When you begin to study English literature you will hear a great deal about Samuel Johnson, who wrote one of the first English dictionaries, and was a great scholar. Johnson’s father was a bookseller, who used to have a little shop in the market-place, where he sold books on market-days. One day, when Johnson was a boy, his father took sick and asked Samuel to go to the market-place and sell books for him. Johnson was ashamed of such work, and refused to go.
But many years afterward, when he had become an old man and was back on a visit to his native village, he was missed from breakfast one morning by the friends with whom he was staying. On his return at supper-time he told his friends how he had spent the day. It was fifty years ago that day when he had refused to help his father. He says: “To do away with the sin of this disobedience, I this day went in a post-chaise to Uttoxeter, and going into the market at the time of high business, uncovered my head and stood with it bare an hour before the stall which my father had formerly used, exposed to the sneers of standers-by and the inclemency of the weather; a penance by which I trust I have propitiated Heaven for this only instance, I believe, of contumacy to my father.”
That is a story worth remembering when you are ashamed of doing something which your parents have asked you to do, perhaps to carry a parcel on the street or to mow the lawn. You will see sometime, I hope, that all honest work, if it is well done, is a thing to be proud of, instead of to be ashamed of. But it may be too late then. Your parents may have died, and you, like Johnson, will come back with deep sorrow to think how you had disobeyed and forsaken them when they needed you. The way to save yourselves such heartache is to be obedient to your parents as long as they live.
Once upon a time a Persian king was marching westward with a great army to fight against Greece. In the evening, after the army had encamped for the night, someone found the king looking over the host of people spread out before him, and he was in tears. When he was asked the cause of his sadness, he replied that he had been thinking that one hundred years from that time not one of all these men in his army would be alive.
That was long before Christ lived, and had risen from the dead on Easter morning. These people had no Easter. They did not believe in the sort of everlasting life in which we believe. And even long after the resurrection of Christ there were many people in Greece and Rome who had not heard the wonderful news. Here is a letter that someone wrote over a hundred years after that first Easter to a mother whose son had just died: