One of the peculiar phenomena of nature is called the mirage, which is as deceitful as it is beautiful. It's an optical illusion, and may be seen on land or sea. It's due to reflections of light between two strata of air differently heated, and is one of the most singular wonders in nature. Sometime in the desert there suddenly arises in the distance a beautiful body of water upon the bosom of which lie enchanted islands, above the top of whose woody grove rise, high and stately, the turrets of castles, or the minarets of mosques. So realistic, oftimtes, is this fairy lake that it deceives the natural instinct of the camel and the anaytical reasoning faculty of man.
Once while returning late at night from a boat ride on a lake, we were suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by an island, so it seemed, which lay directly across our path. Knowing, from years of acquaintance with that lake, that there was no island in that body of water, we watched this remarkable phenomenon with intenseness and great curiosity. The longer we looked upon it, the larger and more distinct it seemed to grow. It being late, and knowing well the nature of a mirage, we headed for the apparent obstruction, which vanished before us, and soon we arrived safely at our destination.
Sin, also, is deceiving, and like the deceptive mirage, it leads the unsuspecting one on, farther and farther from home, the paths of duty, virtue, and from God. Sin hangs false pictures before the minds and hearts of both young and old---of extreme pleasure in a life of indulgence, or of enjoyment to be found in the days that are yet to come. The enemy of souls is forever making promises he can never fulfill. I'm convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, that if I could interrogate the readers of this, one by one, their testimony would confirm my argument, that sin holds out greater inducements and promises than it can ever fulfill. To most of us the dream of life has not come true. The air-castles that we build while we were young have failed to materialize, and the bright anticipations have found in life's unfoldment more withered leaves than golden fruit.
The Old Man's Story...
With the aid of a stout cane, the aged pilgrim climbed the steps and sat down upon a soft-seated chair.
"Stranger," he said to me, "I'm an old man; but once I was young and strong like you. Being normal in every way, I decided to make the best of life, so I built my house for future happiness upon the pillars of a companion, children, home, and money. I found a wife, but was too busy gathering material for a home to appreciate her as I should have done. Two children came to bless our lives---a boy and a girl---but I was too busy making and saving money to really appreciate those dear little ones. Time sped on, and the birdlings flew away. Wife and I were left alone again---verily, the two ends of life seemed to have met---and then I discovered, for the first time, that we were growing old. Troubles seldom come single handed, and one month following the death of our daughter [here the old man wept] came the terrible news that our son had been accidently killed, in a distant State. Our children were gone, and thus one of the pillars upon which my house of happiness was founded crumbled, and the whole structure accordingly became weakened. My companion was a brave little woman, but the loss of both our children gradually worked upon her mind and health, and within one short year she, too, passed away." Here the old man wept aloud.
When composed, he continued, "Stranger, it was a sad day to me, when I laid my wife away up there [pointing toward something that I couldn't see], and thus another pillar crumbled and fell. That building [pointing to what seemed at a distance to be a mansion] used to be our home, but now it's "gorgeous emptiness"---I can't bear to stay in it even for one day. I have some money laid by, but what pleasure does it bring to me? I'm old in years. Most all whom I've loved are gone, and I seem to be in everybody's way, so day by day I sit here upon the porch alone."
The whistle blew, announcing the approach of my train, so I bade the aged man good-bye and hastened away. The lesson I learned that day is indelibly stamped upon the walls of my memory, and from the promise founded on what the old man laid down, I deduct that unless we have something more enduring than those things mentioned by the aged teacher, we're sure to be disappointed down near the end of life's fitful day. Solomon, the wisest man who lived prior to the coming of our Master, wrote the following words, which contain both a promise and a warning: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" (Eccl. 12:1).
Deceitfulness of Riches...
By reading carefully the history of nations, we discover that, generally, an age of luxury is followed by an age of decay. The love of money has been rightly called the root of all evil. Men, in their mad rush for gold, become so intoxicated, they seemingly forget that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and that hone, virtue, and character are of more worth than the treasures of land and sea. Men will run the risk of losing their lives on ice-clad mountains, under tropical suns, and down among the coral reefs of the ocean---and when the sought-for riches are found, they don't satisfy. "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver."---Bible.
A young lawyer who had struggled long and hard to succeed in his practice, and to build for himself a substantial home, at last was employed in a case involving nearly a million dollars. His services, upon the percentage basis, would have netted him, possibly one hundred thousand dollars. He worked day and night upon the problems involved; but one week before he was to make his final and, as he hoped, successful effort, he was stricken down with typhoid fever. He promised his faithful physician that he'd remember him well, if he succeeded in checking the disease. The young lawyer grew worse. A consultation of many skilled doctors was called, and the sick man told them that he would remember them well, if his life was spared. He still grew worse, and feeling that his life was being rapidly consumed by that awful burning, he called his physician into his room and promised him all the money the case in question would bring, if he would only see him safely through. The faithful doctor told him frankly that he couldn't prescribe for life---only for health. In that hour the young lawyer discovered that life was of more value than money; but in search of money he lost both, dying while young, and the bright-colored bubble of wealth bursting when almost within his grasp.
