IN a charity school, among the children, sat a little
Jewish girl. She was a good, intelligent child, and very quick
at her lessons; but the Scripture-lesson class she was not
allowed to join, for this was a Christian school. During the
hour of this lesson, the Jewish girl was allowed to learn her
geography, or to work her sum for the next day; and when her
geography lesson was perfect, the book remained open before
her, but she read not another word, for she sat silently
listening to the words of the Christian teacher. He soon
became aware that the little one was paying more attention to
what he said than most of the other children. 'Read your book,
Sarah,' he said to her gently.
But again and again he saw her dark, beaming eyes fixed
upon him; and once, when he asked her a question, she could
answer him even better than the other children. She had not
only heard, but understood his words, and pondered them in her
heart. Her father, a poor but honest man, had placed his
daughter at the school on the conditions that she should not
be instructed in the Christian faith. But it might have caused
confusion, or raised discontent in the minds of the other
children if she had been sent out of the room, so she
remained; and now it was evident this could not go on. The
teacher went to her father, and advised him to remove his
daughter from the school, or to allow her to become a
Christian. 'I cannot any longer be an idle spectator of those
beaming eyes, which express such a deep and earnest longing
for the words of the gospel,' said he.
Then the father burst into tears. 'I know very little of
the law of my fathers,' said he; 'but Sarah's mother was firm
in her belief as a daughter of Israel, and I vowed to her on
her deathbed that our child should never be baptized. I must
keep my vow: it is to me even as a covenant with God Himself.'
And so the little Jewish girl left the Christian school.
Years rolled by. In one of the smallest provincial towns,
in a humble household, lived a poor maiden of the Jewish
faith, as a servant. Her hair was black as ebony, her eye dark
as night, yet full of light and brilliancy so peculiar to the
daughters of the east. It was Sarah. The expression in the
face of the grown-up maiden was still the same as when, a
child, she sat on the schoolroom form listening with
thoughtful eyes to the words of the Christian teacher. Every
Sunday there sounded forth from a church close by the tones of
an organ and the singing of the congregation. The Jewish girl
heard them in the house where, industrious and faithful in all
things, she performed her household duties. 'Thou shalt keep
the Sabbath holy,' said the voice of the law in her heart; but
her Sabbath was a working day among the Christians, which was
a great trouble to her. And then as the thought arose in her
mind, 'Does God reckon by days and hours?' her conscience felt
satisfied on this question, and she found it a comfort to her,
that on the Christian Sabbath she could have an hour for her
own prayers undisturbed. The music and singing of the
congregation sounded in her ears while at work in her kitchen,
till the place itself became sacred to her. Then she would
read in the Old Testament, that treasure and comfort to her
people, and it was indeed the only Scriptures she could read.
Faithfully in her inmost thoughts had she kept the words of
her father to her teacher when she left the school, and the
vow he had made to her dying mother that she should never
receive Christian baptism. The New Testament must remain to
her a sealed book, and yet she knew a great deal of its
teaching, and the sound of the gospel truths still lingered
among the recollections of her childhood.
One evening she was sitting in a corner of the
dining-room, while her master read aloud. It was not the
gospel he read, but an old story-book; therefore she might
stay and listen to him. The story related that a Hungarian
knight, who had been taken prisoner by a Turkish pasha, was
most cruelly treated by him. He caused him to be yoked with
his oxen to the plough, and driven with blows from the whip
till the blood flowed, and he almost sunk with exhaustion and
pain. The faithful wife of the knight at home gave up all her
jewels, mortgaged her castle and land, and his friends raised
large sums to make up the ransom demanded for his release,
which was most enormously high. It was collected at last, and
the knight released from slavery and misery. Sick and
exhausted, he reached home.
Ere long came another summons to a struggle with the foes
of Christianity. The still living knight heard the sound; he
could endure no more, he had neither peace nor rest. He caused
himself to be lifted on his war-horse; the color came into his
cheeks, and his strength returned to him again as he went
forth to battle and to victory. The very same pasha who had
yoked him to the plough, became his prisoner, and was dragged
to a dungeon in the castle. But an hour had scarcely passed,
when the knight stood before the captive pasha, and inquired,
'What do you suppose awaiteth thee?'
