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â€œTHEY WRAPPED HIM IN SWADDLING CLOTHES AND LAID HIM IN A MANGER.â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE
A Book for the Boys of America
By THOMAS W. HANDFORD
Editor of â€œThe Home Book of Poetry and Song,â€™ â€œThe Home Instructor,â€ â€œPleasant
Hours,â€ â€œFavorite Poems,â€ â€œLife of Beecher,â€™ â€œThe Etno Series,â€
â€œSands of Time,â€ etc., etc.
Children are Godâ€™s apostles, day by day
Sent. forth to preach of love, and hope, and peace.
â€”Fames Russell Lowell.
In noble array, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviourâ€™s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven
Through peril, toil, and pain:
O God, to us may grace be given
To follow in their train.
THE WERNER COMPANY
F. C. SMEDLEY & CO.
TO THE BOYS OF AMERICA,
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
UPRIGHT PATRIOTIC MEN.
By cool Siloamâ€™s shady rill
How fair the lily grows!
Flow sweet the breath, beneath the hill
Of Sharon's dewy rose!
Lo! such the child whose youthful feet
The paths of peace have trod,
Whose secret heart with infinence sweet,
Is upward turned to God.
By cool Siloamâ€™s shady rill
The lily must decay;
The rose that blooms beneath the hill
Must shortly fade away.
And soon, too soon, the wintry hour
Of manâ€™s maturer age
H%7ll shake the soul with sorrow's power
And stormy passtons rage.
O Thou who givest life and breath,
We seek Thy grace alone,
In childhood, manhood, age and death
To keep us still Thine own.
To the Boys of America: A Kindly Greeting - - - -
The Bible the Book for Boys - - - Ee 2
Cain and Abelâ€”the Worldâ€™s First Brothers - - - -
Ishmael the Outcast - - o - = g =
Esau and Jacobâ€”the Twin Brothers - - - - -
Josephâ€”the Young Dreamer - = = - As =
Mosesâ€”the Emancipator of the Jewish Race; the Lawgiver of the
World - - - - - - - - -
Samsonâ€”the Strongest and the Weakest of the Boys of the Bible
Samuel and His Mother - - - - - -
David's Conflict with the Giant of Gath - - - -
Rizpah and the Seven Sons of Saul: A Story of a Motherâ€™s Death-
less Love - - 56 - - - - i
Absalomâ€”the Beautiful Rebel Prince - - - . =
Elisha and the Shunammite'â€™s Son - - - . =
Jeremiah and Ezekielâ€”the Young Prophets of Sadness and Exile -
Daniel and His Friends - - 5 a s S
The Birth and Boyhood of Jesus - - = cies aac -
The Lad with the Loaves and Fishes - - - &
Lazarus and the Sisters of Bethany - - - es 4
The Youthful Timothy - - - = . s
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
â€œThey wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him ina mangerâ€ - Frontispiece
Exiled From Eden - - . s a z 5 = - 39
Cain and Abelâ€”Martyr and Murderer - - e a - 53
â€œWe Shall Die! We Shall Die!â€ - 2 EZ z a - 67
Isaac Blessing Jacob - - - - ie = es 2 79
Jacob and Rachel - - - = = a = = - 9g
Joseph Sold into Slavery - s . - e a s = 103
Joseph Interpreting Pharaohâ€™s Dream - - = _ . - 109
Joseph Makes Himself Known to his Brethren - - - - IIS
Moses Rescued from the Nile - - - - - - = Reet
â€œAnd he rent him as he would have rent a kidâ€ - - - - 135
Fall of the House of Dagon - - - - - - - 145
â€œSo Saul Diedâ€ - - - - - - - - - 173
Joab Hastens to Assassinate Absalom - - - - - - 197
â€œO Absalom, my son, my son!â€ - - _ 5 6 = 203
â€œThe Chariot of Israel and the Horseman Thereofâ€ - - - - 207
â€œYet Forty Days and Nineveh shall be Destroyedâ€ - - - 213
â€œBehold and See if there be any Sorrow like unto my Sorrowâ€ - - 219
The Valley of Dry Bones - - - : ne 3 S 225
â€œMene! Mene! Tekel! Upharsin!â€ - - - S a 2R8
The Fire would not Burn Them - - - - - - 239
The Wise Men and the Star - > - - - - - 259
The Journey into Egypt - - - - = = = e 269
â€œTt is Finishedâ€ - - - - - 2 s 2 = 201
The Lad with the Loaves and Fishes - - - - - - 299
â€œLazarus, Come Forth!â€ - - - - 3 a Z - 307
Timothy, his Mother and Grandmother - - e - = 313
To THe Boys or America: A KInpLy GREETING.
â€œThe angel which redecmed me fromall evil, bless the lads.â€â€” Gemeszs xlviii., 16.
â€œIt is better to be a boy in a green field than a knight of many orders in a state
â€œI long to have the children feel that there is nothing in this world more
attractive, more earnestly to be desired, than manhood in Jesus Christ.â€™â€”enry
â€œThey are idols of hearts and of households,
They are angels of God in disguise;
His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses,
Nis glory still gleams in their eyes.
Task not a life for these dear ones,
All radiant as others have done,
But that life may have just enough shadow
To temper the glare of the sun.â€
â€”Charles M. Dickinson.
A good many years agoâ€”more than the writer cares to
a group of boys, five in number, were resting in the shade
of a wide-spreading maple. They were very tired, for they
had been playing rather vigorously all morning. It was in the
second week of vacationâ€”one of those hot July days when
about noon-time there comes a strange silence in the heated air,
and birds and beasts, as well as boys, are glad to seek the shel-
ter of the trees. 0
â€˜Well, boys,â€ said the oldest of the group, â€œdo you know
Wednesday next is my birthday, and at breakfast this morn-
ing father and mother talked the matter over, and said that if
I desired to have a birthday party they were quite willing. So
14 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
if you will consider yourselves engaged for Wednesday next,
I shall esteem it a favor, as they say in books.â€
The invitation was heartily and unanimously accepted,
and the merry group constituted themselves a committee to
arrange for the festivities of the coming day. â€˜The most prom-
ising arrangements were made. Early in the morning there
was to be a fishing excursion, in the afternoon there was to be
boating on the river, and the rest of the day was to be spent in
home delights, winding up with a garden party and a grand
display of fireworks. What could be better?
The boys were so thoroughly absorbed inâ€™ planning and
arranging that they were not at all aware of the approach of Dr.
Sutton, the oldest inhabitant of Enderby, till he stood right in
the midst of them. Not that his presence was in any way
objectionable, for Dr. Amos Sutton was one of those happy old
gentlemen whose good fortune it was to be loved and respected
by all the young people of the neighborhood. He had spent a
great many years in India as a missionary, and had many
strange stories to tell of what he had seen on the banks of the
Ganges, of the wonders of Calcutta, and of the sad, gloomy
lives of the poor Hindoos. He had been present at one of the
processions of the idol god Juggernaut, and had seen misguided
devotees throw themselves under the ponderous wheels of the
idolâ€™s car. He had wonderful stories to tell, and he knew how
to tell them. But it was not for his Indian stories that Dr.
Sutton was so much beloved. He was venerable in years, but
he was. young in heart. His hair was white as snow, but his
sympathies and his affections were like the unfading evergreen
pine. The children all had a friend in Dr. Sutton. It was not
at all an uncommon thing to find the grand old missionary in
the very midst of the noisiest groups of children, as merry and
as jubilant as the rest. And when his friends would suggest
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 16
that the young people would weary him with their noise and
play, he was very apt to quote those happy lines of N. P.
â€œT love to look on a scene like this
Of wild and careless play,
To persuade myself that I am not old,
And my locks are not yet gray.
For it stirs the blood in an old manâ€™s heart,
And it makes his pulses fly,
To catch the thrill of a happy voice,
And the light of a pleasant eye.
Play on, play on; I am with you there,
In the midst of your merry ring,
I can feel the thrill of the daring jump
And the rush of the breathless swing.
I am willing to die when my time shall come,
And I shall be glad to go;
For the world at best is a weary place,
And my pulse is getting low.
But the grave is dark, and the heart will fail
In treading its gloomy way;
And it wiles my heart from it dreariness
To see the young so gay.â€
So you may be very sure that the sudden presence of Dr.
Sutton amongst the boys was not unwelcome, though it was
just a little startling.
â€˜Good morning, Doctor,â€ said the boys with one accord,
as they looked up from their solemn conclave, for they were
as serious and earnest about this birthday party as though
they were making laws for a State.
â€˜â€œGood morning, boys,â€ responded the venerable gentle-
man, â€œI should just like to know what mischief you are
plotting. Iâ€™m sure there is something in the wind. Are you
planning to go out and fight the Indians, or has some one
fallen under your righteous displeasure? Just before a storm
16 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
there is silence in the air, and when half a dozen boys are
so quiet and mysteriously confidential with one another, that
an old man can come right upon them without being heard,
then I know thereâ€™s a storm brewing! Now boys, tell me
what itâ€™s all about. You may trust me, I wonâ€™t betray you;
perhaps I may want to be a partner.â€
Upon this the boys roared out aloud, and rolled upon
the summer grass in the perfect abandon of merriment, at
the thought of Dr. Sutton becoming a partner in some reck-
less scheme of mischief. So after binding the Doctor by
every solemn consideration not to breathe a word to saint
or sinner, the story of the birthday party was unfolded, and
you may be sure Dr. Sutton received a very hearty invita-
tion. The invitation was as heartily accepted, on condition
that he should be excused the river excursion, and should
be allowed to leave early.
For a while the Doctor lingered; he congratulated the
boys on the good record they had made at school the last
term, and after further pleasant talk, he said he had a
conundrum for them.
thousand times, and he thought would be very likely to be
asked very earnestly as long as the world endured.
â€œAsk us the riddle, Doctor,â€ said one of the boys, â€œwe
are great on conundrums.â€ ;
â€œWell,â€ said Dr. Sutton, â€œhere are five of you boys, and
my riddle is composed of five little words; the riddle is not
of the funny or curious sort, but it is of vast importance,
and of the greatest importance to each one of you. This is
my conundrum :â€”
â€œWhat are boys good for?â€
â€˜â€œâ€˜Now answer that if you can, and donâ€™t all speak at
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 17
, â€˜Oh, thatâ€™s not much of a riddle,â€ said one of the boys,
evidently a little disappointed.
â€˜Itâ€™s not funny anyhow,â€ said another.
â€˜â€œNo,â€ said the Doctor, â€œI agree with you; itâ€™s not
much of a riddle, as riddles go, and it certainly is not
funny, but it is a great riddle after allâ€”a riddle that your
young lives will best explain.â€
â€œPl tell you what boys are good for,â€ said the leader
of the group.
â€œBravo!â€ broke in his nearest companion who lay full
length upon the grass, half buried in its verdant wealth. â€œI
know! Boys are good to have birthday parties and to
invite their friends! Put down a good mark for me!â€
â€œBravo!â€ shouted the rest in merry chorus.
â€œWhat were you going to say?â€ asked the Doctor of
_the boy of the birthday party, as soon as the laughter had
â€œI was going to say that boys are good to make men
of,â€ was the answer.
â€œGood! Very good!â€ said the Doctor. â€œ Thatâ€™s the best
answer I have ever heard to this grand conundrum, for it is
a grand conundrum, though as you sayâ€”and rightly tooâ€”itâ€™s
not particularly funny. Good to make men of!â€”so you
are. I shall not live to see you grown to manhood, but I
pray God you may grow to be noble, patriotic, faithful
Just then a squirrel started along a fence just on the other
side of the road. The boys were up and after it like a shot,
bidding the Doctor a hasty â€œgood-byeâ€ as they rushed along
The Doctor stood for a moment watching the merry
group; his face became radiant, and he murmured half aloud:
18 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
â€œGood to make men of!â€”Excellent! â€”Excellent! So may it
be! The angel that redeemed me from all evil bless the
The birthday party was a grand success. The young
fishermen were out very early, and they returned well-laden
with the spoils of the river, as was proved when the fish they
caught formed quite an ample part of the eveningâ€™s feast.
The boating in the afternoon was enchanting; a gentle breeze
made the river cool. In the evening quite a large party
gathered; the Chinese lanterns made the garden look quite
romantic. A little before ten oâ€™clock Dr. Amos Sutton made
a little congratulatory speech, and told in quite a pleasant way
the story of the morningâ€™s talk with the boys under Wilsonâ€™s
maple tree, and wound up by saying that truthful, honest,
earnest boys were the only materials out of which it was pos-
sible to make upright, honest, godly men.
* * x * *
How the years have come and gone since the night of
that birthday party! For full twenty years Dr. Sutton has
been in his quiet grave in the church-yard on Enderby hill.
Deadâ€”and yet ever living in the tender memories of those
who knew and loved him!
What of the five boys who met that July morning long
ago, and rested under the shade of Wilsonâ€™s big maple? What
sort of answers did their lives give to Dr. Suttonâ€™s conundrum?
Two of them gave their lives for the land they loved so well.
In the hour of her peril they went forth to fight for her flag.
One was shot dead at Gettysburg; the other died of wounds
in the Wilderness; the third of that group is a judge in one
of our Western courts; the fourth is engaged in the service
of our public schools, and the last has spent many happy years
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 19
in writing books for young and old; but his chief joy has
been in service for the young.
This story of Dr. Suttonâ€™s conundrum will serve as a
word of greeting to the boys of America. It may be presumed
that many of the boys who read this book will range from
twelve to sixteen years of age. You are the materials out
of which the future men of America must be made. What
you are now and in the years to come, America will be.
Nine years more and the nineteenth century will have run its
course. With all its treasures and trophies, with all its gifts
and legacies, it will have become part of that shoreless seaâ€”
the eternity of the past. The great bell of time will boom
out the year 1900! The twentieth century will have dawned!
And you, the boys of America to-day, are to be the men of
the twentieth century. Its fortunes and its fate will be largely
in your hands.
You have received a glorious heritage! The world has
made wondrous strides since those five boys met under Wilsonâ€™s
maple in the July morning long ago; indeed, it hardly seems
like the same world. â€˜The privileges that are as common to
you as violets in the spring were not born then. You have
comforts and luxuries that kings could not command a century
ago. You have educational advantages, without money and
without price, that the princes and nobles of the old world
never dreamed of. The poorest boy in America can have an
education free to-day that will fit him for any walk in life.
The poorest boy in America can buy a library of books to-day
for five or ten dollars that could not be bought a hundred
years ago for a million dollars!
Boys of America! It is a grand thing to live in this
free land in the old age of the nineteenth century. We
have received a glorious legacy! Poets have sung for us,
20 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
artists have painted for us, men of science and enterprise and
invention have made life a luxury, scholars have gone down
into the mines of knowledge that we might be enriched. All
the past has brought its tributes to our feet.
â€œWe are heirs of all the ages
In the foremost files of time.â€
It is a grand world to live in, let the grumblers com-
-plain as they will. It is Godâ€™s world! And the best place
in all Godâ€™s world to live in is America.
But the America of the next century ought to be a
still grander place to live in, and it rests with you to
make it so. Everything in America depends upon its men
and women. We have material wealth enough and to spare;
gold and silver and coal in our mines, timber in our forests,
corn on our prairies. Our chief wealth is in menâ€”
â€œ They are the chief crop of our lands.â€
The men who made America what it is to-day, were
men â€œwith Empires in their brains,â€ with the fear of God
in their hearts, and with ceaseless industry in their hands.
They were the men so fitly described by the poet who, in
an outburst of patriotic pride, said:
â€œ The noblest men I know on earth,
Are men whose hands are brown with toil ;
Who, backed by no ancestral graves,
Hew down the wood and till the soil,
And thereby win a prouder fame
Than follows a Kingâ€™s or a Warriorâ€™s name.â€
You will never have the up-hill work to do these pio-
neers did so bravely. But the twentieth century will expect
to see you worthy of your immortal sires, worthy of
your â€œheirship vast.â€ They dug through countless difficul-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 21
ties that the foundations of your freedom might be laid
securely. It will be your grand privilege to rear the temple
in beauty, course on course, to the very heavens.
The home looks to you to build up a beautiful ideal
home life, which is the chief hope and surest safeguard of
the State. The Church looks to you to fill its pulpits and
guard the sacred fires upon its altars. Justice looks to you
to fill its judgment-thrones, and to hold the scales with a
righteous, impartial hand. Science and Art and Literature
are offering to you the high places of honor and the secrets
of learning. The State waits to see in you the dream of a
perfect patriotism fulfilled, the type of citizenship that scorns
alike the briber and the bribe, that counts all duties sacred
privileges, and every burden a badge of honor.
Boys of America! Accept this sincere and earnest
greeting. Remember Dr. Suttonâ€™s conundrum. Remember
that boys are the only material out of which men can be
made. And remember, too, that the most real of all real
things is Life!
â€œLife is beautiful, its duties cluster round us day by aay,
And their sweet and solemn voices warn to watch, and work, and pray.
Only they its blessings forfeit, who by sin their spirit cheat ;
And to slothful stupor yielding, let the rust their armor eat.â€
Tur Brste tHe Boox ror Boys.
Thy word isa lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.â€"â€”Psalms cxix., 105.
â€œOne gem from that ocean is worth all the pebbles from earthly streams.â€â€”
Robert McCheyne. ;
â€œTf there be anything in my style or thought to be commended, the credit is due
to my kind parents, in instilling into my mind an early love of the Scriptures,â€â€”
â€œSo great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to
read it the more confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to
their country and respectable members of society.â€™â€”Fohn Quincy Adams.
â€œLord, I have made Thy words my choice,
My lasting heritage. :
There shall my noblest flowers rejoice,
My warmest thoughts engage.
[ll read the histories of Thy love,
And keep Thy laws in sight,
While through the promises I rove
With ever-fresh delight.
*Tis a broad land, of wealth unknown,
Where springs of life arise,
Seeds of immortal bliss are sown
And hidden glory lies.
There are not many things of more importance in a
boyâ€™s young life than his selection of books. It is certainly as
important that a boy should read good books, as that he
should eat wholesome food, breathe pure air, and keep good
company. This is so, because books are food, and breath,
and compz-nionship for the mind. The importance of a wise
selection of books is made very clear when you come to
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 23
think what a wonderful influence on the whole life, the books
we read in our early days exert. The authors whose books
entranced us in the morning of life may not have been great
masters of literature, but they hold us still in unbroken
magic bonds. The first hymns, and poems, and recitations
we learned, may not have been of the very highest order of
poetry or prose, but once committed to the stewardship of
our memory, they remain. And while we go on, learning
and forgetting, learning and forgetting, in later years, the
things we learned in early youth are remembered without
This of course is easily accounted for. In youth the
mind is, to a large extent, free and unburdened. Memory
is more retentive, because less engrossed with larger cares;
and the impressions made upon the mind are deeper, and
become fixed and permanent. The things that go in one
ear do not rush out at the other, because the brain is not
too busy to entertain them. The books a boy reads, he
reads often, without skipping a single line.
We do not quite know how the books a Boe reads
help or harm. The influence of a book is wonderful, never-
theless) We do not know how food, and air, and water,
enter into our being and become part of us, making bone,
and tissue, and blood; but they do. The rose of the garden,
or the flowers of the wildwood, could not tell you how the
sun and the rain and the wonderful chemistry of the earth
all unite to create their perfume and their beauty; but they
do. And just as truly the life of a bookâ€”for every book
has a life good or badâ€”enters into the thinking life of a
reader and helps or harms him.
With all our heart, without a momentâ€™s hesitation, we
commend the Bible as the best of all books for boys. We
24 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
have often thought the Bible was the best of all books for the
sorrowful and troubled; we have thought of that beautiful text
that describes Godâ€™s word as â€˜â€œâ€˜a lamp to the feetâ€ and â€œa lightâ€
to the path, and then it seemed as if the Bible was the very
book of books for the perplexed. When that divinely tender
invitation, â€˜â€˜Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy-
laden, and I will give you rest!â€ has been repeated, it has
seemed as if the Bible was of all books the book for the sin-
weary and the sad. The Bible is a book for all, for all peo-
ples, all nations, all ages. Of this we are sure beyond all
question, that the Bible is the best of all books for boys.
What a wonderful book it is! By far the most wonderful
book in the world; a book that is really a library in itself.
It is made up of sixty-six different books, and has between
thirty and forty different authors. Kings, and priests, and
poets; fishermen, farmers and physicians, have all had a hand
in this book. Very learned men, such as Solomon and Saul,
of Tarsus, have written many pages in it, and others, who
never knew the advantages of a careful education, wrote sim-
ply what they had seen and heard of the mighty power of God,
in the person of Jesus Christ.
This marvelous bcok deals with the history of thousands
of years, from the earliest records of the human family to
the advent and history of the Son of God. From the gar-
den-home of Eden to the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, in
whose unhewn sepulchre Jesus of Nazareth was entombed. If
it were not for this book the world would know very little of
the history of the ages. Even modern history comes to us
in fragments. Much of the history of the old world, by which
we mean the world before the days of Greece and Rome, is
absolutely lost. If it were not for the Bible, the early history
of the world would be almost entirely a blank.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 25
It may be interesting to boys to know how widely the
Bible has been circulated during the later years of this century.
Up to the year 1800 only about five millions of copies of
the sacred Scriptures in about twenty-seven different lan-
guages had been produced since the world began. Since the
dawn of this wonderful century 165,000,000 Bibles, Testa-
ments and portions of Scripture have been distributed by
Bible societies alone, to say nothing of the vast numbers
that have been sold by booksellers in the regular way of
trade. And now, instead of thirty or forty different transla-
tions, there are more than three hundred. Wherever there
is a language that can be written or printed, there the
Bible is sure to be found. The word of God has gone forth
to the ends of the earth. There is no voice nor language
where the gospel of His love is not heard.
But why is this Bible the best of books for boys?
Because it is of all books the most helpful. There is no
other book in the world that has so delightful a way of
helping a boy to understand what true life is, and how to
A few years ago the editor of an American magazine,
called â€œThe Forum,â€ invited a number of scholarly gentle- â€”
menâ€”authors, preachers and othersâ€”to write a series of
papers that should tell what books these gentlemen had found
most helpful in the course of a busy, studious career. These
papers were exceedingly interesting, and sometimes not a
little surprising, for sometimes the most unusual books were
spoken of as proving helpful, while books you expected to
hear of seemed forgotten or overlooked. All these writers,
with.one accord, took it for granted that the Bible was the
most helpful of all books. They did not stop to discuss that
question, but wrote as though they supposed the supreme
26 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
helpfulness of the Sacred Scriptures was a matter on which
all sensible men were agreed.
One of these writers told a very interesting story. He
said that when he was young he was very poor, books were
dear and money was very scarce; newspapers were not
much known and magazines were hardly known at all. By
dint of great self-sacrifice this poor boy secured a second-
hand copy of a classical dictionary. A strange choice, this,
you will think for a boy whose days were passed amid the
quietude and monotony of farm life. And so it was. Per-
haps, however, it was more a matter of accident than choice,
or it may be that the few crude illustrations had something
to do with his selection.
The writer goes on to say, that he found this old, worn,
classical dictionary to be a perfect enchantmentâ€”a source
of endless delight. It opened a new world to him. The
dull life of the farm was never so dull after he began to
read the stories of the classic age, the wonderful stories of
the gods and goddesses of the old mythology; their conflicts
by land and sea, and in the upper air; their victories and
defeats, the awful nod of Jove and the trembling of Olym:
pus. It seemed as if his whole life was filled and peopled
with romantic thoughts of them and their heroic deeds.
The old dictionary lifted him up into a region of heroism
and courage. The classic companionships of his early youth
helped him his whole life long.
This illustration will serve to show, in part, what is
meant by the Bible being the book of all books for boys,
by reason of its real helpfulness. The Bible cannot be other
than a helpful friend to every boy who will study it; not as a
task book, but as a book full, from Genesis to Revelation, of the
grandest object lessons tobe found anywhere in the world.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 27
The boy who thinks the Bible is a solemn book of laws
and commandments, of restrictions and threats, with â€˜â€˜ Thou
shalt notâ€ standing at the head of every page, to make
life awful instead of happy, is wholly mistaken. He does
not know his Bible. He has perhaps been made to read it
for a punishment; perhaps he has been kept at home when
his heart was in the fields hunting squirrels, or by the river-
side fishing; and he may have been compelled to commit
passages of Scripture to memory that were least appropriate
to his years or to his state of mind. If this has been the
case, it is not to be wondered at that the Bible has come to
be regarded as a dreary book. It is a sad mistake to make
the Bible a mere task book; saddest of all to make it a
means of punishment to the young. It must be admitted,
we fear, that there are many thousands who never read the
Bible in their mature years, because they were turned
against it when they were young.
Such neglect is not blameless. The claims of the Bible
remain the same, notwithstanding the folly of those who made
it a rod of correction instead of a lamp of beauty. Those
who neglect the Bible do not know its worth. They pass by
the fountain, but if they knew how cool and sweet the waters
are they would stop and drink; they pass by the treasure-
house of the great King, but if they really knew what glories
fill every chamber of this great Palace of Truth, they would
enter in, only to be filled with admiring gratitude.
Martin Luther had almost reached the estate of manhood
before he ever saw a copy of the Word of God. One day,
while looking through the library of the great German Uni-
versity of Erfurt, he came quite accidentally across two huge
folio volumes, printed in the Latin language. This was the
Bibleâ€”one of the very few Bibles then in existence. Luther
28 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
was then more than twenty years of age. He was one of the
best scholars in the university. He knew a great deal about
philosophy, logic and languages, but this was the first time
he had ever had a Bible in his hands. He happened to open
the first volume at the place where Hannah was dedicating
her son Samuel to the Lord. The young student was enchanted
by the simple romance of the story. He read till the sun
declined and the shadows deepened in the grand. old library;
he put the book back in its place, and then, returning to his
study, he clasped his hands and expressed a desire that almost
took the form of a prayer, saying: â€˜â€œâ€˜Oh, that God would give
me such a book for myself.â€ What he would have gladly
given for a copy of these Scriptures it is hard to tell.
One thing we know, he became from that time a diligent
student of the Scriptures. The Bible was his daily companion.
It changed the whole course of his life. It made of him one
of the grandest men the world has ever seen. It helped him
to be great, and to do such grand work for the world as will
never, never be forgotten.
The Bible is the best of all books for boys, because it will
help them, not only by precepts and commandments, but by the
most wonderful array of examples to be found anywhere in
Some wise people say that one well-illustrated book will
help a boy to understand what he is reading about better than
a dozen good books that are not illustrated. All of which is
very true. Boys love pictures, and so do men and women for
the matter of that. The Bible is full from first to last of the
most wonderful and beautiful of word pictures to be found
anywhere; so beautiful that the greatest artists of all the ages
have found no subject so worthy of their canvas as the living
pictures of the Bible. If you travel through Europe you will
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 29
have the opportunity, in London and Paris, in Berlin and
Vienna, but especially in Rome and Florence and Venice, to
see in churches, and galleries, and palaces, miles on miles of
pictures, the work of the greatest artists of a thousand years;
and while you would perhaps be a little disappointed in some
respects, you would be sure to be impressed with the fact that
the Bible has furnished these men of genius with more material
for their tasks than all the other books and histories in the
The Bible is the grandest picture gallery in ae world.
What enchanting scenes it presents! Beginning with the
garden-home of the first parents of our race, and ending
with visions of the New Jerusalem, the City of God, standing
on foundations laid in jasper and sapphire, in amethyst and
emerald and gold; a city whose gates stand always open to
welcome the pilgrims of all ages and lands; a city through
which the river of the water of life is flowing, on whose
banks the tree of life waves its unfading blossoms and its
unfailing fruit for the healing and comfort of the nations.
These pictures in Genesis and Revelation stand at either end
of this great Bible gallery; but how can we speak of all
the pictures that go between? Pictures of the patriarchal
age; of those great peans when Israel came out of Egypt,
and followed Moses through the wilderness; of the eventful
times when Judges ruled in Israel, till Israel asked for a
King; of the Kings and the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel;
of the exile and the return; on to those greatest of all days,
when Jesus trod the blessed fields of Palestine and brought
the light of God to the darkened earth, and the love of God
to a weary, sinful world! Was ever picture gallery so
crowded with enchanting scenes? To a boy, seventy years
seems a large stretch of life to look forward to, but the
30 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
pictures of the Bible would find food for thought, if a manâ€™s
life should reach out to seven times seventy years.
But the Bible is a great storehouse of history. It is
crowded with great events and with men and women whose
heroism can never die. And it is just here, in the study of
the lives of these Bible characters, that American boys at
the close of the nineteenth century will find the Bible so help-
ful and inspiring. They will learn from the lives of the boys of
the Bible more of the true meaning and worth of life, than
from any other source, or all other sources put together. _
These boys of the Bible, dead and gone these many
centuries, are living teachers, each with his own great life-
lesson to impart. The first brothers of the worldâ€™s young
morning; the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, rocked in the
same cradle, and yet so unlike; the boy of many dreams
and boundless ambition; the young Hebrew rescued from
the Nile; the boy of the sanctuary of Shiloh; the son of
Jesse and his gifted sons; the brave lad who was not
ashamed to pray; and, greatest of all, the Boy of Nazareth,
the great Rabbi and Teacher of the World, will each and
all be found with a wise and helpful lesson for the thoughtful
and inquiring student.
- Before passing on to the study of the character and
career of some of these boys of the Bible, one word more
may be said concerning the helpfulness of the Bible. That
the Bible is a blessed and helpful book, is the universal
testimony of all those who have made it the â€˜man of their
counsels,â€ the â€œguide of their youth.â€ Good men and
women by thousands, in all the walks of life, have taken
great joy, on proper occasions, to confess their indebtedness
to the Word of God. The best and most useful men and
women in the world have been, and are, proud of the Bible,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 31
and grateful for its influences. He would be a strange being
indeed who should be ashamed of the Bible. Most boys
have probably heard how, on one occasion, the Queen of
England, being asked by some great Eastern Prince, what
was the secret of Englandâ€™s greatness, pointed the Prince to
a Bible and told him that Englandâ€™s reverence was the
secret of all that was really great in England. It was a
grand reply toâ€™a simple question. It is a grand thing for a
nation, or a city, or a boy, to reverence the Word of God.
No harm ever comes of that, but help in a thousand
But if the testimony of the good and great runs in this
direction, so does the testimony of the wicked and the disso-
lute. Eliza Cook, in that charming little poem, â€œThe Old
Arm-chair,â€ pictures a child at her motherâ€™s knee, and calling
up the memory of that motherâ€™s tenderness, the poet saysâ€”
â€œShe taught me that ruin would never betide
With truth for my shield and God for my guide.â€
If we could ask those unhappy ones, whose lives have been
darkened and stained by sin, what brought them to their sad
state, they would tell us, if they spoke truly, that it was
because they had cast away the shield of truth, and turned
away from Godâ€™s guidance and care. If you could visit every
cell in the prisons and penitentiaries of the land, you would
not be likely to find one solitary case in which a prisoner
would say: â€œJ am here through reading the Bible! The Bible
has brought me to this at last!â€ No man can say the Bible
taught him to steal, to commit murder, to bear false witness,
or to break the Sabbath, or to despise his parents. On the
other hand, the wail of sorrow that goes up to heaven from
tens of thousands is the wail of agony and regretâ€”â€œ Oh that
I had kept the Sabbath; that I had obeyed my parents and
32 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
teachers; that I had made the Bible the lamp of my feet, then
I should not be walking in the darkness of despair!
There never was a time in the history of the world when
there were so many good books for boys. Authors and artists
are busily and joyfully at work writing and illustrating books
for boys and girls, but especially for boys. This is the golden
age of books. But the Bible is the best of all books for boys.
There is no poetry so sweet as the Psalms of David; no elo-
quence to compare with the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel,
of Jeremiah, and Zachariah, and Habakkuk; no philosophy so
terse and practical as that of Solomon; no words in all the
world so full of tenderness and love as the words of Jesus,
for He spake as never man spake, with the wisdom that cometh
down from heaven.
Boys of America, make the Bible your daily companion!
You will have no wiser, no more helpful, no more faithful
friend. It will never fail you; it will brighten the glory of
your sunniest days; it will illumine the darkness of your sad-
dest hours. When other voices are dumb, it will speak to you
words of promise and hope; it will make your youth glad,
your manhood strong, and your old age beautiful; it will lead
you through â€œgreen pasturesâ€ by gently-flowing streams; it
will help you to walk all day long in the light of God, and,
when you come to the valley of the shadows, it will mark
for you, in lines of light, a pathway to the great white throne.
Great God, with wonder and with praise,
On all thy works I look;
But still thy wisdom, power, and grace,
Shine brightest in thy Book.
The stars that in their courses roll
Have much instruction given,
But thy blest word informs my soul,
And points the way to heaven.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. : 33
Here are my choicest treasures hid;
Here my true comfort lies; _
Here my desires are satisfied,
And here my hopes arise.
Here would I learn of Christ my Lord,
Who loved me passing well;
Not all the books on earth beside,
Such heavenly wonders tell.
Then let me love my Bible more,
And take a fresh delight
By day to read these wonders oâ€™er,
And meditate by night.
Carn AND ABELâ€”THE WorLpâ€™s First BROTHERS.
â€œAm I my brother's keeper?â€â€”Gevests tv., 9.
â€œLet love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that
which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor
preferring one another.â€â€”Aomaits xtt., 9, 0.
â€œCome to me, O ye children!
For I hear you at your play,
And the questions that perplexed me
Have vanished quite away.
In your hearts are the birds with sunshine,
In your thoughts the brooklets flow;
But in mine is the wind of Autumn,
And the first fall of the snow.
Ah! What would the world be to us
If the children were no more?
We should tread the desert behind us,
Worse than the dark before.
Ye are better than all the ballads
That ever were sung or said;
For grave the living poems,
And all the rest are dead.â€
â€”Fflenry Wadsworth Longfellow,
This strange, sad story of the worldâ€™s first brothers,
carries our thoughts back to the very dawn of human
history. Like all the other stories of this book, we shall
find this record a mere outline, a fragment of biography.
But fragments are full of instruction to those who carefully
study them. It was said of a great sculptor, that if you
gave him the merest fragment to work from, he could, from
the fragment, construct a perfect statue. We cannot hope,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 35
from these fragments of Bible stories, to construct complete
biographies; much must be left to, the imagination, and much
more must be left unknown. But every story, fragmentary
though it may be, will prove well worth the study.
The very mention of these names of the first boys of
the Bible, sets us thinking, of their parents and of the early
home in Eden. Godâ€™s goodness begins at the very beginning.
The very first page of the book of Genesis records not only
the might and majesty of the great Creator, but the kindly
thoughtfulness of the divine Father. He who made us loved
us from the very beginning.
Before God called Adam and Eve into life, he prepared
for them a beautiful home in one of the fairest gardens the
world has ever seen. A garden richly wooded, generously
watered with flowing streams, and abundantly provided with
all that could make life glad and beautiful. Where that
garden was is hard to tell. Some tell us that it was not
far from the ancient city of Damascus, but no man knows
of a certainty where the Garden of Eden was situated.
According to Genesis ii., 8, it â€œlay in the east,â€ in the
highland of Central Asia. It was said to have been enclosed
by four rivers, and two of these, Hiddekel and Phrat, have
been identified as the Tigris and Euphrates respectively, but
the identity of the other two is much disputed.
There seems to have been everything almost that heart
could desire in this garden-home. Abundance of trees good
for food; flowers for beauty, in tangled groves and by the
river banks; the songs of birds and the murmuring waters
blending, to make music all day long. And when night
came and spread her dewy mantle over the scene, the stars
came out and set the firmament ablaze with splendor..
What language can describe the beauty of Paradise?
36 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
When you boys get a little older, and take to the seri-
ous study of literature, you will have your attention called
to the works of John Milton, who was Secretary of State,
in the days of Oliver Cromwell, the uncrowned King of
England. Milton was a great genius, in an age crowded
with deep thinkers and delightful writers. His matchless
poem, â€˜Paradise Lost,â€ will live as long as any language of
the world endures. In that poem the gorgeous fancy of the
poet has wrought its best to describe the beauty of Para-
dise, and has failed. This failure is not a reflection on the
genius of the poet, but a revelation of this great truth, that
Godâ€™s handiworks are above the power of mortals to describe.
There is more beauty in a vernal wood, more music in a
waterfall, than all the words men speak are adequate to
describe. When men attempt to describe the Alps of Swit-
zerland, the Falls of Niagara, or some majestic canon of our
western world, they become aware that, rich as language is,
it is very poor when it sets itself to portraying the wonder-
ful works of God, and can only sing as Milton did:
â€œ These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good, ~
Almighty, thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair. Thyself, how wondrous thee!
Unspeakable, who sittest above these heavens,
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these, thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.â€
But the beauty of the Garden of Eden was not its chief
glory. The personal presence, the friendship and fellowship
of God, made Paradise sublime. When this was lost, Para-
dise was lost indeed! What the exact nature of that fellow-
ship we do not know. Adam and Eve seem to have had
constant, unhindered fellowship with God. Think what all
this means! The privilege of seeing God face to face, and
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 37
talking with Him as freely as one might talk with a father
or mother, a brother or a friend. The Lord God walked
and talked with them in the garden in the cool of the day.
To return to this glorious fellowship with God, would
indeed be Paradise regained!
But that Paradise eastward in Eden, where God caused
every tree to grow that was good for food and pleasant to
the sight, and where he walked with his children in the cool
of the dewy, balmy evenings, lacked something! Even Para-
dise was not perfect. ;
Can anybody tell what was lacking in the Garden of
Think a little. Fruit and flowers, broad rivers and
mossy dells; birds and beasts, and a thousand living things.
What was lacking?
There were no children there! No boys making Eden
echo with their play; no girls filling the glades of Paradise
with merriment and music.
Who would care to live in a world where there were
no children? When the Pied Piper of Hamelin, with the
shrill notes of his mystic pipe drew all the children after
him through the mountain-side, he left Hamelin a poor, dull,
miserable city. So any city, any home, is dull where there
are no children.
Some years ago the writer of this book spent a little
time visiting the penitentiary at Joliet, Ill. Anxious to know
the condition of mind of the less depraved among the con-
victs, he asked a few questions of one of the prisoners who
had been accustomed to the refinements of life before his sin
and folly had landed him in a State prison.
â€œWhat do you suffer most from in this sad place?â€ was
one of the questions asked.
38 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
The convict was quite ready with his answer.
â€œThere is really very little to complain of,â€ said the hap-
less prisoner. â€˜The food is wholesome and ample; we are
not overworked; our cells are clean and not wholly devoid of
comfort; we have plenty of books to read; but I have ceased
to be a man. I have now no name; I am only a number in
striped clothes. One thing I suffer from very much is the
absence of children. I was always fond of children; my young
life was spent amongst happy boys and girls, and now I never
see the sweet young face of boy or girl. Oh, sir, itâ€™s terrible!
You donâ€™t know what it is to be days, and weeks, and-months,
and never see a child! Many of us here are youngâ€”much
too youngâ€”but we seem so old! Oh, how I long to see a
group of merry children! Thank God the day is coming
soon when I hope once more to see boys and girls at their
This is not the common feeling of convicts, perhaps, but
the answer of this poor fellow left a lasting impression on the
mind, and when Sunday came, and hundreds of these striped-
dr eet numbered menâ€”many of them comparatively young
in years, but old in crimeâ€”gathered for worship, the absence
of young faces in that sad assembly was very marked.
Even Paradise without children was Paradise imperfect.
The Garden of Eden soon became a desolation. Sin
entered, and with sin came fear and shame. Adam and Eve
preferred their own way to Godâ€™s.
God said: â€œThou shalt not eat of the tree that is in the
midst of the garden, for it is not good for thee; therefore
thou shalt not eat of it.â€
But our first parents heeded not. God â€˜warned them
tenderly and kindly. He did not say: â€œI command you not
to eat of the fruit of this particular tree. Never mind why.
EXILED FROM EDEN, 39
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 41
Itâ€™s enough for you that I command.â€ He might have said
that, and, if He had, obedience would have been both wise
and dutiful. But He begged them for their own sakes not to
touch it. He told them it was not good for them, and that
therefore He wished them not to touch it. God did not com-
mand for the mere sake of commanding, but for the good of
His earthâ€™s children that he loved so well.
But Adam and Eveâ€”like most of their countless progenyâ€”
preferred their own way. They were willful and wayward, and
willfulness and waywardness had their reward. They sold
themselves for naught; they bartered Paradise for an empty
fancy, and, when the voice of God was heard in the garden,
shame and fear came upon them, and they tried to hide them-
selves from God!
â€œAnd the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of
Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken. So He
drove out the man, and Ile placed at the east of the Garden
of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every
way to keep the way of the tree of life.â€ wh
How sad was that exile from the glories of Paradise.
Shame and humiliation, and a future dark, with gathering
clouds, was the reward of transgression.
And yet, in the midst of all this gloom and darkness,
there are lines of light and stars of hope. Our first parents
are driven out into the desert, not to die, forsaken of God,
and cut off from all mercy. The mercy of God was not
bounded by the Garden of Eden, God is God of the desert
as well as of the garden. Adam and Eve were exiles from
the garden, but not from the grace of God. They were to
go forthâ€”still under his eye, still under his care
in the sufferings and sorrows of the wilderness, what they
would not learn amid the glories of the Garden. Wanderers
42 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
upon the face of the earth, they were to find, in their way,
in their new and strange experience, what our own poet
Whittier has so sweetly sung in these later years, that, wonder
.as you will, you cannot get beyond the mercy and the care
â€œJ know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
But this I know, we cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.â€
When you boys grow a little older, you will do well to
read carefully a very beautiful poem, by Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, entitled â€œA Drama of Exile.â€ In that poem you
will find much food for thought and many charming fancies.
But the great lesson of the whole poem is that our exiled
parents were exiled but not lost! In beautiful strains the
poet sets all the spirits of Eden singing in chorus a song of
hope to the poor wanderers. Down the shining path, where
the tall angel stands with glittering sword, the happy music
â€œFuture joy and far light
Working such relations.
Hear us singing gently
Exiled is not lost !
God, above the starlight,
God, above the patience,
Shall at last present ye
Guerdons worth the cost.
Listen how we love youâ€”
Hope the uttermostâ€”
Waiting for that curing
Which exalts the wounded
Let us sing above youâ€”
Exiled, but not lost !
We do not follow these exiles far into the wilderness
before we find them rich in blessings that Eden never knew.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 43
Adam and Eve had a strange life in Eden, but how much
more strange their life Became when, in ane time, God gave
to Adam and Eve two boys, first Cain then Abel, to break
up the loneliness of their lives, and fill their nee home
with new delights.
Only mothers know the thoughts, and feelings, the
desires and hopes, the prayers and anxieties of mothers.
Boys at best, can only make poor guesses at these things.
