dwelling, where everything on which the
eye might rest should be graceful and pretty. Isa knew
that her brother had sufficient means to procure every
comfort ; and though her own patrimony was but slen-
der, she hoped, dispensing Gaspar's alms, to become a
benefactress to all the poor around them. Again the
fairy bubble was glittering before Isa, and if its colours
were now less splendid, and it rose to less lofty a height,
still the emblem of
was not without
beauty and brightness.
It was on a day in March that Isa joined her brother.
She had enjoyed her journey by train ;
the sunshine had
been brilliant, her companions agreeable, and her mind
was full of pleasant expectation.
Isa's pleasure was
by the little disappointment of
par ready to welcome her at the
not finding Gas-
n. It was with
a sensation of loneliness that she took her seat in a hired
open conveyance to be
sunshine was now overclouded, a fierce north-east wind
from the chilling effects of which the young
lady from London tried to protect herself in
horse was lame, the
drive seemed long.
" Are we far from
Wildwaste Lodge ?" asked
last of the driver,
as they skirted a dreary common of
that she could recognize some of
That be's the house," replied the man, pointing with
his whip towards a narrow three-storied
ing staringly new, without sheltering shrubbery or even
no blinds to the windows, no porch to the
nothing that could redeem
its aspect from absolute
Could this be the rural retreat to which Isa
had given the name of home !
felt IEa as her conveyance
the wretched hamlet, where groups
untidy women and barefooted
stood staring at
the unwonted apparition of
anything in the shape of a
She scarcely liked to look again at the house,
as the lame horse stopped at the dark green door.
par did not come forth to welcome her; he
face the cutting wind which had
chilled his sister to the
Cold and numbed after
her journey, Isa-when
a deaf elderly
ISA'S ARRIVAL AT WILDWASTE.
from the conveyance;
herself saw her
carried into the narrow hall by the driver, paid the man
and dismissed him, and
into the parlour,
where she found her brother.
His reception, though not
uncourteous, was by no means calculated to dispel the
chill which had fallen on the spirits of Isa.
so full of his own complaints that he had scarcely leisure
to observe that his sister was
conversing with him for a while,
other apartments of
tired and cold.
Isa arose to explore the
She suppressed a little
sigh of disappointment as she ascended
The interior of Wild waste Lodge was, if possible, more
its outward appearance.
reserved the ground-floor
for himself, and no one had a
right to complain if in his own peculiar domain he pre-
simplicity to ornament, and neglected
elegancies which Isa deemed almost essential to comfort.
But Isa was deeply mortified when she entered her own
were immediately over those of her
with a regard
economy which amounted to actual penuriousness. A
few chairs, not one of which matched another, and which
seemed to have been chosen at haphazard out of some
broker's shop; a table of painted wood, one of the legs
of which did not touch the uncarpeted floor; and a shelf
as a bookcase : these formed the entire furni-
ture of the young
much as a curtain to the window.
There was not so
Isa, weary and
after her journey, felt
cry from mortification and disappointment.
could she anticipate from a life to be passed with one
who from the first showed such disregard for her plea-
sure and comfort.
Isa's misgivings were painfully realized. There are
some persons who are pleasing in society, agreeable
when only met on casual occasions, with whom it is
very annoying to be brought into closer contact. It is
trying to the temper to transact business with them,
still more trying to dwell under the same roof. The
character of such persons seems to be made up of angles,
that on every side chafe and annoy. A graphic writer*
has humorously described them as unpruned trees.
" Little odd habits, the rudiments of worse habits, need
every now and then to be cut off and corrected. We
should all grow very singular, ridiculous, and unamiable
creatures, but for the pruning we have got from hands
kind and unkind, from our earliest days....... Perhaps
you have known a man who has lived for forty years
alone; and you know what odd shoots he had sent out;
what strange traits and habits he had acquired ; what
singular little ways he had got into. There had been
no one at home to prune him, and the little shoots of
eccentricity, of vanity, of vain self-estimation, that might
have easily been cut off when they were green and soft,
have now grown into rigidity."
Mr. Gritton, from living much alone, had become a
* Vide Autumn Holidays of a Country Parson."
man of this kind. The most unsightly branch on the
unpruned tree was that of penuriousness. Isa had had
little opportunity of knowing her brother's infirmity
until, when she became a resident in his house, it affected
her daily, her hourly, comfort. Herself generous and
open-handed, fond of having the conveniences and ele-
gancies of life around her, yet esteeming as the greatest
of luxuries the power of giving freely to others, Isa could
not understand, far less sympathize with, the love of
money for money's sake, which was the leading character-
istic of Gaspar. It seemed to her so grovelling, so mean,
that Isa had to struggle against emotions not only of
irritation but of contempt. She was also deeply wounded
to find that Gaspar's affection for his only sister was so
subordinate to his avarice. The young lady, accustomed
to luxury and refinement, had the utmost difficulty in
persuading her brother even to allow her to find an
assistant to the ill-tempered elderly woman whom he
had engaged as a general servant. Though Isa suc-
ceeded in gaining her point, Mr. Gritton would only
give such wages as would be accepted by none but an
inexperienced girl like Lottie Stone. The efforts which
it cost Isa to carry out even this small domestic arrange-
ment made her aware of another unpleasant fact-that
Gaspar had a peevish, irritable temper, more trying to
one residing constantly with him than a passionate one
would have been. The dying charge of her father lay
now like an oppressive weight upon the heart of poor
Isa: her new insight into the character of Gaspar gave
to their parent's words a more forcible meaning, and she
dreaded more and more the idea of being compelled by a
sense of duty to open the subject to her brother.
The first weeks of Isa's residence at her dreary home
would have been weeks of positive misery, but for the
cheering prospect of the speedy return of her uncle and
cousin, and the comfort which she derived from the visits
of the pastor of Axe, whose fatherly interest in her young
servant had first led his, steps to her dwelling. Smiling
April came at last; and with it-more welcome to Isa
than the nightingale's song -Edith Lestrange returned
to the Castle. It was now arranged that Isa should
pass with her cousin a portion of each of those days on
which an evening lecture should be held at the steward's
cottage, and return to Wildwaste in the baronet's car-
riage at night. It was something to Isa to be thus sure
of at least two pleasant days in the week; though the
contrast between the refined elegance of Edith's home
and the dreary discomfort of her own, increased the
sense of bitterness in the soul of Isa.
But that sense of bitterness seemed for a time to pass
away,. and domestic trials to be forgotten, when the
cousins entered together the flower-covered porch of the
dwelling of Holdich, to unite with their poorer brethren
in the simple cottage service. Edith's heart was over-
flowing with thankful delight at being permitted again
to worship in that place where some of her earliest im-
pressions of religion had been received. Isa felt that
here at least the carking cares of life might be shut out:
she might lift up her soul, as in happier days, unto her
Father in heaven.
The subject chosen by Mr. Eardley was the history of
the triumph of Gideon, the hero and saint, over the
hosts of Midian. It was his object in this, as in former
courses of lectures,* to draw simple practical lessons from
the narratives contained in the Word of God; and as
such lessons are required by us all, I shall weave the
brief addresses of the clergyman, though in separate
chapters, into the web of my story.
* -ide The Shepherd of Bethlehem," "Exiles in Babylon," and "Rescued from
LECTURE I.-MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
OR forty years after Deborah had celebrated the
triumph over Sisera in her glorious song, the
land of Israel had had rest. This period of
tranquillity receives such brief mention in the
Scriptures, that we are in danger of forgetting
for how long a time God granted the blessing of peace.
And thus is it in our own lives, my brethren : times of
trouble stand out, as it were, like rugged crags, shutting
out from memory's view the vines and the fig-trees, the
olive-yards, the green pastures and still waters, with
which our gracious God for long may have blessed us.
Seven years of trouble to Israel succeeded the forty
years of repose : not causeless trouble-such is never
known in the experience either of Israelite or of Chris-
tian. But we do not always search out the actual cause
of affliction. With God's ancient people the punishment
was clearly traced to the sin. When the Midianites,
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
like a swarm
of locusts, came up
ing and wasting, driving
of the land to
hide in dens
of the mountains, strongholds, and caves, it
was because the stain
of idolatry lay upon Israel; and
mercy, to save the sinners,
chastise the sin.
