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A Handful of Stars by Frank Boreham

Before Henry Martyn left England


'I must go,' she said. 'I feel I must be doing something for someone; I must not be a mere useless log any longer. I've been reading about that wonderful Henry Martyn wearing himself out for _other people_, and I sit thinking of nothing but _myself_! I must go! Good-bye!'

And, like a frightened dove that, having been driven to shelter by a hawk, recovers from its terror and again takes wing, off she went! Janet Dempster is all the more real because she is unreal. She is all the more a substance because she is only a shadow. She is all the more symbolic and typical because she appears, not in history, but in fiction. If I had found her in the realm of biography, I might have regarded hers as an isolated and exceptional case. But, since I have found her in the realm of romance, I can only regard her--as her creator intended me to regard her--as a great representative character. She represents all those thousands of people upon whom the heroic record of Henry Martyn's brief career has acted as a stimulant and a tonic. She represents all those thousands of people through whom Henry Martyn is making history.

II

The Gospels tell of a certain man who was _borne of four_ to the feet of Jesus. I know his name and I know the names of the four who brought him. The man's name was Henry Martyn, and the quartet consisted of a father, a sister, an author and a minister. Each had a hand in the gracious work, and each in a different way. The father did his part accidentally, indirectly, unconsciously; the sister did her part designedly, deliberately, and of set purpose. The author and the minister did their parts in the ordinary pursuit of their vocations; but the _author_ did his part impersonally and indirectly, whilst the _minister_ did his part personally and face to face. The author's shaft was from a bow drawn at a venture; the minister's was carefully aimed. He set himself to win the young student in his congregation, and he lived to rejoice unfeignedly in his success. Let me introduce each of the four.

_The Father bore his Corner._ Before Henry Martyn left England, he was one of the most brilliant students in the country, Senior Wrangler of his University, and the proud holder of scholarships and fellowships. But, in his earlier days, he failed at one or two examinations, and, in his mortification, heaped the blame upon his father. In one of these fits of passion, he bounced out of the elder man's presence--never to enter it again. Before he could return and express contrition, the father suddenly died. Henry's remorse was pitiful to see. His heart was filled with grief and his eyes swollen with tears. But that torrent of tears so cleansed those eyes that he was able to see, as he had never seen before, into the abysmal depths of his own heart. He was astonished at the baseness and depravity he found there. Years afterwards he writes with emotion of the distressing discovery that he then made. 'I do not remember a time,' he says, 'in which the wickedness of my heart rose to a greater height than it did then. The consummate selfishness and exquisite instability of my mind were displayed in rage, malice and envy; in pride, vain-glory and contempt for all about me; and in the harsh language which I used to my sister and even to my father. Oh, what an example of patience and mildness was he! I love to think of his excellent qualities; and it is the anguish of my heart that I could ever have been base enough and wicked enough to have pained him. O my God, why is not my heart doubly-agonized at the remembrance of all my great transgressions?' So poor John Martyn, lying silent in his grave, entered into that felicity which, in one of her short poems, Miss Susan Best has so touchingly depicted. 'When I was laid in my coffin,' she makes a dead man say,


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