Religion or Christ. (31 – “Gospel Messenger” Series) (12pp)
WILLIE has brought a bonnie wife home, with "winsome ways and a loving heart, but I'm wondering all the time if she knows the Lord Jesus Himself, father."
"Well, wife, I am hoping so. It may not be just her way to talk out about Him, as you and I do; you see we have grown used to His company. He has made the third in all our plans ever since Jamie died, and Willie was a baby, and that is well-nigh six-and-twenty years now, before she was born. But I'm thinking she must care about Him, for I found her reading His Word to-day, of a book that looked just like it."
*'Ay, a book that looked just like it," the mother said in a low tone, with a sigh; then speaking out again, she added more cheerily, "Well, father, we will just tell Himself all our hopes and fears, and ask Him to make her coming a blessing to herself and to us all; and when He has the matter left in His own hands we can wait and trust Him;" and the pious old couple turned together into the little chamber, in which for many a long year they had been accustomed to pour out their hearts to the One who was to them, not merely their Saviour and their God, but their known and tried personal Friend, and the confidant of all their joys and sorrows, as well as the One in whose presence they enjoyed to sit, when they had neither joys nor sorrows to tell Him of, but because they loved His company.
This was the hallowed home into which Willie, their only remaining son, had brought, his young wife on a visit, and to introduce her to his parents. She was a professing Christian, they were possessing Christians; and she had not been many hours in the house before the godly old mother, who took her to her heart from the moment she saw her, discovered that in spite of what was naturally very lovable, and in spite also of what was outwardly very religious, there was something lacking, and that something she too truly felt was the personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The discovery was a sorrowful one to Willie's mother, and she had poured forth her heart to the only One who could help her ere she spoke of it to her husband even. When Willie had written from London some months before, to tell his parents in the north, of his approaching marriage, he had described his Alice as one not merely naturally bright and attractive, but as one who loved the Lord, and was devoted to His service; and the old couple had rejoiced in the thought of her being a real helper of his faith, and had longed for the time when they should see her, and mingle their prayers and praises together. Now she had come, they had found her all they could wish, save on the point where their wishes were deepest.
Not that Alice had been a hypocrite; she had been a diligent Sunday school teacher; her class was always the most orderly in the school, and her scholars the most visited in their homes by their teacher. She was interested in missionary work, abroad and at home. She visited among the sick, and read the Bible, and prayers from a book, to them; she was an active member of the Dorcas meeting, and was thought by every one, what Willie thought her, a truly earnest Christian. Nay, more, she herself believed she was this.
Sometimes after their marriage, Willie puzzled her, when he spoke of conversion as of a something that had passed between his soul and God, of which she felt she knew nothing. There were moments when his prayers made her uncomfortable; there seemed to her to be something in them which was beyond her, a real link with One unseen, quite different from what she felt as, day by day, she read over some prayers, read them reverently too, though oftentimes not really wanting the petitions asked in them.
Alice was no Pharisee, she did not pride herself in her works or her religious duties, she was simply satisfied with them; she was amiable, and liked serving others, so she worked, and she thought God demanded it of her, so she went through forms and ceremonies. The question of sin had never been raised between her soul and God, so she knew nothing of substitution, she had never found out she was lost, and therefore she knew no need of a SAVIOUR, who must be her own personal Saviour though of course, she talked of "our Saviour” in a general way.
She soon discovered that there was a difference between her new relations and herself, and one day, said to her husband, "I do not understand your parents' religion, though I love them dearly. It makes me uncomfortable. They speak of our Saviour as though He were a third person in the room with them, at meals every time; it often makes me shiver. It is as though they had only their bodies down here, and their thoughts and hopes and joys were far off." Even then he did not discern that his wife's was only an outward performance of duties, and no living link with a Person, and he answered, "Yes truly, Alice, the Lord is no God afar off to my parents, and they love to speak to Him, and of Him. I think, maybe, we have been too much occupied with our work for Him, and perhaps, too, with the earthly joy He has given us, and too little with the Giver. It will help us both being here."
Alice was silent; she felt she did not understand, there seemed to be a something separating her from the husband by her side, and everything looked chill and dark. He had been showing her some parts of his beautiful native city, and speaking of the days when men, and women too, had counted the privilege of reading God's Word in their own language as dearer to them than their lives. "Let us turn back," she said, presently, "I feel strangely tired"
That night there were touching sounds of joy and sorrow in Willie's old home. A young life was given, but the mother lay at the gates of the grave. They watched her tenderly, and prayer went up continually, the husband pleading, though submissively, for natural life; but his parents' pleadings were deeper, they asked that she might know Jesus, whom to know is life eternal. Day and night their cry went up: "Take her not away, Lord, till Thou hast revealed Thyself to her." She was too ill to be spoken to, but they knew well that the shortest way to her heart was round by Heaven.
