In Sherwood Forest

ON a sweet summer's day I stood beneath a giant oak in old Sherwood Forest. Time was slowly and steadily doing its work on the once magnificent tree known as "Robin Hood's Larder." It had completely hollowed out the enormous trunk, and I marveled how there could still be life in the mighty limbs which stretched across the drive clad in summer green, with so little nourishment supplied them from the parent stock. These great boughs have to be supported by many strong beams, and the poor old tree itself to be kept from falling by iron chains clasped around it, and fixed firmly into the ground.
An old man, appointed to keep guard at that spot, strolled up to me, glad of an opportunity to break the silence of his solitary watch. We talked of the days long ago, when Robin Hood and his merry men made the forest ring with the hunter's horn and shout, and the royal deer were killed and hung up in the leafy "larder," then in its full glory, now in its feeble old age.
“Aye, but there's life—long life yet—in t'old tree," said the caretaker, looking with almost fatherly pride on his ancient charge; "he'll last many a year to come, he will.”
“Yes, he will," I answered; "but I shall outlive him.”
“Nay, I doubt that, miss; I greatly doubt that. He'll see us all out, and many another too, will t'old tree.”
“And yet I shall outlive him," I persisted, and I'll tell you why. Long as the oak has lived, it will someday have to be said of it, as of the long-lived man of old Bible times, 'And he died;' but I have everlasting life through faith in Christ Jesus—the life that He gives to the poor lost sheep whom He has found and saved. He says, I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.'1
You see your old tree is perishing, and it will surely die; whereas I have everlasting life, and shall never perish, but live with Christ forever.”
The old man listened with earnest attention and with brightening smile.
“Ah! now I see what you mean, miss. But it is grand when you can say that you have no doubts. Now' am one as does believe in the Savior, and in what He's done for me, bless His holy name! But, still, I am one of those as has doubts.”
“I am right glad to hear you say you believe in Him," I answered; "and have you ever seriously thought who it is you are doubting when you have these doubts? Can you really doubt the power or the love of Jesus, who died for you and now lives in heaven for you? Dare you doubt the truth of God's Word, when He tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin, and that He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him?2 You may doubt yourself God never asks you to believe in any good or strength in yourself; you are just a poor sinner and nothing at all.' But, oh! don't pain the Lord Jesus by doubting Him: you will never live to His glory or be any witness for Him until you have joy and peace in believing.’”3
And while I went on to speak of Christ's finished work on the cross meeting all God's claims and all our need, the old man listened with keenest interest and relish of the truth.
Each time after that when I drove through the forest I pulled up at "Robin Hood's Larder" and had a talk with the dear old man, and gave him a "bit of nice reading" in the shape of some back numbers of FAITHFUL WORDS, which he always greatly appreciated. And much he seemed to feel it when I pressed on him the unfailing love and faithfulness of Christ to carry safe home to glory the sinner, who comes to Him in simple faith.
One day, when I had been speaking to him about our responsibility to confess Christ's name to others, and to be lights in this dark world, he said: "Well, miss, I hope to shine out bright for Him when I get yonder.”
“And we won't thank you to shine there," I answered. "The Lamb will be the light of that bright place, and we shall have no need of the candle!4
“No, no! If you mean shining for Him, now’s your time, and don't lose your chance! You may not have much longer here, and when you see Him up there you will wish with all your heart you had been bolder for Him, and truer to Him, for He is worthy!”
The last time I saw my old friend he was looking very shattered and feeble after an unusually severe winter, and as I was again leaving home for a few months, I felt it was little likely I should see him again in this world.
His face lit up very brightly as I spoke of "the tree of life," beneath whose shadow we should sit down, by-and-by, and whose fruit we should find sweet to our taste; of the beautiful home Jesus has got ready for His redeemed ones, where pain, and sorrow, and death, and old age will be no more. He said nothing of "doubts," but spoke with glad assurance of being present with the Lord when his time here was over.
When I again stood under the old tree it was a much younger man who came up to me. In answer to my inquiry after his predecessor, he said, "What, haven't you heard, miss? He were picked up dead, one day, down by the hut yonder—gone all of a sudden! But I believe it were well with him, and that he was ready; and we gave him a nice funeral, all of us following.”
And so my old friend had entered in through the gates into the city, for he had a right to the tree of life, having washed his robes in the blood of the Lamb.