The Midianites, who were thus made an instrument of
punishment to Israel, were, like themselves, descendants
Moses guided God's people towards Canaan, the Midian-
ites drew down vengeance on themselves by their
successful efforts to lead
Balaam amongst the enemies
been destroyed ;
now, after the lapse of nearly two
hundred years, we find it a very powerful nation, against
whose numerous hordes the Israelites seem to have made
no attempt to defend
their homes-so completely was
in the descendants of those
wlIo had triumphed under Moses and Joshua when they
fought the battles of the Lord.
the Israelites were
then they cried
to the God of their fathers, and He
answered their prayer :
not yet by sending a deliverer-
the sense of sin must
be deepened before the
A prophet was sent to the people, with
of promise, but of reproof :
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
"Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you
up from Egypt, and brought you forth from the land of
bondage, and I delivered you out, of the hand of the
Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed
you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you
their land. And I said unto you, I am the Lord your
God; fear not the gods of the Amorites iii whose land
ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed My voice."
The great and glorious deliverance of Israel from
Egypt we may regard as a type of the redemption of
Christ's Church from the dominion of Satan the
triumph achieved once and for ever by the mysterious
sufferings of our Saviour, His sacrifice offered upon the
Cross. This is the central truth of the Christian re-
ligion. But though Egyptian darkness be left behind--
though Christians be received into the enjoyment of privi-
leges purchased by the death of their Lord-their back-
slidings, like those of Israel, often draw upon them heavy
troubles, resembling the devouring hordes of Midian.
I am not, my brethren, speaking of the afflictions and
bereavements which are the common lot of all. During
the forty years of blessed peace, sickness and sorrow
must have been known in homes of Israel, and faithful
servants of God have wept over new-made graves. Such
trials are crosses appointed by a heavenly Father
crosses which each and all must take up at some period
of life, if life be not early cut short. But I am speaking
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
of troubles directly or indirectly brought on us by our
sins: the Midianites who destroy our peace, and bring
upon us miseries from which more earnest faith, more
perfect obedience, might have preserved us. We are
accustomed to speak of this life as "a vale of tears;"
but let us search and examine whether the valley owe
not the greater part of its desolation and gloom to foes
to our peace whom we might have kept out, and over
whom faith may yet give us a victory glorious as that
To explain my meaning more clearly, let me draw
your attention to a few of what we may call chiefs-
leaders of hordes of troubles, Midianites in the heart,
that trample down our happiness and destroy our com-
fort in life. I shall mention four names but too familiar-
Disappointment, Discontent, Dissension, Distrust. Let
us see whether the sufferings which they inflict are not
more severe and perpetual than those brought upon us
by what are called visitations of Providence; whether
many griefs which we term crosses" are not rather
burdens laid upon us by enemies to the soul, to whose
yoke we should never have stooped.
The first Midianite chief whom I shall bring before
you is Disappointment-the intruder who cuts down the
green crop of hope, and leaves a famine in .the soul.
Whence is it that even the Christian is constantly sub-
ject to disappointment ? Is it not from habitual dis-
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION. 43
obedience to the divine command, Set your affections
upon things above, not on things beneath ? We eagerly
fix our heart on some worldly object-ambition, pleasure,
or gain : like children, we build our houses of delight
on the sand within reach of the tide, which must sooner
or later sweep them away, and then sit down and weep
when the flood rolls over the spot which we had unwisely
chosen. Let each of us who in the bitterness of dis-
appointment has mournfully repeated the words of the
Preacher, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, see whether
the idol in the heart has not been the cause of the
Midianites' invasion ; and whether that faith which
builds on the Rock of Ages, beyond the reach of desola-
tion or decay, may not yet overcome the power of dis-
appointment to harass the soul. Hopes fixed upon
Christ know not disappointment ; treasures laid up in
heaven can never be lost; ties formed by faith endure
throughout eternity ; the less our joys are of the earth,
earthy, the less danger there is that the spoiler can ever
wrest them away from our grasp.
And whence cometh Discontent, who robs his slave of
all his peace ?-for peace and discontent cannot abide in
the same soul. Can he who says to his most bountiful
God, not only with his lips but from his heart, "I am
unworthy of the least of Thy mercies," ever know dis-
content ? Must not the peevish, envious, rebellious
spirit be ever kept far from his gates ? We should
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
deem so ; and yet,
brethren, do we practically
it is so ?
Are we not too often
compare our lot with that of others, and, if
yet secretly, repine,
as if Providence
No true servant of Christ can desire
ne us a
his portion here ;
and yet does not the inheritor
heaven too frequently murmur because not all the good
of earth are showered
in addition ?
his spirit from that of
the apostle !
who had suffered the loss of
all things, yet could affirm,
I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be
Had we also learned this
find it less impracticable to obey his
in the Lord always ;
and again I say unto
" You have not your due," were the words which
a husband who
of some advantage which
have been his right.
God be praised
have not my due," he replied.
sinner before God ? wh
I have renounced for
at is my
" What is my due as a
due from a, world which
e ? Had I chosen my
in this life, then only might I complain of not
receiving my due !"
Here was a man whom
could not rob of his heritage
To pass on to Dissension, the third enemy to our hap-
invades many a home, and makes goodly
dwellings miserable abodes, -to what shall we trace his
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
invasion ? Is it not written in Scripture, By pride
cometh contention ?-would not the soft answer that
turneth away wrath often prove as a strong bar to keep
him from entering our habitations ? But here I must
guard myself from being misunderstood. It is possible
that dissension may come where the fault lies on one
side alone. The Christian may be-not unfrequently is
-called to brave opposition, and draw upon himself the
anger of men by defending the truth, or taking up the
cause of the oppressed. The command, Live peaceably
with all men, is qualified by if it be possible ; for in
some cases it is not possible to preserve harmony with-
out giving up principle. Under such circumstances the
sacrifice of peace is a sacrifice for God, and the cross is
one which is borne for His sake. But in the majority
of cases dissension follows on the footsteps of pride, and
is -the leader of malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness:
Then, indeed, is he the true Midianite who pours gall
into the very springs of enjoyment, who casts his
venomed arrows on every side, and maketh a wilder-
ness of that which might have been as the Garden of
Eden. Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a
stalled ox and hatred therewith. Could we, through
the grace of God's Spirit, purge from our souls all malice,
all bitterness and wrath-could we love one another as
Christ hath loved us, what heart-burnings, what heart-
achings might be spared, and how often would the
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
heaven appear to be reflected even upon
Disappointment, Discontent, and Dissension
we have seen, much to do with
have given to God's
vale of tears."
fair world the name of a
believe that the most dangerous
enemy of all to our peace, the one who has most often
pressed his iron yoke on the hearts of my hearers, is the
whose name I have
love and wisdom
This assertion may
in those who are unconscious of
has most often clouded
your brows, saddened
the deep sigh
from your hearts.
been regrets for the past ?
Has it been the trials of the
Has it not rather been care for
fears of what the morrow might bring ?
Would not perfect
Take no thought
the morrow, sweep away at
more than half of the troubles that weigh on our souls ?
And why take thought for the morrow ?
appear to forget that the future lies in the hand of
" too wise to err, too good to be unkind."
We act as if
we could not, or would not, believe that all things work
together for good to them that love God: we are needlessly
restless, anxious, unhappy, and
exclaim in our trouble,
" How heavy a rod the Lord lays upon me !"
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
weak unbelieving heart, thou art smitten less by the rod
of thy Father, than by the scourge of the Midianite within.
If faith could drive out mistrust, if thou couldst in deed
and in truth cast thy cares upon Him who careth for thee,
then-even here-might God give thee beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for
the spirit of heaviness. Perfect trust would bring perfect
submission, and the peace that passeth understanding.
Gideon, the future deliverer of Israel, first appears
before us in Scripture engaged in threshing corn beside
the wine-press in order to hide it from the rapacious
Midianites who held possession of the land. From the
necessity of concealment he cannot employ, after the
custom of the East, his father's oxen to trample out the
wheat; he must himself wield the flail with the strength
of his own right -arm. Gideon is employed in a task of
lowly toil, unconscious at first of the presence of the
heavenly Being who has descended to earth, and who is
now beside him under the shadow of the oak at Ophrah.
And here for the present we will pause, and defer till
our next meeting the consideration of God's merciful
promise to Gideon, and the effect which it produced on
his soul. If we regard Faith under the emblem of a
tree, we have hitherto viewed it as such tree may appear
in winter, when there is not a blossom on the bough or
a leaf on the spray. There is no outward evidence of
life; and though we hope that spring will draw up the
MIDIANITES IN POSSESSION.
