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The Little Children
by [?]

IT was Sabbath morning. Soft and silvery, like stray notes from the quivering chords of an archangel’s harp, floated the clear, sweet voice of the church-bells through the hushed heart of the great metropolis, while old men and little children–youth in its hope, and manhood in its pride–came forth at their summons, setting a mighty human tide in the direction of the sanctuaries, beneath whose sacred droppings they should hear again the tidings which come to us over the waves of nearly two thousand years, fresh and full of exceeding melody, as when the Day-Star from on high first poured its blessed beams over the mountain heights of Judea, and the song, pealing over the hills of jasper, rolled down to the shepherds who kept their night-watches on her plains; “Peace on earth and good-will to men.”

A child came forth with his ragged garments, unwashed face and uncombed hair, from one of those haunts of darkness and misery which fill the city with crime and suffering. He was a little child, and yet there was none of its peace on his brow, or its light in his eye, as he looked up with a strange, wistful earnestness at the strip of blue sky that looked down with its serene heaven-smile between the frowning and dilapidated pile of buildings which rose on either side of the alley. The sunshine flitted like the soft-caressing fingers of a spirit over his forehead, and the voice of the bells fell upon his spirit with a strange, subduing influence; and the child kept on his way until the alley terminated in a broad, pleasant street, with its crowd of church-goers, and still the boy kept on, unmindful of dainty robe and silken vesture that waved and rustled by him.

He stood at last within the broad shadow of the sanctuary, while far above him rose the tall spire, with the sunbeams coiling like a heaven-halo around it, pointing to the golden battlements of the far-off city, within whose blessed precincts nothing “which defileth shall ever enter.” The massive church doors swung slowly open as one and another entered, and the child looked eagerly up the long, mysterious mid-aisle, but the silken garments rustled past–there was no hand outstretched to lead the ragged and wretched little one within its walls, and no one paused to tell him of the Great Father, within whose sight the rich and poor are alike. But while he stood there, an angel with golden hair and gleaming wings bent over him, holding precious heart-seed, gathered from the white plains of the spirit-land, and as the child drew nearer the church steps, the angel followed.

Suddenly the little dapper sexton, with his broad smile and bustling gait, came out of the church. His eyes rested a moment upon the young wistful face and on the ragged garments, and then he beckoned to the child.

“Shall I take you in here, my boy?” asked a voice kinder and pleasanter than any which the child had ever heard; and as he timidly bowed his head, the sexton took the little soiled hand in his own, and they passed in, and the angel followed them.

Seated in one corner of the church, the child’s eyes wandered over the frescoed walls, with the sunshine flitting like the fringe of a spirit’s robe across it, and up the dim aisle to the great marble pulpit, with a kind of bewildered awe, for he had seen nothing of the like before, unless it might be in some dim, half-forgotten dream; but when the heavy doors swung together and the Sabbath hush gathered over the church, and the hallelujahs of the organ filled the house of the Lord and thrilled the heart of the child; he bowed his head and wept sweet tears–he could not tell whence was their coming. Then the solemn prayer from the pulpit–“O, Thou who lovest all men, who art the Father of the old and the young, the rich and the poor, and in whose sight they are alike precious, grant us Thy blessing,” came to the ears of the child, and a new cry awoke in his soul. Where was this Father? It did not seem true that He could love him, a poor little, hungry, ragged beggar; that such a one could be his child. But, oh! it was just what his heart longed for, and if all others were precious to this Great Father, he did not believe He would leave him out. If he could only find Him–no matter how long the road was, nor how cold and hungry he might be, he would keep straight on the way, until he reached Him, and then he would go right in and say, “Father, I am cold and hungry, and very wretched. There is no one to love me, none to care for me. May I be your child, Father?” And perhaps He would look kindly upon him, and whisper softly, as no human being had ever whispered to him, “My child!” and stronger and wilder from his heart came up that cry, “Oh, if I could only find Him!”