Two Spring-Times. (53 - "Gospel Messenger" Series) (24pp)
“I CANNOT bear this life any longer. Mother would never have made me promise her, if she had known how bad it was all to be."
The words were spoken aloud, but no human ears heard them, for the speaker was alone.
"Yes," she continued, reading once more an open letter, "I will answer it to-night, and say I will go; whatever comes; it cannot be worse misery than this life is."
“I said no human ears heard the outspoken words, but surely they were heard by unseen watchers. Satan, seeking that soul to destroy it, heard them with triumph, for it seemed as though his temptations were to prevail, and a fatal downward step were to be taken by this one, which he well knew would leave her more than ever in his power, in the power of the "strong man armed."
But the words of despair and misery were heard too by the "stronger than he,"—even by the Good Shepherd—who was seeking that soul, not to destroy, but to save it; who not only had heard the words, but who had read every previous thought of the troubled, tempted heart; and whose high commission had gone forth, "Deliver from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom."
It was a wild March afternoon; a cold east wind blew strongly, and heavy rain beat drearily against the window panes.
Within, all was well nigh as dreary as without—a room, clean indeed, but almost bare of furniture, a few dying embers on the hearth, and nothing with which to rekindle them; a piece of dry bread, and a little cold tea, the sole provisions in the cupboard; and a woman's form, whose clothing, though well mended, and neat, was not warm enough to keep her from shivering, as every fresh blast howled round the dwelling; and within that form, a heart, restless, and miserable, and fast becoming reckless, but which, thought not as yet of turning to the One who was waiting to receive her, to bear all her burdens for her, and to give her rest, both of conscience and of heart, instead.
It was a young woman who sat in that cheerless room. Not more than twenty-one years had passed over her head. Her mother had died three years before, her dying words to her only daughter being, "Promise me you will meet me with Jesus, Jenny, and that you will not leave your father and brother but try to bring them too."
During her last illness, which had been a long one, the mother had "tasted that the Lord is gracious," and she coveted for those she loved, and was leaving, that they should taste it too.
Husband and son had made but poor return for her tender faithful love, but the daughter clung to her, as to her only friend, and, in her agony at losing her, promised everything she asked.
For a time after her mother's death, Jenny had no difficulty in keeping the last part of her promise. Shocked and sobered by the solemn event, her father and brother spent less of their time and money in the public-house, and brought home enough to Jenny, to provide for their needs.
But as time went on, this was all changed. Little by little, they went deeper and deeper into sin and folly, till one thing after another, that would bring in money, had been taken from the cottage, and cold and hunger were often enough the poor girl's portion; and as she had never seriously thought of the first part of her promise to her mother, now, in her misery, she felt as though she must break the last part, which hitherto she had faithfully kept.
Strong temptation had come to her once and again; now, it seemed as though it would overcome the soul that had no strength beyond its own to support it.
But a messenger, bearing a message from God—the God of love—to this poor weary, tried, and tempted one, was even at that moment approaching the cottage door.
A knock startled Jenny just after she had spoken out her decision. Hastily she rose from the wooden stool on which she had long sat crouching over the fast dying-out fire and opened the door.
The one who had knocked was a missionary whom Jenny knew well, and who had been the means of leading her mother to the feet of Jesus.
Thankful to see a kindly face, Jenny begged him to come in.
"I cannot to-day, my lassie," he answered, "and I will not keep you standing at the door either, for this is a terrible rain; but I've come a mile, and more out of my way, to leave you these two little books, and to ask you to promise me to read them before you go to bed to-night, and I shall ask the Lord to bless them to your soul. I do not know why I have been sent here with them to-day, for it seemed to me as if I ought to be in quite another direction; but the Master knows why, though I do not, and I am quite sure He sent me, so I could not do anything else but come; it was like a direct command to me to come at once, and I could not put it away from me, and that is why I am asking you to read them before you sleep.
"And now," he added, "I must hurry on, and I shall not mind my extra walk and wetting, if the Master has sent me with a message to you, lassie, and you listen to it."
Saying this, the kind old man shook Jenny heartily by the hand and went his way.
Quite awed by his manner, Jenny closed the door and went back into the room.
"He was mother's friend," she murmured; "it was strange he should come to-day. Well, I cannot do less than read the books since he came so far to bring them, but I do not see what good they will do me."
She sat down again on her low stool, and opened one of them, and by the dim light began to read, and as she read, the arrow of conviction entered her soul. God spoke to her, and she was "sore afraid." She saw herself, in His sight, a sinner in her sins; every thought of her heart laid bare before Him. Verse after verse of Scripture stood out in plain letters, only to condemn her, so she felt.
Father and brother had gone to a neighbouring village, to look for work, and had not returned. She was alone, and alone with God, yet she could not go to a neighbour, as she had often done before, when left alone for the night.
She flung herself upon her bed, but not to sleep, only to hide her face. The eye of God seemed to her to rest on her in the darkness, and she feared to meet it. She had been reading of one who had listened to the voice of Jesus, and had come to Him as a lost sinner, and had got from Him the forgiveness of her sins.
"But," she said aloud, "she was not a sinner like I am. He could save her. O God! I am such a sinner," she cried, "how shall I escape?"
Morning broke, and still her agony of soul went on. She felt on the brink of hell. As the daylight streamed in, she got up and paced the room. There was no Bible in the house, her mother's beautiful Bible even had been pawned.
She tried to remember verses that she had learned in days gone by at the Sunday school. The only ones that would come to her were such as "The wicked shall be turned into hell," and "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
"I have neglected, and I've broken my promise to mother; and oh! I'm such a sinner, how shall I escape?" the poor girl once more cried out.
Suddenly she remembered the other little book the missionary had left; she had forgotten it in her soul trouble.