GIDEON THRESHING CORN.
the bare branches with beauty, we see
the state (
sign of th
Such may have been
of his miserable country.
The flail of the
upon it, but we know from the result
was not to crush-not to destroy
from the grain, and so render the
latter more fit for reception into the garner of the
THE LITTLE MAID.
OOD-BYE, Isa dearest, we shall often very
often meet," were the parting words of Edith
Wrapped up warmly for protection from
the cold air, Isa descended the steps be-
neath the lofty portico of the Castle, and entered the
luxurious carriage which her uncle had placed at her
command. As she sank on the soft cushions, a dreary,
aching sensation came over her heart; she felt as if she
were leaving brightness, happiness, beauty behind her,
and going to an abode oT trial--almost privation-which
she could hardly regard as a home.
It is wrong, very wrong in me to feel thus," Isa
murmured to herself If visits to the Castle make me
discontented, the fewer they are the better; but it seems
to me that my only happy time now will be the time
spent with Edith. I have nothing at the Castle to wear
THE LITTLE MAID.
my spirits, or chafe my temper, my cousin is so sweet,
my uncle so kind,-when under their roof I seem to be
able to shut out disappointment and care. Ah that
word disappointment, it reminds me of the cottage-lecture
which I heard this evening. Are the Midianites in pos-
session of my heart ? Are my crosses-what I have
deemed crosses-rather burdens laid upon me by ene-
mies, under whose yoke I should never have stooped?"
As the carriage rolled on through the darkness, Isa
pursued the train of her reflections. Disappointment,
Discontent, Dissension, Distrust, the Midianites in the
soul--was she now harbouring them in her own ? Isa
could not bear to let her mind dwell long upon the
first; even now, after the lapse of years, when she had
had too good cause to believe that the idol which she
had raised in her heart had been of clay, Isa dare hardly
own to herself that Lionel had been unworthy of her
love, and that his love had not been enduring, because
it had contained no element of immortality. Shrinking
from close self-examination on a subject so tender, Isa
passed on to that of Discontent; painfully aware as she
was that that spirit was struggling within her breast,
that she was tempted to regard her present lot with
emotions of bitterness amounting almost to rebellion.
Saints have been content in poverty, serene in suffer-
ing, joyful in tribulation,--they have made even dungeon-
walls echo to their hymns of praise," thought Isa, and
THE LITTLE MAID.
here am I, with youth, health, competence, kind friends,
blessings unnumbered and undeserved,---here am I, cast
down, irritable, murmuring, and depressed, because I
dwell in a house which does not suit my taste, but
which is a thousand times more comfortable than those
inhabited by most of my poor fellow-creatures. I am an-
noyed at a little petulance from an invalid brother, while
many, better than myself, have to endure harshness
amounting to cruelty, hatred, persecution, and scorn.
How have I merited that my trials should be so much
lighter than theirs ? Have I any cause to murmur ?
have I any right to complain ? Is it well that I should
compare my lot with that of the few, instead of that of
the many, and give place to ungrateful discontent instead
of thanking God that He has bestowed upon me so much
more than my due ? Why should my thoughts dwell
on Edith's happiness instead of on the misery that I see
yet nearer to me in the squalid homes of Wildwaste ? I
must go more amongst the poor; yes, in so doing I shall
not only obey God's command, but find weapons against
the intrusion of sinful discontent.
"Dissension! I can scarcely say that there is that in
my home, though there is, I fear, but little of true affec-
tion ; and words of impatience and looks of coldness
make life's road seem very rough !" The simile was
probably suggested to Isa's mind by the jolting motion
of the carriage, for the smooth gravel drive through the
THE LITTLE MAID.
baronet's grounds was now exchanged for the rough road
across the common, which was seldom traversed except
by the carts, which had left deep ruts in the boggy soil.
" But what was the cause of that intensely bitter feeling
which arose to-day-which always arises in my mind at
the bare mention of Cora Madden ? Why should the
remembrance of her be sufficient to drive away the
holiest and happiest thoughts ? Surely the Midianites
are within, hatred, malice-nay, I almost fear the spirit
of revenge I sometimes feel such an intense-such an
unholy longing for retribution to come upon that woman,
that she should taste some of the bitterness of the cup
of misery which she has caused me to drink! And are
such longings consistent with Christianity ? do they not
arise from the influence of the spirit of evil ? While
such emotions are harboured in my heart, can there ever
be peace within ? God help me, for my strength is as
weakness against such a Midianite as this!
"And Distrust "-here Isa's meditations were sud-
denly brought to a close by her arrival at Wildwaste
Lodge. The loud, authoritative knock which broke in
such an unusual manner the stillness which had pervaded
that dull tenement brought Lottie Stone running in haste
to the door. She was a shy, black-eyed little maiden,
who looked up in timid awe at Sir Digby's tall footman
in his splendid livery, but greeted her young mistress
with a smile of rustic simplicity.
THE LITTLE MAID. 53
"Has your master gone to rest yet ? asked Isa.
"Not yet; he's a-waiting for you in the study."
Isa entered her brother's almost unfurnished- apart-
ment. One dull candle threw faint light on bare walls,
and a table and chairs that would have looked shabby
in a farm-house. On one of the latter (there were but
three) was seated Gaspar Gritton. He was a man still
in the prime of life, but the sallow complexion and stoop
consequent on protracted ill health, made him look
several years older than he in reality was. Gaspar had
been rather handsome in youth, and still his features,
though contracted; were good; but his eye was dull,
and the whole expression of his face unpleasing: it was
marked by dissatisfaction and peevishness, and more so
than usual as Isa entered his study.
I wish that you would tell those fellows not to startle
one by such thundering raps," said the invalid brother.
"I am sorry that the knock disturbed you; its loud-
ness was certainly disproportioned to the occasion," re-
plied Isa, good-humouredly, as she seated herself by her
brother; I will tell John to announce my return in a
more modest manner next time."
"I don't know why you should come in a carriage at
all. You might have walked home with Lottie and
Mrs. Bolder after the meeting was over; the night is
perfectly fine. I expected you before half-past eight,
and now it is almost eleven." Gaspar took a pinch of
THE LITTLE MAID.
snuff to soothe his aggrieved feelings, this being the sole
luxury in which he habitually indulged; his doing so
happened unfortunately to be particularly disagreeable
My uncle kindly wished me to stay the evening
with himself and Edith, and to pass every day on which
lectures are given with them at the Castle," said Isa.
Gadding-always gadding; girls are never satisfied
at home," observed Gaspar with a sneer.
Isa felt irritated and inclined to make a retort, but
she suppressed the words on her tongue, and replied as
cheerfully as she could,-
You cannot wonder at my liking to meet with some
of my nearest relations; and were I to see absolutely
nothing beyond our Wildwaste domain, I might grow as
antiquated and whimsical as Robinson Crusoe himself.
But I fear that you have passed but a dull evening
without Isa to sing or read to you, Gaspar."
The ungracious brother made no reply; he only
applied again to his little brown box.
Sir Digby asked me if you would not join his circle,"
continued Isa; but I told him that you did not yet
venture to expose yourself to the night air. Was I
right ? You will, of course, call upon him some morn-
ing; you will find him a pleasant acquaintance."
I am not hunting after acquaintances; I've neither
health nor spirits for society," replied Gaspar, rising
THE LITTLE MAID.
languidly from his chair; "and as for these grandees of
the Castle, I should not find them much in my line,
however much they may be in yours."
The brother and sister, after a cold "Good-night,"
retired to their several apartments, Isa asking herself as
she ascended the chilly staircase whether it were his
fault or her own that she was disappointed in Gaspar.
She found her little servant Lottie awaiting her in
her room, ready to perform the offices of lady's-maid, in
which the young rustic took great pride and pleasure.
Lottie Stone was a source of amusement as well as of
interest to Isa; in her simplicity and ignorance she was
so utterly unlike any of her class whom the lady had
met with before. The girl, painfully shy before
strangers, had a naive frankness with her young mis-
tress, which was almost like the confidence of a child.
Isa by no means discouraged this confidence, which gave
her much influence over the young being placed under
her care. The rustic knew little of manners, and was
once detected in the act of snuffing the candle with her
fingers. Isa in vain tried to teach her to understand
the thermometer by which the valetudinarian regulated
the heat of his room, and seemed to have no idea of the
difference between hot weather and cold. Gaspar used
angrily to declare that Lottie was certain to leave the
window open whenever a sharp east wind was blowing.