And yet we cannot help thinking how strange and wonderful
it would all appear to the first mother, when she looked
into the face of her baby-boy and saw _ his half-unconscious
smile answering back her gaze of wondering love. And
when Adam came back that day from his hard toil and saw
a new face, and heard the feeble voice of his first-born son,
how strange and changed the world would appear! We are
quite safe in such fancies; for the same thing is happening
all over the world every day; first-born sons are filling
homes with brightness, and are enriching parents with
heavenâ€™s rarest giftsâ€”the living treasures of love.
Adam and Eve had something to talk about now!
Something to live for now! This first-born son, stout of
limb, lusty of voice, was now heard making music in the
morningâ€”making music all: day long. Music sweeter than
all the songs of Edenâ€™s birds, or the murmurings of Edenâ€™s
streams. The world with this boy Cain in it, was a new,
glad world, a grand world, a world well worth living in
for the sake of this child, even though it was a desert world.
The home of Adam and Eve was no doubt a very
lovely one. Probably more of a large hut than a home, dug
out from some overhanging rock, with leafy shelter, and
great reaches of verdure-like boundless lawns, spreading far
and near. Their life was rude and simple. Civilization
44 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
invents wants very often, before providing for them. But
civilization had not yet been born, and our first parents were
not cultured enough to have many wants. But with work
to do, and health, and all their needs met every day, and a
prattling baby in the house, we are inclined to think that
Adam and Eve were, or ought to have been, tolerably
happy. Of the motherâ€™s happiness we have little doubt.
There was a whole world of unspeakable joy for her, in her
growing, beautiful boy. As then, so now; and as now, so
thenâ€”one little child was quite enough to fill a motherâ€™s
whole horizon with unspeakable delight.
All in good time came another boy to share with Cain
the love and care of the first parents. Of the early years
of Cain and Abel we know scarcely anything; we can only
dream, and fancy, and â€˜guess. They would almost surely
be dressed in the skins of beasts. That was the only
clothing possible. For their delight and amusement, Nature
would be all sufficient. The young lambs in the meadows,
the birds building their nests, the fish darting along in the
shallow streams, would afford them occasions of rare delight.
Childhood passed on to boyhood, and boyhood into youth,
and youth to early manhood. There were no books, no
schools, no teachers. The home was the school, the college,
the university. What a happy, busy life Eve had with her
two boys! What long pleasant talks they had in the dewy
eventime. How her heart yearned toward her two boys!
How she doated on them! How she dreamed of their future!
An English writer, long since dead, who wrote much for
boys, draws the following picture of these early years of
the worldâ€™s first brothers:
â€œMay we not picture before our imagination this first
mother of the world and her two boys, herself seated on a
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 45
â€˜moss-clad bank, and they standing before her, on some calm
-eventide. See that bigger boy, from his own shoulders taller
than his brother. He is now but twelve,and yet he has all
the outlines of a man. Look at those broad shoulders and
â€˜strong limbs. Why, if he grows thus till he is twenty he
will surely be a giant! Watch his restless eye as it glances
hither and thither, overshaded by the black curls flowing
â€œover his noble forehead. He will assert his right of lord-
ship, depend upon it, with either man or beast. But that
other, his younger brotherâ€”what a contrast! If Cain gives
pledge of being the image of his father, and something
more, Abel is his motherâ€™s own. Mark his slender and
delicate yet graceful form. How beautiful in its formation
and symmetry. And how gracefully those auburn ringlets,
parted from his fair forehead, flow down over his marble-
like shoulders. Observe how those deep blue eyes seem to
â€˜drink in, with meek intelligence, the lessons of his anxious
and much-loved mother. What promises of piety and peace,
of hope and heaven, seem already to dawn forth in the angel-
like features of that loving boy. He is his motherâ€™s mirror;
in him she sees herself. He is her hope and her joy.â€
The wide difference in character between these two
â€˜boys is very marked. And yet we shall often have occasion
to note in our study of these Bible stories that the children
born of the sam@ mother, and nurtured in the same home,
are often as unlike each other in character and disposition as
-children. could well be.
If the gentle Abel was his motherâ€™s favorite, we may
â€˜surely forgive this first mother, for was it not very natural?
He was the baby of the house, and mothers always have a
very tender side to the youngest and the gentlest. If Abel
â€˜was his motherâ€™s pet, we may be sure Cain was his fatherâ€™s
46 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
pride. And it is not at all unlikely, that much sooner than
is commonly the case, Cain became a companion for his
father Adam. We think of them both starting forth in the
morning to break up the ground, to fell the timber, or to
hunt for food, leaving the little child Abel at home to keep
his mother company. What a strange companionship! There
would be more than enough to occupy their attention in the
scenes and occupations of the day; for Nature, like a great
book, is as varied as it is beautiful. And when evening came
and the two returned, what wonderful tales of adventure Cain
would have to tell his mother and his young wondering
brother! The boys grew older; they would hear much from
father and mother of the early days in Eden. You see,
these people had not so many subjects for conversation as
we haye. They had no books, and therefore could not talk
about the books they had read; they had no neighbors, and
could not talk of their neighbors; they had not traveled much;
indeed, their only journey was this journey of exile, so there.
was not very much to say about their travels. If, as the
boys grew older, Adam talked of the Paradise so sadly lost,
we may be very sure that his stories would fill their young
minds with the most curious questionings. It would be easy
for them, as it always is for boys, to ask more questions in
an hour than fathers can answer in a week. They would
all about the trees, and the birds,
want to know everything
and the rivers.
The author from whom we have already quotedâ€”the
late Joseph F. Winksâ€”and to whom we shall often have
occasion to refer, draws a pleasant, poetic picture of one of
these scenes of happy fellowship between Adam and his first-
born son. Wandering through a pleasant glade, they come
at last to the foot of a lofty eminence, and Adam says:
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 47
But first ascend with me
The summit of this mountain. :
Seest thou up yonder valley in th> distance,
A higher range of mountains circling round ?
Within its bosom is the holy garden,
Where first thy father wakenâ€™d up to life;
His body formed of dust from out the ground
In the image of his Maker ; lifeless until
God breathed in his nostrils breath of life,
And he became a living soul. Thy mother,
By a like miracle divine, came forth,
The workmanship of God.
How can I tell thee, child, what first we felt
When conscious of existence? All around,
And all above, beneath, seemâ€™d full of Gop.
Gop we beheld in sun, and stars, and flowers;
In trees and plants; in birds, and beasts, and fish;
In creeping things, and light-winged insect tribes;
In living things that moved, and in those things
That could not, we beheld, as in a lake
Clear and unruffled, the full face of Gop.
Oh, how delightful, father!
Delightful! ah, it was indeed, my son.
But these alone made not our happiness:
Our Father in high heaven oft sent down
His holy angels as our visitants;
And often, at the close of day, we sawâ€”
When the sun sunk behind the mountain tops
And gilded every fleecy cloud with gold-â€”
Descending towards us a fair troop of them,
Which looked in the distance, to our eye,
As if one of those golden-tinged clouds
Was coming to convey us on a journey
Up to the courts of heaven, On they came,
And as they near approachâ€™d, their outspread wings,
Spangled with gems, floating on ambient air,
Shed generous perfume; and all around
Was fragrant with rich odors brought from heaven.
So days and years pass on. And the boys work and
play together, and at night say their prayers at their
48 BOYS OF TAE BIBLE.
motherâ€™s knee. It is quite evident that Cain and Abel were:
brought up in the fear of God. Worship was as truly a
part of that early home life in the desert, as work. How-
ever imperfectly the training may have been, they were at
least trained in the nurture and fear of God.
Naturally enough, Cain became a farmer, and â€˜as.
naturally Abel became a shepherd; and it is very clear that
from their earliest days these boys were taught to offer
praise and sacrifice to God; not of that which cost them
nothing, but of that which was most precious. Cain was to:
offer the first fruits of the field and Abel the firstlings of
his flocks and folds.
It is sad to think that all the trouble of this early home:
turned on the question of religious duties. We must not,,
therefore, conclude that religious duties were the causes of
this trouble. They were only the occasion of the sad
conflict. The probabilities are, that if there had been no:
religious training in that home, no religious duties to
perform, the trouble would have come much sooner, and for
anything we know, might have been much more disastrous..
The envious, wicked spirit of Cain would have found.
some excuse. And a very poor excuse is all an envious.
wicked spirit needs. Nay, it is easy for such a spirit to:
make excuses when no reasonable excuse exists.
How early in life Cain began to manifest his unhappy
disposition we are not told, but it is quite fair to conclude:
that he did not leap all at once into a murderer. Wicked-.
ness, like everything else, takes time to grow. The man
who is in the stateâ€™s prison for stealing thousands of dollars,,
did not begin by stealing thousands, or even dollars; he most
likely began by stealing dimes, or even cents. And perhaps
even then he did not really mean to steal. He meant to
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 49
put the cent or dime or dollar back again in its place. But
the â€˜ meaning â€
wrong. â€˜There must be a thousand wicked thoughts in the
mind; a thousand wicked feelings, a thousand cruel purposes
in the heart, before the murderer plunges the fatal knife into
the bosom of his bitterest foe, much less the bosom of his
friend or brother.
When these dark thoughts vegan to brood in the mind
of Cain, we are not told. Probably when quite a boy; for
we are thoroughly persuaded that if a boy cherishes a spirit
of kindness, and gentleness, and love, in his young days, his
manhood will be kind, and gentle, and loving too. That
poor mother in the desert had a thousand heartaches of
which no one knew but God. The fierce, resentful scowl of
Cain never escaped her. How often she sought to soothe
and calm his turbulent spirit, but all in vain. Cain was not
a gentle spirit. [He set but little value on his motherâ€™s tears;
he had no reverence for his motherâ€™s entreaties and prayers.
If he had lived in these days, he would have boasted that
he was not going to be tied to his motherâ€™s â€˜â€˜apron-strings.â€
We have the most loving admiration for noble, manly,
independent boys. We do not think there is much room and
use for â€˜â€˜ milk-sops,â€ in this busy world of to-day. But we
are sure of this, that the bravest, noblest, most worthy men
the world has seen in any age, are the men who have all
through life set a priceless value on their motherâ€™s â€˜apron-
is not enough, we must â€œdo;â€ or all wiil go
Years pass on, those primitive years of boyhood which
have so much to do in making up the character of the
coming man. Cain grows more and more envious, jealous,
overbearing and self-willed.
At last we reach the crisis of this history. Cain offers
50 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
his sacrifice, and Abel offers his. One is pleasing in the
sight of God, the other is not. Why this was so is not diffi-
cult to tell. All the real value of sacrifice lies in the spirit
in which it is given. The sacrifice God delights in is not
the offering that is laid upon the altar, but the spirit in
which it is given. A man who has come by his wealth in
a cruel wayâ€”and that is quite as bad, and often much worse
than a dishonest wayâ€”may give ten thousand dollars to
Godâ€™s cause by way of a religious offering, and God will not
care as much for all those thousands as he will for the five-
cent piece some poor widow, or some hard-working boy
puts on the collection plate on Sunday morning. The true
worth of all offerings is not in thÃ© amount given, but in
the spirit of the giver. The sacrifices of God are not in
the lambs, and goats, and doves, the first fruits of flock
or field. The sacrifices of God are a lowly and a contrite
But Cainâ€™s heart was lofty, not lowly; it was proud,
and envious, and arrogant, not contrite. And because this
spirit was in Cain, and a gentle, lowly, contrite spirit was in
Abel, therefore, and not because of the kind, or character,
or amount of either sacrifice, God had more regard to the
sacrifice of Abel than to that of Cain.
â€˜And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.â€
How simply this story is told! Cain was angry, very
angry, and his countenance fell. What a wonderful thing is
the human face! â€˜Your face is like a book,â€ said the wicked
queen to Macbeth. A face is almost always'a good index
to the mind and heart. It may be like Stephenâ€™s, lustrous
as â€˜the face of angel,â€ or like Cainâ€™s, dark as a night full of -
storm and tempest.
Be you sure the sad mother of that early home read the
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 51
dark lines on the brow of Cain, and trembled at their
Cain was angry. This was not a case of ruffled temper
merely. He was wrathâ€”filled with passionate, malicious
angerâ€”but why? â€˜That was just what God wanted to know.
â€œAnd the Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wrath?
And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt
thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth
at thy door.â€
You see how God in His mercy comes to talk with Cain
â€”comes to reason and plead with him, as though He would
save him from himself and from the evil thing that was in
And so God would have done, if Cain would only have
yielded his stubborn will. But Cain was masterful and per-
verse. He little thought to what an awful tragedy that
perverse spirit would lead. There was murder in his heart,
but he knew it not. We do not think of the awful possi-
bilities of evil, and how soon these possibilities may become
facts, or we should be more mindful not to give evil any
quarter. To Godâ€™s question about Cainâ€™s unreasonable anger,
Cain makes no reply. There was no reply to make. There
is a righteous anger that may lead to noble deeds, but Cainâ€™s
was the anger of malice, of wounded vanity, of selfishness,
and pride, and that anger leads to death.
At last came the fatal day. Cain and his unsuspecting
brother were out together in the fhelds. They had a long
talk. Ilow it begun, how it proceeded, we know not; but
how it ended forms one of the saddest pages in the worldâ€™s
early history. Cain was resolved to have it out with Abel.
But what had Abel done? There was no cause for anger
against Abel, except such cause as envious malice provided.
52 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
We can well imagine that Abel stood upon his defense. He
may have pointed out to his brother the true secret of his
anger, and perhaps urged him to a course more worthy of
himself, and more pleasing in the sight of God. Sometimes
if two people who have a difficulty, and talk over it, especially
if they are wisely inclined, that talk will do much to explain
and do away with the difficulty. Sometimes talking over a
quarrel makes the trouble worse. So it was in this case. The â€”
fire of Cainâ€™s passion burned to fury, and in a moment of
supreme hatred he rose against his brother Abel and slew
~ him. ;
In that sad, awful hour, the worldâ€™s first brothers became
martyr and murderer!
- What an awful day was that for all concerned! The
victim-martyr suffered least of all. He saw the morning
rise in beauty; he saw the noontide blaze in splendor; but
when the night fell in awful darkness on that terrible home,
Abel was at rest beyond the stars. From his sheep-folds
and the altar of sacrifice he had gone to dwell. forever in
that fairer land, where
â€œ Beyond earthâ€™s angry voices
There is peace!â€
Think of that broken-hearted mother when the news
came to her. For we cannot but believe that the news soon
reached her, and that she went forth to the scene of the
tragedy. What a sad, wild, awful cry shook the silence of
that desert home! And when she found her latest-born, his
flowing hair all dabbled in his blood, dead!â€”dead, by. his
brotherâ€™s handâ€”her agony would be terrible to behold. Her
fair, her beautiful Abel, slaughtered by the hand of Cain, who
should have been the young manâ€™s boldest defender, not his
cowardly, cruel murderer! When her. eyes met this awful
CAIN AND ABELâ€”MARTYR AND MURDERER,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 55
sight, do we wonder that she should fall prone upon the life-
less boy, and, kissing his cold lips, moan and moan, begging
her Abel to speak to her just once again! The thought of
all this is terrible, but not a thousandth part as terrible as
So, boys, we have this picture to look upon and think
about. The worldâ€™s first mother, broken-hearted and bereaved,
all through the waywardness and envy of her first-born son.
God only knows what a comfort a boy may be to his
motherâ€™s life a very heaven on earth, no matter -how lowly
the home and all its surroundings. â€˜There are thousands of
boys in America to-day who are just such blessings in the
homeâ€”living comforts to their mothers. The world may
not know them, but God does, and He has graven their
names on the palms of the everlasting hands. And there
are, alas! too many boys of the spirit of Cain who make
their mothersâ€™ lives long-drawn agonies of anxiety and grief.
How sad the lot of this first mother of the race! It
was bad enough to be driven out of Eden; bad enough to
see that great angel with awful wings draw his glittering
sword and point the way to the desert; and the early home
in the desert was sad and lonely. But all the humiliation
and shame of those days seemed to be forgotten when God
gaye her these boys. And as they grew in strength and
beauty it seemed to her great mother-heart as if the loss of
Paradise was more than half redeemed by these new-born
treasures of her desert home.
What a sad home that was on the outskirts of Eden
when the night closed on the awful tragedy! Adam, too
dumbfounded to speak a word; Eve too broken-hearted even
for sighs! Death had entered the world indeed; death in
56 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
its darkest, saddest aspect. Abel dead, Cain a wanderer,
and they two, smitten with a sorrow strong enough to dry
up the fountain of their tears!
But what of Cain, the murderer!
It may be that the boys who read this book will feel a
touch of sorrow for Cain, as well they may, and they may
be ready to ask:
â€œWas not this dreadful deed done in haste? Surely this
murder was the result of quick, hot, ungovernable passion.
Surely Cain had no thought when he went out into the
field with Abel that morning, that murder would end the
interview. Was it not an act of quick, thoughtless passion?â€
We fall right in with a boyâ€™s natural feeling of sorrow
for Cain, and we hope that this view of the case is not too
What then? Where Cain got wrong, was in allowing
his temper to get the master of him. Then his passion was
ungovernable. But it did not become ungovernable all at
once. There was a time when if he had curbed his hot,
hasty temper, he would have been master of it; but instead
of that he had fanned the flame so constantly, and fed the
furnace fires with the fuel of envy and jealousy and hatred,
that when at last the Hames burst forth at white heat, he
was powerless to control them.
If it be admitted that Cainâ€™s awful deed was largely
the result of thoughtlessnessâ€”which we do not think is really
true, for Cain was evidently of that sullen nature that
â€œbides its time,â€™â€”but if this crime was largely the result
of thoughtlessness, it should be remembered that thoughtless-
ness is not a reasonable excuse for crime. â€œI did not
thinkâ€”I did not mean to do it,â€ is no excuse. Thought-
lessness is sin, because it leads to the saddest possibilities of
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 57
evil. Of a thousand murderers who have died upon the
scaffold, probably not a score of them meant to commit
murder in the beginning. Thomas Hood never said a truer
thing, than when he said:
â€œ Evil is wrought by want of thought
As much as want of heart.â€
What horror must have possessed the soul of Cain as he
looked into the face of his dead brother!â€”dead by his own
wicked hand. What worlds he would have given, if they
had been his to give, to have recalled that cruel blow!
He had hardly realized the terrible situation, when the
voice of God broke upon his ear.
â€œAnd the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abet thy
Of all questions that could possibly be need) could any
question have cut to the heart like a knife, as this question
must have done.
There is an old legend, but of little worth, that says
that after the murder Cain was at his witâ€™s end to know
what to do with the dead body; and that after carrying it
about from place to place, he grew weary and fell asleep on the
side of the mountain, and that when he awoke, a huge bird,
with a dead bird near, came to Cain and said he would
show him what to do, and at once began making a hole
with his beak, and when the hole was large enough, he put
the dead bird in it and covered it over with loose earth;
and so, the legend goes on to say, Cain was taught how to:
bury his brother. But the legend is very clumsy and
unnatural, and at best only serves to give force to the
thought that Cain had tried to hide his brother from alll
mortal sight. And if Cain had sought to hide his brother
58 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
in the grave, the question would be all the more searching
â€˜â€œWhere is Abel thy brother?â€
How quickly, and almost helplessly, one sin leads
on to another! An evil thing done, requires another evil
thing at once to cover it up. A murder committed, the
next thing in order is to begin a long series of falsehoods
to cover up the tracks of blood.
â€œ And he said, I know not. Am I my brotherâ€™s keeper?â€
There was arrogance in this reply. The heart of Cain
was untamed. He had rushed into a vortex of crime, and
the awful results were whirling round him like waves of fire
that could not be quenched. He had sown the wind, and
now the whirlwind was gathering round him in awful fury.
Better a thousand times in this hour to be the dead and
martyred Abel than the living, tortured, Cain.
â€˜â€˜What hast thou done?â€ God asks; not in anger, but
in Divine pity. â€˜â€œ What hast thou done?â€
What had he done? Quenched a young life in the
morning of its hope and power, stained the fair earth with
his brotherâ€™s blood, broken his motherâ€™s heart, furrowed and
wrinkled his fatherâ€™s brow with a hopeless sorrow, clouded
all the sunny promise of his own life, and now he stands
before God with a shameless lie, and an impertinent question
on his lips. That is what he had done.
â€œAnd God said, the voice of thy brotherâ€™s blood calleth
unto me from the ground.â€
And then there came the awful doom of Cain. He was
henceforth to be a homeless wanderer upon the face of the
earth. Over mountain, and crag, and feli he was to wander
homeless and friendlessâ€”a vagabond upon the face of the
earth. He was not to die; that would have been a merciful
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 59
release. And God set a mark on Cain, by which he was
to bear the strongest kind of a charmed life. For whoso-
ever saw this mark should be careful not to slay Cain, lest
vengeance came upon him seven-fold.
It matters little that we are not told what the mark
was, or whether it was on his cheek or on his brow. â€˜The
mark was prominent, so that it might be easily seen, and a
mark that could never wear out. Years would come and
years would go, the firm face would become wrinkled, and
the stalwart form bent low; the eyes would lose their lustre
and the raven locks turn gray, but the mark of the mur-
derer would still be upon him.
There are wounds of the body that leave scars that
never wear out. The soldier, who having fought for his
country, comes home battle-scarred and weary, is proud of
his scarsâ€”proud that he will carry them to the graveâ€”for
they tell more truly than golden medals ever can, of his
courage and patriotism. But there are wounds also of the
soul, that leave their scars; they go deeper down and have
a sadder meaning than the scars of the body. The grave
cannat hide them; only the mercy of God can make the soul
whiter than snow, and free from the deep, dark marks of sin.
â€œAnd Cain went out from the presence of the Lord,
and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.â€
May we not hope that this marked murdererâ€”this
branded beacon of the eariy worldâ€”may have found in this
strange land of Nod, east of Eden, time and place for
repentance; and that, though exiled from his early home, he
was not lost to the mercy of God. The dreadful mark of Cain
would then become to him, at least, something less terrible
than at first; it would be the sign of how much he had sinned,
and also the blessed sign of how much he had been forgiven.
60 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
This first story of the Boys of the Bible is sad enough.
But it is full of wise counsel. It is rich in its many lessons,
though these lessons take mostly the shape of solemn
There is hardly a sadder story in all the Scriptures, or in
all the realm of literature outside the Bible, than this story
of the first murderer and his victim brother.
Anger, and malice, and envy will darken the fairest lives,
and bring sorrow into the happiest homes. Alas! that these
elements of character should so often cloud the beauty and
destroy the peace of young lives and happy homes! So deep
is the impression that this early Bible record has made upon
the world, that, while some mothers are willing to call their
sons by the name of the first martyr, Abel, none name their
children after Cain. It is sad so to live that your very name
becomes a beacon light to warn, rather than an example, in ~
some respects at least, worthy of imitation.
But we may safely trust a book that dares to tell the
dark side as well as the bright. Of all books in the world,
the Bible is about the only book that dares to tell the evil
as well as the good. The Bible is a safe and blessed guide,
for it lights beacon-fires to warn of danger, and gives exam-
ples werthy of universal imitation. Its great object-lessons are
so plain and simple a he who runs may read, and, reading,
The story of Cain is like a lesson written backward. He
teaches, by his cruel, unbrotherly life, the beauty and value
of brotherly love. The shadows bear witness to the glory of
the sun, and Cainâ€™s life in the dark shadows teach, by con-
trast, how beautiful that life might have been in the sun.
And this story speaks another to every boy who reads it.
It bids him remember that he must be the master or the slave
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 61
of his temper. God has given us a kingdom to command.
He wants us to be kings, not slaves. Concerning this king-
dom Louisa M. Alcott has written one of her sweetest, sim-
plest poemsâ€”a poem that â€˜a child may easily learn and
understand, and yet so full of pleasant, useful teaching that
children, and boys, and men will all be the better for drink-
ing in its spirit and living out its prayers.
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard I find the task
Of governing it well;
For passion tempts, and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads;
And selfishness its shadow casts
On all my will and deeds.
How can J learn to rule myself
To be the child 1 shouldâ€”
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
_ Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soui
To shine along lifeâ€™s way?
How can I tune my little heart
To sweetly sing all day?
Dear Father, help me with the love
That casteth out all fear!
Teach me to lean on Thee and feel
That Thou art very near;
That no temptation is unseen,
No childish grief too small,
Since Thou, with patience infinite,
Doth soothe and comfort all.
I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within;
Be Thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myseZf, +
And dare to take command,
ISHMAEL THE OUTCAST.
â€œ And God was with the lad.â€ â€”Genesis xx2., 20.
â€œAnd the angel of the Lord said behold thou shalt bear a Son, and shalt call his
name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction, And he will be a wid
man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he
shall dwell in the presence of his brethren.â€ â€”Gestests Â¥vi., 12, 72.
There is much that may be done
While the glittering lifesands run;
If ye be but earnest minded,
If ye go not weakly blinded
eG Â» By a momentary pleasure,
Or a love of ease and leisure;
Lured not by flitting beauty
From the narrow path of duty,
Much there is that may be done
By an earnest minded one.
The story of Ishmael, the first-born son of Abraham
the Friend of God, and of Hagar the bond-woman, is very
brief, and very romantic. It hardly occupies a page in the
sacred Scriptures, but that page is full in every line, and
betwen the lines, with deep and lasting interest.
There is a good deal in the early part of the story that
we need not stay to inquire into; matters that can have but
little interest for boys, further than to make them thankful
that they did not live in those early days, when slavery
wrought much of its saddest work, in the most favored
homes of men. It was really because of the curse of slavery
thaf Ishmael became an outcast. His mother, Hagar, was a
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 63
â€˜slave, but she had a motherâ€™s heart. She was Sarahâ€™s slave,
Sarahâ€™s property, and so Sarah could do with her as she
would. It was all very well to be born in the house of so
â€˜great a man as Abraham, the Father of the Faithful. But
â€˜Slavery was a part of the life of those days, and wherever
â€˜slavery has shown its hateful head in any age of. the world,
it has always brought a curse in its train. Better to be born
in the home of the lowliest American citizen, where freedom
is in every breath of life, than to be born in a palace
where slavery may lay its awful hand upon you.
Ishmael was a fiery-spirited lad; there was very little of
the gentle and winning about him. He was a good deal
more likely to make enemies than friends. He was impul-
sive and headstrong, and, if not absolutely of a quatrelsome
â€˜disposition, he never missed the opportunity of a fight. *He
most likely would always â€œplay fair and fight fair,â€ a phrase
which, if not grammatically correct, is quite good enough to
express a very honorable code amongst honorable boys. Ish-
mael was born to battle and strife. Before he was born,
the angel told his mother that her boy would have â€œhis
hand against every man, and every manâ€™s hand against him.â€
And so it came to pass through many a stormy year.
We may be quite sure that Ishmael was no great favorite
with Sarah. She was the mistress of the house, and he was
the son of her slave, and perhaps she expected Ishmael to
render not only the respect due from youth to years, but that
servile homage that slaves are expected to show to those who
â€˜own them, as they own the cattle in their fields. There was
nothing servile or bending in the character of this lad, who,
doubtless in his very boyhood, gave signs of that strange dis-
position that made him in after years the wild man ef the
~woods and the hills.
64 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
And then, again, it may be that the fact that Ishmael
did not get along with the mistress of the house was not
entirely his own fault. Sarah was an elderly lady, nearly a
hundred years old; and it does sometimes happen that elderly
people are not always as gentle and forbearing with noisy,
mischievous young people as they might be. Grandmothers
are not all angels, and many grandfathers have a habit of
being very cross with young people for very small causes.
They seem to forget entirely that they were once noisy and.
Moreover, Sarah had a secret prejudice against the boyâ€”
a hidden dislike, for which he was in no way to blame. This.
being the case, it was hard for them to get along pleasantly...
Boys know well enough how prejudice acts, even among them-.
seltes. The way you can forgive, and excuse and overlook
almost anything in the boy you really like is wonderful. But
the boy you do not likeâ€”well, itâ€™s very difficult indeed for
him to look, or speak, or do anything right. The more he
tries to please you, the less he will be able to do it. So it
was with Ishmael and Sarah. Ishmael did not try to please,.
and Sarah did not want to be pleased, and so there was con-
A boy need not have a very wonderful imagination to
suggest what sort of a life Ishmael would lead his venerable
mistress. When a bright, smart boy starts out to be a thorn
in anybodyâ€™s side, he generally succeeds. If, at seven years.
of age, Ishmael was an annoyance to Sarah, what would he
-be at ten, and what at fourteen? Mark, weâ€™ are not justifying
Ishmaelâ€™s waywardness. No boy should make himself dis-
agreeable to his friends or relatives. And especially ought
boys to be respectful to their seniors. We are simply trying
to get to the heart of this romantic story.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 65
For thirteen or fourteen years Ishmael had beenâ€˜a greater
â€˜worry to Sarah than ever â€œTopsyâ€ was to â€˜Miss Opheliaâ€
in â€œUncle Tomâ€™s Cabin.â€ But now there is a great stir in
the householdâ€”a baby boy is bornâ€”and so great is the joy
of Sarah over her son Isaac, that she almost forgets the mis-
chievous young Ishmael. The new-born Isaac had few charms
for Ishmael. Girls have a way of being wonderfully enthusi-
astic over babies, but boys, especially when they get to be
fourteen or fifteen, have very little interest in the helpless
tenants of the cradle.
The coming of Isaac furnished Ishmael new opportuni-
ties for mischief. From the first, Ishmaelâ€™s hand was against
him, the end of which was, that Ishmael and his mother
~vere driven forth into the desert to iive or die, as the case
might be. When Isaac was between two and three years
old Abraham and Sarah made a great feast in honor of
Isaac, and all the people of that countryside were invited.
â€˜At this feast Ishmael was caught making fun of the baby.
Of course Sarah thought that Isaac was the most wonderful
baby that had ever been born. What Ishmael thought, we
donâ€™t know; what he said, we donâ€™t know; but we know
that he mocked and made fun of Isaac, and Sarah caught
him in the act. Ishmael had gone too far. No mother in
the world will have her first-born son made fun of, and
especially before people, without getting angry. And Sarah
was very angry. She had borne too much; she was resolved
she would bear no more; there must be an end to this
thing once for all. And so she demanded of Abraham that
Hagarâ€”who had lived in her house almost half a lifetimeâ€”
and her: insolent son should be banished from the home.
Sarah was a woman of strong mind and will; she was
not a little to blame that things had come to the pass they
66 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
had, but *now she was determined to make an end of it,,
and Hagar and Ishmael must go.
â€œAnd Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian mock--
ing, wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this.
bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman.
shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.â€
This was a sad blow to Abraham, for he loved that:
wild impulsive lad. But he saw there would never be any
more peace in the tents as long as Hagar and Ishmael
lingered there. And so he sent them forth. It is a sad.
piece of business altogether. Neither Sarah nor Abraham
are to be greatly admired. We need shed no tears for
Ishmael, for he shed none for himself. He was just as glad
to get away from Sarah, as Sarah was to get rid of him,.
with his mocking and his mischief.
Of all that family, the poor slave mother Hagar was.
most to be pitied. â€˜The shame and disgrace of being driven
away from home was bad enough, but the future of her
boy was the one sad question that filled her heart with
The morning of departure came. The venerable Abraham:
rose up early, and having provided for their immediate:
wants, sent them forth, and they wandered into the wilder--
ness of Beer-sheba. Of that sad wandering and the perils.
through which Hagar and Ishmael passed, Dr. Talmage:
draws the following graphic picture:
â€œThe scorching noon comes on. The air is stifling and.
moves across the desert with insufferable suffocation..
Ishmael, the boy, begins to complain and lies down, but
Hagar rouses him up, saying nothing about her own weari-
ness or the sweltering heat; for mothers can endure anything.
Trudgeâ€”trudgeâ€”trudge. Crossing the dead level of the:
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 69
desert, how wearily and slowly the miles slip! A tamarind
that seemed hours ago to stand only just a little ahead,
inviting the travelers to come under its shadow, now is as
far off as ever, or seemingly so. Night drops upon the
desert and the travelers are pillowless. Ishmael, very weary,
I suppose instantly falls asleep: Hagarâ€”as the shadows of
the night begin to lap over each otherâ€”Hagar presses her
weary boy to her bosom. A star looks out and every
falling tear it kisses with a sparkle. A wing of wind comes
over the hot earth and lifts the locks from the fevered
brow of the boy. Hagar sleeps fitfully and in her dreams
travels over the weary day and half awakes her son by
crying out in her sleep: â€˜Ishmael! Ishmael!â€™
â€˜â€œâ€œAnd so they go onday after day and night after night, for
they have lost their way. No path in the shifting sands; no sign
in the burning sky. The sack empty of the flour; the water
gone from the bottle. What shall she do? As she puts her
fainting Ishmael under a stunted shrub of the arid plain, she
sees the blood-shot eye, and feels the hot hand, and watches
the blood bursting from the cracked tongue, and there is a
shriek in the desert of Beer-sheba: â€˜We shall die! We
shall die!â€™ Now, no mother was ever made strong enough
to hear- her son cry in vain for a drink. Heretofore she
had cheered her boy by promising a speedy end of the jour-
ney, and even smiled upon him when he felt desperately
enough. Now, there is nothing to do but place him under
a shrub and let him die. She had thought that she would
sit there and watch until the spirit of her boy would go
away forever, and then she would breathe out her own life
on his silent heart; but as the boy begins to claw his tongue
in agony of thirst, and struggles in distortion, and begs his
mother to slay him, she cannot endure the spectacle. She
70 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
puts him under a shrub and goes off a bow-shot, and begins
to weep until all the desert seems sobbing, AICO team Clay,
strikes clear through the heavens; and an angel of God comes
out of a cloud and looks down upon the appalling grief and
cries: â€˜Hagar, what aileth thee?â€™ She looks up and she
sees the angel pointing to a well of water, where she fills
the bottle for the lad. Thank God! Thank God!â€
So in the moment of their direst need God appears.
And, as we read, â€˜God was with the lad; and he grew, and
dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.â€
Ishmael became the founder of a great tribe, known as
the Bedouin Arabs, a tribe whose hands have been against
every man, and every manâ€™s hand has been against them.
â€˜The desert wanderers, who for centuries overran the waste
places between the peninsular of Sinai and the Persian Gulf,
may be regarded as the direct descendants of Ishmael.
There are many things in this son of the Egyptian bond-
woman worthy of admiration; there was a bold, free, inde-
pendent spirit about him that, rightly guided and wisely con-
trolled, might have made of Ishmael one of the grandest men
of the early age. He became embittered and hard, and
there was some excuse for this; but whatever wrongs he
had been called upon to endure formed no justification for
that resentful spirit that became the master spirit of his after
An outcast from the tents of Abraham, he became a
willing voluntary outcast from the homes and haunts of the
whole human family. He dwelt apart from his fellow men,
with the exception of his own tribe, and he was able to so
imbue followers with his own dark, brooding spirit, that to
be an â€œIshmaelite â€ meant not so much to be a descendant
of Ishmael, as to be a representative of his unhappy dispo-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 71
sition. Beyond the narrow limit of his own tribe, an
Ishmaelite had no friendsâ€”he wanted none. His sword was
always ready to leap from its scabbard, his quiver was
always full of arrows, poison-tipped, and he himself eagerly
watchful for foes.
Who would care to live a life like this? Ishmaelâ€™s was
largely a wasted life, and but for the romantic and pathetic -
passage in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, would almost be
For the sake of boys who are fond of reciting to their
friends, we quote part of N. P. Willisâ€™ beautiful description
of that scene where God opened the eyes of the heart-
broken slave-mother, Hagar, to see the well in the
â€œThe morning pass'd, and Asiaâ€™s sun rode up
In the clear heaven, and every beam was heat.
The cattle of the hills were in the shade,
And the bright plumage of the Orient lay
On beating bosoms in her spicy trees.
It was an hour of rest! but Hagar found
No shelter in the wilderness, and on
She kept her weary way, until the boy
Hung down his head, and open'd his parchâ€™d lips
For water; but she could not give it him.
She laid him down beneath the sultry skyâ€”
For it was better than the close, hot breath
Of the thick pinesâ€”-and tried to comfort him;
But he was sore athirst, and his blue eyes
Were dim and blood-shot, and he could not know
Why God denied him water in the wild.
She sat a little longer, and he grew
Ghastly and faint, as if he would have died.
It was too much for her. She lifted him,
And bore him further on, and laid his head
Beneath the shadow of a desert shrub;
And, shrouding up her face, she went away,
And sat to watch, where he could see her not,
Till he should die; and, watching him, she mournâ€™d :â€”
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
â€œ Â«God stay thee in thine agony, my boy !
I cannot see thee die; I cannot brook
Upon thy brow to look.
And see death settle on my cradle joy.
How have I drunk the light of thy blue eye!
And could I see thee die?
â€œÂ«7 did not dream of this when thou wast straying,
Like an unbounded gazelle, among the flowers;
Or wiling the soft hours,
By the rich gush of water-sources playing,
Then sinking weary to thy smiling sleep,
So beautiful and deep.
â€œÂ«Oh no! and when I watchâ€™d by thee the while,
And saw thy bright lip curling in thy dream,
And thought of the dark stream
In my own land of Egypt, the far Nile,
How pray'd I that my fatherâ€™s land might be
An heritage for thee !
â€œÂ« And now the grave for its cold breast hath won thee!
And thy white delicate limbs the earth will press;
And oh! my last caress
Must feel thee cold, for a chill hand is on thee.
How can I leave my boy, so pillowâ€™d there
Upon his clustering hair !â€™
â€œ She stood beside the well her God had given
To gush in that deep wilderness, and bathed
The forehead of her child until he laughâ€™d
In his reviving happiness, and lispâ€™d
His infant thought of gladness at the sight
Of the cool plashing of his motherâ€™s hand.â€
Esau anp Jacosâ€”rur Twin BRoTuers.
â€œHappy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help.â€ â€”Psalm cxlut., 5.
â€œEsau, a profane person, who, for one morsel of meat, sold his birthright.â€â€”
Fleb, Xtt., I4.
â€œHe who spends all his life in sport is like a man who wears nothing but fringes,
and eats nothing but sauces.â€â€”Zhomas Fuller.
We get back our mete as we measureâ€”
We cannot do wrong and feel right;
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wings of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight for the children of men.
How beautiful is youthâ€”early manhood, how wonderfully fair! what freshness
of life, clearness of blood, purity of breath! What hopes? There is nothing too
much for the young maid or man to put into their dream, and in their prayer to hope
to put into their day. O boys and girls! O young men and maidens! there is no
picture of ideal excellence of manhood and womanhood that I ever draw that seems
too high, too beautiful, for your young hearts.â€” Theodore Parker.
In our study of the tragic story of the worldâ€™s first
brothersâ€”Cain and Abelâ€”we were called to note the remark-
able difference in character and disposition between the two
boys. Born in the same home, nursed on the lap of the same
mother, they were as unlike as two boys well could be. But
in this story of the worldâ€™s first twin-brothers, Esau and Jacob,
the difference was even greater. If you could think of a dark
Italian boy, with beetling brows and keen, black eyes, and a
74 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
fair young German, with flaxen hair and pale blue eyes, you
would not have a greater contrast in personal appearance
than was presented by these twin brcthers. These boys, born
in the same home, the same day, of the same mother, seem
to touch the very opposite poles of character.
As they grew up, Esau had a rough, red-bearded face,
and his very hands were shaggy with hair, while Jacob was
fair and beardless, with a face as smooth as a girlâ€™s. Esau
was a boy of the hills and mountains; he was bronzed and
brown with the Syrian sun, but Jacob was a plain man, who
preferred to linger near the tents. The sacred record says:
â€œAnd the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a
man of the field: and Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents.
And Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison;
but Rebekah loved Jacob.â€
Esau from his early boyhood loved the fields and the
mountains. He was bold, fearless, daring. A home life would
have been altogether too quiet and uninteresting for him. He
was full of adventure, with a large, impetuous nature that
scorned the very thought of difficulty; he would turn what
would have been stumbling blocks in the way of Jacob into
stepping stones for his ambition. Ready for every bold task
or endeavor, he would have made a splendid man for pioneer
workâ€”just the kind of man who, in these later days, would
have gone out West, and would have eminently succeeded in
beating out the wild, rocky difficulties of that romantic region
into an orderly civilization. A strong, frank, self-willed sort
of Pagan was this same Esauâ€”a manly fellow in his wayâ€”â€”
who seems to have had little fear of God before his eyes,
and no fear of man. He was not his motherâ€™s favorite, and he
knew it, but his father was proud of him, and that was enough
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 75
â€œJacob was a plain man,â€ the Bible says. And he was
a very mean man, too, as the Bible proceeds to show. The
probabilities are that these boys were not very much together
after their very early childhood. They had no tastes in com-
mon, the same toys would not please them, supposing there
were such things as toys in those early days. They would not
have played at the same games; they would not have chosen
the same companions; they would not have read the same
books, if they had known the luxury of books. Their paths
were very wide apart, and in these ever-widening ways the
opposite elements of their character grew.
Esau was a cunning huntsman, but Jacob was cunning
everywhere and in everythingâ€”cunning in the most objec-
tionable sense of that word. He was a shrewd, cunning
schemer. Full of policy, he would plot and counter-plot.
He worked like a beaver in the secret and in the dark. He
could â€œbide his time.â€ He could be patient and wait, if
there was anything at the end of the waiting worth waiting
for. And more than this, Jacob was one of those mean boys
who would take advantage of his brotherâ€™s weaknesses for
his own advantage. And a boy can hardly be meaner than
The first marked instance recorded in the Bible of Jacobâ€™s
meanness was when he persuaded his brother Esau to
sell his birthright for a savory meal. The story is very sim-
ple, and as significant as simple. Esau was a hunter, and
he often came home from the hunt half famished with hunger.
Most boys have some idea of what it means to be as â€œhungry
as a hunter,â€ and they will have a good deal of sympathy
with Esau. It was just like the meanness of Jacob to take
advantage of this ravenous appetite of his brother. So one
day, when Esau was more than usually late, Jacob prepared
16 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
a most delicious meal. There was red pottage, steaming
hotâ€”and if there was one thing more than another that
Esau loved it was red pottage. Then there was bread and
wine, and everything that Jacob could think of to tempt the
appetite of the huntsman. The savory odor of that meal
reached Esau as he drew near the tent, and gave a keener
edgÃ© to his hunger. Jacob had got everything in order, and
he was quite ready for the trying moment. He knew Esau
would be half famished; he knew how he loved pottage and
lentiles, and he stood by the tent door and waited. ;
â€œAnd Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with
that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his
name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy
birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to
die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And
Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him:
and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave
Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and
drink, and rose up, and went his way: and Esau despised
We can only understand this story, as we remember
that, of all thing counted sacred in these old days, the
birthright was most sacred. If Jacob was mean in bargain-
ing for this priceless inheritance after this unbrotherly
fashion, Esau was foolishâ€”nay, as we shall see shortlyâ€”he
was â€œprofaneâ€ in the real deep meaning of that word, for
so easily parting with his treasure. A young man who
could buy his brotherâ€™s birthright in such a manner was
mean, to the very uttermost verge of meanness. But it is
also true, that a young man who would sell such a treasure
for a meal, no matter how hungry he was, had a very poor
estimate of his birthright.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 17
Years pass on and Isaacâ€™s eyes grow dimâ€”dim even to
blindness. The weary patriarch longs for rest, and with one
of those fancies that sometimes stir the desires of old age,
and perhaps are sometimes to be regarded as signs that the
end of lifeâ€™s pilgrimage is not far off, Isaac yearns for a
savory hunterâ€™s meal, and sending for his son Esau, he begs
him to go forth to the fields and bring him venison. This
is to be a kind of farewell feast. And when the feast is
ended Isaac will give Esau his dying blessing.
