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Beyond All Price, 1873

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

(The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.)

“Be quiet, my dear boy and don’t disturb me,” was Mr. Edwards’ reply to his youngest son, little Georgie, who had come again and again to his father when busy over his papers.

“I want you to mend my drum. See what a big hole I have cut in the top. It won’t make a noise no more!” and the child, with a rueful face, held up his broken toy.

“Ask me in the evening. I am busy now,” said the gentleman, waving him away.

At that moment, a servant entered the room and informed Mr. Edwards that some one was waiting to speak with him below.

Impatient at being again interrupted, the gentleman rose from his seat. Before he left the room, he glanced to see that little Georgie was safe and out of the way of mischief. The child was seated in the corner with his broken drum on his knee, trying to pull off entirely the parchment which had covered the top of his toy.

“Papa won’t mend my drum. I’ll mend it my own self,” muttered the child, who was not yet five years of age. “I’ll get some strong paper and tie it round with a string and make my drum sound as well as ever.”

So Georgie trotted up to the table on which lay his father’s papers, in search of something that would answer the purpose. But, child as he was, he could see that none of the letters or bills were in the least like the tough parchment which he had been tearing off from the drum, nor could he find a morsel of string.

A key was in the lock of the drawer of the table at which Mr. Edwards had been sitting. Pursuing his search, Georgie pulled the drawer open and putting in his plump little hand, felt for what might be within.

At the very end of the drawer lay a roll, which seemed to be harder than paper. Georgie drew it out and to his joyful surprise, found it to be made of a firm, tough material, just like that which had covered his drum. Only there was a good deal of writing upon it and a large red seal at one end.

“I will ask papa when he comes back if I mayn’t have this,” said the child to himself. “I daresay it’s of no use to him, as it was pushed so far back in the drawer. I wonder what such tough paper can be made of.”

Georgie unrolled the parchment with a little difficulty. The moment that he let go of one end, it curled round again into a roll.

“I can’t use this tiresome thing for my drum if I can’t make it lie flat, quite flat,” said Georgie. And he looked round him for some means of pressing down the parchment, so that it should lose its inclination to curl. He thought of putting his father’s briefcase upon it, but the briefcase was too heavy to be easily moved. Georgie tried sitting upon the parchment, but that had no effect. As soon as he rose, it curled up as readily as it had done at the first.

Georgie then fixed his eyes on the very large family Bible, which, ever since he could remember, had lain on a table near the window, but which he could not recollect having ever seen any one open. That would be heavy enough to keep anything pressed down flat. Georgie clambered up on a chair with the parchment roll in his hand. He had not strength enough to raise the great Bible, but he could lift up one of its thick well-bound sides and some of the gilt-edged leaves. Supporting them with his shoulder, while he unrolled the parchment and kept it straight with his little hands, Georgie then let the heavy cover and leaves drop upon it and left them thus to press, as he hoped, the troublesome roll into flatness.

Georgie clambered down again from the chair and had scarcely begun playing with his toys when his nurse entered the study in haste. His aunt had just come in her carriage to take him to spend the day at her house. He must be instantly dressed to go with her. Georgie jumped up in delight, for a day spent at Netherby Grange was the greatest of treats. No more thought of the broken drum, no more thought of the curling roll! Georgie forgot all about them as completely as if they had not occupied his mind for two moments. He went to enjoy himself in careless pleasure, little dreaming what mischief he had done, when, in ignorance of its value, he had hidden the parchment between the leaves of the Bible.

About ten days after his pleasant visit to Netherby Grange, Georgie, young as he was, could not but be aware of an unusual stir and bustle in the house. Bells were rung loudly, anxious voices were heard, servants were summoned, children were questioned, even Georgie was called into the study. There stood his father, surrounded by papers, his brow all furrowed into frowns, looking as he might have looked had he been going to be tried for his life. Where was the deed—the parchment deed—a document of the greatest importance? such was the question asked of every one in the house. Georgie knew nothing about deeds and documents and had never heard of parchment before. It never entered his young brain that the anxious search now going on was for the roll of tough yellow paper which he had taken to mend his drum with. At first it was rather fun to the child to see how the house was ransacked from the attic to the cellar, every likely and unlikely place searched, drawers pulled out, boxes emptied, desks examined, nay, every corner of the dust-hole looked at again and again. But even little Georgie was soon to learn that the loss of a deed, whatever that might be, would turn out to be a serious evil. His father’s face grew thinner and sharper and had on it a look so gloomy and stern that the young child feared to go near him. Georgie’s mother was often in tears. The servants spoke plainly to each other, even in the presence of the boy, about warning being given to them all, about master and mistress having to leave their good house, sell their carriage, and begin life again, all from the loss of the deed by which their estate had been held! George was in bitter distress when he learned that his beautiful home would be his no more, that his very playthings must be left behind, that his favourite dog would be parted with. He was ready to stamp with passion when he saw strange men come into the house to put tickets upon tables and chairs, that everything might be sold.

Mr. Edwards was almost in despair. He was a man who had hitherto lived only for enjoyment and pleasure. In his prosperity, he had seldom given a thought to God, from whom all his blessings had come. And now, in his grief and perplexity, the unhappy man knew not where to turn for counsel and comfort. He searched and searched again for the deed, put advertisements into the Times, stuck up placards offering large rewards to whoever should discover the parchment. He thought of it all the day long. He dreamed of it every night. He looked for it everywhere except in the pages of his family Bible!

