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The Four Wishes, 1871

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7

"What are you playing at?" asked Ella Claremont, as she turned from the sick-bed of a farmer's wife whom she had been visiting, and approached the window, where four children were quietly amusing themselves with some small pieces of paper.

"Oh, miss, we are only playing at wishes," said Louisa. "We have written each our chief wish on a slip of paper and now we are going to draw and read them."

"May I draw and read them?" asked Ella.

"Oh, certainly! Make room for Miss Claremont," cried William, jumping up and in a minute she was in the midst of their smiling circle.

Ella took the little basket which contained the slips and opening the first, read aloud, "I wish to be rich and great and ride in a carriage and four!"

"That's yours, I know," whispered Robert to William.

"That was like the wish of Cardinal Wolsey, who lived more than two hundred years ago," said Ella. "He wished to be rich and great, and rich and great he became. He was the favorite of the king, who loaded him with wealth. He had splendid palaces, trains of attendants—eight hundred servants! as I have read."

"Eight hundred servants!" cried all the children in astonishment. "Why, I do not believe that the queen has half so many."

"Silk and gold shone even upon the trappings of his horses," replied Miss Claremont.

"Well," said William, "to my mind, he was a very happy man!"

"Mark the end," replied the lady. "Men grew envious and hated him. The king began to think him too rich for a subject. The king, whose favor had raised him so high, stripped him of his wealth and disgraced him! Cardinal Wolsey died, his death probably hastened by a broken heart. And what were some of the last words of this remarkable man? 'Had I but served my God as faithfully as I served my king, He would not have left me in my old age, gray-headed, to my enemies!' O my dear children, 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'" (Mat 6:19-21).

Ella then opened the next slip and read, "I wish to be clever and famous!"

"Though it is wrong to wish to be very rich," said Martin, "there is no harm in wishing to be very, very clever, is there, miss?"

Martin was the quickest boy at school and very proud of his learning.

"All depends," replied Miss Claremont, "on the use made of the talent. It may be a blessing—it may be a snare. There was a French writer, whose name was Voltaire, who was very clever and is still very famous. His works have spread through different nations of Europe. Kings have read and admired them. They are read and admired to this day!"

"What a glorious thing for him!" cried Martin.

"I believe," said the lady, "that, could he speak now, he would wish that his right hand had been cut off ere it had been employed in writing, that he had been an ignorant plowboy—a senseless idiot—rather than a writer and a wit! You look surprised at my words, but you will be so no longer when I tell you that he employed his talents against the very God that gave them—that he dared to write profanely of the Lord! The evil that Voltaire did by his works extended beyond his own life!"

"That is dreadful to think of," said Louisa.

"And what was his end?" resumed Ella. "So terrible was his anguish on his death-bed that I have heard that the nurse who attended his last moments, when asked to serve another sick man, asked whether he were a Christian, for she said that whe would never again endure to witness the horrors of the death-bed of a man who had denied his Savior!"

"Certainly his talents were a snare and anything but a blessing," observed Martin. "I have read somewhere—

'To know thyself and thy God to know,
This is true wisdom's sum below;
With it, the weakest child is wise,
The sage, without it, in darkness dies!'"

The lady added, "'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.'" (Pro 9:10).

On the next slip of paper was written, "I wish to be beautiful and admired!"

The boys laughed and looked at Louisa. She colored and seemed abashed.

"You have written," said Ella kindly, "what many girls have thought. The wish has brought thousands into folly and fine dressing and trouble, I fear. We read in history of a young lady, named Anne Boleyn, who was very lovely and very much admired. Her beauty raised her even to be a queen!"

"Was she not happy then?" asked Robert.

"Far from it. She was so miserable that she must have wished herself a milk-maid rather than Queen of England! Her husband grew tired of her! Her actions were watched. She was slandered. She was accused and what was the end? She had to lay her beautiful head on the block and die a violent death in the prime of her days!"

"Poor lady!" exclaimed Louisa. "But should we never wish to be beautiful?"

"Yes, my child. There is a beauty which we may desire—which we may pray for. It is loveliness like that of the angels, but the plainest mortal may possess it. 'Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!' (Psa 96:9). And there is an ornament which can make the most homely more than fair—'The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.'" (1Pe 3:4).

"Now for the last slip of paper," cried the children.

"I wish to be great and glorious!" read Ella.

"Can you tell us of any one," said Robert, "who had that wish granted and yet was unhappy?"

"I could tell you of many. Look at Napoleon Buonaparte, my boy. He won battle after battle—conquered nation after nation—rose higher and higher, till he beheld himself emperor of a mighty realm, with half Europe trembling at his feet? His was called a path of glory, but it was a path of blood. And what was the end? The ambition which had led to his triumphs led also to his fall! He lingered out the remains of his weary life a prisoner in a rocky island, with time to think over what he had been and what he had done—the glories which he had lost, and the terrible price of guilt which he had paid for them!"

"Yet I cannot help wishing for glory!" said Robert.

"Wish for it, my boy—seek for it, but let it be no mere earthly glory—glory which must fade away. You need not look far for opportunities of winning it. Look within. 'He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city' (Pro 16:32). And look without. 'He that converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins' (Jam 5:20). What glory is that! Thus yielding yourself to God and bringing others to Him, the prize of victory is before you—the 'far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,' offered by Him who says, 'Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life'" (Rev 2:10).

"One good thing is certain," said William, "to every one of us may be granted the wishes of the whole four, provided what we seek is not earthly, but heavenly."

"Yes," replied Ella, "if you seek for these heavenly riches—wisdom, beauty, and glory—by faith in and by prayer to the merciful Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His death alone can we hope for anything. 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich'" (2Co 8:9).

"I wish," said Louisa, "that you would teach us how to pray for them."

"Willingly, my child. Let us come to the bedside of your mother, kneel down together, and I will conclude my visit by prayer."

"O God, who hast prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass man's understanding, grant unto us heavenly riches, which will never be exhausted—wisdom, which will lead us to Thee—the beauty of holiness here and eternal glory in the world to come, for the sake of Him who died for us, Christ our Lord. Amen."

Edited by Pam Takahashi


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