It doesn't appear to me to be the part of wisdom, or of prudence, to spend a whole lifetime in the pursuit of those things we must leave behind us at the grave. Far better would it be that we provide for ourselves bags that wax not old---treasures beyond the grave, where moth doesn't corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. If the Cascade Mountains were nuggets of silver, and the seven seas were liquid gold, and I could possess them all by rejecting the Word of God and Jesus Christ, I would say, Give me Christ and the fulness of his love, and you may have all else beside. To the Christian man or woman, Christ is the chief among ten thousand, and the One altogether lovely, In him are hid all the treasures of riches and wisdom---all things necessarey to make us both safe and happy.
Deception of Environment and Social Position...
While distance is supposed to lend enchantment, yet "all is not gold that glitters". So many times in life we're liable to think that if our lot were different, as to associates, troubles, and such like, we should be more happy and more efficient; but the basis of such reasoning is false. If the veil that covers the defects of those things which appears so pleasing and inviting in the distance could suddently be taken away, many times, no coubt, we 'd discover that those nearest us were, after all, the truest and best. Thus the mirage of environment or of social position leads many away to the soul-destroying deserts of discontent.
The story's told of a girl who, while walking along the street one day, wished she had been born a boy, as she saw one pass her upon his wheel. The boy, in turn, wished that he were grown, so that he could become a chauffeur like the man who had just passed by in a huge car. The chauffeur wished he were the governor, who at that moment was passing, sitting beside his beautiful wife. The governor, tired out with the affairs of state, with its complex problems, seeing the chauffeur, wished that he had no more brain-racking problems to solve than the young man sitting idly in the car. The young man, being chauffeur for a busy doctor, having no Sundays and few vacations, wished he were a boy again, like the one he saw riding on his wheel. The boy, believing himself much abused because of an occasional task he was asked to perform, wished he had been born a girl, like the one he saw passing with a basket on her arm, "For then," thought he, "all I should have to do would be to play the piano and eat chocolate candy."
A Foolish Girl...
History tells the story of a peasant girl who was beautiful in features and perfect in form. She was petted, courted, and loved by all with whom she associated. Being too proud to be contented with her humble surrounding, she ran away to a distant seashore. The king of a small country saw her and immediately laid his plans to make her his wife. With cunning and great words of flattery, he finally persuaded her to go with him and become a "queen." This so stimulated her self-pride that her heart became deceitful and hard. A great financial depression came upon that country, and people were starving everywhere, while the queen was living in luxury. One day a committee went to the royal palace, and the spokesman pleaded in earnestness that some means be provided by which their mothers, wives, and children could be supplied with food. The haughty queen replied, "If your mothers, wives, and children are as hungry as you say, let them eat grass with the horses." Those honest men were stung to the quick, and her sarcastic, heartless remark sowed a seed that resulted in a complete overthrow of that king's authority, and a mob broke into the royal palace and, seizing the beautiful but heartless queen, cut off her head, stuffed her mouth with grass, put her head upon a pole, and carried it through the streets of the city. The mirage of inordiate desire suddenly disappeared, but not until her frail bark had been wrecked upon uncharted rocks.
Napoleon Bonaparte...
That great general, Napoleon Bonaparte, was deceived twice in life. While he was leading his army through the northern part of Africa, it was necessary for them to pass over a portion of the great Sahara Desert. His soldiers had been hoarding their scant supply of water; but seeing a small lake, as he supposed, a few miles in advance, Napoleon gave permission for them to drink all the water they had in their canteens. After marching for hours and getting no nearer the supposed lake, he ordered a halt, and said to one of his generals, "We've been following a mirage," and it was true. He was deceived again when he thought he could conquer the world. His power was overthrown and he was imprisioned a short time at Elba. Escaping, he commanded another army, hoping to conquer England. He was mistaken. No man could conquer the world who wasn't able to conquer himself. He'd received the two highest honors his country and religion could bestow: He was proclaimed First Consul of France, the highest civil honor his country could give. The pope set aside a church rule by leaving the Vatican to attend his coronation in Paris---the highest ecclesiastical honor the church could bestow upon such an occasion. Intoxicated and hypnotized by the mirage of sin, he marched blindly on, and met his final military defeat at Waterloo, and soon was sent in exile. He landed at St. Helena on Oct. 15, 1815. He died in 1821, and his body remaind on that dreary island until 1840. He died the same as the pirate died and the wild flowers bloomed above the graves of the two characters---one who defied the laws of civilization, and the other who might have given to history her brightest page.
Let's ask ourselves...what direction am I traveling? Who's my leader? Many are following the mirage of evil, but that way leads down into the valley where disappointment and remorse of conscience ever await; it leads down to the borderland of eternal woe; it leads to death. By following Christ the soul is led upward and onward, above and beyond the sun-kissed mountains of earth and time, until, at last, it reaches the heavenly country, where friendship is real, companions are true, and where love shall never die.

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