The Old Chickweed Seller

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
WE go up a narrow passage, under dilapidated houses, and find ourselves in one of the ten thousand London courts. The houses on either side are in a still further state of dilapidation—tall, lean, hungry-looking places, built of what appear to be black bricks, grimy, gray, and gloomy, loop-holed with sundry broken windows, stuffed with old rags, behind which hang, in a variety of crooked fashions, dirty curtains, blinds, and threadbare shawls that act deputies for damask, yet nearly every one of these rooms is a home for a family.
Into this court a band of Christian workers, consisting of the missionary of the district, a hard-working and earnest man, and a few young helpers, enter. The Lord has given His servant an impulse to come to this spot; and where curses and wild threats have often been heard, as the little band walk up the court, ascends the sweet strain—
“What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear:
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
A few children gather round, staring with meaningless faces. Some of the windows that still retain the possibility of opening are thrown up, and through cellar gratings and broken panes the song wings its way—
“Oh, what peace we often forfeit!
Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”
Some of the inhabitants in the court curse and swear, but one old man listens to the words—an old man of eighty summers, to whom the missionary had frequently spoken, but who had always repulsed him. The old man had enough to do to sell his "chickweed and groundsel for singing birds," he had said when appealed to about his soul, but now the song of the people who had dropped into the court interested him.
“What's that they say?" the old man muttered—"something about a friend? It's time I got a friend; but who'll befriend such an old sinner as me?" He listened:
“Can we find a Friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
The old man forgot the struggle to earn the two shillings and three-pence for the weekly rent, and the additional struggle for a bit of tea and dry bread-forgot all, in his wonder, about the Friend of whom the hymn told, and he asked himself again if this Friend could be for him.
The hymn was followed by a short address from the missionary, showing what the Saviour is to the poor sinner—the Friend of sinners, who has proved His love by dying for His enemies. He told the people how Jesus prayed for the very men who crucified Him; how He forgives the sins of all who come to Him, and helps all His own, and keeps them to the end, and how He has gone to prepare a mansion of glory for all who trust Him. The old man drew nearer and nearer, leaning sideways on anything that came to hand.
The ready eye of the speaker saw that interest was awakened in the old man's soul, and he proceeded to contrast the heavenly home with the sad homes by which he was surrounded, finishing by saying that the loving Saviour was the Friend of sinners, even such as the old man who was tottering upon the brink of the grave; He was waiting to pardon and bless every repenting soul.
The tears were creeping down the poor man's face as the little company left the court. "Was this Friend for him?" again he muttered, as he went back to his comfortless abode.
Alone in his poor little home, the aged man sought the Lord—or rather, we should say, the Friend of sinners Himself sought him! The seeker after mercy thought of his eighty years' guilt, of opportunities neglected, and He remembered his behavior to the servant of God.
"I will forgive," was the word of the Lord Jesus to all his questionings.
Curses, oaths, Sabbath-breakings, drunkenness, lies, rose up before him, but the pardoning love of Jesus conquered all.
A short time after, the missionary called upon the eager listener, and how different was the reception received from what had been the case formerly! "How long has this change been?" he asked.
“Ever since that time as you came and sang in the court.”
A few weeks rolled away, and the old chickweed seller was missed from his daily round; a new hand brought "chickweed and groundsel for the singing birds"; the old man had gone to the paradise above, brought to God through the humble instrumentality of the singers and speakers in the gloomy, grimy court.
“So the Lord works," said the dear missionary who told us how the Master had thus called the old man to Himself; and so, in His wonderful grace and love, He fills the home above with those who shall forever sing His praises and the praises of God the Father. W. L.