Unseaechable Riches: And How a Poor Man Found Them

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I MUST be rich! I will be rich!" The speaker was Jean Barri, a young silk-weaver, who lived some years ago in a village not far from the old French town of Lyons. Clever at his trade, steady and industrious, he had constant work, but his earnings were not large, and for months his friends had noticed how restless and discontented he had grown. A great longing for wealth had taken possession of his mind; by night his dreams were of the gold he hoped some day to win, and by day, as he bent over his loom, his mind was busy with one question, "How can I grow rich?”
He would do what others had done, leave his native land and go to Africa. He had heard of some who had made large fortunes on the Gold Coast. Gold was, he believed, to be had there almost for the picking up. Yes, he would go, and in a few years, he hoped, return a wealthy man, buy or build a beautiful house, and pass the rest of his life in idleness and pleasure.
The old weaver to whom he confided his hopes and plans looked grave and said, "It is, I believe, true that some who have gone to the Gold Coast have grown rich, but many have returned poorer than they went; some have lost their health, and others have died. How do you know that you will be among the few who succeed? And why should Babeete wait till her eyes grow dim with weeping, and her hair is white with age? You have known each other for seven years, and she is not anxious to be rich.”
But Jean had made up his mind. Go he would. His friends said that he was mad, and would return a poorer man than he went away. His answer was, "If I cannot bring riches I will not return at all." By selling his loom and other possessions, he got money enough to pay his passage out. But Africa was not the land of gold he had expected to find it. No one seemed to want the kind of work he could do. His small stock of money was soon spent; poor and friendless, he hardly knew how to get food. Weavers were, he was told, wanted in England. If he could get to that country, he would find employment and receive good wages. After some time of hardship and waiting the captain of a ship allowed him to work his passage to the London docks.
A stranger in a strange land, he found his way to Lambeth, where at that time quite a number of French families were living. He had not been there more than a day or two, before God, "who is rich in mercy," raised up a friend for the sad, lonely man.
A kind-hearted Englishwoman said if he cared to live in her attic till he could get work, he might do so; he might also use a loom, already there, which had belonged to an old weaver who died under her roof; she had nursed him in his last illness; he was too poor to pay even his rent, but had left her his loom and a few other things of small value. Barri accepted the offer gladly, and being a good workman soon obtained employment; still the riches he longed for seemed as far away as ever, and he often felt sad and lonely.
Often he would think of his own sunny France, and say to himself, "I will not lose heart, surely I shall yet be rich, and the long, weary waiting time will be over." One evening, just as the setting sun gilded the tops of the houses he could see from his attic window, the door opened, and a fair-headed, bright-faced little fellow of three entered. Pushing the weaver into a chair he said, "Mother's out, all out. Pimpy wants to say prayers, 'on hear Pimpy"; and kneeling by his side, the child lisped in baby words a simple prayer his mother had taught him. Rising from his knees he looked gravely at his new friend for a moment, then again kneeling, added to his little prayer, "Please, dear God, bless Barri." The weaver, who was fond of children, caught the little boy in his arms, kissed him, and gave him a lump of sugar. Pimpy then trotted off to, as he said, "put himself to bed.”
Before an hour had passed Jean had another visitor. Mrs. Mortimer, Pimpy's mother, climbed the somewhat steep stairs leading to the attic. Having been sent for to visit a sick neighbor, she had been detained longer than she had expected, but she wanted to thank the weaver for his kindness to her little boy. "Pimpy," she said, "can talk of nothing but you and the sugar. God bless you, Mr. Barri," and the busy woman, with a kindly "good-night," turned to go.
“Stop a moment!" cried Barri, in his broken English. "Twice this evening God has been asked to bless me, first by a little child, then by a woman; if there is a God, surely He will hear such prayers, and send me the gold, yes, the riches I long for." "Yes, there is a God," Mrs. Mortimer said, "and the sooner you believe it the better, Mr. Barri; and there are two kinds of riches, one kind you must work for, and you may get it or you may not; but even if you do, you have to leave it all behind you when you die; the other kind is a free gift, it is kept for you and can never be taken away, and I am one of those who prefer having my fortune made for me; but I must not stop talking any longer, so good-night, and again I say, God bless you.”
Barri thanked her, and said he should like both kinds. He did not understand all that she had said, but new thoughts were in his mind; he had failed in getting the riches he had sought, perhaps it would be well for him to seek those of which Mrs. Mortimer had spoken. But how or where to begin he did not know.
The next evening, and for many that followed, Pimpy trotted up with the same errand, he wanted Barri to hear him say his evening prayer; and little by little the weaver began to pray for himself. He hardly knew what he wanted, or how to ask for it, but for him the light had dawned, God the Holy Spirit had begun a work in his soul.
“I ought to have thought of it before, Mr. Barri,"his landlady said one day," but you must feel lonesome at times all by yourself here; come downstairs sometimes in the evenings, you might like a bit of English home comfort, and my husband will be glad to see you, that he will.”
From that time the weaver often spent his evenings with Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer, who, having themselves found the true riches, sought to lead him to the Savior they loved. He bought a French Bible, and some happy hours were spent with his friends, reading the word of God together. He went with them to hear the gospel preached, but was disappointed at finding he could only understand a few words here and there.
After the meeting, an old man took him by the hand, saying kindly, "My friend, have you found the ‘unsearchable riches'?”
Barri replied sadly, "Ah! I went to Africa to seek for riches, but I had to return without them, I have not yet found them.”
“And I, when I was a young man, went to Australia on the same errand," said the old man, "but in finding Christ I found the true riches; and you may have them too, for it is ' whosoever will, let him come.'" And before many weeks had passed a seeking Savior and a long-sought sinner met; peace, too deep for words, filled the soul of the French weaver.
He wrote to Babeete, telling her how at last he had found the true riches, and asking her to come to England to be married to him, he was earning enough for both. But her reply was a great disappointment; she said he had deceived her, he had promised to return with riches, but he had not done so, and she was about to be the wife of another.
While still working at his trade, he gave all his spare time to gospel work among the French families in and near Lambeth. God owned and blessed his work. After a time he went to help a missionary working in Paris, "for," he said, "I can return to my native land, as I have found better riches than those I left it to seek." A few years of happy service were his, and then he caught a fever from a sick person he visited, and died, full of joy in the Lord.