In defiance of etiquette, if anything playful were said at
THE LITTLE MAID.
table, Lottie Stone was certain to laugh; and she would
stand, dish in hand, to listen to a lively anecdote related
by Isa to her brother, quite oblivious of the fact that
the viands were growing cold. Gently and smilingly
Isa corrected the mistakes of the inexperienced Lottie,
and tried to soften down the displeasure of Mr. Gritton,
who was far less disposed to show indulgence. Much
might be excused, she would observe, in a girl so per-
fectly honest and truthful: the grain of the wood was
so good, that it was worth taking the trouble to work
it, and the polish would be added in time. Isa en-
couraged Lottie to open her heart to her without reserve:
but for this kindly intercourse between mistress and
maid, the life of the young girl would have had little of
brightness, as Hannah, the only other servant, was both
ill-tempered and deaf. "Miss Isa" was all in all to
Lottie, looked up to, beloved and obeyed with affection-
ate devotion. Lottie's happiest time was the half-hour
spent at night with her mistress; for while she brushed
Isa's long silky tresses, the lady entered into conversa-
tion with her. When Miss Gritton first trusted her
beautiful hair into Lottie's inexperienced hands, she had
something to suffer as well as to teach; but pains and
patience had their usual effect, and it was only when
the little maid was speaking of something of special
interest that she tried the philosophy of her kind young
THE LITTLE MAID.
ISA AND LOTTIE STONE.
So you were at the lecture to-night, Lottie. I hope
that you were attentive to all that the clergyman said."
"I did try to be so, Miss Isa; there were things as I
couldn't make out; but Mrs. Bolder and me, we was
talking it over all the way home, and was looking for
the Midianites in the heart."
And did you find any ? asked Isa.
Mrs. Bolder, she was a-saying that it's very hard to
keep out distrust when things go so contrary in life.
She has a deal of trouble, has Mrs. Bolder, now that her
husband's laid up and crippled with rheumatics, and
she's all the work of the shop upon her; it's almost too
THE LITTLE MAID.
for her, she says.
She can't help wondering why
God should send such sickness and
pain to her husband,
steady-going man, and a tea-
the word almost with
been given to drink it would have been
different, you know."
The saddened tone of Lottie
as she uttered
sentence reminded Isa of what Mr.
of the early trials
Eardley had told
of this more than orphan girl.
addicted to intemperance, had
hovel in which Lottie had
the first years of her
life, a den of poverty and woe.
of the name,
had absconded, deserting
happy wife and two children,
the elder of whom, a boy,
dulness of mind,
more helpless than the poor little girl.
Mr. Eardley had
been for years the earthly protector of the family;
had procured employment for
her children taught
found a place
one, and had
in his school, had, as we know,
for Lottie as soon as she was able to take
often put such work
in the way 'of her
brother as the poor lad was not
did you find
own soul also ? "
tone of Lottie
changed to a
one as she made reply, Oh! as mother says, who's to
THE LITTLE MAID.
trust God if we don't,
He has helped
such a many troubles, and given us such kind friends ?
Only-just-sometimes," she added more slowly, "when
I thinks of poor
father, then a feeling will come; but I
s'pose it's wrong-God is so good !"
and she sighed.
that the shadow of the poor girl's great
trial lay on her young heart still.
You can always pray for your father, Lottie."
"I do, Miss Isa, I do, morning and evening, and
does mother; and surely God will hear!"
brightening up at the tho
father, though we don't;
back to us at last."
cried the girl,
"He knows where bees
and maybe He will bring
There was something
touching to Isa in
affection of the young creature towards a parent whom
not honour, and whom she had so little cause
did you find any Discontent
lurking within ? "
inquired the lady, returning to the point of conversation
from which she had diverged.
"Discontent!" repeated Lottie, opening her black eyes
wide at the question;
" 0 Miss Isa, how could
meat every day, and a whole sovereign
That would be ungrateful
Ah! if you knew
here at Wildwaste when I was little, in
the cottage that's been pulled down-close by the
it was, where the
THE LITTLE MAID.
half the day-mother,
been the other
brother, and I-
a bit of bread; and we might
not Mrs. Holdich
been so kind,
and the tall gentleman
from the Castle, bless him !
us nice things
from his own table under his cloak."
"Do you speak of
Mr. Madden ? "
Isa, with a
little tremulousness in her tone.
" Yes ;
the best, the kindest gentleman as ever
was always teaching the children good,
and looking arter
Madden," murmured Isa, dreamily;
that name had passed her
Oh no, not
Lottie, in a tone
for it conveyed
distinctly than words that Lionel was one of the last
persons likely to play the philanthropist
in the manner
but his brother.
Lionel! he never gave to nobody, nor did
nobody as ever I heard of;
he girl, -
a little laugh,
" he switched my brother over the head
with his riding-whip once, to
make him stand out of his
to keep up the conversation; she
took up an elegantly-bound
book which lay on
THE LITTLE MAID.
to convey a hint
of silence to her little
poetry, and the lady's eyes rested long and
upon the well-known verse on which their gaze first
as she opened the book.
It appeared like a comment
on what she had
on the subject of
Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
E'en trials from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise."
or not, had
it been in God's dealings with Isa Gritton.
The volume was a collection
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
SA awoke on the following morning with a
feeling of oppression on her heart, a vague
impression that something had been neglected
which ought to have been done, and she con-
1' nected that something with the lecture which
she had heard on the preceding day. Several minutes
passed, however, before she could trace back the links of
thought to the actual cause of her uneasiness, as it lay
out of the general course of reflection suggested by the
subject of the lecture. Then Isa recalled the words
which at the time that she heard them had painfully
reminded her of a death-bed scene, perhaps the saddest
recollection left on a mind which had had of late much
experience of sorrow. "The Christian may be called to
draw upon himself the anger of men by defending the
truth, or upholding the cause of the oppressed."
"It is more than two years," reflected Isa, "since I
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
received a sacred charge from the dying lips of my dear
father; and that charge I have never obeyed. For
more than two years may an orphan have been suffering
wrong on account of my brother, and during all this
time I have let the sin rest on his soul. I first put off
an explanation till I should meet him; then, when we
met, I shrank from doing my duty. I quieted con-
science with every kind of frivolous excuse; he was too
delicate, too sensitive, too busy, it would be better to
delay speaking till we should be alone together in some
peaceful home. We have been alone together, we have
passed hours, days, weeks in each other's society, with
nothing to hinder me from speaking, except my own
cowardly dislike of saying what might probably offend.
Surely cowardice like this is another Midianite in pos-
session, and I shall never know real peace till I have
wrestled it down. Whenever the remembrance of that
charge comes over my mind, it is like a cloud darkening
the sunshine, and throwing a chill around. God help
me to fulfil at length a neglected duty! I will speak
to Gaspar before this day has passed over."
To some strong natures there might have appeared
little that was formidable in the task before her, but to
Isa it was peculiarly painful. Brought up as an only
daughter, tenderly nurtured from her cradle, she had
hardly known what it was to have to encounter even a
grave look or a hasty word,-Isa had never learned to
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
endure hardness. Fond of pleasing, both from natural
kindliness of heart and love of approbation, Isa never
willingly gave offence; with her to inflict pain was to
suffer it. Isa delighted in deeds of kindness and works
of beneficence; to comfort the sorrowing, or rejoice with
the happy was congenial to her womanly spirit; but to
restrain, rebuke, oppose-the sterner duties which are
sometimes assigned to the most gentle of the sex in the
battle-field of life-cost Isa an effort which can only be
appreciated by those of a disposition like her own.
Isa's heart throbbed uneasily with the feeling that the
explanation so long dreaded, so long put off, was at
hand, as she sat in the apartment which she called her
boudoir, but which was always used as a breakfast-room.
