« PreviousContinue »
of it. If they were to say, 'I shall not be here to see the result of what I am doing,' it would be a different thing ; but to say that it will be all the same in a hundred years' time' is generally a mistake."
“But do you really think, sir, that our actions will make a difference to those that come after us?"
“Yes, I do, indeed, John. We meet with plenty of proofs of that every day of our lives, and if we could only know more than we do of the past we should be able to trace some very large results to small beginnings. You know the gentleman who passed us in his carriage just now, don't
“What, Mr. Gould! Oh, yes, I know him well enough by sight, sir."
“And you know what people say about him, I dare
“I have heard them say that he is the richest man in the neighbourhood, if that is what you mean.”
“Yes. And I think they are about right; at any rate, Mr. Gould is very rich; but how did he become so, do you think?”
Why, sir, his father left him a very large fortune.” “ Yes, but how was it that his father had it to leave ?"
“Oh, he had inherited great deal from his own father, who came to this town years ago a very poor man, with only a few shillings in his pocket. I know that is true, sir, because Mr. Gould told us so, not long ago, when he gave an address to the members of our club."
Yes, I was thinking of that when I asked you the question, and that is just the point I wanted to bring you to.
Now, suppose Mr. Gould's grandfather, when he came here a poor man, instead of husbanding his slender resources, had spent the few shillings he had improvidently, and said, It will be all the same in a hundred years' time,' should we have seen the present Mr. Gould riding in a fine carriage to-day, do you think?"
“Not at all likely, sir," answered both Cooper and Bond.
“ But that is a different sort of thing from what we were talking about,” Cooper continued.
“So it may be ; and perhaps what you were speaking of really will make very little difference; but that does not alter my opinion that it will be all the same in a hundred years' time' is, generally speaking, a foolish and erroneous saying."
"Perhaps it is, sir ; and I will think of what you have said before I use the expression again.”
“ There is another thing I should like to point out to you, John, and I think you will agree with me in what I am about to say, which is, that none of us ought to be content to say and feel that our actions will make no difference to the future of others. We cannot pass through life without influencing some about us either for good or for evil, so we ought to be very careful that our actions be good, and such as will bear the closest scrutiny, and then we ought to perform them in the manner most likely to influence those around us; doing this, we should be continually scattering good seed, the full fruit of which may not be gathered in until the great day when the Lord of the harvest shall send His labourers into the harvest, and when the works of every man shall be made manifest.”
“Well, sir, I really never looked upon my actions in such a serious light,” said Cooper.
"No, nor I neither," responded Bond. "I somehow seemed to fancy that it was only great men and ministers like you, sir, that had much influence with others.”
“Ah ! then you were much mistaken. All men do some good or harm during their lifetime, though, of course, some have greater influence than others.
“Now, just look here," continued Mr. Shaw, as he stooped down and picked up two stones from the road, “you see these stones; one is much larger than the other.”
“Yes," said the men, wondering what next the minister would do.
“Well, I am going to throw them into the stream : just
notice the effect they have. Here goes the large one." Splash went the stone into the middle of the stream and disappeared, but though the stone was out of sight the effect of the splash lasted some moments. Around the spot where it fell there appeared a number of tiny rings, which quickly widened out and increased in size until they spent themselves one after another on the banks on either side of the stream.
There,” said Mr. Shaw, " that was the great man, and his influence was great and reached right on till it could go no farther, and was to be distinguished up to the end of time for I will liken the sides of the stream to the end of all things. Now for the smaller stone, which we will suppose to represent a more obscure individual. See, there are the rings coming,” he continued, as the stone fell into the water.
“Not so large, though, sir, this time," said Cooper.
“No, nor won't last so long; they won't reach the bank," cried Bond, as he eagerly watched the widening circles, which seemed to be racing each other to the edges of the brook, but before they reached their goals they had disappeared, and the quiet stream looked as placid as before.
“ That little one didn't do so much as the other,” said Bond. “I suppose that was something like you and me, John—hadn't got so much influence as the larger one; perhaps the large one was Mr. Shaw,” he added, smiling slily.
“Well,” said the minister, smiling in return at the implied compliment, "you noticed that the smaller stone, or the more obscure man, to keep up the simile, did not have so much influence as the other, the ripples raised on the surface of the water were not so high as from the other.”
“No, sir, nor didn't reach so far," Bond put in ; for he didn't want to give up that point.
“There you are wrong, Bond," said Mr. Shaw,"for although we couldn't see the rings come right up to the bank, the fault was in our want of sight keen enough to discern
them; you may depend on it the water was in some degree disturbed even to the whole width of the stream ; and so influences set in motion by any man may be lost sight of, as coming from him, but they still exist somewhere or other, and will and must continue to exist as long as time lasts."
Well, sir," said Cooper ; “I believe what you say is correct; but still it comes quite new to me.”
“ And so it does to me," said Bond ; “ but I shall try and remember it.” I am glad to hear you say so. Now let me show
you how you can live really useful lives, such as will make a great deal of difference to the world in a hundred years' time. We will say, for the sake of argument, that I am as poor in spiritual gifts as Mr. Gould's grandfather was in pocket years ago; cannot I follow his example? He did not squander the little money he was possessed of, but used it carefully in such a manner that, instead of diminishing, it gradually increased ; and as it grew more, the more carefully, if possible, did he invest it, taking care that not a penny of it was wasted; till at last, after years of patient industry and unflagging exertions, he accumulated the
, money that enabled his son to trade still more largely, and to lay by a fortune for another generation ; and now, you see, the grandson of the poor young Gould who came to this place more than a hundred years ago is one of the richest men in the neighbourhood. Well, now, cannot I improve the few talents with which I am blessed ; cannot I increase their value ? Cannot I, by careful culture and unwearying efforts, gain other talents also ? You know that we have a rich bank from which we may draw spiritual supplies. I mean the Word of God; if we go constantly and prayerfully to that bank, we shall always come away richer than we went. Hear what the psalmist says about it: The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.'? So that, although I may
1 Psa. cxix. 130.
be very simple, by allowing the entrance of God's Word into my heart, and praying for the grace of the Holy Spirit to bless those words to me, I may gain understanding such as will enable me to use aright the talents with which I am endowed ; and in so using them I shall be benefiting my fellow men, and setting in motion circles of influence that may continue to widen and expand years after I have been laid in the grave, just as the circles round the stone thrown into the water continued to increase after the stone itself had sunk to the bottom. I could say a good deal more on the subject of our individual influence, but am afraid I shall tire you."
“Not at all, sir ; please go on," said both men.
“Well, then, there is one way in which every one has the power of doing a great deal of good or of mischief during his life, according to what he is, and that is by the judicious or foolish use of the tongue, that little member of which the apostle James says, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.' A proper and wise use of the tongue may be the means of doing the greatest good; indeed, it is the principal instrument in the cause of God, but it is also the chief engine of the devil, who often works his own ends by prompting the speech of men. I do not refer to the speech of profane and filthy men, for out of the abundance of their heart their mouth speaketh without any promptings from Satan; but I mean that even professing Christians may do much harm if they do not constantly use the prayer: 'Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth : keep the door of my lips.' I have a book in my pocket from which I should like to read a few words; they are these : 'You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation, or for the sake of argument, or wit, some irreligious, sceptical expression; it lodges in the memory of a child or a servant, it takes root in a soil favourable to such seed, it gradually springs up, and brings forth fruit in the profanation of the Sabbath, the neglect of the means of grace, in the reading of improper books, in the choice of dangerous companions; who can