The shameful manner in which Jacob, aided by his
mother, deceives his blind old father, and robs his brother of
the old manâ€™s parting blessing, is so simply and so beauti-
fully told in the Bible narrative that we cannot do better
than quote the story as told in the book of Genesis:
â€œAnd it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his
eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his
eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto
him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am
old, I know, not the day of my death; now therefore take,
I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go
out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me
savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I
may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. And
Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And
Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.
â€œ And Rebekah spake unto Jacob, her son, saying, Behold,
I heard thy father speak unto Esau, thy brother, saying,
Bring me venison, and make me savory meat, that I may
eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death. Now
therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I
command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from
thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them
78 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth: and thou
shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he
may bless thee before his death. And Jacob said to Rebekah,
his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and
I am a smooth man. My father peradventure will feel me,
and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a
curse upon me, and not a blessing.
â€œ And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse,
my son; only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. And
he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother; and
his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved.
And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau,
which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob
her younger son: and she put the skins of. the kids of the
goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:
and she gave the savory meat and the bread, which she
had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
â€œ And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and
he said, here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said
unto his father, 1 am Esau thy first-born; I have done according
as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my
venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said unto
his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my
son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to
â€˜me. And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee,
that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son
Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father;
and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacobâ€™s voice, but
the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him
not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esauâ€™s hands:
so he blessed him.
â€œ And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he
vi HI) i
IsAAcC BLESSING JACOB.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 81
said, | am. And he said, Bring it near to me, and J will
eat of my sonâ€™s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he
brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him
wine, and he drank. And _ his father Isaac said unto him,
Come near now, and kiss me, iy son.
â€˜And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the
smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the
smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord
â€œTherefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the
fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
â€˜â€œâ€˜Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee:
be lord over thy brethren, and let thy motherâ€™s sons bow
down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and
blessed be he that blesseth thee.â€
There is but one comment to be made after reading this
story, and that is, that the whole affair was as mean and
shameful as it possibly could be. This cunning and deceit
was as unworthy of Jacob as a son as it was contemptible
in Jacob as a brother.
Esauâ€™s conduct on his return marks one of the brightest
pages of history. He is not heart-broken. Esau was not that
kind of young man. THe was humiliated; his proud spirit
was crushed. But instead of seeking instant vengeance on
his supplanting brother, he turns to his blind old father and
breaks the silence of the tents of Isaac with the exceeding
â€˜Bless me, even me also, O my Father!â€
To which pathetic plea Isaac answers, with unutterable
â€œThy brother came with subtlety and hath taken away
82 P BOYS OF TRE BIBLE.
Who could wonder if Esau felt badly! Jacob had well
earned Esauâ€™s contempt. And Esau said:
â€œIs he not rightly called Jacob? For he hath supplanted
me these two times: he took away my birthright; and behold
now he hath taken away my blessing.â€
And then, with rare tenderness, he pleads with his father
for some farewell, tender benediction.
â€œHast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, bless me,
O my Father! And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.â€
Esau was not given to tears, or to tender moods generally,
and this exhibition of his deep sense of the wrong he had
suffered touched the heart of the dying patriarch.
â€œAnd Isaac his father answered and said unto him:
Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth: and
of the dew of heaven from above: and by thy sword shalt
thou live, and shalt sever thy brother: and it shall come to
pass when thou shall have the dominion, that thou shalt break
his yoke from off thy neck.â€
Then Esau went forth from his fatherâ€™s tent with the
solemn determination that as soon as his father was dead he
would kill his cunning brother. Jacob.
Happily that vow was not kept. Esau became the chief-
tain of the Edomites, the wandering, unstable dynasty that
came forth from Idumea. Esauâ€™s career suggests some grave
lessons well worth our careful thought.
It was Esauâ€™s own fault that his name was not insepar-
ably linked with that of Abraham and Abrahamâ€™s God through
all the generations of men. The true order would have been
to have spoken of God as â€œthe God of Abraham, and of
Isaac, and of Esau.â€ But Esau sold his birthrightâ€”the
dearest heritage of the Hebrew youthâ€”for a mess of pot-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 83
tage, and so through Esauâ€™s own fault the order was changed,
and God will now be spoken of through all the ages of time
as â€œthe God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.â€
Esauâ€™s name did not slip out of this divine association; it
was not dropped out through any oneâ€™s caprice; it was sub-
stituted by another name, because Esau, in an hour of hun-
ger, would be fed without delay, though the meal cost him
eternal fellowship with the Divine.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Esau is spoken of as a
â€œprofane person.â€ Profanity does not simply mean the
taking of Godâ€™s name in vain, or the indulgence in the use
of language that is as foolish and vulgar as it is profane.
The really profane man is he who does not recognize the
sacredness of sacred things. There are not a few men to
whom there is nothing sacred. Faith is only superstition,
they say; religion at best is a dream. They laugh at our
Sabbaths; they jest at our worship, and make a mock at
prayer. These are really the profane among men. A soul
that knows nothing sacred is like a temple without an altar.
Such a man was Esau to some very considerable extent.
Not a bad man by any means, a much better man than his
brother Jacob was then, or indeed, than he was for many a
year. It was not until that awful night by the rushing
fords of Jabbok, that Jacob gave any sign of noble man-
hood. Esau was a huntsman; he loved the chase, and his
mistake was that he made of what should have been a
passing recreation, the whole of life. Hunting is all very
well in its way, but life is more than hunting. Life has
great duties as well as pleasant recreations. And the man
who thinks so mnch of passing gratifications that he will
sacrifice lifeâ€™s grandest purposes for them, is a profane man,
and such a man was Esau. But this was not all. There
84 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
came a time when Esau would have bought back that birth-
right, but it was too late. He sought, but found not.
He found no place of repentance, though he sought it dili-
gently and with tears. â€˜There are some stern facts that we
should be brave enough to face like men, and here is one:
You can never buy back the sacred things you sell. If for
the delight of an hour we are fools enough to sell some
golden opportunity, we can never buy it back; not with a
mint of gold, or a whirlwind of sighs, or a river of tears!
Once gone, gone forever! Though we may search diligently
and with tears, the crooked can not be made straight. â€˜The
golden hours of time squandered upon folly can never be
recalled, though, like the dying queen, we should offer
millions of dollars for a moment of time. We can not turn
the sunshade back upon the dial, the water that is spilt on
the ground God will take care of, but we can never gather
it up again. The young man who sells health for dissipa-
tion, and barters the birthright of a noble manhood for the
painted bubbles of passing pleasure, may go tottering on to
a gray old age, searching with tears for his lost treasures,
but his search will be all in vain.
And now we turn again to Jacob. He had the birth-
right and the blessing; he had also the fixed, firm hatred of
Esau. His only safety was in flight, and so the supplanter
became a wanderer and a fugitive. In fear and terror he fled
from his fatherâ€™s house, and as he went he heard the voice of
his father Isaac for the last time, and happily the last words
were words of blessing. And this was the parting benediction
that Isaac breathed upon his wandering son
â€œAnd Isaac called: Jacob, and blessed him, and charged
him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the
daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 85
of Bethuel thy motherâ€™s father; and take thee a wife from
thence of the daughters of Laban thy motherâ€™s brother. And
God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply
thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give
thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with
thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a
stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.â€
A great future lies before this wanderer. The young
man who leaves his fatherâ€™s home under so dark.a cloud will
yet make a great matk in the world. It is a matter of fact
that, if you would count twenty of the best-known names in the
world, you would have to count Jacobâ€™s name amongst the rest.
This young wanderer, we feel sure, would have a great
homesickness in his heart. Esau would have enjoyed the
adventure, but Jacob was altogether of another disposition.
He had been his motherâ€™s favorite, and it would be hard wan-
dering from her love and care.
First nights from home are awful nights. Some of you
boys have that experience to come, and you will remember
it after you have forgotten a thousand other things. If, in the
darkness and sadness of that first night from home, the tears
should flow, donâ€™t be ashamed of them; they will be as worthy
of you as most things you will ever do. If you cry yourself
to sleep, and sob yourself awake, it wonâ€™t be because you are
a baby, but because you have a tender heart; and, while you
weep and while you wake, your mother will be most likely
on her knees weeping too, and praying, with many tears, that
God will guard and bless her absent boy.
Jacob wandered on. And the night came at lastâ€”his
first night away from home. He found a convenient spot,
and throwing his robe around him, he lay down upon the
yielding earth, and with a mossy stone for a pillow, he was
86 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
probably soon asleep; for youth bears trouble lightly, and
among all common gifts, God has bestowed few blessings
which are more to be prized than His great gift of sleep.
Jacob slept, and as he slept he dreamed.
Never forget that God who is God of the day is also
God of the night. The God of our sleep is also the God of
our dreams. God took the hand of the sleeping wanderer
and led him gently into the world of dreams. What a
dream Jacob had! He had seen at home probably, or in his
wanderings, mountains rising slope on slope till their loftiest
crests seemed to touch the very heavens. Or he had seen
at sunset, as we may often see, clouds of burnished gold, or
of fleecy, filmy beauty, rising like a grand august stairway
to the sky. Some such vision as this crowded in on the
young sleeperâ€™s brain, and he saw passing up and down this
grand highway of light and splendor, the gracious forms of
tall, white angels, coming and going, ascending and descend-
ing the glittering stairway; and above them all he saw a
radiant form in matchless light and awful splendor, and from
that mysterious presence, the presence of the Lord, a voice
was heardâ€”for it is quite as easy to hear as to see when
once you are in.dreamlandâ€”and the voice said:
â€œTam the Lord God of Abraham thy father,
And the God of Isaac.
The land whereon thou liest,
To thee will I give it, to thy seed.
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth;
And thou shalt spread abroad to the West,
And to the East, and to the North andthe South,
And in thee, and in thy seed
Shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
And behold, I am with thee,
And will keep thee in all places whither thou goest,
And will bring thee again to this land,
For I will not leave thee
Until I have done that which I spoke to thee of.â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 87
Then the voice became silent. The luminous presence
grew less and less clear, the angel forms began to fade into
dim outlines, the mountain ladder shimmered and trembled
in the growing dawn. Jacob awoke, wondering, fearing,
astonished, as well he mightâ€”and he said, â€œSurely God is
in this place and I knew it not! How dreadful is this place;
this is none other but the House of God, and this is the
gate of Heaven!â€
The story of this memorable night at Bethel inspired Mrs.
Adams to sing that sweet, sacred song, â€œNearer My God to
Thee.â€ Outside the sacred Scriptures there is scarcely any-
thing more touching and beautiful than this tender Christian
hymn. It is sung in hours of sorrow, and in hours of deep,
quiet joy. We sing it in the sanctuary and the home, in the
hour of sacred consecration, and when the solemn death-bell
tolls. It is sung in all lands, and will be sung by devout
souls to the very end of time. The whole story of that blissful
night, of the ascending and descending angels, and of the
morning bright with new-born hope, is told so tenderly that
it will never be forgotten.
Though like a wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness comes over me,
My rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams Iâ€™d be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
There let my way appear
Steps unto heaven;
All that Thou sendest me
In mercy given;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
88 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Then with my waking thoughts
Bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
And when on joyful wing
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upward I fly;
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
It may be interesting to American boys to be told that
some people believe that that very stone which Jacob used
for a pillow, nearly four thousand years ago, is yet to be seen.
If you should find yourself some happy day in that stateliest
of all stately fanes, Westminster Abbey, in London, be sure
and ask to see the Grand Coronation Chair, in which the kings
and queens of England for many generations have been crowned.
The chair will not charm you by its beauty. It is old, and
awkward, and very grimy; but underneath you will see a stone
about the size of an ordinary pillow, and you will be told
that this is the identical stone on which the weary head of
Jacob rested that memorable night in Bethel. Take a good,
long, careful look at the stone, and then believe just as much
of the story as you please.
But we must now return to Jacob. It is morning among
the mountainsâ€”bright, and clear, and lustrous as eastern morn-
ings are. How changed all seems since the sun set the night
before! Jacob has been face to face with God, if only in a
sacred dream. All the world seems brighter. â€˜The dark
clouds that hung before, and made his future seem so sad, are
all gone, and lines of living hope have taken the place of yes-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 89
terdayâ€™s gloom. So Jacob set the pillow up for a rude altar,
and, pouring oil on the top of it, called the place Bethel, which
means â€œThe House of God.â€
â€œAnd Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with
me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me_
bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again
to my fatherâ€™s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my
God. And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shail be
Godâ€™s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely
give the tenth unto thee.â€
Jacobâ€™s vow had much that was beautiful and devout in
it, but it was not altogether what a vow should be. There
was too much of Jacobâ€™s bargaining disposition in it. He would
build an altar â€œifâ€ God would take care of him, and feed
and clothe him and bring him back in peace. There should
never be an â€œifâ€ in any vows we make to God. Vows
that are vows in earnest, are hard enough to keep, but
vows that are half bargains are sure to be broken.
Jacob went on his journey and came to Padan-Aram, to
the house of Laban, his uncle. ' And here the history grows
in interest. The boy has become a man, and at almost
every turn of his strange career Jacob suffers from the very
evil that had marred and destroyed the beauty of his young
life. A deceiver when young, the shadow of deceit seems
to have followed him everywhere. In the house of Laban
see how he was made the victim of over-reaching and
deceit. â€œBe sure your sin will find you out,â€ is an eternal
truth, and Jacob found it so over and over again to his
The love story in the life of Jacob is very beautifully
told. What happy hours Jacob spent with Rachel in those
far-away times! Busy among his sheep, Jacob thought -the
90 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
fairest sight in all the world was the sight of Rachel with
the water-pot upon her shoulder, going to or coming from
the well. How shamefully he was deceived about Rachel!
And what a grand loyal lover he was! What are all the
classic tales of love compared with this story! What were
the lovers sung of by Homer compared with Jacob?
Leander for the sake of Hero swam the Hellespont, but
what was that compared with such enduring love and _ ten-
derness as Jacob bore toward Rachel.
â€œAnd Jacob loved Rachel, and said I will serve thee
seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter. And Laban
said, it is better that I give her to thee, than that I should
give her to another man. Abide with me. i
â€˜â€œAnd Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they
seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her.â€
Seven happy years of pure and gentle love! Perhaps
these were the happiest years of all the patriarchâ€™s life.
But we must part company with Jacob now. His boy-
hood and youth are passed. As the years rolled on there
came an opportunity for reconciliation with Esau. And at
the fords of Jabbok Jacob has a repetition of the Bethel expe-
rience, only in another form. This scene at Peniel was
memorable for the fact that Jacobâ€™s name is changed, and
he is no more Jacob, but Israel. The dreaded meeting with
Esau passed more pleasantly than Jacob had dared to dream.
How earnestly Jacob prayed!
â€œAnd Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God
of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return
unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal with
thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and
of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant;
for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am
JACOB AND RACHEL, 91
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 93
become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand
of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for*I fear him, lest
he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy
seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered by
The costly gifts with which he desired to conciliate Esau
went on beforeâ€”â€œtwo hundred she goats and twenty he goats,
two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels with
their colts, forty kine and ten bulls, twenty she asses and
_ Then came the long, dark night, the wrestling with the
angel, the mysterious conquest of Jacob, and with the gift of
the new name, we are told that â€œthe sun rose on Israel ?â€”
not on the hills and vales, but on Israel. It was a sunny
day for the wanderer; for on this day he met Esau, and was
reconciled. There was to be no intimate brotherly fellow-
ship; that could never be in the very nature of the case.
But the feud was ended. Jacob and Esau parted forever,
but the old enmity was to cease; they were to part friends.
Esau leaves Jacob to his inheritance, and passes on to the
solitudes of the dark mountains of Seir.
Jacob the â€œsupplanter,â€ now changes into Israel the
â€œPrince of God.â€ A new world and a new life is before
him. We shall meet him again when we come to talk of
that wonderful son of many dreams and large ambitions.
The old age of Jacob was calm and beautiful as an Indian
summer, the clouds were no longer dark and_ lurid, but
beautiful with the light that tells of peace after a life of
storm and care.
With the last scene in Israelâ€™s life we close this story.
From the day he left his fatherâ€™s house a fugitive, till the
94 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
day he died in Egypt, his life was full of care and anxiety
and trouble, much of which he brought upon himself. The
last end of this changeful life was as calm and peaceful as
the early years had been stormy and restless. He lived to
see his son Josephâ€”the boy of the coat of many colorsâ€”
Prime Minister of the greatest kingdom on the earth. He
saw his children and his childrenâ€™s children, and one of the
most touching scenes of his old age was that which occurred
shortly before his death, when Manasseh and Ephraim, the
sons of Joseph, were brought before Jacob. to receive the
patriarchâ€™s dying benediction. The whole story is beautifully
told in the forty-eighth chapter of the book of Genesis. , It
is evident that Jacobâ€™s eyes were growing dim, and when
the two boys were brought to him the old grandfather said,
â€˜â€œWho are these?â€ And Joseph said, â€˜They are my sons,
â€˜which God hath given me in this place.â€ And Jacob said,
â€œBring them, I pray thee, unto me, that I may bless them.â€
Jacobâ€™s sight was so feeble that he could not see the boys,
and so he drew them to his aged breast, and kissed them
very tenderly, and then he blessed them. But, now, mark the
character of the benediction. He did not pray that they might
have wealth and power and dominion so much as that they
might have divine guidance, and so the narrative proceeds.
â€˜â€œâ€œAnd Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see
thy face, and lo! God hath showed me thy seed.
â€œAnd Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it
upon Ephraimâ€™s head, who was the younger, and his left
hand upon Manassehâ€™s head, guiding his hands willingly, for
Manasseh was the first-born.
â€œAnd he blessed Joseph and said, God, before whom
my father Abraham did walk, the God which fed me all my
life !ong unto this day.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 95.
â€œThe angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the
lads; and let my name be named on them, and the names
of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into
a multitude in the earth.â€
This was a glorious ana comprehensive benediction.
When we think what God was to Jacob, how he guided his
wandering steps, and out of a deceiver and supplanter made
a man of him, crowning his years with goodness, and
dying, cast the mantle of holy peace about him, we can
understand what the psalmist means when he says: â€œHappy
â€˜is he that hath the God of Jacob for his guide.â€
JosEPpHâ€”THE YOUNG DREAMER.
â€œ Behold, this dreamer cometh.â€ â€” Genesis XXLXVIL., 19+
â€œ1 thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest."â€”Sir Thomas
â€œ1Â£ we can sleep without dreams, it is well that painful dreams are avoided.â€ â€”
â€œ Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children because he was the son of
his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.â€ Genesis Â£XXVIt., 3.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob. He was the son
of Jacob and Rachel, doubly dear to them, because he was
the son of their old age.
When first we meet this young dreamer in the Bible
record, he is seventeen years of age. Between himself and
the elder brothers of the household there was the difference
of many years, so that it is quite easy to understand that
the grown men in Jacobâ€™s household would be very apt to
regard Joseph as a mere child. But instead of treating him
with tender, gentle care, they were hard with him. If in
the study of Josephâ€™s character, we come to the conclusion
that he might have been less childish and vain, we shall also
have abundant reason to conclude that the elder sons of
Jacob might have been much more manly in their treatment
of the boy.
Joseph was unfortunate in being a favorite child. Mere
favoritism in a family is never wise, it is generally unjust,
and almost always brings evil consequences in its train.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 97
Sometimes we have seen a very beautiful form of favor-
itism in a household. When some one member of the
family has been sick or afflicted, then every member of the
household has vied with each other in a happy rivalry as to
which should do the most to cheer the solitude or brighten
the lot of the sorrowing one. We have seen sick boys and
girls so loved and cared for and tended, because of their
sickness, that we have wondered if it would not almost be
worth while to bear such a burden for the sake of the love
it awakens. We can never lavish too much love upon our
troubled ones. If this be favoritism, it is the very best kind
of favoritism, and the more we have of it the better.
Surely it is pardonable if the youngest member of the
household should receive a little special attention. Only a
childish, miserable spirit could object to that. A child is a
child, and should have all the sunshine possible poured into
its young life.
But Joseph was not a child. He was seventeen years
of age. Think of that! Any boy who reads these pages
who is seventeen years of age knows very well that a boy
of seventeen is anything but a child. Seventeen is a glorious
age! It is just the age when the garden of youth is full of bud,
and blossom, and promise. But it is a very unfortunate age
for the exercise of fovoritism. It is just the age when petting
so quickly leads to spoiling. At this age very trifling honors
will awaken vanity. And when boys of seventeen begin
to over-estimate themselves, then the trouble begins.
It was so with Joseph. Both Jacob and Rachel thought
there was not another boy in the world like Joseph. They
thought nothing was too good for him, and so they must
buy for him â€˜a coat of many colors.â€ There may not have
been so many colors in the coat after all; but it was quite
98 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
a fancy coat, and the costliest coat Joseph had upon his back.
Was Joseph foolish enough to get proud and show off just
because he had a fine coat? Could he, a grown young man
of seventeen, be so weak and foolish? you may ask. Well,
let boys of seventeen answer that question, and let them
answer it honestly. One thing is quite certainâ€”this fine coat
that came down almost to Josephâ€™s feet, and made him quite
for the coat was more like a royal
â€˜robe than a coatâ€”made the elder brethren cross, and angry,
and jealous. You will say it was very foolish of them. So
it was; it was foolish all the way round. It was very weak
of these up-grown men to get envious, and to entertain the
sentiment if even they did not express itâ€”that if home-spun
was good enough for them it was good enough for Joseph,
too. That fine coat caused a world of trouble in that whole
family, just as fine clothes from that day to this have caused
trouble in tens of thousands of families, and will go on caus-
ing trouble to the end of time.
We cannot blame Joseph wholly for being vain. Those
who fed his vanity were more to blame than he; but we do
blame him for being foolish enough to be a tattler in the
family. We know there are times when it becomes a duty
not to keep silence, but these occasions are only few and far
between. The tale-bearer is not always moved by a strong
sense of duty, but more frequently from pure mischief, bab-
bles and babbles like a shallow brook, and unfortunately
succeeds too often in turning the melodies of life into most
There were other reasons that need not be entered upon
here, that helped to widen the breach between Joseph and
his brethren. Already there was little love lost between
them, and right upon all this the young dreamer, who seems
conspicuous in the family
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 99
to be almost a poet in his dreams, tells the story of his
â€˜â€œAnd Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his breth-
ren: and they hated him yet the more.
â€œAnd he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream
which I have dreamed: for, behold, we were binding sheaves
in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright;
and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obei-
sance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou
indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over
us? eae they hated him yet the more for his Ce and
for his words.
â€˜â€œâ€œAnd he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his
brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more;
and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made
obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his
brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What
is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother
and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee
to the earth? eu as brethren envied him; but his father
observed the saying.â€
It is hardly needful to say that, in the days of Jacob and
Joseph, much store was set by dreams, and we need not blame
the people of these old times, and upbraid them as _ being
unduly superstitious. Dreams are mysterious things, and
because they are mysterious they have great influence over
certain minds. Perhaps we are all influenced by them, to some
extent at least. It may be a matter of surprise, but it is a
matter of fact, that tens of thousands of so-called intelligent
people in America, as well as in less-favored lands, keep dream-
books by them to consult when they have had any special
dream. Now, if this is done in the nineteenth century, in the
100 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
very heart of the worldâ€™s richest education and culture, we
can hardly blame the people who lived four thousand Sea
ago for thinking much of dreams.
But these dreams of Joseph gave great offense. But
why? Could Joseph help dreaming? Or could he control
the character of his dreams? That is just the point. Joseph
might have dreamed much more wonderful dreams than
these, and neither his brethren nor his father would have
been greatly worried. But it was the kind of dream that
disturbed his father and angered his brethren. Joseph was a
smart boy, if he was only seventeen. But smartness does not
always pay best. Favoritism had made Joseph vain, and
vanity soon grows into an undesirable kind of ambition.
Josephâ€™s brethren thought, and had good reason for their
thinking, that Josephâ€™s thoughts and Josephâ€™s dreams were
-very much alike. Perchance Joseph was not so very fast
asleep after all, when he dreamed these remarkable dreams.
That these dreams after many years came true, forms one of
the most wonderful and romantic pages of Bible history;
still, at the time, even Jacob as well as his sons, seem im-
pressed with the thought that if Josephâ€™s mind had not been
filled with such boundless ambitions, he would not have dreamed
such dreams. Josephâ€™s brethren were disgusted, Jacob was
disturbed; they hated the lad more than ever, while Jacob,
though he mildly rebuked his favorite son, wondered in his
heart of hearts to what issues these strange dreams would tend.
Time passes on, and one day Jacob calis Joseph to his
side and bids him take a short journey to Shechemâ€”the
scene and site of Jacobâ€™s famous wellâ€”to see how his
brethren fare. The pasture lands of Shechem are rich and
fertile, and there the sons of Jacob abide in the pleasant
fields tending their fatherâ€™s flocks.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 101
Joseph was ready to obey his fatherâ€™s wish, and away
he wanders down through the pleasant vale of Hebron, and,
boy-like, he goes in his fine new coat, that had already so
enraged his envious brethren. We say â€˜â€œ boy-like.â€ What
could have been more natural? Whatâ€™s the good of a fine
coat if you cannot wear it? The finer and grander the
coat the greater the mockery if it is always to be hidden
in the closet. Boys of seventeen, and men who are quite
old enough to have put vanity far from them, know how
true this is.
It was very foolish of Joseph to go in that coat. It only
added fuel to the fires of jealousy and envy. The very sight
of it stirred up such a feeling that, had it not been for Reuben,
it would have cost Joseph his life; for these men were wicked
and cruel, as the narrative shows. They saw Joseph quite
away off. They knew him by his fine coat. He seemed to
be all coat to them. Quick as thought they said with a sneer:
â€˜Behold this dreamer cometh! Let us put an end to his
dreams; let us kill him, and tell Jacob, our father, that a wild
beast has devoured him, and then we shall see what will
become of all his fine dreams.â€
Instantly Reuben comes to the rescue. He forms a merciful
plan of saving the poor lad from a cruel death. He urges his
brethren to be pitiful. Mr. Winks has presented Reubenâ€™s
plea on behalf of Joseph in the following pleasant lines-â€”
Shed no blood!
Remember blood can speak and call aloud
For justice. From the dust it calls,
And entereth the ear of God in heaven.
Have ye forgotten how the blood of Abel
Called aloud eâ€™en from the ground for vengeance?
O let me warn you â€™gainst so foul a crime,
Lest the dread curse of Cain should rest upon you.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Deeds such as this have oft no doubt been done,
And secrecy has covered all in darkness.
Yes: many a deed as dark neâ€™er saw the light.
Simeon and Levi, ye are brethren; and it may be
Even as ye have said. But, O! my soul,
Come not into the secret of such men. With them
Mine honor be not thou united. Instrurnents
Of cruelty are in their habitations. Cursed, then,
Be their fierce anger and their cruel wrath.
Beware, my brethren: shed not the ladâ€™s blood.
For is he not your brother? How could you bear
To. hear him plead for mercy?â€”Could you resist
His struggles for existence?â€”Could you look
Upon his quivering lip and dying eye?â€”That lip
You oft have kissed with transportâ€”and that eye
Which beams with such a meek intelligence
Beyond his years. And then our aged fatherâ€”
How could you meet the venerable saint? Or how
Answer his searching questions? Sin not then,
Let me entreat you, thus against the lad.
What evil hath he done? why should he die?
Mere childish vanity deserves not death.
And, more than this, ye charge not Joseph with.
One thing let me entreat ere you resolve;
In yonder pit let down the lad, and then
Take further thought how ye will punish him,
But never do a deed so dark and deadly ;â€”
Hush! he is here.
Reuben was successful. As the unsuspecting Joseph drew
near, he was rudely seized by his angry brethren.
coat was taken off, and he was dragged into one of the pits
or fastnesses in the rocks, where the jackals prowl and the
This meant death and starva-
tion to Joseph, unless some unlooked-for deliverance speedily
We can well imagine Joseph pleading with angry,
wild beasts make their home.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 105
â€œO brethren, let the anguish of my soul excite
Some natural pity. Iam but a youth,
A feeble stripling. Spare, O spare me, brethren.
Let not my sun go down before â€™tis noon;
Pluck not this flower while yet â€˜tis in the bud.
O, am I not your brother? See me now
In my distress, and think how once you lov'd me.
And can you leave me in that pit to die?
Surely you will not! for you know â€™twould break
My fatherâ€™s heart! Indeed â€™twould break his heart,
And bring him down with sorrow to the grave.â€
But the plea is all in vain. He is left, as they intend
and as he fears, to die. Reuben has wandered away with
the intention of returning at some opportune moment to release
his younger brother. During his absence Judah, seeing a cara-
van of Midianite merchants passing near, proposes to sell
the young dreamer as a slave, and let him go far away and
dream his dreams in Egyptian slavery.
No anxiety concerning Joseph seems to have disturbed
these cruel men, nor had they any pity for Jacobâ€™s feelings,
or they would never have devised so cruel a plan to cover
up their guilt and to account for the absence of Joseph. The
coat of many colors was dipped in the blood of a kid, and
shown to the bewildered father.
What a shameless, cruel piece of lying and deceit!
Nothing could have been more wicked and unworthy!
It is true, Jacob himself had been a gross deceiver, as
we saw in the previous chapter. He had deceived his blind
old father and wronged his brother; and now the measure
with which he had meted was being measured out to him
again, full measure, pressed down and overflowing. The
sins of his youth were following him like a shadow, even to
his old age.
Think of the broken-hearted father, gazing on the coat,
all dabbled in bloodâ€”the blood, as he thought, of his slaugh-
106 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
tered Joseph! What a heartrending cry broke from _ his
â€œTt is my sonâ€™s coat! An evil beast hath devoured him.
Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces!â€
And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his
loins, and went mourning for Joseph many days. And when
his sons and daughters would have comforted him, he would
not be comforted, but said:
â€œT will go down into the grave unto my son, sorrowing!â€
But God has not forgotten the young dreamer. He can
cause all things to work together for good. And He made
these strange events work for Josephâ€™s good, and _Jacobâ€™s
good, and the good of his cruel brethren, add the good of
Egypt for many an eventful year.
Joseph soon began to find favor in the land whither he
had gone as a slave. It was not long before he became an
overseer in the household of Potiphar, a captain of the
guard of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. While in the house of
Potiphar he was tried by sore temptation, but Joseph feared
the God of his fathers, and said, â€˜â€œIlow can I do this
great wickedness and sin against God?â€ With that question
on his lips he was strong to resist temptation. He won
the victory and his name has been handed down through all
the generations since, as the type of virtue triumphant over
sin. One word of counsel will not be out of place at this
point. If boys or girls, or men or women, would only stop
and ask this question when temptation assails: â€œ How can
I do this wickedness and sin against God?â€ they would
oftener be the victors over sin and not the victims of
Accused of the very sin against which he had fought,
Joseph was cast into prison. But God, who cared for Joseph
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 107
in the pit in Shechemâ€™s vale, was not unmindful of Joseph in
the Egyptian prison, but was leading him by a right way to
a throne of usefulness and power.
The young dreamer found favor with the keeper of the
prison, and he was soon placed in a position of responsibility
and honor. While in this prison, the Kingâ€™s butler and the
Kingâ€™s baker were brought, charged with high crimes. They
each had a dream, which Joseph interpreted, and his inter-
pretation proved to be correct. The baker was hanged, but
the butler was released.
We are still in the land and the age of dreams. The
monarch on his throne and the slave in his tent by the
Nile, each had their dream. King Pharaoh had two remark-
able dreams. And this is what he dreamed:
â€œAnd it came to pass at the end of two full years that
Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. And
behold, there came up out of the river seven well-favored
kine and fat-fleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, be-
hold, seven other kine came up after them out of the
river, ill-favored and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other
kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill-favored and
lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favored and fat
kine. So Pharaoh awoke. And he slept and dreamed
the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came
up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold, seven
thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after
them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank
and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a
â€œAnd it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was
troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of
Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them
108 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
his dream; but there was none that could interpret them
Now, you must know that expounding and merorer ae
dreams was quite a profession in those days. But the wise
men, the professional interpreters, were all at their witsâ€™ end
over these dreams of the King. They could not explain, or
expound or interpret. At this point the released butler
remembered how Joseph in the prison had interpreted his
dream, and told the King all about it, and suggested that
Joseph should be sent for.
And Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and told him of his hav-
ing dreamed strange dreams, and of the singular fact that
all his sooth-sayers and wise men were utterly baffled, and
could not interpret his dreams.
Now mark the modesty of Joseph; and his loyalty to the
God of his fathers. When Pharaoh told Joseph that he had
heard of his wondrous skill in interpreting dreams, and
charged him to make plain these mystic revelations, instead
of quietly taking all the credit to himself, Joseph answered
Pharaoh and said:
â€œJt is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of
peace.â€ God has promised in His word that those who are
loyal to Him shall not go unblessed. He has said: â€˜â€˜ Those
who honor me, I will honor, and those who despise me shall
be lightly esteemed. God was honored by the testimony of
the young dreamer in the Court of Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
Now see how God honors the son of Jacob.
Directed by the wisdom that cometh from above,
Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh, and this is the
â€œÂ¢ And Joseph said unto pe oen The dream of Pharaoh
is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
JosEPH INTERPRETING PHARAOH'S DREAM. 109
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 111
The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good
ears are seven years; the dream is one. And the seven thin
and ill-favored kine that came up after them are seven
years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind
shall be seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have
spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he showeth
unto Pharaoh. Behold, there come seven years of great
plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall
arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty
shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall
consume the land. And the plenty shall not be known in
the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be
very grievous. And for that the dream was doubled unto
Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God,
and God will shortly bring it to pass. Now therefore let
Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over
the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him
appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of
the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let
them gather all the food of those good years that come, and
lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep
food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the
land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in
the land of Egypt that the land perish not through the
How sagacious and far-seeing was this interpretation!
No wonder that the King was delighted with Josephâ€™s wis-
dom and prudence. The tide is turning; the sun of Josephâ€™s
prosperity is ascending to the midway heavens. Those dreams
in the vale of Hebron of bowing sheaves and bending con.
stellations are soon to be more than fulfilled. The action of
Pharaoh proved him to be as sagacious in the selection of a
112 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
great Minister of State to carry out the moral of these
dreams as Joseph had been clear in unfolding their meaning.
â€˜â€œ And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in
the eyes of all his servants.
â€˜â€œAnd Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such
a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And
Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showedâ€™
thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art.
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word
shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be
greater than thou.
â€˜And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over
all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from
his hand, and put it upon Josephâ€™s hand, and arrayed him in
vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had;
and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him
ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto
Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up
his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh
called Josephâ€™s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to
wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And
Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.â€
Joseph is now Prime Minister or Secretary of State for
Egypt. He is called by a new, long name, Zaphnath-paaneah,
which means â€œRevealer of Secrets,â€ and Pharaoh gave him
a royal princess for his bride.
The part of Josephâ€™s life that possesses perhaps the great-
est interest for boys is that part where Joseph so nobly forgives
hisâ€™ brethren when they come to Egypt to buy corn. Emily
Huntingdon Miller tells this story with such simple, graphic
beauty, that we are sure our boys will read her account of
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 118
this romantic period in Josephâ€™s life with profit and de-
â€˜â€œFor seven years Joseph went about as ruler of the land
of Egypt, wearing his beautiful robes and golden chain, and
riding in his splendid chariot. He lived in a palace, with
troops of servants to wait upon him, and he had two sons
whom he loved. Then, after these seven years of plenty,
came the seven years of famine, when nothing. grew in the
fields. The people honored Joseph more than ever when they
saw that his words were all true, and that his wisdom had
saved them from great distress. For now they had plenty
of provisions laid up in their storehouses, not only to supply
their own wants, but to sell to other nations who had not
such a wonderful ruler as Joseph to tell them beforehand
what God was going to do.
â€œUp in the land of Canaan, where Jacob lived, there was
famine also; and when Jacob heard that there was plenty of
food in Egypt he sent his sons down to buy. Only Benjamin,
the youngest, was kept at home, for Jacob loved him too much
to let him go out of his sight. Do you think those ten brothers
could take that long journey over the very road by which
their little brother had been carried away to cruel slavery
without sometimes thinking about him, and wondering whether
he was dead, or whether he was still living, a poor, half-starved,
suffering man? Certainly when they came before this grand
ruler of Egypt, and bowed themselves humbly before him,
they never imagined that he could be their brother Joseph.
â€˜They were so much afraid of him they scarcely dared look at
him; but, though Joseph had changed so much, they had not
changed, and he knew them in an instant. When he saw
them bowing before him he remembered his dream which had
made them hate him so, but which now had really come to
il4 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
pass. His heart was full of love for them in spite of their
cruelty, but he did not tell them at first who he was. He
wanted to make them think about their wickedness and under-
stand that, though evil deeds may be hidden from men, God
sees-and remembers and punishes. He wanted to see if they
were sorry for the way they had treated him, and whether
they hated his brother Benjamin also. So he would not listen
to their story. He said, â€˜Ye are spies,â€™ and he put them all
in prison for three days, telling them if they wanted him to
believe them they must bring their younger brother down to
him, and then he would aot put them to death. They had a
sorrowful time in the prison, and, at the end of three days,
when Joseph told them he would only keep one of them in
prison and let the rest go home and get Benjamin, they said
-to each other, â€˜This trouble is come upon us because we
would not listen when our brother begged us not to sell him.â€™
They did not think that Joseph understood their language, but
he did, and it touched his heart so he had to go away and
weep; but he came back, and took Simeon and put him in
prison, and sent the rest away.
â€œNow they began to see that deceivers are not believed
even when they tell the truth, for their father would not
believe their story. He thought they had either killed Simeon
or sold him, as he sometimes feared they had done to
Joseph, and that they wanted to get Benjamin also. He
would not let him go off until the food was all gone and
something must be done, and then at last he let him go,
though it almost broke his heart.
â€œSo at last Joseph saw his dear brother Benjamin, and
heard that his father was well, and his heart was so full he
could hardly keep his secret any longer. He had to go
away and weep again; but he put them to one more test to
ADAMO PENH A es
Josâ€”EPpH MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN TO HIS BRETHREN. 115
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 117
see how much they loved Benjamin. He hid his own silver
cup in Benjaminâ€™s sack of corn when they went away, and
then pretended he was going to take Benjamin for a slave
as a punishment for stealing it. Now the brothers were
sure that God was punishing them for their sins, and Judah,
the oldest one, said: â€˜God hath found out the iniquity of
thy servants.â€™ He told Joseph all about their story, and
how the heart of their poor old father was bound up in
Benjamin, and he begged Joseph to let Benjamin go, and
take him for a slave in his place, for he could not go home
and see the sorrow of his father. At last Joseph was satis-
fied. He saw that his brothers loved their father and
Benjamin, and felt that they deserved punishment for their
cruelty to him. He could not hide his love any longer. He
sent all his servants out, and he could hardly speak for
weeping as he said: â€˜I am Joseph; doth my father yet
â€˜â€œNo wonder his brothers were so troubled they could
not answer, but stood trembling before him, and Joseph had
to tell them to come near to him. Then he said again, â€˜I
am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.â€™ He
told them how God had turned their wicked deed into a
blessing, and sent him there to preserve them and save
them through the years of famine. He bade them go home
and tell his father: â€˜Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath
made me ruler over all the land of Egypt; come down unto
me, tarry not.â€™ He promised to give them a place to live,
where they should be near him, and to take care of them
through all the years of famine that were yet to come, and
he bade them tell their father all they had seen, and make
haste to bring him down there.
â€œ And still they could hardly believe him, or dare to talk
118 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
with him, until he kissed them all, and they wept together.
How sorry and ashamed, and yet how glad these brothers
were! How bad their own cruelty looked by the side of
Josephâ€™s generous love and readiness to forgive! â€˜God was
with Joseph,â€™ and his spirit filled him with love and mercy
as well as wisdom.â€
When the news reached Jacob that Joseph was yet
alive and was governor over all the land of Egypt, his heart
fainted within him. He could not believe for very joy.
Never was an old age made more serene than Joseph made
the last years of his venerable father. Seventeen happy
years passed by, and Jacob was gathered to his fathers in
Joseph saw his children and his childrenâ€™s children.
Joseph lived above a hundred years. Changeful, eventful,
romantic years they were, but God was with him through
them all, and fulfilled to overflowing all the happiest of
Mosrsâ€”THE EMANCIPATOR OF THE JEWISH RACE; THE
LAWGIVER OF THE WORLD.
â€œHe was a goodly child.â€â€”Z-xodus i2., 2.
â€œGod kissed him and he died.â€â€”Hebrew Tradition.
â€œTake this child away and nurse it for me, and I will pay thee thy wages.â€
â€”Exodus it., 9.
Calm the Hebrew infant slept,
In his ark of rushes laid,
While her watch his sister kept,
Eager to afford her aid.
Soon was Pharaohâ€™s daughter seen,
With her maidens, drawing nigh;
And the ark, though small and mean,
Caught the notice of her eye.
There the lovely babe she saw
Just awaking from his sleep;
And, yet more her love to draw,
Lo! the babe began to weep,
Thus was her compassion won
By this Hebrew child forlorn;
And the babe became her sonâ€”
Moses, from the waters drawn.
Rescued from a watery grave,
Moses lived to serve the Lord,
Lived the chosen tribes to save,
And Godâ€™s wondrous acts record.
He who cared for Moses thus,
Watches o'er our helpless years;
Daily He provides for us,
And our guardian Friend appears.
120 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
It is not often that three illustrious people are born in the
same house, and yet to two pious Jewish parents of the tribe
of Levi, there were born in the old Egyptian days, two sons
and a daughter, who bore three of the greatest names known
to the Hebrew race. First of all, Moses, the great Lawgiver
and Leader of Israelâ€™s wandering tribes, whose life, from his
cradle on the Nile to his unknown grave amid the solitudes
of gray Beth-Peorâ€™s mountains, was full of world-wide, sacred
interest; next came Aaron, the great High Priest of the desert
wanderings, whose burial at Mount Hor was in many respects
a more sublime scene than the departure of Moses; and last of
the three, came Miriamâ€”the Poet, the Prophetess of Israel,
who led forth in grand procession, with timbrels and dances,
the loud thanksgiving of a redeemed people. Happy the home
that had such sons and such a daughter.
