fruitless, as we were too isolated for anything of this sort. Nor had we any means to strike a light, for this occurred before lucifer matches had been invented. If we remained there, it might be many days before any help reached us, and in that time we should suffer from hunger and thirst, and perhaps die of starvation. Seeing our position thus critically extreme, I addressed Uncle Will, saying there was no other way for us than to endeavour to grope our way through the great darkness to the top of the mine. It was a serious undertaking, but the only way likely at all to prove effectual. Better run this risk than sit there to die of cold and hunger in the sickly sulphurous cell. Should we try? And Uncle Will answered, “ Yes."

Taking a pick in my hand to feel the way, I went before, and Uncle Will followed after. How slowly we advanced ! Sometimes we had to ascend the face of the rock, where little notches were cut for our feet, the omission of one of which would be swift destruction. Sometimes we had a ladder to climb, and land uxon the narrowest platform, full of holes, where a slip of the foot would be our ruin. Sometimes we had low workings to crawl through, where we could not stand upright, and flinty rocks to scramble over with teeth as sharp as swords. Then we had long levels to pass through, in which were deep sinks, with only a single narrow plank across them, which warped and bent as we came upon it, crawling over on our hands and knees. I often had to cheer Uncle Will with words of encouragement, bidding him to keep directly behind me, while we felt our way inch by inch, and foot by foot with the pickhandle. Now we had a set of ladders to mount, shifting this way

and that way as we reached the top of one to gain the foot of the other, the ascent being no wider than an ordinary well. Slowly, silently, and solemnly we went; and in the pauses of our steps we could hear the beating of our hearts against our side. A single slip of the foot, and we should be lost in some grim excavation where we might lie undiscovered until the sea gave up her dead, and the earth put on her flaming funeral shroud. Whenever we could, we felt the rock at our side, or under our feet; and with our previous acquaintance with the way, having been over it so often before, we knew within a few yards where we were.

But now we had to pass a shaft, where the footway was not more than three feet wide, which yawned under us some two hundred fathoms deep. There was no chain, or rope, or railing around it, or security of any kind. It was useless to strain our eyes to try to catch a gleam of light; we might as well have kept them closed, for the great gloom was as perfect as that in the house of the dead. This shaft was the most dangerous part of the way; and I cannot tell the reader how slowly we passed it. Sometimes a loose stone, disturbed by our movement, would roll into the void, and go sounding down the dreadful depths, until we could hear it no longer. Thus we stole onward, with the thought of home, wife, and children in our minds. Could we cross this cruel gulf hope would revive, for then the ladders would almost be in a direct perpendicular line to the top. At last we got over, and Uncle Will and his guide were again ascending. We felt now comparatively safe. This was the regularly-used way up and down the mine, and we might, perhaps, soon meet some one with a light; and if not, we felt almost certain of reaching the top. Up we go, up, up, ladder after ladder, ladder after ladder, each round bringing us nearer to liberty and home. By-and-bye, when looking upward, we saw a speck of light like a distant star in the firmament, and as we ascended higher, it became larger and larger, until its cheering rays shot down upon the ladder steps, gladdening our hearts more than the sweetest music. Grasping the last ladder, we felt the tears of thankfulness stealing into our eyes; and reaching the topmost round, and stepping into the dazzling light, we had to wipe them away with the sleeve of our flannel dress. We were saved by the guiding hand of our Father out of the darksome dungeon into the blessed air and glorious sunshine! Yes, by untiring, persevering effort, we had climbed into the light.

And so shall it be with him who mourns in secret and trustfully lays his troubles before his Maker. Art thou sitting in darkness, poor weary one ? and is thy candle extinguished in the conflict, like those of the two miners in the depths of the earth? To remain thus without an effort on thy part is eternal ruin. Arise and climb towards Him who is the Light of the world, and every step shall bring thee nearer to the region of purest joy, where the Sun of Righteousness rains His splendour upon the lovely land. Is thy daily labour much, and thy bread little, and do thy hungry children often look towards the empty cupboard and ask for food in vain ? Tell it to Him who is the Guider of His people. Fling away thy garment and kneel before the Son of David, and in His own time deliverance shall come; the beauty of heaven shall beam upon thy path, and the shadows of sorrow flee away. Step by step, and the desert is passed ; the gloomy ravine is left behind; the rugged ridge is surmounted; and the Canaan of repose is reached, which “ hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."

