THE MAN THAT DIED FOR ME
Many years ago I wanted to 8ø as a foreign missionary, but my way seemed hedged about, and I went to live on the Pacific coast, in California, in the mining country of that district, where life is so rough. I resided my husband and little boys. One day I heard of a man who lived over the hills, who was dying of consumption, and they said “He is so vile no one can stand it to stay with him, so the men place some food near him and leave him for twenty-four hours.’ And my informant added, “They’ll find him dead sometime, and the quicker the better. Never had a soul, I guess.’
The pity of it all haunted me as I went about my work, and tried for several days to get someone to go see him and find out if he was in need of better care. As I turned from the last man, vexed with his indifference, the thought came to me, “Why don’t you go yourself? Here’s missionary work, if you want it.”
At last I went over the hills to the little mud cabin of one room. The door stood open, and in a corner, on some straw and colored blankets, I found the dying man, Sin had left awful marks on his face and, if I had not heard that he could not move, I should have retreated, As my shadow fell over the floor, he looked up and greeted me with a dreadful oath. I stepped forward a little, and there came another oath. “Don’t speak so, my friend ” I said. “I ain’t friend, I ain’t got any friends,” he said, “Well, I am yours, and–” but the oaths came thickly, as he said: “You ain’t my friend, l never had any friends, and I don’t want any.”
I reached out at arm’s length the fruit I had brought him, and stepping back to the doorway I asked him if he remembered his mother, hoping to find a tender place in his heart: but he cursed her. I asked him if he ever had a wife, and he cursed her. I spoke of God, and he cursed Him. I tried to speak of Jesus and His death for us but he stopped me with his oaths and said: “That’s all a lie. Nobody ever died for others.”
I went away discouraged, but the next day I went back again–and then everyday for two weeks, but he did not show the gratitude of a dog. At the end of that time I said: “I am not going anymore.” That night when I was putting my little boys to bed, we did not pray for the miner as we had been accustomed to do. My little Charlie noticed it and said: “Mamma, we did not pray for the bad man.” “No,” I answered with a sigh. “Have you given him up Mamma?” “Yes, I guess so.” “Has God given him up Mamma? ought we to give him up till God does?”
That night I could not sleep. That man dying, and so vile, and no one to care.” I got up and went away by myself to pray, but the moment I touched my knees I was overpowered by the sense of how little meaning there had been to my prayers. I had had no faith, and I had not really cared beyond a kind of half-hearted sentiment. I had not claimed this soul for God, Oh, the shame, the shame of my missionary zeal! I fell on my face literally as I cried: “Oh, Christ, give me a glimpse of the worth of a human soul!
The next morning I left my work and hurried over the hills, not to see “that vile wretch,” but to win a soul, As I passed on, a neighbor came out of her cabin, and said: “I’ll go over the hills with you, I guess.” I did not want her, and tried to dissuade her from coming, but she curtly remarked, “I’m going with you, I guess,” It was to be another lesson to me for God could plan better than I. She had her little girl with her, and as we reached the cabin, she said: “I’ll wait out here, and you hurry, won’t you?”
While I was changing the basin of water and towel for him, things which I had done everyday, and which he had used, but never thanked me for, the clear laugh of the little girl rang out upon the air like a bird note. “What’s that,” said the man eagerly.
“It’s a little aid outside who is waiting for me.”
“Would you mind letting her come in?” said he in a different tone from any I had heard before.
Stepping to the door, I beckoned to her, and then taking her by the hand, said, “Come in and see sick man Mamie.” She shrank back as she saw his face, saying “I’m afraid.” but I assured her with. “Poor sick man, he cants get up, he wants to see you.”
She looked like an angel: her bright face framed in golden curls, and her eyes tender and pitiful. In her hand she held the flowers she had picked off the purple sage and bending toward him, she said: “I sorry for ‘ou, sick man. Will ‘ou have a posy?”
He laid his great bony hand beyond the flowers on the plump hand of the child, and the great tears came to his eyes, as he said; “I had a little girl once, and she died. Her name was Mamie. She cared for me, Nobody else did. Guess I’d been different if she’d lived. I’ve hated everybody since she died.” I could have shouted with joy, because I instantly realized that the long lost key to the man’s heart had been found and entrusted to my care, What a blessed story I had to tell that hour, and I had been so close to Calvary that night that I could tell it in earnest! The poor face grew pale as I talked, and the man threw up his arms as though his agony was mastering him. Two or three times he gasped as though losing breath, Then, clutching me, he said: “What’s that woman, you said t’other day ’bout talking to somebody out o’ sight?”
“It’s praying. I tell God what I want.” “Pray now, pray quick! Tell Him I want my little gal again. Tell Him anything you want to!”
I took the hands of the child and placed them on the trembling hands of the man. Then dropping on my knees with the child in front of me, I bade her pray for the man who had lost his little Mamie and wanted to see her again. This was Mamie’s prayer:
“Dear Jesus, this man is sick. He has lost his little girl, and he feels bad about it. l’se so sorry for him, and he’s so sorry, too. Won’t you help him, and show him where to find his little girl? Do, please. Amen.”
Heaven seemed to open before us. There stood One with the print of the nails in His hand and the wound in His side.
Mamie slipped away soon, but the man kept saying, “Tell Him more ’bout it: tell Him everything–but oh! you don’t know.” Then he poured out such a torrent of confession that I could not have borne it but for One Who was close to us in that hour.
By and by the sick man grasped the STRONG HANDS. It was the third day when the poor, tired soul fumed from everything to Him the Mighty to save, to the One Whom he spoke of as “the Man that died for me.”
He lived on for weeks, as if God would show how real was the change, One morning the door was closed, and I found two men sitting silently by a board stretched across two stools. They fumed back the sheet from the dead, and I looked on the face, which seemed to have come back nearer to the “image of God.”
“I wish you could have seen him when he went,” they said. “Do tell me about it.” “Well, all at once he brightened up ’bout midnight, and smilin’ said, I’m goin’ boys. Tell her I’m goin’ to see Mamie. Tell her I’m going to see the Man that died for me,’ and he was gone.”
Kneeling there, with my hands over those poor, cold ones, that had been stained with human blood, I asked God to let me understand more and more THE WORTH OF A HUMAN SOUL.
“Thus saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Redeemed by the precious blood of Christ–we have peace with God (I Peter 1:19: Romans 5:1).