Our Missionary Column: The Gospel in Italy, and in the City of Rome

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A GOOD man went home not long ago in the city of Rome. He had borne a consistent and faithful testimony for Christ in Italy for many, many years, but he entered into rest in October of last year. It was as long ago as 1862 That James Wall left this country to labor in the Eternal City, and before Italy was freed from the temporal power of the Papacy he worked most diligently to make known the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to spread abroad the blessed Word of God, the Scriptures of truth.
When, however, the day of liberty for Italy came, September l0th, 1870, this true-hearted missionary was free to preach the Gospel within the very city of the Popes, and by the end of October in that same year he had established a Gospel mission station there, and was the first person in recent times to preach the Gospel within its walls, and since then, thank God! he has been the means of bringing the truth home to the hearts and homes of many thousands of people in “Italia’s sunny land,” and has with indomitable courage secured the circulation of the Scriptures, not only in Rome itself, but also throughout the Italian peninsula. So much was this the case that even comparatively recently the head of the papal Church told how the Evangelical faith was preached with boldness under the very shadow of St. Peter’s!
Mr. W. K. Landels, of Turin, an old friend of Mr. Wall’s, gives a deeply touching account of the illness and of the last moments of this devoted servant of God. He says:—
“Before long, however, new and still more serious symptoms manifested themselves: the patient first lost the use of his hands, then of his feet, and one morning he woke to find the sight of one eye gone. How distressing all this must have been to one who had always been so strong and vigorous we may well imagine; but all through he enjoyed the felt presence of the Heavenly Father, and was cheerful and patient, and even contented He spoke continually of the goodness of God, of the light that was round about him, of the joys of heaven: ‘Heaven is so beautiful, and everything is so much better than here, that I can hardly desire to remain: but if the Lord wishes me to serve Him longer in this world gladly will I do so!’ The work to which he had been so long consecrated seemed never far from his thoughts, and as he drew nearer and nearer to the spiritual world, and possibly had the power of looking into the future, he gave expression to the following words, which we would fain accept as prophetical of what is to be: ‘Christ needs Italy: Christ loves her: fear not, Christ will conquer her for Himself. Italy has great difficulties to contend against: she must pass through great trials, but she will rise again in Christ!’
“On the Sunday before he died a great change was noticed in him, and from that time his weakness increased hour by hour, until at last, on Tuesday, October 29th, at 11:30 a.m., without a struggle he quietly fell asleep.
“The funeral took place two days later. A most impressive service was held at two o’clock in the chapel in Piazz I Lucina, which was crowded to its utmost capacity by sorrowing friends. Among them were several of the ministers of other churches, some of whom took part in the proceedings. The Rev. E. Piggott, who had known the Rev. J. Wall longer than any one present, and who had risen from a sick-bed to attend the service, bore witness to his intense zeal, to his single-mindedness in the work, and to the great power he had in prayer.
“Great numbers of people, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, followed the body to the grave. It had been expected that he would be buried in the famous cemetery where so many illustrious Englishmen are laid; but, according to his own desire, his last resting-place was chosen in the Italian burying-ground, so that he might sleep among those he had so much loved, and for whom he had so long labored.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to his widow and children. Greatly do we rejoice with them that they enjoy in so marked a measure the presence of the God of all comfort. As they talked with me of their great trial, and especially of the dark days in Roccaraso, the only expressions that fell from their lips were words of thankfulness to God for His mercy and loving-kindness all through.”
We are often disposed to write of those laborers for God who are at work in fields very far away, but we believe this was as true a missionary as ever breathed, although his time and strength were spent for God so much nearer home. Thousands of Christian people who have visited Rome knew him and loved him. His unfailing courtesy and kindness to all who needed his counsel and help will be remembered by many, and the writer was, in common with many others, so interested in his work that he hopes to refer to it again in a future issue of this paper.