E — the Infidel; or, What Shall It Profit?

THE sun was shining with almost tropical heat upon one of the most beautiful and favorite of our watering places, making the broad expanse of ocean look like a sheet of dazzling crystal. Not a breath of wind blew across the hot, dry sands, and no sound save the gentle splash of the tiny waves against the shore, and the merry laughter of the children playing in groups, broke the stillness of that bright July morning.
At a window of one of the numerous lodging houses sat a lady and her daughter, the former bending over a book in which her whole mind appeared absorbed. An exclamation from the latter presently caused her to look up hastily, and in a moment she perceived what had attracted her daughter's attention. A young man, supported on either side, was making his way slowly and painfully towards the house. He had evidently just arrived by the early train, and appeared well-nigh exhausted from the effects of the walk from the station. “Poor fellow," said the older lady, with the tears of sympathy in her kind eyes, “what a sad condition he appears to be in. Let us have him brought in here, for I see he wants immediate attention and care.”
Her daughter needed no second bidding, but hastened out of the room, soon returning, followed by the young man, who no sooner reached the sofa, than he sunk back upon the pillows, in a fainting condition.
Motioning the others from the room, the kind and gentle mother seated herself beside him, and applied restoratives with a well-practiced hand. Oh! how her heart ached to see the deep lines, indicating acute suffering, stamped upon the young face before her.
While he lay thus, realizing her own utter helplessness, her heart went up to Him whose tender care and love she had often proved. Earnestly she pleaded for the stranger—as only those who know and have realized the power of prayer can plead.
Gradually consciousness returned, and in a feeble whisper the young man thanked her for her care and skill. Gently and kindly she spoke to him, sympathizing in his great bodily weakness, receiving, however, but little response from the sufferer.
“I trust you know the blessed Lord Jesus,” she said presently; " and have found in Him a loving and sympathizing friend—one who is ever touched with the feelings of our infirmities.”
In a moment the young man's face changed, a crimson flush spread over his sunken cheeks' and starting up with wonderful energy, he exclaimed, “Not another word, Madam, not another word. I don't want to hear that name again, for I hate the sound of it!” and then, fixing his eyes upon his companion, he watched to see the effect of his words.
Utterly overwhelmed for a moment, she shuddered at this strange, passionate outburst; but speedily recovering herself with a sweet voice, and in the gentlest of tones, and without removing her eyes from his stern face, she repeated that beautiful verse: —
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear,
It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.”
This was too much for the hard-hearted infidel; he closed his weary, heavy, eyes; and, in spite of an evident inward struggle, she saw a solitary tear stealing slowly down the hard lines of his face. Oh! how she thanked God for that little token.
Having recovered a little strength, he arose to go, apologizing for having taken up so much of her time, "Let me thank you," he said,” for all your great kindness to me. I am indeed very grateful.”
“Do not thank me," his companion answered hastily, "but thank Him whose name you hate for having sent you a friend in your need.” Before you go let me give you this short Psalm," she continued, and without waiting for his answer, she repeated the beautiful 117th, dwelling with emphasis on the words, “His merciful kindness is great towards us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever.”
Seeing he still lingered, she took his hand, and faithfully and lovingly told him how God in His love and compassion for a lost and guilty world, had yielded up His well-beloved Son to the death of the cross, there, through the shedding of His precious blood, fully and completely to atone for sin.
"Grace there, its wondrous victory gained,
And love endured its last.”
"Stop!" cried the young man, “Spare your-self further trouble on my account. I don't believe the Bible, not a word of it. I don't believe in the God of Love you talk about. I don't want to argue with you; but understand, once and forever, that I do not wish to speak on this subject again. I don't believe the Bible, I repeat.”
"Well, my dear young friend," answered his companion, “your not believing it makes no difference, it is the Word of God which endureth forever, and if all the world did not believe it, it would make no difference; it could not alter the fact.”
“Show me something that will convince me," he said.
"I should not attempt that task," she replied,” for when the Son of God Himself was on earth, face to face with unbelievers, talking with them, and showing them the power of God, they would not believe Him, and how will you believe me? I will simply give you God's message to faith and to unbelief, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.'”
He had nothing to say now; but, like the man in Matt. 22 who had dared to come into the bridal hall without a wedding garment: he was speechless.
They did not soon meet again after this, for more than a brief exchange of ordinary civilities. All she could learn of him, was that he went by the name of E—, and had lately come from America. He purposely avoided all opportunities for conversation, and went about the place in a restless, helpless state of despondency day after day. One morning, when walking slowly along the sea shore, our Christian friend came suddenly upon the young man, in whose welfare she had felt so deep an interest. He was seated alone in an attitude of abject misery.
"What is the matter?" she asked, quietly seating herself beside him. “Tell me what it is that is so troubling you?”
