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THE JEWISH GIRL

 

AMONG the other children in a charity school sat a little Jewish girlShe was a goodintelligent childthe quickest in all the schoolbut she had to be excluded from one lessonfor she was not allowed to take part in the Scripture lessonfor it was a Christian school

In that hour the girl was allowed to open the geography bookor to do her sum for the next daybut that was soon doneand when she had mastered her lesson in geographythe book indeed remained oped before herbut the little one read no more in itshe sat and listenedand the teacher soon became aware that she was listening more intently than almost any of the other children

Read your book,”the teacher saidin mild re-proofbut her dark beaming eye remained fixed upon himand once when he addressed a question to hershe knew how to answer better than any of the others could have doneShe had heardunderstoodand remembered

When her fathera poor honest manfirst brought the girl to the schoolhe had stipulated that she should be excluded from the lessons on the Christian faithBut it would have caused disturbanceand perhaps might have awakened discontent in the minds of the othersif she had been sent from the room during the hours in questionand consequently she stayedbut this could not go on any longer

The teacher betook himself to her father and exhorted him either to remove his daughter from the schoolor to consent that Sara should become a Christian

I can no longer bear to see these gleaming eyes of the childand her deep and earnest longing for the words of the Gospel”,said the teacher

Then the father burst into tears

I know but little of our own religion,”he said;“but her mother was a daughter of Israelfirm and steadfast in the faithand I vowed to her as she lay dying that our child should never be baptizedI must keep my vowfor it is even as a covenant with God Himself.”

And accordingly the little Jewish maiden quitted the Christian school

Years have rolled on

In one of the smallest provincial towns there dweltas a servant in a humble householda maiden who held the Mosaic faithHer hair was black as ebonyher eye so darkand yet full of splendour and lightas is usual with the daughters of the EastIt was SaraThe expression in the countenance of the now grown-up maiden was still that of the child sitting upon the schoolroom bench and listening with thoughtful eyes

Every Sunday there pealed from the church the sounds of the organ and the song of the congregationThe strains penetrated into the house where the Jewish girlindustrious and faithful in all thingsstood at her work

The shalt keep holy the Sabbath-day,”said a voice within herthe voice of the Lawbut her Sabbath-day was a working day among the Christiansand she could keep it holy only in her heartwhich she did not think was sufficientBut then the thought arose in her soul:“Doth God reckon by days and hours?”And on the Sundny of the Christians the hour of prayer remained undisturbedand when the sound of the organ and the songs of the congregation sounded across to her as she stood in the kitchen at her workthen even that place seemed to become a sacred one to herThen she would read in the Old Testamentthe treasure and possession of her peopleand it was only in this one she could readfor she kept faithfully in the depths of her heart the words her father had said to herself and the teacher when she was taken away from the schooland the promise given to her dying motherthat she should never receive Christian baptismor desert the faith of her ancestorsThe New Testament was to be a sealed book to herand yet she knew much of itand the Gospel echoed faintly among the recollections of her youth

One evening she was sitting in a corner of the living-roomHer master was reading aloudand she might listen to himfor it was not the Gospel that he readbut an old story-booktherefore she might stayThe book told of a Hungarian knight who was taken prisoner by a Turkish pashawho caused him to be yoked with his oxen to the ploughand driven with blows of the whip till he almost sank under the pain and ignominy he enduredThe wife of the knight at home parted with all her jewelsand pledged castle and landThe knight's friends contributed large sumsfor the ransom demanded was almost unattainably highbut it was collected at lastand the knight was freed from servitude and miserySick and exhaustedhe reached his homeBut soon another summons came to war against the foes of Christianitythe sick knight heard the calland had neither peace nor restHe caused himself to be lifted on his war-horseand the blood came back to his cheekhis strength appeared to returnand he went forth to battle and to victoryThe very same pasha who had yoked him to the plough became his prisonerand was dragged to his castleBut not an hour had passed when the knight stood before the captive pashaand said to him

What dost thou suppose awaiteth the?”

