After Bessie's conversion Mrs. Worthington's talks to her were often on the subject of the divine life within -- how to care for it and nourish it, so that it might not die nor become blighted. She sometimes compared the young Christian's experience to that of a new-born babe. |You know,| said she, |the little one must be carefully fed, and tenderly guarded against everything harmful. Even a slight breeze blowing upon its little body, if unprotected, might result in death. But as the child grows older and stronger, it gradually becomes accustomed to the rude elements about it and can, with comparative safety, be brought in contact with them. The Christ life, new-born in the human heart, is just as sensitive and needs the same tender care. Guard it carefully, Bessie. It must be constantly nourished by prayer and the Word of God. Seek to become established by the grace of sanctification; then you will be better able to meet temptation and persecution. Christ is your shepherd, and he wants to lead you, his lamb, into green pastures and beside still waters.
|A person may profess to be a Christian, Bessie; but unless he has a change of heart and affections, he is what the Bible terms a wolf in sheep's clothing, and not one of the gentle lambs of the Savior's fold. The profession does not amount to anything when the heart is full of envy, hatred, jealousy, love of self, and a drawing toward the world. A person with a profession only, may appear for a time to be quite lamb-like; but sooner or later the old nature will manifest itself, for it can not be hidden long.|
|I think, Mama,| said Bessie, |I understand you -- but you spoke of the experience of sanctification; please tell me what that means.|
As briefly as possible, the mother explained that the second cleansing of the heart takes away that evil nature which causes man to want to disobey God.
Not long after this talk Bessie had an experience in school that helped her to comprehend her mother's words. To be put back in her studies was hard, but to have to give up her old teacher, to whom she was strongly attached, was harder still. Her regret on the latter account, however, was of short duration; for her new teacher was even more lovable than the old one, and, best of all, she was a Christian. She and Bessie not only got along well, but became warm friends and enjoyed sweet fellowship in the Spirit. One day, however, something happened that severely tested their love, but, in the end, only deepened it.
Bessie's seatmate, a girl named Nora, about Bessie's own age, was very mischievous. She did so many things deserving punishment that the teacher was often perplexed to know what course to take with her. Some one has said that |misery likes company.| This was certainly true of Nora. She knew that the teacher and Bessie were good friends, and she longed to see Bessie get into trouble and receive some punishment. Knowing that Bessie tried hard to obey the rules of the school, Nora saw that she should have to lay some cunning plan or she should not realize her wish. She began to watch for an opportunity.
A streamlet ran past the schoolhouse. While Bessie and Nora were playing near it one day, Bessie fell down in some mud. Just as she fell, the school-bell rang and they had to hurry back to their lessons. Fearing that some of the mud might have splattered on her face, Bessie asked if her face was clean. Nora answered quickly, |Oh yes; do hurry up.| Nora felt that her chance had come, and she made up her mind to get her seatmate into trouble, if possible. Hurrying into the schoolroom, she whispered to one of the boys, telling him to ask Bessie as she passed what was the matter with her face, but to say nothing more. When Bessie came down the aisle, she saw this boy looking at her with an amused expression, and gave him close attention. As she passed him, he whispered, |Bessie, what is the matter with your face?| and then turned quickly away. Fully convinced that her face was dirty, Bessie sat down very much ashamed. Nora knew how her seatmate would feel and prepared herself for the question that she was sure would be asked. As it was time for the writing-lesson, she stuck her finger in inks of different colors; and, when Bessie asked where her face was dirty, she quickly pointed out the places, each time leaving a large spot of ink. Bessie, wholly unconscious of the ink-spots on her face, thought what a dreadful sight she must be, and asked permission of the teacher to wash. When the teacher turned, she saw, not mud, but ugly ink-spots. Supposing that Bessie had put them there, she shook her head. Her surprise was great. She felt that she ought to do something about it; but, being undecided, she turned away.
Bessie became much worried; for many eyes were turned upon her, and some of the pupils were laughing. She wanted to hide, but could not, and kept wondering why a little mud should cause so much amusement. One girl, Anna, tried secretly to pass her a wet handkerchief, but this Nora quickly caught from her and hid. Poor Bessie was now ready to cry, and again asked permission to wash her face; but her teacher answered, |No; you must go to writing.|
Bessie naturally had a high temper and was inclined to be stubborn when she felt that she was being imposed upon; but she had always held her temper in subjection, as she knew it to be wrong to give way to anger. On this occasion, however, it seemed impossible to control herself. When the teacher said, |Go to writing,| Bessie obeyed; but she was so angry that she hardly knew what she was doing. Suddenly she thought, |If I daub a lot of ink on my face, perhaps she will let me wash|; and she rubbed some on with her finger. But alas! this did not work as she had expected. The teacher saw her put it on and concluded that she had put the other on also; so she said, |Bessie, you may go and sit in my chair.| As she said this, all the stubbornness in Bessie's nature arose. She did not move; and when the teacher said sternly, |Are you going to obey?| she shook her head and caught hold of the seat. At this moment Nora whispered, |If that were me, she'd make me go.| The teacher heard the words and looked first at Nora and then at Bessie. She hesitated for a moment, then walked over to Bessie, took her by the shoulders and jerked her from the seat, and then dragged her up to the chair and set her down, telling her to study. |I have no book,| retorted Bessie. The teacher ordered one brought, and, leaving her, went to her other duties.
