A hot and sultry summer had passed away, and autumn was verging on toward its cooler months, with their long and quiet evenings. Occasionally a colder day than usual made a fire in the grate necessary and drew closer together the happy family of Mr. Barton in their evening circle. It was pleasant to all, thus to feel the warm fire again, and to see its deep glow reflected from loving faces.

"How good the fire feels!" said James, holding up his small hands to receive its heat, and smiling as he looked upon it.

"I think I love the winter best after all," remarked William. "It is so pleasant to sit round the fire, and feel its warmth upon our hands and face. Home feels more like home. Don't you think so, father?"

"The change of season is always pleasant," replied Mr. Barton. "Have you never noticed that, my son?"

"Oh yes! I always say, when spring comes, 'I am glad that it is spring.' And in summer-time, when fruit and flowers are so plenty, I say, 'I am glad it is summer.' And then I am glad again when the doors and windows can be closed, and we can all gather around the fire as we do now in autumn. In winter, when the snow begins to fall, I feel that it is pleasant to see the light flakes flying about gayly in the air."

"But I always think then," said Mary, the gentle, loving-hearted Mary, "of the poor children who have no warm clothing, nor good fires, as we have. I wish, sometimes, that it were always warm, for their sakes."

"And yet, my dear, the Lord knows what is best," remarked Mr. Barton, looking into Mary's sympathizing face. "The Bible says He is good to all, and kind even to the unthankful."

"I know it does; and it also says, that He pitieth us even as a father pitieth his children. But, I can't help thinking, sometimes, that there is a great deal of suffering in the world."

"And so there is, Mary, a great deal of dreadful suffering, the reason for which we sometimes find it very hard to understand. But one thing we know, and this is, that it is all from man, and not from God; and that God permits it for some good purpose--not to punish people; for the Lord never punishes any one merely for the sake of punishment, but suffers evil and sin to punish for the sake of reformation. You remember what I read to you about the Divine Providence on last Sunday evening?"

"Yes, sir."

"What did I say the Divine Providence regarded?"

"Eternal ends," replied Mary.

"Do you remember what I then told you was meant by eternal ends?"

"Whatsoever had reference to man's salvation in heaven."

"Yes, that is what I said. A great many people believe that the Lord's Providence, which is over us all, even to the smallest things, has reference to our worldly well-doing. I remember when a boy, hearing a man pray, regularly, in his family, every day, and a part of his prayer always was, that the Lord would increase his basket and his store."

"What did he mean by that?" asked James, who was listening very attentively to his father, and trying to understand all he said.

"Why, that the Lord would make him rich."

"Did the Lord make him rich?" asked Mary.

"No, my daughter, the Lord knew that to make him rich would be the worst thing for him, for it might be the means of destroying his soul."

"Then it is best for some to be rich and some poor?" said William.

"Undoubtedly it is, or all would be rich in this world's goods, and have every comfort and luxury that earth could afford them. For the goodness of the Lord would seek to bless every one in good things for the body as well as good things for the mind, if the former blessings could be given without injury to the latter. But where they cannot, they are always withheld."

"But all rich people are not good people," remarked William. "I think they are, generally, more unfeeling and selfish than poor people. I have often heard it said so; and that there was very little chance of rich people's going to heaven."

"I know this is said, but it is a great mistake. Poor people are, as a general thing, just as unfeeling and selfish as rich people, and stand no better chance of heaven. So far as poverty or riches are concerned, there is an overruling Providence regarding each, and this, as I before remarked, looks to the salvation of souls in heaven."

"Then it isn't because one man is better than another, that he is permitted to get rich, or has money left to him?"

"Not by any means, William," replied the father. "No man's state can be judged of by his external condition: for the external condition that is good for one, may be very bad for another. Ever bear this in mind, as you pass through life, and learn, no matter in what external condition the Lord places you, therewith to be content."