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William Dixon doubted there was a God. Even if there was, he couldn’t forgive Him for taking away his young wife, Mary, just two years after they were married. His little boy had also died, and Dixon felt desolate and bitter.
A few years after Mary’s death, fear struck the little village. Old Peggy Winslow’s cottage caught fire and burned to the ground. The poor woman was pulled out barely alive.
Suddenly, the bystanders heard the terrified voice of little Ricky Winslow—Peggy’s orphan grandchild. Awakened by the flames, he’d run shrieking to the attic window.
Horrified, the crowd gazed at the child in the window, but it was too late to save him. The stairway had already collapsed. Suddenly, Dixon rushed to the burning cottage, climbed up the now-hot iron piping, and took the trembling boy in his arms. Down he came, holding the child in his right arm, while supporting himself by his left. Just as the smoking wall fell, the two safely reached the ground.
Ricky wasn’t hurt, but Dixon’s hand which had held on to the piping was terribly burned. The burn healed, but it left deep scars he would carry to his grave. Poor Peggy did not recover and died soon after.
Who would look after Ricky? James Lovatt, a respectable local man, begged that Ricky be given to him to adopt. He and his wife longed for a little son of their own. To everyone’s surprise, Will Dixon made a similar request.
The minister, the miller and others assembled to decide between the two. Mr. Haywood, the miller, said, “It is very kind of both Lovatt and Dixon to offer to adopt the orphan boy, but I am very uncertain about what to do. Dixon, having saved his life, has the first claim. On the other hand, Lovatt has a wife, and the care of a mother is necessary to a child.”
Mr. Lipton, the minister, said, “A man of Dixon’s atheistic notions cannot be a suitable guardian for a child, while Lovatt and his wife are both Christian people and would train up the child in the way he should go.
“Dixon saved the child’s body, but the boy will have a sad future if Dixon leads him to his eternal ruin.”
“We will hear what the applicants themselves have to say and then vote,” said Mr. Haywood turning to Mr. Lovatt.
Mr. Lovatt began: “Well, gentlemen, my wife and I lost a little boy of our own not long ago, and we feel this child would fill the vacant place. We would do our best to bring him up in the fear of the Lord. Besides, a child so young needs a mother to look after him.”
“Good, Mr. Lovatt; now, Mr. Dixon.”
“I have only one argument, sir, and it’s this,” answered Dixon quietly, as he took the bandage off his badly scarred hand and held it up for them to see.
For a few moments quiet settled over the room; the eyes of some dimmed with tears. Something in the sight of that scarred hand appealed to their sense of justice. He had a claim on the boy because he had suffered for him. So, when the question was put to a vote, the majority decided in favor of William Dixon.
Ricky never missed a mother’s care, for Will was both father and mother to the orphan boy, and he lavished all the pent-up tenderness of his strong nature upon the child he had saved. So a new era began for Dixon.
Ricky was a clever boy and quickly responded to his adopted father’s training; he adored him with all his heart. He remembered how “daddy” had saved him from the fire and had claimed him because of the hand so horribly burned for his sake. It moved Ricky to tears, and he showered kisses on the hand that had been scarred for him.
One summer a great exhibition of paintings came to town and Dixon took Dickey to see them. The boy was greatly interested in the pictures and the stories his daddy told about some of them. One of the Lord Jesus reproving Thomas impressed him most; underneath were the words, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands” (John 20:27).
Ricky read the words and said, “Please, Daddy, tell me the story of that picture.”
“No, not that one!”
“Why not that one?”
“Because it’s a story I don’t believe.”
“Oh, but that’s nothing,” urged Ricky; “you don’t believe the story of Jack the Giant-killer, but it’s one of my favorites. Tell me the story of the picture, please, Daddy.” So Dixon, to Ricky’s great interest, told the story.
“It’s like you and me, Daddy,” said the boy. “When the Lovatts wanted me, you showed them your hand. Maybe when Thomas saw the scars on the Good Man’s hands, he felt like he belonged to Him.”
“I suppose so,” answered Dixon.
“The Good Man looked so sad,” said Ricky; “I guess He was sorry that Thomas didn’t believe at first. It was bad of him not to, wasn’t it, after Jesus had died for him?”
Dixon didn’t answer, and Ricky went on, “It would have been bad of me if when they told me about you and the fire I said I didn’t believe you had done it, wouldn’t it, Daddy?”
“I don’t want to think about Him, my boy.”
“But maybe he loved Jesus after that, though—like I love you. When I see your poor hand, Daddy, I love you more than millions and millions.” Tired Ricky hugged his daddy.
Dixon slept fitfully that night. He couldn’t get the tender, sorrowful face in the painting out of his thoughts. He dreamed that he and Lovatt were competing for the custody of Ricky, but when he showed his scarred hand, the boy turned away from him. A bitter sense of injustice surged up in his heart.
He did not yield to this influence at once, but his love for Ricky had softened his heart. Being an honest man, Dixon couldn’t help seeing that his claim to Ricky’s love condemned him, because he had denied the claim of the hands that had been pierced for him. Seeing the child’s warmhearted gratitude toward him for saving his life, Dixon felt ashamed of himself.
After a while, Dixon’s heart became more open. He found out by reading the Bible that, just as Ricky belonged to him, so he belonged to the Saviour who had been wounded for his transgressions. Dixon finally yielded his body, soul and spirit into the keeping of the blessed hands which had been pierced for him.
Have you too bowed to the claims of Christ’s love? Can’t you see Him dying on Calvary’s cross for you—dying to put your sins away?
“He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. ... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:3,5). “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
May your heart respond to the love of the Lord Jesus who died so that you could be saved. Accept Him as your Saviour today.