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THE CHRISTIAN PIONEER.
When Dr. CAMPBELL proposed his scheme for a cheap magazine for the Independents, he referred to our efforts in issuing cheap publications. Dr. C. entered on his labours under great advantages, and worked out his projects with ability and success. He afterwards issued a Penny Magazine, and we, in imitation, issued this halfpenny one. Another thing he has just done, or rather one of his correspondents has suggested that it be done. It is proposed, by subscriptions, to put it in the power of Dr. Campbell to send monthly to home missionaries, and poor pastors, and other active agents, in various parts of the country, a number of copies of bis Penny Magazine for gratuitous distribution. An excellent suggestion—just in the spirit of the times! At present we only mention it, and shall refer to it again in our next. What do our readers think of it ?
We again urge attention to the following considerations. When it was found that the greater part of the people would read, men, whose only object was to make money, soon set to work and printed books, pamphlets, tracts, magazines, and newspapers, of all kinds, at very low prices, to meet the demand. Some of these publications were bad, others were wicked, others were vile and infamous. Tales, novels, romances, plays, songs, ballads, and we know not what were published in millions. Can we wonder that some who could read became more vicious and wicked ?
True, there were some publishers who issued useful works, Knight, and Parker, in London, and the Chambers', in Edinburghand in their way they did good, but they were not—they did not profess to be-of a decidedly religious character. And nothing can effectually preserve men from vice and wickedness but real religion.
Plenty of room then for such publications as this to be circulated in every cottage in the empire—so cheap that the poorest may buy —so amusing and instructive that all may be interested—so plain that all may understand—and with so much religion every month that no man can take up a copy without finding words by which, under the divine blessing, he may discover the path of life. Jesus Christ is set forth in every number as the way to God.
Spread it then, christian friends, spread it on every hand. Can you who are rich do anything much more likely to do good among the poor than by ordering 50 or 100 copies for gratuitous distribution amongst them every month ? Many a poor pious man or woman, who perhaps could do nothing else, not being able to teach in the sabbath school, would delight to be thus employed as the almoner of your bounty. And even where this is not or cannot be done, our poor pious friends, who wish to do some good in their life-time, may do much in this way, by shewing it to their neighbours, and getting subscribers, for its very low price places it within their reach. A poor bed-ridden man at St. Alban's was the means of circulating many by always recommending it to all who came to see him!
WILLIE WATSON, THE POOR LOST LAD It is now fifty years since Willie Watson returned, after an absence of nearly a quarter of a century, to his native place, a sea-port town in the north of Scotland. He had been employed as a ladies' shoemaker in some of the districts of the south, no one at home had heard of Willy in the interval; and there was little known regarding him on his return, except that when he had quitted town many years ago, he had been a neat-banded, excellent workman, and what the elderly people called a quiet, decent lad. And he was now, though somewhat in the wane of life, a more thorough master of his trade than before. He was quiet and unobtrusive, too, as ever, and a great reader of serious books. And so the better sort of the people were beginning to draw to Willie by a kind of natural sympathy. Some of them had learned to saunter into his workshop in the long evenings, and some had grown bold enough to engage him in serious conversation, when they met him in his solitary walks ; when out came the astounding fact-and, important as it may seem, the simpleminded mechanic had taken no pains to conceal it—that during his residence in the south country, he had left the kirk, and gone over to the baptists. There was a sudden revulsion of feeling towards him, and all the people of the town began to speak of Willie Watson as "a poor lost lad.”