The bronze urn was hissing on the table, on which was
spread a somewhat meagre repast. Awaiting her
brother, who was late, Isa placed herself by the window,
and gazed forth on the prospect before her. There was
little to charm in that prospect, even on a bright spring
day. A tract of common spread in front, dotted with
golden patches of blossoming furze; but the picturesque-
ness of heath land was marred by the low-lying hamlet
which was the foreground of the landscape. The cot-
tages, or rather hovels of Wildwaste, wore an appearance
of squalor and decay, which was not softened by the
charm which moss and lichen and clustering ivy can
throw around even ruins. They appeared rather falling
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
to pieces because originally ill-built, than because they
were ancient. The only tenement at Wildwaste which
looked in perfect repair, and with some pretension to
beauty, was the neat little school-house, erected by a
Madden, but not, as Isa had soon learned from Lottie,
either by Lionel or by Cora. "How pleasant," mused
Isa, as she watched the little clusters of cottage children
entering the low-browed porch-" how pleasant to leave
behind such a memorial of a passing visit to a place as
that young Arthur has left !" and as she thought of her
brother, with his ample means yet penurious disposition,
she felt painfully how far better it is to possess the heart
to give than the money.
The soap manufactory, lying a little to the right of
the prospect, a huge unsightly square-windowed pile of
brick and mortar, was a yet more conspicuous object
than the hamlet of Wildwaste. It stood not two hun-
dred yards from Isa's home, so that when the wind blew
from that quarter she dared not open the windows to let
in the breezes, so polluted were they by smoke and evil
scent. The only redeeming feature in the landscape
seen from the lodge was the park which skirted the road
beyond the common, the beautiful park above whose
light leafy screen rose the gray turrets of Castle
Lestrange. There, indeed, beauty and peace might
dwell; thence no ruder sound would be heard than-the
cuckoo's note or the nightingale's song. Isa's eyes,
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
overlooking nearer and less pleasing objects, constantly
wandered to those verdant woods, those lofty picturesque
Gaspar entered the sitting-room with a complaint on
his lips against "treacherous weather" on that clear
April morn, for he was never weary of contrasting the
climate of England with that of Jamaica, much to the
disadvantage of the former, though the heat of the latter
seemed to have dried up and withered his frame. He
seated himself at the table, and began cutting the stale
loaf (bread at the lodge was always stale), but inter-
rupted himself with the observation, How one misses
the papers of a morning! Isa, I wish you'd ask your
uncle, the baronet, to send over the Times every day."
I should hardly like to ask that favour," replied Isa,
leaving the window, and joining her brother at the
"And why not ?" inquired Gaspar peevishly; "are
you afraid of robbing the servant's hall ?"
"No," said Isa, as she occupied herself with the tea-
caddy; "but my uncle would naturally think that we
might take in a paper for ourselves, instead of putting
him to the inconvenience of sending a mile every
I'm not the idiot to throw away my money on what
may be had for the asking; you have so much foolish
pride," muttered Mr. Gritton. "I feel myself out of the
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
world where I can't get
or the shipping report."
a glimpse of the money-market
That word. "shipping" served as a cue to Isa.
she had been revolving
mind how she should introduce the subject of her father's
Isa was convinced that
had been sinful, and having "screwed
her courage to the sticking
point," was on the watch for
an opportunity of saying what she had determined should
Too anxious to make some commencement to
be able to do so without the appearance of
in a tone that betrayed a little ner-
vousness, "Is not your interest
in the shipping chiefly
on account of the Orissa ?"
"The Orissa ?" repeated Mr. Gritton in accents of sur-
" why, all the world knows that she
nigh four years ago,
passengers saved, cargo lost, and the
greater part uninsured."
to do with the vessel ?" asked
timidly feeling her way.
a little embarrassed
he replied, almost with
might have had a stake in
that vessel-I thought
having-'twas lucky I had not; there had been such a
run for certain
in the West
Indian market, that
the cargo was expected to bring double its value.
-but you know nothing and care nothing about
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
ters of business," he added, stretching out his hand foi
the cup of tea which his sister had poured out. Has
the post brought any letters this morning ?"
Isa did not suffer the current of conversation to be
thus abruptly turned. Merely shaking her head in reply
to the question, she nerved herself to go one step fur-
ther. Who was the orphan whose property was in
some way or other connected with the Orissa ?"
"Orphan! what do you mean ? Who on earth talked
to you about an orphan ?" Isa felt-for she dared not
look up-that her brother's eyes were keenly scrutinising
"Better have the whole truth out at once," thought
poor Isa, who, in her nervousness, was emptying the
milk-jug into the tea-pot. The fact is, dear Gaspar,"
she said, speaking with rapidity and a sensation of
breathlessness, "I have been anxious for a long time to
talk to you about some words uttered by our beloved
father a very, very short time before we lost him. When
he was almost too ill to speak, he said"-Isa pressed her
forehead as if to collect her thoughts-" he said, Gaspar
-you will be with him-the Orissa-not her money
lost-tell him from me;' the dear lips had not power to
finish the sentence."
"Did my father say anything more than these
words ?" asked Gaspar, who saw from the quivering of
Isa's lashes and the trembling of her lip that she at
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
her hands very tightly
could hardly articulate the broken sentences--
'something wrong-he should deal fairly by that orphan
-I can remember no more."
Gaspar rose abruptly from his seat
and walked to the
Isa felt the brief silence which followed almost
THE CONVERSATION AT BREAKFAST.
and yet was thankful
that she had been
enabled to speak out the whole truth at last.
few seconds Gaspar returned to his seat, and with
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
rapid-Isa fancied a slightly tremulous utterance--thus
addressed his sister :--
Isa, your ears deceived you-your memory is at
fault-or-or there was a wandering of mind at the last.
You shall know exactly how the case lies. A young
lady, known to my father and myself, had some thou-
sands of pounds which she wished to invest, four years
ago, during my short visit to England. My father was
consulted on the business. There was a sudden demand for
a particular kind of goods in the West Indies; money in-
vested in them might double itself if no time were lost; the
girl was eager to increase her property--natural enough,
-I was employed in making the arrangement-ship
went down-goods uninsured-she had staked her pro-
perty, and lost it. This was no fault of mine; you
might blame the captain or the crew, or the winds and
the waves; I was never blamed by Cora Madden her-
Cora Madden !" ejaculated Isa.
You know the whole truth now," said Gaspar; "let
us never come on the subject again."
Isa felt bewildered by the sudden disclosure of the
name of the orphan in whom she had taken such painful
interest; so much so, that she could hardly tell at that
time whether the explanation of Gaspar were satisfactory
or not to her mind. When the name of Cora was
uttered, Isa's surprise had made her for a moment look
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
full in the face of her brother, and that face-which had
been almost ghastly-had become suffused with a colour
which she had never before seen upon it, and the eyes
of Gaspar had instantly sunk beneath the gaze of her
own. Isa hardly noticed this in the excitement of the
instant, but it afterwards often recurred to her mind,
with an ever-strengthening persuasion that her brother
had not told her all.
The subject of the death-bed message was dropped,
but Isa felt during the remainder of that morning that
her brother's nerves had been shaken, and that his spirits
were utterly out of tune; and she could not but refer
this to its natural cause-the conversation at breakfast.
Nothing pleased Mr. Gritton : the tea was bitter, cold,
undrinkable; the room full of draughts; Lottie a useless
idiot, and Mr. Eardley little better for having ever re-
commended her. Isa came in for her full share of
peevish reproach, almost more difficult to be borne than
angry rebuke. It was a great relief to the young lady
when her companion at length quitted her boudoir to go
down to his accounts, though Isa well knew that these
accounts would afford a new cause of grievance, and that
all her care to manage household affairs with strict
economy would not prevent pettish remarks on the
extravagance of the Saturday bills.
I shall not be able to endure this kind of life long,"
murmured Isa to herself, as she returned from ordering
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
dinner, having had to encounter the ill-temper of Hannah,
who, while her master inveighed against reckless extra-
vagance, complained on the other hand that there were
" some ladies as think that their servants can live upon
nothing." "I was never made to bear all this constant
fret and worry," sighed the discouraged Isa; this per-
petual effort to please, without the possibility of succeed-
ing in doing so." Isa was, like so many others, tempted
to think that the post in which Providence had placed
her was not the one that suited her; that she would do
better, be better in another. Disappointment, discon-
tent, distrust, had not been driven forth from her heart.
Again Isa seated herself by the window which com-
manded a view of the towers of Lestrange, feeling disin-
clined to settle to any occupation, to take up her work,
or to finish her book.
A visit from Edith made a delightful break on the
dreary solitude of Isa.
"I have come with a message from papa, dear Isa,"
cried the baronet's daughter, after an affectionate greet-
ing had passed between the cousins ; he has charged me
to carry you back captive with me to the Castle, to
remain there as long as we can make our prisoner happy.
Oh, don't make resistance-lay down your arms and
surrender at once !" The pleading eyes seconded well
the playful petition of the lips.