'I know,' replied the pasha; 'retribution.'
'Yes, the retribution of a Christian,' replied the knight.
'The teaching of Christ, the Teacher, commands us to forgive
our enemies, to love our neighbors; for God is love. Depart in
peace: return to thy home. I give thee back to thy loved ones.
But in future be mild and humane to all who are in trouble.'
Then the prisoner burst into tears, and exclaimed, 'Oh how
could I imagine such mercy and forgiveness! I expected pain
and torment. It seemed to me so sure that I took poison, which
I secretly carried about me; and in a few hours its effects
will destroy me. I must die! Nothing can save me! But before I
die, explain to me the teaching which is so full of love and
mercy, so great and God-like. Oh, that I may hear his
teaching, and die a Christian!' And his prayer was granted.
This was the legend which the master read out of the old
story-book. Every one in the house who was present listened,
and shared the pleasure; but Sarah, the Jewish girl, sitting
so still in a corner, felt her heart burn with excitement.
Great tears came into her shining dark eyes; and with the same
gentle piety with which she had once listened to the gospel
while sitting on the form at school, she felt its grandeur
now, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. Then the last words
of her dying mother rose before her, 'Let not my child become
a Christian;' and with them sounded in her heart the words of
the law, 'Honor thy father and thy mother.'
'I am not admitted among the Christians,' she said; 'they
mock me as a Jewish girl; the neighbors' boys did so last
Sunday when I stood looking in through the open church door at
the candles burning on the altar, and listening to the
singing. Ever since I sat on the school-bench I have felt the
power of Christianity; a power which, like a sunbeam, streams
into my heart, however closely I may close my eyes against it.
But I will not grieve thee, my mother, in thy grave. I will
not be unfaithful to my father's vow. I will not read the
Bible of the Christian. I have the God of my fathers, and in
Him I will trust.'
And again years passed by. Sarah's master died, and his
widow found herself in such reduced circumstances that she
wished to dismiss her servant maid; but Sarah refused to leave
the house, and she became a true support in time of trouble,
and kept the household together by working till late at night,
with her busy hands, to earn their daily bread. Not a relative
came forward to assist them, and the widow was confined to a
sick bed for months and grew weaker from day to day. Sarah
worked hard, but contrived to spare time to amuse her and
watch by the sick bed. She was gentle and pious, an angel of
blessing in that house of poverty.
'My Bible lies on the table yonder,' said the sick woman
one day to Sarah. 'Read me something from it; the night
appears so long, and my spirit thirsts to hear the word of
And Sarah bowed her head. She took the book, and folded
her hand over the Bible of the Christians, and at last opened
it, and read to the sick woman. Tears stood in her eyes as she
read, and they shone with brightness, for in her heart it was
'Mother,' she murmured, 'thy child may not receive
Christian baptism, nor be admitted into the congregation of
Christian people. Thou hast so willed it, and I will respect
thy command. We are therefore still united here on earth; but
in the next world there will be a higher union, even with God
Himself, who leads and guides His people till death. He came
down from heaven to earth to suffer for us, that we should
bring forth the fruits of repentance. I understand it now. I
know not how I learnt this truth, unless it is through the
name of Christ.' Yet she trembled as she pronounced the holy
name. She struggled against these convictions of the truth of
Christianity for some days, till one evening while watching
her mistress she was suddenly taken very ill; her limbs
tottered under her, and she sank fainting by the bedside of
the sick woman.
'Poor Sarah,' said the neighbors; 'she is overcome with
hard work and night watching.' And then they carried her to
the hospital for the sick poor. There she died; and they bore
her to her resting-place in the earth, but not to the
churchyard of the Christians. There was no place for the
Jewish girl; but they dug a grave for her outside the wall.
And God's sun, which shines upon the graves of the churchyard
of the Christians, also throws its beams on the grave of the
Jewish maiden beyond the wall. And when the psalms of the
Christians sound across the churchyard, their echo reaches her
lonely resting-place; and she who sleeps there will be counted
worthy at the resurrection, through the name of Christ the
Lord, who said to His disciples, 'John baptized you with
water, but I will baptize you with the Holy Ghost.'