A poor half-witted man, named Joseph, whose employment was to go on errands and carry parcels, passing through London streets one day, heard singing in a place of worship. He went in, having a large parcel of yarn hanging over his shoulders. It was Dr. Calamy’s Church, St. Mary’s, Aldermanbury. A very well-dressed audience surrounded the Doctor. He read his text from 1 Tim. i. 15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” From this he preached, in the clearest manner, the ancient and apostolic Gospel, the contents of this faithful saying, namely, that there is eternal salvation for the vilest sinners, solely through the worthiness of Jesus Christ, the God who made all things. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. i 26-29).
While the elegant part of the congregation listlessly heard this doctrine, and were only struck, if with anything, it might be with some brilliant expression or well-turned period, Joseph, in rags, and gazing with astonishment, never took his eyes from the preacher, but drank in with eagerness all he said; and trudging homeward afterwards he was heard to thus mutter to himself,Â—”Joseph never heard this before; Christ Jesus, the God who made all things, came into the world to save sinners like Joseph: and this is true: and it is a faithful saying.” Not long after this, Joseph was seized with a fever and was dangerously ill. As he tossed upon his bed, his constant language was, “Joseph is the chief of sinners; but Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and Joseph loves Him for this.” His neighbours, who came to see him, wondered on hearing him dwell on this, and only this. Some of the religious sort addressed him as follows:Â—”But what say you of your own heart, Joseph? Is there no token for good about itÂ—no saving change there? Have you closed with Christ by acting faith upon Him?” “Ah, no,” said he, “Joseph can act nothingÂ—Joseph has nothing to say for himself but that he is the chief of sinners; yet, seeing that it is a faithful saying that Jesus, He who made all things, came into the world to save sinners, why may not Joseph after all be saved?”
One man, finding out where he heard this doctrine, on which he dwelt uniformly and with so much delight, requested Dr. Calamy to come and visit him. He came, but Joseph was now very weak and had not spoken for some time, and though told of the Doctor’s arrival he took no notice of him. But when the Doctor
began to speak to him, as soon as he heard the sound of his voice he sprang upon his elbow, and, seizing him by his hands, exclaimed as loud as he could with his now feeble and trembling voice, “Oh, Sir! you are the friend of the Lord Jesus whom I heard speak so well of Him. Joseph is the chief of sinners; but it is a faithful saying that Jesus Christ, the God who made all things, came into the world to save sinners; and why not Joseph? Oh, pray to that Jesus for me; pray that He may save me. Tell Him that Joseph thinks he loves Him for coming into the world to save such sinners as Joseph.” The Doctor prayed, and when he concluded Joseph thanked him most cordially. He then put his hand under his pillow and took out an old rag in which were tied up five guineas, and putting it into the Doctor’s hands, which he had kept all the while close to him, he thus addressed him: “Joseph, in his folly, had laid this up to keep him in his old age, but Joseph will never see old age. Take it and divide it amongst the poor friends of the Lord Jesus, and tell them that Joseph gave it them for His sake who came into the world to save sinners, of whom he is the chief.” So saying, he reclined his head. His exertions in talking had been too much for him, so that he instantly expired.
Dr. Calamy left this scene, but not without shedding tears over Joseph. He used to tell this little story with much feeling, as one of the most affecting occurrences he ever met with.