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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : CHAPTER XVIII. A CLASH.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


ALL this time, Donal had never again seen the earl, neither had the latter shown any interest in Davie's progress. But lady Arctura was full of serious anxiety concerning him. Heavily prejudiced against the tutor, she dreaded his influence on the mind of her little cousin.

There was a small recess in the schoolroom -- it had been a bay window, but from an architectural necessity arising from decay, it had, all except a narrow eastern light, been built up -- and in this recess Donal was one day sitting with a book, while Davie was busy writing at the table in the middle of the room: it was past school-hours, but the weather did not invite them out of doors, and Donal had given Davie a poem to copy. Lady Arctura came into the room -- she had never entered it before since Donal came -- and thinking he was alone, began to talk to the boy. She spoke in so gentle a tone that Donal, busy with his book, did not for some time distinguish a word she said. He never suspected she was unaware of his presence. By degrees her voice grew a little louder, and by and by these words reached him:

|You know, Davie dear, every sin, whatever it is, deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and that which is to come; and if it had not been that Jesus Christ gave himself to turn away his anger and satisfy his justice by bearing the punishment for us, God would send us all to the place of misery for ever and ever. It is for his sake, not for ours, that he pardons us.|

She had not yet ceased when Donal rose in the wrath of love, and came out into the room.

|Lady Arctura,| he said, |I dare not sit still and hear such false things uttered against the blessed God!|

Lady Arctura started in dire dismay, but in virtue of her breed and her pride recovered herself immediately, drew herself up, and said --

|Mr. Grant, you forget yourself!|

|I'm very willing to do that, my lady,| answered Donal, |but I must not forget the honour of my God. If you were a heathen woman I might think whether the hour was come for enlightening you further, but to hear one who has had the Bible in her hands from her childhood say such things about the God who made her and sent his Son to save her, without answering a word for him, would be cowardly!|

|What do you know about such things? What gives you a right to speak?| said lady Arctura.

Her pride-strength was already beginning to desert her.

|I had a Christian mother,| answered Donal, | -- have her yet, thank God! -- who taught me to love nothing but the truth; I have studied the Bible from my childhood, often whole days together, when I was out with the cattle or the sheep; and I have tried to do what the Lords tells me, from nearly the earliest time I can remember. Therefore I am able to set to my seal that God is true -- that he is light, and there is no darkness of unfairness or selfishness in him. I love God with my whole heart and soul, my lady.|

Arctura tried to say she too loved him so, but her conscience interfered, and she could not.

|I don't say you don't love him,| Donal went on; |but how you can love him and believe such things of him, I don't understand. Whoever taught them first was a terrible liar against God, who is lovelier than all the imaginations of all his creatures can think.|

Lady Arctura swept from the room -- though she was trembling from head to foot. At the door she turned and called Davie. The boy looked up in his tutor's face, mutely asking if he should obey her.

|Go,| said Donal.

In less than a minute he came back, his eyes full of tears.

|Arkie says she is going to tell papa. Is it true, Mr. Grant, that you are a dangerous man? I do not believe it -- though you do carry such a big knife.|

Donal laughed.

|It is my grandfather's skean dhu,| he said: |I mend my pens with it, you know! But it is strange, Davie, that, when a body knows something other people don't, they should be angry with him! They will even think he wants to make them bad when he wants to help them to be good!|

|But Arkie is good, Mr. Grant!|

|I am sure she is. But she does not know so much about God as I do, or she would never say such things of him: we must talk about him more after this!|

|No, no, please, Mr. Grant! We won't say a word about him, for Arkie says except you promise never to speak of God, she will tell papa, and he will send you away.|

|Davie,| said Donal with solemnity, |I would not give such a promise for the castle and all it contains -- no, not to save your life and the life of everybody in it! For Jesus says, 'Whosoever denieth me before men, him will I deny before my father in heaven;' and rather than that, I would jump from the top of the castle. Why, Davie! would a man deny his own father or mother?|