“Nothing, nothing, I only wish to be alone," he answered quickly without noticing the apparent rebuff she continued, “Do trust me with the burden of your heart;”
He appeared softened, and answered slowly and falteringly, “Well, I was thinking of my children. I have a young wife, and two sweet little ones far away in America, and although I have put two thousands of miles of sea between us, I can ever hear their voices calling me. I can feel their soft arms about my neck, I can hear the patter of my children’s feet, behind me, wherever I go. Oh! I am miserable— miserable," he continued, in a voice trembling with emotion," and have been so ever since the day you spoke to me and read that Psalm.”
"What caused you to leave your family?” she asked, deeply touched by his grief.
"Well," he answered, “I will tell you, if you have patience to listen. I was brought up by a Christian mother, but when still very young I came across a man well-known in Yorkshire, who exercised a strange influence over me; he was an infidel, once he was a popular preacher, then he became a public lecturer against the Bible, and being constantly in his company, I became thoroughly imbued with all his ideas. My poor mother almost broke her heart, and. to free myself from her continual beseechings and reproaches, I went to America. There I married, and about four years afterward my wife was converted, and of course, knowing the views I held, became miserable on my account. Day after day she pleaded with me about my soul, urging me to come to the Saviour she loved and served. It was all of no use, I had become so rooted and grounded in unbelief, that nothing seemed to have power to move me. If I took my eldest child, my little Nelly, upon my knee, she would look beseechingly into my face, and ask, 'When are you going to love Jesus?' The sound of that name at length almost drove me mad, and so—well—I left my home, my wife, and my sweet little ones! Since then I have been wandering restlessly from place to place, until you saw me here, and now you have stirred up all my misery again, by speaking of that One, you say is Christ Jesus.”
There was a silence, only broken by the gentle splash of the rising tide.
“Ah! whither can you flee from His presence who offers you eternal life, and will give you back all you have lost—mother, wife, and children? What are you going to do? —What have you gained by being an infidel?”
“Nothing," was the answer," but I have lost all,—health, love and home.”
“But what do you hope to gain by it?”
“A coffin, a shroud, and a dark grave.”
“But you must have something to cling to that makes you hold on so firmly.”
I have a hell in my breast, which clings to me—that's all.”
The whole secret was out now. From that moment the conflict was gone; he was like a little child.
A letter to the long lost sorrowing mother speedily brought her, and her now broken-hearted son together. Sad, silent, and yet joyful was the long embrace that followed.
For days and days E—'s agony of mind was intense, but God in His infinite love and compassion compelled him to listen to the gentle persuasions of the kind and loving friend he had met, and soon he was brought to see his desperate need of a Saviour.
Broken-hearted with remorse and sorrow, lie gave himself up unreservedly into the loving care of the One who has died for lost sinners, and a great deep sense of forgiveness and acceptance with God, took possession of His soul. He grew rapidly worse each day, and the longing to see his family became stronger and stronger, as he felt the increasing weakness of body.
A telegram to America had speedily summoned the wife to whom he had caused such great sorrow, but three long weeks must yet elapse before she and her little ones could reach him. I cannot attempt to describe the meeting between mother and son, or the patient tenderness with which she nursed him; forgetting all the past sorrow in the "joy of seeing him again, and rejoicing, in spite of the thought of losing him, at the happy, peaceful rest of soul, which increased as he drew nearer and nearer the end. Three long weeks rolled away, and the young wife reached her dying husband; but, alas! without little Nelly. With many tears, the young mother told him how God had taken their eldest. She had lived to embark on the vessel, filled with joy at the thought of again meeting her father, for whom her little heart had pined and longed; but God had willed it otherwise, and one calm bright morning they let the little one down into the bosom of the great deep, until that day when it shall give up its dead.
“It is I who broke her heart," cried the dying father, again and again, as the remembrance of the pleading face, and loving embraces of his little dead child, forced itself upon him; but soon all earthly cares were lifted off. The Lord of Life and Glory was drawing him away to Himself by the cords of His everlasting love, and oh! with those mighty arms around us, and the sunshine of His presence pouring floods of light and glory into our souls, as we cross the narrow line which divides faith from real vision, what have we to fear? The dark waters we have shuddered to pass through, cannot quench the love that is bearing us swiftly onward into the brightness of that eternal resting-place.
This was the termination of a life of rebellion, and hatred towards God! Oh! infinite love of the Father in giving His Son, for a world that has despised and trodden Him under foot, but He is ever waiting, ever ready to save. If you do not know this tender loving Saviour yet, do not delay. Remember, my reader, with God it is always now, never to-morrow—come to Him now, just as you are; believe on His Son as your Saviour, and eternal life is yours. Hand yourself over entirely to Him, and let Him reign in your heart for time and eternity. J. R.