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The Butterfly
Written 1867

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

A party of boys had been playing in the fields on a sunny afternoon in the bright month of June. They had been chasing a beautiful butterfly, which, in its uncertain flight, had led them over hedge and ditch, till at last the beautiful prize was won and the brilliant insect remained a helpless prisoner in the hands of its pursuers. Alas, for the butterfly! A few moments before so lovely and so free, sometimes resting on a blossom, then fluttering up towards the sky, its lovely wings were rudely torn away and it lay quivering in the agonies of death. At this moment, Ella Claremont, a young lady of the village, approached the party. She had seen the chase and its close and looked with regret on the poor mangled butterfly. "Why did you not let it live?" said she, "it had never harmed you and it was so happy. You easily took away its little life," she added, "but could any of you, could any power on earth, give that life back again?"

The boys looked one upon another and were silent, till the eldest of them, Giles, replied, "I am sorry that I killed it, but I did not know that there was any harm."

"Surely," said Ella, in a very gentle voice, "in a world where there is so much pain, one would be sorry to add, even in the least degree, to the amount of it. There is another feeling," continued she, "that should make us merciful to every creature. We should look upon it as one of the wonderful works of God."

"Why," said Anthony, "a butterfly is only a caterpillar after it has wings."

"True, but what human skill could form a caterpillar! It has been calculated that in a single caterpillar there are sixty thousand muscles!"

An exclamation of astonishment burst from the boys.

"They must be finer than spiders' threads," cried Giles.

"I daresay," replied the lady, "that you are not aware that each separate spider's thread is said to be formed of about three thousand joined together."

"The world seems full of wonders," exclaimed little Robert.

"It is indeed. The more we search into God's works, the more wisdom and skill do we behold."

"I'll not kill a butterfly again," said Giles.

"I never see one fluttering in the sun," continued Ella, "without thinking of those lines:

'Thou hast burst from thy prison,
Bright child of the air!
Like a spirit just risen
From its mansion of care!'"

"That sounds very pretty," said Giles, "but I don't understand it."

"It is not very difficult to explain," replied Ella. "The butterfly teaches us a joyful lesson. It is what is called a type of immortality! You see the lowly caterpillar crawling over a leaf, it cannot raise itself towards the sky, it cannot leave the earth. In this, it is like what we are now. Then, as you know, it seems to die. It is wrapped up in its little covering and there it lies without motion or feeling—that is like what we must be."

"Ah! I see. When we are in our coffins, dead and buried," cried Robert. "But the bright butterfly soon bursts from the dark case and we do not rise from our graves."

"We shall," replied Ella earnestly, "we all shall rise again. No longer prisoners bound to earth, no longer creeping on amidst trials and sorrows, but free, happy, glorious, shining in the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. 'For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised' (1Co 15:52). Why should we fear death—why should we dread being laid in the cold tomb? When we think of the hope set before us, well may we cry, 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'" (1Co 15:55).

There was a deep silence for a few moments. Nothing was heard but the song of a lark high overhead, as it soared towards the sky.

Then Giles spoke in a tone of awe, "Will all rise again?"

"Yes, all."

"Will all rise to be free and happy and glorious?"

"Alas, no!" replied Ella.

"How can we tell," continued the boy, after a little hesitation, "whether we shall be among the happy ones?"

"There will be but two classes then," said Ella, "as there are but two classes amongst those called Christians now. We may divide all who have heard of a Savior into those who love God and those who love sin. Those who love sin will awake to misery. Those who love God will awake to glory."

"But," said the boy anxiously, "there may be some who love God and really try to obey Him and yet sin sometimes."

"All sin sometimes," replied Ella. "There is not one human being free from sin."

"Then," said Giles, "I should be afraid that, when the trumpet sounded, my sins would be like chains and keep me down so that I could not rise."

Every eye was turned towards Ella. Every ear anxiously listened for her reply, for every young heart was conscious of some sin and felt the difficulty which Giles had started.

"It would have been so," replied Ella, "had not the Savior died for sinners like us. His blood washes us quite clean from all guilt—that is, if we really believe on Him and love Him. Let us look upon our sins as chains now and struggle hard to burst them, and pray for grace to help us. Then, if we are Christ's people, we shall rise joyfully in that great day when 'the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God'" (1Th 4:16).

"I think," said Giles, after a pause, "that sins are like chains and very hard to break too. There is temper, now! I know that I've a bad temper. I determine over and over again that I will get rid of it, but the harder I struggle, the tighter the chain seems to grow."

"And mother is trying to cure me of saying bad words," cried little Robert, "but it's no use—they will come. I say them when I'm not thinking about it."

"Have you tried prayer?" inquired Ella.

"Do you not know the precious promises, 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him' (Jam 1:5). 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you' (Luk 11:9). These words have often been such a comfort to me, when I felt how heavy my chain was, and how weak my efforts to get rid of it. And now, my young friends, I must leave you. Will you think over what I have said?"

"Yes, miss, and thank you for it," said Giles, touching his cap.

Ella paused as she was turning to depart and gazed upon the sky, all bright with the evening sun, setting amidst clouds of crimson and gold.

"How glorious!" she cried, "how beautiful that work of God! He, too, speaks of the resurrection. He sinks to rise again!

'Just so is the Christian; his course he begins,
Like the sun in a mist, when he mourns for his sins,
Then all in a moment he breaks out and shines,
And travels his heavenly way.

'And when he comes nearer to finish his race,
Like a fine setting sun, he grows richer in grace,
And gives a sure hope, at the end of his days,
Of rising in brighter array!'

"Farewell, my children. Whether we shall see each other again on this earth, who shall dare to say? But we shall meet again when the last trumpet sounds and the dead hear the Savior's voice and the saints awake in His likeness. Let us live now as those who are waiting for the Lord and who long for the hour of His appearing."

"Oh! when through earth, and sea, and skies,
The archangel's final summons flies,
May we, through Christ, immortal rise
Towards a heavenly home!

"They who together life have trod,
May they together burst the sod,
And glorious rise to meet their God!
Come, Jesus, Savior, come!"

Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner


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