|I don't know,| answered Davie; |I don't remember my mother.|

|I'll tell you what,| said Donal, with sudden inspiration: |I will promise not to speak about God at any other time, if she will promise to sit by when I do speak of him -- say once a week. -- Perhaps we shall do what he tells us all the better that we don't talk so much about him!|

|Oh, thank you, Mr. Grant! -- I will tell her,| cried Davie, jumping up relieved. |Oh, thank you, Mr. Grant!| he repeated; |I could not bear you to go away. I should never stop crying if you did. And you won't say any wicked things, will you? for Arkie reads her Bible every day.|

|So do I, Davie.|

|Do you?| returned Davie, |I'll tell her that too, and then she will see she must have been mistaken.|

He hurried to his cousin with Donal's suggestion.

It threw her into no small perplexity -- first from doubt as to the propriety of the thing proposed, next because of the awkwardness of it, then from a sudden fear lest his specious tongue should lead herself into the bypaths of doubt, and to the castle of Giant Despair -- at which, indeed, it was a gracious wonder she had not arrived ere now. What if she should be persuaded of things which it was impossible to believe and be saved! She did not see that such belief as she desired to have was in itself essential damnation. For what can there be in heaven or earth for a soul that believes in an unjust God? To rejoice in such a belief would be to be a devil, and to believe what cannot be rejoiced in, is misery. No doubt a man may not see the true nature of the things he thinks she believes, but that cannot save him from the loss of not knowing God, whom to know is alone eternal life; for who can know him that believes evil things of him? That many a good man does believe such things, only argues his heart not yet one towards him. To make his belief possible he must dwell on the good things he has learned about God, and not think about the bad things.

And what would Sophia say? Lady Arctura would have sped to her friend for counsel before giving any answer to the audacious proposal, but she was just then from home for a fortnight, and she must resolve without her! She reflected also that she had not yet anything sufficiently definite to say to her uncle about the young man's false doctrine; and, for herself, concluded that, as she was well grounded for argument, knowing thoroughly the Shorter Catechism with the proofs from scripture of every doctrine it contained, it was foolish to fear anything from one who went in the strength of his own ignorant and presumptuous will, regardless of the opinions of the fathers of the church, and accepting only such things as were pleasing to his unregenerate nature.

But she hesitated; and after waiting for a week without receiving any answer to his proposal, Donal said to Davie,

|We shall have a lesson in the New Testament to-morrow: you had better mention it to your cousin.|

The next morning he asked him if he had mentioned it. The boy said he had.

|What did she say, Davie?|

|Nothing -- only looked strange,| answered Davie.

When the hour of noon was past, and lady Arctura did not appear, Donal said,

|Davie, we'll have our New Testament lesson out of doors: that is the best place for it!|

|It is the best place!| responded Davie, jumping up. |But you're not taking your book, Mr. Grant!|

|Never mind; I will give you a lesson or two without book first.|

Just as they were leaving the room, appeared lady Arctura with Miss Carmichael.

|I understood,| said the former, with not a little haughtiness, |that you -- |

She hesitated, and Miss Carmichael took up the word.

|We wish to form our own judgment,| she said, |on the nature of the religious instruction you give your pupil.|

|I invited lady Arctura to be present when I taught him about God,| said Donal.

|Then are you not now going to do so?| said Arctura.

|As your ladyship made no answer to my proposal, and school hours were over, I concluded you were not coming.|

|And you would not give the lesson without her ladyship!| said Miss Carmichael. |Very right!|

|Excuse me,| returned Donal; |we were going to have it out of doors.|

|But you had agreed not to give him any so-called religious instruction but in the presence of lady Arctura!|

|By no means. I only offered to give it in her presence if she chose. There was no question of the lessons being given.|

Miss Carmichael looked at lady Arctura as much as to say -- |Is he speaking the truth?| and if she replied, it was in the same fashion.

