Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:
A Hard Text
Matthew 10:348: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
In Luke 2:14 the angels sing of Jesus when He was born, “On earth peace.” At first sight these verses in Matthew and Luke seem to contradict each other. They do not. The blessed Book never does that. Remember:
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part, or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
“I come not to send peace” to a sinner if he stay in his sins. “There is no peace to the wicked.” There ought not to be. But as soon as a sinner asks Jesus for forgiveness, he gets peace. That’s the way peace comes on earth; it is the peace of God in the heart; peace and joy in believing.
Now, when one gets this peace, it seems so good that he wants some other one to get it, too. So he speaks to his other one and urges him to confess his sins and seek Jesus; and in most cases this other one gets angry and talks against Jesus or Christians. That often happens in a family where one is a true Christian and the others are not. You see how trouble will come. There will be war in that family. It may not be a war of swords, but it will be a war of words. Jesus does not want the war, and there wouldn’t be any if the sinner would give up. But he does not usually surrender till after a hard battle with Jesus. So Jesus is said to send a sword or war. It simply means, “I am come to fight against the wrong; and people who are on the wrong side and stay there, will fight against me and my soldiers.”
My dear, dear children, I wish you may never be found with a sword in your hand, or mouth, or heart, fighting against the Lord. Let Him put His sweet peace into your heart, and when you draw the sword, draw it against sin.
Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click on the links below to read more “A Hard Text” columns:
Isabella Alden’s son Raymond was fifteen years old when he wrote this sweet poem. It was published in The Pansy magazine in 1888.
(Written in answer to a child who asked what lovewas.)
Love is—well, what can anyone say? Love is—Why, darling, think all day Of all the words that we can say; And think, and think, and tell me What love is. Ah! I knew you could not.
Well, love is Jesus; and He is love. Love is a message, so sweet, from above. God is love, so the good Book says, And true love is great and high, always.
What is the best definition given? Love is a message, a breath from Heaven. God’s message to lost ones—our Light, our Life. Love makes all peace where once was strife. Oh! Let me show you what love can do.
For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son to save— Whom do you think? Why, sinners, whom Justice for justice’s sake would doom!
But then, you look very wise, and say, Why, God is love, you know, anyway! Aye, my darling, that is true. Now let me ask you—What cannot love do?
It’s the time of year when families begin planning their summer vacations. If you’ve ever taken a driving trip with children, you know the first rule is to keep children occupied.
Isabella most certainly had experience in taking children on long trips, by automobile and by train. Her son Raymond and daughter Frances frequently accompanied her when she traveled to speaking engagements all over the country.
In 1883 Isabella published a brief article in The Pansy magazine about a new game for traveling with children.
Does this game sound familiar to you?
When you take driving trips, do you play a similar game?
Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand.
Rev. Livingston wrote the following article for an April 1891 issue of the magazine:
A Hard Text
Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:1-2: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit;
Luke 8:26-27: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarrenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
They don’t seem to agree. How to account for that?
But don’t you see that if the writers wanted to cheat the readers they wouldn’t contradict each other?
The truth in this case is that they mention different cities but in the same region or neighborhood. Christ went into the same neighborhood.
“There met him two … ” says Matthew.
But Mark and Luke mention one, so then here’s another seeming contradiction. Two cannot be one. How to account for this?
Mark and Luke do not deny that there were two; they simply call special attention to the very furious one. He was a man of some standing before this and so his cure from such dreadful violence by the power of Christ would be so much the more noticeable.
This may be a key to many other “hard texts.” The writers only seem to contradict each other, whereas they may be telling different things about the very same person or thing, or calling special attention to one of several persons. When writers try to deceive, they do not give names and dates, [but] you will find them in the Bible.
It may not always be possible to harmonize all things as you read along in the Bible; but do not therefore conclude that those things cannot be harmonized.
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
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Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click here to read another “A Hard Text” article by Rev. Livingston.
Isabella Alden strongly believed in spending a few minutes with the Bible every morning; and that even one verse, thoughtfully read, helped fortify and strengthen Believers in their daily walk with God.
Several of her novels were based on that premise, including:
Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence
Her Mother’s Bible
The Exact Truth
We Twelve Girls
In each story, the main characters committed to memory and relied upon a single verse of scripture every day to help them in their daily lives. She called these stories “Golden Text” novels.
