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Such our noble examples ! But now let us see,
The half was not told me."
in the pretty little village of Oakwood, so it is no
wonder that I love it dearly, and that in its quiet churchyard I hope to be laid to rest when my time comes, as old John Noble was yesterday. Of all my friends in the village, and they are many, he was my favourite; the one I loved best to visit, the one from whom I learned most; and I am so glad that the words “ The half was not told me,” are to be carved on his headstone ; they were continually on his lips, and it was he who made them so full of precious meaning to me, and to many another besides.
The first time I remember his repeating them to me was a few days after he had gone to Thanksgiving Cottages. But I must tell you about them also. Our good squire, Sir Ralph Shipton, had a large family, and amongst them three fine sons in the army. All three were in the Crimean war, and, through God's mercy, all three escaped unhurt; and when they came home safe and well, the Squire said he would build three cottages as a thank-offering; then he said that was not enough, he would build six, and give them to those who either from sickness or ill health were unable to earn their bread.
So the six cottages were built, and certainly Sir Ralph took no end of pains to make them snug and comfortable. There were four rooms in each—a kitchen, a parlour, and two bedrooms over them, with a tidy little yard at the back, and a pretty garden in front, and a nice porch, with flowers trained over it, and every convenience you could think of; the coal-hole and water ready to hand, and presses, and cupboards, and shelves wherever they could be put. Then Lady Shipton furnished them all, even to putting a square of carpet on the parlour floor, red, or blue, or green, whichever those who were to get them liked best, and chintz curtains to match, and two easy chairs; nothing was forgotten, even to a cuckoo clock, but nothing was grand or out of place.
John Noble and his wife were given No. 1; and the whole village agreed that a better choice could not have been made. In the prime of life, and in the midst of his work, John had been suddenly seized with rheumatic gout, and it never left him till it had crippled him for life, and distorted his poor hands so sadly that it was painful to look at them; and it was easy to see that he would never again be able to do a day's work. The trial of dependence was a very bitter
one to John, and yet not a bitter one ; for, as he often said, "The Lord took all the bitterness out of it when, by His Holy Spirit, He showed me that it was sent in love, and bid me take no thought for the morrow, for that my Heavenly Father was taking thought for me.”
Most gladly would his faithful wife have borne it for him if she could, and certainly, by her cheerful patience and tender care, she softened it as much as possible, while his two sons, both well-to-do farmers, kindly and heartily provided for him. Still it was a great delight to the old man when Sir Ralph told him that he was to have his choice of the cottages, rent free, for life, adding, “And you needn't thank me, John; it was for such as you I built them ; only when you pray for yourself, sometimes lift up your heart and ask for a blessing for me and mine.”
I was longing to see him in his new home, but waited for a day or two, till I thought he and his wife would have settled down, helped by their bright young grandchild, who had been lent to them for the occasion. I found him sitting in the porch, his face beaming with joy and thoughtfulness. “Oh, Miss Lucy,” he said, “it's just wonderful; I think my wife and I are like the Queen of Sheba, when she came to Solomon, and found him and everything about him so much more wonderful than she expected. And yet she must have expected a great deal, or she wouldn't have come so far-for a long journey was no joke in those days before railroad or steamers were invented ; and still she said that the half wasn't told her ;* and I'm sure that the half about this house wasn't told nie. My wife is always coming to tell me of something new, something that wasn't promised at all, but was just given over and above out of pure kindness. And it set me thinking this morning, that that's the way always with our gracious Saviour; He promises a great deal, but when we come to Him, we're always finding out that the half was not told us. “I don't exactly see what you mean, John," I answered.
1 Kings x. 7.
“Well, miss, I'll tell you. One thing that the Lord promises is pardon for our sins; and I take it that that's what the poor sinner's heart is longing for when he first comes to Jesus. And he gets the pardon-pardon, full and free; every sin is washed away in his Saviour's precious blood; but when he gets the pardon, when he really believes that the Lord Jesus died in his stead, and bore the punishment his sins deserved, oh, Miss Lucy, such peace, and joy, and love, and hope crowd into his heart, that he can't but feel that the half wasn't told him.”
Yes," I said, “I understand you now ; I think we must be pardoned before we know half of all that pardon means.”
“That's it, miss; and it's the same with everything else. God's promises are great and wonderful, and one can trust one's soul to His word. But for all that, the fulfilment of a promise is better than the promise itself. Even God can't put into words all He will do for us day by day and hour by hour. I can indeed say of the Lord's goodness to me, that “the half was not told me.”
" But, John, if it's true, as I'm sure it is, that the half of God's goodness and mercy is not told to us, I
suppose it's true also that the half of our trials and troubles have not been told either; for instance, I suppose that half the trial
I and suffering of your long illness was not told you ; you had to go through it before you knew it ?”
“I had, miss," he answered, gravely; "the first burst of the trial was very hard ; from a fine hearty man, to come in a few months to be but a poor helpless invalid ; there were fifty trials in it that no one knew but myself. I never saw my dear wife doing for me what it had always been my pride and joy to do for her without a fresh taste of the trial. Then the being a burden to my good sons; for though they
; did not think me a burden, still I knew I was one. The pain itself, too, has been very hard to bear; and the longer à trial like this lasts the heavier it is, for every day brings something fresh to suffer in one way or another. Yes, Miss Lucy, what you say is true; the half of the trial was not told
But then,” he added, brightly, “the half of the help, and the comfort, and the mercy that comes with it was not told me either; and if the trial has been great, I know well that the love of Him who sends it is greater still.”
“ It is wonderful how day by day the Lord, 'who knoweth our frame,' is sure to send me little tokens, or messengers, as I call them, as if to tell me that He saw I wanted a bit of help or comfort, and so He sent it. Sometimes it comes direct from Himself, either through His Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, or through His blessed word. Often and often, oftener than I could count, it comes through my dear wife, or through a kind friend like yourself; often, too, for the Lord has many messengers, it has come through the birds and the flowers, or a bright gleam of sunshine. Yes, the half of the trial was not told me, nor the half, no, nor the half-quarter, of the love, and the help, and the comfort.”
Neither of us spoke for a few moments, and then John went on so gravely and solemnly that I have never forgot it. “But, Miss Lucy, if it's true that the half of God's goodness and mercy to those who come to Him has not been told us, it's equally true that the half of the awfulness of having His wrath abiding upon one has not been told either.* It's my belief that, try all we may, we never could fancy how terrible it must be to be lost-lost for ever. One would have to be in hell before one could half know what hell was. Before one could tell what it must be to be for ever and for ever in that fire that never can be quenched,t without so much as one drop of water to cool one's tongue.$ Hell is the only place beyond the reach of hope—the only place where the lovingkindness and tender mercy of a God of love cannot be felt; and I do think that the worst part of hell would be to know
as every one there must know—that they might have been in heaven, for God willeth not the death of a sinner, but will have all men to be saved ;S but they would not come to Him to have their sins washed away in His precious blood, * John iii. 36. + Mark ix. 43. | Luke xvi. 24.
§ 1 Tim. ii. 4.