â€˜Moses was a great-grandson of the patriarch Levi. His
fatherâ€™s name was Amram, which meant â€œhandsful of. corn;â€â€™
his motherâ€™s name was Jochebed, which meant â€œhonorable.â€
Moses was born a slave, but he was destined to be for the
Hebrew race what Abraham Lincoln became in our own dear
landâ€”the emancipator of the enslaved.
The King whose dreams Joseph had made plain had long
been dead, and now another King arose â€œwho knew not
Joseph,â€ and who was wholly blind to the gratitude due to
the fellow-countrymen of the greatest statesman Egypt ever
Hard and cruel was the lot of Israel in Egypt. The lives
of these down-trodden people were made bitter and almost
unendurable with the curse of slavery. And yet, the more
these people were persecuted, the more they multiplied. By
reason of their numbers, they became formidable and dan- -
gerous. Fear made the King a coward, and cowards are
MosEs RESCUED FROM THE NILE.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 123
always cruel, and so the tyrant resolved on the wholesale
murder of the infant sons of these slaves as the best way out
of the difficulty. The terrible decree went forth that every
son born of Hebrew parents should be drowned; and soon the
sluggish Nile became the remorseless grave of thousands of
fair Hebrew boys.
But a motherâ€™s love is often more than a match for a
tyrantâ€™s plans, and the wife of Amram, the Levite, was
moved to make a bulrush cradle for her boy, and as she
floated her priceless cargo in its frail boat on the waters, we
may be sure that it was with tears and prayers that some
good fortune might befall her child.
Do you not think it was something more than mere
chance that the daughter of Pharaoh should come down to
the river bank just at this time? and that the little river
cradle should happen to float near to her feet? Surely God
was guiding all things for the best. The heart of Egypt's
princess was much tenderer than the Kingâ€™s, for when she
heard the young childâ€™s cry she had compassion, and saved
the infant from the cruel waters.
And here we first meet Miriam, the sister of the Sacred
Vigil, half-hidden among the tall reeds of the river, watching
with intense anxiety the fortunes of the frail bark that bore
her infant brother. And when Pharaohâ€™s daughter resolved to
have the laughing infant carried to her palace home, it was
Miriam who, with the instinct of sisterly love, suggested a
Hebrew nurse, and sped homeward to tell the joyful news,
and bring the mother of the child so strangely saved, to be
its happy nurse. And so the mother of this wonderful child
became its nurse by royal appointment.
What joy there was in the tent that day when Miriam
brought the glad tidings of the babyâ€™s safety! Miriam was
124 i BOYS OF THE BIBLE,
always a sweet singer. How natural it would be for the
happy mother to ask her daughter for a song!
Come now, my Miriam, sing us the Lordâ€™s song.
For though as strangers in this land we dwell,
The Lord hath not forgotten us. All our sorrows
Are known to Him, and in His own good time
He will deliver us, and bring us forth
To dwell in the fair land He promised
To Abraham and his seed. Surely this child of ours
Is spared for some high purpose. His salvation
May be a type of that which all his brethren
One day shall find, when God, with mighty hand,
Shall lead us forth from Egypt's hated plains.
Sing, Miriam, sing! my heart is joyful now.
The Lord is our strength and our song,
He also is become our salvation.
He is our God, and here shall he dwell;
Our fatherâ€™s God shall here be exalted.
The Lord is the mighty God,â€”that is His name.
His right hand is becoming glorious in power.
Great in His excellency is Jehovah.
Who is like unto Him among the Gods?
Who, like Him, is glorious in holiness?
Who, like Him, is fearful in praises?
Who, like Him, doeth wonders? _
Thou, in Thy mercy, will lead forth Thy people;
Thou wilt guide them by Thy strength to Thy holy habitation.
Thou shalt plant them in the mountain of their inheritance,
In the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever!
How long Moses was under his motherâ€™s care we are
not told; but it is most reasonable to conclude that he did
not go to live at the palace of his foster-mother, the princess,
until he was quite old enough to be told of his origin and
parentage. And of this, we may be sure that his mother
Jochebed would not fail to inspire her son with loyalty to the
race to which he belonged, and with reverence to the Lord
God of Israel.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 125
The boy of the bulrushes grew to be a favorite in the
palace, but his heart was with his own people. If they were
slaves so was he, and their sorrows sank deep into his heart,
and at last he determined to forsake the glittering splendors
of court, counting it better and nobler to stand side by side
with his enslaved brethren than to desert them for the pass-
ing joys of a palace, where he never felt at home, and to
which he knew he did not belong.
In an hour of anger Pharaoh sought to slay Moses, but
Moses escaped the anger of the King, and went to dwell in
Midian, where he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro.
And now we find Moses engaged in simple shepherd workâ€”
keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of
Midian. He was weary of all the garish lights, the mirth
of music, the dalliance of the emptiness of a palace life.
And if, as is probable, his princess foster-mother was dead,
there was no tie to bind him to the court of Pharaoh.
Moreover, he was in his very heart of hearts a Hebrew,
and the fortunes and the future of his countrymen were dear
Many an hour, under the shadow of Horeb, Moses mused
on the sad fate of Israel. That he was equal to all the
demands of a great mission all his after history proves. It
is pleasant, however, to observe that Moses, who was ready
when the call came to him distinct and clear, was neverthe-
less no man to run before he was sent. The man who can
calmly wait Godâ€™s time is just the man to do Godâ€™s work
bravely when the right time comes. This man, quietly
feeding the sheep and worshiping God under the shadow of
the desert mountain, had a great fire burning in his heart;
but that did not hinder him doing the little duties that were
near at hand. Think of this lowly shepherd, who afterward
126 BUYS OF THE BiBLE.
stood face to face with God amid the awful tempest that
shook the heights of Sinaiâ€”think of this man who atfter-
wards became the leader and guide of Godâ€™s great
sacramental hosts, doing simple work that any poor man in
the land could have done just as well! Faithful in little, he
was just the man to be faithful in much! And from such
scenes as these God calls his greatest workers. Moses from
the flock, David from the sheep-fold, Amos from the farm,
the apostles from their fishing boats and nets, Luther from
the studentâ€™s desk, Lincoln from the lawyerâ€™s office, Grant
from the leather-sellerâ€™s shop, andâ€”greatest of allâ€”Jesus from
the carpenterâ€™s bench in Nazareth.
From the peaceful slopes of Horeb, God speaks to Moses
out of a bush that burned but was not consumed. God
bids him go forth to beard the tyrant Pharaoh, and demand
the unconditional surrender of two million Jewish slaves.
What a lesson for us all, young and old, comes from
this mountain fastness in the ancient desert! Let us go on
with our common daily workâ€”feeding sheep or whatever it
may beâ€”in a prayerful, contented spirit, not forgetting to
lead the flock oftentimes to the back of the mountain, where
we may muse and meditate and pray. And _ perchance,
when least we think it, some bush will glow with living
flame, and out of it some voice may call us to higher, holier
service. But if this should not come to pass we may haply
find how true are the words of the saintly Keble:
The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselvesâ€”a road
To lead us daily nearer God.
Who could have thought, standing by the Nile that day,
that the baby in the cradle would one day lead two millions
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 127
of slaves into Freedom! Who would have thought that theâ€™
long, angular boy, Abraham Lincoln, reading his Bible by
the light of the pine logs in the log cabin in Kentucky,
would grow to be our American Moses, and would lead
four millions of slaves into the happy light of Freedom!
So history repeats itself and God fulfills himself in many
For Moses and for Lincoln alike, the task of emancipa-
tion was terrible. There was a Red Sea for both to cross,
a baptism of blood for each, but with God behind them and
round about them, the simple rods held in their firm and
faithful hands became omnipotent.
Safe landed on the further shore of the Red Sea, the
stately form of Miriam, the sister of Moses, is seen, leading
with timbrel and dance and song, the procession of the free.
A grander war-song than that has never trembled on mor-
tal lips. Not to the courage and sagacity of her heroic
brother, not to chances or the fortunes of war, but to the
God of Israel this great deliverance is wholly ascribed.
â€œThe Lord has triumphed gloriously! His right hand
and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory!â€
With singular poetic force Miriam marks the complete-
ness of the overthrow of the Egyptians by language that
accumulates in strength. â€˜They sank;â€ â€œthey sank to the
bottom like a stone;â€ â€œthey sank like lead in the mighty
waters!â€ Well might she cry aloud, â€œWho is a God like
unto Thee?â€ For Egypt had lords many and gods many,
but they had all failed. Every barrier erected to keep the
Hebrews in bondage had been broken down. Every hin-
drance had been overcome. The voice of God had shaken
the palaces of Mizraimâ€™s ancient splendor.
â€œLet my people go!â€
128 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
And now with a high hand and an outstretched arm,
God brought His people forth. The song of these happy
thousands, led by the inspired poetess of their race, was the
first song of freedom the world had ever heard. It was the
birth-song of a new nationâ€”the loud hallelujah of a ran-
somed peopleâ€”that made the desert ring with its free, wild
airs of liberty.
We never think of Miriamâ€™s song, but we are reminded
of Mrs. Julia Ward Howeâ€™s grand â€˜Battle Song of the
Republicâ€ with its fine refrain,
â€œOur God is marching on!â€
It would be a grave mistake to suppose that the work
of Moses was ended when the children of Israel stood free
men on the Red Sea shore. In truth, the work of Moses
was only just begun. He had required great courage to face
the tyrant of Egypt; but he now required patience, wisdom,
tenderness that was firm, and firmness that was tender, and
many other great qualities. The task that was now before
him was to take two million of escaped slaves and make of
them a great nationâ€”the first-born of the greatest nation of
the earth. This was no childâ€™s play. Not once, but a thous-
and times the leader of Israelâ€™s hosts longed for an hourâ€™s
rest under the shadow of Horeb. How gladly would he have
changed the pleasant bleatings of Jethroâ€™s sheep for the angry
and fretful murmurings of his followers!
These emancipated slaves had not wandered three days.
in the wilderness before they began their miserable com-
plaining! The music of Miriamâ€™s songs of triumph had
scarcely died upon the desert air before they began their
murmurings. They came to a stream of brackish water,
and because it was bitter they murmured and _ rebelled.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 129
This old story is true to-day. We are no wiser than these
wandering slaves. It matters little how full and rich and
plentiful of good our life is. There may be a thousand
fountains playing all â€˜about us, but one bitter stream will
make us fretful, one little cloud in our heaven of blue sets
us to prophesying terrific storms. We long for the gushing
fountains and the shadowy, fruitful palms, and Elim is a
place much to be desired. But if the hours at Elim are happy,
the hours at Marah are wholesome. Life is mercifully a mixture
of bitter and sweet and the bitter is as healthful as the sweet
The future history of Moses is the history of his race.
We cannot stay now to trace the wanderings in the wilder-
ness through many years. The marvelous record of Sinai,
where Moses spent six weeks with God in the mountains.
and came back with his face all aglow with divine light and
beauty, and then proclaimed that series of laws that has.
served as seed-corn for the moral government of the world
ever since. We must leave these grand scenes untouched,
for other studies await us. On through many a winding
way the leader of Israelâ€™s host marches, till at last the dark
hills of Moab appear. The journey is coming to an end.
The rushing waters of the fords of Jordan break upon the
ear; on the verge of the horizon lie the blessed hills and
fruitful vineyards of Canaan. Moses, from Pisgahâ€™s lofty
height beholds the promised land, but may not enter. We
met him first in a bulrush cradle on the Nile, and now
after a long life, full of hallowed toil, he passes mysteriously
from our sight. He bids his beloved people farewell, then
passes forever from mortal view. How he died, or where
his resting-place, none can tell. An old eastern legend says:
â€˜â€œGod kissed him and he died.â€ The scriptures say:
130 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
â€˜â€œâ€œSo Moses the servant of the Lord died in the land of |
Moab according to the Word of the Lord. And he buried
him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor,
but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.â€
We cannot resist the temptation of quoting here Mrs.
Alexanderâ€™s grand poem on the burial of Moses:
By Neboâ€™s lonely mountain,
On this side Jordanâ€™s wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab,
There lies a lonely grave;
But no man built that sepulchre,
And no man saw it eâ€™er;
For the angels of God upturned the sod,
And laid the dead man there.
That was the grandest funeral
That ever passed on earth;
Yet no man heard the trampling,
Or saw the train go forth:
Noiselessly as the daylight
Comes when the night is done,
And the crimson streak on oceanâ€™s cheek
Grows into the great sun;
Noiselessly as the spring-time
Her crown of verdure weaves,
And all the trees on all the hills
Unfold their thousand leaves:
So without sound of music
Or voice of them that wept,
Silently down from the mountainâ€™s crown
The great procession swept.
Perchance the bald old eagle
On gray Beth-peorâ€™s height
Out of his rocky eyrie
Looked on the wondrous sight;
Perchance the lion stalking
Still shuns that hallowed spot;
For beast and bird have seen and heard
That which man knoweth not.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
But, when the warrior dieth,
His comrades of the war,
With arms reversed and muffled drums,
Follow the funeral car;
They show the banners taken;
They tell his battles won;
And after him lead his masterless steed,
While peals the minute gun.
Amid the noblest of the land
Men lay the sage to rest,
And give the bard an honored place,
With costly marbles drest,
In the great minster transcept
Where lights like glories fall,
And the sweet choir sings and the organ rings
Along the emblazoned hall.
This was the bravest warrior
That ever buckled sword;
This the most gifted poet
That ever breathed a word;
And never earthâ€™s philosopher
Traced with his golden pen
On the deathless page truths half so sage
As he wrote down for men.
And had he not high honor?â€”
The hillside for a pall!
To lie in state while angels wait,
With stars for tapers tall !
And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave,
And Godâ€™s own hand in that lonely land,
To lay him in his grave !â€”
In that strange grave without a name,
Whence his uncoffined clay
Shall break againâ€”O wondrous thought !â€”
Before the judgment-day,
And stand with glory wrapped around,
On the hills he never trod,
And speak of the strife that won our life
With the incarnate Son of God.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
O lonely tomb in Moabâ€™s land!
O dark Beth-peorâ€™s hill!
Speak to these curious hearts of ours,
And teach them to be still.
God hath his mysteries of graceâ€”
Ways that we cannot tell;
He hides them deep, like the secret sleep
Of him he loved so well.
SAMSONâ€”THE STRONGEST AND THE WEAKEST OF THE
Boys or THE BIBLE.
â€œ How shall we order the child? And how shall we do unto nim?"-â€”fudges
â€œOut of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.â€
â€œTn the worldâ€™s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife.â€
â€”H. W. Longfellow.
Dare to be strong; the world is very weak,
And longs for burning words which strong souls speak,
Thirsts for the cup which ye have strength to grasp,
Toils.on the road where ye are swift to run,
Does naught itself, but worships what is done.
Spare it one hand; thine other angels clasp.
The character of Samson, the young Hercules of Sacred
Scripture, has always been a favorite with boys. Boys are
lovers of adventure, and the young fellow who could tear a
roaring lion all to pieces was a hero indeed.
Physical strength is much to be admired; and boys
would do well to lay this to their account early in life, that
if they are to do good work in this world, whether by hand
or brain, they must have a healthy, vigorous body. A boy
who has good health and a sound constitution has nothing
in the world to fear. But do not make the mistake of
supposing that unusual physical strength is of itself sufficient
134. BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
reason for great boasting. Too often the boy who is
blessed with great physical strength becomes a bully, and
avails himself of every possible opportunity of showing off
his superior strength in the most disagreeable manner to
weaker boys. This is very contemptible, and if the young
bully would pause a moment to think, he might remind him-
self of the fact that, strong as he is, the next mule he meets
is sure to be a great deal stronger. Very often very strong
boys have very weak spots. Sometimes this strength almost
all runs to body, and scarcely any to mind. We have
known strong, smart boys, who could knock down a Texas
steer, but they couldnâ€™t work out a problem in Euclid to
save their lives. By all means let us take care of our
health and develop our strength; but after all, this is only
the animal part of us; and let us not make the mistake of
neglecting the culture of the heart and mind, in our too
absorbing anxiety about physical training. Develop the
muscles if you will, till they are like those of Longfellowâ€™s
â€œAs strong as iron bands,â€
but do not let us forget that we have a heart and a brain
that demand our constant care.
_ Samson was the child of devout parents, who from the
day of his birth, were supremely anxious to, train him in the
fear of God. â€˜How shall we order the child? What shall we
do unto him?â€ was their earnest anxious prayer. The very
name Samson was full of suggestive meanings. Some think
the name meant â€œSunny,â€ or â€œthe Sun Hero.â€ Others
interpret it to mean â€œThe Destroyer.â€ Both meanings serve
to indicate the character of this son of Manoah. He was of
a bright and sunny disposition, and he was also a great
â€œAND HE RENT HIM AS HE WOULD HAVE RENT A KID.â€ 135
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. _ 187
The age in which Samson was born was an age of vows,
and from his birth the vows of God were upon him. He
was to be a Nazarite. He was to be an abstainer from all
intoxicating drinks from his birth. In obedienceâ€™ to an angelâ€™s
command he was never to put an enemy into his mouth
that would â€œsteal away his brains.â€ This young Judge of
Israel grew strong, not by wine and strong drink, but by
water from the hallowed brooks and babbling springs of
blessed Israel. He was never to have his hair cut. So when
you think of Samson you should think of a sturdy, firm-set,
well-built boy, with â€œa shaggy, untonsured head,â€ as Dean
Stanley says, â€˜and seven sweeping locks, twisted together,
yet distinct, which hung over â€˜his shoulders; and in all his
wild wanderings and excesses amidst the vineyards of Sorek
and Timnath, he is never reported to have touched the juice
of one of their abundant grapes.
Young Samson was a merry fellowâ€”quite a humorist
in his way. Sometimes his humor was both grim and cruel.
Perhaps those Scripture phrases in the Psalms about â€˜â€œâ€˜a giant
rejoicing to embrace,â€ and â€˜â€˜a bridegroom coming forth out
of his chamber,â€ may have been suggested by the story of
Samsonâ€™s strange character.
â€œNothing could disturb his radiant good-humor. His
most valiant, his most cruel actions were done with a smile
on his face and a jest in his mouth.â€ He was full of wild
pranks and heedless follies. Ile was a great practical joker,
little heeding what the result might be. Life was for many
years a comedy, but it ended in darkness and tragic
The first great feat of strength recorded is that of the
killing of the lion. Samson and his parents were on their
-way to the vineyards of Timnath, when, turning aside from
138 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the beaten path, a roaring lion confronts the young Nazarite.
The Bible says:
â€œThe spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and
he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in
And strange to say, when he rejoined his parents he
seems to have made no reference to the encounter. It may
be, that not once only, but many times, Samson was victo-
rious in his encounters with the wild beasts of the field.
In fact, nothing in the range of adventure seems to have
been omitted in the remarkable career of Samson; and
the stories of his powers are given with great circum-
Strangely enough, a while after, as Samson was passing
that same way, he had the curiosity to turn aside and see
what had become of the carcass of the lion, and, would you
believe it? the bees in that neighborhood had swarmed, and
they had made a hive of the dead body of the lion. Samson
brought his father and mother some of the honey from this
remarkable bee-hive, but he said nothing to them about hav-
ing killed the lion.
By this time Samson had fallen in love with a young
Philistine woman of Timnath and wanted to marry her. His
parents were very sorry. They wanted him to take a wife
of the daughters of Israel, and not of the enemies of the land.
But Samson was head-strong as well as hand-strongâ€”too
strong to be guided, too weak to be wise. His parents saw
danger ahead, but what did Samson care for danger! He was
strong enough to fight and conquer a roaring lion, but not
strong enough to deny himself and conquer his passing fancies.
He was the strongest and the weakest of all the boys of the
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 139
Samson married this woman of Timnath, and there was
a great feast that lasted more than a week. It is at this
strange wedding-feast that we first hear Samson at his favorite.
sport of asking riddles. ee
â€œâ€œAnd Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle
unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven
days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty
sheets and thirty change of garments: but if ye cannot declare
it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change
of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle,
that we may hear it. And he said unto them, Out of the
eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweet-
_ ness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.â€
And they never would have found out the riddle if they
had not coaxed Samsonâ€™s wife to tell them.
Samson was soon sorry that he had allied himself with
these Philistines. One day he went with a pretty present for
his wife, but he was not allowed to see her, and was told that
he could never see her again.
Samson was very angry. And then came one of his
wicked practical jokes. He caught three hundred jackals, and
tied blazing wool to their tails, and sent them into the stand-
ing corn that was just ready for the harvest. The harvest-
fields and vineyards were soon ablaze. Such an awful prairie
fire had never been seen. What a weak, and wicked, and
revengeful spirit this strong Samson had!
Next comes the story of Samsonâ€™s breaking the new cords
with which he was bound on the high peak of Etam in the
presence of his foes.
â€œThen three thousand men of Judah went to the top of
the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that
the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast
140 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me,
so have I done unto them.
â€œAnd they said unto him, We are come down to bind
thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines.
And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not
fall upon me yourselves. And they spake unto him saying,
No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their
hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him
with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock. And
when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him:
and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the
cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt
with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he
found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and
took it and slew a thousand men therewith.â€
After this we have the record of this mighty Nazarite
bearing away the gates of ancient Gaza, so proving to his
foes how utterly impossible it was for them to harm him. Â°
And indeed they could not harm him. They waited
all night, resolved to kill him at the dawn of day. And
when the day dawned they found not only that Samson
had gone, but that he had taken the gates of the city with
These were wonderful deeds, you will say. Perhaps you
will think they are almost too wonderful to be believed.
May it not be that we have perhaps exaggerated them a
little in our own minds, without knowing it? It is not our
purpose to explain all these wonderful â€˜stories, if even we had
time. But if these particular stories about Samson over-tax
your belief, take the trouble of reading carefully what Dr.
Cunningham Geikie says about them in his most valuable
book called â€œHours With the Bible.â€ And when you geta
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 141
little older read and ponder over the same subject in Stan-
leyâ€™s â€˜Jewish Church.â€
And now to return to our young Nazarite. Nothing
could have harmed Samson if he had not harmed himself.
He was so strong that there was no peril to him in the
strength of his foes; the only peril to him was his own weak-
Nay, is not this true of us all? If we put our trust in
God, we cannot be harmed, unless we harm ourselves.
The boy Samson has grown to be a man. The giant
of Gaza becomes a plaything in the hands of wicked, designing
Philistine men and women. And he went on and on, till
â€œthe Lord departed from him,â€ and Samson, in spite of
many warnings, at last became the prisoner of the Philis-
tinesâ€”the bond-slave of the foes of Israel. How are the
mighty fallen! How have the strong become weak!
THis cruel foes pluck out his eyes! And Samson, who
has been for many ages Judge in Israel, was made to work
at the task of a slave. Blind and bound, he was made to
grind corn by turning two great stones in a mill; work that
mules and asses have done in Palestine for thousands of
years, and are doing still to-day.
The picture of the blind old man in the prison of Gaza,
bound with brazen fetters, his long locks shorn, grinding corn
for his foes, is one of the saddest pictures in the worldâ€™s
history, and certainly one of the very saddest pictures the
Bible contains. Who so strong as Samson once? Who so
weak as Samson now?
In all the realm of beautiful, soul-stirring poetry it would
be very difficult to find anything more sublime than Miltonâ€™s
great poem called â€œSamson Agonistes.â€ The grand Puritan
poet deals with the last days of Samsonâ€™s sad career. He
142 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
begins by picturing Samson led forth by a slave for a brief
respite in the open air. If the extract here made is sonie-
what lengthy, it is of the utmost value. It presents from a
great poetâ€™s standpoint, the sad reflections that may have
stirred the heart of Samson, as in his blindness he reviewed
his sad career.
A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade;
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common prison else enjoinâ€™d me,
Where I, a prisoner chainâ€™d, scarce freely draw
The air imprisonâ€™d also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught; but here I feel amends,
The breath of heavâ€™n fresh blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
This day a solemn feast the people hold
To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid
Laborious works, unwillingly this rest
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave
Retiring from the popular noise I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease;
Ease to the body some; none to the mind
From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm
Of hornets armâ€™d no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
Oh! wherefore was my birth from heaven foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an offâ€™ring burnâ€™d
As in a fiery column charioting
His god-like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit revealâ€™d to Abrahamâ€™s race?
Why was my breeding orderâ€™d and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designâ€™d for great exploits, if I must die
Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heavâ€™n-gifted strength? O glorious strengtn
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 148
Put to the labor of a beast, debased
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver; .
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.
Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine prediction: what if all foretold
Had been fulfillâ€™d but through mine own default,
Whom have I to complain of but myself?
Who this high gift of strength committed to me,
In what part lodged, how easily bereft me,
Under the seal of silence could not keep,
But weakly to a woman must reveal it,
Oâ€™ercome with importunity and tears.
O impotence of mind in body strong!
But what is strength without a double share
Of wisdom? vast, unwieldy, burthensome,
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall
By weakest subtleties, not made to rule,
But to subserve where wisdom bears command.
God, when he gave me strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair,
But peace, I must not quarrel with the will
Of highest dispensation, which herein
Haply had ends above my reach to know:
Suffices that to me strength is my bane
And proves the source of all my miseries,
So many, and so huge, that each apart
Would ask a life to wail; but chief of all,
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light, the prime work of God, to meâ€™s extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annullâ€™d, which might in part my grief have eased
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm, the vilest here excel me;
They creep, yet see, I dark in light exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong.
Within doors, or without, stillas a fool
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half,
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
144 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day! .
O first created beam, and thou great Word,
Let there be light, and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as thâ€™ eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quenchâ€™d?
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every port:
Then had I not been thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave,
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs,
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life, ;
Life in captivityâ€
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear,
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps tâ€™ insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more.
Long as this extract is, it will well have served its pur-
pose if it should inspire the young reader to ponder carefully
the whole of this matchless poem.
The end draws nigh. The Philistines hold a grand
festival in the temple of Dagon to celebrate the capture of
Samson. They bring Samson forth to make sport for them.
Did he ask them riddles? Did he make puns or present
THE FALL OF THE House oF Dagon, 145
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 147
conundrums? We do not know. In his last hour Samson
calls on God. An awful purpose fills his mind. If God
will help him he will bring down the house of Dagon about
the ears of these uncircumcised Philistines. And so he
prays, and the old spirit comes back upon him.
â€˜Now the house was full of men and women; and all
the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon
the roof about three thousand men and women, that keheld
while Samson made sport.
â€œAnd Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord
God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray
thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged
of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold
of the two middle pillars: upon which the house stood, and
on which it was borne up, of the one with the right hand,
and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me
die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his
might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the
people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his
death were more than they which he slew in his life.
â€œThen his brethren and all the house of his father came
down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him
between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah
So ends the tragic story of Israelâ€™s giant Judge.
Noon glowed on the hills: and the temple of Dagon
Now shook â€™neath the gay, maddened revellersâ€™ tread;
For the champion of Israel has bowed to the pagan:
And the blood of the crushed grape flowed sparkling and red.
Feet chased flying feet, as in wild mazes bounded
Like roes of the mountain Philistiaâ€™s fair girls:
Glad gushes of music from ruby lips sounded:
There were wreathing of white arms, and waving of curls.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Enthroned in the clouds rolling up from the altar,
The giant-like god of the proud nation stood;
There flesh did not fail, nor scorching flame falter,
The still air was faint with the incense of blood.
And short prayers were muttered; and censers were swinging;
In gorgeous piles matted lay offerings of flowers;
Wild harps were complaining; gay minstrels were singing;
And a gong sounded forth the captiveâ€™s lone hours.
But now comes a mock, mournful sound of condoling;
And forth in his darkness, all haggard and wild,
His shaggy brow lowering, his glazed eyeballs rolling,
The strong man was guided as lead they a child.
Now higher the laugh and the rude jest are ringing,
As throng the gay revellers round the sad spot
Where the captiveâ€™s shrunk arms to the pillars are clinging;
And altar and wine-cup and dance are forgot.
His right arm is lifted: they laugh to behold it,
So wasted and yellow and bony and long:
His forehead is bowed; and the black locks which fold it
Seem stirring with agony nameless and strong.
His right arm is lifted; but feebly it quivers,â€”
That arm which has singly with multitudes striven:
Beneath the cold sweat-drops his mighty frame shivers;
And now his pale lips move in pleading to Heaven.
â€œGod of my sires, my foes are thine:
Oh! bend unto my last faint cry,â€”
The strength, the strength that once was mine!â€”
Then let me die.
â€œTâ€™ve been the terror of thy foes:
Iâ€™ve led thy people at thy call:
Now, sunk in shame, oppressed with woes,
Thus must I fall?
â€œQh! give me back my strength again!
For one brief moment let me feel
That lava flood in every vein,
Those nerves of steel.
â€œ My strength, my strength, great God of Heaven!
In agony I make my cry,â€”
One triumph oâ€™er my foes be given!â€”
Then let me die.â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 149
A light trom the darkened orbs stole in quick flashes;
The crisp matted locks to long sable wreaths sprung;
The hot blood came purpling in fountain-like dashes;
And to the carved pillars his long fingers clung.
The brawny arm strengthed, its muscle displaying;
Like bars wrought of iron the tense sinews stood:
Each thick swollen vein on his swarthy limbs straying
Was knotted and black with the pressure of blood.
One jeer from the crowd,â€”one long loud peal of laughter;
The captive bowed low: and the huge column swayed:
The firm chaptrel quivered; stooped arch, beam and rafter:
And the temple of Dagon a ruin was laid.
Earth groaned â€™neath the shock; and rose arching to heaven
Fierce, half-smothered cries as the gurgling life fled.
Day passed: and no sound broke the silence of even
But the jackalâ€™s long howl, as he crouched over the dead.
SAMUEL AND His MOTHER.
â€œSpeak: for thy servant heareth.â€â€”Samuel t27., Zo.
â€œSpeak to us, Lord,
From out the hallelujahs sweet and low,
From out the hallelujahs low and sweet.â€
â€”Elizabeth B. Browning.
â€œ Here am I, for thou didst call me;â€
Quickly little Samuel came;
Three times had he answered Eli;
Hearing some one call his name.
â€œGo, lie down,â€ said aged Eli,
And his eyes were dim with yearsâ€”
â€œTf He call thee, thou shalt answer:
â€˜Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.â€™â€
Samuel listened well to Eli,
And obeyed him as he could:â€”
I must hearken to my teachers,
And try always to be good.
More than all did Samuel listen
To the teaching of the Lord:â€”
Jesus calls me in the Bible;
Let me hear and love His Word.
â€”Countess of Fersey.
There is something more than mere sentiment in those
â€œThe hand that rocks the cradle
Rules the world.â€
That couplet is as true as it is poetic. It has been true
in every age; it is true to-day the wide world over. It will
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 151
be true as long as cradles are rocked and mothers bend
above them in wise, patient, prayerful love.
The world owes the strength of its greatest men to the
gentle ministry of their mothers. The world would have
had more men like Samuel if there had been more mothers
like Hannah. It is true, deeply true, that the hand that
rocks the cradle rules the world, and guides the church, and
marks out the path of empire. Three thousand years ago
and more, a man was needed very much in Israel. The
world has never suffered so much from anything as from the
lack of menâ€”upright, brave, godly men. There were men
enough, after a fashion, in Israel, but what sort of men were
they? Those who were not grossly wicked were culpably
weak. A trembling, faltering priest in the temple, debauch-
ery in sight of the very altar of God, the whole nation sink.
ing down into a demoralized condition. What Israel wanted
wasaman. The times were out of joint. . The government
of the judges was falling to pieces.
A new order of things was about to begin. To inaug-
urate this new order, and to bridge over the period of organic
change, a man was wantedâ€”a man of mental force, a man
of moral power, a man who could rise to the dignity of a great
mission and carry it forward to fulfillment. Such men are
not always plentiful. But when God wants such a man He
knows exactly where to find him. And when the time draws
nigh for the work of some Samuel, it will generally be found
that God has been at work through the aid of some Hannah
preparing Samuel for the coming task.
This old-world story of the Jewish mother and her devout
lad, and of the voice that shook the midnight silence of
Shiloh, is only one of many thousands of just such stories,
differing only in circumstance and time. What a glorious
152 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
mother this Hannah was, especially as seen in the light of
her own day! How earnestly she prayed!â€”so earnestly, so
passionately, that the old priest of Shiloh could not under-
stand her earnestness! Allin good time he came to understand
this woman of a sorrowful spirit, and sent her away with a
â€˜â€œGo in peace,â€ he said, â€˜â€˜and the God of Israel grant
thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.â€
With Hannahâ€™s prayer there was linked a sacrea vow.
If God would hear her and send a son to gladden her life
and the life of Elkanah her husband, she would devote him
to the service of the Lord all the days of his life.
And when the answer came to Hannahâ€™s importunate
prayers, how joyfully she gave back to God the priceless
gift! There was the true spirit of sacrifice, giving to God
and to his service the best and dearest; and there also was
the reward of sacrifice, for Samuel was more dearly and
more tenderly hers now than he was God's. She laid her
gift upon that altar that sacrifices both giver and giftâ€”and
bowed in adoring worship where she had bowed in pleading
What manner of woman this mother of Samuel was,
may perhaps best be gathered from that grand psalm of praise
that breaks forth from her saintly lips as she holds in her
arms the reward of her faith and the answers to her impor-
tunate prayers. Call her prophetess, or poet, or what you
will, such songs as hers can never die.
My heart rejoiceth in the Lord,
Mine horn is exalted in the Lord:
My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies;
Because I rejoice in Thy salvation.
There is none holy as the Lord:
For there is none beside Thee:
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 153
Neither is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly;
Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth:
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And by Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And they that stumbled are girded with strength.
They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
And they that were hungry ceased:
So that the barren hath born seven;
And she that hath many children is waxed feeble,
The Lord killeth, and maketh alive:
He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up,
The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich:
He bringeth low, and lifteth up.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
And lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill,
To set them among princes.
While Samuel was yet a little child he began his life of
Israel service at the Altar of God. With the sacrifices suit-
able for the occasion, â€œ three bullocks, an ephah of flour, and
a bottle of wine,â€ she starts forth with her little child for the
sanctuary in Shiloh.
Who shall tell the thoughts, the prayers, the great
mother-hopes and fears that rose and fell in her sad yet joyful
heart, as she wandered through Sharonâ€™s plains to Shiloh!
In language most graphic and beautiful, Felicia Hermans,
one of the sweetest poets of our age, pictures that strange
The rose was in rich bloom on Sharonâ€™s plain,
When a young mother, with her Firstborn, thence
Went up to Zion; for the boy was vow'd
Unto the temple service. By the hand
She led him, and her silent soul, the while,
Oft as the dewy laughter of his eye
Met her sweet serious glance, rejoicâ€™d to think
That aught so pure, so beautiful, was hers,
To bring before her God.
254 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
So passed they on,
Oâ€™er Judah's hills; and wheresoâ€™er the leaves
Of the broad sycamore made sounds at noon,
Like lulling rain-drops, or the olive-boughs,
With their cool dimness, crossed the sultry blue
Of Syriaâ€™s heaven, she pausâ€™d, that he might rest;
Yet from her own meek eye-lids chasâ€™d the sleep
That weighâ€™d their dark fringe down, to sit and watch
The crimson deepening oâ€™er his cheekâ€™s repose,
As at a red flowerâ€™s heart: and whence a fount
Lay, like a twilight star, midst palmy shades,
Making its banks green.gems along the wild,
â€˜There too she lingerâ€™d, from the diamond wave
Drawing clear water for his rosy lips,
And softly parting clusters of jet curls
To bathe his brow.
At last the Fane was reachâ€™d,
The earthâ€™s One Sanctuary; and rapture hushâ€™d
Her bosom, as before her, through the day
It rose, a mountain of white marble, steepâ€™d
In light like floating gold. But when that hour
Waned to the farewell moment, when the boy
Lifted, through rainbow-gleaming tears, his eye
Beseechingly to hers, and, half in fear,
Turnâ€™d from the white-robed priest, and round her arm
Clung eâ€™en as ivy clings; the deep spring-tide
Of nature then swell'd high; and oâ€™er her child
Bending, her soul broke forth in mingled sounds
Of weeping and sad song.
The mother departs, and the child is left to wait on Eli,
the High Priest, to trim the temple lamps, and guard the fire
upon the sacred altar. How pleasant it must have been for
the venerable Eli to have had this gentle boy about him, and
with what sacred awe would Samuel discharge the duties with
which he was honored!
The picture of the venerable Eli, as presented in the book
of Samuel, is very pathetic. His sons were a shame and a
disgrace to him. They had broken his heart and crushed his
spirit. He had not the courage to rebuke and reprove them
for their shameless deeds. Everything was going wrong in
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 155
Israel, and Eli, bowed with years and distressed with a world
of cares, seems to have turned to the child Samuel for
It is a dreadful thing when fathers and mothers have to
turn away from their own children to children not their own
for comfort and solace, especially in their old age. It may be,
to some extent, their own fault. They have, perhaps, â€˜spared
the rod,â€ and all that the rod means, and thus helped to spoil
their children. â€˜This does not excuse unfilial conduct in the
children, nor make the case less sad.
So things went on, when, one quiet night, Samuel heard
a voice calling to him, and saying:
Naturally enough, Samuel thought Eli had called him,
and so made haste to see what Eli wanted. But Eli said
he had not called, and so Samuel went to bed again. A
second and a third time the voice was heard quite clearly
and distinctly to say:
And still Eli had not called. At last it dawned on Eli
that God was calling the child, and had some special message
to deliver. And so he charged him if the voice came again
â€œSpeak, thy servant heareth.â€
At last God spoke and told Samuel of the sad doom
that awaited the house of Eli. After a while the voice
ceased, and Samuel wondered about all the things God had
said, and then, like a fearless child, fell asleep.
When the morning came Eli asked Samuel all about
the strange sounds and voice of the night before, and what
God had said; but Samuel hesitated. It was hard work for
a boy to tell an old man so sad a story. But Eli wanted
156 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
to know the worst, and charged Samuel to tell all that God
had said; and Samuel told him every word. And this was
the sad message he had to tell:
â€œAnd the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing
in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth
it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all
things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I
begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that
I will judge his house forever for the iniquity that he knoweth;
because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them
not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli,
that the iniquity of Eliâ€™s house shall not. be purged with sacri-
fice nor offering forever!â€
What a scene that must have been! A simple and art-
less child standing before a venerable man of nearly one
hundred yearsâ€”perhaps ten times older than himselfâ€”and
delivering divine denunciations on his hoary head!
. But Samuel was a modest, unassuming child. For a
long time there had been no open vision, and the word of
the Lord was precious in those days. When that word was
revealed to Samuel he did not assume any airs of importance,
but went quietly about his usual duty of opening the Coors
of the house of the Lord. It was no pleasing task to him
to bear this burden of the Lord and deliver it upon the head
of the venerable priest, whom he loved and reverenced as
his own father.
Eli, too, loved the child, and called him â€˜My son.â€
The docility with which Samuel received instruction, and his
willing obedience in all things, were no doubt a comfort and a
joy to Eli, whose chief failing, as first magistrate in the land,
was, that he did not execute impartial justice on his offending
sons in punishment of their public and flagrant iniquities.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 157
How pleasantly the story is told of Hannahâ€™s visits to
Shiloh, of the little broidered coat, stitched with love, wept
over, sung over, prayed over! Worth more than the purple
robes of royalty was this simple garment wrought by the
Jewish mother for her son. But the motherâ€™s work jis largely
done, and she passes from the history, but not from the
heart of the world; for while the world honors the grand
career of Samuel, the prophet-statesman of the ancient Israel,
the story of the praying mother and the little broidered
coat and her grand psalm of praise will be remembered.
Samuel went on year after year trimming the lamps of the
temple of God and guarding its altar fires.
The house of Eli passedâ€™ away, Samuel grew, and the Lord
was with him; and all Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba,
knew that he was established to be a prophet of the Lord.
Tow could such a boyhood lead to anything but a
noble manhood? And it is safe to say, that in the whole
history of the world, there have been very few men as
great, as honorable, and as useful to their age, as Samuel
the son of Hannah. He was the first of the great prophets
of Israel; he was the founder of the School of the Prophets;
he was one of the great educators of the early world; the last
of Israelâ€™s Judges, and the greatest of them all.
Remember that it was in the sanctuary of Shiloh that
Samuel spent his boyhood. And it is to our sanctuaries,
and to the sons of Christian mothersâ€”praying mothers like
Hannahâ€”that we look to-day for the successors of Samuel.
Hushed was the evening hymn,
The temple courts were dark,
The lamp was burning dim
Before the sacred ark;
When suddenly a voice Divine
Rang through the silence of the shrine.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
The old man, meek and mild,
The priest of Israel, slept;
His watch the temple-child,
The little Levite, kept;
And what from Eliâ€™s sense was sealed
The Lord to Hannahâ€™s son revealed.
O! give me Samuelâ€™s ear,
The open ear, O Lord!
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy word:
Like him to answer at Thy call,
And to obey Thee first of all.
O! give me Samuelâ€™s heartâ€”
A lowly heart that waits
When in Thy house Thou art,
Or watches at Thy gates
By day and night, a heart that still
Moves at the breathing of Thy will!
O! give me Samuel's mind;
A sweet, unmurmuring faith,
Obedient and resigned
To Thee in life and death;
That I may read with childlike eyes
Truths that are hidden from the wise.
; â€”Ff. D. Burn.
DAVIDâ€™S CONFLICT WITH THE GIANT OF GATH.
â€œDavid said, Moreover, the Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion,
and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.â€
â€”!, Samuel xvit., 37.
Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you;
Ye dare not trust your own:
Put on the Christianâ€™s armour,
And watching unto prayer,
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victorâ€™s song;
To him that overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.
â€œThe Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
â€œHe maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still
â€œHe restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his nameâ€™s
â€œYea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
â€œ Thou prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annoint-
est my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
â€œSurely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.â€™"â€”Psalms xxitt.
160 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
If David had never been a Kingâ€”if he had never done
anything but write that matchless Twenty-third psalmâ€”he
would have laid the whole world under everlasting obliga-
tions to him.
The life of Davidâ€”poet, warrior, and kingâ€”is so crowded
with great events that a reasonable study of his whole career
would fill not one volume, but many volumes. Mr. Spur-
geon, the pastor of the Tabernacle in London, has _pub-
lished six great volumes in commenting on the Psalms alone.
Of course you know the Psalms are not all by David, but
so many of them are that we commonly speak of the whole
book of Psalms, as the Psalms of David.
