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companions; they will do us good or they will do us harm as they are good or bad themselves.
But before I tell you what books to put on your shelf, I would say why I wish you to give attention to reading. Those of you who have formed the habit will thereby be led to persevere in it, while
may love play better than books will, I hope, have your taste greatly modified, if not altogether changed.
In turning this matter over in my mind I remembered that I had read some time ago a letter of a father to his little boy, which I thought would be suitable for my purpose. I accordingly found it, and was so pleased with the very clear way in which it states the advantages of reading, and also the purpose for which we should read, that I resolved to give you the substance of it in this article, instead of doing what I first intended_write something of my own.
The letter is from John Sterling to his boy, when he was between seven and eight years old. It was written from Rome, and may be found in the “Life of John Sterling" by the celebrated Thomas Carlyle.
“When you see how much more grown people know than you, you ought to be anxious to learn all you can from those who teach you; and as there are so many wise and good things written in books, you ought to try to read early and carefully, that you may learn something of what God has made you able to know. There are libraries containing many thousands of volumes, and all that is written in these is accounts of some part or other of the world which God has made, or of the thoughts which He has enabled men to have in their minds. Some books are descriptions of the earth itself, with its rocks, and ground, and water, and of the air and clouds, and the stars, and moon, and sun, which shine so beautifully in the sky. Some tell you about the things that grow upon the ground ; the many millions of plants, from little mosses and threads of grass up to great trees and foreste. Some, also, contain accounts of living things—flies, worms, fishes, birds, and four-legged beasts. And some, which are the most, are about men and their thoughts and doings. These are most important of all, for men are the best and most wonderful creatures of God in the world, being the only ones able to know Him and love Him, and to try of their own accord to do His will.
“ These books about men are also the most important to us, because we ourselves are human beings, and may learn from such books what we ought to think, and to do, and to try to be. Some of them describe what sort of people have lived in old times and in other countries. By reading them we know what is the difference between ourselves in England now and the famous nations which lived in former days. Such were the Egyptians, who built the Pyramids, which are the greatest heap of stones upon the face of the earth: and the Babylonians, who had a city with huge walls, built of bricks, having writing on them that no one in our time has been able to
make out. There were also the Jews, who were the only people that knew how wonderfnl and how good God is ; and the Greeks, who were the wisest of all, in thinking about men's lives and hearts, and who knew best how to make fine statues and buildings, and to write wise books. By books, also, we learn what sort of people the old Romans were, whose chief city was Rome, where I am now; and how well they could govern and teach many nations which they had conquered.
“ It is from books, too, that you must learn what kind of men were our ancestors in the northern part of Europe, who belonged to the tribes that did the most towards pulling down the power of the Romans; and you will see in the same way how Christianity was sent among them by God to make them wiser and more peaceful, and more noble in their minds. And how all the nations that now are in Europe, and especially the Italians and the Germans, and the French and the English, came to be what they now are. It is well worth knowing (and it can be known only by reading) how the Germans found out the printing of books, and what great changes this has made in the world. And every body in England ought to try to understand how the English came to have their Parliaments and laws, and to have fleets that sail over all the seas of the world.
“Besides learning all these things, and a great many more about different times and countries, you may learn from books what is the truth of God's will, and what are the best and wisest thoughts and the most beautiful words : and how men are able to lead very right lives, and to do a great deal to better the world. I have spent a great part of my life in reading, and I hope you will come to like it as much as I do, and to learn in this way all that I know.
“But it is a still more serious matter that you should try to be obedient and gentle, and to command your temper; and to think of other people's pleasure rather than your own, and of what you ought to do rather than what you like. If you try to be better for all you read, as well as wiser, you will find books a great help towards goodness as well as knowledge-and, above all books, the Bible, which tells us of the will of God, and of the love of Jesus Christ towards God and men.”
This is a most excellent letter, and my young readers will, I hope, thank me for putting it within their reach. That is, they will read it again and again with great care until they can understand and remember the interesting information it gives.
THE EDITOR'S TABLE. “X. Y, Z.” (Burslem) wishes to know who is the author of the hymn beginning “Here we suffer grief and pain.” We believe it was written by Thomas Bilby, who died in 1872. Of him, however, we cannot give any information.
“ A. B. C.” asks, “What were the scales which fell from the Apostle's eyes ?” See Acts ix., 18.
