Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." --Luke x. 21.
Says the Apostle Paul, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.... Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."
And such, dear reader, is, in greater or less degree, the feeling of every renewed heart; loving Jesus, it would fain have others love Him too; it desires the salvation of all; but for that of its own dear ones it longs and labors and prays; it is like Jacob wrestling with the angel, when he said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me."
And thus it was with Elsie. She knew now that her father was not a Christian; that he had no real love for Jesus, none of the true fear of God before his eyes. She saw that if he permitted her to read to him from God's word, as he sometimes did, it was not that he felt any pleasure in listening, but only to please her; she had no reason to suppose he ever prayed, and though he went regularly to church, it was because he considered it proper and respectable to do so, and not that he cared to worship God, or to learn His will.
This conviction, which had gradually dawned upon Elsie, until now it amounted to certainty, caused her great grief; she shed many tears over it in secret, and very many and very earnest were the prayers she offered up for her dear father's conversion.
She was sitting on his knee one evening in the drawing-room, while he and several other gentlemen were conversing on the subject of religion. They were discussing the question whether or no a change of heart were necessary to salvation.
The general opinion seemed to be that it was not, and Elsie listened with pain while her father expressed his decided conviction that all who led an honest, upright, moral life, and attended to the outward observances of religion, were quite safe.
"He could see no necessity for a change of heart; he did not believe in the doctrine of total depravity, not he; no indeed, he thought the world much better than many people would have us believe."
Elsie fixed her eyes on his face with a very mournful gaze while he was speaking, but he was busy with his argument and did not notice her.
But one of the guests was just expressing his approval of Mr. Dinsmore's sentiments, when catching sight of Elsie's face, he stopped, remarking, "Your little girl looks as if she had something to say on the subject; what is it, my dear?"
Elsie blushed, hesitated, and looked at her father.
"Yes, speak, my daughter, if you have anything to say," he said encouragingly.
Elsie lifted her eyes timidly to the gentleman's face as she replied, "I was just thinking, sir, of what our Saviour said to Nicodemus: 'Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.'"
She repeated these words of inspiration with a deep, earnest solemnity that seemed to impress every hearer.
For a moment there was a deep hush in the room.
Then the gentleman asked, "Well, my little lady, and what is meant by being born again?"
"O sir!" she replied, "surely you know that it means to have the image of God, lost in Adam's fall, restored to us; it means what David asked for when he prayed, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.'"
"Where did you learn all this?" he asked, looking at her with mingled surprise and admiration.
"In the Bible, sir," she modestly replied.
"You seem to have read it to some purpose," said he; "and now since you consider that change so necessary, can you tell me how it is to be brought about?"
"God's Holy Spirit, alone, can change a sinner's heart, sir."
"And how am I to secure His aid?" he asked.
Elsie answered with a text: "God is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, than parents are to give good gifts unto their children."
He paused a moment; then asked, "Have you obtained this new heart, Miss Elsie?"
"I hope I have, sir," she replied, the sweet little face all suffused with blushes, and the soft, downcast eyes filling with tears.
"Why do you think so?" he asked again, "I think there is a text that says you must be able always to give a reason for the hope that is in you, or something to that effect, is there not?"
"Yes, sir: 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.'" Then raising her eyes to his face with a touching mixture of deep humility and holy boldness, she continued, "And this, sir is my answer: Jesus says, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out;' and I believe Him. I did go to Him, and He did not cast me out, but forgave my sins, and taught me to love Him and desire to serve Him all my life."
This conversation between the gentleman and the little girl had drawn the attention of all present; and now Mrs. Dinsmore, who had more than once shown signs of impatience, said, "Well, Elsie, I think you have now talked quite enough for a child of your age." Then, pulling out her watch, "It is high time for little folks to be in bed."
Elsie, blushing deeply, would have retired immediately, but her father held her fast, saying, as he gave his stepmother an angry glance, "You need not go, Elsie, unless you choose; I am quite capable of judging when it is time to send you to bed."
"I would rather go, if you please, papa," whispered Elsie, who had a great dread of Mrs. Dinsmore's anger.
"Very well, then, you may do as you like," he replied, giving her a good-night kiss. And with a graceful good-night to the company, the little girl left the room.
Her questioner followed her with an admiring glance, then turning to her father, exclaimed warmly, "She is a remarkably intelligent child, Dinsmore! one that any father might be proud of. I was astonished at her answers."
"Yes," remarked Travilla, "a text has been running in my head ever since you commenced your conversation; something about these things being hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes. And," he added, "I am sure if ever I saw one who possessed that new nature of which she spoke, it is she herself. Has she any faults, Dinsmore?"
"Very few, I think; though she would tell you a different story," replied her father with a gratified smile.
The next morning Elsie was sitting reading her Bible, when she suddenly felt a hand laid on her head, and her father's voice said, "Good morning, little daughter."
"Ah! papa, is that you?" she asked, raising her head to give him a smile of joyful welcome. "I did not know you were there."
"Ah! I have been watching you for several minutes," he said; "always poring over the same book, Elsie; do you never tire of it?"
"No, indeed, papa; it is always new, and I do love it so; it is so very sweet. May I read a little to you?" she added coaxingly.
"Yes, I love to listen to anything read by my darling," he said, sitting down and taking her on his knee.
She opened at the third chapter of John's Gospel and read it through. At the sixteenth verse, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," she paused, and asked, "Was not that a wonderful gift, papa? and wonderful love that prompted it?"
"Yes," he said, absently stroking her hair.
She finished the chapter, and closing the book, laid her head on his breast, asking, "Dear papa, don't you believe the Bible?"
"Certainly, daughter; I am not an infidel," he replied in a careless tone.
"Well, then, papa," she continued, half hesitatingly, "does not this chapter teach very plainly that we must love Jesus, and have new hearts, if we want to go to heaven?"
"Yes," he said, "I dare say it does."
Then taking the book from her, he laid it aside, and giving her a kiss, said, "I was much pleased with your intelligent answers to Mr. Lee, last evening."
Elsie sighed, and her eyes filled with tears. It was not what she wanted.
"What an odd child you are!" he said, laughing. "You really look as though I had been scolding, instead of praising you."
She dropped her head on his breast, and burst into tears and sobs.
"Why, Elsie, my own darling, what ails you?" he asked in great surprise.
"O papa!" she sobbed, "I want you to love Jesus."
"Oh! is that all?" he said.
And setting her on her feet, he took her by the hand and led her out into the garden, where they met Mr. Travilla and another gentleman, who immediately entered into conversation with Mr. Dinsmore, while Elsie wandered about amongst the flowers and shrubs, gathering a nosegay for her Aunt Adelaide.