The Old French Shoemaker

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 4
Years ago, in Nantes, a Bible was given to a beggar. Unlike most of his class, the man could read. When he found that the book was not known in the towns and villages which he passed through in his wanderings, he conceived a smart idea. He would add to his meager income by reading a portion to those who would be willing to pay for it.
One day he stopped at the little shop of an old man who made the sabots, or wooden shoes, worn by French peasants, and begged alms of the shoemaker.
"You ask charity of me!" exclaimed the old man; "I am just as needy as you are."
The beggar replied: "If you are not willing to give me alms, then give me a sou (a French coin of the same value as our cent), and I will read a chapter of the Bible to you."
"A chapter of what?"
"Of the Bible."
"What book is that? I never heard of it before." "It is a book which speaks of God."
The old shoemaker, curious to know something of the contents of the book, gave the beggar a sou. The latter produced his wonderful book, and sitting down on a stone in front of the shop he began to read from the third chapter of John's gospel. The old man listened with delight to the words of grace and truth which fell on his ear. This portion had all the attraction of something entirely new.
The narrative of the interview of Nicodemus with the Lord Jesus deeply impressed him. Especially was he struck with the words which Martin Luther called "the Bible in miniature": "For God so loved 'the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Before the reader concluded with the words: "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," the old man was eager to hear more. He cried, "Go on! go on!"
"Oh, no!" replied the beggar, "only one chapter for a sou."
Another sou was quickly handed over. Then the old man listened with speechless joy to the sweet story of the Savior at Sychar's well. He felt as he had never felt before when he heard for the first time the divine words: "Whosoever, drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
Too quickly, it seemed, the fourth chapter of John had all been read. The beggar would read no more without another sou. The old man could not go on paying sous, for he was very poor; but he begged the man to tell him where he had got such a marvelous book. The beggar merely said that he had got it from a preacher in Nantes. Then he and his book went on their way. But the precious words remained in the old shoemaker's mind, and through the night as well as by day he repeated to Himself 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).
One morning, about a couple of weeks later, he rose early, and told his son that the little shop would be left in his care, as he was going 'to Nantes.
"To Nantes, father?" said his son; "you cannot think of it. It is much too long a journey for you—more than sixty miles."
"I know, but I have made up my mind to go to Nantes."
All efforts to dissuade him from his purpose were unavailing, so he started off on the long walk to Nantes. When finally he arrived there he sought out and found the man who kept a small Bible Store.
"What do you wish?" asked the owner as the shoemaker entered the store.
"Sir," he replied, "I have been told that one could obtain from you a book that tells about God."
"Is it a Bible you mean?"
"Oh, yes, sir, that's it! I should like to have one."
"At what price?"
"Price, sir?" asked the old man.
"Certainly; we don't give away Bibles!"
"Well, I can't buy one, sir. A beggar told me that you gave him one. I am as poor as he is."
"Where do you come from, my friend?"
He told 'the name of the village in which he lived. The storekeeper, knowing it was a great distance, inquired, "How did you come?"
"On foot."
"How are you going back?"
"On foot again."
"What! Have you, old as you are, undertaken a walk of more than a hundred and twenty miles to get a Bible?"
"Yes, sir; and I shall think myself amply rewarded if I get one."
"If that be so, although I ought never to give away another Bible, you shall certainly have one. What size would you like to have? Probably one with fairly large type? You read pretty well, I suppose?"
"Ah! no; I do not know a letter."
"But what are you going to do with a Bible if you can't read?"
"Oh, sir, my daughter can read. And there are three other people in our village who can read. I do Leg you to give me the Book."
The pastor gave him a Bible; and after thanking him heartily, he carried it homewards with joy. On reaching his native village, he invited the people to come to his house in the evening, when those who could read to them by turns, while the others listened.
The old sabot-maker followed all that was read with, the greatest attention, and committed many parts of the Scriptures to memory. The words, however, did not entertain his mind only, but touched the inmost chords of his heart.
Some six months later, he again went to Nantes. The store-keeper, astonished at seeing him, exclaimed: "My old friend! Whatever brings you so far this time?"
The old man replied, "Oh, sir, I've been all wrong—all wrong, sir."
"But who told you that you were wrong?"
"The Book, sir; the Bible says it."
"Oh really! And what does it say?"
"It says that I've been wrong all my life.
"I have heard that you people have a religion just like the Bible, and if you please, I would like to know and to become one of you."
"My friend, Before we admit anyone we examine him."
"Examine, sir! I am an old man, beyond the three score years and ten, and I know not the number of my days. There is no time to lose, sir."
The store-keeper assembled a few of the leaders immediately, and proceeded to ask the old man a number of questions.
"What do you know of the Lord Jesus Christ?"
He answered: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
"What have you to say about His death?"
"The blood of Jesus Christ, God? s Son, cleanseth us from all sin."
"What are the privileges of those who believe in Christ?"
"There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
"What would you say was the duty of the believer in Christ?"
"Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
"Friend," was the conclusion, "if these words express your heart, you have been taught by God Himself. We do not hesitate to admit you among us, and we welcome you as a brother."
Throughout the years that followed, the old man showed by the confession of his lips and a happy Christian life the wonderful results of hearing the Word of God, if it is received in simple faith.