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HICK and fast the presents were coming in that New Year's Eve; for New Year's Day would also be the wedding day of a daughter of our house, and many a choice and costly gift arrived for the bride-elect, among the usual tokens of new year remembrance from relatives and friends for us all, including toys and bon-bons and pretty cards for the little ones. Every ring at the door-bell sent the children of our party to the hall to see whether some fresh gift had arrived. Now it was a packing-case by the Parcels Delivery Company, now a piece of furniture brought by a shop van. Then a servant would leave a parcel and note; next with the postman's knock, would come a registered letter; or, with a sharp ring, a shop messenger with a package and the giver's card attached. There were pretty articles of jewelry, handsome books, household appointments, useful or ornamental, or both combined; and great was our excitement as
we spread them out to the best advantage, and many the exclamations of gratitude and admiration.
Yet, mingled with the gratitude and admiration were expressions of criticism, and now and then of disappointment. "What a beautiful piece of work!" we exclaimed, as a large banner-screen, worked in white silk and garnet beads, was unfolded.
"Yes; but it's a pity it's not made up. great deal to mount a screen of that size."
It will cost a
'Oh, here is Mrs. Arbuthnot's present! " said the brideelect, as a deal box with a note was handed to her; "she told me about it. It is to be a tea-set; the very thing I want most." But her face fell a little as on the box being broken open there appeared a pair of china candlesticks; Mrs. Arbuthnot's note explained that she had met with nothing to please her in tea-sets. "I've no doubt," remarked Ruth, as she laid down the note, "something to please me would have been easily found."
The next present which came to hand was a massive silver bracelet from India. It was of exquisite workmanship, and very handsome; but, when tried on, was found to be defective in the clasp and much too large.
"These Indian presents are always unsatisfactory," a visitor remarked. "I had a shawl sent from Calcutta when I was married, and there were several pounds duty to pay at the Custom-house, and I've never once worn it, it's so heavy."
Presently there was carried in a table, beautifully inlaid. "How lovely!" was the general outcry; then some one added, "If only you were going to set up a house at once, Ruth; you will hardly know where to store furniture the first few years."
"Hurrah!" exclaimed one of the family, as a foreign letter was brought in; "that's Cousin Geoffrey; he must be sending you a bank-note, Ruth." Alas, no! to our disappointment, Cousin Geoffrey sent good wishes only, and said he had just been called upon to meet family expenses
so large and unexpected that he must deny himself the pleasure of sending Ruth a wedding present, but he hoped it was a pleasure only postponed, etc., etc. Other examinations, discussions, and criticisms followed.
"Robert, what are you about?" one of us asked of our eldest brother, who for some minutes past had stood by, taking no part in our conversation, but gravely writing in a note-book. "Are you making a list of the presents ?"
"No," he answered, smiling; "not of the presents, but of the imperfections you are finding in some of them. You have suggested a text, and given me all the headings for a sermon." "Oh, tell us, Robert, what text?"
"Every good and every perfect gift is from above,' he answered, gravely. "You made me think how the gifts of God shine out in blessed contrast with some of Ruth's wedding presents, in many points in which you have found fault with these. Above all, that good and perfect gift, of which it was said to the woman of Samaria, If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have asked of Him,' and in view of which St. Paul can only utter the adoring cry, 'Thanks' be unto God for His unspeakable gift!'"
"Tell us more of your sermon, Robert," said the brideelect, thoughtfully; "we won't make any more slighting remarks on my presents; but give us our lesson on what we have said already."
"Well, dear," he answered, glancing at his note-book; among your presents, some were complained of as incom-plete; you will have to spend of your own upon them to fit them for use; but, in His dear Son, God has given us sinners a perfect gift; not only perfect as the Son of God, but 'made perfect,' as a Saviour of men, by human suffering; nothing can be added on our part to God's perfect work of salvation by Christ Jesus, without frustrating the grace of God. You remember the old hymn :
"Some call Him a Saviour in word,
But mix their own works with His plan,
If asked what of Jesus I think,
Though still my best thoughts are but poor,
My Shepherd, my Guardian, my Friend,
"Then again, one of Ruth's presents was said to be cumbrous, unsuited to the conditions of her married life. But, in the Lord Jesus, we have a gift exactly suited to the needs and circumstances of every soul. Receiving Him, the poor is exalted, the rich is made low. Think how the learned Nicodemus, the ignorant multitudes, the high-born women, the loathsome lepers, the Roman officer, the dying thief, found their needs all met in Him. "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.' "And we were disappointed because a certain packingcase did not contain the gift on which our bride had set her heart, beautiful and costly as was the substitute. She laid it aside with a sigh. But there is no disappointment about this precious gift of God. It is provided by Him who knoweth the hearts of all men,' by a faithful Creator.' Only as we learn to know Christ we are constrained to say, 'The half was not told me!' for it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.'
"When that beautiful inlaid table was brought in, some one remarked: 'Such presents are rather unsuitable for travellers.' God's good and perfect gift, on the contrary, is the daily strength and rest and solace of His pilgrim people. 'I am a stranger with Thee,' sings the psalmist; and thus runs the promise to the Israel of God: When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.' 'A man shall be as
the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.' 'I am with you alway,' says the ascending Jesus, 'even unto the end of the world.'
"Some gift, I think it was a piece of delicate work, was said to be so perishable, it must always be covered, except for company; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord; and the more we make daily, hourly use of our God-given Saviour, the more His beauty will shine forth; we shall be ever finding fresh cause to praise and trust Him.
"And in contrast with the disappointment caused by Cousin Geoffrey, whose gift had been so surely reckoned on, and who was prevented from sending it by other claims, how blessed to know that the unspeakable gift of God is freely provided for each and every one of us. Yes, and not only so, but for every one who appropriates it, others will be led to desire and obtain it; for the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.' 'By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.'
"And then," added Robert, "I was thinking how one might carry on the parallel, and show how the freeness and fitness, and fulness and certainty of God's giving, as set forth in that 'unspeakable gift,' attach to all His gifts, to those who are His children by faith in Christ Jesus; to the gifts of which St. Paul says, 'He that spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?' 'When He ascended up on high, He received gifts for men.' One might go on to speak of spiritual endowments, how 'every man hath his proper gift of God,' of God's dealings with us in temporal things, how all are planned with Divine wisdom, fatherly bounty; not, indeed, always as we should choose for ourselves, but always good and perfect; however, I think the sermon would be too long, so I intend to close with a little personal appeal. Solomon says, 'A man's gift maketh room for him.' 'Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.' We see the truth of this in earthly giving and receiving; how grateful we feel to all the relations and friends to whose kindness, and thoughtfulness, and liberality we owe these presents. There is not a toy or sugar-plum