What boys are most interested in in the life of David,
is the great battle on the heights of Ephes-dammim, when the
opposing armies really consisted of a giant and a shepherd
boy, and to this episode of Davidâ€™s boyhood we shall be
compelled to limit our references to this wonderful son of
Dayid was one of the sons of Jesse. Jesse was a grand-
son of Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabitess, who returned
with Naomi to Bethlehem after the death of Elimelech. Beth-
lehem, the â€œHouse of Bread,â€ was the birthplace of David,
as it came to be in the fullness of times, the birthplace of
â€œGreat Davidâ€™s Greater Son.â€
Davidâ€™s quiet youth was spent in the fields, guarding and
tending the flocks and folds of his father. Much of his time
was engaged in the simplest kind of work, leaving him
ample opportunity for their King, musing and day-dreaming;
and as he kept watch over his fatherâ€™s flocks by night, he.
would have time to ponder over the beauty, and wonder at
the grand, unchanging order of the starry heavens. His sling,
by his side by day, would bring down the birds from the
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 161
trees, or scare the jackals as they prowled about the fold,
or along the rocks. Once a young bear made a raid on the
fold; and on another day a lion, half famished, assailed the
flock, but the brave young shepherd was more than a match
for them, or as he says in his modest way, â€œthe Lord deliv-
ered himâ€ from the paw of the lion and from the paw of
Now we come to the great exploit for which David, in the
eyes of the young is most celebrated. The restless Philis-
tines had again gathered themselves against Israel, within
the region of Judah, and Saul lost no time in arraying his
forces to-oppose them. The two armies met in the valley
of Elah. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the
one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side:
and there was a valley between them. And there went out
a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named
Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
That is to say, the giant stood about ten feet high! And
he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed
with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five
thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass
upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaverâ€™s beam; and
his spearâ€™s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and
one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and
cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, â€˜ Why
are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a
Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for
you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight
with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but
if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our
servants, and serve us.â€ And the Philistine said, â€œI defy
162 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the armies of Israel this day; give mc a man, that we may
fight together.â€ When Saul and all Israel heard those
words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly
afraid. David is sent with provisions to the camp of his
brothers, and then follows the whole romantic story.
Dr. W. M. Taylor, in his â€˜David, King of Israel,â€
gives a graphic and instructive account of the whole
â€œDavid, young as he was, was astonished at what he
saw and heard. Apparently he had no fear of the giant,
but he did wonder at the craven-heartedness of his fellow-
countrymen. He asked again and again into the particulars,
and was so specially minute in his inquiries about what Saul
had promised to the victor, that his eldest brother began to
surmise that he was himself purposing to accept the chal-
lenge, and said to him, in a â€˜sneering, cynical, elder-brotherly
fashion, â€˜Why camest thou down hither? and with whom
hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know
thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art
come down that thou mightest see the battle.â€™
â€œBut David did not allow himself to be provoked; he
ruled his spirit for the timeâ€”a harder task and a yet nobler
achievement even than the conquest of the giantâ€”and he
simply said, â€˜What have I now done? Is there not a
cause?? At length, however, as he talked with one and
another, the report spread out that there was one who
would fight the giant, and finally it was told to Saul, who
sent for him, and sought to dissuade him from his purpose,
saying, â€˜Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to
fight with him, for thou art but a youth, and he a man of
war from his youth.â€™
â€œBut the young shepherd was not to be daunted thus.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 163
Rehearsing his deeds of valor in the defense of his flock,
and tracing his successes on these occasions to the help of
God, he said, â€˜The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of
the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out
of the hand of this Philistine.â€™ This was precisely the spirit
that was needed for the stern encounter; and Saul, recog-
nizing in it that in which he was himself so deficient, at
once made answer, â€˜Go, and the Lord be with thee!â€™
â€œ At first the King proposed that he should array himself
in the royal armor; but David was not at home in that, and,
with a true stroke of military genius, he determined to go
forth with the weapons with which he was most familiar. ele
took his shepherdâ€™s staff in his left hand, and his sling in his
right, and, having his satchel suspended from his neck, he went
out in front of the lines. As he crossed the dry bed of the
brook he selected some smooth stones, one of which he fixed
in his sling, and the others he dropped into his bag. It has
been commonly supposed that, in laying aside Saulâ€™s armor
and preferring his own sling, David was giving up every advan
tage, and that the chances of his success were materially lessened
by the fact that he was thus, comparatively speaking, defense-:
less. But that is a mistake. The genius of David was made
manifest in the choice of his weapons, and so soon as he had
determined to use the sling the issue was not doubtful. The
giant was open to attack only on the forehead; but then he
was cased in such heavy armor that he could not move with
swiftness, and so he could prove a formidable foe only when
he was fighting at close quarters. David, on the other hand,
was free, and could run with swiftness and agility; while using
the sling he could begin the attack from a distance, and out of
the range of his adversaryâ€™s weapons. So far, therefore, as
weapons were concerned, the advantage was clearly on Davidâ€™s
164 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
side, provided only he could preserve his precision of aim and
steadiness of hand. He was like one armed with a rifle, while
his enemy had only a spear and a sword; and if only he could
take sure aim, the result was absolutely certain.
â€˜Goliath, however, despised his simple weapons, and in
spiteful indignation cursed him by his gods, saying also, â€˜Come
to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and
to the beasts of the field.â€ Nothing daunted, David made reply:
â€˜Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and
with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord
of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast
defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand;
and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I
will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day
unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth;
that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not
with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lordâ€™s, and He will
give you into our hands.â€™
â€˜But now the time for parley is at an end; Goliath is
advancing to meet his antagonist, and David, seeing that his
only opportunity is to strike him while yet he is at a distance,
makes haste and runs. As he runs, he re-adjusts the stone in
his sling; and taking unerring aim, he sends it whizzing to its
mark in the forehead of the giant, who forthwith fell with his
face to the ground. Then rushing forward, he took the sword
of his adversary and cut off his head, which he carried with
him as a trophy of victory. When the Philistines saw that
their champion was dead, they turned and fled; but the Israelites
pursued them hotly even to the gates of Ekron, and the victory
From that day David was famous. He had won the battle
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 165
for his country and his God. Music and dancing and many
delights followed in celebration of this victory. War songs
were sung, and one of the most popular of them all had this
â€œSaul hath slain his thousands,
But David his tens of thousands.â€
American boys may well be interested in this story. David
was a brave young patriot. He was willing to dare and die
for his country. Many of the fathers of the boys who read
this book, and some of their grandfathers, went out more than
a generation ago to fight a greater giant than Goliath. They
fought the giant slavery. It was a terrible conflict, but the
giant was killed, and buried without hope of resurrection.
War is a terrible thing! But David-was a hero in a noble
RIZPAH AND THE SEVEN Sons oF SauL: A STORY OFA
MortrHErRâ€™s DEATHLESS LOVE.
â€œ Love is strong as death.â€â€”Eccles. viiz., 6.
A mother is a mother still
The holiest thing alive.
â€”S. T. Coleridge.
â€œAll that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel motherâ€”blessings on her mem-
ory.â€â€”A braham Lincoln.
â€œ Hundreds of stars in the beautiful sky;
Hundreds of shells on the shore together;
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of bees in the sunny weather.
â€œ Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of lambs in the purple clover;
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only ONE mother the wide world over.â€
Rizpah is not a common name. It is one of the least
familiar of all the names of Scripture. And yet, considering
what Rizpah did and sufferedâ€”her long, sad vigil on the
lonely mountain heightâ€”it is wonderful that it has not taken
its place amongst the most familiar, as well as the most
famous, of all the names that women bear.
Many names have become illustrious whose deeds and
daring are not for one moment to be compared with the
patient heroism of this mother of ancient Israel. Her weary
watching all summer long beneath the crosses of the slaugh-
tered sons of Saul, stands without rival as an example of a
motherâ€™s deathless love.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 167
This strange and tender story is one of the obscure
stories of the Old Testament that we are more or less apt
to overlook, simply because they lie a little out of the beaten
path of popular biblical study.
Boys who have been brought up in the country know the
difference between â€œthe highwayâ€ and â€œa by-way.â€ The
highway is the common road along which all the people
travel. In the old world, especially in European lands, the
highway is often called â€œthe kingâ€™s highway,â€ and these roads
are kept in good order at the expense of the government
for the most part, so that if war should arise there need be
no difficulty in moving vast armies speedily from place to
place. If it should be your good fortune to travel through
Italy, you would be greatly interested in these well kept
royal roads, along which tens of thousands of soldiers have
marched during the wars of the last hundred years. Hap-
pily for us, our highways have been almost entirely highways
of peace. So may they be to the very end of time.
Every boy who knows anything of the country, knows
that the highways are almost always dull and dreary, com-
pared with the green, cool beauty of the by-way, the meadow
and the lane. The traveler, who never wanders from the
broad highway, but keeps straight on and never ventures
â€˜â€œâ€˜across lots,â€ misses a thousand mossy dells and peaceful
glades, charming to the sight and refreshing to every sense.
It is not wise to hurry through a country. Least of all
is it wise to hasten through these sacred Bible lands. The
more leisurely we wander through these â€œblessed fields,â€ the
more carefully we examine every nook and corner, every
vale and glen of ancient Israel, the richer will be our
This tale of Rizpahâ€™s matchless devotion to her slaugh-
168 BOYS OF THE BIBLE,
tered sons and their hapless comrades, is one of the â€œby-wayâ€
stories of the Bible; a story that is full to the brim of most
pathetic interest, a story that should make all the boys of
America thankful that their lot is cast in this fair land, and
in an age when such scenes as were enacted on Gibeahâ€™s
mountain can never be repeated. The story is told in the
twenty-first chapter of the second book of Samuel, in the fol
Then there was a famine in the days of
David three years, year after year; and David
enquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered,
It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because
he slew the Gibeonites.
And the king called the Gibeonites, and
said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not
of the children of Israel, but of the remnant
of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had
sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them
in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)
Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites,
What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall
I make the atonement, that ye may bless the
inheritance of the Lord?
And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will
have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his
house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in
Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that
will I do for you.
And they answered the king, The man that
consumed us, and that devised against us that
we should be destroyed from remaining in any
of the coasts of Israel,
Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto
us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in
Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose.
And the king said, I will give them.
But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son
of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the
Lordâ€™s oath that was between them, between
David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
But the king took the two sons of Rizpah
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 169
the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul,
Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of
Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought
up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meho-
And he delivered them into the hands of
the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the
hill before the Lord: and they fell all seven
together, and were put to death in the days of
harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sack-
cloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from
the beginning of harvest until water dropped
upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither
the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor
the beasts of the field by night.
In order to understand this romantic story we must go
back to the time of Joshua and the early days of Israel.
Shortly after the memorable conquest of Jericho and Ai, the
inhabitants of Gibeon became alarmed. The victorious march
of Joshua and the children of Israel filled them with such
terror that they were afraid for their very lives, and ready
to come to almost any terms to save themselves. If you
will turn to the ninth chapter of the book of Joshua, you will
see what a set of miserable cowards they were. There was
to be a great defensive battle. The original possessors of
the land were not disposed to give up the land of their
birth without a struggle. Nor can we blame them. Say
what we may, it was a hard thing for them to be driven
from their native land, even to make way for the Lordâ€™s
chosen people. â€˜The native tribes resolved upon making a
grand united effort to maintain their ground. Undaunted by
the fall of the walls of Jericho and the destruction of Ai,
the clans gathered, â€œthe Hittite and the Amorite, the
Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite,
270 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
heard thereof. And they gathered themselves together te
fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.â€ But
the men of Gibeon were not so valiant. It was much easier
for them to be smart than to be brave. So they dressed
themselves in all the old clothes they could find; they put
on worn ragged sandals, â€œold shoes and cloutedâ€ as they
are called; and they put shabby harness and sackcloth upon
their asses, and took old rent wine-bottles in their hands and
carried with them mouldy bread. And in this fashion, like
an army of disreputable tramps, the men of Gibeon made
â€œtheir way to the camp at Gilgal, and when they found
Joshua, they cringed and whined and lied to him most
shamefully. It is quite easy for cowards to lie. They began
by denying that they were natives of the land. â€œWe be
come from a far country,â€ they said, â€œnow therefore make
a league with us.â€
â€œBut how can we make a league with you?â€ said the
men of Israel. â€˜What can we do with you, or what can
we do for yourâ€ .
The matter was then referred to Joshua, who being a
great leader, was therefore a very busy man. He soon had
the whole business settled. Although we cannot help think-
ing that if Joshua had known what a crowd of downright
cowardly hypocrites these men were, he would have been
more cautious in entering into a league with them. They
were a cunning set of men, cunning enough to throw dust
into the eyes of good old Joshua, as we shall see.
The Gibeonites were brought before the great leader
and commander of the tribes. They came bending very
lowâ€”much too low for genuine humilityâ€”and as they came
they cried aloud:
â€œWe are thy servants! We are thy servants!â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 171
â€œWho are ye? and from whence came ye?â€ asked
Joshua somewhat sternly.
We can well imagine the Gibeonites bowing even lower
still as they replied:
â€œFrom a very far country thy servants are come because
of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the
fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He
did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond
Jordan, to Sihon King of Heshbon, and to Og King of
Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. Wherefore our elders and
all the inhabitants spake to us saying: â€˜Take victuals with
you for the journey, and go to meet them and say unto
them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league.â€
Then this miserable band of tramps made an exhibition
of their wretchedness. They called attention to their dry,
hard, mouldy bread, to their rent wine-bottles, to their worn
and clouted shoes, and to their scant and tattered garments.
Joshua was fairly deceived. His pity and commiseration
had been worked upon; he made peace with them and made
a league with them. And princes of the congregationâ€”
these were the chief officers of Israelâ€”swore a solemn oath
of fealty to this hungry, ill-clad, half-starved crowd.
They had gained their purpose by craft and cunning,
and even though their meanness and trickery should be dis-
covered they knew they were perfectly safe. They knew the
Israelites would never go back on any promise they had
sworn in the name. of the Lord God of Hosts. Their safety
lay in Israelâ€™s honor. â€˜These Gibeonites were probably not
the first men, and they certainly were not the last, who
traded falsely and dishonestly on the truth and constancy of
Three days had scarcely passed before the secret was
172 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
out, and all Israel knew how miserably Joshua and the elders
and the princes of Israel had been fooled by these guileful
The children of Israel were very angry, as well they
might be, for what patriot likes to see his country and its
leaders made ridiculous in the eyes of the world? There
would have been peril and bloodshed that day but for the
reverence Israel had for an oath sworn before the Lord.
All the congregation murmured against the princes. There
was but one reply:
â€œBut all the princes said unto all the congregation, We
have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel, now there-
fore we may not touch them. This we will do unto them:
we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because
of the oath which we sware unto them. And the princes
said unto them, Let them live, but let them be hewers of
wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation.â€
So the Gibeonites became for all time the hewers of
wood and drawers of water to the children of Israel. They
saved their lives by a smart trick, but they had to do all the
It has been necessary to go back to the early history of
israel that we might understand in what way the Gibeonites
were related to the children of Israel. Century after century
passed by, and the Gibeonites were still the hewers of wood
and the drawers of water. The Judges had all passed away,
Samuel was in his grave, and Saul, the first King of Israel,
â€˜was carrying on his relentless wars.
War at best is cruel and unmerciful, but when waged
merely for the sake of conquest it is terrible. It regards no
oaths however sacred; it has no pity. Its ears are deaf to
all cries, though they be the cries ef women and little chil-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 175
dren; its eyes are blind to all sorrows, though they are the
sorrows of the weak and the helpless. In all his cruel wars
Saul accomplished nothing more shameless and uncalled for
than the massacre of Gibeon and its confederate towns. Men,
women and children were put to the sword in blind, wicked
fury. The city of Nob had been destroyed and four score
and five harmless priests of the temple had been slain in cold
blood. Saul intended to make Gibeon the seat of national
worship, and it may be that the Gibeonites opposed his plan.
But this was no reason for putting them to a shameful death.
It is true, as we have seen, that they were the descendants
of the Canaanites, but they were under the sheltering care
of Israel, and the services they and their predecessors had
rendered the land, surely gave them the right of protection
from such cruel treatment. Saul was a man of blood; he
loved the sword, and was destined to die by the sword, but
after the most shameful and humiliating manner. An awful
battle waged about the slopes of Gilboa. But the end of Saul
was dark and tragical. We read in the book of Samuel:
â€œAnd the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit
him and he was sore wounded of the archers.â€ But Saul
was not slain by the arrows of the archers. He died by his
own hand! The first King of Israel ended his brilliant career
a royal suicide! â€˜Then said Saul unto his armor-bearer,
Draw thy sword and thrust me through therewith, lest these
uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me.
But his armor-bearer would not; for he was sore afraid: there-
fore Saul took a sword and fell upon it. . . . , So Saul
died! . . . And it came to pass on the morrow when
the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul
and his three sons fallen in Mount Gilboa. And they cut off
his head and stripped off his armor, and sent into the land
176 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of
their idols and among their people. And they put his armor
in the house of Ashtaroth; and they fastened his body to the
wall of Beth-shan.â€ .
Could anything be more humiliating? Israelâ€™s heart was
broken. For in the fall of Saul all the land had fallenâ€”in
Saulâ€™s disgrace all Israel was disgraced. There are not many
passages in all the scriptures more tender and beautiful than
Davidâ€™s lament over Saul and over Jonathan his son:â€”
â€œTell it not in Gath!
Publish it not in the streets of Askelon!
Lest the daughter of the Philistineâ€™s rejoice,
Lest the daughter of the uncircumcised triumph!
Ye mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew, neither let there be any rain upon you,
Nor fields of offerings:
For here the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away:
The shield of Saul;
As though he had not been anointed with oil.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
Who clothed you in scarlet with other delights;
Who put on ornaments of gold on your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen?
And the weapons of war perished.â€
Nearly a generation had passed since the death of Saul,
and the Gibeonites had resumed somewhat of their former
position. But we may be sure they had not forgotten the
wrongs Saul had inflicted upon their fathers. There were
probably many living who had shared in the terrors of that
awful massacre. What tales of horror they would have to
tell! They were a singing people, and would probably throw
into the shape of ballad, or song, or poem, the record of
their wrongs. Anyway, a bitter and vengeful spirit was
kept alive in the hearts of these Gibeonites for all the sur-
vivors of the house of Saul. .
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 177
The story with which we are most concerned opens in the
spring of the year. There had been three years without
any rain. The fields were brown and bare; the rivers ran
dry, and the springs began to fail. In these days of drought
David, the King, called upon the Lord. As some say, â€œhe
consulted the oracle,â€ though what that means we hardly know.
In whatever way David sought to know the causes of this
awful drought, this was the answer he got:
â€œTt is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew
David immediately called the Gibeonites together to see
what could be done to appease the anger of these people.
He was perfectly willing to do anything in reason. If they had
demanded flocks and herds, David would have sent flocks
and herds into their valleys; if they had asked for cedars
from Lebanon, or for gold and silver from the mines, their
desires would have been cheerfully complied with. But they
would have blood! But blood would do them no good. It
would not give them back their dead ones. It would heal
no wounds, comfort no sorrowsâ€”it would only satisfy their
vengeance! That was what they desired more than anything
The Gibeonites had but one answerâ€”an answer as
cruel and relentless as the cruel deed of Saul. They said:
â€œWe will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his
house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel.â€
We do not quite understand how it was, but it seems
as if David had no alternative but to let this outraged
people have their own way. We cannot measure these war-
like times with our happy days of peace. An age under the
mastery and control of the dark spirit of war, is an age full
of cruelties, as unreasonable as they are unjust. It seems as if
178 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
David was almost entirely in the hands of these Gibeonites, and
that he had to give them pretty much what they asked, for
he practically promised to give them whatsoever . they
requested. These were his words: i
â€˜â€œWhat ye shall say, that will I do for you.â€
Then came their bloodthirsty, vengeful requestâ€”a
request in which there was nothing to be gained but fuel
and blood for their fires of vengeance.
â€˜â€œAnd they answered the King, the man that consumed
us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed
from remaining in. any of the coasts of Israel, let seven
men of his sons be delivered unto us and we will hang
them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul whom the Lord
What a pathetic scene is presented here! The King,
grown old and bowed with many sorrows, stands pleading with
these Gibeonites to take silver or gold or any precious thing,
that the land may once again enjoy the blessings of the gentle
rain; that the hillsides may once more bloom in beauty, and
the fields be rich with waving corn. But these men will have
blood! It was an awful request, but there was no help for it.
And David bowed his head and said, â€œI will give them.â€
It should be said, not in defense, but somewhat in explana-
tion of these Gibeonites, that they probably regarded them-
selves as having the honor of their race in charge. Remember
it was a warlike age. The footsteps of the messengers of
peace had not yet been heard upon the mountain slopes; and
it is almost certain that these men of Gibeah would have
regarded themselves as the most contemptible of cowards if
they had left the wrongs of their fathers unavenged. With
them vengeance was regarded, no doubt, as a rude form of
justice. â€˜To sweep the last remnant of the house of Saul from
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 179
the face of the earth was the only thing that would give them
any sort of satisfaction.
David delivered the sons of Saul into the hands of the
Gibeonites. Of these seven â€˜â€˜sonsâ€ of Saul, two of them were
sons and five of them were grandsons. Armoni and Mephi-
bosheth were the sons of Saul and Rizpah; the other five
were the sons of Michal, the daughter of Saul, and were,
therefore, the grandsons of the dead King, and nephews of
Armoni and Mephibosheth, the sons of Saul and Rizpah.
These seven were supposed to compose all that were left of
the bloody house of Saul.
The story grows sadder as it proceeds. If the Gibeonites
had taken these two young men and these five boys and put
them to death, and buried them out of sight, there would have
been some show of mercy in their conduct. These young
men had had no hand in the murder of their fathers. The
sons of Saul were as innocent as you or I of any share in
the cruel slaughter of the Gibeonites. But the old, hard, sad
law comes into force. The sins of Saul are to be visited on
his sons and grandsons. And now these Gibeonites are resolved
to surround this destruction of the remnant of the house of Saul
with all possible cruelty, indignity, and shame. They might
have done their sad work quickly, and have hidden their vic-
tims in some secret grave. But no; this would have had a
touch of mercy in it, and what mercy had Saul shown to
their fathers and friends?
They resolved upon the most torturing of all modes of
executionâ€”the mode of crucifixion. This cruel way of putting
people to death had been common among the Egyptians and
the older nations of antiquity, and it long continued in use
_for no other reason than because it was the most cruel death,
and was supposed to have attached to it the greatest possible
180 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
degradation. â€˜The death of the cross was the death of cruelty
and the death of shame.
That crucifixion was a death of lingering agony and
torture, and that it was the form of death reserved for
criminals and outcasts, just suited the vengeful mood of these
implacable Gibeonites. â€˜The bitterness of the cup they were
pressing to the lips of their hapless victims, was the very
sweetness of honey to their taste. They revelled in the
thought of the agonies the sons of Saul would suffer, and
found especial joy in the fact that they were about to drag
these princes of a fallen house to the cross of shame, to the
degradation generally reserved for criminals and murderers
The place selected for the execution gives us another
hint of the cruel purposes of the Gibeonites. No detail was
to be omitted that would add to the pangs and sorrows of
the doomed princes; so Gibeah of Saul was chosen. The
city Saul intended to make the permanent seat of national
worship; the city from whence the Gibeonites had been
driven in Saulâ€™s mad rage, was the place of all places most
suitable for the final extinction of the last remnant of Saulâ€™s
warlike house. It was like bringing boys home to be
hanged; it was like rearing the scaffold under the shadow
of the houseâ€”like turning the roof-tree into the gallows.
One other thing only was needed to make the shame of
this slaughter complete; that too was added. The crucified
forms of these guiltless youths were to hang unburied, to be
the scorn of every passer-by, till at last the vultures and
the jackals should pick all the flesh from their bones and
they should be left dangling skeletons on the hill of Gibeah.
This was the crowning shame.
It was thus that, a little more than a hundred years
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 181
agoâ€”in England especiallyâ€”-the sentence passed upon the
foulest criminals was that they should be â€œhung and
gibbetted.â€ There are some venerable people living to-day,
who can faintly remember some of these horrible scenes,
where, high on the gallows-tree, the bleached bones of
criminals swayed to and from the gibbet-post, thousands of
people coming from far and near to look upon the ghastly
How ancient Israel looked upon this disgrace of leaving
the bodies of the dead to be the prey of vultures and
jackals, may be gathered from this sad strain from one of
the psalms of Asaphâ€”
â€œO God, the heathen are come into thine
inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled;
they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead
bodies of thy servants have they given to be
meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of
thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
â€œTheir blood have they shed like water
round about Jerusalem; and there was none to
bury them. We are become a reproach to our
neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are
round about us.â€
Let us turn our attention again to Gibeahâ€™s sad moun-
tain. The terrible execution has taken place. Beside the altar
on the hill-top of Saulâ€™s own village swing the lifeless forms
of Saulâ€™s sons and grandsons â€”butchered to satisfy a cruel and
unholy vengeance, and to expiate the wrongs he had done a
We may well pause a moment here to learn a lessonâ€”a
lesson both for boys and men, a lesson for all time. The easiest
way to get at the lesson will be by asking one or two
Now that these Gibeonites were avenged, what better
182 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
were they? Would life be brighter and gladder for them
because they had brought these princes to a shameful, cruel
Would the ghastly vision on Gibeahâ€™s hill be a pleasant
memory in after years? Would they tell their children and
their grandchildren of this shameful slaughter as a thing to
be proud of?
We know how natural it is, if we have been wronged,
to resolve in the hour of our anger that we will â€œbe evenâ€ with
those who have wronged us. And perhaps we have some-
times waited long and patiently to â€œget evenâ€ with our
adversaries. But what joy ever came to us in getting even?
Did the sufferings of our foes ever fill our hearts with glad-
ness? If so, our hearts must have been cold, and pitiless,
and cruel. This gracious book, so full of charming stories,
is also full of lessons of tenderness and love, and teaches us
to love our enemies, and to do good to those who spitefully
use us. Perhaps you will say that this is a very hard lesson
to learn. So it is. All good lessons are hard to learn. The
more important the lesson, the harder it is to learn. Let a
boy start out in life resolved to follow the law of kindness,
and he will have very little trouble with enemies. Let him
be kind even to those who are unkind to him, and he will
soon hunt in vain for enemies, while his friends will increase
on every hand. Hatred to enemies only strengthens their
enmity, while a kind word or a generous deed will often
change an enemy into a fast and faithful friend.
But now a sight both sad and strange appears on this
sad hill of Gibeah. The execution is overâ€”the sons of Saul
are dead. It is at this point that Rizpah, the mother of two
of these young men, and the friend of all the rest, appears
upon the scene. She was almost certainly a woman well on
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 183
in years, for her two sons had grown up to early manhood.
How tenderly she had loved them through all their early
years may best be gathered from the motherly devotion she
Rizpah had been accustomed to the dignity and grandeur
of a queen. But see her: nowâ€”weary, widowed, childless,
and heart-soreâ€”toiling up the hill of Gibeah, dragging along
with her a rude sackcloth mattress that is to serve the pur-
pose of a bed, or to be used betimes to sweep away the
birds of prey that would soon begin to hover round the
swaying bodies of the dead. |
For what purpose had this broken-hearted mother come
to this sad place? Surely it was not to feed her anguish
by gazing on the blanched faces of her dead sons! Would it
not have been better if she had kept away from this dread-
ful sight? So perhaps we may think. But Rizpah was a
woman of firm, grand purposes. She had not come to sat-
isfy a morbid, mournful spirit; she had come to guard her
dead. The worst was over. The Gibeonites had had their
revenge, and now Rizpah had her dead. Before the sun set on
that day of crucifixion she had established herself as the
guardian of the dead bodies of her sons and their young
It was the beginning of the barley harvest when her
strange vigil began. That. would be about the end of April
or at latest, the beginning of May, and she kept her watch
unbroken through the hot months of summer, night and day,
till the rains of October began to fall. She vowed a solemn
vow that no beak of vulture and no fang of jackal should dese-
crate the bodies of her murdered sons, And faithfully she kept
her vow. By day she swept the wild birds from their prey
with the sackcloth she had brought, and by night she kept the
184 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
fires burning that scared the jackals from the scene. Think of
this, boys! Think of this grand mother of the ancient time,
who kept watch not for a day, or for a week, but for
months! Here was as glorious an example of motherly
devotion as the old world ever saw. Months of watching!
months of loneliness! months of heartache!â€”all for love
of the dead. What memories would come back to her of
the early, happy days, when Armoni and Mephibosheth were
boys, as she sat watching the huge cross all through those
long, hot summer days! She lived over again the days of their
childhood; heard again their young voices making the hills and
valleys echo with merriment and song; saw them once again at
their gambols and play; watched them growing up through
youth to early manhoodâ€”her brave, fair, noble sons! And
now she lifted her eyes and saw their bodies hanging from
the cross of shame; or perchance at night, after having
stolen from the dark hours a brief, fitful sleep, she would
start as from some horrid dream, and looking up would see in
the baleful glare of the watchfires a reality sadder than her
saddest dreams. â€˜The suffering Saviour had His brow girt
with a crown of thorns, Rizpahâ€™s brow was girt with a
crown of sorrows. One of our great modern poets says:
â€œA sorrowâ€™s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.â€
If this be so, Rizpah, the widowed, childless mother,
who kept her sad vigil on the heights of Gibeah, must have
been a very queen of sorrows. No wonder that the early
writers on the Old Testament Scriptures should apply to
Rizpah the title of the ancient â€œmother of sorrowsâ€; a title
applied almost exclusively, in later days, to the Mother of
When the rains of October began to fall and the harvest
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 185
was all gathered in, Rizpahâ€™s long vigil came to an end.
The King heard of her fidelity and devotion, and resolved
upon the honorable burial of the whole house of Saul. He
took the bones of Saul, and the bones of Jonathan, his son,
from the men of Jabesh-Gilead, who had stolen them from
the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged
them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa. So the
bones of Saul and Jonathan, and of the seven sons who were
crucified, were all gathered together and.were buried in the
country of Benjamin in Zelah in the sepulchre of Kish, the
father of Saul. :
So ends this sad romance. What came of Rizpah we
are not told. Like many other Scripture characters, she
passes forever from the sacred page when her work is done.
Surely that weary heart found rest when the bones of her
beloved received at last honorable sepulture in the tomb of
Kish, in Benjamin in Zelah! Wer work was done â€˜There
were no more sad vigils for her to keep. We think of her
moving slowly and silently, but not reluctantly, to her grave.
Through those long summer months she had presented a
sublime protest against the cruel spirit of her age. By that
weary watch on Gibeahâ€™s height Rizpah built herself an ever-
lasting name, and set the world an example of enduring,
If ever, in the wanderings and discoveries of coming
years, the grave of this ancient Jewish mother should be found,
it would be a shrine well worth a pilgrimage to visit, not
because Rizpah had known the dignities and honors of a
Queen, but because by rare enduring love she made the
name of â€œmotherâ€ glorious. If an epitaph should be de-
sired in which to embalm her memory, what could be better
186 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
THe Jewish MOTHER,
Wuose Love was STRONGER THAN DEATH.
It will not have been in vain, boys, that your attention
has been called to this romantic by-way story of the Bible, if
it should only result in deepening your gratitude for that great
benediction of heavenâ€”a motherâ€™s love. We have pity for
these crucified sons of Saul; but for their illustrious mother
we have reverence and homage.
Oh, the mothers! the mothers! the mothers! What are
all the great deeds men have wrought in the world compared
with the self-sacrificing tenderness of its mothers! The world
owes more to its gentle mothers than to all its valiant men.
In truth, it is the gentleness of the mothers that have made
the men great and strong. It is hardly possible to open a
book of biography of any great man without finding very
early in its pages some grateful, tender tribute to a motherâ€™s
love and care. We have already quoted the words of Abraham
Lincoln concerning his mother, and when we remember how
much America and the world owes to that great patriot, we
can understand how much the world owes to Lincolnâ€™s mother.
There was not one of all the four million slaves, whose fetters
fell when the music of Lincolnâ€™s Proclamation was heard, but
owed a debt of gratitude to Lincolnâ€™s mother. And of all
the wise, honorable words the great Emancipator left on record,
few are more precious, few more worthy of being remembered
and treasured, than these: â€œAll that Iam, or hope to be, I owe
to my angel motherâ€”blessings on her memory.â€
A century and a half ago there was born in a quiet little
village, in the south of England, a boy named William Cowper.
He lived to be a much-admired poet. He was not, perhaps,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 187
a very great poet, but he has written much that will be
remembered as long as poetry sways any influence on the
human mind. Cowperâ€™s mother died when he was a child,
and when the poet had grown to middle life, a cousin of his
â€”Ann Bodham by nameâ€”sent him a portrait of his mother.
_ The poem Cowper wrote on the receipt of his motherâ€™s picture
is one of the most beautiful poems that came from his busy
pen. Every boy should read and study that poem. We have
only space for just a few lines. They, however, will probably
be quite sufficient to inspire boys who love their mothers to
read the whole poem. Gazing on the faithful portrait of his
sainted mother, Cowper says:
O that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thineâ€”thy own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
â€œGrieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!â€™
The meek intelligence of those dear eyesâ€”
Blest be the art that can immortalize;
The art that baffles timeâ€™s tyrannic claim
To quench itâ€”here shines on me still the same.
* * * *
My mother! When I learned that thou wast dead
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit oâ€™er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, lifeâ€™s journey just begun.
Perhaps thou gavest me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in blissâ€”
Ah, that maternal smile it answersâ€”Yes.
* * * Es
Where thou art gone,
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more.
* * * *
My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned, and rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions riseâ€”
The son ot parents passâ€™d into the skies â€
188 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Not patriots and poets alone, but all good men and
true are ever ready to declare that the debt of gratitude
they owe their mother is high as heaven, deeper than the
grave and as lasting as the years of life.
A motherâ€™s love is born with the first breath of the
life she gives, and when the need of her child is the sorest,
then is her love the deepest and strongest. When the tyrant
of Egypt decreed the death of all the young Hebrew boys,
then the Hebrew mothers rose to the occasion and hid their
boys from danger. We may be very sure that Jochebed
was not the only mother who sheltered her smiling Moses
from the threatened doom. When Herod sent forth his
cruel edict for the slaughter of the innocents, we hear noth-
ing of the men, the fathers who should have defended their
children with their lives; but we hear the wail of the broken-
hearted mothers: â€˜Then was fulfilled that which was
spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: In Rama _ there
was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping and great
mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and would not
be comforted because they are not.â€ The day of the childâ€™s
danger is the day when the motherâ€™s love grows strong.
And if the grave should close over son or daughter, child
or youth; then the motherâ€™s love blossoms into more sacred
beauty. All the world over, there are thousands of mothers
who having reared their children only to see them fade
from their vision, have now only the melancholy joy of
keeping, like Rizpah of old, sad vigil by the graves of
their dead. Many mothers who are rich chiefly in graves,
have no deeper joy in life than to pay constant visits to the
graves of their departed, to trim the cypress and keep the
myrtle green. Our annual Decoration Day is a great day
for the Rizpahs of this later age; then all over the land from
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 189
sea to sea, on the mountain sides and in the valleys, ten
thousand graves are made beautiful with flowers, and are
watered with affectionâ€™s tears.
But we must not forget how the mothers in multitudes
are watching, tearfully, prayerfully, constantly, the . living as
well as the dead. God only knows what numberless vigils
are kept for the living by anxious mothers. Often, half way
through the night, mothers lie sleepless and sad, thinking of
the boys away from home. Many a motherâ€™s heart is beat-
ing and breaking at the same time, as she thinks of her
absent boys. â€˜ Where is my boy to-night?â€ is a question
that forces itself unbidden to the blanched lips of many a
mournful mother; and many and earnest are the prayers that
rise that God will guide the footsteps of her absent ones into
the paths of piety and peace. There is no waking hour in
a motherâ€™s life when the interest and happiness of her sons
and daughters do not constitute her chief anxiety, her dear-
Boys, there is no love like a motherâ€™s. Cherish it, honor
it, for it will be the joy of your youth, the strength of your
manhood, and the most sacred memory of growing years.
There is no love like Godâ€™s love, unless it be a motherâ€™s.
Some men looking backward through the march of years,
remembering their mothers, are ready to confess that if God
will but love them as their mothers did, they have nothing
And when the. dark days come to you, as come they
will sooner or later, for sorrow comes to all; when the sad
time of silence comes, when the voice of your mother speaks
to you no more; when the world grows dull for want of
her presence, and dark for want of her smile, may the ever-
lasting arms encompass you with such tenderness, that you
190 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
shall fecl in the deepest gloom of your sorrow, â€˜â€˜as one whom
his mother comforteth.â€
In closing this romantic story of Rizpah and her patient
vigil on Gibeahâ€™s hill, the tender words John Quincy Adams
â€”one of Americaâ€™s earliest and greatest statesmenâ€”spoke
concerning his revered mother, seems an appropriate quota-
â€œMy mother was an angel upon earth. She was a min-
ister of blessing to all human beings within her sphere of
action. Her heart was the abode of heavenly purity. She
had no feelings but of kindness and benevolence, yet her mind
was as firm as her temper was mild and gentle. She had
known sorrow, but her sorrow was silent. She was acquainted
with grief, but it was deposited in her own bosom. She was
the real personification of female virtueâ€”of piety, of char-
ity, of ever-active, never intermitting benevolence. O God,
could she have been spared yet a little longer! My lot in life
has been almost always cast at a distance from her. I have
enjoyed but for short seasons and at long, distant intervals
the happiness of her society, yet she has been to me more
than a mother. She has been a spirit from above, watching
over me for good, and contributing by my mere conscious-
ness of her existence to the comfort of my life. That con-
sciousness is gone, and without her the world feels to me
like a solitude.â€
ABSALOMâ€”THE BEAUTIFUL REBEL PRINCE.
â€œWould God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son! my son!â€â€”//, Samuel
Life is 2 leaf of paper white,
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then cores night;
Though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime;
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
â€”Fames Russell Lowell,
I live for those who love me,
For those I know are true.
For the heaven that smiles above me,
And awaits my spirit, too;
For the human ties that bind me,
For the task by God assigned me,
For the bright hopes left behind me,
And the good that I can do.
I live for those who love me,
For those who know me true,
For the heaven that smiles above me,
And awaits my spirit, too;
For the wrong that needs resistance
For the cause that lacks assistance,
For the future in the distance,
And the good that I can do.
It may seem strange, and somewhat contradictory, to say
that Absalomâ€™s misfortunes sprung mainly from his fortunes;
but the saying is nevertheless true. The same thing is true
of thousands of boys who have gone wrong, and through
192 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
pride and wickedness have marred and ruined a life that
might have been exceedingly beautiful. Boys are apt to think
that it would be a grand thing to have nothing to doâ€”no
school to attend, no lessons to learn, no books to read, and
plenty of money to spend. That would be fortunate, indeed!
The truth is that nothing would be more unfortunate than
such a state of things. Thousands of young men in America
to-day are being ruined by having too much money, too
much idle time on their hands, and too little to do.
Most of the princes of this world, both in ancient and
modern times, have found their too fortunate position full of
temptation, and very few of them have had the grace to
resist the mischief and meanness that Satan always finds for
â€œidle hands to do.â€
It was so with Absalom. He was gifted, beautiful,
petted and spoiled. He was surrounded by a set of miserable
flatterers, who would not have crossed the street to speak to
him if he had not been a prince; but because he was a prince
they praised him, and would have kissed the ground he
walked on, with the hope that his favor might be useful
some coming day. All this turned the. head of the fair-haired
boy, and, as we shall see, wrecked his whole life. We see
the gallant young vessel of Absalomâ€™s life leaving the sunny .
harbor of youth, with pennons flying and every sail filled
with promising breezes; all too soon we shall see that fair
vessel a ruined hulkâ€”sails torn, masts gone, cable slipped,
anchor broken, cordage all atangleâ€”a complete wreck; and
all because pride and folly and wicked ambitions stood at
Absalom was very beautiful. As a child he must have at-
tracted much attention. As he grew older, he was regarded as
one of the handsomest boys in all Palestine. The Bible says:
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 193:
â€˜In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as
Absalom for his beauty. From the sole of his foot, even to
the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.â€
Absalom had a wonderful head of hair. As he walked
abroad, its long thick sweeping locks swayed to and fro, and
at the distance his tossing curls looked â€œlike a flock of
goats on Mount Gilead.â€ No poet ever wrote a poem on
Absalomâ€™s gentleness, or his filial loyalty, or his brotherly
love; but many poems were written on that very remarkable
head of hair. Absalom was obliged to have his hair cut once
a year. It grew so much, and got so heavy, that it made
his head ache terribly. When the barber cut his hair,
nothing pleased the vain young prince so much as to have what
was cut off weighed. Sometimes the barber would cut off
as much as would weigh from five to six poundsâ€”enough, as
one writer says, to have made a comfortable head of hair
each for at least forty people. It was a wonderful head of
hair, and dearly Absalom paid for it.
Poor Absalom! It was his great misfortune to be a
beautiful prince! It would have been a thousand times bet-
ter for him if he had not been so beautiful. Betterâ€”much
betterâ€”if his lot had been cast amongst the lowly. He
would have been happier far, if he had been a simple shep-
herd boy, or had been kept busy from radiant morning till
dewy eve, tending vineyards and trimming vines.
He was a great favorite with his father from his child-
hood, though he almost broke his fatherâ€™s heart. Very
early in his life he took up a quarrel in which his brother
Ammon was concerned, and after nursing his anger in secret,
for two whole years, he invited all the family to a sheep-shear-
ing feast at Baal-hagor. His father David excused himself, and
so was spared the sight of the tragedy that followed. When
194 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the feast was at its height, the servants of Absalom, at the
command of their princely master, rose and slew the unsus-
pecting Ammon. All was consternation and terror, and every
man saddled his ass and hastened to Jerusalem. Exaggerated
news reached the King. He thought there had been a whole-
sale slaughter of all his family.
â€œThen the King arose, and tore his garments and lay
upon the earth; and all his servants stood by with their
This deed of murder done, Absalom escapes, and for
five years is an exile from the land where his father reigns
At last Absalom returns and is forgiven. But there was
no filial love in the heart of the young prince; he was eaten
up of vanity and self-conceit. He began to ride about Jeru-
salem in grand style, and had fifty men to run before his
chariot, so that all the people might be impressed with the
idea of his greatness. And now the broad way begins to
broaden. Vanity has become the master spirit of his life.
Rebellion, the worst kind of rebellionâ€”rebellion against his
King and against his fatherâ€”this evil spirit that was at once
unpatriotic and unfilial, made its nest in his young heart. The
' flatterers who gathered round him were his worst enemies, as
well as the worst enemies of the state. This young prince got
wrong in the first place by yielding to his pride and self-
esteem, and in the next place he selected the worst possible
men for his companions and advisers that could have been
found in the whole length and breadth of the land. All the
histories of all the princes the world has ever seen serve to
confirm this truthâ€”that there are very few things about
which boys ought to be more careful than the selection of
their companions. Absalom trusted in Joab, but Joab was
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 195
worse than a broken reed. The hand that pretended a desire
to lead Absalom to the throne of David, his father, was the
hand of an assassin.