What a moment for Bessie! Too angry to study, she sat there thinking of the dreadful scene she had created. Her heart burned with shame. Oh! what could she do?
Anna, the girl who had tried to hand her the wet handkerchief, had noticed all of Nora's actions and had determined to help Bessie, if possible. On pretext of looking up a word in the dictionary, Anna went forward, laid a wet rag where Bessie could reach it, and returned to her seat. Bessie eagerly took the rag and rubbed her face. She was surprised to see the different colors of ink appear upon it. How they came to be there she did not know; but she did not think about them long, for something far worse began to trouble her. She knew that she had lost the grace of God out of her heart. Oh, how wretched she felt! Would God forgive her again? Yes; she knew he would; for she had read that, |The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.| This thought was a great comfort to her. But, oh! what about her teacher? How could her teacher ever love and respect her again? She would ask her pardon as soon as possible, but would she forgive her?
It was not long until the teacher went to her desk for something, but she took no notice of Bessie. Beaching out very timidly, Bessie touched her and said, |O Miss Harrington, won't you please forgive me?| But the teacher pretended not to hear her, and turned quickly away. The next thought was, |What will Mama think and say? Oh, if only she did not have to know about it!| With these thoughts coursing through her mind, Bessie was unable to study; and by the time school closed, she was in great distress.
After closing the school, the teacher paid no attention to Bessie for some time; but when she had finished her evening duties and all the pupils except Nora, Anna, and Bessie had left the building, she turned to Bessie, fell upon her knees, and threw both arms around her. Bessie sobbed, |Oh, please forgive me! please forgive me!| For some time the teacher made no reply, and Nora muttered, |Catch me asking her forgiveness!| At last the teacher, looking up through tearful eyes, said, |Bessie dear, it is you who must forgive me. I should have been a better example to you this afternoon. Let us pray.| Then two sad hearts were lifted to God in humble, earnest prayer that he would forgive them for Jesus' sake. God heard their prayers, gave back the sweet peace that they had lost out of their souls, and bound their hearts together in Christian love and fellowship.
Nora went her way, provoked with her seatmate and angry because the joke had not worked quite as she had expected. Anna, slipping her arm through Bessie's walked home with her and told her all that Nora had done. Bessie was surprised. She understood why things had taken the course they had; but, knowing it was really Satan, who had been trying to overthrow her own soul, she did not censure her seatmate.
Her only thought now was of how sad her mother would feel. Bessie decided that the occurrence was too dreadful to tell her about and that she would keep it a secret. This was her decision until she saw her mother coming down the walk to meet her. Having always told her mother everything, Bessie did not know how it would seem to keep a secret from her; so when they met, she forgot all about her decision and began at once to tell her mother all that had happened.
Mrs. Worthington listened very carefully to Bessie's story and then said: |Bessie, I am so glad you have told me all this yourself, and have held nothing back nor blamed Nora. God will take care of the matter, and I believe that your lesson is a lasting one. And now, my child; you can see your great need of sanctification. Had that ugliness and stubbornness been taken out of your heart, you would have been spared much suffering. I trust that you will earnestly seek and obtain this grace.|
It was well that Bessie told her mother everything, for Nora did all in her power to circulate the story and to make it as bad as possible. Nora's mother, thinking it best to tell Mrs. Worthington about Bessie's misbehavior, made a special call at the Worthington home for that purpose. Bessie's mother listened to what her neighbor's story was and then smilingly replied, |Yes, I know all about it; Bessie told me before she reached home. I am so glad that I have the confidence of my child. We are companions; I love her company, and she loves mine.| These words sounded strange to the visitor. She could not understand. |It seems strange,| said she, |that Bessie loves to stay at home and to be with you so much. Doesn't she ever get lonesome? Nora is restless and tired when she has to stay at home, and says I am too old for her.|
Ah! here was the secret of the difference between the two girls. One mother had allowed her daughter to choose her own company and had not inquired into their plays and talks; whereas the other knew the secrets of her child's heart and could advise and instruct her in any matter. Between Bessie and her mother there was a tie of which Nora and her mother knew nothing. |Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.| Prov.22:6.