A prisoner! nay, to Isa the invitation came like an
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
offer of freedom to lone in irksome bondage.
surrender to so
" He will let me carry you off -I
am sure that
I will go and ask
quitting the room.
him," said Isa,
hastily rising and
Edith, left thus alone, looked around
the boudoir of
her cousin with mingled pity
is this her
abode ? so small, so wretchedly furnished,
dreary and bare.
And what a view from the window !"
added the heiress, as she sauntered up to the casement;
" the very look of those tumble-down cottages
make one miserable; and as for that
tory, it would spoil the fairest lands(
cape in the world.
No wonder that Isa was not able to echo my words
when I said,
'There is no place like home.' "
Isa soon returned with
her brother's permission
her to accompany her cousin, a permission
hardly have withheld.
Edith knew not how un-
stay. quietly here with
" I knew that you would never care to
an invalid brother."
"Had he been like a brother to me," was Isa's mental
comment when she quitted the room, no pleasure would
have drawn me from his side." Nevertheless Mr. Grit-
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
ton's observation gave pain to his sister, and so did the
distressed look on the face of Lottie, when hastily sum-
moned to help her young mistress in her preparations
for quitting the Lodge.
"0 Miss Isa, I hope you'll not be long away; we'll
be just lost without you ;" and Isa saw that moisture
rose in Lottie's black eyes.
Isa returned with Edith to the Castle, where she was
graciously received by her stately uncle. Two beautiful
rooms, exquisitely furnished, one opening into the other,
had been assigned to her; none in the Castle commanded
a more beautiful prospect. Swiftly the hours rolled by
amidst varied occupations. Cheerful was the afternoon
saunter in the park with Edith, and the little dinner-
party in the evening, when Isa met with congenial
society. Pleasant on the following morning was the
drive to the distant church, and very refreshing to the
spirit the sacred service, conducted with none of the
lifeless formality which cast such a chill over Isa's devo-
tion in the church which she had attended with Gaspar.
Delightful was the evening converse with Edith; con-
verse on high and holy themes. Then, on the Monday
morning, Isa much enjoyed visiting with her sweet
young cousin some of the dwellings of Sir Digby's
poorer tenants, bearing little delicacies to invalids from
the baronet's luxurious table. All these employment
were in themselves innocent and good, and to Isa would
THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE.
have afforded unmixed gratification, but for a feeling
which would intrude itself on her mind, that she was
where she liked to be rather than where she ought to
be-that even her holiest pleasures were rather of her
own taking than of God's bestowing. Whenever Gaspar
or Wildwaste were mentioned, a slightly uncomfortable
sensation was experienced by Isa. Well she knew that
her presence was more needed in the dreary Lodge than
in the stately Castle; more by the peevish invalid than
by the happy young girl; a brother, an only brother,
had a stronger claim on her care than a cousin. Isa
suspected, though she cared not to search for confirma-
tion of the suspicion, that Self-indulgence was another
Midianite in possession of her soul.
So passed the time till Tuesday brought the little
meeting in the cottage of Holdich, which the cousins
attended. The first face which Isa caught sight of on
entering the crowded room was that of her maid, Lottie
Stone, beaming with an expression of honest pleasure at
seeing her mistress again. Isa and Edith were a little
late in joining the meeting, the former had therefore no
opportunity of speaking to Lottie till the lecture and
prayers were over.
LECTURE II.-FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
Gideon at his lowly task,
the wine-press to hide it
from the Midi-
anites. The Israelite lifted up his eyes, and,
behold, One stood before him, clothed in
human form, and yet nor man nor angel;
for from the words which He afterwards uttered, such
as no created being dare have breathed, we recognize in
Him the eternal Son of God. As the Lord appeared
to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, to Jacob by the
ford of Jabbok, to Moses on the height of Sinai, so ap-
peared He now to Gideon beneath the oak-tree of
Ophrah. Unconscious of the divinity of his Guest,
Gideon still appears to have received with reverence
the greeting of the mysterious stranger, as though
aware that He came as a messenger from the Most
The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour !"
.. . %- %. %-
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
was the salutation of the
spised and persecuted race.
Holy One to the son of a
" Oh my Lord,"
" if the
with us, why then is all this
befallen us ? and where be
all the miracles which
told of, saying,
us up from
But now the
us, and delivered us into t1e
of the Midianites."
How often must
Faith, sorely tried
to draw from
by present trouble, was try-
of the past hope for
who had crushed
and led His people forth from Egyptian bondage, would
He not now save and avenge ?
of old; such mercies as had
There had been miracles
fathers, might they not also be reserved for the children ?
Lord's arm shortened that
it could not save;
was He unmindful of the groans of His
had He forsaken Israel, and given
people ? Oh,
unto reproach ?
And the Lord
looked upon Gideon, and said,
this thy might,
and thou shalt save Israel from the hand
of the Midianites : have I not sent thee ?"
Let us dwell
a few moments on the words,
Thrice in the
we read of a look from Him who beholdeth all things in
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
heaven and earth. In one sense the omniscient God is
for ever gazing down upon His creation; from Him
ocean depths are no hiding-place, and midnight darkness
no screen. The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
beholding the evil and the good. But on some special
occasions God's glance has in a peculiar way been
directed upon man, as the sunbeams that shine on all
may be concentrated in the focus of a burning-glass to
kindle or to destroy. The Lord looked from the pillar
of cloud upon the Egyptians, and they were troubled-
they felt God's wrath in that gaze; the Lord looked
upon Gideon, and in that glance was new courage and
strength; the Lord looked upon Peter, and beneath that
gaze of divine compassion and love his heart was broken
and melted, and fast flowed his penitential tears. Have
we ever known the power of that look in our hearts, to
crush our sins, to encourage our faith, to bring us in
deep contrition to the feet of our merciful Lord ?
Gideon, like Moses before him, seems to have shrunk
from the post of high honour to which he was called by
God; like Moses, he thought of his own unfitness instead
of the almighty power of Him who can employ-and
often does employ-feeble instruments to accomplish the
most noble and difficult works. Oh my Lord," he
cried, "wherewith shall I save Israel ? Behold, my
family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my
father's house." Before honour is humility; had Gideon
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
been great or wise in his own eyes, we may well believe
that God would have passed him by, to choose one of a
lowlier spirit to be the leader of Israel's hosts.
"Surely I will be with thee," said the Lord, "and
thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man."
Still Gideon appears to have hesitated; perhaps a
doubt lingered on his mind as to the nature of Him who
spake as having authority, but who as yet had wrought
no miracle to prove his divine commission. "If now I
have found grace in Thy sight," said Gideon, then show
me a sign that Thou talkest with me. Depart not hence,
I pray Thee, until I come unto Thee, and bring forth my
present, and set it before Thee." And the Holy One
said, I will tarry till thou come again."
Then-like his father Abraham, glad to entertain the
heavenly Guest-Gideon made ready a feast. He pre-
pared a kid, and unleavened cakes, and brought them
forth to the Lord, who had graciously awaited his return
under the oak of Ophrah-a spot which became as a
temple consecrated by His divine presence.
The Holy One bade Gideon lay the food on the rock,
and pour out the broth. What man designed for a feast,
God would receive as a sacrifice. With the end of the
staff which was in His hand the sacred Guest touched
the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and the stone on
which they lay became as an altar. Fire arose from the
rock and consumed the offering of Gideon, and the divine
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
had thus accepted as God what
sented to Him as man-vanished out of the sight of His
The first emotion of the astonished Gideon
have been that of terror.
" Alas! 0 Lord God," lihe
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
exclaimed, "because I have seen an angel of the Lord
face to face."
A gracious promise of love came in answer to that cry
of fear; we know not whether the divine voice sounded
in the mortal's ear, or but spoke with mysterious power
in his soul. The Lord said unto Gideon, "Peace be unto
thee, fear not; thou shalt not die."
Then, in that holy spot where the Lord had deigned
to appear in human guise, Gideon built an altar, and
called it Jehovah shallum, which is, The Lord send peace.
And now, beloved friends, let us apply to our hearts
the lessons contained in this portion of the history of
Gideon. Hath not th& Lord appeared unto us with a
promise of help and deliverance, if we in His might will
struggle against the enemies within ? He comes to us not
only in the house of prayer, not only in seasons of holy
communion, but when we, like Gideon, are following the
common occupations of life. His eye is fixed upon us in
tender compassion, and His message to the lowly Chris-
tian entering on the battle-field of life is this: Go in
this thy might: have I not sent thee? I will be with
Let us glean from the Scriptures some promises of this
blessing of the Lord's peculiar presence with His people.