Donal looked at Miss Carmichael. He did not at all relish her interference. He had never said he would give his lesson before any who chose to be present! But he did not see how to meet the intrusion. Neither could he turn back into the schoolroom, sit down, and begin. He put his hand on Davie's shoulder, and walked slowly towards the lawn. The ladies followed in silence. He sought to forget their presence, and be conscious only of his pupil's and his master's. On the lawn he stopped suddenly.

|Davie,| he said, |where do you fancy the first lesson in the New Testament ought to begin?|

|At the beginning,| replied Davie.

|When a thing is perfect, Davie, it is difficult to say what is the beginning of it: show me one of your marbles.|

The boy produced from his pocket a pure white one -- a real marble.

|That is a good one for the purpose,| remarked Donal, | -- very smooth and white, with just one red streak in it! Now where is the beginning of this marble?|

|Nowhere,| answered Davie.

|If I should say everywhere?| suggested Donal.

|Ah, yes!| said the boy.

|But I agree with you that it begins nowhere.|

|It can't do both!|

|Oh, yes, it can! it begins nowhere for itself, but everywhere for us. Only all its beginnings are endings, and all its endings are beginnings. Look here: suppose we begin at this red streak, it is just there we should end again. That is because it is a perfect thing. -- Well, there was one who said, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' -- the first Greek letter and the last, you know -- 'the beginning and the end, the first and the last.' All the New Testament is about him. He is perfect, and I may begin about him where I best can. Listen then as if you had never heard anything about him before. -- Many years ago -- about fifty or sixty grandfathers off -- there appeared in the world a few men who said that a certain man had been their companion for some time and had just left them; that he was killed by cruel men, and buried by his friends; but that, as he had told them he would, he lay in the grave only three days, and left it on the third alive and well; and that, after forty days, during which they saw him several times, he went up into the sky, and disappeared. -- It wasn't a very likely story, was it?|

|No,| replied Davie.

The ladies exchanged looks of horror. Neither spoke, but each leaned eagerly forward, in fascinated expectation of worse to follow.

|But, Davie,| Donal went on, |however unlikely it must have seemed to those who heard it, I believe every word of it.|

A ripple of contempt passed over Miss Carmichael's face.

|For,| continued Donal, |the man said he was the son of God, come down from his father to see his brothers, his father's children, and take home with him to his father those who would go.|

|Excuse me,| interrupted Miss Carmichael, with a pungent smile: |what he said was, that if any man believed in him, he should be saved.|

|Run along, Davie,| said Donal. |I will tell you more of what he said next lesson. Don't forget what I've told you now.|

|No, sir,| answered Davie, and ran off.

Donal lifted his hat, and would have gone towards the river. But Miss Carmichael, stepping forward, said,

|Mr. Grant, I cannot let you go till you answer me one question: do you believe in the atonement?|

|I do,| answered Donal.

|Favour me then with your views upon it,| she said.

|Are you troubled in your mind on the subject?| asked Donal.

|Not in the least,| she replied, with a slight curl of her lip.

|Then I see no occasion for giving you my views.|

|But I insist.|

Donald smiled.

|Of what consequence can my opinions be to you, ma'am? Why should you compel a confession of my faith?|

|As the friend of this family, and the daughter of the clergyman of this parish, I have a right to ask what your opinions are: you have a most important charge committed to you -- a child for whose soul you have to account!|

|For that I am accountable, but, pardon me, not to you.|

|You are accountable to lord Morven for what you teach his child.|

|I am not.|

|What! He will turn you away at a moment's notice if you say so to him.|

|I should be quite ready to go. If I were accountable to him for what I taught, I should of course teach only what he pleased. But do you suppose I would take any situation on such a condition?|

|It is nothing to me, or his lordship either, I presume, what you would or would not do.|

|Then I see no reason why you should detain me. -- Lady Arctura, I did not offer to give my lesson in the presence of any other than yourself: I will not do so again. You will be welcome, for you have a right to know what I am teaching him. If you bring another, except it be my lord Morven, I will take David to my own room.|

With these words he left them.

