The Rich Friend

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).

It is worthy of our God that His saving grace should not select for its subjects those who are capable of making a return for the grace bestowed on them, that it should not demand qualifications, either mental or moral, that it should ask for nothing, nor be hindered by anything, whilst it seeks to make itself known. It is in its nature voluntary and free, and in its intensity of desire—its energy of pursuit—it is found in the streets and lanes of the city, in quest of “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind”; nay, with more diligence still, it is seen scouring the very “highways and hedges,” in order to indulge itself in the good of man. This is worthy of such a God as ours. His grace seeks sinners for its subjects, and be they never so worthless—never so ruined by the fall, they are none the less within the solicitude of a love that came to “seek and to save that which was lost.”

In this Christianity stands in vivid contrast with every human system of wisdom. Philosophy wants philosophers, science needs scientist, astronomy must have astronomers; and, naturally, unless a man have brains and capability for their demands, he cannot claim to be their disciple. Not so with the grace that saves. The “wise and prudent” are set aside, and “babes” are taken in their place. The pride of man and of all human glory is thus stained, and that which would be despised is taken up. And so we read, “When the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;” and again, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength.” And what is this but the setting aside of all that in which man would naturally pride himself, and the acceptance of that which would be disdained. However, such is the benevolent way of sovereign grace; and it is well when the heart has learned to bow to its divine and blessed condescension by taking the place of the babe or that of the fool, so that it may indeed become wise.

In illustration of this principle I desire to put on record a fact—one of these beautiful instances of free grace—in the salvation of one who had in early years, through an accident, become exceedingly feeble in mind, and who, though not altogether “half-witted,” was yet incapable of occupation other than the most light and irresponsible. He had nevertheless an aptitude for the simpler branches of mathematics, and could with facility calculate large sums of money. Accordingly, he found employment in a bank, was useful in many ways, and thoroughly trustworthy. We became acquainted thus. When labouring in the gospel in the town near which he lived, he used, now and then, to come in a friendly way to enjoy a cup of tea in the house of those with whom I happened to be staying. There he appeared to feel at home, whilst their kindness to him won his confidence; and it was through this hospitality that he was brought into circumstances which God used for his conversion.

One evening, when sitting on the sofa, my friend and host took his place beside him, and being desirous of his eternal welfare, asked him as to his state of soul. The young man answered unintelligently, not indeed that he was ignorant of the need of his soul, or of the outward truth of the Gospel, but his responses showed us that he did not fully understand the real nature of the matter under consideration. After some patient though fruitless efforts, my host retired, feeling that he had failed in reaching either the conscience or understanding of his guest. Calling to mind the fact that he was accustomed to the use of money, it seemed to me that an illustration bearing upon it might be used of God in explaining the Gospel to him. I therefore took the place which my host had vacated, and, after a word or two of friendly conversation, I said to my poor young friend that I was very heavily in debt, and that I could not, by any means, extricate myself. I found at once that he was interested. He asked me if I could not pay the debt. I told him that I could not, and that the amount was far beyond my power to pay. He thought the difficulty over, and then said, “If you cannot pay you must go to prison.” “Ah,” said I, “it is that which I dread, and which I seek to avoid,” “But,” he replied, “if you cannot pay your debt you must certainly go to prison.”

I looked down upon the ground, crushed by sorrow; but after a moment, as though a bright thought had struck me, I turned my face to him, and cheerfully said, “Oh! I see what to do! I have a rich Friend—one who loves me deeply; I will go to him and tell him all my trouble, make known to him the full extent of my debt, and I feel sure that he will take up my case, pay my debt, and save me from prison. But,” said I, inquiringly, “would it be the same thing to my creditor, if the debt were paid by my rich Friend, as if I paid it myself?” “Quite the same,” he said. And then, with a mind at peace, I told him that I was thoroughly satisfied.