Days, even weeks, went by, and she hovered between life and death. Then came a slight rallying, which very slowly increased. She had moaned continually, "I cannot die, I cannot die;" else, of what was passing in her soul they knew nothing.
The first day she could speak again, she said to her mother, "Read . . . me . . . a . . . prayer . . . from my . . . little . . . book, . . . mother." But the mother said gently, "We will tell Him ourselves just what we want, dear child," and by the sick bed, the aged believer poured forth in few and simple words her heart's desire, a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for that poor sick and weary one. Her daughter-in-law lay with closed eyes as she ended, and she left her request with God.
After this, most days she read a verse or two, as she was able to bear it, to her, never wearying her, never going into explanations or long talkings, but just leaving the Word of God to do its own work.
Then came the parting between husband and wife; he was obliged to return to his occupation, having already had his holiday more than once extended, and she, though out of immediate danger, was far too ill to travel, or even to leave her bed. She told me long afterwards, it was with feelings little short of despair, she said "Good-bye," for she had then no hope for this world or the next; and when he said, "The Lord who loves us both will care for you; and we have the joy of knowing for certain that our eternity is to be together with Him," she would not distress him by acknowledging she had not this joyful assurance, she only hid her head in the bedclothes and wept.
Meantime the aged believers spoke to the Lord, and in confidence, expected His answer, and waited for it. Three weeks more passed, and then the Lord took the little one to Himself. Alice's grief was terrible. She had been lifted into the adjoining room, to be present while the Word of God was read, and prayer offered, ere the little coffin, with the precious remains of her babe, was carried from the house. When all had gone, and she was left alone with her mother-in-law, her reserve gave way, and putting her head on her shoulder, she said, "Mother, you will be with Jesus, and Willie, and my baby boy, but I shall be outside. Mother, I am lost." Very quiet was the answer, "I know it, my child, but Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He has been seeking, seeking you for long, now let Him save you."
"But you do not know, mother, how my life has been all a sham. I have professed to teach others what I did not know myself. I have been at His table, and I did not know Him; have I not eaten and drunk damnation to myself?"
"Eternal damnation only follows the final rejection of Christ, the only Saviour; the apostle is speaking there of judgment and chastening now. I am not denying the sin, my child, of being there with a lie in one's mouth, professing to remember One whom we never knew, but sin now cannot shut you out from the Saviour. He says, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' "
"But, mother, I do not know Him, and I cannot see Him; I cannot live like this, and I do not know how to die; how can I know Him? Oh, if I had lived in the days when He was on earth, I would have crawled to His feet, though I had died there."
The mother lifted up her heart to the Lord to teach this troubled soul Himself; then she said, "But, my child, you need take no toilsome journey to His blessed feet now; He is here in this room listening, waiting for you to accept what He offers, pardon, salvation, peace, and Himself. 'Look unto me and be ye saved,' He says; and 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' It is not He who needs to be entreated to draw near to you. The Apostle Paul says, 'We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' "
"Oh, if I could hear Him say He forgives me and that He would have me!"
"He speaks now by His Word, my child, and He says, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' He has purchased the right to say this to you, at the cost of His own life's blood. His death is the price at which you can have life; but the price has been paid, the ransom has been accepted. The sinner's Substitute has risen from the dead, and made a,'new and living way' for you and me right home to God."
"Mother, pray," was all Alice answered. And the mother "went and told Jesus" all their wants.
After a time of quiet, Alice spoke again, "Mother, I see; my sham life, my religiousness, my dead works, my hollow prayers, all met by the Cross—all known to Him when He gave His life; I see God is satisfied; He wants nothing from me; I may rest in His arms."
When the father returned, after committing to the dust, the babe so loved, Alice was sleeping almost as peacefully as that babe, though the teardrops still stood upon her cheek. Truly that day, the Lord turned the house of mourning into one of praise.
It was months ere she was able to travel and return with her husband to her London home. In them, she learned much of the Lord Himself. From her own lips, many years after, I heard her story, told to me with many a detail not given here, as well as much that passed in her soul of deep dark agony, as she faced death for herself, and then again in what she loved better than herself. But out of death, God brought life.
When I knew her first, the aged saints had gone to the Lord they so loved, and Alice with her husband and three children were all looking for the moment when the Lord Himself shall return, and them that sleep in Jesus, God will bring with Him, for "yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." So that today, dear unsaved reader, "to-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart;" for "now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." X.
“The Gospel Messenger” 1888