Isabella brought the same concept to The Pansy magazine. In 1895 she began publishing a regular monthly feature in The Pansy called “Daily Thoughts.”
“Daily Thoughts” was printed on the first day of each month, and consisted of a list of Bible verses meant to be read individually, one each day.
She chose each verse carefully, with the prayerful hope that each one would inspire her readers to live their lives for Jesus’ sake.
With each verse she offered a brief comment or question to help her readers better understand the text.
Her verses for January 1895 all came from the book of Psalms. You’ll notice she didn’t print the actual verse, but only gave the citation. She hoped doing so would encourage readers to open their Bibles each day and look up the verses for themselves.
In additional to writing novels, Isabella Alden wrote articles and short stories for many different publications.
Her stories and articles were so popular she found herself in a unique position for a writer: She never had to submit her work for publication.
Instead, publishers went to her. Elias Riggs Monfort, the long-time editor of The Herald and Presbyter (a weekly Presbyterian newspaper), gave her a lifetime contract to publish any serials she wrote.
Mr. Montfort was such a fan of Isabella’s, he wrote to his friend, Daniel Lothrop, full of praises about Isabella and her stories.
Daniel Lothrop was the owner of D. Lothrop & Company, a Boston publishing house that specialized in books for young people.
Daniel Lothrop had been a great reader from his childhood; while he was still a boy himself he developed an ambition to publish books specifically written for children—a novel idea at the time. Even more radical: he believed the books should be beautifully illustrated to serve the story and keep children’s attention.
But he persisted, believing that it was possible to publish children’s books that were not only entertaining, but encouraged “true, steadfast growth in right living.”
He often said to the people in his employ: “I publish books to do good as well as to make money. I always ask first, ‘Will this book help the young people?’ rather than ‘How much money is there in it?’”
His long partnership with Isabella began around 1874. After Elias Monfort sang Isabella’s praises to him, Daniel Lothrop invited Isabella to contribute stories to be published in a small weekly Sunday School newspaper he published.
By 1877 that short weekly paper had grown considerably in size and content—and Isabella was its editor!
Called The Pansy, each issue was filled with inspiring stories, delightful illustrations, short poems, and descriptions of exotic and far-away places to spark children’s imaginations.
Isabella wrote a short story for each issue, and other members of her family did, too, including her husband, her sister Marcia, niece Grace Livingston, and later, once he was old enough, her son Raymond.
Another frequent contributor was Daniel Lothrop’s wife Harriett, who wrote under the pen name “Margaret Sidney.”
Isabella wrote that Mr. Lothrop always had “a very warm place in his great warm heart” for The Pansy magazine.
Not only was he fertile in suggestions calculated to make it better, but he was ready always to heartily second the suggestions of others, and to aid in carrying them out.
The Pansy Society in particular was very dear to him. He was interested in everything about the Society, from the content of the letters children wrote to the magazine, to the design of the badges that Isabella sent to Pansy Society members. Isabella said:
“It would be difficult—impossible, indeed—to tell you in how many ways he helped along the cause of truth and right in the world.”
Another common interest Isabella and Lothrop shared was the Christian Endeavor Society. From the early days of the Society, Daniel Lothrop saw an opportunity to use his publishing company to further the Society’s message. He recruited authors to write books of interest to Christian Endeavor members. Margaret Sidney, Faye Huntington, and Grace Livingston were among those who answered the call.
Isabella’s novels, Chrissy’s Endeavor and Her Associate Members were written and published especially for C.E. members.
Isabella’s long partnership with Daniel Lothrop lasted almost twenty years. It ended when he passed away in 1892.
Isabella was heartbroken. In her memoirs she wrote:
“Mr. Lothrop was my true, strong, faithful friend all his life.”
She gently told readers in an issue of The Pansy about the passing of “our friend who loved us, and worked for us and with us.”
It’s impossible to know how many lives were influenced for good by Isabella’s partnership with Daniel Lothrop. Her books alone sold more than 100,000 copies a year, and The Pansy magazine had thousands of subscribers all around the world.
They had formed a perfect partnership. Both Isabella and Daniel Lothrop must have been proud of their accomplishments and the knowledge that they always produced books and stories that were consistently wholesome, pure, and elevating.
