9. The Short Text
Have you ever seen a book of Short Texts in Short Words? It is a book for a little child, and there is in it a very short and easy text for every day in the year. A text means some words taken from the Bible, which is God's own book, that he has given to teach us the way to heaven. The Bible tells us about our sins, and about the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save us. And it also tells us how we may become holy, by the help of the Holy Spirit.
But I was going to tell you about the book of texts. Little Arthur had one of these books, and he used to learn the text for every day, and repeat it to his mamma before he began school. Arthur did not go to school to any one but his mamma. She taught him his lesson each day, and heard him say it.
One day, the text was very short indeed. It was only four words. It was, "Thou GOD seest me." When Arthur had said it to his mamma, she began to talk to him; and Arthur stood quietly at the work-table, and looked in her face.
She said to him, "My little boy, when you are left in the room alone, you may think that no one can see you; but God can see you at all times. When you think you are quite alone, God is near you. When you wake up in the dark night, God is with you. He loves you, and is your best Friend. You have other friends who are good and kind, but God is better to you than all. Then try to please him by doing what is right. When you are alone, and a bad wish comes into your heart, think of this text, 'Thou GOD seest me,' and put away the bad wish from your heart."
Soon after this, Arthur's mamma told him that he might put on his cap and gloves, and go with her to call at the house of a friend who was ill. So they had a nice walk; and when they got to the house, Arthur was shown into a large room, where he was told to sit down and wait, while his mamma went up-stairs to see her friend. The little boy was left alone in the room; and at first he sat quite still, and only looked at the pretty things that were lying on the table just before him. But after a while, he got up from the stool, and began to walk softly about the room. There were many pretty things that he liked to look at. There were some birds under a large glass, and Arthur had never in all his life seen any birds so gay and bright in colour. But he saw they were not alive, for not one of them moved when he put his finger upon the glass. He was very sorry to think that the birds were not alive.
But the thing that Arthur liked best of all, better even than the birds, was a very small china dog which he found on a low table in one corner of the room. It was a white dog, with a curly tail and long ears; and it sat up on its hind legs, just as their live dog Carlo did at home. Arthur took it up and looked at it again and again, and he said in his own mind, "Oh, how I wish I might keep this little dog for my own!"
Now this was a bad wish that came into his mind. But he did not think of his text, as his mamma had told him, and he did not try to put it away. No; he looked all round the room and out at the window, and then he came back to the table in the corner; and he felt quite sure that no one could see him, and so he took up the china dog and put it into the little pocket at the side of his coat.
Arthur then went and sat down again upon the stool. He did not feel happy, though the little china dog was safe in his pocket and no one knew. He felt afraid--afraid to hear his mamma's footsteps coming down the stairs, and yet afraid to stay in the room alone. How was this, when he had felt so happy, and not in the least afraid, only a little time before?
A thief is always afraid of being found out, and Arthur was now a thief. He could not be happy, for God has put something in our hearts which will not let us be happy when we have given way to sin. So there Arthur sat, quite still; and the clock on the mantel-piece, which he had not heard before, went tick--tick; and Arthur grew more and more afraid, but still his mamma did not come.
He put his hand into his pocket to feel if the little china dog was there quite safe. Yes, it was there, but Arthur did not want to take it out and look at it. He did not seem to care about it now. All at once, while his hand was in his pocket, the short text came into his mind. He said it out, but with a very low voice, "Thou GOD seest me." Then he began to think about God, who could see him at all times, even when he was quite alone; and he felt sorry for the wicked thing that he had done. His hand was still in his pocket, when he heard his mamma's voice as she came down-stairs; but he ran across the room, and took the little dog out of his pocket, and put it back upon the table before she came in. Oh, how glad was Arthur when this was done! His heart felt light, and all his fear went away.
He told his mamma about the little china dog as they went home, and how the short text came into his mind. His mamma shed tears of joy to think that God had caused her little boy to be sorry for his sin, and to put back what he had stolen. And when they were at home, she made him kneel down to thank God, and to ask him to pardon the wicked wish that he had felt, and the wicked thing that he had done, for the sake of Jesus Christ his Son.