He appeared to enter fully into the matter, and so I said to him, “My dear W—, in truth I do not owe a penny; but I know that you are in debt, and I feel deeply for you.” He looked upon me, and replied, somewhat indignantly, that such a charge was groundless. Yet I pressed it upon him, saying that he was God’s debtor, that he had committed many sins, and that therefore he was heavily in debt to God. This he of course admitted; but the charge came home to his conscience in power, and he felt the force of it. I asked him if he could pay that terrible debt. He replied, that he could not. Then I told him he must go to prison—the prison of hell—for it was impossible that a holy and sin-hating God could take a debtor to heaven! He saw the analogy between the case already supposed and his own, and felt that the conclusion was inevitable. It was now his turn to look dejected; and I allowed the truth to operate on his conscience. Then, turning to him, I said, “Tell me, W—, is there no rich Friend who would pay, by His precious blood, the awful debt which you could never pay? and, if you come by faith to Him, and spread before Him your case, would He cast you out, or turn you away?” The name and blood of Jesus came before him—the name of the Saviour and the blood of the Substitute. W— had oft-times heard of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and was able, therefore, to say that even he would not be turned away nor cast out, if only he came to Jesus. “But,” I said, “would it be the same thing to your divine creditor if Jesus, your rich Friend, paid your debt, as if you paid it yourself?” He replied in the affirmative. And oh! what peace flows into the soul that by faith presents the all-sufficient “blood of Jesus” to the throne of divine holiness! By it the claims of holiness are met, and therefore the fears of the conscience are silenced. That blood cleanseth from all sin, and the knowledge thereof tranquillizes the troubled heart.

And all this was made known then and there to poor W—. He was the debtor, and could not pay his debt, nor avoid the inevitable doom due to such. Jesus was the rich Friend whose blood was shed to meet the claims of justice against sin; but God, having raised Him from the dead, has given proof that the creditor seeks no other payment, and therefore the debtor who avails himself of that payment is without charge before the creditor. That which satisfies the creditor may well satisfy the debtor, and he may truly sing—
  Sweetest rest and peace have filled me,
    Sweeter peace than tongue can tell;
  God is satisfied with Jesus,
    I am satisfied as well.”

Well, I thought, the Spirit of God has enlightened the soul of this poor young man; but, knowing the enfeebled condition of his mind, I changed the subject. The evening passed away, and on bidding good-night to my hostess, he was asked by her if the debt were paid. He replied, “Yes; the rich Friend has paid the debt.”

Days and weeks rolled away. Occasionally we saw Mr. W—. Once he said, “It is a blessed thing to be saved!” We noticed that he carried a hymn-book, and asked him why he did so. He replied that he was fond of the hymns now. So, later on, he carried a New Testament, and all the signs of true conversion to God were displayed by him.

Years fled past, and now and then I saw him. He was always naturally shy and retiring, but when asked if the debt were paid, he would always answer in the affirmative. Incapable of making any return, or even outward or public acknowledgment of the grace that had found him, he was yet a witness to its free action, its unseeking and unselfish benevolence, its delight in enriching others without seeking aught from them. Such is grace, and in such a way did “the God of all grace” bring to Himself this poor, dear, feeble-minded youth.

His end was sudden. Absent for three days from home, search was made for him, and his body was found cold and stiff in the waters of the river that flowed not far distant.

It appears that he had gone to a place near at hand, where he had been in the habit of visiting, and had dressed himself for the walk in his waterproof coat. On crossing the river he had fallen, and had not been able to rise again. The waters rolled over him and he was drowned. Well it was for him, dear lad, that on approaching the bank of that other river he could hear a voice saying, “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee.” If there were no human hand to lead him in safety over the narrow but angry torrent where he fell to rise no more—a gentle hand conducted him securely through the dark-rolling river of death; and the rich Friend who had delivered him from prison would most assuredly sustain him in his rough and lonely passage from time to eternity. This Friend “sticketh closer than a brother.” He does not abandon the objects of his love; nor because they may be unable to advocate His cause by lives of intelligent devotedness to Him does He cast them off: and if, in the Father’s goodness, the things that are hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed to such babes, is not the exceeding grace of God only the more magnified, that objects so incapable of returning intelligent worship should not be passed over, but the rather sought for? And what a lesson may be learned by others who are blessed with the use of faculties of mind and body, that they, as loved by the same Friend, should present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Reader, are you His?