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Three Hundred A Year. The Call by T. S. Arthur

 

"HOW much salary do they offer?" asked Mrs. Carroll of her husband, who was sitting near her with a letter in his hand. He had just communicated the fact that a Parish was tendered him in the Village of Y—, distant a little over a hundred and fifty miles.

"The money is your first thought, Edith," said Mr. Carroll, half chidingly, yet with an affectionate smile.

This remark caused a slight flush to pass over the face of Mrs. Carroll. She replied, glancing, as she did so, towards a bed on which lay three children.

"Is it wrong to think of the little ones whom God has given to us?"

"Oh, no! But we must believe that God who calls us to labor in his vineyard, will feed both us and our children."

"How are we to know that HE calls us, Edward?" inquired Mrs. Carroll.

"I hold the evidence in my hand. This letter from the vestry of Y—Parish contains the call."

"It may be only the call of man."

"Edith!—Edith!—Your faith is weak; weak almost as the expiring flame."

"What do they say in that letter? Will you read it to me."

"Oh, yes." And Mr. Carroll read—

"REV. AND DEAR SIR:—Our Parish has been for some months without a minister. On the recommendation of Bishop—, we have been led to make you an offer of the vacant place. The members of the church, generally, are in moderate circumstances, and we cannot, therefore, offer anything more than a moderate living. There is a neat little parsonage, to which is attached a small garden, for the use of the minister. The salary is three hundred dollars. You will find the people kind and intelligent, and likewise prepossessed in your favor. The Bishop has spoken of you warmly. We should like to hear from you as early as convenient.

"Very affectionately,

"Three hundred dollars!" said Mrs. Carroll in a disappointed tone.

"And the parsonage," added Mr. Carroll, quickly.

"Equivalent to sixty or seventy more."

"Equivalent to a hundred dollars more, at least."

"We are doing much better here, Edward."

"True! But are we to look to worldly advantage alone?"

"We have a duty to discharge to our children, which, it seems to me, comes before all other duties."

"God will take care of these tender lambs, Edith, do not fear. He has called me to preach his everlasting Gospel, and I have heard and answered. Now He points to the field of labor, and shall I hold back because the wages seem small? I have not so learned my duty. Though lions stood in the way, I would walk in it with a fearless heart. Be not afraid. The salvation of souls is a precious work, and they who are called to the labor will not lack for bread."

"But Edward," said the wife, in a serious voice, "will it be right for us to enter any path of life blindfold, as it were? God has given us reason for a guide; and should we not be governed by its plain dictate?"

"We must walk by faith, Edith, and not by sight," replied Mr. Carroll, in a tone that indicated some small measure of impatience.

"A true faith, dear husband!" said Mrs. Carroll tenderly, while a slight suffusion appeared about her eyes.

"A true faith is ever enlightened and guided by reason. When reason plainly points the way, faith bids us walk on with unfaltering steps."

"And does not reason now point the way?" asked Mr. Carroll."

"I think not. From our school we receive nearly seven hundred dollars; and we have not found that sum too large for our support. I know that I work very hard, and that I find it as much as I can do to keep all things comfortable."

"But remember that we have rent to pay."

"I know. Still a little over five hundred dollars remain. And the present offer is only three hundred. Edward, we cannot live upon this sum. Think of our three children. And my health, you know, is not good. I am not so strong as I was, and cannot go through as much."

The wife's voice trembled.

"Poor, weak doubter!" said Mr. Carroll, in a tender, yet reproving voice. "Does not He who calls us to this labor know our wants? And is not He able to supply them? Have you forgotten that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof? Whose are the cattle upon a thousand hills? Did not God feed Elijah by ravens? Did the widow's oil fail? Be not doubtful but believing, Edith! And what if we do have to meet a few hardships, and endure many privations? Are these to be counted against the salvation of even one precious soul? The harvest is great, hut the laborers are few."

Mrs. Carroll knew her husband well enough to be assured that if he believed it to be his duty to accept a call from Lapland or the Indian Ocean, he would go. Yet, so strongly did both reason and feeling oppose the contemplated change, that she could not help speaking out what was in her mind.

"The day of miracles is past," she replied.

"We must not expect God to send us bread from heaven if we go into a wilderness, nor water from the rock, if we wander away to some barren desert. This Parish of Y—cannot afford living to any but a single man, and, therefore, it seems to me that none but a single man should accept their call. Wait longer, Edward. We have every comfort for our children, and you are engaged in a highly useful employment. When the right field for ministerial labor offers, God will call you in a manner so clear that you need not feel a doubt on the subject."

"I feel no doubt now," said Mr. Carroll. "I recognise the voice of my Master, and must obey. And I will obey without fear. Our bread will be given and our water sure. Ah! Edith. If you could only see with me, eye to eye. If you could only take up your cross hopefully, and walk I by my side, how light would seem all the burden I have to bear?"

Mrs. Carroll felt the words of her husband, as a rebuke. This silenced all opposition.

"I know that I am weak and fearful," she murmured, leaning her head upon her husband, and concealing her face. "But I will try to have courage. If you feel it to be your duty to accept this call, I will go with you; and, come what may, will not vex your ears by a complaining word. It was only for our little ones that I felt troubled."

"The Lord will provide, Edith. He never sends any one upon a journey at his own cost. Fear not: we have the God of harvest on our side."

The will of Mr. Carroll decided in this, as in almost every thing else. He saw reason to accept the call, and did not therefore, perceive any force in his wife's objections.

The school, from which a comfortable living had been obtained, was given up; an old home and old friends abandoned. Prompt as Mr. Carroll had been to accept the call to Y—, the process of breaking up did not take place without some natural feelings coming in to disturb him. How he was to support his wife and children on three hundred dollars, did not exactly appear. It had cost him, annually, the sum of five hundred, exclusive of rent; and no one could affirm that he had lived extravagantly. But he dismissed such unpleasant thoughts by saying, mentally—

"Away with these sinful doubts! I will not be faithless, but believing."

As for Mrs. Carroll, who felt, in view of the coming trials and labor, that she had but little strength; the parting from the old place where she had known so many happy hours, gave her deeper pain than she had ever experienced. Strive as she would, she could not keep up her spirits. She could not feel any assurance for the future,—could not put her entire trust in Heaven. To her the hopeful spirit of her husband seemed a blind confidence, and not a rational faith. But, even while she felt thus, she condemned herself for the feeling; and strove—with how little effect!—to walk sustainingly by the side of her husband.

 
 
 

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