She took it up, half fearing it would only make her more miserable; but the first words she read were, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
Hope leaped up in her soul. "To save sinners!" that just suited her. No longer fearfully, but eagerly, though tremblingly, she devoured every word from cover to cover. It all seemed to suit her case; she wanted to be saved, and she learned how willing the Lord was to save her. She wanted to get rid of her sins, and she learned that He had taken them all on Himself and had borne the punishment due to her for them—that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." To this word specially she clung, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
In that early March morning, this sinner and the Saviour met, and the sinner got the forgiveness of her sins, and the Saviour saw "of the travail of his soul" and was "satisfied."
March had come round once again; not a dreary day of wind and rain this day, for a brilliant sun was making its presence felt everywhere, shining cheerily on the busy city streets, streaming into the abodes of the sick and poor, brightening up too, the wards of a large hospital, hailed, alike by patients and nurses, as a common blessing.
Into one of these wards, a visitor entered. Most of the patients in the ward were known to her; but having been absent for a week or two, there were two or three strangers; and one in the middle of the ward she specially noticed, as being quite young, and looking very, very ill. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing was difficult, but the face was calm and restful, strikingly so.
She opened her eyes, as a little later on, the visitor stood a moment by her bed, and the latter said sympathizingly:
"You are suffering much?"
"Yes, more than usual to-day, but it will not be for long," and she smiled.
"Then you know Jesus?"
Her face literally beamed at the sound of that name, as she answered so simply, "He saved me . . . just a year ago . . . it was a March day too . . . but not like this, it . . ."—a fit of coughing cut short what she was evidently going to say, and her new friend whispered gently:
"Saved by Him, satisfied with Him, and going to Him, is not that it?" And as a sweet smile answered, she added, "You must not try to talk any more to-day, it is too much for you; when I come in next, it may be one of your better days." And turning to a young woman who sat by the side of the bed, and who had been for some time "almost persuaded," she spoke of how the knowledge of Jesus, the Son of God, could lighten the darkest day, and brighten the brightest, and besought her no longer to let one cloud of unbelief come between her soul and Him. The lips of the dying girl in the bed—for dying she plainly was—moved constantly, as though she were praying during this time, and this was a sweet encouragement to the speaker.
Next day was one of the sick girl's better days, and she said to the one who once more sat in her favourite place by the side of her friend's bed:
"You might read to me, Katie."
Katie read one or two chapters from the Bible, and then said, "Maybe you would like to hear one of the little books the lady left yesterday?"
"Yes, I should so much."
Katie began, but she had not got very far before her friend stopped her quite excitedly, saying, "Katie, do you know the name of the lady who left those?"
"No, I am not very sure of it; but I know there is a woman at the top of the ward who does know it and knows where she lives too."
"Then do go and find out for me before you go on reading, I feel as if I must know." Very much wondering at what could so suddenly have excited her usually quiet friend, Katie went up the ward and soon returned with the desired information. The dying girl burst into tears. "I felt sure it must be," she said. Then, after a little, she explained that it was two little books written by this one, that the Lord had blessed to her soul a year before; and that, ever since she had known who the writer was, she had asked the Lord that, if it were His will, she might meet her on earth. "And to think," she added, "that she was standing by me yesterday, and then sitting so long talking with you and close to me, and I did not know."
"She will be sure to be here next week, but maybe I could write and ask her to come before; I am certain she would, when you want to see her so much," rejoined Katie.
For a moment or two, the sick girl was silent, then she said gently, "No, Katie dear, do not write, I will wait. My Father knows, and He will give me just what is best, and when it is best for me."
Two days after, the same visitor had a message to deliver to the woman at the end of the ward and went in again. She had scarcely taken one step inside the door, when Katie met her, saying, "Please, will you come the very first thing and speak to Jenny, she does so want to see you. She is the girl in the middle, on the left, who is so ill, you remember."
It was a touching meeting, very precious to both. For this was the Jenny to whom the missionary had been constrained to take the books in that far-off village a year before, and to whom the Lord, in His sovereignty, had spoken through them.
Little by little, she told her friend the simple facts here recorded, and much more too of the Lord's ways with her.
Her illness had come on her gradually. Through a very hard winter, she had not been able to earn enough by her needle for food and clothes and fire, and even part of what she could earn, her father demanded and spent in drink. Early in the year, the disease from which her mother had died had attacked her, and, without proper care and nourishment, its inroads advanced steadily, and now promised ere long to prove fatal.
This was the human side of the story; but it was sweeter to think that the Good Shepherd saw how very rough the road was, and, in His tender pity, having found His sheep, had taken it on His shoulders, and was carrying it quickly, as well as safely home.
Her missionary friend had once more come, this time in her hour of bodily need, and had found means to convey her to the hospital in the distant city, and there she found the care and nursing she so much needed, and kindness—nay, more—love such as she had not known since her mother died, for the gentle patient girl won the hearts of all who had to do with her, and she left a savour of Christ in the ward, when she departed, that was not soon forgotten.
But, as she said, it was "not for long." Before the first week in April had ended, the Master she loved had taken her to be with Him.
Conscious to the very last, and joyful in the hope of soon being "with Christ, which is far better," He Himself put her to sleep.
And that moment of Jenny's departure, which was "not death, but victory," was the deciding moment for Katie.
The touch of the same hand that put the one friend to sleep, awoke in the other the movements of life, and she fell at His feet, and owned Him henceforth her Lord and her God.
Reader, is He your Lord and your God? Do you know that you personally are delivered from going down to the pit because He has found a ransom—is Himself the ransom? If not, let this solemn verse press on your soul:—
"Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; then a great ransom cannot deliver thee." X.
“The Gospel Messenger” 1889