H. H. Snell.
Extracted from "From the Far Country to the Father's House" — "Grace and Truth" Gospel Series.
Publisher: Morrish. CBA8836.
In a quiet country town in a fertile part of the West of England resided an elderly lady, a widow, who lived comfortably on her means, was known to every person in the neighbourhood, and universally respected. She was accustomed to dress neatly, and might generally be seen every morning walking about in a black-silk cloak, on the inside of which was a very large pocket, made expressly for the purpose for which she required it. She was kind and generous to a degree, so that her life seemed taken up with thoughtful care for the benefit of her fellow-creatures, and in ministering to their necessities. She was acquainted with most, if not all, of the well-to-do people of the town, and her habit was frequently to call on them, and thankfully accept of anything they had to contribute for the benefit of the poor she knew. These offerings she carried off in the large pocket inside the cloak: and it was her delight to make good soup, jelly, or other articles of food, for the sick and needy, as also to help them with clothing.
She went on in this way for many years, and became not only well known, but had the reputation of being "a very good old lady." She advanced to the age of three score years and ten, and still, though her sight grew dim, she perseveringly pursued the same course. Nor was she indifferent to religious duties, as people say. Far from it. She was as much admired for her diligence in religious exercises as for her benevolent activities. The parish church was seldom open without this aged lady being one of the congregation; serious, too, in her manner, so that, among the thousands in that town, perhaps no one was considered to have a better religious reputation than Mrs. P. This course she continued diligently year after year.
When about seventy-three years of age, she heard that a medical practitioner, residing about four miles from the town, was coming to preach on a certain evening in a room almost exactly opposite her house, and she had a great desire to hear him; a lady friend was also willing to accompany her.
The subject to which the preacher called attention was the Lord's question to Peter in Matt. 16, "Whom do ye say that I am?" After perhaps referring to the pointed, personal way in which our Lord addressed souls, he endeavoured to show from Scripture God's own testimony to the eternal Godhead and perfect manhood of His beloved Son, that such as really own Him to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God," are pronounced to be "blessed," and to such, the Father (not flesh and blood) hath revealed His Son. No doubt he went on to speak of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, but the prominent point in the discourse was the person of the Son. There seemed nothing unusual in the meeting, beyond a large and attentive audience. But when they were separating the old lady stepped forward, and asked the preacher to call on her the next time he came into town.
When he called, this aged lady almost immediately said, "I see now that I have always been a Unitarian until the other evening at the preaching. I believed in God, but I never knew His Son till the other evening, and now I am quite a different person. I see now that He has saved me, and I am so happy." I replied, "You have always had the character of being a very religious person, zealous in going to church, doing good" etc. "I know it," said she, "but I had not got salvation. I was doing all these things in order to obtain salvation, but never could succeed. But now I know that God sent His only begotten Son, and that He has saved me."
Such was the substance of the narrative. And I remember well she added, "I tell you, sir, that I have been thinking, as I have comfortable means, and as you do not seem to have friends in the town, that if you will use my parlour for yourself or friends, whenever you wish to converse with any, or to have them to dinner or tea, I shall be very happy."
This last expression of hers seemed such a confirmation of the reality of her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that the preacher could only praise God and take courage. It forcibly reminded him of Lydia's conversion, whose heart the Lord opened, and who said to the apostle, "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there." It is also remarkable that as Lydia's conversion was the beginning of the work of the Lord in Philippi, so the conversion of this old lady was followed by the conversion of many others in that town.
It need scarcely be added that the preacher recognized this door of hospitality as opened by the Lord, and for years after this the old lady was rejoiced to have the privilege of receiving many of the Lord's dear children into her house, and of using her substance in various ways in the Lord's service, and thus showing that she had passed from death unto life by her love to the brethren.
There is one feature in this narrative to which the writer would call special attention. It is the air of respectability and usefulness with which souls may move religiously on the broad road which leads to everlasting destruction. Such cases, we fear, are by no means uncommon. People of this stamp certainly look better outwardly than the immoral and profane, and yet, perhaps, are more thoroughly deceived by the great adversary of souls. To "do good," "be useful," "try to get better," "act with sincerity," "practise ways of benevolence and sympathy," are expressions often pressed on the unconverted, with the delusive hope of helping their salvation. Such ways, like those of the Pharisees, are certainly beneficial in a social point of view, and we all prefer to have such well-behaved neighbours; but to put these things, in any degree as stepping stones, or means of eternal salvation, is not only in direct opposition to God's word, but sets aside the only Saviour whom God has sent, and who declared "no man cometh unto the Father but by Me."
Scripture declares that "by the deeds of the law (or the best doings that man could bring) no flesh shall be justified in His sight;" how blind, then, must those be who are endeavouring to do what God says cannot be accomplished? The common sentiments that "God only requires men to do their best," "to act up to their conscience," and the like, are only pure inventions, and quite contrary to His revealed will in the Scriptures. All such presumptuous ideas are levelled immediately by one verse of divine truth, and "the Scripture cannot be broken." Look for instance, at John 3:36, "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." Again, in Romans 4:5, it is written. "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." When the jailor was in distress, and cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" did the apostle tell him to do this and that? No, he told him that salvation was by believing, and therefore not by doing, and said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Are you, dear reader, trusting to your doings to recommend you to God, or to help in any measure your salvation? May it please God to shine into your heart, and so convict you of your utterly lost and unclean condition as to compel you to look out of yourself for a Saviour, and to find out your want of the accomplished work of the Son of God, who "came into the world (not to help, but) to save sinners." And when others are turning away from the Saviour, and you are asked if you will not also go away, your reply then will be, like Peter's, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:67, 68).