ANSWER.-In the verse referred to it is not said that scales did literally or physically fall from the eyes
of the Apostle. The words are, “ There fell from his eyes as it had been scales.” Dr. Hackett, in h18" Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts,” just published, says it means, " that he experienced a sensation as if such had been the fact." “ The Greek word,” he adds, “ shows that it was so in appearance, not in reality.” St. Paul's eyesight was affected by the vision which he had of Christ on his way to Damascus, but the nature of the injury cannot be determined. He was without sight three days after the vision, and it is also stated that he did neither eat nor drink. With Dr. Wheedon we think that we are to look for the cause of this blindness less into the region of matter than of soul. “It was, perhaps, the powerful collision of spiritual forces, the Divine upon the human, which drove the perceptive power of Saul inward and disabled it from action.” And in reference to both his blindness and abstinence of food, he justly remarks, “ If we contemplate the awful struggle within the mighty spirit of this great man in the present heyday of his young manhood, we shall not wonder that its violence left no vitality for the outward perceptions or sensations." And so, when Ananias laid his hands on him, and said, “The Lord Jesns has sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost,” he did not obscurely intimate the cause of his physical cure. If a literal interpretation of the words “scales from his eyes" be adhered to, well, the conjecture of this commentator is reasonable : "Very probably during the three days the humours had dried upon his eyeballs, and as the abounding of Spirit quickened the whole man, the scale-like particles fell from his eyes, thus forming a striking emblem of his renewed spiritual sight.”
“H. L. W." wishes us to give our opinion of the following, which he has copied from the Leisure Hour for 1857, page 720 :. "The proposed railway to India through Assyria, it is expected, will ultimately be joined to Egypt by a line to Alexandria ; if so, we shall then have accomplished literally for the first time in history the prediction of Isaiah's prophecy-xix., 23-24, “In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land.""
Our opinion is that the formation of the railway referred to would not be the accomplishment of Isaiah's prediction. How can it be while the Israelitish people have no national existence, and, instead of occupying their native country, are dispersed over the face of the earth? In their present condition they cannot become “the third with Egypt and Assyria.” For this a restoration to their own land is necessary.
Frederick Johnson (Ardsley), writes—“Will you be so kind as to tell me the meaning of Luke xviii., 8— Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall be find faith on the earth?' » The event referred to is the second advent of Christ, and the faith inquired about is “that special faith of which the widow's is an image, which, in spite of the judge's obstinate silence and long apparent indifference, perseveres in claiming its right.” Our Lord's question seems to intimate that the faith of His people will scarce hold out till His second coming. “ The Church," says Wheedon, “will all but faint in her prayer and watchfulness before that day. This is clearly in unison with those texts which represent that it will be upon an apostate earth that the judgment-throne of Christ will appear.”
With regard to the other questions of our correspondent, we reply the Scriptures do not say.
2 Kings xx., 1–6, has puzzled the young men's class at Ainsworth, and they wish to know whether God changed His mind in adding fifteen years to King Hezekiah's life after He had told him to set his house in order, for he should die and not live.
We see nothing so very perplexing in Hezekiah's case. He is seized with a sickness which of itself will be mortal. The prophet is instructed to tell him this, and urge him to prepare for the fatal issue. • Thou shalt die and not live,” is not the announcement of a Divine decree concerning the king, but the giving him information as to the natural issue of his sickness. Whereupon Hezekiah was in sorrow, and prayed to God for help. He does not specifically ask for his life to be spared, but he asks God to remember him, and no doubt this request included his recovery. His prayer is answered; the prophet is told to turn again and say from the Lord, “I have heard thy prayer ; I have seen thy tears : behold, I will heal thee: and I will add unto thy days fifteen years.” The whole narrative is an encouraging illustration of the efficacy of prayer.
“ This poor man cried unto the Lord, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of his trouble."
for Repetition. BUBJECT.
FIRST QUARTER. 7 Godly Living...... Coloss. iii. 12-25 Ver. 17 14 The Good News
Matt. ii. 1-12... Luke ii. 10 21 The Infant Saviour... Matt. ii. 13-23 Luke i. 32 28 Jesus Baptised & Tempted Matt. iii. 13 to iv. 11 Heb. iv. 15
for Repetition. FOR READING.
FIRST QUARTER. ? The Kingdom divided 11 Kings xii.1-5,12-20 Prov. xii. 5 14 The Sin of Jeroboam......
1 Kings xii. 25to xiii.6 Isa. ix. 16 21 Omri and Ahab........ 1 Kings xvi. 21-34 Prov. xiv. 11 28 Elijah the Tishbite ........
1 Kings xvii. 1-16 Job. v. 20
for Repetition. SUBJECT.
FIRST QUARTER. 4 Jesus in Galilee.......... Matt. iv. 12—25... / Ver. 23 11 The Blessed Life......... Matt. v. 1-16..... Ps. cxii, 1 18 The Law and the Gospel Matt. v.17-24,38-48 John i. 17 25 Giving and Praying ... Matt. vi. 1-15 ... Phil, iv. 6
for Repetition. SUBJECT.
FIRST QUARTER. 4 Elijah and Ahab........ 1 Kings xvüi. 1-16 Ps. cxix. 46 1. Elijah and Baal's Prophets 1 Kings xviii. 17-29 Ver. 21 18 Elijah's Sacrifice.... 1 Kings xviü.30-46 | Ver. 24 25 Elijah at Horeb
1 Kings xix. 1-18 Job. xxiii. 6