Lady Arctura was sorely bewildered. She could not but feel that her friend had not shown to the better advantage, and that the behaviour of Donal had been dignified. But surely he was very wrong! what he said to Davie sounded so very different from what was said at church, and by her helper, Miss Carmichael! It was a pity they had heard so little! He would have gone on if only Sophy had had patience and held her peace! Perhaps he might have spoken better things if she had not interfered! It would hardly be fair to condemn him upon so little! He had said that he believed every word of the New Testament -- or something very like it!

|I have heard enough!| said Miss Carmichael: |I will speak to my father at once.|

The next day Donal received a note to the following effect: --

|Sir, in consequence of what I felt bound to report to my father of the conversation we had yesterday, he desires that you will call upon him at your earliest convenience He is generally at home from three to five. Yours truly, Sophia Agnes Carmichael.|

To this Donal immediately replied: --

|Madam, notwithstanding the introduction I brought him from another clergyman, your father declined my acquaintance, passing me afterwards as one unknown to him. From this fact, and from the nature of the report which your behaviour to me yesterday justifies me in supposing you must have carried to him, I can hardly mistake his object in wishing to see me. I will attend the call of no man to defend my opinions; your father's I have heard almost every Sunday since I came to the castle, and have been from childhood familiar with them. Yours truly, Donal Grant.|

Not a word more came to him from either of them. When they happened to meet, Miss Carmichael took no more notice of him than her father.

But she impressed it upon the mind of her friend that, if unable to procure his dismission, she ought at least to do what she could to protect her cousin from the awful consequences of such false teaching: if she was present, he would not say such things as he would in her absence, for it was plain he was under restraint with her! She might even have some influence with him if she would but take courage to show him where he was wrong! Or she might find things such that her uncle must see the necessity of turning him away; as the place belonged to her, he would never go dead against her! She did not see that that was just the thing to fetter the action of a delicate-minded girl.

Continually haunted, however, with the feeling that she ought to do something, lady Arctura felt as if she dared not absent herself from the lesson, however disagreeable it might prove: that much she could do! Upon the next occasion, therefore, she appeared in the schoolroom at the hour appointed, and with a cold bow took the chair Donal placed for her.

|Now, Davie,| said Donal, |what have you done since our last lesson?|

Davie stared.

|You didn't tell me to do anything, Mr. Grant!|

|No; but what then did I give you the lesson for? Where is the good of such a lesson if it makes no difference to you! What was it I told you?|

Davie, who had never thought about it since, the lesson having been broken off before Donal could bring it to its natural fruit, considered, and said,

|That Jesus Christ rose from the dead.|

|Well -- where is the good of knowing that?|

Davie was silent; he knew no good of knowing it, neither could imagine any. The Catechism, of which he had learned about half, suggested nothing.

|Come, Davie, I will help you: is Jesus dead, or is he alive?|

Davie considered.

|Alive,| he answered.

|What does he do?|

Davie did not know.

|What did he die for?|

Here Davie had an answer -- a cut and dried one:

|To take away our sins,| he said.

|Then what does he live for?|

Davie was once more silent.

|Do you think if a man died for a thing, he would be likely to forget it the minute he rose again?|

|No, sir.|

|Do you not think he would just go on doing the same thing as before?|

|I do, sir.|

|Then, as he died to take away our sins, he lives to take them away!|

|Yes, sir.|

|What are sins, Davie?|

|Bad things, sir.|

|Yes; the bad things we think, and the bad things we feel, and the bad things we do. Have you any sins, Davie?|

|Yes; I am very wicked.|

|Oh! are you? How do you know it?|

|Arkie told me.|

|What is being wicked?|

|Doing bad things.|

|What bad things do you do?|

|I don't know, sir.|

|Then you don't know that you are wicked; you only know that Arkie told you so!|

Lady Arctura drew herself up; but Donal was too intent to perceive the offence he had given.

