A Prodigal?s Return

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 6
One Sunday in Glasgow as I stood beside my mother outside the hall waiting for the afternoon service hour, two young men appeared. They were dressed in their working clothes, unshaved, dirty and somewhat intoxicated. As they swaggered past, laughing and singing a profane song, my mother said:
"Follow those men and invite them to a seat in our pew."
I soon overtook them and delivered her message. One laughed scornfully and began to swear. The other pondered, evidently impressed with my mother's invitation. Finally, looking me in the eye, he said: "When I was a boy like you I went to church every Sunday. I have not been inside a church for three years. I don't feel right. I believe I will go with you."
Seizing his hand, and in spite of the remonstrances and oaths of his companion, I led him back and into a seat next to my mother.
A powerful sermon was preached from Ecclesiastes 11:11Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1): "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days."
The young man was very attentive; he seemed abashed and downcast. When the service was over my mother asked kindly: "Have you a Bible?"
"No, Ma'am; but I can get one."
"Well take my son's Bible until you can secure your own, and come back again next Lord's Day:
I will always be glad to accommodate you with a seat."
He put the Bible in his pocket and hurried away. That evening, my mother prayed fervently for the conversion of that young man.
Next Sunday came, and the next, but the stranger did not appear. My mother frequently spoke of him, and grieved over his absence. He had doubtless been the subject of her private prayers. On the third Sunday morning the young man again entered our pew.
He was now well dressed and appeared thin and pale as if from recent sickness. Immediately following the benediction he laid my Bible on the desk and left, without giving my mother the desired opportunity of speaking with him.
On one of the blank leaves of my Bible we found some writing in pencil signed "W. C." He asked to be remembered in my mother's prayers.
Time rolled on. My mother passed to her heavenly rest. I grew to manhood. The stranger was forgotten.
Many years afterward, the ship of which I was the medical officer, anchored in Table Bay. The next day being Sunday, after the morning service, a gentleman seated behind me asked to look at my Bible. In a few minutes he returned it, and I walked into the street. I had arranged to eat dinner at "The George" Hotel, and was walking up the steps, when the gentleman who had asked to examine my Bible laid his hand on my shoulder and begged to have a few minutes conversation.
As soon as we were seated, he examined my face with great attention, and then began to sob; tears rolled down his cheeks. He was evidently laboring under some intense emotion. He asked my name, age, occupation and where I was born.
He then inquired if I had not, when a boy, invited a drunken youth to a seat in a church in Glasgow one Sunday afternoon. I was astonished! The subject of my mother's anxiety and prayers was sitting before me. Having exchanged greetings, he gave me a short history of his life.
He was the son of Christian parents who gave him a godly upbringing and a good education. But when he was about fifteen years old, his father died and his mother was obliged to take him from school and put him to learn a trade. In his new situation he imbibed all manner of evil, became incorrigibly vicious and broke his mother's heart. Freed now from all parental restraint, he left his employment and traveled to Scotland. In the city of Glasgow he had lived and sinned for two years, when he was arrested in his godless career by that invitation from my mother to sit with us in church. After leaving the church that day, he was seized with the pangs of unutterable remorse. The sight of a mother and son attending church together recalled the happy days of his own boyhood, when he went to church and Sunday school, and when he had a mother a mother whose gray hairs he had brought down with sorrow to the grave. His mental suffering threw him on a bed of sickness; but there he found Christ as the great physician and Savior of sinners; and from thence he arose a converted man. He returned to England and cast himself at the feet of his maternal uncle and asked and obtained forgiveness. With his uncle's consent he prepared for the missionary field, and had been laboring for several years in South Africa.
"The moment I saw your Bible this morning," he concluded, "I recognized it. And now, do you know, who was my companion on the memorable Sunday you invited me to church? He was the notorious Jack Hill, who was hanged about a year afterward for highway robbery. I was dragged from the very brink of infamy and destruction. You remember the text on the day of my salvation: "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." Eccles. 11:11Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1).