HE THAT GIVETH TO THE POOR LENDETH TO THE LORD
I had been preaching at Stansted, and, after sermon, visited a house where affliction had entered like a flood. The daughter who had requested me to call was confined with a white swelling on the knee, her sister had cancer, her mother was prostrate with fever, and, to fill up the measure of their calamities, the father, the only other member of the family at home, had been brought home the previous day with a broken leg. After reading the 30th Psalm and praying with them, I inquired of the elder sister what means of support they had. “None now, sir,” she replied, “since my father was brought home;
but though we have been long in heavy affliction, we have always been supplied, and I do not doubt it will be so now.” I gave her all the silver I had, and thinking, I presume, that students had not much to give away in charity, she hesitated, and begged that I would keep it, as she did not doubt that before the day was over some relief would come. However, 1 left it for her use. Walking across the common on my way home, I began to reflect that it was all the money 1 had, and that I could not expect more for some time. Borrowing I disliked, as it revealed my poverty and placed me under obligations. Just as I was sending up a prayer to my bountiful Provider, an old farmer who had heard me that day, and was watching for me at the gate, accosted me, and accompanied me in my walk. “Your sermon,” said he, “directed my thoughts to my previous history, and as it will beguile our walk and illustrate your discourse, I will, if agreeable to you, relate the circumstances.” Of course I very gladly assented.
“About forty years ago I began to rent a considerable farm. For some years all went on prosperously; my crops were good, and found a ready market, and my live stock yielded me profit; so that I not only repaid money which I had borrowed to stock my farm, but saved something annually out of my income. I began to think that ‘my mountain stood strong.’ I was congratulated by my friends. By her prudence and piety my thrifty wife made my house one of the happiest. My six children, none of whom ever caused me grief, and four of whom were truly pious, cheered me with the hope that they would be a blessing in their generation. I was respected and honoured by all who knew me. For many years I had been a deacon at the Church at Â— Â— Â— and was able to contribute liberally to God’s cause, and to assist in the spiritual duties of the Church.
Unexpected reverses came. All at once everything appeared to go wrong. One of my sons took to drinking, and became a grief and a curse to me. A daughter, the most beautiful of the family, made a mistake, and married a carter Â— a dissolute man Â— who died within three years, leaving her a widow with two children, and expecting a
third, all of whom came to me for support. Two of my daughters were smitten with a fever and were reduced to the last extremity and fatigue, my wife was prostrated and confined to her bed. The fever was considered to be so contagious that we could get no one to attend to the sick, who were left, therefore, to the doctor and myself. A person to whom I had lent money left the village and never paid me. These circumstances greatly reduced our means. Then as soon as health returned to our house, a disease seized our cattle, and I lost nearly all. A bad harvest followed; my crops were literally washed away. Like Job, I sat speechless, and wondered what the end would be. My dear wife died broken-hearted, and I was left a widower, not only penniless, but in debt. Where to obtain relief I knew not, especially as many of my neighbours had severely suffered. In the midst of my distress a writ was issued against me and nothing but a prison stood before me. God, I knew, was a hearer of prayer as I had often proved; but the blows of adversity had so stunned me, that I could offer only a few broken sentences, asking my Father in heaven, my only Friend to interpose for me.
The day before the writ was executed, a stranger walked into my house, and, introducing himself by name, said that he had walked some miles to see me. ‘First,’ said he, ‘give me a jug of your home-brewed.’ ‘Alas!’ said I, ‘I have none.’ ‘No!’ said he, with surprise;
‘then give me a glass of milk.’ I told him that my cows were all dead. With considerable emotion at my haggered appearance, he inquired the cause of change that he witnessed in me and in my once flourishing farm. He listened patiently and with deep interest to my statement, and when I had finished he asked, ‘Do you remember a lad of the name of B Â— Â—, whom you once advised and befriended?’ ‘I do.’ ‘Do you know what has become of him?’ ‘No. I heard that he went to sea sometime after.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘he went to Spain, and through the assistance you rendered him he acquired property, and now has returned to his native land; and God has sent him to help you in your trouble.’ Then taking out of his pocket-book a cheque, he filled it up with Â£1,000, and gave it to me. ‘Accept that,’ he said, ‘as a proof of my gratitude; and if you want more you shall have it.’ And before I could even attempt to express my surprise and thankfulness, he said, ‘Now let us both return thanks to God.’ And kneeling down, he poured out his heart for me and for my three remaining children, to Jehovah-Jireh, in strains that to me were such as I never again expect to hear on earth. His munificent gift enabled me to pay my debts and to take a farm which I now occupy, and where, through the goodness of God, my latter end has been better than my beginning.”
To an inexperienced and almost penniless youth, this little history was very surprising and encouraging. It seemed to assure me that my heavenly Friend would give me sufficient for my day; and I
returned to my room in the college filled with joy and peace in believing. On the following Wednesday, I received a parcel containing three volumes of Witsius, “On the Covenants,” a piece of fine French cloth for a suit of clothes, three golden guineas, and several minor articles of considerable value to me. It contained no note, nor anything to indicate whence it had come; nor could I discover any clue to the donor. For twenty-six years I was ignorant of my sympathizing friend, but a simple circumstance made him known to me. A member of the Church at Surrey Chapel had been guilty of an act which the elders of the Church thought ought to be a matter of Church investigation and discipline. He acknowledged his guilt; and it was determined that he must be cut off from the fellowship of the Church. When I informed him of the investigation, he said, “It is just, and for the honour of the Church no other course could be pursued. But I part with deep sorrow; for I was one of a little band who received, I trust, although I have now fallen, the Gospel from your lips when you were a student. Till this sad yielding to temptation, I have lived and walked with God; and I trust that He has pardoned and restored my soul. Do you remember receiving a parcel (the contents of which he described) when you were a student at Cheshunt?” “Certainly I do,” I replied; “and I could never learn to whom I was indebted for it.” “I sent it,” said he, “simply as a token of my gratitude; and, when you came to Surrey Chapel, I became a member of your Church.” I was much affected by this discovery under such painful circumstances, and could only commend him to the care of the Good Shepherd, who, by His means, had so fully and so seasonably supplied my wants*
Rev. J. Sherman.
*James Sherman (1795-1862), a distinguished Congregational minister, and the successor of Rowland Hill, at Surrey Chapel, London.