|I will tell you,| Donal went on, |something you did wicked to-day.| Davie grew rosy red. |When we find out one wicked thing we do, it is a beginning to finding out all the wicked things we do. Some people would rather not find them out, but have them hidden from themselves and from God too. But let us find them out, everyone of them, that we may ask Jesus to take them away, and help Jesus to take them away, by fighting them with all our strength. -- This morning you pulled the little pup's ears till he screamed.| Davie hung his head. |You stopped a while, and then did it again! So I knew it wasn't that you didn't know. Is that a thing Jesus would have done when he was a little boy?|

|No, sir.|


|Because it would have been wrong.|

|I suspect, rather, it is because he would have loved the little pup. He didn't have to think about its being wrong. He loves every kind of living thing. He wants to take away your sin because he loves you. He doesn't merely want to make you not cruel to the little pup, but to take away the wrong think that doesn't love him. He wants to make you love every living creature. Davie, Jesus came out of the grave to make us good.|

Tears were flowing down Davie's checks.

|The lesson 's done, Davie,| said Donal, and rose and went, leaving him with lady Arctura.

But ere he reached the door, he turned with sudden impulse, and said: --

|Davie, I love Jesus Christ and his Father more than I can tell you -- more than I can put in words -- more than I can think; and if you love me you will mind what Jesus tells you.|

|What a good man you must be, Mr. Grant! -- Mustn't he, Arkie?| sobbed Davie.

Donal laughed.

|What, Davie!| he exclaimed. |You think me very good for loving the only good person in the whole world! That is very odd! Why, Davie, I should be the most contemptible creature, knowing him as I do, not to love him with all my heart -- yes, with all the big heart I shall have one day when he has done making me.|

|Is he making you still, Mr. Grant? I thought you were grown up!|

|Well, I don't think he will make me any taller,| answered Donal. |But the live part of me -- the thing I love you with, the thing I think about God with, the thing I love poetry with, the thing I read the Bible with -- that thing God keeps on making bigger and bigger. I do not know where it will stop, I only know where it will not stop. That thing is me, and God will keep on making it bigger to all eternity, though he has not even got it into the right shape yet.|

|Why is he so long about it?|

|I don't think he is long about it; but he could do it quicker if I were as good as by this time I ought to be, with the father and mother I have, and all my long hours on the hillsides with my New Testament and the sheep. I prayed to God on the hill and in the fields, and he heard me, Davie, and made me see the foolishness of many things, and the grandeur and beauty of other things. Davie, God wants to give you the whole world, and everything in it. When you have begun to do the things Jesus tells you, then you will be my brother, and we shall both be his little brothers, and the sons of his Father God, and so the heirs of all things.|

With that he turned again and went.

The tears were rolling down Arctura's face without her being aware of it.

|He is a well-meaning man,| she said to herself, |but dreadfully mistaken: the Bible says believe, not do!|

The poor girl, though she read her bible regularly, was so blinded by the dust and ashes of her teaching, that she knew very little of what was actually in it. The most significant things slipped from her as if they were merest words without shadow of meaning or intent: they did not support the doctrines she had been taught, and therefore said nothing to her. The story of Christ and the appeals of those who had handled the Word of Life had another end in view than making people understand how God arranged matters to save them. God would have us live: if we live we cannot but know; all the knowledge in the universe could not make us live. Obedience is the road to all things -- the only way in which to grow able to trust him. Love and faith and obedience are sides of the same prism.

Regularly after that, lady Arctura came to the lesson -- always intending to object as soon as it was over. But always before the end came, Donal had said something that went so to the heart of the honest girl that she could say nothing. As if she too had been a pupil, as indeed she was, far more than either knew, she would rise when Davie rose, and go away with him. But it was to go alone into the garden, or to her room, not seldom finding herself wishing things true which yet she counted terribly dangerous: listening to them might not she as well as Davie fail miserably of escape from the wrath to come?

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