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    by Mike McHugh

A Child's Greatest Need - Part 2 - The Story of Alonzo
Date Posted: August 30, 2007

Alonzo was a young boy who lived in Vermont. His father owned a farm in one of those warm and verdant dells, which gave a charm to the scenery of the Green Mountains. The low, broad farmhouse, with its barns and sheds, hay stacks and high woodpiles, made almost a little village as they lay spread out in a sunny opening near the head of a glen. A winding road, repeatedly crossing a brook, meandered among the trees down through the valley, guiding the traveler to the spot.

The wide yard was filled with domestic animals, and the sheds were overflowing with equipment used on the farm. Lilac trees and rose bushes ornamented the front of the main dwelling, and on one side of this house a deep clear spring, walled in with moss covered stones, poured up a continual supply of cool, clear water. A group of willows hung over the spring and a well-trod footpath led to it from the house. A smooth flat stone lay before the “end door,” as they called it, which guarded the entrance to the spring.

It was at this remote farm setting, during the second year of his life, that Alonzo could be seen almost every sunny day playing with buttercups and daisies, or digging with his little shovel, or building houses out of corn cobs taken from the granary. The next summer, had you observed him, you might have noted that his range was wider and his plans of amusement a little more enlarged. At this point in his life, he had a garden, two feet square, where he stuck down green twigs broken from the shrubs around him. With a dull house knife, Alonzo would fashion these twigs into stakes, partly for the pleasure of making them and partly for the pleasure of pounding them into the ground. This young lad would ramble up and down the path in front of his home as often as his little legs would carry him, and would go on occasion with his mother down to the spring to see her dip the bright tin pail into the water. He loved to gaze at the effect that the pail would make on the surface of the water. The commotion of the water, combined with the reflection of the shiny stones that surrounded it, provided Alonzo with a continual source of delight and astonishment as he watched this extraordinary phenomenon.

One day, Alonzo’s mother saw him going alone towards the spring. He had grabbed his pail and was going to try the wonderful experiment himself. His mother called him back, and instructed him to never go there alone. “If you go there alone,” she said, “you will fall in and be drowned.”

Alonzo was not convinced by the reason, but he was awed by the command, and for many days he obeyed. Weeks later, however, when his mother was occupied in another part of the house, he began to make his way quietly down the path for some distance. A brief struggle began to erupt within him while he inched closer to the spring. “Alonzo,” whispered the voice of conscience, (for even at this early stage his conscience was at work) “Alonzo, this is very wrong.”

In this case, and in others like it, conscience must be conquered not by direct opposition but by evasion and deceit, and the dishonest tendencies of the human heart begin to develop from the moment of our birth.

“I am not going down to the spring,” said Alonzo to himself. “I am only going down the path a little way.”

“Alonzo,” repeated his conscience with a stronger voice, “this is wrong, turn back.”

“Mother will not see me, and I shall not go down to the water, so that no harm will be done,” said the young farm boy to himself as he went hesitatingly on.

“Alonzo,” said the voice a third time, but with a feebler tone, “you should not go any further.”

“My mother is too strict with me; there can be no harm in my taking a short walk,” muttered the young lad.

He lingered a little while about halfway down the path, then slowly returned to the house. During these moments, a dialogue resumed between his heart and his conscience, which resulted in Alonzo hardly knowing that he had done wrong. It did not seem quite right, and there was a sort of gnawing uneasiness within him, but his heart had succeeded through a series of evasions in making so much of the whole question that he could not clearly say he had done wrong. Alonzo had been taught that the Lord had made him, and that He watched over him at all times, but his heart did not happen to think of God at all during this affair. He also had begun to understand something of his obligations to his mother, for her kindness and love to him; but he did not happen to think of her now in this light. The contest consisted simply, on one side, of the still small voice of conscience, pitted against a deceitful heart that was intent on quieting or drowning any disruptive influences.

I have focused in a particular way upon the heart attitude of Alonzo as he wrestled with temptation and sin, because this was the way in which his heart was inclined during all of the days of his youth. Conscience made him uncomfortable while he was transgressing God’s law, but his heart kept up such a variety of evasions and queries that whenever he was doing anything wrong, he seldom had a distinct conviction that it was so.

For instance, a few days after the incident described above, Alonzo’s mother had gone away from home to run an errand. His sister, who had the care of him, had left him alone on the front porch. He picked up his pail and began to slowly walk down the path to the spring. Conscience, defeated before and familiarized to a degree with transgression, allowed him to go without opposition for part of the way, but when it became clear that Alonzo was intent on approaching the spring he began to hear his conscience murmur.

“Alonzo, Alonzo, you must not go near the spring.”

“I know I shall not fall in,” said Alonzo to himself.

“Alonzo,” said the warning voice again, “you must not disobey.”

The boy redoubled his efforts not to listen to his conscience, and instead of answering, said to himself; “It was many days ago that my mother told me not to go. She did not mean never."

This was true, yet it is still quite amazing to consider how this young boy could for one instant have deceived himself with such a pitiful argument. Any argument or device will do, however, when the human heart is in the mood to be deceived. When people are intent on committing sin they love to be deceived, therefore, it is very easy for their corrupted hearts to justify wrong.

While saying that his mother could not have meant that he must never go, Alonzo leaned over the spring and tremblingly plunged in his pail. The special effect was produced. The water sparkled and the stones shined like the heavens, to the inexpressible delight of the young lad. Alonzo’s mind was in a state of shear delight, as his conscience kept calling to him in a vain effort to get him to reconsider. Fear also whispered a warning that he might be seen, or perhaps fall in and be drowned. He was way past the point of moral or rational contemplation, however, for his little mind was so filled with curiosity that his only thought was to repeat the pleasurable act again and again.

Alonzo was a very young child, and the language in which I am obliged to clothe his thoughts and words may seem beyond that of an ordinary youngster. These were, nevertheless, the thoughts and feelings that passed within his bosom during this incident. As we have already noted, the corrupt and deceptive nature of the human heart exists from the moment of birth, and begins to manifest itself at a very young age.

After several minutes, Alonzo hastily drew out his pail and went back to the farmhouse. Even after his mind was in a less excited condition, however, his heart was still bent on deceiving and being deceived. “My mother said,” he thought, “that I should fall in and be drowned if I went to the spring, but I did not fall in. I knew I would not fall in.”

Thus, instead of soberly considering his disobedience and sensing his guilt, Alonzo’s mind was occupied with the thought of the advantage that he had gained over his mother. The heart that should have been penitent and humbled under the burden of sin, was instead filled with delusions of grandeur and a spirit of self-congratulation.

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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