Here is a touching story told of the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson which has had an influence on many a boy who has heard it. Samuel’s father Michael Johnson, was a poor bookseller in Lichfield, England. On market-days he used to carry a package of books to the village of Ottoxeter, and sell them from a stall in the market-place. One day the bookseller was sick, and asked his son to go and sell the books in his place. Samuel, from a silly pride, refused to obey.
Fifty years afterward Johnson became the celebrated author, the compiler of the English Dictionary, and one of the most distinguished scholars in England; but he never forgot his act of unkindness to his poor, hard-toiling father. So when he visited Ottoxeter, he determined to show his sorrow and repentance. He went into the market-place at the time of business, uncovered his head, and stood there for an hour in the pouring rain, on the very spot where the bookstall used to stand. “This,” he says, “was an act of contrition for my disobedience to my kind father.”
The spectacle of the great Dr. Johnson standing bareheaded in the storm to atone for the wrong done by him fifty years before, is a grand and touching one. There is a representation of it in marble on the doctor’s monument.
Many a man in after-life has felt something harder and heavier than a storm of rain beating upon his heart when he remembered his acts of unkindness to a good father or mother now in the grave.
Dr. John Todd, of Pittsfield, the eminent writer, never forgot how, when his old father was very sick, and sent him away for medicine, he, a little lad, been unwilling to go, and made up a lie, saying that the druggist had no such medicine.
The old man was dying when little Johnny came in, but he said to Johnny, “My boy, your father suffers great pain for want of that medicine.”
Johnny started, in great distress, for the medicine, but it was too late. On his return the father was almost gone. He could only say to the weeping boy, “Love God, and always speak the truth; for the eye of God is always upon you. Now kiss me once more, and farewell.”
Through all his after-life, Dr. Todd often had a heartache over that act of falsehood and disobedience to his dying father. It takes more than a shower to wash away the memory of such sins.
The words, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” mean three things,—always do what they bid you, always treat them lovingly, and take care of them when they are sick and grown old. I never yet knew a boy who trampled on the wishes of his parents who turned out well. God never blesses a wilful boy.
When Washington was sixteen years old, he determined to leave home and become a midshipman in the colonial navy. After he had sent off his trunk, he went to bid his mother good-by. She wept so bitterly because he was going away that he said to his Negro servant: “Bring back my trunk. I am not going to wake my mother suffer so, by leaving her.”
He remained at home to please his mother. This decision led to his becoming a surveyor, and afterward a soldier. His whole glorious career in life turned on simple act of trying to make his mother happy, happy, too, will be the child who never has occasion to shed bitter tears for any act of unkindness to his parents. Let us not forget that God has said,
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
—Theodore L. Cuyler, in Pittsburgh Christian Advocate.