You can learn more about The Pansy magazine, The Christian Endeavor Society, and The Pansy Society by reading these previous posts:
This post is part of our blogiversary celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered into Friday’s drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!
Isabella Alden’s father Isaac Macdonald is often credited with instilling in her a love of writing. He gave her a journal when she was very young and—to teach her to pay attention in church—he encouraged her to take notes during Sunday sermons so they could discuss the minister’s message later in the day.
But it was probably Isabella’s mother, Myra, who taught Isabella to be a great story-teller.
At a young age—even before she could write—Isabella’s mother encouraged her to make up little stories about things.
“Make a story out of it for mother,” she would say; and out of those beginnings, Isabella began to develop the writing skills that would serve her as an adult.
Myra was herself a story-teller, and often entertained her six children with stories of her own younger years.
Myra’s father was Horatio Gates Spafford, a well-respected author and New York newspaper editor, so she developed her own writing skills at a very early age.
Isabella credited her mother Myra with teaching her how to weave a story centered on a well-loved Bible verse. It was Myra’s habit to gather her children—and later, her grandchildren—around her in the evening to tell them stories that were entertaining and and helped make sense of a Bible verse or Sunday-school lesson.
Her stories always contained a practical lesson in walking daily with Christ—a theme Isabella adopted and perfected in her own stories.
When Isabella’s father Isaac Macdonald died in 1870 Isabella and her husband Ross made certain Myra came to live with them. Although Ross’s career as a Presbyterian minister caused them to move regularly from one town to another, Myra made her home with the Aldens for the next fifteen years.
They were living in Carbondale, Pennsylvania when Myra died at home in 1885. Isabella was 43 years old when her mother passed away, and she missed her terribly.
At that time Isabella was editing The Pansy magazine; and since she and her family members—including Ross, her son Raymond, her sister Marcia, and Marcia’s husband Charles—were all contributing articles and stories to the magazine, Isabella and Marcia found a way to pay tribute to their mother in the pages of The Pansy.
They began publishing short stories for children in The Pansy under the pseudonym “Myra Spafford.” The stories were reminiscent of the kind of stories Myra told her children and grandchildren.
In 1887 Isabella published Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six O’clock in the Evening. The book is a fictionalized account of those tender and loving evening story-times Myra had with her children and grandchildren.
You can read Grandma’s Miracles for free!
Click on the book cover to read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.
Or you can read, print and share it as a PDF document on your computer. Just click on the book cover to start reading now.
A few months ago, Mary (a reader of this blog) asked us to figure out a way to make Isabella’s Free Reads available so they could be read on her Kindle. Up until that point, we were publishing Isabella’s Free Reads only as Adobe PDF files.
A Good Idea
Mary’s suggestion made sense. After all, we’re living in the digital age; and since the goal of this website is to make it as easy as possible for readers to discover and enjoy Isabella’s books, we said:
Four months later, we think we’ve come up with a solution.
Beginning today you’ll be able to download new Free Reads to your Nook, Kindle, iPad, or smart phone directly from BookFunnel!
And for those readers who like to view Isabella’s stories on their computer or print out a copy to share, you’ll still have the option to download an Adobe PDF file from BookFunnel, by choosing the “My Computer” option.
Ready to give BookFunnel a test drive?
Let’s kick things off with a story Isabella specifically wrote for children.
A New Free Read
Isabella delighted in teaching children important lessons from the Bible. Every issue of The Pansy, a bi-weekly magazine she edited and wrote for, included two or three children’s stories she wrote to convey Biblical truths in an entertaining way.
In 1889 her twelve-part story “Helen the Historian” appeared as a series in The Pansy. The story showcases Isabella’s skill in telling a Bible story as a child would tell it.
Here’s a short description of the the story:
Helen may be only eight years old, but she knows all about God’s love. She’s happiest on Sunday mornings when her young friends gather about her and listen to the Bible stories she tells. And maybe—if she tells the stories well enough—those Bible stories will make a difference in lives of her young friends, too.
Now you can read “Helen the Historian” for free!
Just click on the cover to be directed to BookFunnel, where you can download the story in the format of your choice.
An Important Privacy Note:
Depending on the format you choose when you download your copy of “Helen the Historian” from BookFunnel, you may be asked to enter your e-mail address.