THE GERMAN EMIGRANT
It was once my privilege to have connected with my charge a gracious old man, who loved to converse on the subject of experimental religion. He had a happy method also of illustrating topics of this nature by incidents belonging to the days of his boyhood, and the early settlement of the churches in the West. I have heard him relate many things concerning the ways of God, which if written out might be interesting and profitable to the present generation.
The following is one of the remakable stories which he told. He said,
“In the days of my boyhood it was the custom of the people here in the West to live in log cabins. Our minister was an old man, and when he came to spend the night with any of his parishioners, it was his habit to ask the privilege of lying down at an early hour. When in bed, he would say to the younger members of the family, ‘Come, my children, gather round my bed; I am now ready to talk to you.’ He would then commence with us on the subject of religion in the most affectionate manner, and tell us interesting stories, designed to illustrate some important truth.
While thus reclining one night he gave us the following narrative,
‘I was appointed one spring to attend a meeting of the General Assembly. Travelling one day through the mountains, on my way to Philadelphia, I passed by a smith’s shop, at the doors of which I noticed a man who eyed me very closely. I had not travelled far from the shop when I heard a horse galloping up behind me, and, turning in my saddle, I discovered that the rider was the same individual who had scrutinized me. When he came opposite my horse, without any ceremony he said, ‘Be you a preacher?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I am.’ ‘Then,’ said the German stranger, for such I discovered him to be, ‘I be so glad to see you, I have been long wanting to see a preacher. I hear there be preachers out at Pittsburgh, and I had a mind to go and see one, but now the Lord has sent me a preacher. You must go home mit (with) me and talk mit me. I lives just over de hill dare; I keep you and your horse well; I won’t charge you. You must come! Won’t you?’
Taking into view the wildness of the region in which I was thus accosted, I hesitated a little about the course I should pursue;
but the day being far spent, the man’s countenance being honest, his whole manner being seemingly sincere, and remembering his language, ‘The Lord has sent me a preacher,’ I turned and went with him. After reaching his house he gave me the following account of himself, in simple broken English. Â‘I be born and raised here,’ said he, ‘in dese mountains, and for a long time I live like the Injins (Indians). I fights, I swears, and I gets drunk. I never reads the Bible, I never prays, and I never dinks (thinks) anyding good. I hears dare was a hell, but I don’t care for it. On Sunday me and my brudders would go hunt deers and turkeys and
coons. I was living in dis way when one Sunday night we went out to hunt. We did not hunt long before we saw a coon. It was on a very high tree, we had no gun mit us to shoot him, so I climbed up de tree to shake him down. I could climb almost as good as de coon, and soon got on de limb (branch) where he was. I gave de limb one shake, but just so soon as you could dink, it broke, and down, down I comes. I cried, ‘Lord, have mercy on me,’ and so soon as I did dat, I catch a limb mit my hands. Dare I hung high up on de tree and no limbs under me. I tried to get up on de limb. I saw hell under me. I felt, if I let go, I would never stop till I would go right down to hell. I prayed, ‘Lord, have mercy on me,’ and He helped me to get on de limb. I held mit my hands. I came down from de tree, and just so soon as I come down I fell on de ground and had no strength. My brudders helped me home, but I could not sleep dat night. Oh, I had such ugly thoughts! I thought, ‘What if dat limb I caught mit my hands had broke? De devil would now have me, and I would be burning in hell.’ I got up in de morning and went to work, but it was not mit me as it used to be. I could not laugh and swear any more.
Oh, I had such a load here! (pointing to his breast.) My brudders taught I was sick, and I was sick too; but dey did not know it was my sins made me sick. I felt how I was a sinnerÂ— something in my breast did not go away; but what could I do? I had never prayed, except when hung up on de limb of de tree. I had no Bible. I had never heard a preacher. I thought, ‘I must get on my horse and go out to Pittsburg and see a preacher,’ but I could not well leave home. I got a Bible. I thought, ‘Now I will see what I must do to have my sins forgiven, and de load taken from my breast.’ I open de Bible and read it much, but it only make my load heavier. Oh, it make me feel so bad! I saw nothing in de Bible for me but hell and destruction. It said de wicked are turned into hell, and that there is no peace to the wicked, and I knew I was wicked. It just pour its curses right on my head. Oh, I was now so miserable! I thought, ‘If de Bible won’t make me happy, what will I do?’
I go now and wander in de woods and go on my knees behind de trees and pray, but it was no praying. I did not want to be where other people was; I did not like to hear them laugh; and when they swear, it makes me feel so bad. When my brudders and me were in de fields ploughing, I would go to de oder side of de field from dem. I would plough awhile and den go into de woods and pray, but it was no praying. My brudders now thought I was crazy, and de fall on de tree had turned my head. I keep on dis way a great while. I thought I would die. I eats little; I sleeps little; I gets as poor as a skeleton. I still read de Bible, though it show me hell and seemed to burn me up. I thought, I must read it. I still tried to pray, but it was no praying. One day I thought I must surely die, I feel so very bad. I get de Bible, and read, and read, and dare I see Jesus! I see Jesus standing between me and
my sins; my load den was gone. I had joy in my heart. Oh, I was so happy! just so happy as I was miserable before. I would jump mit joy so high as de fence.
Now I love Jesus, I loves my Bible; for whenever I see my sins, I see Jesus standing between me and dem. I love to pray. I go too and tell my brudders dat I found JesusÂ—dat He had taken away my sins, but dey again thought I was crazy, for dey had never seen dare sins, nor Jesus in de Bible. Since I found peace I have been happy, but I have wanted very much to see a preacher, to talk mit me about Jesus.’
You may readily suppose, my young friends” (continued the old preacher) “that I most cheerfully talked with him about the precious Saviour whom he had found so strangely. I tried to teach him more fully the way of salvation, and to confirm him in the faith he had embraced. In the morning I went on my journey, with my spirits refreshed, and the blessing of my German friend, and admiring the riches of the grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.”