by Charlotte Maria Tucker
As a lady was walking across Hyde Park rather early in the day, she happened to take her handkerchief out of her pocket and drew out with it, by accident, a little red case. It fell on the path and rolled almost to the feet of a poor girl who was standing near. The child was clad in rags, her hair was rough, her face and hands dirty. She was one who had no one to care for her, no one to teach her what was right. Half eager, half afraid, she stretched out her hand to seize the prize, but first turned round to see that she was not observed and met the eye of the lady.
"Stop!" said Mrs. Claremont, who had heard the case drop on the ground. "Stop, little girl, you are in danger of losing something!" And whild the astonished Ann knew not what could possibly be meant by such strange words, the lady quietly stooped down and picked up the case herself.
She then again addressed the child. Her manner was not angry, but calm and kind, and Ann, notwithstanding her fear and shame, felt a pleasure in listening to so gentle a voice.
"Come beside me while I rest on this bench," said Mrs. Claremont, "and tell me what I meant when I said that you were in danger of losing something."
Ann only stared at her and made no answer.
"Do you know that you have a soul?"
"I know nothing about it," muttered the girl.
"Then," said Mrs. Claremont, "I will show you what you were going to take and explain to you what you were in danger of losing."
"I've got nothing to lose," thought Ann, but she watched the lady with some curiosity.
"You see," continued Mrs. Claremont, "this little red case? It has nothing fine about it—it looks old and worn. Did you think it worth stealing?"
"I thought there was something in it."
"You thought right. The most precious part is within. So it is with you and all people, my child. Your body, which can be seen and felt, is like the case of the jewel. Your soul is the jewel itself."
"What is a soul?" said Ann.
"When I speak to you, you think of what I say—the part of you that thinks is the soul. If any were kind to you, you would love them—the part that loves is the soul. You can see that tree. It lives, but it has no soul in it, it cannot love or think. Do you understand me now?"
"Yes," answered the girl.
"You cannot see this jewel, because the case is shut. I am going to open the case and show it to you."
Mrs. Claremont opened the little case and Ann beheld a very beautiful jewel, which sparkled like a star in the rays of the sun.
"This jewel was given to my great-grandmother on her marriage," said Mrs. Claremont.
"Oh, how bright and fine it is!" cried Ann. "It does not look at all old!"
"It will never look old. When I and my children's children are in their graves, it will look beautiful and fresh as ever! And so it is with the soul. Our bodies must be laid in the tomb, but our souls—those jewels within—will never, never die!"
"Where will they be when our bodies are dead?" asked Ann.
"Either in happiness or in misery, according as we have been God's faithful people here or not," replied Mrs. Claremont. "Now tell me, my poor child, for which should we care most—the case or the jewel, the body or the soul?"
"The soul," answered Ann.
"And it was your soul which you were putting in danger even now. For sin is the ruin of the soul. It is written in God's Word, 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' (Mat 16:26). To procure a few more comforts for your weak perishing body, would you throw away the precious jewel within?"
Ann looked at the lady very sadly and then replied, "No one ever spoke to me in this way before. No one cares for my soul!"
"O my child, there is One who cares for it. One to whom it is very precious! The Lord Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven to come and save poor souls. He bought yours with His life's blood. He died on the cross that it might shine for ever in glory!"
"Does the Lord really care for me?" inquired Ann anxiously. "Why, then, am I so wretched and so poor?"
"He does care for you. He does love you. You are precious to Him. And as for being poor and wretched—look again at this beautiful jewel and tell me where you think that it came from first."
"I cannot tell."
"It came from the dust—it was dug from the dark earth. It had no great beauty then. Those who did not know its real value would have despised and thrown it away. But there were those who knew that it was precious. So we too belong to the dust, fallen sinful creatures. And we would have lain there forever had not the Lord had pity upon us and raised us and brought us into the sunlight of His Gospel."
"If the jewel was not bright at first, what makes it so bright now?" inquired Ann.
"It has been cut and polished, and so it is with our souls. God sends them poverty or trials here to prepare them to shine in His palace above! If the jewel had been a living thing, it would not have liked to have been cut, but it would never have been bright without it."
"I should like to know more about the Lord who cares for my soul and bought it with His blood," sighed Ann.
"Have you a Bible or Testament, my child?"
"Can you read?"
"No," said Ann sadly.
"There is a Ragged School near to which you might go and be taught and hear about the Lord Jesus and what He has done for your soul."
"I know where the school is," said Ann.
"Go, then, and you will be made welcome, my poor little friend. I do not remain in London myself, but I will leave with the teacher some clothes and a beautiful Bible, which shall be yours as soon as you can read it."
"Thank you ma'am," said the girl.
"And one little word before we part, perhaps never to meet again in this world," continued Mrs. Claremont. "If you cannot read, you can pray—have you ever prayed to God?"
"Never," replied Ann.
"Your soul can never be safe until you do. Kneel down, morning and evening, and at least repeat these few words, 'O Lord, forgive my sins and make my heart clean by Thy Spirit, for Jesus Christ's sake.' So short a prayer you can remember, can you not, if I repeat it over to you two or three times?"
"I think so," said Ann.
"Pray with your whole heart, my child, and God, for the sake of the Savior, will hear and bless you. Love Him who first loved you. Believe in His mercy and obey His holy commandments. Then what matter if for a few years, or months, or days, you be called upon to wait or suffer here? Death will soon open the worn-out case and remove the precious jewel to that glorious place where tears shall be wiped from every eye and sorrow and sighing shall flee forever away!"
Edited by Pam Takahashi
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