The Strangest Man in the Village

IN our walks among the hills of S. we one day came to the small village of J. Having books and tracts with us, we availed ourselves of the privilege to distribute them to the country people, and called with them at the scattered cottages. At an old thatched hut, called "Well Cottage," we were very warmly welcomed by its aged inmate, who invited us to enter, and not only received our books, but told us much of her state of soul—how that for the many years of her widowed life she had longed to know that her many sins were pardoned. Gladly did we tell her of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, of forgiveness through His blood, and that God could say of the sinners who believe in His beloved Son, "their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:1212For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12).) Her thirsty soul drank in the good news, and her doubts and fears gave place to joy in believing.
She informed us that there were many others in a similar state of soul in that village, and asked us to see them, which we gladly promised to do; but the results of those visits must be told at some other time, as I wish my reader to hear of "the strangest man in the village.”
We found him sitting on a stool in the old-fashioned chimney corner, elbow on knee, his face resting on his hand, gazing, with a far-away look, into the fire. We were told that he was very deaf; that few people understood what he said; that he was so wicked as to tear and burn most of the tracts given to him, and that, without exception, he was the strangest man in the place. Upon inquiry we found he was neither a drunkard, swearer, nor ill-tempered person; neither did he boast of his goodness, but his chief employ was reading the Bible. His age and infirmity prevented him from doing much work, or going out of the village, "But," said our inform ant, "he be so odd that he can't get people to understand what he do mean.”
I went to him; gently placing my hand upon his shoulder, and speaking distinctly, so that he should hear, I said, My friend, do you know anything of the Lord Jesus Christ?" Lifting his head up quickly, and gazing intently into my face, with a very questioning look, he said—
"Do you know the Lord yourself?"
"Indeed, I do know Him.”
“Well, have you always known Him?"
"No, though I have trusted Him as my Saviour for many years.”
"Did you ever feel the burden of your sins, and know your lost condition, and see how unable you were to do anything to fit you for the eye of a holy God?”
"Yes.”
"And then God's grace gave you to believe?”
“Yes; light shone into my dark heart; my burden rolled away, and I knew that I was saved.”
“And do you love so-called pleasures, such as theaters, balls, and parties?”
“Certainly not; I have no taste for such things now. The time past of my life was thus spent, but when I believed, God gave me a new nature that delights in Himself, and ever seeks to please Him.”
“Give me your hand," said he; “I’m of a mind with ye. The squire's ladies and others come to me with their tracts and fair speeches, and I can't believe them; they are not real. They don't know Christ, therefore they love the world. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.' (1 John 2:15, 16, 1715Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15‑17).) Now I'll tell ye. I do know the Lord Jesus Christ. He is everything to me: In want, my plentiful Supply;
In weakness, my almighty Tower;
In bonds, my perfect Liberty;
My Refuge in temptation's hour
My Comfort, 'midst all grief and thrall;
My Life in death, my All in all.'
“I was a sad character—the pest of the village. I drank, I swore, and loved everything that was wicked. One day as I was plowing in the field, the thought came to my mind that my ways would surely lead me to hell, for I knew that I had done bad things enough to take me there. Hadn't I better try and do better? I would reform; perchance the merciful God would take notice of me. From that day I left off drink, and became quieter, but peace didn't come. I groaned under the burden of my sins for two whole years. I wept, I wrestled in prayer, I read the Bible. I just felt like a beast before Him. My anguish nearly drove me mad, till one dinner-time I was resting from my work under a wagon, over there by the side of the hedge, and I cried in my sorrow, Lord, have mercy upon a vile wretch like me! ‘It seemed as if the Saviour came and stood before me while He said, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee! ‘I believed His words, and didn't I praise Him then and there?—
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.'
"Yes, 'twas God's grace freely bestowed upon one of the vilest of His creatures. Praise Him! praise Him!”
Much more we had to say to one another of the deep things of God, and very joyful were our hearts at our happy meeting. But we must leave him in the thatched cottage by the hillside, for we had some miles to walk over the hills to our home.
We offered him some of our books, smilingly asking him if he would burn them.
“Nay, nay," said he; "I’ll promise to read them; I only burn those that are not true, lest they should do mischief to others. I'm a strange man to the villagers, because I tell them I know that I have passed from death unto life; that heaven is my home, and I am as sure of it as though I were already there!”
God wants reality, and may He make us to be more real for Him for His dear Son's sake. Amen. E. E. S.