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By Thy woe and pain
“My Soul.” Et tract distributors take fresh courage from the follow
ing little story. It may be long ere the precious seed springs up, yet in the darkness and silence it may
be taking firmer and deeper root. There is living near me a Christian man who was brought to God by means of the two words at the heading of this paper. Ten or twelve years ago he was walking carelessly through the streets of Birmingham, on his way to visit his betrothed, when an old gentleman passed him and handed him a tract. Often and often had he received one before; many a time had he twisted the little messengers up to light his pipe, and then thrown them aside. What made him, then, look at this one ? What power riveted the first two words on his mind, so that they could leave him no more? “My soul !”
“My soul,” he thought; "yes, I have a soul," and the God-given arrow struck home.
He committed the whole of the tract to memory, and for three long years repeated it to himself constantly, keeping it in his pocket till it was quite worn out by use. Three years the little seed lay still and silent, yet ever working in his heart until it fulfilled its errand, and was the means of leading him to give himself to Christ.
I went into his cottage one evening, and found a number of boys gathered round him in one room, while an open Bible lay before him, from which he was teaching them ; in the adjoining apartment his wife read from another holy volume to several young girls who sat near her. What a beautiful picture !
When I spoke of it to a lady, whose gardener this Christian man had been for five years, she replied :
“O yes, he is a good man; but I never know half the good he does; he never tells me himself, only I hear about it from others.”
All the work in the beautiful conservatory and garden appears to lead his mind to higher things, and he lives in an atmosphere of praise and prayer.
Being kindly invited to come again, another evening found me within the little home, and I well remember his saying to the children, once more grouped near him : “I was pruning the vine to-day, and by accident cut off a bunch of grapes before it was ripe: there they lie, they will never ripen now, never be pleasant to the taste, and what is the reason? Simply because they are severed from the vine ; the sap from the root and the branches cannot flow to them; and so it will be with our souls if we do not abide in Jesus.”
The illustration is only a sample of many more; and, as some of these dear children have been enabled to lay hold on Christ by a living faith, and abide in Him in a living union, have also established a prayer-meeting among themselves, and by their lives are bringing forth fruit to the Master of the vineyard, who may tell the endless results springing from that little tract given away long ago in Birmingham ?
T was a bleak and stormy day in the depth of winter, when Mr. W— , a Christian minister, set out from a well-known Dartmoor village for
another village which touches the moor on the Okehampton side, where he was expected to hold a religious service the same evening. To have gone by the main road would have lengthened his journey several miles, he therefore decided to go “cross country,” by the grass paths, which are plain enough when the weather is clear, but difficult to trace when it is foggy, as was the case on this occasion. Thinking that he knew the way, he travelled along for some distance with a light heart, hoping to reach his destination before nightfall. By some means, however, he strayed from the path, and could not get into it again; he was lost among the furze and heather-bushes, and huge boulders with which the moor abounds. There is something about Dartmoor with its frowning tors, and oppressive stillness, which even in sunny seasons is awe-inspiring, but on the day of which we speak it was really terrible—a “waste howling wilderness ”—and the prospect of spending a night upon it was too gloomy to contemplate. Though bewildered, and almost benighted—for it was becoming dark—the minister felt that to stand still would only make matters worse; he therefore pushed on through the mist in the direction which seemed to him to be the right one. After continuing his course for about half an hour, he came to a small plantation, where he paused. What was he to do? He might be getting further from the place which he wished to reach, rather than nearer to it. As a last resource he knelt down under the trees, and sought the guidance of that God who had never failed him in the past, and while so doing he received an assurance that help would come.
In the village of M- lived Captain F- , a man highly esteemed by all classes, and one who went in and out among the people as an angel of God. He was always ready to assist anyone, no matter at what cost to himself, and God often found him work to do. When there was an accident in the mine, sickness in the parish, or any trouble, he was the first person to be sent for, and his visits were never in vain. On the evening upon which the minister was lost, Captain sat by the fireside in his cosy parlour, thankful that he had a comfortable home, and that there was no need for him to stir out and face the storm. All in a moment a thought flashed through his mind, and quickly rising up he said to his wife, “ I am going out, but I shall not be long.” “Where can you be going such a night as this ?” she asked, adding, “ Do stay in while you have a chance." Yielding to her persuasions he resumed his seat, but not to remain there long. He rose a second time, saying, “I feel that God has something for me to do.” Again his wife's intercession prevailed, and again he drew near to the fire; but he was restless : he tried to read ; that however was impossible, and so at last, taking up his hat, he remarked, “I have a deep conviction that God wishes me to go and help some one who is in distress; who it can be, I have not the slightest idea, but I must go out and see.” With these words upon his lips he left the house, and turning to the right, he wandered up a narrow lane which led on to the moor. He had not been walking more than ten minutes when, as if by instinct, he stood still to listen, and look round. “What is that?” he said to himself: “it sounds like the voice of some one who is in trouble, and it seems to come from the plantation. I'll go and see.” Quietly he crept along until he came near enough to see a man kneeling in prayer, and to hear these words : “Lord, I am Thy servant : I am engaged in Thy service, and as Thou knowest, I have lost my way, and know not where I am. Be pleased to send some person to help me.” Captain F- at once stepped forward and gave his hand to the minister, saying, “ I'm your helper. God has sent me." The minister then told his story, and the captain in return told his. They did not stay in the plantation very long. Captain F— conducted the wayfarer to his own house, and introduced him to his wife as the man for whose benefit God had sent him out. He lent him a change of clothing (for he was wet through), gave him a good supper, thanked God for his deliverance, and put him into a warm bed. When morning came the minister rose refreshed, and went on his way rejoicing, believing more fully than he had ever done before in the efficacy of prayer; while Captain Ffound in this strange circumstance another illustration of his own doctrine: “When men are willing to be used by God, God will find them work to do, and make them a blessing to their fellows."
Who will say, in the face of these facts, that prayer is unavailing ? This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his trouble. Nor is this a solitary instance. Every true Christian can tell of answers to prayer, and of some which have come through the least likely channels. God not only instructs His own servants to assist the needy (as He did Captain F- ), but He often prompts, and constrains even the worldly-minded to take an interest in. His people, and send them relief.
Some years ago a God-fearing man was reduced to the greatest straits; he had spent his last penny, and divided his last loaf among his hungry children, and starvation stared him in the face. It was getting late : his wife and children had gone to bed, but he resolved to stay up until he had laid his circumstances before the Lord. Being alone, he knelt upon the hearth, told God all, reminded Him of His promises, and besought Him to supply their need.
About a mile away from the cottage of this praying man lived a rich squire-a man of the world, who never troubled himself very much about his neighbours, but allowed them, as he said, to "shift for themselves.” That evening, while enjoying the pleasures of the table, he received the impression that the man to whom we have referred was in distress; and, what was more singular, he felt that he ought to look into the case, and act the part of a benefactor. This was