Absalomâ€™s revolt against the crown and throne of David,
his father, grew apace, but it grew in secret. The young
prince began now to descend to all the meanness and trick-
ery of the modern professional politician. Nothing was too
low for him to do; he would have kissed any dirty voter
who would give him a voteâ€”supposing there had been
voting in those daysâ€”and worse than that, to gain the
throne and possess the power of kingship, he was willing to
wade knee-deep in the blood of his royal father. Let us
hear what the Bible tells us about the mean, unfilial treach-
ery of this beautiful prince.
â€œAnd Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way
of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a
controversy came to the King for judgment, then Absalom
called unto him and said, Of what city art thou? And he
said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And
Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right;
but there is no man deputed of the King to hear thee.
â€˜Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in
the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might
come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was
so that when any man came nigh to him to do him obei-
sance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
â€œ And in this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came
to the King for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of
the men of Israel.â€
Did you mark that last impressive line? â€œSo Absalom
stole the hearts of the men of Israel.â€ Stole! He who steals
money is a poor, miserable thief! But what is to be said of
196 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the petted, favored, son who tramples upon his fatherâ€™s dignityâ€™
and honor, and steals the hearts of his loyal people? Oh,
shameless, heartless, unfilial thief!
And now lying follows fast on other forms of evil, in.
this sad revolt. Absalom went to the King and said, I pray
thee let me go to Hebron, and pay my vow to the Lord.
He pretended that he had made a vow to offer up a sacri-
fice at Hebron, and that now he wanted to go there and do
it. And the King told him he might go, so he arose and
But it was not to serve the Lord that he went; it was:
to have himself made King instead of his father. Therefore,
he sent spies through all the land to persuade the people to
put his father away, and make him King. And the spies.
told the people that, on a certain day, as soon as they
should hear the sound of the trumpets which Absalomâ€™s
friends would blow, they should cry out, Absalom is King in.
Hebron! He took two hnndred men with him out of Jeru-
salem to help him, and sent also for a great man, named
Ahithophel, who was Davidâ€™s counsellor, or adviser. And.
Ahithophel and many of the people went with him.
And there came a messenger to David, and told him
how the men of Israel were going after Absalom. Then
David was afraid, and said to his servants, Arise, and let
us flee; make haste and go, for fear Absalom may come
suddenly and fight against the city with the sword.
His servants answered, We are ready to do whatever
the King shall command. And the King fled in haste out of
Jerusalem, he and his servants, and many of the people of
the city, and they passed over the brook Kedron and went
up toward the wilderness.
Think of this warrior King, fleeing from his throne, from.
ToAB HASTENS TO ASSASSINATE ABSALOM. 197
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. : 199
this own royal city, over mountain and crag and fell, away
from his own son! â€˜This Kingâ€”whom lions and bears could
not frighten when a boy!â€”this King, who with sling and
-stone, overcame the giant of Gath!â€”running away like a
coward from Absalom!
But Absalom, as soon as he had gathered his army
together, made haste to follow after his father. Then David
counted the men who were with him, and set captains over
them; Joab, he made the chief captain. And David said, I
â€˜will surely go with you myself also, to the battle. But the
â€˜men answered, Thou shalt not go with us, for they will care
â€˜more to take thee, than they will to take all the rest who
â€˜shall go out against them. David said, Whatever seems best
to you I will do: so he stayed in the city of Mahanaim,
where he and his people had come.
And he stood by the gate of the city while his men
were going out to fight; as they passed by him, he spoke
to all the captains, saying, â€˜â€˜Deal gently, for my sake, with
the young man, even with Absalom.â€
So the people went out, and the battle was in a wood.
And God gave Davidâ€™s army the victory, for they slew of
Absalomâ€™s army twenty thousand men.
The revolt that promised so much in the morning was
turned to asad defeat before the set of sun. That battle in
the wood of Ephraim turned the tide against the young traitor
prince. In the wild confusion and dismay, Absalom rides
hither and thither amongst the dying and the dead, and
â€˜sweeping along under the underlacing boughs of a huge over-
hanging terebuith tree, his long, flowing hairâ€”so long his
prideâ€”caught in the branches. His mule swept from under
him, and there he hung, swaying between heaven and earth!
At this moment the treacherous Joab appeared with his
200 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
handful of arrows, and he thrust three of them â€œthrough the
heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the oak. Absalom
did not come to his death by his long hair, but that long hair
held him in such a position that it was easy for his professed
friend Joab to perfect his dastardly work of assassination.
So the life that began in the midst of such promise and
beauty ends in revolt and treachery and a shameful death!
Absalom had built a pillar in the Kingâ€™s Dale, which he
proposed should serve as his monument, but the children of
Israel who stood faithfully by the grand old King provided
another monument or memorial. They threw the body of
Absalom in a pit and covered him with stones, and it was
expected that whosoever passed by would throw a stone in,
as a token of scorn and reproach. â€˜That pit of shame in the
wood of Ephraim, and not the stately pillar in the Kingâ€™s
Dale, was the true memorial of Absalom.
We have spoken often in these pages of the priceless
treasure of a motherâ€™s love. This story tells of a fatherâ€™s
anguish over his wayward son. There is not a scene in the
whole Bible more pathetic than this scene where the broken-
hearted King mourns for his wayward Absalom.
Hear how he pleads with the captains and generals as
they start forth to the battle:
â€œDeal gently for my sake, with the young man, even
_ with Absalom!â€
And, as the battle waged from morning until night, David
stood on the high tower over the gate of Mahanaim to watch
for those who should bring the tidings of the battle. As the
day declined, messengers began to appear in the distance. At
last Ahimaaz drew near.
â€œAnd Ahimaaz called, and said unto the King, â€˜All is
well.â€™ And he fell down to the earth upon his face before
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 201
the King, and said, â€˜Blessed be the Lord thy God, which
hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against
my lord the King.â€™
â€œAnd the Kane said, â€˜Is the young man Absalom safe?â€™
And Ahimaaz answered, â€˜When Joab sent the Kingâ€™s servant,
and me Le servant, I saw a great tumult, but I sn not
what it was.â€™
â€œAnd the King said unto him, â€˜Turn aside, and stand
here.â€™ And he turned aside, and stood still. And behold,
Cushi came; and Cushi said, â€˜Tidings, my lord the King:
for the lord hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose
up against thee.â€™
â€œAnd the King said unto Cushi, â€˜Is the young man
Absalom safe?â€™ And Cushi answered, â€˜The enemies of my
lord the King, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt,
be as that young man is.â€™
â€œAnd the King was much moved, and went up to his
chamber over the gate and wept; and as he went thus he
â€œ*Q my son, Absalom!
My son, my son, Absalom!
Would God I had died for thee,
O Absalom, my son, my son!â€
Whenever this pathetic scene presents itself to your
thought, think of those other words of David recorded in the
book of Psalms:
â€˜â€˜Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth
them that fear him.â€
The happiest effort of our honored poet N. P. Willis, in
portraying Scripture scenes, is his poem on David's â€œLament
for Absalom.â€ Mr. Willis has used a poetâ€™s freedom in
imagining that the dead body of Absalom was brought to
Mahanaim, or to Jerusalem to lie in state. Of this there is no
202 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
record, but the poem is so true to the inner heart of the
Kingâ€™s grief that criticism on that point is silent; and with
this elegy of sorrow, we close our story of the Rebel Prince.
The waters slept. Nightâ€™s silvery veil hung low
On Jordanâ€™s bosom, and the eddies â€˜curled
Their glassy rings beneath it, like the still,
Unbroken beating of the sleeperâ€™s pulse.
The reeds bend down the stream; the willow leaves
With a soft cheek upon the lulling tide,
Forgot the lifting winds: and the long stems
Whose flowers the water, like a gentle nurse
Bears on its bosom, quietly gave way,
And leaned, in graceful attitude, to rest.
How strikingly the course of nature tells
By its light heed of human suffering,
That it was fashioned for a happier world!
King David's limbs were weary. He had fled
From far Jerusalem: and now he stood
With his faint people, for a little space,
Upon the shore of Jordan. The light wind
Of morn was stirring, and he bared his brow,
To its refreshing breath; for he had worn
The mournerâ€™s covering, and had not felt
That he could see his people until now.
They gathered round him on the fresh green bank
' And spoke their kindly words: and as the sun
Rose up in heaven, he knelt among them there,
And bowed his head upon his hands to pray.
Oh! when the heart is fullâ€”when bitter thoughts
Come crowding thickly up for utterance,
And the poor common words of courtesy,
Are such a very mockeryâ€”how much
The bursting heart may pour itself in prayer!
He prayed for Israel: and his voice went up
Strongly and fervently. He prayed for those,
Whose love had been his shield: and his deep tones
Grew tremulous. But, oh! for Absalomâ€”
For his estranged misguided Absalomâ€”
The proud bright being who had burst away
In all his princely beauty, to defy
The heart that cherished himâ€”for him he poured
In agony that would not be controlled
â€œQ ABSALOM, MY SON, MY SON!â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Strong supplication, and forgave him there,
. Before his God, for his deep sinfulness.
* * * *
The pall was settled. He who slept beneath,
Was straightened for the grave: and as the folds
Sank to the still proportions, they betrayed
The matchless symmetry of Absalom.
His hair was yet unshorn, and silken curls
Were floating round the tassels as they swayed
To the admitted air, as glossy now
As when, in hours of gentle dalliance, bathing
The snowy fingers of Judeaâ€™s girls.
His helm was at his feet: his banner soiled
With trailing through Jerusalem, was laid,
Reversed beside him: and the jeweled hilt
Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade,
Rested like mockery on his covered brow.
The soldiers of the King trod to and fro,
Clad in the garb of battle; and their chief,
The mighty Joab, stood beside the bier,
And gazed upon the dark pall steadfastly,
As if he feared the slumberer might stir.
A slow step startled him. He grasped his blade
As if a trumpet rang: but the bent form
Of David entered, and he gave command
In a low tone to his few followers,
Who left him with his dead. The King stood still
Till the last echo died; then throwing off
The sackcloth from his brow, and laying back
The pall from the still features of. his child,
He bowed his head upon him, and broke forth .
In the resistless eloquence of woe:
â€œAlas! my noble boy! that thou shouldst die,â€”
Thou who wert made so beautifully fair!
That death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering hairâ€”
How could he mark thee for the silent tomb,
My proud boy, Absalom!
â€œCold is thy brow, my son! and I am chill
As to my bosom I have tried to press theeâ€”
How was I| wont to feel my pulses thrill,
Like a rich harp string, yearning to caress theeâ€”
And hear thy sweet â€˜A7y father, from these dumb
And cold lips, Absalom!
206 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Â«The grave hath won thee. I shall hear the gush
Of music, and the voices of the young;
And life will pass me in the mantling blush;
And the dark tresses to the soft winds flungâ€”
But thou no more with thy sweet voice shalt come
To meet me, Absalom!
And, oh! when IJ am stricken, and my heart
Like a bruised reed, is waiting to be broken,
How will its love for thee, as I depart,
Yearn for thine ear to drink its last deep token!
It were so sweet, amid deathâ€™s gathering gloom.
To see thee, Absalom!
And now, farewell! â€™Tis hard to give thee up,
With death so like a gentle slumber on thee;
And thy dark sinâ€”oh! I could drink the cup
If from this woe its bitterness had won thee.
May God have called thee, like a wanderer, home.
My lost boy, Absalom!â€
He covered up his face, and bowed himself
A moment on his child: then giving him
A look of melting tenderness, he clasped
His hands convulsively, as if in prayer:
And as if strength were given him of God,
He rose up calmly and composed the pall
Fairly and decently, and left him there
As though his rest had been a breathing sleep.
â€œTHE CHARIOT OF ISRAEL AND THE HORSEMEN THEREOF.â€ 207
ELISHA AND THE SHUNAMMITEâ€™S Son.
â€œLet a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.â€"â€”//. Kings z2., 9.
â€œDo the duty which lies nearest thee, which thou knoweth to bea duty. Thy
second duty will already have become clearer.â€â€” Thomas Carlyle.
God entrusts to all
Talents few or many;
None so young or small
That they have not any.
Though the great and wise
Havea greater number,
Yet my one I prize,
And it must not slumber.
Little drops of rain
Bring the springing flowers;
And I may attain
Much by little powers.
Every little mite,
Every little measure
Helps to spread the light,
Helps to swell the treasure.
God will surely ask
Ere I enter heaven,
Have I done the task
Which to me was given.
God entrusts to all
Talents few or many;
None so young or small
That they have not any.
When Elijah, the mysterious Tishbite, the hero of Car-
melâ€”the stern incarnate conscience, before whom King Ahab
210 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
trembled and the fierce Jezebel stood abashedâ€”was about to
pass away as suddenly and as mysteriously as he came, he
seems to have been anxious to nominate his successor. Not
that he had left any work undone, for Elijahâ€™s brief life was
rounded and complete, as far as any life could be; and yet
we always Jook on Elisha as the natural successor of the
Prophet of Fire.
Elijah and Elisha are together in Solemn converse; the
hour of parting comes. The chariot of God rolls along, and
in flaming splendor Elijah passes from Elishaâ€™s gaze.
â€œMy Father! my Father! the chariot of Israel and the
horsemen thereof!â€ cried Elisha, as in solemn awe he looked
upward to the heavens, all aflame with sunset glories; and
then catching the falling mantle of Elijah, he asks:
â€œWhere is the Lord God of Elijah?â€
The first time Elisha is met in the Bible story, he 1s
found at work in his fatherâ€™s fields in Abel-meholah, a farm-
ing district in the valley of the Jordan. Elijah was passing
on one occasion from Sinai to Damascus through this fertile
valley, when he saw Elisha at work, and moved of God, he
went and cast his mantle about him, which was undoubtedly
the first intimation the young farmer received of the great
destiny that awaited him. He prayed that a double portion
of the spirit of Elijah might rest upon him, and the Bible
tells us in brief, impressive words, that the spirit of Elijah
did rest upon Elisha.
It would be very difficult to think of two men more
widely different in character than these two. Elijah was
stern, unbending and severe, the incarnate conscience of his
age; Elisha of gentle spirit, full of pathos, tenderness and
-love. There were magnificent, heroic scenes, in the life of
Elijah, but none in the life of Elisha.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 211
Still there are some touching stories in the life of this
â€˜more gentle prophet. Just as Christ found a home and welcome
in the little cottage home of Bethany, so Elisha found a
peaceful and pleasant resting place in the little village of Shu-
nam. There was a devout woman, probably of considerable
wealth, who served the God of Israel, who, with her husband,
urged the prophet to make their house his home whenever in
his wanderings he came near. The prophetâ€™s chamber on the
wall was simply furnished with bed and table, with stool and
candlestick, and was kept sacred to his service. Many were
the peaceful hours Elisha spent in Shunem. From the window
of his chamber on the wall Elisha could see the verdant
slopes of Mount Tabor, for Tabor was but tive miles away.
But the home of Shunam could not charm death from the
threshold any more than the home of Lazarus and Martha
The pious Shunammite had an only sonâ€”the son of her
mature ageâ€”â€”-and one day he was busy in his fatherâ€™s fields
among the reapers. It was high noon, and the sun smote
him and he fell, and as he fell, his father caught him and
â€œWhat ails thee, my boy?â€
â€˜â€œâ€œOh, my head, my head!â€ was all the poor boy could
â€œCarry him to his mother,â€™
And on his motherâ€™s knee he died.
That was a sad day in Shunam. How gladly the
bright boy had obeyed his mother when she wished him to-
"was the fatherâ€™s charge.
take water to the field!
â€œHaste thee, my child!â€ the Syrian mother said,
â€œ Thy father is athirst "â€”and, from the depths
Of the cool well under the leaning tree,
She drew refreshing water, and with thoughts
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Of Godâ€™s sweet goodness stirring at her heart,
She blessâ€™d her beautiful boy, and to his way
Committed him. And he went lightly on,
With his soft hands pressâ€™d closely to the cool _
Stone vessel, and his little naked feet
Lifted with watchful care; and oâ€™er the hills,
And through the light green hollows where the lambs
Go for the tender grass, he kept his way,
Wiling its distance with his simple thoughts,
Till, in the wilderness of sheaves, with brows
Throbbing with heat, he set his burden down.
Childhood is restless ever, and the boy
Stayâ€™d not within the shadow of the tree,
But with a joyous industry went forth
Into the reaperâ€™s places, and bound up
His tiny sheaves, and plaited cunningly
The pliant withs out of the shining strawâ€”
Cheering their labor on, till they forgot
The heat and weariness of their stooping toil
In the beguiling of his playful mirth.
resently he was silent, and his eye
Closed as with dizzy pain; and with his hand
Press'd hard upon his forehead, and his breast
Heaving with the suppression of a cry,
He utterâ€™d a faint murmur, and fell back
Upon the loosenâ€™d sheaf, insensible.
They bore him to his mother, and he lay
Upon her knees till noonâ€”and then he died!
She had watchâ€™d every breath, and kept her hand
Soft on his forehead, and gazed in upon
The dreamy languor of his listless eye,
_ And she had laid back all his sunny curls
And kissâ€™d his delicate lip, and lifted him
Into her bosom, till her heart grew strongâ€”
His beauty was so unlike death! She leanâ€™d
Over him now, that she might catch the low
Sweet music of his breath, that she had learnâ€™d
To love when he was slumbering at her side
In his unconscious infancyâ€”
â€˜Tis asoft sleep! How beautiful he lies,
_ With his fair forehead, and the rosy veins
Playing so freshly in his sunny cheek!
: a) |
â€œYrET Forty Days
AND NINEVEH SHALL BE DESTROYED,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 215
How could they say that he would die! Oh God!
I could not lose him!â€
By a strange instinct the sorrowing mother took her
dead boy into the prophetâ€™s chamber, and laid him upon the
prophetâ€™s bed. She called to the boy, but he did not answer;
she kissed his cold lips, but there was no response. The
balmy breeze from Mount Tabor blew in from the open window,
but. it brought no color back to the cold, dead face.
And as Martha and Mary in later years wished for the
coming of the Christ, when Lazarus was dead, so this sad-
hearted woman wished for the coming of the man of God.
And at last Elisha came. Entering his chamber on the wall
and closing the door, he gazed for a moment upon the dead
boy, who had always been the first to welcome him and the
last to bid him farewell. Then he prayed for power, and
stretching himself upon the child, hand to hand, heart to heart,
mouth to mouth, he breathed his very life into the child,
and he revived, and his heart began to beat, and his eyes
were filled with wondering glances, and he lived!
And what came of this boy of Shunam? Surely he was
not called back to life for nothing! Tradition says that
the boy of the sunstroke, after his motherâ€™s death, became
the constant companion of the prophet Elisha, and that in
due time he himself became a prophet, none other than that
prophet Jonah, whom God sent to Nineveh to preach a
gospel of strange wonders.
There may be little to rely upon in this tradition, but
its very existence gives some sort of interest to the touching
story of the Shunammiteâ€™s son. It was worth being called
pack to life to do such a work as Jonah did. It is true
Jonah was reluctant to go where God told him to go, and
to say what God told him to say.
216 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Who wants to be a bearer of ill news?
It would take a good deal of courage to preach that kind
of preaching now. Who would care to stand up in State
street in Chicago; or Broadway, New York; or Chestnut
street, Philadelphia, and cry aloud: â€œYet forty days, and
this city shall be destroyed?â€ Who would care to do this kind
of thing? How the people would laugh! And it is almost
certain if you did any such thing you would be arrested.
But Jonah went to Nineveh after all, and right in the
midst of its magnificent splendor, he stood up and cried:
â€œYet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed!â€
Did the people laugh at him? Did they arrest him for
insanity? No; they repented! They hoped against hope.
They said: â€˜Who can tell? if God will be gracious!â€ And
God was gracious and spared the city. And though Jonah
was reluctant at first to go to Nineveh, he lived to see that
whole city on its knees, in contrite prayer, and it may be
said that he was one of the most successful preachers that
ever preached the gospel of redeeming grace.
It is very likely that boys will hear a good deal of
merriment made about Jonah and his mission. People who
think itâ€™s quite clever not to believe anything can find great
difficulties in this Bible story.
When the writer of this book was a_ boy, just such
clever people said there was no truth in the storyâ€”there was
no such place as Nineveh. Wellâ€”would you believe it?â€”
about this time Austin Henry Layard and a company of
explorers went and dug up Nineveh, and brought parts of
those very palaces, with their winged bulls, to England and
placed them in the British Museum for all the world to seeâ€”
â€œ And there they are unto this day
To witness if I lie.â€
JEREMIAH AND EZEKIELâ€”THE YOUNG PROPHETS OF SAD-
NESS AND EXILE.
â€œOh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears!â€™â€”feremizah
â€œTf I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning, let my
tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief
joy."â€”Psalms cxxxvit., 5, 6.
Great is the Lord our God,
And let His praise be great;
He makes His churches His abode,
His most delightful seat.
These temples of His grace,
How beautiful they stand!
The honors of our native place,
And bulwarks of our land.
In Zion God is known,
A refuge in distress,
How bright has His salvation shone,
Through all her palaces!
Oft have our fathers told,
Our eyes have often seen,
How well our God secures the fold
Where His own sheep have been.
In every new distress
We'll to His house repair;
We'll think upon His wondrous grace,
And seek deliverance there.
These two great prophets of ancient Israelâ€”Jeremiah
and Ezekielâ€”were about as widely different in character as
218 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
men well could be. One was the prophet of tears, the other
the prophet of mystic dreams. At the thought of Israelâ€™s
sorrows, Jeremiahâ€™s tears broke forth as from a fountain; but
Ezekiel had no tears to shed; you might have ground him
to powder, but you could not have crushed him to tears.
These men were both sons of priests; they lived in the
same age; they prophesied to the same people; they taught
substantially the same truths; the voice of Jeremiah was
tremulous with emotion; the voice of Ezekiel rung out like
a bell with the clear-cut tones of strong conviction.
Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah. Hilkiah was a priest,
and lived at a little village named Anathoth, a pleasant
wooded region embosomed amongst the hills of Benjamin.
This quiet rural district was not more than about three miles
from Jerusalem, and was mainly inhabited by priests and
their families. You see, it was conveniently near Jerusalem,
not more than an hourâ€™s pleasant walk from the temple.
To this boy, Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest, when not
more than fourteen or fifteen years old, came the voice of
God calling him to the great work of his life. How the
voice came we are not told with any accuracy. Perhaps in
a dream of the night, and perhaps in a dream of the day.
Who can tell? We have seen how God came in dreams to
Jacob, and to Joseph, why should he not come to Jeremiah
along the same mystic pathway?
You have all read of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans,
how in her young days she heard in the fields and highways
of Domremy strange voicesâ€”voices heard by none beside her-
selfâ€”and these voices charged her, maiden though she was,
to awake the slumbering zeal of her countrymen, and free
France of the foemanâ€™s thrall. Whatever those voices were,
they made a majestic woman of her; they inspired her with
â€œ BEHOLD AND SEE IF THERE BE ANY SORROW LIKE UNTO My SoRROW,â€ 219
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 221
patriotism and courage; they made her not only one of â€œthe
brightest lights,â€ but one of the bravest spirits of ancient
France; and when the fires of martydom flamed around her,
they only secured for the fair young martyr an everlasting
Think of young Jeremiah, leaving Anathoth early in the
evening to meet his priestly father as he returned from the
service of the temple. Think of the questions he would ask,
and how he would be sure to hear the sad conversations of
other venerable priests, as they deplored the condition of
Israel, and longed for some great leader who should rouse
the nation to a better thought and a nobler life.
Is it so very wonderful that, with his mind in such a
frame as these conversations would be sure to induce, he
should hear voices, and dream dreamsâ€”waking dreams of the
day as well as dreams of the night?
Whether in dream by day or night; or whether in voices
that echoed over hill and through valley; or whether in the
still, small voice, that only the boy himself could faintly hear,
it matters not; the message came. A grand, solemn mes-
â€˜Before thou wast, I knew thee, and I have sanctified
thee, and ordained thee a prophet of the nations!â€
You cannot think how startled, how awe-stricken Jere-
miah was. Doubtless the message was repeated again and
again. And at last Jeremiah answered, humbly, modestly,
for he felt in his heart of hearts that this was the voice of
â€œAh, Lord God, behold, I cannot speak, for I am but a
Then came the answering word:
â€œSay not â€˜I am a child;â€™ for thou shalt go to all that
222 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt
speak. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to
deliver thee. Behold I have put my words into thy mouth.
See I have set thee this day over the nations and over the
kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and
to throw down, to build and to plant.â€
Here was a strange message! Here was strange work!
But the voices have more than this for Jeremiahâ€™s attentive
ear and watchful eye.
â€œWhat seest thou, Jeremiah?â€
â€œT see a rod of an almond tree.â€
â€œThen said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for
I will hasten my word to perform it.
â€œAnd the word of the Lord came unto me the second
time, saying, What seest thour And I said, I see a seeth-
ing pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the
Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break
forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For, lo, I will
call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the
Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his
throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against
all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities
of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them
touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and
have burned incense unto other gods, and worshiped the
works of their own hands.
â€œThou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak
unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at
their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold,
I have made thee this day, a defenced city, and an
iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land,
against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 223
against the priests thereof, and against the people of
the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall
not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord,
to deliver thee.â€
Was ever such a message given to a boy of fifteen?
But then, you see, when God stands beside a boy, a boy may
become wonderfully powerful. God can make a boyâ€”nay,
even a childâ€”as strong as a defenced city, as firm as an
jron pillar, as safe as walls of brass! Anything, everything,
if he but puts his trust in God.
And so this boy Jeremiah became one of Godâ€™s greatest
prophets. He lived to see Jerusalem besieged and laid low.
He saw the temple in ruins, he saw his fellow-countrymen
carried away captive by Assyrian foemen. He saw God's
chosen city a desolation. And as he stood amid the awful
ruin, the Assyrian mocked his grief and_ said, â€œWhere is
now thy God?â€
With bowed head and uplifted hand, leaning upon the
top of his staff, the prophet makes answer:
â€œIs it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold and
sce, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is
done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day
of his fierce anger!â€
God had called Jeremiah to a large task. The work
before him was not the easy occupation of a summerâ€™s day.
The times were â€œout of joint,â€ and to set them right, and to
remould and renew his age, was the great mission of his
life. In the discharge of these solemn duties, he had to bear
many a cross and fight many a battle. [Ie knew the bit-
terness of imprisonment, and more than once death stared
him in the face.. But Jeremiah was true to the solemn trust
God had imposed on him. His later years are full of interest
204 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
_ and instruction. The whole tendency and character of his life
may be gathered from that wonderful book, the book of
Of course, it must be admitted that this is hardly the
kind of book boys will care much about reading while they are
boys; but in maturer years, when the Bible comes to be more
of a study, they will see what a grand legacy this boy of Ana-
thoth left to enrich the sacred literature of all coming time..
There is no sublimer elegy in all the world than the Lam-
entations of Jeremiah. There is a tear in every word, a
sigh in every line; and the whole book sounds like a mournful
requiem, wrung from a broken heart, over the hapless down-
fall of the Kingdom of God.
Of the boyhood of Ezekiel very little is known. He
was the son of Buzi, who like Jeremiahâ€™s father, was also a
priest. What knowledge these two boys had of one another,
or if they knew each other at all, we do not know. Ezekiel
was carried away captive at the destruction of Jerusalem.
A community of these Jews had settled in Babylon, by the
banks of the river Chebar, and it was here, in this land of *
exile, far from home, that the word of God comes to Ezekiel.
We are not much at a loss to know how these communications.
canie. Ezekiel simply says:
â€˜The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.â€
And in farther reference to the matter, the Bible in
a brief biographical notice, says:
â€œTn the fifth year of the month, which was the fifth
year of King Jehoiachinâ€™s captivity, the word of the Lord.
came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the:
land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chebar; and the hand.
of the Lord was there upon him.â€
It is evident that Ezekiel had been called to discharge
Tue VALLEY oF Dry BONES, 229
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 227
the office of priest to this community of exiled Jews, who
were resolved to maintain the worship of the God of their
fathers though they, were in a foreign land, and while thus
engaged in these sacred tasks, the heavens were opened, and
Ezekiel â€œsaw visions of God.â€
And what visions they wereâ€”mystic, weird and wonder-
ful! Revolving wheelsâ€”wheels within wheelsâ€”flying angels,
and all sorts of strange, mysterious things! If Jeremiah was
the prophet of tears, we may well call Ezekiel the prophet
Of all those remarkable visions perhaps the most
remarkable, and yet the one easiest to understand, is that
vision of the valley of dry bones. The visions of the
besieged city, of the boiling pot, and of the eagles, are all
very wonderful, but they are not to compare with this mysteri-
ous scene where the whole region lies before the prophet
like a vast charnel-house.
â€œThe hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me
out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst
of the valley which was full of bones. And caused me to
pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very
many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And
he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I
answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
â€œAgain he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones,
and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the
â€œThus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I
will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. And
I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you,
and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye
shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
228 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
â€˜So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophe-
sied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones
came together, bone to his bone. And, when I beheld, lo,
the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin
covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
â€œThen said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, proph-
esy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord
God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon
these slain, that they may live.
â€˜So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath
came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their
feet, an exceeding great army.
â€œThen he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the
whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried,
and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. â€˜There-
fore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God;
Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause
you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the
land of Israel.
â€˜â€œâ€œAnd ye shall know that I am the Lord.â€
We cannot stay longer here. These two great prophets
drank in the inspiration that made their lives so noble, when
they were boys. From their earliest days they were much about
the temple of God. When Jeremiah saw that temple
destroyed, it broke his heart. When Ezekiel rose to the solemn
claims of life in Babylon, he devoted himself to the mainten-
ance of the worship of the God of Israel, and if you would
know how dearly Ezekiel loved the church of God, though
in a foreign land, you will find it all set beautifully forth in
that sweet and sacred psalm of exile:
â€˜By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we
wept, when we remembered Zion.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 229
â€˜â€œWe hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst
thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required
of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth,
saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
â€˜â€œ*Flow shall we sing the Lordâ€™s song in a strange land?â€™
â€œTf I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget
her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue
cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem
above my chief joy.â€
DANIEL AND His FRIENDS.
â€œWe will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set
up.â€â€”Dantiel i22., 78.
â€œNow when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house,
and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his
knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he did afore-
time.â€â€” Daniel vi., Zo.
â€œ Whether we face the lions.in the den,
Or sail oâ€™er martyrdomâ€™s red, fiery seas,
Around us camp, invisible to men,
â€˜The cloud of witnesses.â€™
No chains can bind, no flames consume the soul;
God's breath dissolves the avalanche of ill.
When the dark clouds of suffering round us roll,
He sends His angels still.â€
â€”Thomas L. Harris.
â€œThe courage of Daniel is true heroism. It is not physical daring, such as
beneath some proud impulse will rush upon an enemyâ€™s steel; it is not reckless valor,
sporting with a life which ill-fortune has blighted or which despair has made
intolerable; it is not the passiveness of the stoic, through whose indifferent heart no
tides of feeling flow; it is the calm courage which reflects upon its alternative, and
deliberately chooses to do right; it is the determination of Christian principle, whose
foot resteth on the rock, and whose eye pierceth into heaven.â€â€”Wm. M. Punshon.
The Bible is full of stories of heroic men and women.
We have seen the heroism of Samson, the young Hercules of
the Old Testament. We have read of the bravery of David,
who slew the giant of Gath with a pebble from the brook.
But for real heroismâ€”for downright, sterling courageâ€”it is
very questionable if the world has ever seen four braver young
men than Daniel and his friends. The story of these valiant
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 231
young Jews is so deeply imprinted on the very heart of the
world that to be â€œa Danielâ€ means to be full to the brim of
the very highest kind of courage.
While Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, was in Jerusa-
lem on one occasion, he commanded the chief of his officers
to choose some of the princes of the children of Israel, that
he might take them to be servants in his palace at Babylon.
None should be chosen, the King said, who had any fault in
them, but only such as were young and beautiful and quick
to learn. For he wanted them to be taught in all the wisdom
of the Chaldeans, and to learn also the language that the
Chaldeans spoke. After they had been instructed in these
things for three years, they were to come to the palace, and
stay there and wait on the King.
Among those that were chosen by the chief officer, were
four young men, named Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. These four were brought to Babylon, and teachers
were set over them, that they might be taught as King
From the very first, Daniel and his companions gave full
proof of what sort of mettle they were made of. Because
they were in Babylon, they were not going therefore to do
as the Babylonians did. On the question of wine-drinking
'and high living, they took a distinct stand from the very
first. And the fact that they preferred to get along with
simple food and water, seemed as absurd to the Babylonians
three thousand years ago, as the same thing does to many
But they would not drink wine, and they would not
indulge in luxuries. The steward of the palace, who had
charge of them, and was to some extent responsible for them,
was afraid they could not stand this kind of simple diet. He
232 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
had not been used to temperance boys. But they begged
him to give them a trial.
So the steward gave them pulse for ten days, and at
the end of that time their faces were fatter and fairer than
all the other young men who ate food from the Kingâ€™s table.
Then he took away the meat and the wine that were sent
to them, and gave them only pulse to eat. And God helped
these four young men to get knowledge and wisdom, and he
made Daniel to understand visions and dreams.
After they had been taught for three years, the chief
officer brought them into the palace of the King. And King
Nebuchadnezzar talked with them, and found that among all
those who had been chosen for his servants, none were like
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; therefore they
staid at the palace and waited on the King. And in all the
questions which the King asked them concerning the things
they had learned, he found them ten times better than all
the wise men in his kingdom.
Time passes, and we find ourselves once more in the
midst of dreams and dreamers. The King had a very wonder-
ful dream, all about an immense image made up of gold and
silver, and brass, and iron, and clay. This dream troubled
the King; and yet strange to say, the King could not call the
dream to mind. So when he sent for all his wise men and
soothsayers, and they could not tell the King what he had
been dreaming about, much less the interpretation thereof,
he was very angry, and he gave orders that these speech-
less interpreters of dreams should be put to death.
Hearing of all this, Daniel said if the King would give him
a little time he would try and tell him all about the dream.
And the King said, he would wait and see what this young
Hebrew could do. Then Daniel and his friends prayed for
i: " i
au AM! me
- â€œMene! MENE! TreEKkEL! UPpHarsin!â€ 255
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 235
the help of God, that Daniel might have wisdom given him
to answer the Kingâ€™s desire. And the God who gave the
King the dream, gave Daniel the interpretation.
Then Daniel told the King the interpretation of it. The
gold, the silver, the brass, the iron, and the clay, that were
in the image, all meant different kingdoms. The head of
gold meant Nebuchadnezzar himself, Daniel said, because
God had given him the greatest of the kingdoms, and made
him greater than all the other Kings who were upon earth.
But after he should die, new kingdoms would arise: the
silver, the brass, the iron, and the clay meant these.
Last of all, Daniel said, the Lord would set up one
kingdom more, which should never be destroyed, but should
break in pieces all the kingdoms that were before it, as the
stone cut out of the mountain had broken the image in
Nebuchadnezzarâ€™s dream. This stone meant the kingdom
After Daniel had told the King his dream and the
interpretation of it, the King fell on his face before Daniel,
and said to him, It is true that your God is a God of gods,
and a King of Kings, and can tell all secret things, because
he has told thee this dream. Then the King made Daniel
a great man, and gave him many gifts, and appointed him
ruler over the province of Babylon, and the chief governor
over all the wise men; and because Daniel requested it, he
made his three friends also, rulers in the land. But Daniel
stayed at the palace of the King.
Then came seven sad years for that unhappy King;
after which he died. Meantime Daniel and his friends had
almost the entire government of Babylon on their hands.
Then came Belshazzar to reign over the kingdom. He
was a sad example of kingship. His conduct must have
236 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
saddened Daniel and his friends, and indeed all Babylon
ought to have been ashamed of their drunken, dissipated
In one of his drunken frolics, when he had made a great
feast to a thousand of his boon companions, he so far forgot
all that was noble and kinglike, as to send for the sacred
ewers and cups, and other vessels, which had been brought
from the temple of God at Jerusalem, out of which they
drank, and praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass and
of iron, of wood and of stone.
And just when the feast was at its height, suddenly
the finger of a manâ€™s hand was seen writing upon the wall
of the palace four mysterious words: â€œ Mene! Mene! Tekel!
Upharsin!â€ The sight was terrible. It sobered that drunken
company. What did those four words mean? The wise
men could not tell. So Daniel was sent for and he spoke
plainly to the King, and said:
â€œThou hast been proud, and sinned against God; and
they have brought. the vessels of his temple before thee, and
thou and thy lords, and thy wives, have drunk wine in
them. Thou hast praised the idols of silver and gold, of
brass, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see, nor hear, nor
know anything; but the true God who lets thee live, and
gives thee all things, thou hast not praised. Therefore has
he sent this hand, and this writing was written; and these
are the words of it: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHAR-
SIN. This is the interpretation: Thy Kingdom is ended,
God hath taken it from thee. He tried thee as King, but
thou hast not obeyed him. He has given thy kingdom to
the Medes and the Persians.â€
It had been a wild and wicked scene, but was there ever
stranger ending to a royal banquet!
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 237
Belshazzar is King: Belshazzar is lord:
And a thousand dark nobles all bend at his board;
Fruits glisten; flowers blossom; meats steam; and a flood
Of the wine that man loveth runs redder than blood:
Wild dancers are there, and a riot of mirth,
And the beauty that maddens the passions of earth; f
And the crowds all shout Â°
Till the vast roofs ringâ€”
â€œAll praise to Belshazzar, Belshazzar the King!â€
â€œBring forth,â€ cries the monarch, â€œthe vessels of gold,
Which my father tore down from the temples of old!â€”
Bring forth! and we'll drink, while the trumpets are blown,
To the gods of bright silver, of gold, and of stone:
Bring forth!â€ And before him the vessels all shine;
And he bows unto Baal; and he drinks the dark wine;
While the trumpets bray,
And the cymbals ringâ€”
â€œPraise, praise to Belshazzar, Belshazzar the King!â€
Now what cometh? Look, look! Without menace or call,
Who writes, with the lightningâ€™s bright hand, on the wall?
What pierceth the King like the point of a dart?
What drives the bold blood from his cheek to his heart?
â€œChaldeans! magicians! the letters expound.â€
They are read: and Belshazzar is dead on the ground.
Hark! the Persian is come
On a conquerorâ€™s wing;
And a Medeâ€™s on the throne of Belshazzar the King.
â€˜â€˜And in that night was Belshazzar, King of the Chaldeans,
And now Darius was King; and a conspiracy was set
on foot to put an end to the power and influence of Daniel.
A decree was sent forth to the effect that anyone who was
found praying to any god, or asking any petition of anybody
save the King, should be cast into a den of lions.
Those who conspired to make this decree evidently
thought that this was a sure way of getting rid of Daniel.
They knew Daniel was a man of prayer, and they did him
the honor of believing that he would go on praying all the
238 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
sameâ€”decree or no decree. Their whole conspiracy was
quite a compliment to Daniel as a man of prayer.
And Daniel did just as they felt sure he would. He
went on praying three times a day, with his window open
toward Jerusalem, just as though there had been no decree.
So these men who had laid this plot to put an end to Danielâ€™s
life, brought the matter before the King. They reported
that Daniel was praying just as usual. The King was very
much annoyed, and would have spared Daniel if he could, but,
King though he was, he was helpless. He must maintain his
own decree, and Daniel was cast into the den of lions.
These miserable enemies of Daniel thought their work
was effectually done. And so it was, as far as they were con-
cerned. But they had left wholly out of their calculation the
fact that Danielâ€™s God was God of lions as well as God of
men. When the morning came, what was their surprise to
find Daniel alive and unharmed!
The King was greatly delighted when he found that Dan-
iel was yet alive. And when he asked Daniel what it all
meant, Daniel simply said:
â€œMy God hath sent his angel and hath shut the mouths
of the lions.â€ !
Then disaster fell upon the conspirators. They were
cast into the very den of lions they had so shrewdly pre-
pared for Daniel, and there was no angel to shut the mouths
of the lions.
And now we must go back a little in the history. In the
days of Nebuchadnezzar, a most wonderful thing occurred.
â€˜The King set up a great golden image, about a hundred feet
high, in the plain of Dura, and demanded that everybody
should bow down and worship it; and those who would
not were to be cast into a fiery furnace.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 241
Now, the three friends of Danielâ€”Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednegoâ€”were faithful to their religion and to the God of
their fathers, and they would not bow down. The King
threatened, but they said God would deliver them. Anyway,
they would not bow down. In the face of all Babylon, they
stood up, boldly erect.
Then Nebuchadnezzar became angry; and turning a
fierce and cruel gaze on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,
he charged his servants that they should heat the furnace
seven times hotter than it was heated before. This done,
he called for his soldiers to bind the three brave young men
and cast them into the furnace. The order was obeyed.
Bound with cords, in their coats, and other garments, they
were thrown into the burning, fiery furnace. And because
the furnace was exceeding hot, and the King made them go
near to it, the flames scorched and burned the men who cast
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in; and these three men,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into
the midst of the fire. But soon they rose up, and walked
in the fire; for the God they served and worshiped was the
God who never forsakes those who put their trust in him.
Now was ever such a sight as that? Think of it! The
fire would not burn them! It probably burned the cords and
ropes with which they were bound, but it touched not them.
They walked unharmed and free in the midst of the leaping
No wonder that the angry King was greatly astonished;
and he said in haste to the rulers and great men who were
with him, â€˜â€œ Did we not cast three men bound into the midst
of the fire?â€ They answered, â€˜â€˜ We did, O King.â€ And he
said, â€œâ€˜Lo, I see four men loose and walking in the midst
of the fire, and they are not hurt. And the form of the
242 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
fourth is like the Son of God.â€ Then Nebuchadnezzar came
near to the mouth of the burning, fiery furnace, and cried
out and said, â€œShadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye ser-
vants of the Most High God, come out and come here.â€
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the
midst of the fire. And the princes, the governors, and the
captains, who were gathered together, saw these men whom
the fire had not hurt, nor was a hair of their heads â€˜burned,
neither were their coats changed, nor was the smell of the
fire upon them.
