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JESSY ALLAN ;
THE LAME GIRL.
I OFTEN wonder what the children who attend Sabbath-Schools think of all the labour and pains which are bestowed upon them? I wonder if they ever ask themselves this question, "Why do our Sabbath-School masters come to meet with us so kindly every Sabbath evening ?-However cold, or wet, or bad it is, still they come.- What pleasure can it give them to hear us repeat what they have heard repeated a hundred times before?
- They get nothing by coming but trouble. We are instructed, but what is their reward ?. And those ladies who visit our schools, and sit down amongst us, and seem so pleased when we do well, and so grieved when we are careless and inattentive, and who listen so patiently to our illgot lessons, and reprove us so gently, and encourage us so kindly, why are they so anxious about us ?-What good does our improvement do to them ? and why should they be sorry when we are careless, and will not receive instruction ?' My dear children, this is the reason,-your Sabbath-masters, and the ladies who teach you, have themselves been taught, that there is but one way of salvation. That way is made known in the Bible, and if you are ignorant of it, however young you may be, you are on the way that leads to everlasting misery. Your teachers therefore pity you, and it is this pity and compassion which leads them to give up their time and attention to you; and the highest reward they desire and pray for is, that you would have pity on your own souls, and listen to that instruction which will lead you into the way of salvation. .
I mean, in the following pages, to relate the history of a girl, who made that kind of return to her master, and the ladies who taught her, which they considered an ample and delightful reward for all their trouble.
This girl's name was Jessy ALLAN. She was daughter to a widow woman, who kept a stand for selling vegetables at the back of the Canongate. When Jessy was about eleven or twelve years old, her mother thought it time to have her taught to sew.
She had learnt to read tolerably well when she was a year or two younger, but had partly forgot it, as her mother never made her read at home. Indeed, Mrs. Allan
seldom read any herself. Her Bible lay on a dirty shelf, and was scarcely ever opened, except, perhaps, when she heard of the unexpected death of some person near her own age,or of some event which awakened her conscience, and made her feel in her soul what an awful thing it would be, all sinful as she was, to fall into the hands of her Almighty and Holy Judge. She would then take down her Bible, and read a chapter or two, and perhaps refrain from some sins, which at such times lay heavy on her mind; but in a few days the impression wore off, and Mrs. Allan would return to all her evil ways, and her Bible would again lie neglected on the shelf. Oh! had she sought that God, whose words of reconciliation and peace she thus put away from her, what a change would she have felt in her own mind and soul. She would have known, by her own experience, that He could give, and was ready and willing to give, pardon, and peace, and contentment, and hope, and joy, instead of fear, and ignorance, and evil passions, and dread of death, and anger at her poverty, which constantly filled her mind, and made her miserable.
Mrs. Allan was, however, wise for this world, and was aware, that if Jessy learnt to sew, she might soon be able to assist in earning her livelihood. She therefore determined to apply to some ladies who took charge of a free school in her neighbourhood, in the hope that they might admit Jessy. She was directed by the schoolmistress to come with her little girl on the quarter-day, when the ladies met at the school. Mrs. Allan, accordingly, went on that day, and had the child admitted, as she readily agreed to observe all the rules mentioned by the ladies, and particularly one, which they said could not be dispensed with. It was, that Jessy should be punctual to the school hours, and attend regularly every day. When Mrs. Allan promised over and over again to observe this rule, she knew very
well that she did not mean to keep her word; for, two days in the week, she was obliged to go to the garden where she got her vegetables, and on those days Jessy had to watch the stand; but she just thought within herself, that she had better not tell the truth, lest it might be a difficulty in the way of getting Jessy admitted, and that she could easily teach her child to invent excuses, and tell many lies every week to account for her absence. When the ladies spoke also of the Sabbath-School, and the importance of being early instructed in religion, Mrs. Allan sighed, and turned up her eyes and said, “ Ah! yes, la lies, and I am sure the blessing of Heaven will follow you, for providing instruction for so muny children, poor things. I think little of any thing else for my Jessy, compared to religious instruction.'
When the ladies spoke more kindly to Mrs. Allan, after her having said this, she went away quite pleased with her success, but she forgot that there had been all the time an eye upon her that she could not deceive, and that her lies and hypocrisy were marked down in God's book against the day of death and judgment.
When Jessy came to school, she knew almost nothing. Her whole life, excepting the time she had spent in learning to read, had been passed in playing near her mother's door with other idle children, or in watching the stand in her mother's absence, or, perhaps, going an errand, or some such way. Mrs. Allan lived in a low house with an earthen floor, and was very dirty and disorderly, so that Jessy did not even know what it was to be clean and neat in her person, her soul, she thought no more about it, than if she had been without one. Jessy was, however, good tempered and cheerful, though, on first coming to school, very inattentive. After she had attended a few days, and got at her ease, she became a great favourite with the other girls, for she was very obliging, and so lively and playful, that they never could be out of humour, or quarrel with any thing she said or did. The mistress, though often obliged to reprove Jessy, yet could not help loving her, because, instead of looking sulky or stupid when she was found fault with, she seemed vexed, and immediately tried anx