I know it,”replied the Turk.“Retribution.”

Yesthe retribution of the Christian!”resumed the knight.“The doctrine of Christ commands us to forgive our enemiesand to love our fellow manfor God is loveDepart in peace to they home and to they dear onesbut in future be mild and merciful to all who are unfortunate.”

Then the prisoner broke out into tearsand ex-claimed

How could I believe in the possibility of such mercyMisery and torment seemed to me inevitabletherefore I took poisonwhich in a few hours will kill meI must diethere is no remedyBut before I diedo thou ex-pound to me the teaching which includes so great a measure of love and mercyfor it is great and godlikeGrant me to hear this teachingand to die a Christian!”And his prayer was fulfilled

That was the legendthe story that was readIt was heard and followed by them allbut Sarathe Jewish girlsitting alone in her cornerlistened with a burning heartgreat tears came into her gleaming black eyesand she sat there with a gentle and lowly spirit as she had once sat on the school benchand felt the grandeur of the Gospeland the tears rolled down over her cheeks

But again the dying words of her mother rose up with-in her

Let not my daughter become a Christian,”the voice criedand together with it arose the words of the Law:“The shalt honour they father and they mother.”

I am not baptized,”she said;“they call me a Jewish girlour neighbour's boys hooted me last Sundaywhen I stood at the open church doorand looked in at the flaming candles on the altarand listened to the song of the congregationEver since I sat upon the school bench I have felt the force of Christianitya force like that of a sun-beamwhich streams into my soulhowever firmly I may shut my eyes against itBut I will not pain the in they graveO my motherI will not be unfaithful to the oath of my fatherI will not read the Bible of the ChristiansI have the God of my fathers to lean upon!”

And years rolled on again

The master diedHis widow fell into povertyand the servant girl was to be dismissedBut Sara refused to leave the houseshe became the staff in time of troubleand kept the household togetherworking till late in the night to earn the daily bread through the labour of her handsfor no relative came forward to assist the familyand the widow became weaker every dayand lay for months together on a bed of sicknessSara worked hardand in the intervals sat kindly ministering by the sick-bedshe was gentle and piousan angel of blessing In the poverty-stricken house

Yonder on the table lies the Bible,”said the sick woman to Sara.“Read me something from it this long eveningmy soul thirsts for the word of the Lord.”

And Sara bowed her head

Her hands folded over the Bible themselveswhich she opened and read to the sick womanTears stood in her eyeswhich gleamed and shone with ecstasy and light shone in her heart

O my mother,”she whispered to herself;“they child may not receive the baptism of the Christiansor be admitted into the congregationthou hast willed it soand I shall respect they commandwe will remain in union together here on earthbut beyond this earth there is a higher unioneven union in GodHe will be at our sideand lead us through the valley of deathIt is He that descendeth upon the earth when it is athirstand covers it with fruitfulnessI understand itI know not how I came to learn the truthbut it is through Himthrough Christ!”

And she started as she pronounced the sacred nameand there came upon her a baptism as of flames of fireand her frame shookand her limbs tottered so that she sank down faintingweaker even than the sick woman by whose couch she had watched

Poor Sara!”said the people;“she is overcome with night watching and toil!”

They carried her out into the hospital tor the sick poorThere she diedand from thence they carried her to the gravebut not to the churchyard of the Christiansfor yonder was no room for the Jewish girloutsideby the wallher grave was dug

But God's sunthat shines upon the graves of the Christiansthrows its beams also upon the grave of the Jewish girl beyond the walland when the psalms are sung in the churchyard of the Christiansthey echo like-wise over her lonely resting-placeand she who sleeps beneath is included in the call to the resurrection in the name of Him who spaks to His disciples

John baptized you with waterbut I will baptize you with the Holy Ghost!”

 


 

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