Seventy Years

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"I’VE been working seventy years for it, ma'am, and I don't seem a bit nearer 1 than when I began." And the voice of the speaker died away in a tone of helpless despair that went to my heart as I listened to it.
The words thus addressed to me came from the lips of a strange-looking, wizen-faced old woman, of about eighty years of age. Her tattered mis-shapen garments accorded well with the general appearance of the wretched little hovel in which we were seated, she on an old worm-eaten box in the chimney corner, and Ion the only chair of which the apartment boasted. Spread over the bed in the farthest corner of the room, and now evidently serving in place of necessary covering, were some quaint-looking garments, which bore witness to the old woman's former occupation. For no less a period than fifty-year had old Jenny Grant been known to young and old as the "bathing-woman" of the sea-side village in which she dwelt. Many a change had passed over that picturesque neighborhood since the early days of her self-chosen vocation. T he little village had grown into a well-known and favorite sea-side resort, while many were the visitors who entered the old woman's cottage for the purpose of hearing her quaint description of its development.
But it was not upon such subjects as these that old Jenny and I were now conversing. Only the previous ever ing, a terrible gale had swept over the neighborhood. The waves of the usually placid bay, lying at the foot of the pretty village, had been lashed by the wind into indescribable fury. From the window of my bedchamber I had seen large vessels break loose from their moorings, and, drifted by the force of the foaming waters, become hopelessly shattered and stranded on the shingly beach. Great loss of life and property had ensued, and it was to ascertain if old Jenny had been a sufferer by the storm, that I had visited her on the morning referred to in my story. I found that it had affected her more severely than I could have anticipated. Fearful of the growing darkness and the increasing fury of the tempest, the solitary old woman had ventured forth in order to purchase a "halfpenny candle." As she was returning homeward, she had fallen on the slippery pathway, and a severe sprain had been the result. To add to her new trouble, an old boatman, who had hitherto paid her a trifle weekly for the use of the garret which he occupied, was also without any means of subsistence. His boat had been lost during the fury of the storm, and henceforth he must be dependent upon the charity of his neighbors. Poor Jenny! there was much to call forth genuine sympathy and interest as I listened to her story.
At its close I spoke to her of Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, and of God's offered gift of peace, salvation, and blessing through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. A look of eager interest was plainly visible on the old woman's countenance as I did so. In simple words, which I hoped her enfeebled intellect could understand, I spoke of the blessedness of those whose sins had been washed away in the precious blood of God's dear Son—those who had fled to Jesus for refuge, and could even now rejoice in the knowledge of a present and complete salvation. It was this that had called forth old Jenny's words, previously quoted—
“I’ve been working seventy years for it, ma'am, and I don't seem a bit nearer than when I began.”
"Working will not do, Jenny," I said, as I silently asked for some word of comfort for her evidently burdened heart. "God does not ask you to work for salvation. If you want to be saved, it can only be in the way He has appointed. Salvation is God's free gift to all those who believe upon His dear Son. God so loved the world that He gave Him to die for us, that we might not come into condemnation.”
“But my sins, ma'am! my sins!" interrupted the old woman eagerly, as she gazed earnestly into my face. "I can't get rid of 'em anyhow. And I be afeard I never shall. There's no hope for such as me.”
"Jenny," I said, as I saw tears stealing down her furrowed cheeks, "listen to God's own word. In it He tells us that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." It was for sin that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the cross. His precious blood was shed to atone for the guilt of those who believe in Him. "To him that worketh not, but believeth" God offers life and peace "without money and without price." Salvation is His free gift. There is nothing to do for it—nothing to pay for it. Simply take God at His word, and the blessing will be yours.”
“Nothing to do—nothing to pay!" repeated the old woman, as a new light dawned into her dark, benighted soul." I never heard so afore. Nothing to do. Nothing? Are ye sure of it, ma'am?”
Quite sure, Jenny," I replied." It is the Lord Jesus Himself who says so, and He makes no mistakes. These are His own words—' Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).) And, The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.' (Rom. 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23).) Will you take what God offers you, Jenny?”
“Aye, aye, that I will," was the old woman's hearty response; "and praise Him and bless Him for such a gift to the likes of me." And as she spoke Jenny's old wizened face lighted up with a joy and brightness which I cannot describe. Peace with God, life, salvation, and everlasting happiness were now hers through faith in the finished work of Him who died for her. No marvel that tears of joy were still coursing down the old bathing-woman's countenance as some minutes afterward I bade her "good-bye," and quitted her dwelling. We could but rejoice together at what God had wrought.
Some months have passed away since that autumn morning, and old Jenny has now entered the Saviour's presence) "not by works of righteousness which she had done," but by simple childlike faith in believing.
How is it with you, dear reader? Are you working for salvation, or are you resting solely and simply upon what the Lord Jesus Christ has done? Even severity years of working could not wash away one sin from your soul. Like old Jenny, at their close you would have to own, "I am no nearer salvation now than when I began." God offers you all that can be for your everlasting blessing. Take His proffered gift, and you will find joy and peace in believing, and, like old Jenny, you also will be ready to exclaim, "I'll praise and bless Him for His gifts to such as me." M. V. B.