LIGHT IN A STORMY NIGHT
With the name of Adoniram Judson, the great missionary among the Burmese, is associated one of the most remarkable stories of the ways of God’s choosing and fitting instruments for His service and praise.
A student of Brown University, New England, clever, cultured, vivacious but skeptical, he lived a constant round of questionable pleasure, untroubled by thoughts of the future. Joining a theatrical company of
New York on a certain occasion, Judson was journeying in New England; and on a dark stormy night, while the wind sighed and moaned among the pine clad hills, he lost his bearing and finally found his way to a roadside tavern near Shefield, Massachusetts. Hearing shouting, the landlord went to the door, and saw the benighted traveler at the gate alighting from his horse. Giving the horse to a boy to be cared for,
Judson was taken to the house and his wet wraps removed, he sat down before a roaring fire in the old tavern.
Of slender build, boyish appearance, with strength of character, neatly but not lavishly dressed, the landlord was curious to know who the youth was, to be out so far from home on such a night. He apologized for his inquisitiveness, and then asked many questions, to which Judson gave sparing answers and seemed oblivious to much that was going on. After a hearty supper he became more communicative, gave his name and place of abode, stating that he was with a theatrical company. The landlord, who was of old Puritan stock, lost no time in stoutly condemning such organizations as calculated to destroy the morals and character of the younger generation. This had little effect upon Judson; for he was an avowed skeptic.
Feigning sleep, but in reality anxious to get rid of his unwelcome interrogator, whose conversation was not to his liking, he asked to be shown to his room. Following the light of a pine-knot, he was taken
into a dingy apartment, for which the landlord apologized, stating that the guest chamber, which adjoined, was occupied by a young man who was very ill. After arranging everything as comfortable as possible, he
bade his guest good night and left, saying that he had to watch by the bedside of the sick man all night.
Young Judson couldn’t sleep, but lay in the bed thinking. The wind howled without and shingles on the roof rattled, and constantly a groan would come from the sick room. The rooms were only separated by a thin partition and the flickering light shone through the cracks, making thin streaks of light on his own bed. Toward morning the groans increased, interspersed by a loud curse or blood curdling yell,
mingling with the sobbing of the wind.
The restless visitor was tormented by these sounds, which seemed to find an answer in his own heart cries. As the night wore away and morning dawned, the groans became more feeble, then suddenly ceased,
and the light went out. The tired traveler now tried to sleep, but only fell into a fitful slumber for a few moments. At breakfast he inquired of the landlord for the sick man. “Dead,” he said, “and may I never see
such another deathbed, for without faith in God and hope in Christ, he has gone to meet his doom.” Judson did not care for such reflections, and tried to stop the old man by asking, “Who was he, and where did he come from?” “Where he came from I cannot tell,” replied the landlord, “but he stumbled in here one day in almost a delirious condition, and could not answer questions. I put him to bed, and he got worse. I
looked in his pockets and found a letter addressed to William George Saunders, Brown University.”
Judson dropped his knife and fork on his plate and his hands went to his sides. “What!” he cried. “George Saunders, my old schoolmate, he graduated with me last year?” “1 suppose it must be the same,” replied
the landlord, “for the letter was dated more than a year ago, and I judged it to be from his mother. I wrote her at once, and expect her here soon.” Adoniram Judson arose greatly upset and said, “Show me the
room immediately. I wish to see for myself if it is my old time friend.” The
landlord led the way to the room, pulled back the sheet, and disclosed the distorted features of what once had been a fair youth, budding into manhood. “poor, poor, George, George,” said Judson, looking on the
emaciated form of his old college chum. “Who would have thought, when you graduated a year ago, the pride of your class, that you would now be lying, far from home, with no one to soothe your dying hour. Sad to think such a star of promise has gone out in darkness. Nothing accomplished in this life. And the next–alas, alas, we both denied a future existence. Your past was an opening rosebud, your present a
withered flower, your future–well,, God knows. Shall I ever be lying thus?”
Turning to the old man he enquired if he had arranged for the funeral. “Nothing definite,” was his reply, adding that he wished the relatives to come first. Judson quickly took a roll of bills from his pocket
saying, “Bury him decently and keep the rest for your trouble. With his memory I also bury my former life of sin. From this day I will, please God, stave for something nobler than either of us sought before.”
Turning away, he ordered his horse, offered his hand to the old man, who took it firmly while tears ran down his furrowed cheeks. For the man who had come to the tavern an infidel, rode away truly repentant
and seeking light.
Has God ever refused a contrite cry? The Psalmist says, “A broken and contrite heart O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). The truth of this Judson proved. The incident became the turning point in the young
collegian’s life, and the erstwhile infidel became a sincere believer, carrying the Gospel, which had so signally proven itself to be, in his case, the power of God unto salvation, to foreign lands. Truly it could
be said of Judson, as was said by the Lord of Saul of Tarsus, “He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my Name before the Gentiles, and kings” (Acts 9:15).
His self-denying missionary labor in Burma is well known.
Reader, whoever you may be, skeptical or deeply devout, the Savior, Who became Judson’s Deliverer, is patiently waiting and pleading: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest” (Matt. 11:28). And again, “Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Will you not turn today, and say with one of old; “Lord, I believe?”
“The Word is nigh thee…the Word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in shine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved” (Romans 10:8-9).
“Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
-J. F. Nichols
Pilgrim Tract Society, P.O. Box 126, Randleman, N.C. 27317. Write to receive Gospel Tracts & “Messenger.”
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