To those obeying His command to preach the gospel
amongst all nations, how precious through centuries of
toil and peril has been the gracious assurance : Lo, I am
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
with you always, even unto the end of the world. To
those almost sinking under the heavy trials of life, how
full of comfort is the promise: Fear thou not; for I am
with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will
strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will up-
hold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.
Through life, even unto the grave, the power of that
promise extends, so that the Christian can add in lowly
trust: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with
But who are they who can thus take to themselves
the precious promises of Christ ? They who have come
to Him in lowly faith; or rather, they to whom the
Lord hath come in the power of redeeming love. In the
history of Gideon we see a type of the Lord's dealings
with His people. He is found of them that sought Him
not; He comes to the sorrowful, the oppressed, the
tempted, and offers to them the free deliverance which
His mercy alone can bestow. We have nothing to give
the sacred Guest but the offering of a sin-stained heart,
a heart wholly unworthy of His acceptance, till He touch
it, as He touched the offering of Gideon, and the flame
of divine love is kindled, and the sacrifice of a broken
and contrite heart becomes acceptable unto the Lord.
Then, like Gideon, may we raise our altar with grateful
thanksgiving; and, while preparing for the struggle with
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
indwelling sin, feel assured that the Lord will "send
We are also reminded, by this transient visit of the
Son of God to the world, of His longer sojourn with the
children of Israel, when for more than thirty-three years
the Redeemer waited on earth till the bitter cup should
be filled to the brim-till the great Sacrifice should be
offered-and then ascended to His Father in heaven,
thereby granting additional proof of His divinity to His
adoring people. "The Lord send peace," was the name
given by Gideon to his altar, and our Lord's words on
the night before His crucifixion sound like a response to
that name: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give
unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
But what is the promised peace ? To Gideon his
heavenly Visitor had spoken of conflict : "Go in this thy
might; thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." In
this command to Gideon, my brethren, we hear our
Master's charge to ourselves, and learn what it is that can
give us strength to obey that charge. The Christian is
promised peace, but it is such as may be realized to some
degree even in the midst of conflict; and it is that peace
which, after conflict, in its perfection crowneth victory.
The Midianites within must be conquered, and the
might which conquers is from God. If disappointment
blight our hopes, discontent fret our spirits, dissension
FAITH IN THE PROMISE.
mar our peace, distrust shrink from expected trials, we
must yet lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence
cometh our help--we must yet ask, and we shall receive,
the grace which can supply all our need, and enable us
to rise above the infirmities of the flesh, the weakness of
our fallen nature. Let us trust fearlessly, let us trust.
alone in the might of our Lord. As long as we remain
in presumptuous self-confidence, the Midianites rest in
possession; when we cast ourselves in earnest prayer at
the feet of the Saviour, He maketh us more than con-
We contemplated Faith, when last we met here, as
the tree which in winter stands bare of foliage, black and
leafless, yet with life within it. With Gideon now that
tree had felt the warm breath of spring-the Lord had
looked upon it, and the living sap had risen under the
beams of the Sun of Righteousness; the green leaves of
hope were budding on the boughs. Gideon had not as
yet conquered his foes, but the Lord had promised that
he should do so, and the expectation of triumph was
Christian brethren, let us also rejoice in help, and so
gird ourselves up for the struggle before us, taking as
the motto on our banner, Go in this thy might, and as
the cordial to our weak fainting hearts the promise, I
will be with thee.
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
>SA stopped to speak a few words to Lottie after
the short service was ended.
"0 Miss Isa, I do hope you won't be away
long," cried the young girl, looking up into the
face of her mistress with a pleading expression;
" we do miss you so sadly !"
Is my brother better ? asked Isa.
Master shuts himself up a deal in his room, and don't
care to be disturbed, and seems worried like-he do,"
replied Lottie with rustic simplicity, and in a tone from
which Isa too readily gathered that neither Gaspar's
spirits nor his temper had improved since her departure.
"0 Miss Isa, I wish you'd come back !"
Tell my brother that, without fail, I'll come and see
And stay with him ? asked Lottie, anxiously.
Isa hesitated for a moment, but she could not bring
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
herself to say "Yes." There was to be on the following
evening another of those delightful little parties at the
Castle, at which Isa anticipated that she would enjoy one
of the sweetest and purest of pleasures, that of converse
with the intellectual, the refined, and the good-converse
that gratifies at once the mind and the heart. Isa was
little disposed to exchange such pleasure for a dull,
cheerless evening at the Lodge, spent beside a peevish
valetudinarian, who would neither appreciate nor thank
her for the sacrifice. No; she would make a compromise
with conscience; she would give the morning to her
brother, and doubly enjoy the evening from the conscious-
ness of having performed an irksome duty. Isa sent by
Lottie a message to her brother, and then, only half
satisfied with herself, returned with Edith to the Castle.
Lottie walked silently for a little time beside Mrs.
Bolder, the grocer's wife, who was always the young girl's
companion to and from the evening meeting. Lottie
broke the silence by a sigh.
Oh, but the house has grown dull and lonesome!"
she murmured. Half of the pleasure of going to the
lecture was to talk it over after, and have the hard things
"You don't find old Hannah much of a companion, I
Hannah repeated Lottie dolefully; "she never
speaks to me but to chide; nor does master, for the
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
matter of that. Oh, how I does miss dear mother and
brother! there's no one near me as cares for me, now
that Miss Isa's away. I'm afeard that the Midianite
Discontent is creeping in after all." Poor Lottie, with
her warm, impulsive, affectionate nature, found even the
"meat every day, and a sovereign a quarter," insufficient
to brighten her solitary lot.
"We ought to have learned this evening how to get
rid of the Midianite," observed quiet Mrs. Bolder, but in
a melancholy tone, for she herself was oppressed with
cares, and had by nature little spirit to struggle against
"Yes," said Lottie more cheerfully; I will be with
thee, that is a wonderful word! I will repeat it over and
over to myself, when I lie down, and when I get up, and
when I'm about my work. We should never feel lone-
some or sad when the dear Lord says, I will be with
thee: with us all through our lives; and then when the
time comes for us to die, we know that we shall be with
The same promise which strengthened a warrior of old
for heroic deeds, cheered and encouraged a little servant
maid in her path of humble toil. Lottie trod more lightly
on her way when she thought of Gideon and his heavenly
Mrs. Bolder, after she had parted from Lottie, turned
towards the single shop in the hamlet of Wildwaste,
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
which was kept by herself and her husband. The shutters
were up, so she saw no light, but the door was upon the
latch, and she entered through the shop into the little
back-parlour where Tychicus Bolder, seated by the fire,
was awaiting his wife's return from the meeting.
Sadly poor Miriam looked on what she called "the
wreck of such a fine man!" Over the hard-featured,
smoke-dried looking face of Bolder, wrinkled with many
a line traced by care and pain, hung the white hair,
streaked here and there with iron gray. His beard had
grown long, and lay on his sunken chest; his back was
bowed, his knees drawn up, as he sat with his feet on the
fender, with a black shawl ef his wife's wrapped round his
rheumatic frame. Bolder could not turn his head with-
out pain; but he bade his wife shut the door, come and sit
beside him, and tell him all about the parson's lecture.
"cc Oh, how different it was in the days when it was
you that went, and you that had the telling---you who
can talk like a parson yourself!" sighed Mrs. Bolder, as
she stirred the fire, which was getting low, as Bolder
had no power to stir it himself.
Wife," said Bolder solemnly, you've been to a
lecture, and I dare say a good one, for I think more of
Mr. Eardley now than I did in old times; but I've had
my sermon too, as I sat here by the fire, and my preacher
was one as spoke with more power than Mr. Eardley, or
any other parson under the sun! "
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
MR. AND MRS. BOLDER.
can have been here ? "
towards the door.
"Sit down, wife, and I'll tell you all,"
"When you had gone out, and I was left alone
with my pain-"
I'm sure I'd gladly have
rupted Miriam; I went because you told me to go."
"I know it-I know it-I sent you.
Well, as I sat
here- alone with my
mind what you'd told me
Midianites in possession. A
of the last lecture,
Vy, thinks I,
I have them all
here, every one of the four.