J. H.

Almost and Altogether. WAS almost in time, but the train had started just two minutes before,” said my friend, as he returned disappointed from the railway station.

I almost saved him," I heard a man say, as he related a sad boat accident in which one poor fellow was drowned.

“ I am almost certain this is the way,” said my guide, as he pointed out a road, which in the end proved to be quite wrong.

In each of these cases what a fatal difference between

“almost ” and “ altogether !" “ Almost in time” meant “altogether” too late ; “ almost saved” meant “altogether” lost ; "almost certain " meant “altogether" in ignorance.

“ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” said Agrippa; but the impression probably passed away, leaving him altogether a heathen. And so we see in all the concerns of life, to be almost is widely different from being “ altogether.".

“ Almost persuaded.” What does it mean ? and who are they to whom the words may be applied ? There are many, I fear, who may be thus called. They are those who acknowledge the necessity for a change of heart; they are melted to tears by a stirring sermon or a solemn scene; they can talk Auently on the great truths of the Gospel ; they can discuss difficult questions of doctrine, and lament over the shortcomings of their minister or their neighbours. At one time they were dissatisfied with the life they were living--they began to be alarmed, and to fear that their state was not altogether a safe one. Like “ Christian,” the pilgrim, they could no longer stay quietly in the City of Destruction ; they began to cast about for some means of escape; they set out on the way to the Celestial City, but they cast many a lingering look behind; they could not make up their mind to break off alt her from their former companions, their former pleasures, their former sins. There surely can be no harm in doing this or that, or in going to such and such place of amusement : God is not so strict as to expect us to give up all the pleasures of life ; and we can make up for it by being more diligent at our devotions afterwards.” And so they go on in a miserable halting way, trying to serve God with half their heart, whilst they give the other half to the world. No wonder that they make no progress, that they do not seem to advance in the Christian life, that they get no happiness from their religion ; it is an irksome task, a painful burden, always weighing on their mind and spirits, restraining and repressing them; and they sigh, and wish religion were a pleasanter thing.

My friends, it is not thus that the battle is to be fought, the race to be run, the prize to be gained. No half-heartedness of this sort will win it for us. If wishing would get us to heaven, who would not be there? But more, far more than that is needed. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Along the road which leads to it there is no room for mere idle “ wishers” and loiterers; all are striving, all are fighting, all are pressing on. The gate is strait, the way is narrow-we cannot even enter on it without a struggle.

And there are but the two roads, the broad and the narrow, the right and the wrong. If you are not pressing earnestly along the one, you are as surely advancing along the other. There is no comfortable middle road, along which you can wander at your leisure, loitering on, until you can decide which of the roads you will take-keeping God waiting until you make up your mind whether you will serve Him or not. No. I will speak the truth. If you are only almost a Christian, you are no Christian at all.

And what is the alternative ? To be altogether a Christian. That is, to give ourselves up altogether to Christ, to be saved by Him, renouncing all trust in any merits or goodness of our own, esteeming all our righteousness as but filthy rags, and trusting only to His all-sufficient merits; coming as helpless sinners to an Almighty Saviour, able and willing to save each one who comes to Him as such.

It is, to give up our wills and affections entirely to Christ, to be renewed and sanctified by Him; every thought and desire of our heart being brought into subjection to Him ; our one wish to be conformed daily more and more to His likeness, and to have His mind formed in us. It is, to give ourselves up to lead a consistent Christian life, walking carefully and circumspectly, lest we should bring reproach on the name of Christ; endeavouring to let our light so shine before men that they may glorify our Father in heaven. It is a daily taking up the cross, a steadfast "looking unto

« ForrigeFortsett »