Chapter XVII.
 

It was Sunday afternoon. Most of the Dolphin's passengers were in their own state-rooms enjoying the Sabbath rest, after the fatigue of the sight-seeing of the past week, but Captain Raymond sat on the deck with Neddie on his knee and the three girls grouped about him. The father and daughters had each a Bible, for even little Elsie could read fluently and had been given one of her own, which she valued highly.

"Papa," she said, "you know you bade each of us to have a verse to recite to you to-day. May I say mine now?"

"Yes; we will begin with the youngest to-day," he replied.

"But that's I, papa; your Neddie boy!" exclaimed the little fellow on his knee.

"Why, yes, to be sure! But I hardly expected him to have one," the captain returned, with a fatherly smile down into the dear little face upturned to his. "Let me hear it, son?"

"It's only a very little one, papa: 'The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.'"

"A very sweet verse. Does my little son know who said these words?"

"Grandma said they were Jesus' words. She taught me the verse."

"Yes, it was Jesus our Saviour who said it; and do you know whom he meant by the Son of man?"

"Grandma said it was himself, and that he can forgive all our sins and take away the love of sinning and make us truly good, really holy."

"That is true, a blessed truth; and to him alone, to Jesus who was God and man both, we must go to get our sins forgiven, and be taught to love holiness; that holiness without which no man can see the Lord."

"Now mine, papa," said Elsie: "'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.' Doesn't that mean that to believe on Jesus will take us to heaven at last--when we die?"

"Yes; and as soon as we really and truly believe on him--trust and love him, giving ourselves to him and taking him for our Saviour--he gives us a life that will last forever, so that we will always be his in this world and in the next, and dying will be but going home to our Father's house on high, to be forever there with the Lord, and free from sin and suffering and death."

"Never any more naughtiness, and never any more pain or sickness," said Elsie thoughtfully. "Oh, how delightful that will be!"

"Yes, and to be with Jesus and like him," said Grace softly. "This is my verse: 'We love him because he first loved us.'"

"Oh, what love it was!" exclaimed her father. "'Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.'"

"I have the next three verses, papa," said Lucilla: "'In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.'"

"Yes," said her father; "if we would be followers of Christ, he must be our example; he who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."

"What does that mean?" asked little Ned.

"That the dear Lord Jesus suffered in our stead; taking the punishment due to us for our sins, the punishment we deserved, and letting us have the life bought with his righteousness and his blood."

"What is righteousness, papa?" asked the little fellow.

"Holiness, goodness. Jesus was perfectly holy, and those who truly love him will be ever trying to be like him; will go from strength to strength till everyone of them in Zion appears before God. That is, till they get to heaven; and there they will be so like Jesus that they will never sin any more."

"And what does that other part, 'by whose stripes ye are healed,' mean, papa?" asked Elsie.

"That Jesus suffered for the sins of his people (there was no sin of his own for him to suffer for), and that because he bore the punishment in their stead they will not have to bear it, and will be delivered from the love of it; that is the healing--the being made well of that disease--the love of sinning, the vile nature that we are all born with, because our first parents disobeyed God there in the garden of Eden."

"God teaches his people to hate sin and try bard--asking help of him--to forsake it and be always good, doing just what is right; doesn't he, papa? That's what grandma says."

"Yes, dear child, it is what God teaches us in his Word--the Holy Bible."

"And he will send his Holy Spirit to help us--if we ask him to?"

"Yes."

"But how can we know it, papa? we can't see him."

"No, daughter, but we may know it by the help he gives us, and others will recognize the fact by the fruit of the Spirit seen in our lives. Lucilla, can you tell me what is the fruit of the Spirit?"

"Yes, sir; the Bible says 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."

"Yes; and 'against such there is no law.' Jesus has kept the law perfectly in their stead, and his righteousness being imputed to them, they are treated as if they had never broken the law--never sinned--but had been always holy and obedient to all the commands of God, as he was."