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
for wasn't I a thriving man, and looking to get up higher
and higher in the world-leave this place and take a
larger business in Axe-till this sickness came, and pulled
me back, and made it hard enough to struggle on here!"
Mrs. Bolder mournfully shook her head.
"And isn't there Discontent; for it has often seemed
as if the pain, and the weakness, and the helplessness
were almost more than man could bear !"
"I'm sure that no man could bear them more-"
Miriam stopped in the midst of her sentence, less from a
doubt as to its perfect truth than because she saw that her
husband did not wish to be interrupted; so she relapsed
into her usual position-that of a listener.
"There's Dissension, for I feel ready to quarrel with
all the world; and Distrust, for I can't bring myself to
think that I've not been hardly dealt with. Now if, as
the parson said, all these enemies are most like to come,
like the Midianites, to a soul where there's been an idol
set up, where was the idol in mine ? You see, wife,
pain and loneliness set an old man thinking."
"You never had an idol," said the wife; "in the
midst of such a drunken, disorderly, quarrelsome set as
we have here in Wildwaste, you took the pledge, and
kept it too-never a drop of the poison wetted your
lips; there's not many a man would have kept steady,
standing all alone as you did. And then you didn't
worship Mammon; no man can say of you that your
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
money was not honestly earned--every penny that you
"Bating a few overcharges," muttered Bolder; "on
the whole, I did keep my hands pretty clean."
"And you was so religious, too; knew your Bible so
well, could have done for a preacher yourself. If a
parson made a mistake, or wasn't quite sound in the
doctrine, you was the man who could set him right; you
was such a judge of a sermon !"
I thought myself so," said Bolder.
"I can't make out the reason why God sends you all
these troubles," pursued the admiring wife, "unless it be
as He let them come to Job, 'cause he was better than
any one else, and God wanted to try his patience."
"Now, wife, it's all very well that you should think
this," said Bolder, in his peculiar tone of decision, "I
was ready enough to think it myself; but when I came
this evening to turn the matter over as I sat here alone,
I could not look at things just in the same light as before.
I found this soul of mine all full of what the parson calls
Midianites; I had not noticed one of 'em when I was in
health and prosperity, but when troubles came, then came
they, like the birds of prey round a sick sheep as it lies
in the field. Then I set to thinking what idol I could
have set up when all things seemed going well with me;
-no, don't interrupt me, Miriam-I was certain there
had been something wrong. And then an old anecdote
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
came into my mind, which I'd heard many years back,
but which I'd never really understood-I mean with my
heart, not my head. It was about a young parson who
was talking on religion to an old pious ploughman as they
walked together in a field. Says the parson, 'The
hardest thing is to deny sinful self.' 'Nay, sir,' said the
ploughman, 'the hardest thing, I take it, is to deny right-
eous self.' Why, here, thinks I, is the key to the whole
matter. Here have I been living in Wildwaste, counting
myself an example to all the people -around, thanking
God, like the Pharisee, that I was a deal better than
other men, sitting in judgment even at church, setting
up a great idol of self. And so God has let the enemies
come in, just to show me that I am not the saint that I
took myself for, just to set me crying to Him for help,
to bring me to say, what else I had never said, I abhor
myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Mrs. Bolder, who had been accustomed to look up to
her husband as a kind of infallible pope in his home, one
whose wisdom should never be doubted, whose opinions
should never be disputed, could not at once alter her
long-cherished ideas, but only ventured to express dissent
by a little mournful shake of the head.
"I was always ready enough to judge others," con-
tinued Bolder, "but it was a new thing for me to judge
myself. I was quick enough to see God's justice in
punishing other men, but when the rod came upon my-
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE. 93
self, then his dealings seemed hard. I could almost
exult when the publican's house was burned and he
ruined, or when the poor guilty wretch was smothered in
the bog;-that was righteous vengeance, said I. But
when my own comfort was touched, when trouble came
to my home, I could neither see mercy nor justice, and
fierce, rebellious, unbelieving thoughts swept, like the
Midianites, right over my soul."
"Mr. Bolder," said the anxious wife (she never ventured
to address him by his Christian name), "I shall never
like to leave you so long again, for I'm sure and certain
that being alone is bad for your spirits."
"Wife, I was no more alone than Gideon was when
the angel came to him under the oak. I told you that
a powerful preacher had been here, and I told you nought
but the truth. The Lord has been preaching to this
proud heart; and if you wish to know the text, it was
this, Unless ye be converted, and become as little children,
ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven. There
be many mansions there, but not one for the self-righteous
Pharisee. I had thought myself a long way on the road
to heaven, and I found I'd to go back every step of the
way, and begin at the beginning. If it had not been
for what God has shown me, through sickness and trouble,
of the evil lurking in my heart, I might have gone on
blind and self-confident to the last, and never have had my
eyes opened at all -till the terrible Day of Judgment."
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
It is doubtful whether Tychicus Bolder's words con-
vinced his wife, but at least they silenced her, and she
could feel that the change which had passed over the
proud, opinionative man was a change for the better; he
was more patient and resigned under suffering, and far
less disposed to pass a sweeping sentence of condemnation
on all his neighbours in Wild waste. When Bolder began
to judge himself, he became less ready to judge others;
humility and charity are twin-sisters, and constantly
walk hand-in-hand. Tychicus himself regarded that even-
ing of quiet heart-searching as a crisis in his life; the
Lord had visited his soul, and had left a blessing and a
And is not this the history of many a human heart ?
The great enemy, ever on the watch to destroy, forms
temptations of the very virtues of men, leading them, as
it were, to make a raft of their own honesty, temperance,
respectability, alms-giving, so that, trusting on that to
stem the flood, they may not seek refuge in the only Ark
that can bear them to a heavenly shore. The Almighty,
on the other hand, making all things to work together
for the good of His people, even their very failures and
imperfections, shows them the hollowness and rottenness
of all on which they rested, that they may not trust
their soul's safety to anything but the merits and mercies
of Christ. Praise, even from the lips of his heavenly
Master, seems to have led St. Peter into presumption, so
A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE.
that the Blessed art thou had soon
to be followed by the
Get thee behind me, Satan; while through the guilt of
denial the apostle was led, by God's grace, to
earnest repentance, distrust of himself, and more fervent
his pardoning Lord.
still enables a
David to slay Goliath with his own sword.
visitation of the
But for the
Midianites, grievous and evil as it was
Gideon would perhaps never have been
with the visit of the angel of the Lord.
THE SISTER'S VISIT.
SA did not fail to keep her promise. Finding
that Mrs. Holdich was about to visit Wild-
waste on the following morning, Isa availed
herself of her escort; for the people of the
hamlet were so rough, that the young lady
disliked crossing the common alone. Rebekah Holdich
carried with her a remedy for rheumatism, which she
hoped might relieve the sufferings of Bolder. The stew-
ard's wife was the general doctress of the neighbour-
hood; to her, as to their natural friend, came all who
had sorrow or sickness in their homes, just as any
labourer in difficulty or distress was sure to. seek the
advice and help of her husband.
Isa Gritton entered into conversation with Rebekah,
who was a woman of education and refinement beyond
what might be expected from one in her station of life.
I find," observed Isa, that you were the first friend
THE SISTER'S VISIT.
of my little maid Lottie, that it was you who taught her
to read, and first led her to think of her soul, or rather
to know that she had such a thing as a soul."
"I was very sorry for the poor little child; she had
a most wretched home," replied Mrs. Holdich.
Is it true that her father was of such a very violent
temper ? "
"So violent when he had been drinking," said Re-
bekah, "that I have seen the poor child disfigured for
weeks from blows received from her father; and as for
her unhappy mother, there is not a doubt that she would
have been actually killed by Abner Stone in one of his
drunken fits, had not Mr. Madden nobly saved her life
at the peril of his own. The ruffian was going to dash
out her brains with a poker."
"And Mr. Lionel came forward-"
Oh, not Mr. Lionel," said Mrs. Holdich with a smile;
"I am not aware that he ever entered a cottage; it was
his younger brother, who is now labouring for God in the
Holy Land, he who built the pretty school-house at Wild-
waste, who saved poor Deborah's life. The beautiful
carvings from Bethlehem which you saw in our cottage
were sent to me by him."
What has become of Lottie's father ? asked Isa,
after having walked on for some minutes in silence.
"No one knows," replied Rebekah. "Abner Stone
suddenly disappeared from this part of the country, after