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to his son and his servants; and all through breakfast-time the boy could think of nothing but his pony.
Jos always accompanied his father to church on Sunday mornings, but did not go with him to afternoon service. It might almost be said that Jos took Shaggy with him even to church ; for all the time that the boy was there his mind was running on his pony. Jos seemed indeed to be praying; and his voice—a pleasant voice it was—was heard in every hymn. But was he really either praying or praising? Ah no! Jos's worship was all a sham : not a single word that he uttered came from the heart. Jos was taking his Maker's name in vain, praying, as the hypocrites do, only to be seen the those around him. The boy was actually sinning while he fancied that he was doing a praise-worthy thing. : Could Jos have repeated anything that he heard in the sermon which followed the prayers ? No; not so much as the text. If he thought about the sermon at all, it was only to wish that it would soon be over. And yet the preacher was speaking, in a way that even a child might understand, of the parable of the Sower, and the seed of the Word which fell by the way-side. The heart of Jos Jackson was too much like the way-side—no holy teaching on that day made the slightest impression upon it. The boy seemed to care for nothing but Shaggy, his pony.
Jos did not consider that there was any harm at all in letting an earthly pleasure take up his thoughts in the house of prayer, and on the holy day set apart for devotion and rest. But sin indulged in thought is likely ere long to ripen into deeds. If Jos had been saying to himself through church-time, “ I wish—oh, I wish that I could gallop
about upon Shaggy!” he did not feel the desire to ride less strong when in the afternoon he stood on the common patting the rough mane of his four-footed friend.
“ Papa has gone to afternoon church ; I've no one to talk to, no one to play with,” said the boy to himself. “I wish that this were any day but Sunday: how jolly I should be upon Shaggy; I would get Tom to saddle him at once, and he and I would be off like the wind. After all, there can be no harm in my getting on his back just for a little. I do believe that Shaggy would rather enjoy a canter, and so, I am sure, would I. No, I'm certain there can be no harm.”
Jos did not ask himself whether there was not sin in breaking the Fourth and Fifth Commandments—whether it was not ungrateful as well as undutiful conduct towards his father to use his own gift in a way which, if known, would certainly displease him. Jos did not ask himself whether there was not deceit in doing behind his parent's back what he would not have done before his face. The boy thought of nothing but present pleasure, and repeated, “ There can be no harm,” as, grasping Shaggy by the mane, he managed to scramble on to his back.
It is not so pleasant to ride even an easy-pacing good-tempered pony without a saddle as with one, and yet Jos greatly enjoyed his scamper. He did not, however, enjoy its ending; for he could not guide Shaggy without a bridle, nor prevent his running so close up to the sign-post that Jos had to move his leg quickly, and suddenly stretch out his hand, to save himself from being dashed against the hard wood. The hand was hurt by the passing shock, a sharp pang shot through the little finger; Jos Jackson bit his lip hard from the pain.
But Jos was a manly boy, and not disposed to make much fuss about what he deemed a trifling accident. He looked at his little finger; there was not a bruise or a scratch to be seen upon it.
“There can have been no harm done; it does not show one bit," said the boy.
Jos had considered that there was “ no harm” in indulging idle, wandering thoughts in church, because they did not show; and so, in the same way, he was not afraid of any harm to his finger, because no outward mark of a blow could be seen. But as black bruise or red scratch is safer than injury to the bone, so the most grievous sin may be that in the heart, of which the world knows nothing.
“I will not speak about my finger to papa,” muttered Jos, “ as he might question me as to how it got hurt. I do not want him to know that I've had a scamper on Shaggy."
But if Jos through the rest of that day said nothing of the hurt to his finger, he could not help thinking a great deal about it-more even than about his new pony. On Sunday the boy was allowed, as a treat, to share his father's late dinner, and afterwards to spend the evening with the doctor, who was too busy to see much of his boy during the week. Jos usually enjoyed those Sunday evenings greatly, but on this particular evening enjoyment was out of the question. It hurt Jos even to convey a spoon to his mouth; he could hardly manage to pare the splendid rosy-cheeked apple which his father gave him to eat. Jos could scarcely attend to the interesting anecdotes which his father related for his amusement, or, after dinner, turn over the leaves of the beautiful Pictorial History of Palestine, which he only saw upon Sundays.
“ Are you not well, my boy? you look pale,” said Dr. Jackson, who noticed that his son was less cheerful and more silent than usual.
“Oh, I'm all right, papa!” cried Jos, in as lively a tone as he could command. His finger was paining him sorely.
Nothing was said about the new pony ; Jos was glad that such was the case, for, if his father had questioned him on the subject, he was too truthful a boy not to have owned his act of disobedience. Jos was, however, not altogether candid and honest; for it is not candid and honest to hide the truth from a parent, though the lips may utter no falsehood.
“I am glad, papa, that you have no work to do to-day,” observed Jos.
“I am glad, too,” said Dr. Jackson ; “I am thankful to enjoy a quiet day of rest.”
“But, papa, sometimes you go to see patients on Sundays, and you ride your horse, too,” observed Jos, whose conscience had begun to prick him a little, and who would have gladly quieted it by the thought that even his father, who was so religious and good, believed that there was no great harm in riding on Sundays.
“I must attend to my poor patients when they require my help,” replied Dr. Jackson mildly; “our Lord Himself healed on the Sabbath, and said that it is lawful to do good on that day.”
“But Mrs. Carpue is not a doctor, and she always drives past our gate on Sundays,” said Jos.
“Mrs. Carpue is only going to church, which she has not the strength to reach on foot,” said the doctor. “But the lady carefully observes the Fourth Commandment in spirit, if not in letter.