A STAR OF HOPE
 

Come then, O care! O grief! O woe!
O troubles! mighty in your kind;
I have a balm ye ne'er can know,
A hopeful mind.

--Vane.

During the weeks that followed, Edwin was very busy, but most of the time that he was at work about the chores or in the harvest-field where the men were gathering in the ripened grain or preparing for the threshers, he was reviewing in his mind the scene on eternity, the talks with Frank, the prayer-meeting, and what Mrs. Miller had told him in regard to the church.

"It will take me just a year from the time I start to go to church before I can become converted, or be able to pray the right kind of prayer," he said to himself; "and how much longer will it take before I know that I am on the road to heaven?" for regardless of Mrs. Miller's confident statement that nobody in this world could know of his future reward, Edwin was still of the opinion that people could. "It's just because they haven't got that far along, I guess," he reasoned, and he felt very sure that some of the people who were at the prayer-meeting must know.

Among the day-laborers who worked for Mr. Miller was a Mr. Kunz, who, although not a Christian, was a good, intelligent, and friendly fellow, and who lived only about a mile away. For this young man Edwin soon formed a great attachment, and as the weeks slipped by he occasionally found time and opportunity to visit him in his home. During one of these visits Mr. Kunz said in answer to Edwin's questions on prayer and the other things that were troubling him:

"I don't know very much about such things, Edwin, but I think that you can find out all you want to know if you will go to the big camp-meeting that is soon to be held on the camp-ground yonder," and with his finger Mr. Kunz pointed to a strip of woods that Edwin had heard spoken of as the "Camp-Ground."

"Why! what has the camp-meeting to do with such things?" Edwin asked, greatly surprized; for his idea of the camp-ground had been that it was a place for worldly amusements to be held, such as picnics, festivals, and ball-games, and it was hard for him to connect it with anything that he considered so solemn as prayer and getting an assurance of heaven.

"It has much to do with it, Edwin," Mr. Kunz replied. "The meeting is held by men and women who are converted and whose business it is to see that those who come to the meeting get converted. They will know what you need and will help you to understand how to get it."

"Do you mean," Edwin asked, his eyes opening wide in wonder, "that one can get converted right there at the meeting?"

"Yes, indeed, I mean it," Mr. Kunz replied, smiling at the eagerness of Edwin. "Every year many are converted, and it is for that very purpose that the meeting is held."

Poor Edwin! It was hard for him to make the words of Mrs. Miller and those of Mr. Kunz harmonize; but as he considered what his friend had said, a bright star of hope arose in his sky, and he at once decided that the thing for him to do was to attend that meeting. He asked Mr. Kunz how it was possible for those people to get any one converted in so short a time. As Mr. Kunz was not a Christian himself, he could only answer that he did not know how it was, but that somehow they did it. With this knowledge Edwin arose to return to the place where he was making his home.

It was Sunday afternoon early in August, but Edwin gave no heed to the warm rays of the sun. As he walked along the highway toward the home of his employer, his heart was light and happy, and as he was alone he swung his arms and clapped his hands in his delight. The thought that it was possible to become converted within a week's time, or eight days, as the meeting was to continue over two Sundays, seemed almost too good to be true. "But why not," he reasoned, "when there will be such able men and women at the meeting to do the work. At the church where Mrs. Miller was converted, it might have taken a year, for there was but one man to do the work; but at the camp-meeting there will be many."

Then he began to wonder how the work would be accomplished, and he concluded that it would take some kind of a scientific, systematic performance, together with a wonderful prayer, and that then, if the work had been properly done, an assurance that the person was converted and safe for heaven would come.

Suddenly as he walked along, he felt that he was not alone, but no one was in sight. Then these words seemed to be whispered in his ear:

"You had better not rejoice too soon, for your hope may be in vain. Your master may refuse to let you go to the camp-meeting; for you know how busy he is just now and how necessary that he should have your help."

But without the slightest fear Edwin answered in an audible tone:

"Yes, sir, I know that the work is pushing us hard just now, but this matter, to my mind at least, is of far greater importance than all the work on the farm. And then I do not expect my master to give me the time off to attend the camp-meeting. I'll tell him how much I dislike to leave him and that nothing else at such a time would induce me to go. Then I'll say that I will not only work for him as hard as I can the four weeks before I go, but that I will stay two weeks longer than I agreed to stay and will give him that work free, if he will only let me attend that meeting."

Had Edwin thought to ask Mr. Kunz if anyone could get converted in less than the eight days, he might not have been so determined to remain for the entire meeting; but, supposing that it would take at least that long for the operation, he did not want to run any chances of failure in his undertaking.

He had hardly finished telling what he would do in return for the favor that he was expecting to ask of his master, when again he seemed to hear the voice speaking. It said:

"Your week's absence from the farm at this busy time might cause your master so much inconvenience and loss that he would not even consider your offer of two extra weeks of labor in return."

"Under such circumstance I'd give him a month's time for the one week," Edwin answered bravely.

Then the voice suggested that he might be unable to leave under any circumstances, but at this suggestion Edwin exclaimed:

"Well, sir, then I shall go anyway! My matter is of far greater importance than anything that is connected with his farm, and I can not afford to miss that meeting. I can not give up a chance to get converted; for if I do and should die, I shall go into eternity unprepared. I will just tell him that I am going anyway and will take my chances on all the rest."

Because of this decision on Edwin's part, the tempter, who was Satan, the enemy of all who will do right, was forced to flee. Had Edwin listened to the suggestions longer or given the wicked one any encouragement to stay, there would have been no end to his arguments; for it is the business of Satan to discourage and dishearten all who seek to travel upon the highway that leads to heaven.

Thus, we find that Edwin in his ignorance had once more been guided by Divine Providence and that his heavenly Teacher had taught and aided him in his hour of need. God never fails when a soul is doing his best to please him. Failure comes, not merely from a lack of understanding, but from a lack of decision and purpose to go all the way at any cost. Every one who is honest with himself and anxious to do the will of his Maker will be shown the way.

"The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioned their hearts alike; he considereth all their works... Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death." (Psa. 33: 13-19).