And now the furious, foolish, unreasonable King, rushed
from one extreme to another. An hour ago he would burn
to ashes these faithful young men who trusted in the
God of Israel; and now, because God has appeared so mani-
festly on their behalf he would force all Babylon to turn
away in a moment from the Golden Image and worship the
God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So he issued his
â€˜Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-
nego, who has sent his angel and saved his servants that
trusted in him. Therefore I make a decree anda law, that
every nation and people which shall speak evil of the God of
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be destroyed, and
their houses shall be torn down and made into heaps; for
there is no other God that can save him.â€
Then the King made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-
nego greater than they had been before in the province of
â€˜The story of these young Hebrews is well worth a
boyâ€™s most careful study. The moral of their lives is as
clear and simple as the day: â€œTrust in God, do the right,
and all will be well.â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 243
Courage, courage, do not stumble,
Though thy path be dark as night;
Thereâ€™s a star to guide the humble;
â€œTrust in God, and do the right.â€
Though the road be long and dreary,
And its ending out of sight;
Foot it bravelyâ€”strong or weary;
â€œ Trust in God, and do the right.â€
Trust no party, church, or faction,
Trust no leaders in the fight,
But in every word and action
â€œ Trust in God, and do the right.â€
Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight;
Cease from man, and look above thee,
â€œ Trust in God, and do the right.â€
Simple rule and safest guiding,
Inward peace and inward light,
Star upon our path abiding,
â€œTrust in God, and do the right.â€
244 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
L think, when I read that sweet story of old,
When Fesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.
I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arm had been thrown around me,
And thatI might have seen His kind look when He said,
Let the little ones come unto Me.
Yet still to His footstool in prayer I may go,
And ask for a share in His love ;
And if I now earnestly seek Fim below,
T shall see Him and hear Him above,
In that beautiful place He ts gone to prepare
for all that are washed and forgiven,
And many dear children are gathering there,
For of such is the kingdom of heaven
But thousands and thousands, who wander and fall,
Never heard of that heavenly home;
I should like them to know there ts room for them ali,
And that Fesus has bid them to come.
L long for the joy of that glorious time,
The sweetest, the brightest,and best,
When the dear little children of every clime
Shall crowd to His arms and be blest.
THe BrrtH AND BoyHoop oF JESUS.
â€œ Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of. the East the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
Cold on his cradle the dew drops are shining,
Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker, and Monarch, and Saviour of all.â€
The world knows but little of its best and greatest
men. Men have lived whose names will be famous as long
as the world endures, and yet all that is known of them
would not fill a column in a newspaper. Of the life of the
Lord Jesus Christ we know but little, of his childhood and
youth, least of all. The records of that divine life contained
in the four gospels are brief and fragmentary. Thankful as
we are for the mere outlines of this sacred story, we often
find ourselves longing to know more of what
â€œHe did and said
And suffered for us here below,â€
and particularly of the romantic period of his boyhood and
It is remarkable that, concerning this whole period of
the birth and early years of Jesus, John the Evangelist, the
most intimate friend and companion of our Lord in â€œthe
disciple whom Jesus loved,â€ speaks not one word. The same
246 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
thing is true of Mark, the friend and companion of the
Apostle Peter. Matthew tells us of the visit of the Magi,
and records the flight into Egypt and the return to Naza-
reth, and there his story ends. For all the rest we are
indebted to the Evangelist Luke, and even then, after gath-
ering all the fragments of the story together, we cannot
help regretting that we know so â€œttle of what we desire to
know so much.
If we gather these precious fragments and group them
as far as possible in their proper order, we shall find all
that the gospels tell us of the birth and boyhood of Jesus is
comprised in the following nine brief records:
The Angelic Announcement, Luke i., 26-38.
The Birth of Jesus, Matt. i., 25; Luke ii, 6, 7.
The Song of the Angels, Luke ii., 8-14.
The Visit of the Shepherds, Luke ii., 15-18.
Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Luke ii., 22-38,
The Homage of the Magi, Matt. i., 12. ;
The Flight into Egypt, Matt. ii, 13-15.
Return from Egyt to Nazareth, Matt. ii., 19-23.
In the Temple at the Passover, Luke ii., 40-52.
Brief as are these outlines of the birth of the Son of
God, it is wonderful to note how the lowly advent in the
crowded inn of Bethlehem has laid hold upon the heart of
the world and fixed itself forever in its memory. Nations
sometimes agree to make the birthdays of their kings or
warriors or poets, days of jubilance and celebration. In this
fashion we keep green the memory of Washington and Lin-
coln. But these celebrations are few in number and are gen-
erally limited to one nation. But it is not so with the birth-
day of Jesus Christ. One day in the year the whole world
unites to celebrate his advent. The Twenty-fifth of Decem-
ber may not be the actual anniversary of the birth of Jesus.
It is not possible to be quite certain about the date. But
Se) fearneg ee Site
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 247
that matters little. Christmas day is the one, only, univer-
sal holiday of the year. All the world in some form or
other keeps Christmas day. In countries civilized and unciv-
ilized, by land and sea, in the home and the church, in the
hospital and even the jail, this day is kept in honor of the
child who was born in Bethlehem, -No other birth in all
the history of the world is so honored. Christmas has no
meaning apart from Christ. All the world agrees that the
true spirit of Christmas is the Christlike spirit, expressed
perfectly in the song of the angels, that so amazed the shep-
herds in their midnight vigil on the plains of Bethlehemâ€”
â€œGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will
When the boys who read this book grow older, they will
probably have their attention called to the mysterious char-
acter of the birth of Jesus. That Jesus Christ came into the
world in a way no other human being ever came is one of
those mysteries that may be accepted, but can never be
explained. Boys and men alike may be content to say with
the Apostle Paul: â€œGreat is the mystery of godliness, God
manifest in the flesh.â€
The birth of Jesus Christ was a mysteryâ€”the great mys-
tery of the agesâ€”but is not every birth a mystery? There
never was a cradle rocked that did not contain in the baby-
form that lay therein whole worlds of mystery. Look for a
moment at your little unconscious infant brother or sister,
lying in the cradle. It knows nothing, understands nothing,
cannot think, cannot speak, does not know the sun from the
moon, or the flowers from the trees, or the fields from the
skyâ€”does not even know which is its father, or which is its
mother. Its eyes are so weak that the light pains them; its
hands lie helpless on its little cot, and yet, in the ordinary
248 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
course of events, that little unconscious child will soon begin
to think, and feel, and know; and in a few years will climb
the hills of gladness, and tread the valley of tears, and play
its part in the stern battle of life. All this will come in the
ordinary course of common experiences. But, if special cir-
cumstances should arise, that voice that is now nothing but
a feeble â€œâ€˜cry,â€ may grow strong to stir the thoughts and
move the hearts of thousands; that hand that now lies so help-
less on the pillow may grow mighty to shape the destinies
of a generation. Who can tell? for all life is wonderful, and
every birth a mystery. Nestling among its cradle pillows,
the child you gaze upon to-day may become, in a few brief
years, a poet such as Longfellow, or a patriot such as Lincoln.
When we think how wonderful the life of Christ was,
can we wonder that his birth should also be out of the com-
mon order? He spoke wonderful words. Even his enemies
said, â€˜â€˜ Never man spake like this man.â€ So simple, so direct,
so tender were his utterances, that the common people heard
him gladly. So wonderful were his works that thousands
came from far and near to witness his mighty deeds, and
when they saw the lepers cleansed, and the lame boys, and
girls, and men, and women walking without crutches, and
palsied men, at his word, taking up their beds and carrying
them home, they said, as well they might, that all this was
passing wonderful! They judged that he who wrought these
deeds of majesty and love must be something more than
common man, and it is not to be wondered at that many
thought of Jesus as â€˜â€˜the great power of God.â€ â€˜That life,
so wonderful in its gentleness and power, so rich in loving
words and gracious deeds, ended amid the gloom, the pathos
and the shame of Calvary. But the shame of the cross has
changed to glory. No man now thinks of that cross as the
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 249
sign of dishonor. After all these centuries, tens of thousands
are clinging to that cross as their joy, their glory, their hope,
and they are singing with heart and voiceâ€”
â€œJn the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering oâ€™er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story,
Gathers round its head sublime.â€
Why should we marvel that a life so wonderfulâ€”a life
that was not only the wonder of its own generation, but
has been the wonder of every generation sinceâ€”should begin
in mystery and wonder. â€˜His name shall be called wonder-
ful!â€ was the promise of Israelâ€™s greatest prophet; and
wonderful he was, from the manger-cradle in Davidâ€™s royal
city to the cross of shame, and to the unhewn sepulchre in
the garden of Joseph of Arimathea.
But let us now turn our thoughts to the narrative. It
is all in keeping with the wonder and majesty of the life
of Jesus that angels should be concerned in the matter of
his birth. We can well believe that there was not one in
all those shining ranks, but would have counted it high
honor to be permitted to announce the near approach of the
coming Messiah. According to Lukeâ€™s story, with a joy of
which we mortals can but faintly dream, the Angel of the
Lord swept down the shining way to Maryâ€™s peaceful home,
and broke forth in this lofty salutation:
â€œHail! Thou that art highly favored,
The Lord is with thee;
Blessed art thou amongst women!â€
Could anything be more natural than that angels should
hover around the birthplace of the infant Saviour? If it
was the mission of angels to minister to the servants of the
most high God, to those who should be heirs of salvation,
250 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
what greater joy could they have than to minister to Christ
from the first hour to the lastâ€”from Bethlehem to the
Mount of Ascensionâ€”through all the earthly sojourn of the
Son of God? As Henry Ward Beecher saysâ€”â€˜â€˜We could
not imagine the Advent stripped of its angelic love. The
dawn without a twilight, the sun without clouds of silver
and gold, the morning on the fields without dew-diamondsâ€”
but not the Saviour without his angels! They communed
with him in the glory of his transfiguration, sustained him
in the anguish of the garden, watched at the tomb; and as
they had thronged the earth at his coming, so they seem to
have hovered in the air in multitudes at the hour of his
ascension. Their very coming and going is not with earthly
movement. They are suddenly seen in the air as one sees
white clouds round out from the blue sky in a summerâ€™s
day, that melt back even while one looks at them. They
vibrate between the visible and the invisible. They come
without emotion. They go without flight. They dawn and
they disappear. Their words are few, but the Advent
chorusâ€”â€˜Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward menâ€™â€”is still sounding its music through
As the time drew near for the birth of Christ, the
decree went forth from Cesar Augustus that all the world
should be taxed. In other words there was to be a general
census taken, and the Jewsâ€”both men and womenâ€”had to
go to their own city to be taxed. It was this mandate thatâ€™
caused Joseph and Mary, who were of the house and lineage
of David, to take the long journey from Nazareth to Beth-
lehem, a distance of about eighty miles. It was a tedious
journey at best, and probably at this time of the year
would be as inclement as it was tedious. To Davidâ€™s royal
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 251
city they wended their way. Let us turn our thoughts for
a moment to this birthplace of our Saviour.
On a green plain, pleasantly embosomed amid _ the hills
of Benjamin, stands, to this day, the city of Bethlehem, one
of the oldest cities in Palestine. The word Bethlehem means
â€œthe House of Bread.â€ Never larger than a village with a
population of three thousand souls at most, it takes its place
among the most famous cities of the earth. When the
goodly land, flowing with milk and honey, was divided by
lot to the tribes of Israel, Bethlehem became a center,
around which the children of Dan and Benjamin, of Simeon
and Judah, rallied. It was to the harvest-fields of Bethlehem
that the sorrowful Naomi returned after her wanderings,
bringing back with her her daughter-in-law, Ruth, the woman
who has stood for all the ages as an example of deathless con-
stancy. Bethlehem was Davidâ€™s city. Here Israel's greatest
King was born. In its pastures he guarded his fatherâ€™s
flocks, and amid these peaceful scenes he gathered the inspi-
ration for that grandest of all the psalms: â€˜The Lord is my
shepherd, I shall not want.â€
But Bethlehem was destined to a greater fame. Years
passed by, and the city that gave the world its greatest
King was to give the world its promised Saviour. Over
this little city of the Orient the Star of Bethlehem hung in shim-
mering beauty. Here, amid such rude accommodation as a
crowded inn could afford, Jesus was born, to the joy of
Maryâ€™s heart, to the gladness of all the ages. It was in the
fields of Bethlehem the shepherds heard the glad song of the
angels: â€œGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will to men.â€ Here came the hoary sages of the East,
with gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrhâ€”fit offerings
for the enthroned King, or for the suffering priest.
252 ; BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Bethlehem has long been regarded.as one of the earthâ€™s
most hallowed shrines. Over the place where Jesus was
born, devout souls have built a magnificent church. The
stately edifice is supported on forty-eight Corinthian columns,
seventeen feet high. The lamps in this sacred church of the
nativity are never quenched.
What city of the earth has such grand _ historic memo-
riesP We pay glad pilgrimages to the birthplaces of the
great, but what birthplace is so dear to the world as Beth-
They sing to me of princely Tyre,
That old Phceenician gem,
Great Sidonâ€™s daughter of the North,
But I will sing of Bethlehem!
They speak of Rome and Babylon,
What can compare to them?
So let them praise their pride and pomp, _
But Iwill speak of Bethlehem!
They praise the hundred-gated Thebes,
Old Mizraimâ€™s diadem;
The city of the sand-girt Nile,
But I will sing of Bethlehem!
They speak of Athens, star of Greece,
Her hill of Mars, her academe,
Haunts of old wisdom and fair art,
But I will speak of Bethlehem!
Dear city where heaven met with earth,
Whence sprang the rod of Jesseâ€™s stem,
Where Jacobâ€™s star first shone;â€”of thee
I'll sing, O happy Bethlehem!
When Joseph and Mary reached the end of their long jour-
ney, they found Bethlehem so crowded that they had to be con-
tent with very inferior accommodation. The one large hotel,
or Khan, was fully occupied. â€˜There was no room for them
in the inn.â€ And so it came to pass that Jesus was born,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 253
not exactly in a stable as we understand that phrase, but in
one of the little caves or recesses that abound in the inns_
of these Syrian villages. The lowing kine were probably
amongst the first companions of Jesus, and a manger was his
first rude cradle. As we are told by Luke, his mother
â€œwrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a man-
It is very true that the surroundings of the birth of
Jesus were for the most part rude and lowly. He did not
come to a palace, to a home of luxury, to a life of ease.
It would have been altogether out of harmony with the sacred
mission that, was before him, to have entered life amid such
surroundings. But Jesus did not come to abject poverty
and wretchedness. There was no luxury in Palestine so
rich as the luxury of America to-day; there was no poverty
so poor. We are apt to make a little too much of the low-
liness of Christâ€™s birth and life. It was lowly, it was hum-
ble, but it was not wretched or poverty-stricken. The men
and women and children who settled in New England nearly
three hundred years ago, and the later pioneers of these vast
Western regions, had in all probability a much harder lot,
and a much rougher life than Jesus of Nazareth ever knew.
We need not exaggerate the lowliness of Christâ€™s earthly lot
for the sake of awakening pity. However lowly the lot was,
Jesus accepted it joyfully. If he â€œâ€˜had not where to lay his
head,â€ he asked no manâ€™s tears because of that. Do not let
us offer our pity to Christ. He passed by the nature of
angels and stooped to the human lot with a royal grace,
with divine gladness. Jesus never asks for pity, but ever-
more pleads for love, and for love alone!
How strangely mingle the lowliness and grandeur of
that wondrous birth! There are songs of angels, lowing of -
254 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
kine, and bleating of lambs; the noise and bustle of the
over-crowded inn; the flaming of the lustrous star that set
all the sky ablaze with beauty; the humble shepherds
bending low, paying the first tributes of homage to their
Saviour Christ the Lord; the adoration of the Wise Men,
who came from far with gifts of gold and frankincense and
Oh strange, oh wondrous birth! Now has Solomonâ€™s
dream in the temple of old Jerusalem become a fact. The
solemn questions hidden in fables by the ancient world are
answered! The hopes of the ages are realized! God in
very deed has come to â€œdwell with men upon the earth!â€
Oh happy Bethlehem! The night of the ages has ended!
The worldâ€™s fairest morning has dawned!
â€œThereâ€™s a song in the air!
Thereâ€™s a star in the sky!
Thereâ€™s a motherâ€™s deep prayer,
And a babyâ€™s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing;
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King.
â€œIn the light of that star,
Lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar,
Has swept over the world!
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
To the homes of the nations.that Jesus is King!â€
These peasant shepherds of the plains were astonished
and alarmed, as they well might be, when the glory of the
Lord filled the wide spaces of the starry heavens. Multi-
tudes of angels strong and fair, waving their wings that
shone like fire, broke forth in happy chorus; and with the
first words of the heavenly anthem the fears of the shepherds
fled. Glad tidings of great joy to all peoples for evermore!
This was the burden of their songâ€”In the city of David
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 255
was born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. Obedient to the
heavenly vision, the shepherds journeyed to the inn at Beth-
lehem, and there they found Joseph and Mary and the babe
in the manger-cradle even as the angels had said. We may
be sure they spoke to Joseph and Mary of the wonders they
What seems noteworthy just here is the simple iaith,
the unquestioning trust of these first worshipers of Christ.
The lowliness of Christâ€™s birth was no hindrance to their
faith. They had heard the message of the angels; they had
found the infant in the manger; they believed and bowed low
before him, and went forth and became the first evangelists
of the new-born King. They told their message plainly and
simply. They had heard the angels sing; they had been
eye-witnesses of the lowliness as well as the glory of the
advent. Luke says: â€˜And they came with haste and found
Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And
when they had seen it they made known abroad the saying
which was told them concerning this child. And all they
that heard it wondered at those things which were told
them by the shepherds.â€
Meantime the days pass on. Joseph and Mary were
obedient to the laws of the landâ€”though those laws
were made and administered by Romansâ€”or they would
not have been in Bethlehem now. But they were also loyal
to the Lord God of Israel, and obedient to the law of Moses
and so it came to pass that after eight days Jesus was
brought into the Temple.
It is worth while to remember that Christâ€™s first jour-â€™
ney was to church. He was taken to church that he might
be made a son of Abrabam after the manner of the Jews,
and that he might receive his name. His name was called
256 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Jesus, the name assigned to him by the Angel Gabriel in the
vision of which Matthew speaks.
This name, Jesus, was not an uncommon one in Pales-
tine in those days. It was an adaptation of the name of the
great leader, Joshua, the successor of Moses, who completed
the work of Godâ€™s law-giver, and brought the children of
Israel into the promised land. The name really meansâ€”for
all Jewish names are full of meaning â€”â€˜â€œ Whose salvation is
Jehovah.â€ In a broader and wider sense, in the light of
Joshuaâ€™s illustrious career, the name came to mean ence a
â€˜â€œDeliverer.â€ So the ee in the vision says: â€œThou shalt
call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their
sins.â€ The name of this wondrous child of Bethlehem is
now publicly announced for the first time. That common
name has become most uncommon now, all because Jesus of
Nazareth invested it with such divine meaning. It is now
the one immortal name. Men would think it sacrilege to
give that name to their children now. We call the children
David and Joshua, Daniel and Abraham and Paul, but not
Jesus! That name is too high, too sacred. Through twenty
centuries that name has been gathering strength and glory,
till at last the word of the Apostle has been realized and.
the name of Jesus is high above all other names that fall
from mortal lips!
The days pass on. One month more, and Jesus is
brought again to the Temple. This time it is for the service
of dedication. All souls are Godâ€™s. But from the very
dawn of ancient Judaism this doctrine was taught, that the
first-born son was Godâ€™s, in a sacred, special sense. From
the days of Hannah until this day, devout mothers the wide
world over have cherished the desire that thir first-born sons
might minister at Godâ€™s altar as Samuel did. The first
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 257
fruits of the garden, and the field, and the fold, were all
brought to Godâ€™s altar; so also were the first fruits of the
homes of Israel.
In obedience to this law, Mary comes with the appointed
offerings of a pair of turtle doves, and brings with her the
infant Jesus for presentation to the priest. Thus as an old
saint says: â€˜The Lord of the Temple was brought to the
Temple of the Lord.â€
And now another strange thing occurs to add to the
many wonders that have surrounded the advent of Jesus.
As Joseph and Mary were waiting in the Temple, a venera-
ble priest draws nigh. This was Simeon, a devout and holy
man, who filled his aged years with dreams and hopes of the
coming Messiah, and was, as Luke says, â€œ Waiting for the
consolation of Israel.â€ And it is further said that in some
way God had given his aged servant an assurance that he
should not see death until his weary eyes had gazed with
joy upon the face of the Messiah. As Simeon took Maryâ€™s
child in his arms his eyes flashed with a radiant light, his
face glowed with wondering joy, and he blessed God, and
cried aloud with a voice that could be heard far and near in
â€œ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
According to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation
Which thou hast prepared,
Before the face of all people:
A Light to lighten the Gentiles
And the glory of thy people Israel!â€
Is it any wonder that Joseph and Mary marveled at
these words? Was this child in very deed to bring salva-
tion for all peoples? Was this little lamp of life, so strangely
lighted, to be a beacon-light for all the world? A light to
258 BOYS OF THE BIBLE
â€˜lighten not only Judeaâ€™s sacred fold, but the dwellers in all
Gentile lands! Was this month-old infant in the aged Sim-
eonâ€™s arms to become â€œthe glory of thy people Israel?â€
Was this Jesus to become greater than Moses, or Aaron, or
David, or Solomon, or the prophets? While Joseph and
Mary stood silent in wondering amazement, the venerable
priest lifted his hand in benediction, and turning to Mary,
â€œ Behold this child is set
For the fall and rising again of many in Israel
And for a sign which shall be spoken against.
Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also;
That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.â€
What could all this mean? Did Joseph understand? Did
Mary comprehend? Perhaps not; but Mary laid these say-
ings up in her memory and her heart, and it may be, that
years afterwards, on that sad day when she returned, the
broken-hearted â€˜â€˜mother of sorrows,â€ from the cross of her
dear son and Lord, she thought of the old priestâ€™s words about
the sword piercing through her own soul.
Before they left the temple another voice was heardâ€”
the voice of the aged prophetess Anna, who never left the
Temple day or night, but spent the time in fasting and prayer,
â€”she coming in while Simeonâ€™s voice was lifted in benediction
â€œgave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to
all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.â€
The next event of startling interest that meets us in this
wondrous story is the visit of the Wise Men, who came from
the far East to Jerusalem, led by the radiant Star of Beth-
lehem, to worship the new-born King. â€˜These Wise Men, or
Magiâ€”who, like many others, owe all their fame to their.
association with Jesusâ€”were probably Persian scholars or
astrologers who worshiped the light, and believed they were
THE WISE MEN AND THE STAR, 259
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 261
able to read important meanings and messages in the courses
of the stars. We do not know much about them, but we
know that in their days, and long before their time, men
believed and taught that the heavenly bodies had large influ-
ence over human character and destiny. They linked the
mystery of dreams with the wonders of the starry heavens.
Even to this day we have a relic of this superstition in such
phrases as being born â€œunder happy stars.â€ There are many
curious and interesting legends concerning these Wise Men,
but most of them rest on very feeble foundations. The
general impression is that there were only three of these
Eastern sages. Some distinguished fathers and teachers of
the church of the third century, and subsequently, think
there were twelve. â€˜The great church father of English: his-
tory, commonly called The Venerable Bede, who was born
in the year 673, offers some interesting details. He speaks
of these sages as very distinguished persons; but speaks of
three only, and thus describes them: â€˜The oldest of the three
was an aged man with white hair and a long beard, whose
name was Melchior; Caspar was a ruddy beardless youth;
Balthasar was swarthy and in the prime of life.â€
When these Wise Men, following the guidance of the
star, came to Jerusalem, they soon made their business known.
â€œWhere is he,â€ they asked, â€œthat is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the East, and have come to wor-
ship him.â€ It seems that all Jerusalem was stirred by the
strange but simple question of the Magi. Herod, the wickedest
of many wicked kings, was greatly disturbed, or, as Matthew
says, he was â€œtroubled.â€ That is to say, he was restless,
worried, perplexed. He had no peace by day and little sleep
by night. But why should Herod, who had the mighty
power of Rome at his back, be so anxious and troubled
262 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
because of the birth of a peasant child at Bethlehem? Does
it not seem very strangerâ€”a King on his throne trembling
at a little child in a cradle! Herod had led a cruel, wicked,
ungodly life. He was now old, and miserable, and savage.
He had been remorselessly cruel in his day, and cruel men
are often the greatest of cowards. So it was with Herod.
He felt as if his throne was trembling beneath him; his fears
became incarnate; his guilty conscience and his coward heart
made his life a living terror, a ceaseless dread!
Moreover, there had been a great deal of talk all over
Palestine, and in regions far beyond, of the coming of some
great one who should redeem the people from bondage, and
bring in the reign of truth, and righteousness, and peace.
Fishermen on the shores of Tiberias; shepherds on the hills
of Galilee; women by the fountains of Judea and the wells
of Samaria, and devout men and women in Jerusalem, who
were waiting and watching like Simeon in the Temple and
Nathaniel under his fig treesâ€”for â€˜the consolation of
Israel.â€ All were talking of â€œthe coming one.â€ The world
was waiting and hoping for a King who should reign, not
by mere might or force; not by banners and sword, but by
truth, and righteousness, and love. It was when this talk
was on every lip, and expectation was on tip-toe, that the
Wise Men came and startled the King on his throne, and all
the people in the city, with their strange question: â€˜â€˜ Where
is he that is born King of the Jews?â€ Was the King and
his Kingdom at hand? Had the desire of all nations really
Jerusalem was roused as from a long, deep, sinful sleep;
the tottering coward-King called a convention of chief priests
and scribes, and leaders of the people, and demanded that
they should tell him where this King, Christ, was to be
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 263
born. Herod knew the Jews had faith in the prophecies of
their great seers. The rolls of the prophets were brought,
and after a diligent search through the brief prophecies of
Micah, one of the so-called minor prophets, who had been in
his grave more than seven hundred years, they came upon
these remarkable words:
â€œ But thou Bethlehem Ephratah,
Though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of thee shall come forth unto Me,
Who is to be Ruler in Israel.
Whose goings forth have been from old
* * * *
â€œAnd he shall stand and feed in the name of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord his God:
And they shall abide,
For now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.â€
It is hardly likely that Herod set much store by the
words of the prophets of Israel. But it is quite clear that
Herod was very much afraid. He was as crafty as he was
cruel. He began at once to plan and plot. He managed to
have a secret talk with these Persian astrologers, and
wanted to know of them particularly what time the star
appeared. We have no detailed record of the conversation
that took place between the King and the Wise Men. It
would appear, however, that the more he inquired the more
troubled he became. What the Wise Men had to say only
served to increase his anxiety. He felt quite sure that
there must be something of serious import in all these
strange circumstances. Instead of dismissing the whole
affair as the dream of superstitious men; instead of laughing
scornfully at the seriousness and earnestness of these wan-
derers from the East, he was determined to sift this thing
to the bottom, and so â€œhe sent them to Bethlehem,â€ as
264 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Matthew tells us, and said, â€œGo and search diligently for
the young child, and when you have found him bring me
Crafty and cunning in all his doings, Herod pretended
to be seriously interested in this matter. But the truth is,
he wanted to know the worst, while the Eastern sages
wanted to know the best.
Their conference with the King ended, these pilgrims
from afar started forth over the hills of Benjamin, to the
little town of Bethlehem. Great was their joy as, journeying
on, they saw the star that had cheered their previous wan-
derings, all ablaze in the glowing heavens. Its steadfast
light, its radiant beauty, was to them an assurance that they
had not journeyed in vain. With their eyes fixed upon its
gleaming splendor, they pursued their happy journeyâ€”
â€œOâ€™er the dusty highway,
Oâ€™er the desert drear,
From the East the Wise Men
_ Watch it shining clear;
Asking, â€˜Skall we follow
In this starlit way?â€™
Answering, â€˜Yes; â€™twill lead us
To the perfect day.â€™â€
On they journeyed, and to their surprise and gladness,
the star seemed to stand still over the abode where Mary
and Joseph and the young child dwelt. They came at last
to the inn, and when we read of these men entering â€œthe
house,â€ we like to think that part of the busy crowd who
had come to Bethlehem to be enrolled, had passed away to
their various homes, and that now Mary had more com-
fortable quarters; and that the infant Saviour had changed
his manger-cradle for a more appropriate resting place. Be
this as it may, one thing is clearâ€”the lowliness of Christâ€™s
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 265
first earthly home had no painful influence on the minds of
the Wise Men. They did not pause to ask if one so lowly
born could be the King so long foretold. They held no
council to consider whether it was quite the proper thing to
give these costly presentsâ€”presents fit for a King in stateâ€”
to the child of a Galilean peasant.
They bowed in loyal worship, and then opening their
caskets, presented to him costly giftsâ€”gold, frankincense and
myrrh! What did all this mean? It was surely not without
some distinct intention and meaning. There was what is
called â€œâ€˜a grand symbolismâ€ in these costly, precious things.
In those days gold was for the King, frankincense was for
the priest to wave in sacred fragrance before the altar of
God, and myrrh was for the suffering and sore distressed.
There was gold for the Kingâ€”the King of this new and better
kingdom of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords;
there was frankincense for the Priestâ€”the Priest of a better
covenant, the great High Priest of our profession, and there
was myrrh for the suffering Saviour, for the Man of Sor-
rows, for him who in the coming years was to become so
intimately acquainted with grief.
With what wondering eyes Mary would gaze upon these
strange, costly gifts! Not that she thought them too costly
or too rare. The world has not yet seen a mother who
thought any gift of earth or heaven too precious for the
darling that lay smiling on her knees. Mary looked and
wondered, and Joseph pondered too; and it is most probable
that the remarkable circumstances connected with this visit
impressed them much more than the mere costliness of the
gifts. That these great scholars of the distant East had
traveled so far, when traveling was so toilsome and tedious,
to gaze upon the face of her beloved Son, must have touche
266 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the heart of Mary with joyous, pardonable pride; and as
Joseph saw these Wise Men bowed in worship, and then
adding to their personal homage these priceless gifts, no
marvel that he wondered more and more what these things
could mean, and whereunto these mysteries were tending.
The Magiâ€™s work is ended. They sought and have
found this promised â€œKing of the Jews;â€ they have bowed
low at his feet; they have left their gifts, and now they
pass forever from our sight. They drop silently from the
sacred history; their names are mentioned no more! Yet
their patient search, their loyal homage, their costly gifts, will
be remembered as long as this story of the life of Christ is
And had they not high honor? It was theirs to be first
to bend the knee to the new-born King. The shepherds
worshiped, the Magi paid the homage due to the King.
They were permitted to inaugurate the Kingdom of our
Lord. Happy sages! with such hearts, such gifts, such
opportunities! And happy are we, who not having such
costly gifts to offer, may yet present to this King, now
crowned with many crowns, what he will value more than
gold, or frankincense, or myrrhâ€”the gifts of a loving heart
and a consecrated life. As Reginald Heber singsâ€”
â€œSay, shall we yield Him in costly devotion
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?
â€œVainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gold would his favor secure;
Richer by far is the heartâ€™s adoration
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.â€
Why did not these Wise Men go back to Herod? He
had expressly instructed them to come back and tell him
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. ; 267
when they had found the young child, that he might also go
and pay his homage at the shrine of the new-born King.
How did these Wise Men know but that Herod was sincere,
and that he really wanted to join them in worshiping the
wonderful Child of Bethlehem? We are told that God
warned them in a dream that they should not go back to
Herod. God speaks by many voices, sometimes by the
mystic voice of a dream. Every pathway is open to God.
He walks along the open highway of our senses, and he
walks along the secret pathway of our dreams. Along this
mystic pathway God came and whispered in the ears of these
Wise Men. They heard and understood the message, and
without asking any reasons why, they became obedient. They
went back to their own country, but not by the way of
And Joseph also dreamed a dream.
It is very natural to suppose that Joseph and the Wise
Men had more than one long conversation about that remark-
able star-led pilgrimage that ended at Bethlehem. They
would tell how they came to start upon the journey; what
remarkable circumstances transpired as they journeyed on;
how they sometimes lost all heart as some passing cloud
eclipsed the radiance of the star, and how their courage grew
strong as the darkness passed away. They would be sure
to speak of the strange interest Herod had expressed, and
of his avowed intention to take the first opportunity to seek
the home and pay his homage to the infant King. If Joseph
knew much of Herod he would be sure to be very suspi-
cious of the meaning of this anxiety to offer worship; for if
this child of Bethlehem was born a King, would he not
be Herodâ€™s successor? Herodâ€™s name was so much linked
with cruelty and craftiness and bloodshed, that it was hard
268 ; BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
to think of him in an attitude of devotion. The whole
matter was very perplexing and probably disturbing to the
quiet, peaceful Galilean; and all the more so, viewed in
the light of the strange words of Simeon and Anna. In |
this frame of mind Joseph dreamed his dream, and lo! the
Angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying: â€œ Arise,
and take the young child and his mother, and _ flee into
Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for
Herod will. seek the young child to destroy him.â€
We judge by the way the story is told that there was no
delay in obeying the warning of the dream. Joseph believed
this dream was from God, and there was, therefore, no hesi-
tation. He was not going forth at a peradventure. It was
a divine voice that spoke to him. It was clear and defi-
nite. â€œHerod will seek the young child, to destroy it.â€
Joseph now understood the craft of Herod in pretending a
desire to come and offer worship at the feet of Jesus; and
now he understood also, why the Wise Men were warned
to â€œdepart into their own country another way.â€
We may be sure Mary did not need much persuading.
She would gladly have fled through the most inclement
weather, over mountains and through deserts to the very
ends of the earth, to save her child from danger.
Few preparations were necessary, for this was not an
age of luxury, and Joseph and Mary were but peasants. In
the silence and secrecy of the night Joseph saddled his ass,
put Mary and the child JÃ©sus thereon, and started for the
land of the Pharaohâ€™s and the Nile.
Of the sojourn of Joseph and Mary and the child Jesus
in the land of Egypt very little is known with certainty.
The scriptures are almost entirely silent on this subject, and
what is said by the Evangelist Matthew is marked by great
ee : â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
THE JOURNEY INTO EGYPT, 269
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 271
simplicity. The lovers of the legendary and the fabulous
have enriched this periodâ€”brief as it was, even at the
longestâ€”with the most remarkable stories of the miracles
that were wrought, and of the blessedness that flowed from
the simplest contact with the infant Lord.
How long these exiles remained in Egypt we are not
told. There is an old fountain on the outskirts of a little
town that was called Matarreeh, situated a few miles north-
east of Cairo, which is said to indicate the spot where the
holy family dwelt during their sojourn in Egypt. What of
truth there is in this story we cannot tell. As to the length
of that sojourn, the general impression accepted by those
who have made this subject a matter of the most careful
study, is that it did not extend beyond two years; and when
we remember the Jewish mode of reckoning, the time would
be reduced so as to mean parts of two years, rather than
two whole years. Christâ€™s days in Egypt were days of
unconscious infancy. If he had dwelt long enough in Egypt
to have gathered memories and recollections, we should
probably have found some references in the years of his
public ministry. But as an infant Jesus left the land of his
birth to escape. the wrath of the King, and as an infant in
the arms of his gentle mother, he comes back to Palestine,
and finally to Nazareth, the scene of his happy, peaceful boy-
Of that terrible massacre of the innocents, that has made
so deep and sad an impression on the heart of the world,
there is only space to say a little here, and this we quote
from the scholarly and eloquent Archdeacon Farrar. â€˜The
flight into Egypt led to a very memorable event. Seeing
that the wise men had not returned to him, the alarm and
jealousy of Herod assumed a still darker and more malignant
272 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
aspect. He had no means of identifying the royal infant of
the seed of David, and least of. all would he have been
likely to seek for him in the cavern stable of the village
Khan. But he knew that the child whom the visit of the
Magi had taught him to regard as a future rival of himself
or of his house, was yet an infant at the breast; he issued
his fell mandate to slay all the male children of Bethlehem
and its neighborhood â€˜from two years old and under.â€ Of
the method by which the decree was carried out we know
nothing. The children may have been slain secretly, gradu-
ally, and by various forms of murder; or, as has been
generally supposed, there may have been one single. hour of
dreadful butchery. The decrees of tyrants like Herod are
usually involved in a deadly obscurity. They reduce the
world into a torpor in which it is hardly safe to speak
above a whisper. But the wild wail of anguish which rose
from the mothers thus cruelly robbed of their infant children
could not be hushed; and they who heard it might well
imagine that Rachel, the great ancestress of their race,
whose tomb stands by the roadside about a mile from Beth-
lehem, once moreâ€”as in the pathetic image of the prophetâ€”
mingled her voice with the mourning and lamentation of
those who wept so inconsolably for their. murdered little
Doubts have been cast by certain writers on the truth-
fulness of the awful story; and, indeed, we could well wish
this dreadful record were not true. To us, in these later,
happier years of the worldâ€™s history, it seems almost impos-
sible to believe that such inhuman cruelties could have been
performed. But this shameful deed is just the kind of thing
Herod was sure to do, if these hapless, helpless innocents
stood in the way of his pride or power. Herodâ€™s whole
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 273
career was red with the blood of many murders. He mas-
sacred priests and nobles; he caused Aristobulus, his brother-in-
law, a young man full of hope and promise, to be drowned in
pretended sport before his very eyes. His sons, his uncle,
his kinsmen, and his most intimate friends, Dosistheus and
Gadius, all in turn drank to the dregs the cup of his fierce
anger; and even his wife, the beautiful Armonzan princess
Mariamne, the only human being he ever seemed to care for,
was put to the awful death of strangulation by his own
distinct orders. The plea of the gray-haired sire, the cry of
helpless infancy, were all the same to the wicked, cruel
Herod. The slaughter of the innocents was a thing this
monster could order to. be done, and then sleep soundly
while the dreadful thing was being done. But oh, the sad-
hearted mothers of Bethlehem! how loud their wailing!
how bitter their tears! Thus was brought to pass that
which was spoken by the prophet Jeremy, saying: â€œIn
Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping,
and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and
would not be comforted because they are not.â€
It will interest boys to know that all sorts of remark-
able legends arose in the early Christian centuries, about the
wonderful miracles wrought by the infant Jesus in this brief
sojourn in Egypt. Idols are made to fall down before him;
wild beasts come forth to worship him; trees bud and bloom
at his very presence; robpers yield up their ill-gotten gains;
a poor man who has been changed intoa mule by the evil spirits
of the time, is turned into a man again. Then comes quite a
charming legend of mercy vouchsafed to a young Egyptian
bride, who, on the very morning of the day set apart for her
marriageâ€”the day which should have been the happiest. of
all her glad young lifeâ€”was smitten with dumbness through
274 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the arts of Satan, and the wicked work of plotting enchanters.
The lips that should have been merry with songs and
delights, without a moment's warning were struck with an
awful silence. She could not speak of her love! She could
not even tell her sorrow! The little town that had been all
astir with gladness in the morning, was full of gloom before
the noontide blazed upon its hills; for all through the East,
in these far-away times, the joys and the sorrows of these
small communities were common. All the town went forth
with songs and dancing at the sound of marriage bells, just
as the whole town went forth with sorrow when the dirge
of the mourners was heard. And so it came to pass, as the
legend goes, that when the Lady Mary entered the little
town conveying her son, the Lord Christ, the dumb bride
saw him, and stretched forth her hands toward the infant
Saviour, and drew him to her, and took him in her arms,
and embraced him closely and kissed him, and bending,
over him she rocked him to and fro, and forthwith the
bond of her tongue was loosed, and her ears were opened
â€”tor she had been deaf as well as dumbâ€”and she gave
praise and thanks to God for that he had restored her to
These and many other legends only serve to show how in
earlier years there was a great tendency to surround the history
of Jesus with the most wonderful stories. Nothing, indeed, can
be more wonderful than the narrative, as given in the sacred
text, of the Holy Child in his twelfth year disputing with the
Doctors of the Sanhedrim in the Temple.
Let us now journey on to Nazareth, where Jesus spent
his holy, happy youth.
That large-hearted, gentle poet of the Sierrasâ€”so gentle
and yet so strongâ€”our own Joaquin Miller, spent a great deal
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 275
of time in the early home of Jesus. He shall speak to us of
â€œNazareth is a wooded town. The very name means
â€˜woods.â€™ Maybe it was the woods that kept me there so
long and made me love this home of the Lord Jesus Christ
â€œThere is a fountain in the middle of the dusty and deso-
late old town, which is still called â€˜The Virginâ€™s Fountain.â€™
Camels groan and kneel, and kneel and groan all around
here, up and down the narrow streets, dusty asses are here,
going and coming with loads of wood, jars of oil, and a
thousand queer old pots and pans and camp ware of
the half-gypsy wanderers who have been roving up and
down the land, no doubt, ever since Moses led them up out
â€œBut the sublimest time is the twilight here. Doves fly
down in couples as the sun falls suddenly, and stretch their
glossy necks to steal some stray drop of water from the foun-
tain; and then, as the twilight deepens, there comes, as if
companioned by the majesty of night, a dark-eyed daughter
of Israel, or maybe Ishmael, her jar poised on her upturned
palm, her great eyes down in maiden modesty. And then
another comes, and then another, till the fountain is set about
with the most glorious statuary that ever stood in school of
art or temple. The pictures of the Bible have all stepped
out for a moment. Twenty Rebekahâ€™s at the well, and not
a single Isaac, or even a â€˜man servantâ€™ in sight.
â€œJ was living in Nazareth, a good many years ago, when
an old man asked me one sweet spring morning to lay my
ear to the ground and listen to what I might hear.
â€œ There was a dull, soft, far-away sound, not much unlike
the thrumbing of a grouse in a fir-tree high up on the wooded
276 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
hills of Oregon. Only this sound here at Nazareth was softer,
and too, it seemed not so monotonous.
â€˜The sound, heard only at rare intervals, and when the
wind lay very low, was at first very faint, and very soft and
doubtful. But after a while I heard a heavier and a harder
stroke. Then the two would blend together and then finally
be lost, to be lifted up to the thick tangle of foliage by the
roadside, which hung in festoons above and about us, where
the doves sat and sang, or the bluebird flitted along in a line
â€˜But in the morning, if the morning is still, and warm
and pleasant, go out on the hills and listen. Listen and
believe, and you will hear the low, soft and almost pathetic
monotony of sound of which I have spoken.
â€˜â€œ* And what does it all mean?â€™ I at last asked of the
half-naked old son of Syria, who had constituted himself my
guide and only companion.
â€œHe put a whole pile of dirty fingers to his thin, brown
lips, and would not answer. But as spring advanced, day
after day we went on the wooded hills to catch the sound.
Sometimes, not often, however, we were rewarded, for in
Nazareth, as well as elsewhere, there are cloudy days, and
days of wind and storm.
â€˜But to cut the story short, as I was about to Icave
this holiest place on earth to one who loves the woods and
believes in God, the ragged old follower led me once more
up to the hills to lay my ear for the last time to the bosom
of the earth. I never heard the sound so distinctly before.
â€œWhat can it mean?â€™
â€˜The old man crept close and whispered in his wild and
broken way: â€˜The loom! It is Mary at her loom; and
then the carpenterâ€™s hammer.â€™
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 277
â€œYou understand? Then let it go at that. But it then
and there seemed to me as the most beauteous thought, the
most entirely pathetic thing on all this earth, to feel that
through eighteen hundred years there still echoed the sound
of Maryâ€™s loom and the stroke of the carpenterâ€™s hammer!
