Out of His Distress: An Incident in the South African War
by John Thomas Mawson
(written circa 1900)
Without a moment's warning there leaped from the hillside red streaks of fire, and almost before the rattle of the musketry broke upon the ears of the startled company, many a young Britisher lay prone upon the veldt. It was the old story-the Boers had outwitted the British scouts and caught their foes in a trap.
Amongst those who fell was a young fellow who had been reared amidst Christian influences at home, but he had broken away from restraint, joined the Imperial Yeomanry, and rushed off to the war. His horse had been shot through by the first volley, and as it fell it pinned its rider beneath
its weight, smashing his thigh. He must hare fainted for a time, for when he came to himself the roar of battle was far away, and he found himself fixed by the leg beneath his dead horse-utterly unable to extricate himself. The pain of his thigh was intense, and for the time he could think of
nothing else; but as he lay there with nothing to shelter his helmetless head from the sun-which burnt down upon him as it does in South Africa- a fresh agony seized him, obliterating for the time all thought of the broken thigh.
Thirst had gripped his tongue, his throat, his very vitals; he made a desperate effort to cry for water, but his dry throat refused to utter a sound, and he fell back weak and fainting. Then he began to think; it was quite possible that he would be left there to die-to die of thirst and pain, and oh, what would that mean? Then memory began to work. He thought of the prayers, tears, and entreaties in the Christian home in England. The gospel preachings he had listened to recurred in his mind. He thought of the Saviour whom he had slighted; and, as he thought a fiercer agony than heretofore laid hold upon him and his shattered thigh and burning thirst were forgotten as he thought of his sins, his soul, and ETERNITY.
He knew well that he deserved to be damned and he acknowledged it as he lay there upon the open veldt. But was there mercy for him? Were all the wondrous things he had heard about the Saviour's grace true? Was Jesus, God's beloved Son, really ready to receive the utterly guilty and helpless?
From the depth of his sorrow he cried, "Lord and Saviour, have mercy on me!"
He had scarcely uttered that truly penitent cry when he lost consciousness of everything, and when next he awoke it was to find himself being carried to hospital with a wonderful peace in his heart. He had proved that the Lord Jesus Christ was all that God's Book says He is. He knew that He had delivered him out of his deep distress, had welcomed, pardoned and blessed him, poor, vile, hell-deserving sinner though he was.
And what He did for the soldier-lad upon the war-swept veldt, He can do for you, my reader, just where you are, lying on a sick bed, it may be, or sitting comfortably at home. Oh, turn whole-heartedly to Him for the blessing. He will not say you nay.