Elsie was looking very thoughtful. "I think I understand it now, papa," she said. "Jesus has kept God's law in our stead, and borne the punishment for our breaking it, and gives his goodness to us, so that we are treated just as if we had been really good when we haven't at all, and that is what it means where it says, 'by whose stripes ye were healed.'"

"Yes, dear child, that is just it; and oh, how can we help loving him, who died and suffered so much for us! Oh, how we ought to love him!"

"I do love him, papa. I ask him every day to help me to love him more and serve him better. I ask earnestly for a new heart; for he is the hearer and answerer of prayer. The Bible tells us so."

"And it is so sweet to know it," said Grace, speaking low and softly, "for he is always near and able to help us, no matter what our trouble may be."

"Yes," said her father. "'Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me.' 'Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.' God looks at the heart, my children, and will not hear and answer us if we approach him with lip service only, not really wanting what we are asking for."

"Yes, papa," said Elsie; "but I do really want the new heart I ask him for. So he will give it to me; won't he?"

"Yes, daughter, for he has said so, and his promises never fail."

"I want to go to mamma now," said Neddie, getting down from his father's knee.

"Yes, run along," said the captain. "Our lesson has been long enough for to-day, I think, daughters, and you are all at liberty to go. You, Grace, are looking weary, and it would be well for both you and Elsie to take a nap: Lucilla also, if she wishes," he added, with a kindly glance at her.

"Thank you, papa, but I do not care to," she answered, as the others hastened away; "the breeze makes it very pleasant here on deck."

"Yes, and you can rest nicely in one of these steamer chairs." Then, taking a keener look into her face, "But something seems to be troubling you, dear child. Tell your father what it is, that he may help and comfort you," he added, in very tender tones, taking her hands and drawing her to a seat close at his side.

"Oh, papa, it is that I am--I am afraid I have been deceiving myself and am not really a Christian," she said, with a half sob and hiding her face on his shoulders. "There is so little, if any, of the fruit of the Spirit in me--no gentleness, goodness, meekness--though I do love Jesus and long to be like him."

"In that case, dear child, I am sure you are one of his," he answered low and tenderly. "Love is put first in the list and I have seen, to my great joy, a steady growth in you of longsuffering, gentleness, and meekness. Jesus said, 'By their fruits ye shall know them,' and I think that, though far from perfect, yet my dear eldest daughter does show by her life that she is earnestly striving to bring forth in it the fruit of the Spirit. 'The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' We are not made perfect in a moment, but are to grow in grace, becoming more and more like the Master, and when the work of grace is completed--so that we are made perfect in holiness--we do immediately pass into glory, to be forever with the Lord."

"Yes, papa; and oh, I want you to pray for me that I may grow in grace every day and hour of my life."

"I will, I do, daughter; and you must pray for your father too, for he is by no means perfect yet."

"Papa, you do seem perfect to me," she said, with a look of reverent love up into his face. "I never forget you in my prayers; never forget to thank God for giving me such a dear, kind father. Papa, are you never troubled with fears that you might be mistaken in thinking yourself a Christian? Oh, no! I am sure not; for how could you be when you are such a good Christian that no one who sees you every day, and knows you as your daughter does, could have the least doubt about it?"

"My daughter looks at me with the partial eyes of filial love," he replied, tenderly smoothing her hair, "but I too, in view of my sins and shortcomings, am sometimes sorely troubled by doubts and fears. But then I find peace and happiness in just giving myself anew to Jesus, and asking him to take me for his very own and deliver me from all my sins and fears; then, knowing that he is a hearer and answerer of prayers, I can go on my way rejoicing. Can you not do the same?"

"Oh, yes, papa, I will. I remember now that you told me once to do so--to come then to Him and he would receive me, and I need not trouble about the question whether I had really come before. And I did and found, oh, such rest and peace!"

"Yes; 'the peace of God which passeth all understanding! May it ever keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.'"