And so had it been with Mr. Edwards in what regarded his soul. He had eagerly searched for happiness from his first entrance into life. He had sought it in pleasure, in luxury, in human praise, and in earthly gain. He had sought it in everything but religion! Now his hopes of happiness were crumbling away. Poverty stared him in the face. He had no peace of mind. No solid hopes to rest on in his trouble. Life was to him a burden. Death was to him a terror. And yet pardon, peace, joy, were all within his reach! A Saviour was yet willing to receive him, a heavenly Father to bless. Knowledge better—far better than all the gold which mortal ever possessed, was to be found where his lost deed lay, in the pages of the Holy Bible!

Very sad were Mr. Edwards and his wife as they sat together in the study on the day before that on which they were to go forth from their home. Little Georgie was beside them. Even the child had no heart for play. He looked up into his mother’s tearful face and the shadow of her grief lay like a cloud on the boy.

“O Philip!” said Mrs. Edwards to her husband, drawing a heavy sigh, “Why has all this trial come thus suddenly upon us? I lay awake almost all last night and so many thoughts passed through my mind! It seemed to me as if God—the God whom we have too long forgotten—must have had some purpose in sending us this grief. We have not thanked Him for His blessings, therefore He takes them away. We have not honoured Him with our substance and so He removes it from us.”

Mr. Edwards did not at once reply. His conscience had been also whispering to him. Sadly his eyes rested on the large Bible, which had been a wedding gift to him and his wife.

“That must be sold too,” he murmured.

“Oh!” exclaimed the lady, bursting into tears, “We do not deserve to keep it, for we have not studied—we have not valued our Bible! Week after week, year after year, have passed and we have never gathered our children around us to read to them God’s blessed Word! That book is a witness against us. Its unopened pages will in the judgment condemn us.”

Mr. Edwards rose from his seat. “Louisa,” he said to his weeping wife, “we have indeed neglected our duty. The cares and pleasures of this world have weaned our hearts from God. Now, for once at least, we will open that Bible and read the Word of truth together. God may have a message of mercy for us. We may find some comfort there, now that all other comfort is gone.”

He walked up to the family Bible and opened it with a deep sigh. George’s eyes were resting on his father and great was the child’s amazement at the effect of the first glance at the book. Mr. Edwards started, gasped, looked eagerly, almost wildly, at what was before him, then caught up something from the Bible with an exclamation of joy.

“Thank God! Thank God!” cried Mr. Edwards, staggering back to his seat with the lost deed grasped in his hand.

It is impossible to describe the joy, the wonder, the thanksgiving, of both husband and wife, at the sudden and most unexpected recovery of that which had so strangely been lost. It appeared to them almost as if the deed had been by a miracle restored. All the anxiety, fear, and grief of the last months but served to deepen the happiness at that moment enjoyed.

“But how could the parchment have ever found its way into the Bible?” exclaimed Mr. Edwards.

“I put it there!” cried George, to whom the sight of the “tough yellow paper” had brought back, like a dream, the remembrance of what had occurred.

“You!” exclaimed both parents in indignant surprise.

“Oh, papa, I meant no harm,” said the child. “I never knew you were looking for that. I had forgotten all about the yellow roll. I did not think that such an old, common-looking thing could be of any use at all.”

“It is of priceless value!” exclaimed Mr. Edwards, with some impatience in his tone.

“Nay, dearest,” said the lady, gently laying her hand on the arm of her husband, “do not let us be angry with the child. It is God Himself who has been teaching us a lesson through the thoughtless act of our boy. Have we not,” here she glanced at the Bible, “known as little as he did the value of a treasure beyond all price? Have we not carelessly put away from ourselves that by which alone a heavenly inheritance can be ours? O Philip! if this strange incident has but shown us something of its worth, we may bless God indeed for all the sufferings caused by the loss of the deed!”

Dear reader, whoever you may be, if you be the owner of a Bible, you may learn something from the little tale now before you. Do you yet know the value of God’s Word? Have you found out what it holds? I do not say that within its leaves you will discover the title-deed to any earthly estate. You may not win houses and lands from reading the Holy Scriptures. What is it that you will find therein, if you search with faith and prayer?

You will find how to gain God’s free and full forgiveness for every past transgression.

The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1Jo 1:7).

You will find where to gain supplies for your earthly wants.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mat 6:33).

You will find how to receive the grace of God’s Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart and make it holy.

Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you (Mat 7:7).

You will find how to support all earthly cares and trials.

Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you (1Pe 5:7).

You will find what is the glorious end of those who love and serve the Saviour.

Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev 2:10).

You will find the blessed inheritance prepared for God’s redeemed.

The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with sons and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isa 35:10).

These are a few, but a few, of the promises contained in the Holy Bible. They are made by the eternal God, whose word can never be broken. Have you sought them out? Have you loved them, prized them, made them your own? If not, oh, are you not like the child who treated as a worthless piece of waste paper that which was beyond all price? Are you not, in your search after happiness, like the parents of the boy, when sadly and anxiously, day after day, they looked for a treasure which they could not find, while it lay all the time—unnoticed, unregarded—between the leaves of their Bible? Never let a day pass without your reading the blessed book, not with careless haste, not as a mere form, but with a humble prayer that the God of Wisdom may bless your reading of His Word and a joyful confidence that in the sacred pages you will discover the riches of His grace, a treasure beyond all price!

Edited by Pam Takahashi


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