A Last Warning; or, "Just in Time." (30 – “Gospel Messenger” Series) (12pp)
“JUST in time," I exclaimed, as I stood with a friend on the pier at——, watching the departure of the large passenger steamer, "E. O." My exclamation was called forth by seeing a gentleman come rapidly down the pier, elbow his way energetically through the crowd of bystanders, and, though the gangways had been already removed, and the ship was in motion, throw hatbox and small portmanteau first, and then spring lightly from the pier, and land safely on the deck of the vessel.
"He was indeed only just in time; how narrowly he escaped being too late!" answered my friend. "I admire his courage and determination to make a desperate effort to gain the vessel while there was still even a hope. But what a risk he ran! It reminds me forcibly of an incident that occurred not long ago to one whom I knew well, and whose description of it made a very forcible impression on my memory; it seemed to me such an instance of the patience and longsuffering grace of our God, of His unwillingness that any should perish, and of the warning cries that He sends out."
"Tell me," I said; and he gave me the following short account, using, he said, as nearly as he could remember them, his friend's own words.
"A little time back, I was spending the afternoon of the Lord's Day in distributing gospel books and tracts among a number of miners in the county of ——. It was a lovely summer's day, and the men were gathered in groups here and there, either sauntering slowly along, or sitting under the trees talking together and enjoying the pure air and the sunlight. The sunlight seemed a joy in itself to them, and the fresh air priceless, after working all the week in the darkness and unwholesome atmosphere of the mine. I was well known among them, and received many a hearty 'Good day,' or 'God bless you,' as I passed in and out among them, now sitting down to read for a time with some, now speaking a few words as to their souls' salvation with others, as I gave them the little silent messengers which all told the same tale, though by different pens and in different ways, of the Saviour's love—the old, old story, so wonderful yet so divinely true, the story of that Saviour's Cross of shame, His death to win life for guilty, ruined man.
"I had given away nearly all the large package of books I had brought out with me, and was returning slowly to my home. I had almost reached it, indeed, I was crossing the last field that separated me from my own garden gate, when I met two young miners coming slowly towards me. I stopped as we were about to pass each other, and selecting two little books from the few that remained in my hand, I held out one to each and said—"Will you accept and read this?”
Each took the book I held out, and thanked me; and one, a fine, strong, healthy, and handsome young man of about twenty-five or twenty-six, stood still and read out the title-page of his, 'Just in Time.'
"A deep feeling of solemnity, amounting even to awe, crept over my soul, and looking up into his frank, open countenance, I said—
" ‘Yes, my friend, and God grant that you may be just in time for salvation, just in time for Heaven.' Again I repeated it, 'God grant that you may be just in time.'
"He was a stranger to me, and I could not account for my sudden and deep interest in him. We had met for the first time that afternoon, and to look at him, you would have said he had long years of life and health before him.
"He did not sneer or scoff at my words, though he seemed surprised at a stranger thus so solemnly accosting him. 'Thank you,' he said quite earnestly, and we each passed on our way, I going home to ask the Lord of the harvest for His own blessing on the seed sown by the wayside, that He would not allow it to be devoured by the fowls of the air, so ready to snatch it away. Even as I prayed, this young man's face came before me again and again, till I cried, 'Bless him, Lord; save him.' Little I thought how soon, and under what circumstances, we should meet again.
"On the following Tuesday night, only two days later, I had just retired to my room for the night, and was about to extinguish my light, when a loud knocking at the street door made me throw up my window to see what was the matter.
" 'Who is there?' I asked, seeing a young man standing at the door.
" 'Are you Mr ——?' was the answer.
" 'Will you come at once and see a young man in E—— Street? He is dying and wants you.'
" 'Have you not made a mistake? I know no one in E—— Street.'
" 'No, sir; are you not the gentleman who gave a young man a book on Sunday afternoon called "Just in Time"?'
" 'Yes, I am; what of it?'