The “poor lost lad," however, was unquestionably a very excellent workman; and as he made neater shoes than anybody else, the ladies of the place could see no great harm in wearing them. He was singularly industrious, too, and indulged in no expense, except when he now and then bought a good book, or a few flower-seeds for his garden. He was, withal, a single man, with only an elderly sister, who lived with him, and himself to provide for; and what between the regularity of his gains on the one hand, and the moderation of his desires on the other, Willie, for a person in his sphere of life, was in easy circumstances. It was found that all the children in the neighbourhood had taken à wonderful fancy to his shop. He was fond of telling them good little stories out of the bible, and of explaining to them the prints which he had pasted on the walls. Above all, he was anxiously bent on teaching them to read. Some of their parents were poor, and some of them were careless; and he saw that unless they learned their letters from him, there was very little chance of their ever learning them at all. Willie, in a small way, and to a very small congregation, was a sort of missionary; and what between his stories and his pictures, and his flowers and his apples, his labours were wonderfully successful. Never yet was school or church half so delightful to the little men and women of the place as the shop of Willie Watson, " the poor lost lad.” Years of scarcity came on; taxes were high, and crops not
WILLIE WATSON, THE POOR LOST LAD.
abundant; and the soldiery abroad, whom the country had employed to fight in the great revolutionary war, had got an appetite at their work, and were consuming a great deal of meat and corn. The price of bread rose tremendously, and many of the townspeople, who were working for very little, were not, in every case, secure of their little when the work was done. Willie's small congregation began to find that the times were exceedingly bad. There were no morning pieces aniong them, and the porridge was always less than enough. It was observed, however, that in the midst of their distresses, Willie got in a large stock of meal, and that his sister had begun to bake as if she were making ready for a wedding. The children were wonderfully interested in the work, and watched it to the end-when, lo! to their great and joyous surprise, Willie began and divided the whole baking amongst them! Every member of his congregation got a cake; there were some, who had little brothers and sisters at home, who got two; and from that day forward, till times got better, none of Willie's young people lacked their morning piece. The neighbours marvelled at Willie: to be sure, much of his goodness was a kind of natural goodness; but certain it was, that independently of what it did, he took an inexplicable delight in the bible and in religious meditation; and all agreed that there was something strangely puzzling in the character of the poor lost lad."
We have alluded to Willie's garden. Never was there a little bit of ground better occupied—it looked like a piece of rich needlework. He had got wonderful flowers, too-flesh-coloured carnations, streaked with red, and roses of a rich golden yellow. Even the commoner varieties-auriculas and anemones, and the party-coloured polyanthus—grew better with Willie than with any body else. A Dutchman might have envied him his tulips, as they stood, row above row, on their elevated beds, like so many soldiers on a redoubt; and there was one mild dropping season, in which two of these beautiful flowers, each perfect in its kind, and of different colours too, sprung apparently from the same stem. The neighbours talked of them as they would have talked of the Siainese twins; but Willie, though it lessened the wonder, was at pains to show them that the flowers sprung from different roots, and that what seemed their common stem was in reality but a green hollow sheath formed by one of the leaves. Proud as Willie was of his flowers—and with all his humility he could not help being somewhat proud of them he was conscientiously determined to have no miracle among them, unless, indeed, the miracle should chance to be a true one. It was no fault of Willie's that all his neighbours had not as fine gardens as himself-he gave them slips of his best flowers, flesh-coloured carnations, yellow rose, and all; he grafted their trees for them, too, and taught them the exact time for raising their tulip roots, and the best mode of preserving them. Nay, more than all this, he devoted whole hours at times WILLIE WATSON, THE POOR LOST LAD.
to give the finishing touches to their parterres and borders, just in the way a drawing-master lays in the last shadings, and imparts the finer touches to the landscapes of a favourite pupil. All seemed impressed with the unselfish kindliness of his disposition; and all agreed that there could not be a warmer-hearted man or a more obliging neighbour than Willie Watson, “the poor lost lad.”
