Rothschild’s Fourteen Millions
by G.J. Stewart
A swagman, old beyond his years, with white beard smeared with blood, and nose and face disfigured by “gravel rash,” came into a smithy one Saturday evening as the work was about to cease, and addressing himself to the smith said—
“Can I sleep in the shop tonight, master?”
“Yes, you may sleep in the shop,” said the good-natured smith.
“Thank you,” said the old fellow; and unrolling his swag and spreading his blankets on some sacks that happened to be there, he got his billy ready to make himself some tea as soon as the men should knock off.
The next day being Sunday, the swagsman evidently meant to camp in his quarters for the day, and the smith sent him out a substantial breakfast, and a paper that spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour for sinners. At dinner time a second meal was sent to him.
In the afternoon, a conversation took place with him, in substance as follows:—
“Did you read the little book sent you?”
“Yes, sir, I read it.”
“And have you got ‘The Receipt’?” (the title of the book).
“No, I can’t say I have.”
“How do you think you’re to get it?”
“I suppose by praying, and doing better for the future.”
“But that won’t settle the past.”
“Won’t it? I don’t know what will, then.”
“First, is there any past to be settled; I suppose you’re a sinner?”
“Oh yes, I suppose I am.”
“Have you any idea how much you have sinned, and how much you owe to God?”
“Oh, I suppose Rothschild’s fourteen millions would represent it.”
“Well, how can you get rid of that load?”
“By going down on my knees and promising to do better?”
“That will take you to hell.”
“You’ll excuse me, sir,” said he, “but I have my own opinion about hell, and about heaven too.”
“No doubt; but your opinion won’t alter facts, and neither your opinion nor mine is worth the air that gives expression to it. The Lord Jesus Christ, who knows, said of one: ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.’”
“Oh, I believe there was such a man as Jesus Christ, and that He was a good man.”
“And I believe that He was the Son of God, and that He became a man in order that He might die to put away our sins, and your fourteen million may all be blotted out by His precious blood which cleanseth from all sin; and the more the devil proves you to be a sinner, the more he proves your title to the efficacy of that precious blood.”
“There’s not much difficulty in proving that,” said he, with a deepening sobriety of manner.
“The very chief of sinners has been saved.”
“Then there’s corn in Egypt for me yet!”
“Yes, and you’ve only to accept it. As my friend’s kindness in giving you shelter and food, needed only accepting, so the provision of God’s love is yours upon the same terms. You are an old man, and a single blow may put an end to your existence. Will you refuse His love till it be too late?”
“Ah!” said he—baring his arm and showing a scar from wrist to elbow—“that very nearly did it. But I’m not as old as you think, perhaps; I’m about forty-seven.”
“What! are you not yet fifty?”
“No, and I look ten years older; that’s the effect of knocking about and sleeping in people’s back premises among the fowls, &c.; it’s not a very pleasant life.”
“Doubtless it is not; but it’s the result of the indulgence in sin, too, which must ever leave its mark.”
Reader, what a life does this short conversation open up! But a life, alas, by no means uncommon in our Australian colonies. Hundreds of men are just living such lives—eating, drinking, fighting, satisfying their lusts in every possible way, and sleeping anywhere. The very ease with which a man may earn what will enable him to do it, and the genial character of the climate, induce men bent on the grosser pleasures of sin to follow their own inclination in the matter, in defiance of every law both of man and of God. But such a course must have its effect; and prematurely old men are dropping, unshriven and unforgiven, into a hopeless grave, all around us every day. Their white hair is the proof of how thoroughly the leprosy of sin has had possession of them all their lives.
What a contrast between the premature white hair of the leper and the ripeness of the hoary head found in the way of righteousness, which is then a crown of glory! Our old friend, who spoke carelessly at first, but sobered down towards the end of the conversation, was at the gospel meeting in the evening, and heard from the parable in Luke 7 how God forgives the five-hundred-pence as well as the fifty pence debtor when he acknowledges he has nothing to pay. He who spake this parable has now Himself paid the debt, and more than ever delights to set forth the grace of the heart of the Father in receiving all who come to Him.
Reader, will not you come to Him, then? Will not you accept His offered forgiveness? Our sins are variously represented in Scripture: Fifty pence! Five hundred pence! Ten thousand talents! But all alike may be forgiven, while not even one can be forgiven, save through the precious blood of Christ, who is the Son of God. And the fifty pence unforgiven, will sink the soul into hell: as surely, if not as deeply, as the ten thousand talents. Every, day, too, and every year, the debt accumulates, and souls are heaping up wrath to themselves against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. But God is slow to anger, and delights in mercy, and still beseeches you, my reader, to be saved. Tomorrow may be too late.
The Gospel Messenger 1899, p. 292