A number of years ago, at an orphan asylum in a Northern State, there lived a boy whom we shall call Will Jones. He was just an ordinary boy. No, he was not so in one respect, which I must point out, to his discredit. Will Jones had a temper that distinguished him from the general run of boys. Will’s temper might have been inherited from a Spanish pirate, and yet Will was a boy whom every one loved; but this hair-trigger temper at times terribly spoiled things. It would be tedious to recount his uprisings of anger, and the direful consequences that often followed.
Mr. Custer, the superintendent of the asylum, had hopefully striven to lead Will to the paths of right; but it was a difficult task.
Sometimes it needs but one small breach to begin the overthrow of a giant wall. One small key, if it is the right one, will open the most resisting door. One small phrase may start a germ-thought growing in a human mind which in after-years may become a mighty oak of character. So Will Jones, the incorrigible fighter was to demonstrate this principle, as we shall see.
On a Sabbath evening, as the hundred or more orphans met at vespers and sang, “Onward, Christian Soldiers!” they saw a stranger seated at the speaker’s desk in the home chapel. He was a venerable old Wan, straight and dignified, his hoary head a crown of honor; for he was all that he appeared—a father in Israel.
In a brief speech he told the boys that he had once been a Union soldier, and had fought in the battles of his country. He told of the courage it required to face death upon the battle-field. He described the charges his company had made and met, the sieges and the marches, the sufferings they endured, and, lastly, the joys that victory and the end of the conflict brought.
Then, when the boys were at the height of interested expectancy, he skilfully drew the lesson he wanted them to learn. He told of a greater warfare, requiring a higher courage, and bringing as a reward a larger and more enduring victory. “Boys,” he said, “the real soldiers are the Christian soldiers; the real battle is the battle against sin; the real battle-ground is where that silent struggle is constantly waging within our minds.” Then he told of Paul, who said, “I have fought a good fight.” “Did any of you boys ever fight a bad fight?” Every head but one turned to a common point at this juncture, and the eyes of only one boy remained upon the speaker. Will Jones had the record for bad fights, and that is why about ninety-nine pairs of eyes had involuntarily sought him out when the speaker asked the question, which he hoped each would ask himself. And the reason Will Jones did not look around accusingly at any of the other boys was because he had taken to heart all that had been said; and, because of this, the turning-point had come; his conversion had begun. Henceforth he determined so to live that he could say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight.”
No sooner does a boy determine to fight the good fight than Satan accepts the challenge, and gives him a combat such as will seem like a “fiery trial” to try him. These struggles develop the moral backbone; and if a boy does not give in, he will find his moral courage increasing with each moral fight. Just let that thought stay in your mind, underscored in bold-faced italics, and printed in indelible ink; and if you have a tendency to be a spiritual “jelly-back,” it will be like a rod of steel to your spine.
The fear of Will Jones’s knuckles had won a degree of peace for him. He had lived a sort of armed truce, so to speak. Now he was subjected to petty persecutions by mean boys who took advantage of his new stand. He did not put on the look of a martyr either, but kept good-natured even when the old volcano within was rumbling and threatening to bury the tormentors in hot lava and ashes. The old desire to fight the bad fight was turned into the new channel of determination to fight the good fight. Today Will Jones is still a good fighter, and I hope he always will be, and some day will be crowned with eternal victory; for he who fights the good fight is fighting for eternity.
Will you not try so to live each day, subduing every sinful thought, that at night when you kneel to pray you can say to the Lord, “I have fought a good fight today”?
W. VAN TRUMP.
* * * * *
Our Help Is Near
Temptations dark and trials fall
On all who labor here;
But we have One on whom to call:
Our Lord is ever near.
So let us when these trials come,
Lean on his strength alone,
Till we have reached the promised home
Where sorrows are unknown.