Everything earthly must have its last day. Willie was rather an elderly than an old man, and the childlike simplicity of his tastes and habits made people think of him as younger than he really was; but his constitution, never a strong one, was gradually failing; he lost strength and appetite, and at length there came a morning on which he could no longer open his shop. He continued to creep out at noon, however, for a few days after, to enjoy himself among his flowers, with only the bible for his companion; but in a few days more he had declined so much lower, that the effort proved too much for him, and he took to his bed. The neighbours came flocking in; all had begun to take an interest in poor Willie ; but now they had learned that he was dying, and the feeling had deepened immensely with the intelligence. They found him lying in his neat little room, with a table, bearing the one beloved volume drawn in beside his bed. He was the same quiet, placid creature he had ever been-grateful for the slightest kindness, and with a heart full of love for all-full to overflowing. He said nothing of the kirk, and nothing of the baptists; but carnestly did he urge on his visitors the one master-truth of revelation. O to be secure of an interest in Christ ! there was nothing else, he assured them, that would stand them in the least stead, when, like him, they come to die. As for himself, he had not a single anxiety; God, for Christ's sake, had been kind to him during all the long time he had been in the world; and he was now kindly calling him out of it. Whatever He did to him was good, and for his good; and why, then, should he be anxious or afraid? The hearts of Willie's visitors were touched, and they could no longer speak or think of him as “the poor lost lad."
A few short weeks went by, and Willie had gone the way of all the earth. There was silence in his shop, and his flowers opened their breasts to the sun, and bent their heads to the bee and butterfly, with no one to take note of their beauty, or to sympathize in the delight of the little winged creatures that seemed so happy among them. There was many a wistful eye cast at the closed door and melancholy shutters, by the members of Willie's congregation-and they could all point out his grave. Need we point out the rationale of the story, or the moral which it carries ? Willie had quitted the north country a respectable presbyterian, but it was not until after meeting in the south with some pious baptists that he had become vitally religious. The peculiarities of baptist belief had no connection whatever with his conversion; higher and more generally entertained doctrines had been rendered efficient to that end; but, as
HOW FAR IS IT TO CANAAN.
is exceedingly common in such cases, he had closed with the entire theological code of the men who had been instrumental in the work; and so, to the place which he had left an unconverted presbyterian, he returned a converted baptist. Certain it was, however, though until after his death his townsmen failed to apprehend it, that Willie was better fitted for christian union with the truly religious portion of them in the later than in the earlier stages of his career. Willie, the presbyterian, was beyond comparison less their christian brother than Willie the baptist-maugre their diversity of opinion on one important point. And in course of time they all lived to see it. We may add that, of all the many arguments promulgated in favour of toleration and christian union in this northern town, there were none that told with better effect than the arguments furnished by the life and death of Willie Watson—"the poor lost lad.”
HOW FAR IS IT TO CANAAN. “HOW FAR IS IT TO CANAAN ?” asks the doubting christian, " for I am sadly afraid I shall never get there. My sins are a heavy burden to me, and I long to be rid of them, if, indeed there is a hope for such a one as I.” Go on, poor djubting christian, take fresh courage, and quicken thy step. Canaan is not so far off but thou shalt reach it at last; and if thou couldst know how willing the Saviour of sinners is to receive thee, it would shed a sunbeam on thy dejected countenance. I have a word of comfort for thee, a cordial for thy heart :-“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."
“How FAR IS IT TO CANAAN ?” asks the triumphant christian, se for I long to be at home. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and because he lives, I shall live also. My soul has made me like the chariots of Aminidab, and I am impatient to behold Him face to face.” Go forward triumphant christian, with the glorious ring of assurance upon thy finger! Cast not away thy confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. But stay, I have a word also for thee, which may be useful. Ponder it in thy heart-"Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
“HOW FAR IS IT TO CANAAN ?" asks the afflicted christian, “for I have lain a long while upon the bed of suffering. Wearisome nights are appointed me. I am full of tossing to and fro unto the dawning day. O that I had wings like a dove; for then would I fly away, and be at rest."-Be of good cheer, afflicted christian ! The heavier the cross, the more pleasant will be the crown. If we suffer with Christ, we shall be glorified with Christ. I have a word to refresh the fainting soul, and I will now give it thee:-" The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."