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The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge and abridged by Marian Schoolland, Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1952.

The scene of this story is laid in England a hundred or more years ago. The plot of the story concern’s itself with the Redclyffe Estate, which is left without an heir and the circumstances that lead to the rightful heir receiving his inheritance. It gives a view of the lives of two youthful cousins of the house of Morville. There had been a deadly feud between the two branches of this house and as the story opens, Philip Morville represents one side, while Sir Guy is the sole survivor of the other side. Although the feud is a thing of the past because both young men are Christians, there are still evidences of it in their lives as they touch one another in the fellowship of the Edmonstone family.

At Hollywell, the home of the Edmonstone’s, where Sir Guy comes to live as a ward of Mr. Edmonstone until the time that he is old enough to inherit the Redclyffe Estate, the entire family is impressed by the pleasant nature of this young man who is on the one hand helpful, kind, quiet and subdued, while on the other hand he is active, alert and sensitive. He has inherited the fiery nature of the Morville’s and consequently has a severe struggle with himself to conquer a vehement temper. His humility and .sincerity are, therefore, a manifestation of great spiritual strength.

Guy’s cousin Philip, on the other hand, is a haughty, domineering character who continually casts suspicion on the character and motives of Sir Guy and justifies his evil designs by claiming to have a genuine interest in his cousin’s well-being. Although in the course of the story Philip displays great strength of character he gives evidence of the fact that he is spiritually weak and wanting. When Philip finally perceives that Sir Guy returns good for evil and conquers wrong with right even to the point of sacrificing his life to save the life of one who has constantly wronged him, Philip is filled with remorse, shame and finally genuine sorrow.

In the fellowship of these two cousins with the Edmonstone family at Hollywell, one meets all the characters and characteristics of a typical Christian friendship. Since the members of the Edmonstone family are interesting and intelligent, they manifest a spirit of warmth, friendliness, understanding and loyalty that makes the relationship in every respect wholesome and stimulating. The double romance is natural and unaffected and each romance demonstrates in its own peculiar way the beauty of love, trust and devotion that is characteristic of ardent young lovers.

The weakness of this novel lies in the fact that it is a re-edition of a story originally written a century ago. The age of post-feudalism with its large estates of gentry and peasants reveals customs and ideas that are foreign to the lives of present-day young people. Such things as sharp distinction between classes of people, the educational system under tutor and by means of reading to one another, the contempt for gentry who have become poor and the branding of certain practices as grave sin will cause parts of the story to have little effect upon people of our time. The fact that the secret engagement of two of the characters is repeatedly spoken of as an offence may cause some people to lay the book aside with disgust. It is only when we realize that the plot is laid in the time of post-medieval history, that is, in a time when the authority of the parents was paramount, that we can understand why the act of pledging one’s affections before informing the parents was, to say the least, an insult to the parents. No doubt a little of the beauty of the original edition is lost in this condensation by Marian Schoolland. I felt at times that there were gaps in the story and wondered if this were not due to the abridgment of this edition.

The value of the book lies in the fact thot in everyday life the spiritual norm, “Render to no man evil for evil, but contrariwise blessing,” is held forth and practiced. Since practicing this norm is an intensely spiritual and, therefore, an unusually difficult task for any Christian, it is delightful to notice how the author develops that accomplishment in the main character of her story. Such Christian characteristics as self-abasement, confession of sin, a cry for mercy, a total absence of seeking revenge and self-justification are delicately woven into the story in such a way that the reader is stirred by them. This book is sound Christian fiction without being “preachy” as is the case with much of our modern evangelical fiction.

I once read an explanation of the text: “Lord, remember not the sins of my youth”, and the author concluded that the sin of youth is the sin of lack of ap­preciation. Failure to appreciate what God, our parents, teachers, ministers, and associates are doing and have done for us, that is the sin of youth. The author further explained that he had reached that conclusion because failure to appreciate so strikingly reveals the enmity in our hearts against God and man. While in a peculiar sense lack of appreciation is the sin of youth, it is not the sin of youth alone, but very definitely the sin of all mankind. Men work and toil and sacrifice to serve others, as par­ents do for their children, teachers for their pupils, ministers and elders for their flock, whether they are appreciated or not, but how much easier all this toil becomes if it is appreciated!

In some circles, appreciation has be­come a hollow-sounding word because men hypocritically pat one another on the shoulder, or flatter with their lips while in their hearts they despise God and the brother. In our circles, we find such flattery abominable and rightly term it vanity. But what about us? Are we careful to appreciate what others about us are doing? Perhaps some would say that it’s not necessary to appreciate what men do. At any rate that’s a minor concern. Our major aim is to bring all our praise and thanks to God, Who is the author of all things. Let’s ask a few concrete questions then? Is it necessary to appreciate what our minis­ters do for us because in the ultimate sense it is Jesus who is preaching the Word to us? Is it necessary to appre­ciate the musical talent of one of our members because after all they have re­ceived that talent from God, and they did nothing toward receiving it? We can answer that all appreciation of what men do is not only unnecessary, but definitely wrong if appreciation means hypocrisy, or if it means robbing God of His glory. But if appreciation means that we sense keenly and esteem adequately the posi­tion, calling and work of others, it be­comes a beautiful trait not only, but also a serious obligation of every member of the body of Christ. If we recognize that God accomplishes His work through men, and that He has given to every member His proper gift and place in life, we will and should appreciate whatever each member is and does. God has so de­signed us that we need encouragement from one another and appreciation does just that—it encourages, helps and stimu­lates us in our work. Therefore, the more wholesome our relationship to God is, the more we will appreciate what others are doing. Where appreciation wanes, men’s work lags. No wonder then that appreciation has been called the great lubricant of life.

On the other hand, we must never work for appreciation—we may never make that our aim. If we do, we’ll never get it, and we begin to complain that we’re not appreciated. There is some­thing very pathetic about these chronic complainers of lack of appreciation. They really have an exaggerated notion of themselves, and they certainly are not working for God’s glory, but for their own. We must give little thought to whether men appreciate us or not. In the final analysis, it doesn’t make a bit of difference what men think of us—the question is, “What does God think of us?” We must be true Christians in all our work. We must do all our work as unto the Lord and not as unto men, each in his own place and according to his own ability. We must be faithful in whatever calling we are engaged. If we are concerned about what God thinks of us. We have His promise that apprecia­tion will come. Sometimes it comes a little in this life already—but if not, why fret about the fact that we’re not being valued at our worth. The day is coming when God will say to all who have done their work to His glory—and deeply conscious we will be in that hour of our own unworthiness; we won’t be able to believe our ears—will say, ‘‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Isn’t that appreciation enough?

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