â€œAnd I thought if I could teach the toiling world that
Mary still leans to hear the loom, that Christ is still in some
sort a carpenter, I might, maybe, bridge over the awful gulf
of infidelity and lead the world to redemption.
â€œBut even if I could teach each laborer the dignity of
his labor, show him how God worked at a trade, how the
echo of the hammer is still heardâ€”if I could only teach one
poor, broken-hearted old woman, bending to her toil, that Mary
toiled the same way, why that would be gloryâ€”glory enough
and enough of good.â€
Only a poet could tell such a sweet, pathetic story, and
draw from it so gracious a lesson.
One of the best views of the city is to be had from the
Campanile of the Church of the Annunciation. In the dis-
tance is the brow of the hill to which Jesus was led by the
enraged multitude who attempted to throw him from it. A
modern house in the foreground brings to mind the time
when they uncovered the roof and let down the bed whereon
the sick of the palsy lay. This must be very much the
same kind of house as that historical one at Capernaum.
There is the peculiar roof, and there are the outside stairs
leading to the roof. The Eastern householder makes his roof
serve for more than a protection from the weather. It is
the piazza, the quiet place of the dweller, and sometimes it
becomes his summer residence. As a rule it is not very
heavy or very strong. Rafters are thrown across from wall
to wall, say a yard apart; then the whole space is covered
278 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
with twigs such as we saw the woman selling in the market-
place. On these the slender limbs of trees are thrown and
thickly coated with mortar. Lastly, a thick spread of earth
is thrown on, rolled to a level, and oftentimes sown with
Thus by care many of the roofs become as smooth and
soft as a machine-mown lawn. They may be easily broken
up and anything lowered inside from above. By some
such process the four bearers of the poor palsied man man-
aged to enlist the attention of the Great Physician in behalf
of their friend. It is not hard to understand it all when
viewing such a house as this one at Nazareth. It would not
be difficult for four men to carry a lame friend in a ham-
mock by the outer stairway up to the roof, and, breaking
through, let him down into the apartment or court below.
Not far from this same house, in a narrow street, is a
little chapel erected upon the site of Josephâ€™s carpenter shop.
Over the altar is a picture representing Mary and Joseph
instructing Jesus, and finding that he knew more than they.
Another painting represents the lad Jesus assisting his father
at work. It contains no accessories of the carpenterâ€™s shop,
but there are enough of them in the shops close by.
The web-saw, the glue-pot, the plane and the hammer, are
the principal tools used in such shops, all without the mod.
ern improvements. Yet whatever the Palestine carpenter
produces is from the fragrant cedars of Lebanon or from
the eccentrically knotted and gnarled olive wood. The opera-
tion of bargaining and waiting for any article of wood to
come from a Palestine carpenter shop is a lengthy one.
Articles of wood are a luxury there, and when a carpenter
receives an order for one he usually employs the next three
days of his life in soliciting the congratulations of his friends
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 279
upon his wonderful good fortune in receiving â€œan order for
something made of wood.â€
And now shall we look for a little into that peaceful,
blessed home in Nazareth? Joseph, the carpenter, is probably
a man of mature years. Of Mary, the mother of Jesus, not
much is known, but all that is known endears her to the
heart of the world. She was the blessedest among women,
for she was the mother of the worldâ€™s Redeemer, and she
became the saddest of all the daughters of menâ€”the Mother
of Sorrowsâ€”for, with bowed head and breaking heart, she
saw her son, and Saviour, and Lord crowned with thorns and
nailed to the cross of shame.
And yet those early days at Nazareth must have been
very blessed daysâ€”Joseph at work in the carpenterâ€™s shop;
Mary at the loom, spinning flax and wool for the family
while the baby slept, or taking him in her arms and rocking
him to sleep, just as your mothers have rocked you to sleep
in their arms a thousand times.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning draws a touching picture of
just such a scene, and puts these sweet, motherly words in
â€œSleep, sleep, mine Holy One!
My flesh, my Lord!â€”What name?â€”I do not know
A name that seemeth not too high or lowâ€”
Too far from me or Heaven.
My Jesus, that is best! that word being given
By the majestic angel whose command
Was softly, as a manâ€™s beseeching, said,
When I and all the earth appeared to stand
In the great overflow
Of light celestial from his wings and headâ€”
Sleep, sleep, my Saving One!
â€œ And art Thou come for saving, baby-browed
And speechless Beingâ€”art Thou come for saving?
The palm that grows beside our door is bowed
By treadings of the low wind from the South,
280 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
A restless shadow through the chamber waving;
Upon its boughs a bird sings in the sun;
But Thou, with that close slumber on thy mouth,
Doth seem of wind and sun already weary;
Art come for saving?
O my Weary One!
â€œWe sate among the stalls at Bethlehem
The dumb kine from their fodder turning them
Softened their horned faces,
To almost human gazes,
Towards the newly born!
The simple shepherds from the star-lit brooks
Brought visionary looks
As yet in their astonished hearing rung
The strange sweet angel-tongue.
The Magi of the East in sandals worn
Knelt reverent, sweeping round,
With long pale beards, their gifts upon the ground,
The incense, myrrh and gold,
These baby hands were impotent to hold,
So let all earthlies and celestials wait
Upon Thy royal state!
Sleep, sleep, my Kingly One!
As yet, while mystery upon mystery crowded upon the
heart and mind of Mary, we well may hope the shadow of
the cross. had not fallen upon the home of Nazareth. A
blessed, happy, holy time that must have been, as Jesus grew
from infancy to childhood and from childhood to his bright
boyhood. We see the child playing about the house by the
open door, charmed with every bird that sings and every flower
that blooms. We see him on his motherâ€™s knee learning
his letters, or listening to her simple stories, or bending at
her knee to repeat his morning and evening prayer.
Desiring to cherish the deepest reverence of spirit, we
cannot help thinking of the boy Jesus as a real human boy,
The learned men who make the creeds, speak of Jesus as
â€œVery God of very God,â€ and we know that he was â€œvery
man of very man.â€ May we not with reverence think of
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 281
him as â€œvery boy of very boy,â€ if by such a phrase we
may make clearer the thought that Jesus was but a prodigy,
not a precious, phenomenal, wonderful boy; but a real boy,
one amongst ten thousand, if you will, but still a real boy,
as we were boys, or as you are boys; simple, natural, looking
forward to his play time, and loving his play with joys and sor-
rows such as all boys know. Surely this must be so, for if it
were otherwise, how could Jesus sympathize with boys and
help them and bless them if he had never been a real boy.
-It may be if we had lived in Nazareth two thousand
years ago, we should not have marked any great difference
between Jesus and other young Nazarenes, save by, perhaps,
a special sweetness in his looks, or tenderness in his man-
ners, and sometimes a quiet thoughtfulness somewhat unusual
in one so young. That familiar line,
â€œGentle Jesus, meek and mild,â€
may be an almost perfect description of him.
It is almost certain that the boys who look into this
pook will often have wondered what sort of a boy Jesus was,
so far as his personal appearance was concerned. Such won-
dering is not to be condemned as mere idle curiosity.
Everything concerning Jesus Christ from his cradle to his
cross, should be of deep interest to us. Â©
But as to this matter of personal appearance we are
left almost wholly in the dark. Of course there are some
general characteristics that we may reasonably fancy belonged
to him as a Jewish boy. We are easily able to distinguish
between a German boy and an Italian boy and a genuine
young American. And when we find out what the boys of
northern Palestine were like, we may form some idea of
what Jesus was.
282 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
But there are no reliable portraits of Christ either as
man or boy that will render us any valuable aid in this
matter. All the pictures of Christ the world possesses are
imaginary pictures, and they are for the most part very,
very unsatisfactory. They do not inspire reverence. You
may go through all the picture galleries of Europe, and you
will see hundreds of portraits of popes and madonnas and
saints, but you will hardly find a dozen pictures of Christ,
as man, or boy, or child, that will command your reverence,
or awaken your homage for the Saviour of mankind.
It is perhaps quite as well that there is no authentic
portrait of Jesus. Foolish people would quarrel about it,
superstitious people worship it, and in many ways it might
be the cause or occasion of infinite mischief. It is best as it
is. We may give full play to our dreaming thoughts, and
we may think of him joyfully as â€œthe fairest among ten
thousand, and altogether lovely,â€ or we may think of him
sadly as â€œthe man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,â€ as
one whose face was â€œmarred more than the face of any
It may be interesting to boys, nevertheless, to be told
of a remarkable record that was found in the fly-leaf of an
old Bible printed in the University of Oxford, England, in
the year 1679. This record is concerning the personal
appearance of Jesus Christ, and goes on to tell of a custom
common with the Roman governors of Judea, by which they
kept the senate and government at Rome well informed con-
cerning all important events. One of these letters sent to
the senate of Rome by Publius Lentulus in the days of
Tiberius Cesar, is said to have been largely concerned about
this new Prophet of Truth, and so, while not setting much
value upon it, we give that portion of the letter that refers
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 283
to Jesus, because it cannot fail to interest the boys who read
this book. ;
Here then is what Publius Lentulus is said to have
written in his regular report to the senate at Rome:
â€˜â€œâ€˜Conscript Fathers: There appeared in these, our days,
a man of great virtue, named Jesus Christ, who is now living
amongst us;.of the Gentiles he is accepted as a Prophet of
Truth; but his own disciples call him the Son of God. He
raiseth the dead and cureth all manner of diseases. A man
of stature somewhat tall and comely, with a very reverend
countenance, such as beholders may both love and fear. His
hair is of the color of a filbert fully ripe, plain to the ears,
whence downward it is more orient of color, somewhat curled
and waved about his shoulders. In the midst of his head is
a seam or partition of his hair, after the manner of the
Nazarites. His forehead is smooth and delicate; his face
without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a comely red; his
nose and mouth exactly formed; his beard thick, the color
of his hair, not of any great length, but forked; his look
innocent; his eyes grey, clear and quick; in reproving ter-
rible; in administering, courteous; in speaking, very modest
and wise; in proportion of body, well shaped. None have
ever seen him laugh, but many have seen him weep; a man
for his singular beauty surpassing the children of men.â€
This may not be an authentic letter, it may not be a.
faithful portrait of Jesus, but it gives a more ennobling
impression of the gentle Nazarene than any or all of the
pictures artists have put on canvas. ?
If we cannot know with perfect accuracy concerning the
personal appearance of Jesus when in his strange but happy
boyhood he wandered up and down, drinking in the golden
beauty of the Nazarene hills, or plying axe and hammer in
284 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Josephâ€™s busy shop, or sitting by his motherâ€™s side as the
daylight faded, we may form some worthy idea of what he
was like by a study of the habits and characteristics of the
Galilean boys of that far-away time. In this matter one of
Americaâ€™s noblest and ablest writers comes to our aid.
General Lew Wallace, whose delightful book called
â€œBen Hurâ€ has won for its author world-wide fame, and is
worthy to be read by every boy in America, has endeavored
to draw a picture of what he supposes Jesus was like when
a boy in Nazareth. He thinks of him as a small, slender,
growing lad. â€˜His attire was simple; on his head a white
kerchief, held in place by a cord, one corner turned under
at the forehead, the other corners loose. A tunic also white,
covered him from neck to knees, girt at the waist. His
arms and legs were bare; on his feet were sandals of the
most primitive kind, being soles of ox-hide attached to the
ankles by leather straps. He carried a stick much taller
than himself. The boyâ€™s face comes to me clearly. I imag-
ine him by the roadside on a rock which he has climbed
that he may the better see the winding, picturesque country
at his feet. His head is raised. The light of an intensely
brilliant sun is upon his countenance, which in general cast
is oval and delicate. Under the folds of the kerchief I see
the forehead, covered by a mass of projecting, sunburned,
blonde hair, which the wind has taken liberties with and has
tossed into tufts. The eyes are in shade, leaving a doubt
whether they are brown or violet like his motherâ€™s; they
are at least large, and clear and beautiful. The nose is
of regular inward curve, joined prettily to a short upper lip.
The mouth is small, and open slightly, so that through the
scarlet freshness of the lips I catch a glimpse of white teeth.
The cheeks are ruddy and round, and only a certain square-
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 285
ness of chin tells how the years have passed since the
Magi laid their treasures at his feet. Putting face and fig-
ure together, and mindful of the attitude of interest in what
is passing before him, the lad as I see. him standing on the
rock, is at once both handsome and attractive.â€
Of all the modern pictures of the Saviour, after his
pensive boyhood had passed to more pathetic manhood, the
picture of Gustave Dore, is in many respects the most
remarkable. The artist represents Jesus as descending from
the judgment hall. The whole situation is most impressive.
The trial is over, Jesus is condemned and he starts forth on
that brief journey that is to end amid the glooms that gather
round the brow of Calvary. He is dressed in a white robe
falling to his feet. His whole aspect is that of perfect peace.
A divine calm sits upon that brow, so soon to be girt with
thorns. â€˜The hands that are for appeal, or, if needs be, for
defense, fall within the folds of the white samite robe. As the
lamb to the slaughter, so silently and unresistingly he com-
mences that sad march to the cross. There are jeering foes
and weeping friends around. The disciples are there, and
the mother he loved so well. As you sit and drink in the
manifold lessons of the picture, you cannot fail to note that
Jesus is not largely influenced in this hour, either by the
mockery of his foes, or the sorrows of his friends. He is
absorbed in some more commanding consideration. He hears
other voices above the din and turmoil of that scene; those
calm eyes penetrate through the present to the centuries yet to
be. The passion of the cross is upon him. But â€œfor the
joy that is set before him,â€ he endures nobly, royally,
divinely. It is impossible to sit for an hour and look at this
wonderful picture without having your reverence for the
character of Jesus of Nazareth broadened and deepened.
286 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
We have already referred to the legends that attributed
such remarkable doings to Jesus, when an unconscious infant
in Egypt. If those legends were absurd, much more absurd
and clumsy are the legends that have been invented of the
period of his boyhood.
Boys will do well to remember this always, that through
all the public ministry of Jesus, he never wrought a miracle
that was not a dignified and merciful use of power. He
never did a wonderful thing for the mere sake of astonish-
ing people. That would have been vulgar, and because
vulgar, un-Christlike. All sorts of foolish miracles are said by
these legends to have been wrought by Jesus when a boy.
Such for example as carrying water in a robe, and causing
some boys who angered him to become blind, or making a
board longer that was too short. These legends are too
foolish for a momentâ€™s serious attention. One simple legend
about Jesus and the children of Nazareth making clay spar-
rows is so pleasantly told, that we are sure boys will be
glad to read it:â€”
I like that old, old legend
Not found in holy writ,
And wish that John or Matthew
Had made Bible out of it.
How the little Jewish children,
Upon a summerâ€™s day,
Went down across the meadows
2 With the child Christ to play.
â€˜And in the gold green valley,
Where low the reed grass lay,
They made them mock mud sparrows
Out of the meadow clay.
So when they all were fashioned,
And ranged in rows about,
â€œNow,â€ said the little Jesus
We'll let the birds fly out.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 287
Then all the happy children,
Did call and coax and cry,
Each to his own mud sparrow
â€œFly as I bid you! fly!â€â€”
But earthen were the sparrows,
And earth they did remain,
Except the one bird only
The little Christ had made.
Softly he leaned and whispered.
â€œFly up to heaven, fly!â€ â€”
And swift his little sparrow
Went soaring to the sky.
And silent all the children,
Stood awe-struck looking on,
*Till deep into the heavens
The bird of earth had gone.
I like to think for playmate,
We have the Lord-Christ still,
And that above our weakness
He works his mighty will.
That all our little playthings,
Of earthen hopes and joys,
Shall be by His commandment
Changed into heavenly toys.
Our souls are like the sparrows,
Imprisoned in the clay:â€”
Bless Him who came to give them wings
To soar to heavenâ€™s bright day.
If we call to mind the words of Jesus, spoken in after
years, the matchless parables he uttered, we shall be able to
see what kind of an observing boy he was.
Almost all those parable-sermons take us back to his
early, happy days in Nazareth. How he loved the flocks
and fields, how he pitied the wandering sheep, and perhaps
went many a time with some gentle Nazarene shepherd in
search of the lost sheep and bleating lambs that had escaped
288 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
the fold. He had gone out many a time with the farmer as
he went forth with his basket of seed; he had seen some fall in
the deep, rich furrows, some by the wayside, some amongst
stones, and some had been picked up almost as soon as sown,
by the busy, hungry birds. Then how he had watched the
growth of the corn, first the blade, then the ear, then the
full corn in the ear! He watched his mother making bread,
and in the yard he marked the motherly hen, gathering
chickens under her wing. â€˜The lilies of the field had charms
for himâ€”toiling not, spinning notâ€”and yet more beautiful
than Solomon in all his glory. All Nature in all her mani-
fold grace and in every mood won his young heart and
enchained his thought. He watched the changing beauty of
sky and cloud, or climbing the hills of Nazareth, heard
the wind blowing where it listed, but could not tell whence
it came or whither it went. He watched the children at
their play, some in mournful dirge, and some with merry
dance as at a wedding festival. Perchance that parable of
the Prodigal Son, the grandest parable the world has ever
heard, or will ever hear, was but a reproduction of some
page of Nazarene historyâ€”some such sin-weary penitent he
may have known in those early days; he may have been
present at such merry-making, when the wanderer returned
to receive the fatherâ€™s loving welcome, and the fatted calf
was killed. We see him on the Sabbath walking by his
motherâ€™s side to the synagogue, we hear his young, sweet
voice singing the psalms of David, or repeating the prayers
of ancient Israel. So amid the quietude of these Galilean
hills and vales, the boy Jesus was nurturing his soul for the
after years, when
â€œCold mountains and the midnight air
Should witness the fervor of his prayer.â€
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 289
So Jesus, we are told, increased in wisdom and in stature,
and in favor with God and men.
And now comes the eventful yearâ€”eventful to every
Jewish boy, and especially eventful to Jesus. It was probably
the custom of the parents of Jesus to visit Jerusalem once a
year at the great feast, and Jesus being twelve.years of age
is taken to Jerusalem for his solemn dedication. Tens of
thousands of people went to this feast. What an experience
for this boy, whose days had all been in the quietude of his
Galilean home! The long journey of eighty miles comes to
an end, and at last Jerusalem is reached. Who shall say
what emotions filled the heart and mind of Jesus as he gazed
on Davidâ€™s royal city, and saw the Temple of God with its
marble colonnades and its roof of glittering gold? The feast
lasted a week, and then the crowds returned to their farms,
and fields, and vineyards, and to the peacefulness of their
But there was sad consternation in the hearts of Joseph
and Mary, for Jesus could nowhere be found. To miss a boy
of twelve in so great a throng was not so remarkable; but
who shall picture the anxiety of Joseph or the agony of Mary?
They search, but search in vain. Through street and by-way,
in and out the narrow courts they wander, up and downâ€”still
no sight of Jesus; till, last of all, they turn their footsteps to
the Temple, and there they find himâ€”calm, peaceful, self-pos-
sessedâ€”in the august presence of the great doctors of the law.
There he sat, hearing and asking questions. We are sure
he asked his questions modestly; and these grave Rabbis
must have wondered at this young student. As the Bible
tells us, they were astonished at his wisdom. How much
more astonished would these venerable masters of Israel have
been if they could have pierced through the veil of the com-
290 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
ing years!â€”if they could have foreseen that the Lord of the
â€˜Temple was indeed in their midst! ;
How sorrowful, and yet how glad, was Mary when she
found her darling boy! And perhaps she was not a little proud
when she saw how greatly interested these great teachers
were in all the boy was saying. Touching him gently on the
shoulder, with a look full of tenderness, but half reproachful,
â€˜â€œâ€œMy child, why dost thou treat us thus? See, thy
father and I were seeking thee with aching hearts.â€
And in the wonderful answer Jesus gave, we have the
first recorded words of the Redeemer of men.
â€œWhy is it that ye were seeking me? Did ye not
know that I must be about my Fatherâ€™s business?â€
It may be that we shall never sound the fathomless
depths of meaning in these words. But we may understand ~
them well enough to hold them precious and to realize that
the first secorded words of Jesus, strike the keynote of his
glorious life. From this hour of sacred consecration in the
Temple, to that solemn hour, when amid the awful gloom of
Calvary, Jesus uttered the cry, â€œIt is finished!â€ Jesus was
ever about his Fatherâ€™s business.
And now Jesus returns to Nazareth. For eighteen or
nineteen peaceful years, he works and prays, and prepares
himself for the sublime destiny that awaits him.
The first recorded words of Jesus are good words for
boys to take as the motto for their livesâ€”â€œI must be about
my Fatherâ€™s business.â€
God has a â€œbusinessâ€ for us all. For Joseph and for
David, for Jeremiah and Ezekiel, for Daniel and his friends,
and for every boy who reads these pages. Our lives are
ours for happy, holy service; our hearts for gentle, loving
TT 1s FINISHED,â€ 291
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 293
impulses; our hands for honorable, helpful toil. To live, to
love, to serveâ€”these are purposes for which we are here.
An aimless life, a selfish life, does not answer the purpose
of being. Happy are they who, in the first fresh beauty of
lifeâ€™s morning, take for the motto of all their days and years
the one grand sentence of the boyhood of Jesus:
â€œT must be about my Fatherâ€™s business.â€
Who is this lad in Nazareth town,
So true at his work, with saw and p.ane?
His brow wears a smile, and never a frown,
And his mother smiles back to him again.
His name, they tell us, isâ€”Jesus.
Letâ€™s get acquainted with Jesus:
â€™ Twill help in our heavy tasks of work;
â€™ Twill help to be true and never to shirkâ€”
If we get acquainted with Jesus.
By the fountain, now, who is this lad
With the bounding step and the skillful hand,
In play so merry, so gentle, so glad?
And loving playmates around him stand.
His name, they tell us, isâ€”Jesus.
Letâ€™s get acquainted with Jesus!
"Twill add to the joy of our merry play,
â€™ Twill help to be gentle as well as gayâ€”
If we get acquainted with Jesus.
Who is this lad, in the Lordâ€™s own house?
His eyes are watching the altar-fire;
His voice joins sweet in the solemn vows;
His heart grows warm with strong desire.
His name, they tell us, isâ€”Jesus.
Letâ€™s get acquainted with Jesus!
â€™Twill help us to worship aright in Godâ€™s house,
â€™ Twill help us to join in the solemn vowsâ€”
If we get acquainted with Jesus.
With the gray-haired teachers I see him now,
â€œAt his Fatherâ€™s work.â€ With glad, sweet face,
The heart of the Holy Word he would know;
So he asks, and answers, with modest grace.
His name, they tell us, is â€”Jesus.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
Let's get acquainted with Jesus!
* Twill help, from the Book of Books, so plain,
The blessed gift of the truth to gainâ€”
If we get acquainted with Jesus.
What youth is this, who to manâ€™s estate
Goes forth? There's a joy before his eyes;
He will suffer sore for a joy so great:
For that joy will abide, though ke bleeds and dies!
His name, they tell us, isâ€”Jesus.
Let's get acquainted with Jesus!
> Twill help us to liveâ€”if need be, to dieâ€”
That others may live with God on highâ€”
If we get acquainted with Jesus.
And oh, who is this, who in robes of light
Now walks in the midst of the holy, above?
While nevermore ceaseth the song of delight
Which praises the Prince of Life and Love!
The angels tell us, â€˜tis Jesus.
Let's get acquainted with Jesus!
For oh, we shall rise and reign with Him
And join in the song of the seraphimâ€”
lf we get acquainted with Jesus!
â€”F. KB. Nutting.
Tue Lap wiITH THE LOAVES AND FISHES.
â€œThere is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes; but
what are they among so many?â€ â€”Fohn v1. 9.
O what can little hands do
To please the King of heaven?
The little hands some work may try
To help the poor in miseryâ€”
Such grace to mine be given!
O what can little lips do
To please the King of heaven?
The little lips can praise and pray,
And gentle words of kindness say â€”
Such grace to mine be given!
O what can little hearts do
To please the King of heaven?
Our hearts, if God his Spirit send,
Can love and trust their Saviour-Friendâ€”
Such grace to mine be given!
Though small is all that we can do
To please the King of heaven;
When hearts and hands and lips unite
To serve the Saviour with delight,
Then perfect grace is given.
Some of the most interesting personages of Scripture
appear for a moment before our vision, then pass away for-
ever from our view. The three Sages of the Orient, for
example, present their gifts of gold, and frankincense, and
myrrh, to the infant Christ and then pass silently away. We
catch one glimpse of the thankful face of the woman who
296 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
touched the hem of Christâ€™s garment and was healed, and
we see her no more. What became of the daughter of
Jarius, into whose eyes Jesus called again the light of life?
Of many of whom we would gladly know the most, we
know the least.
The world knows comparatively nothing of its best and
noblest men and women and _ childrenâ€”
â€œThey have no place in storied page,
No rest in marble shrine;
They have passed and gone with a buried age,
They died and made no signâ€”
But work, that shall have its wages yet,
And deeds that our God will not forget,
Done for the love divine.â€
The Evangelist John presents a beautiful picture in the
early pages of his gospel, a picture full of happy teachings.
It is springtime on the shores of Galilee. The waves of the
lake are as blue as the sky, and the hillsides are clad in the
first vernal splendors of the year. The fame of Jesus of.
Nazareth has spread far and wide, and thousands are fol-
lowing him to hear his wonderful words and to gaze upon
his mighty acts. On this occasion there were about five
thousand of these pilgrims; and Christ, who cared for the
body as well as for the soul, for the heart as well as for
the mind, looked upon the great flock in the desert, and,
with the true instinct of the Great Shepherd, thought how
hungry they must be.
Turning to Philip, Jesus says: â€œThe crowds are very
hungry; they must be fed or they will faint.â€
To this Philip replies in amazement: â€œ What can we do?
It would take more than a thousand loaves of bread that these
men might have only a little each!â€ And then attention is
turned to such resources as they have.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 297
â€œThere is a lad here with five barley loaves and two
small fishes, but what are they among so many?â€ With
what followed we are all familiar. The basketful of food
became a banquet for the multitudes. The people sat
down in happy companies on the fresh-springing grass, and
Jesus blessed the meal.
â€œ* Twas seed-time when he blessed the bread,
â€™ Twas harvest when he brake.â€
Who was this lad who carried the basket of bread and
Searching through the note-books of an old fellow-stu-
dent, who had spent some years in travel through Greece,
Egypt and the Holy Land, partly in search of health and
partly from love of travel, but who died all too soon, an
interesting story â€”half story, half legendâ€”concerning this very
lad of the gospel record presents itself. The student in
question spent some months on the shores of Galilee during
the fishing season, and although, as he says in his journal, he
was pained to find that the sacred memories that ought to
cling forever about the shores and waters of Galilee are fast
dying out, and such as remain are generally made the medium
of extorting money from the too credulous visitor, yet here
and there he met a man or woman who kept these memories
green for love of Him who trod these shores and hushed the
noisy tempest to an abiding calm.
One old fisherman he found who had quite a store of
legends of the days of Christ, and who seemed to know every
spot of interest in that deeply interesting region. One day
this fisherman took the traveler to Cana, where the wedding
feast was held at which Jesus was present. After pointing
out certain supposed relics of that memorable occasion, he
298 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
took him to the home of the descendant of an old Jewish
Rabbi who was possessed of a treasure known as â€œ Ben
Old Lemuel Ezra set great store by this treasure, as
was manifested by the care he took of it. He had a beau-
tiful box of polished olive wood inlaid with silk, in which he
kept this basket, which was a plain, strong, common basket
about two feet long, eighteen inches wide, and about eight
inches deep. But what made this plain, common basket so
precious in the sight of Lemuel Ezra? It was said to be the
identical basket that his honored ancestor, Ben Ezra, carried
when a boy, in his wanderings with his Uncle Philip and the
other followers of Jesus Christ. According to the old manâ€™s
story, Ben Ezra was the only son of Miriam, the sister of
Philip, and she was a widow. Very early in the ministry of
Jesus she had been won to devout and earnest discipleship.
It was a great joy to her that her brother Philip had been
chosen one of the twelve apostles of the Saviour. But above
all things she longed to see her son, Ben Ezra, following in
the footsteps of the Son of God; and these desires she often
expressed to her brother Philip.
Now, it so happened that Philip had charge of those
modest meals in which Christ and his disciples joined in their
seasons of quietude and retirement. It was Miriamâ€™s joy to
arrange for these mealsâ€”and what more natural than that
young Ben Ezra should carry the basket of loaves, and fishes,
and fruit? One day the boy went at the appointed time
with these materials for the noon meal, and lo! he saw a
crowd of many thousands. He waited and wondered what
would be done. At last his uncle, after a talk with Jesus
about the hunger of this great multitude, so far away from
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THE LAD WITH THE LOAVES AND FIsHEs.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 301
â€œThere is a lad here with five barley loaves and two
At this Ben Ezra brought his basket, and placing it at
the feet of the Master, heard more talk about the hungry
multitude, and then Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and.
prayed, and lo! the little meal became a banquet for the
multitude, and when all had had enough, the basket was too
small to hold the fragments that remained.
From that day forward Ben Ezra held his basket pre-
cious, and when, long years after, he became a pastor of
one of the early Christian churches, he was accustomed to
distribute the bread at the communion service with his own
hand from the basket he had carried with such joy in his
youth, and to the younger members of the flock he would
often talk of those days when Jesus trod the happy shores
of Galilee. Dying, he left this basket as a legacy, begging
all who followed him to hold it sacred. And so to this day
the descendants of Ben Ezra count their most precious heir
loom â€œThe Basket of Ben Ezra.â€
This story of Ben Ezra belongs to legendary lore and
is to be valued accordingly. As a matter of fact, we get
but one glimpse of the favored boy, and then he passes for-
ever from the Gospel record. What became of him? Did
he follow the Christ? Did he joy to tell his children, and
his childrensâ€™ children, in after years, of the wonderful scenes
of that spring day by the sea of Tiberias?
Of all this we know nothing, but we do know that this
lad was an important figure in this scene, and we may urge
upon all thoughtful boys this great truthâ€”that the lowliest
tasks may be more important in themselves and in their
relations to other events than we have ever dreamed.
How could this boy know that he was carrying in his
302 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
plain basket that day a meal that might become a feast for
We none of us know how boundless in its usefulness
and in its influences for good our commonest work may
become. A sower goes forth with a basketful of seed, and
the sower may be but a boy, and yet very soon all the land
about will be green and beautiful and rich with promise of
the golden harvests of coming days.
And we may note that the great usefulness of this lad
of the gospel came not in some extraordinary hour, but while
in the discharge of his ordinary every-day duties. Let us go
about our work with shining faces! God will take our small
resources, and will multiply them beyond our dreams. Let
us scatter the seeds He has given us to sow.
â€œThe seeds, within these few and fleeting hoursâ€”
Our hands unsparing and unwearied castâ€”
Shall deck our graves with amaranthine flowers,
And yield us fruits divine in heavenâ€™s immortal bowers.â€
LAZARUS AND THE SISTERS OF BETHANY.
* Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.â€ â€” ohn x2., 5.
â€œ Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thoughts her mind admits,
But he was dead, and there he sits,
And he who brought him back is Thee.
Thrice blest, whose lives are faithful prayers,
Whose loves in higherâ€˜love endure; Â©
What souls possess themselves so pure,
Or is there blessedness like theirs?â€
They sat in sorrow, side by side,
For Lazarus was dead;
Not many words the sisters spake,
And few the tears they shed.
The quiet home of Bethany
Was hallowed as a shrine;
The shadows of the sepulchre
Had made that home divine.
And Maryâ€™s look, and Marthaâ€™s sigh
And the hushed stillness there,
Bespoke the anguish of a grief,
No language could declare.
They sat in sorrow, side by side,
And few the words they said;
The house was very desolate,
For Lazarus was dead.
â€”Thomas W. Handford.
It is very wonderful what strange diversities of character
have been manifested in children who were born in the same
304 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
home, and nursed on the same parental knee. The same
cradle has often rocked to slumber a Boanerges, son of
thunder, and a Bartholomew, son of consolation. In the
earlier pages of this book we noted a marvelous contrast in
those twin-brothers of the early days, Jacob and Esau. The
one was an intrepid hunter, the other a plain man, dwelling
So in this cottage home in Bethany we have a diversity
of character, distinct, impressive and beautiful. It seems
almost certain that Martha was the head of the household.
She had that force of character, that energy, that demon-
strative disposition that would be sure always to carry her
to the front. Martha received Jesus into â€œher house;â€ and
with that busy courtesy that sprang from the heart of genuine
hospitality she began to bestir herself for the comfort of her
sacred guest. Meantime, Mary sat still, listening with awe
and wonder to the words of her heavenly friend.
Those two women made up a beautiful, inseparable whole.
We need them both in the family and the church and in every
path of life to-day. It would bea sad thing for the thought
of the world if all the women were like Martha; and it would
be an equally sad thing for the work of the world if all the
women were like Mary.
We can well imagine what they would do if they were
living among us to-day. Mary would ponder very deeply
the question of womanâ€™s true sphere in the world. Martha
would make a sphere for herself. Martha would be at the
head of the procession with a banner in her hand, but Mary
would beg to be excused. Martha would be on many com-
mittees, and would be busy all day long with Waifâ€™s
Missions and Ragged Schools; Mary would sit at home and
write the poems that would touch the worldâ€™s sad heart just
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 305
as tenderly, though not as noisily as Marthaâ€™s work. Martha
found her joy in busy service; Mary in quiet thought.
Martha was cumbered with much service, but Mary sat still
in the house. And verily Mary chose the better part. In
this busy age Martha is at the front and Mary is almost
forgotten. We do well to pause now and again, and ask if
it would not be for our good to turn aside occasionally from
the din, and the roar, and the battle, and â€œsit still in the
house.â€ The earth is full of â€œdreary noises.â€ And mere
noise not only distracts, it demoralizes. It draws from us
the sap of our best possible growth.
The heart is the fountain of life, not the brain. And
the heart can only be nourished by devout, prolonged, fre-
quent meditation. We must â€œsit still in the houseâ€ if we
would hear the Masterâ€™s words. There is such a thing as
hearing and not hearing, till the pitcher at the fountain over-
flows and the water is wasted. If we would, like Mary,
open wide the windows of our soul, what streams of sunlight
would pour in upon us; what melodies of heaven would
â€œsweep their gradual gospels inâ€ to cheer and heal the weary
heart! If, like Mary, we could â€œsit stillâ€ for one hour in
the day, all the day would be bright and calm. Strong in
the strength that would come from such hallowed musings,
we should be prepared for trial, and sufficient for any exi-
gencies that might arise. How beautiful the words of
Wesley on the thoughtful attitude of Mary! What desire
could be more worthy than that expressed in his matchless
â€œOh! that I could forever sit
With Mary at the Masterâ€™s feet;
Be this my happy choice.
My only care, delight and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth be this,
17 To hear the Bridegroomâ€™s voice.â€
306 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
So much for the two sisters of the happy home of
Bethany, but what of Lazarus? That he was a very quiet
lad seems almost certain. He took more after Maryâ€™s thought-
ful ways than Marthaâ€™s busy moods. He seems to have been
shy and retiring. It is said that outside the immediate circle
of the Apostles, Lazarus was the most intimate friend Jesus
had. Indeed, theâ€™ question has often been asked, why was
not Lazarus made one of the favored twelve? With what
deep affection Jesus loved him, may be gathered by the tears
he shed by the grave of his friend; tears that called forth
the saying of the Jews who gathered on that eee -occa-
sion: â€˜Behold, how he loved him!â€
Sickness and trouble and death come to all, even to the
most intimate friends of Christ. Those whom Jesus loves
grow sick and die, and the time of Lazarus came at last.
But Lazarus had high honor. In his case, Jesus was to make
known his power over death and the grave. It was not for
the sake of Lazarus, or of his broken-hearted sisters alone,
but for the sake of all the coming ages, that Jesus cried at
the grave of his dead friend, now sleeping in death:
â€˜â€œâ€˜ Lazarus, come forth.â€
And Lazarus rose at the command of him, sou the
world was to know forever after as â€œthe resurrection and
the life.â€ By the graves of untold millions that gracious
word spoken to Martha concerning her brother as been
â€œJT am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in
me though he were dead yet shall he live; and whoso liveth
_ and believeth in me shall never die.â€
And to the very end of timeâ€”till that great day when
the angel, one foot on sea and one on solid land shall cry
that â€œ Time shall be no more! â€â€”this grand stanza of immortal
s, COME Fo
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 309
hope will be chanted wherever sorrowing souls stand weeping
by open graves.
Thus the name of Lazarus is linked forever with
Christâ€™s largest promise of life and immortality by faith in
It is said that Lazarus lived for thirty years after his
resurrection from the dead. But he passes suddenly from the
gospel history, and no word is spoken of his strange experi-
ence in that brief sojourn in the Silent Land.
Perhaps it is more a pardonable curiosity than anything
beside that prompts the desire, but who would not gladly
learn, if it were possible, what strange emotions possessed
the mind and heart of the brother of Bethany during those
four memorable days? Perhaps the whole subject seemed to
him too sacred to be spoken of. Or if he spoke of these
things in the sacred circle of Bethany, he deemed it best not
to noise the matter abroad.
When Lazarus left his charnel-house
And home to Maryâ€™s house returned,
Was this demandedâ€”if he yearned
To hear her weeping by his grave?
â€œWhere wert thou, brother, those four days?â€
There lives no record of reply,
Which telling what it is to die
Had surely added praise to praise.
From every house the neighbors met,
The streets were filled with joyful sound,
A solemn gladness even crowned
The purple brows of Olivet.
Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unrevealed;
He told it not; or something sealed
The lips of the Evangelist.â€
THE YOUTHFUL TIMOTHY.
â€œFrom a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures."â€”Z/. 7 tmothy ttt, 25.
â€œ The unfeigned faith which first dwelt in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother
Eunice, and I am persuaded in thee also.â€â€”//. Timothy t., 5.
We love the good old Bible,
The glorious Word of God;
The lamp for those who travel
Oâ€™er all lifeâ€™s dreary road;
The watchword in life's battle,
The chart on lifeâ€™s dark sea;
The beautiful, dear Bible,
It shall our teacher be.
Who would not love the Bible,
So beautiful and wise?
Its teachings charm the simple,
And all point to the skies;
Its stories all so mighty,
Of men, so brave to see:
The beautiful, dear Bible,
It shall our teacher be.
But most we love the Bible,
For there we children learn
How Christ for us became a child,
Our hearts to Him to turn;
And how He bowed to sorrow,
That we His face might see;
The Bible, yes, the Bible,
It shall our teacher be.
â€”EÂ£. Paxton Hood.
In many respects, the Apostle Paul must be regardedâ€™
as the most remarkable of all the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 311
The history of his life is a most entrancing study. His early -
life, in which he was so bitterly opposed to the followers of the
Son of God, became a preparation, as fitting as it was
strange, for his apostolic career. Paul was permitted to
bear the banner of the cross he had once despised through
Asia Minor, through the chief cities of Greece, to imperial
Rome, and even on the soil of Europe he stood and with
impassioned fervor, he preached Jesus Christ and him
Of all his friends and fellow-helpers none filled so large
a place in the Apostleâ€™s esteem as the youthful Timothy.
It was not so much that Paul honored and admired Timothy;
there were other and tenderer bonds that bound them in
changeless affection. Timothy had been brought into the
fellowship of the church of Jesus Christ through the preaching
and care of the Apostle Paul. Just what a Christian pastor
feels towards those, who, under his care, have been roused
to the consecration of their whole lives to the service of
Christ, Paul felt for Timothy. Amd so he speaks of him in
such endearing terms as â€œâ€˜my own son in the faith,â€ and
again he calls him â€˜my dearly beloved son;â€ and again he
says: â€˜Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my
prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see thee being
mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy.â€
It was at Lystra where Paul first met his faithful, help-
ful friend. Timothy was born in this city. In the Second
Epistle to Timothy, Paul lifts the veil and gives a pleasant
glimpse of the sacred relationships of the home at Lystra.
Timothyâ€™s father was a Greek of whom we hear little. His
mother, Eunice, was a devout woman, and his grandmother,
Lois, was noted for her piety, and so through three genera-
tions the stream of religious life flowed on, broadening and
312 BOYS OF THE BIBLE.
deepening in its flow. Paul reminds Timothy of the privi-
lege he had â€˜enjoyed in this devout ancestry, and says: â€œI
have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day,
when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith
that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois
and thy mother Eunice.â€
Here then was a happy Christian home. From a child
Timothy would be instructed daily in the sacred Scriptures,
with the grand result that must always follow a faithful,
continuous study of the Scriptures, he became â€˜â€œâ€˜wise.â€â€ Wise
unto salvation, thoroughly equipped for the great work that
was before him.
His life was full of honorable toil in the service of Oye
Christ. Those daily Bible lessons with his mother and grand-
mother, in the happy, early days at Lystra, prepared him for
the grave and solemn work of the care of many churches
and finally of the Bishopric of Ephesus.
Timothy knew the Scriptures from a child. And it is
not too much to say that no education is complete that
does not include a thorough knowledge of the Bible. Of all
true wisdom, the knowledge of God is the beginning, the
sum and the substance. And where shall we go for that
knowledge, if not to this sacred book? Men may be wise in
a thousand things, but if they are ignorant of God and his
love, of Christ and his compassion, and of the way through
life to immortality which the Bible makes known, they are
â€˜â€œâ€˜Blessed are they that love thy law, they shall walk,
O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.â€
The poet Cowper, from whom we have already quoted,
draws a beautiful picture of a simple-minded woman, who
though ignorant of much of the worldâ€™s learning, was well
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TIMOTHY, HIS MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER,
BOYS OF THE BIBLE. 315
versed in the truths of the Bible. He contrasts her condi-
tion with that of a brilliant French philosopher who would
not have God to reign over him, and scorned the Bible as
a series of cunningly devised fables.
Let the boys who read this book, study this beautiful
poetic picture, and engrave the lesson it teaches deep in
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â€œYon cottager, who weaves at her own door,
Pillow and bobbins all her little store;
Content though mean, and cheerful if not gay,
Shuffling her threads about the live-long day,
Just earns a scanty pittance, and at night
Lies down secure, her heart and pocket light;
She, by her humble sphere, by nature fit,
Has little understanding, andâ€˜no wit,
Just knows, and knows no more, her Bible true,
A truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew;
And in that charter reads with sparkling eyes,
Her title to a treasure in the skies!
â€œOh, happy peasant! Oh, unhappy Bard!
His the mere tinsel, herâ€™s the rich reward;
He praised, perhaps, for ages yet to come,
She never heard of half a mile from home;
He lost in errors his vain heart prefers,
She safe in the simplicity of hers!â€
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