" 'Please come at once,' he said, 'and I will tell you going along.'
"Hastily I dressed and went out into the summer's night, guided by my companion. On our way towards E—— Street, he told me that his mate had gone down the shaft that afternoon as usual and had jumped out of the bucket ere it reached the bottom; he had done it dozens of times before, and feared no danger, but this time, as he jumped, his foot slipped. The descent of the bucket closed an iron trap-door, thus making a firm foundation for the vessel to rest upon. Owing to his foot slipping, he was a moment too late to get clear of the iron door, and was caught by its closing, and crushed between it and the side of the shaft. His breast bones were broken in, and he was lying there, his friend said, in terrible agony, unable to speak, only making a gurgling sound if he attempted it, and just gasping for breath, while his life seemed ebbing fast away.
"By the time the young man had finished his story, adding many details which I need not relate to you now, we reached the cottage, and I entered. What a scene met my gaze! There lay the fine strong man, whom I had seen only two days before in the full vigour of health and youth, now absolutely helpless. The pallor of his face was ghastly; his eyes were almost starting in their sockets; feebly he gasped for breath, and over him hung his young wife, the wife of but one short week, with lips and cheeks almost as colourless as his own, in speechless, tearless agony.
"He looked fixedly at me as I entered, and tried to speak; it was useless, no word would come.
" 'Shall I read with you and pray for you?' “ I said.
"He made a low hissing sound, the only approach to 'Yes' he could make.
"I read to him that 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life;' and I spoke to him of the love of God in desiring his salvation; of the efficacy of the blood of Christ to save him. I told him he was lost and ruined by nature, but that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost; that Jesus had been seeking him, wanted him; that having done the work by which sin could be put away out of God's sight, He could now bring the sinner right into God's presence. As simply as I could, I besought him to take his place as a sinner and trust Jesus as a Saviour; and then I knelt down and besought the God of grace, to give him faith, now to lay hold of Christ ere it were too late, to give him the knowledge of the forgiveness of all his sins through that precious blood which cleanseth from all sin.
"Even as I prayed, one after another of his mates came crowding into the little room, all full of rough sympathy, and many a coat sleeve was brushed across the eyes of brave men, to hide the tears that would rise unbidden at the sight of the strong man's agony, and the young wife's speechless woe.
"The scene was too much for me, and for a few moments, I went aside into the open air, lest I should break down entirely, for rarely, if ever, had I seen a sight so pitiful.
"I had been but a few minutes out of the room when my name was called hurriedly, and I returned to the sick man's side. As I entered the room, his eyes rested on me entreatingly, with a look at once despairing and beseeching. Again I said, 'Shall I read and pray?' and again came the painful effort on his part to speak, and then the low hissing sound of assent. I read to him this time the story of the father and the prodigal (Luke xv.), and then I also read to him the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican, and repeated this one verse, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.' And while strong men bowed and wept, I cried to God once more, to the living God, to save his soul now at the eleventh hour, and to give him the knowledge of pardon and peace and salvation through the blood of the Lamb.
"As I finished, his face changed. The damp of death and the pallor of the grave were upon it, but hope lighted it up, despair had fled. He signed for a drink, and his wife held the glass of water to his lips while he raised his head gently to enable him to take it. He drank a little, and then, to the amazement of all, he who had been unable to utter a sound beyond the low hissing noise so painful to listen to, said out in a clear painless voice, and with eyes lifted up as though he saw the One to whom he was speaking:—
" 'Just in time! God be merciful to me a sinner, for Jesus Christ's sake, Amen!' “
"He had scarcely uttered the last word when his head fell back on the pillow, a little shivering sigh escaped him, and we were in the presence of the dead.
"Never shall I forget the scene. To many a one present, it was a warning word from the very gates of death, the brink of eternity, and God used it for blessing."
Reader, will not you take warning by it, lest for you not "Just in time," but "Too late," be the terrible words that record your fate? X.
“The Gospel Messenger” 1888