For many years I wanted to go as a foreign missionary, but my way seemed hedged about. At last I went to live in California. Life was rough in the mining country where I lived, with my husband and little boys.
While there I heard of a man who lived over the hills and was dying of consumption. The men said: "He is so vile that no one can stay with him; so we place some food near him, and leave him for twenty-four hours. We will find him dead sometime, and the sooner the better. Never had a relative, I guess."
This pitiful story haunted me as I went about my work. For three days I tried to get some one to go to 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 not go yourself? Here is missionary work, if you want it."
I will not tell how I weighted the probable uselessness of my going, nor how I shrank from one so vile as he. It was not the kind of work I wanted.
But at last one day I went over the hills to the little abode. It was a mud cabin, containing but one room. The door stood open. In one 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 an oath. I stepped forward a little, and again he swore.
"Don't speak so, my friend," I said.
"I ain't your friend. I ain't got any friends." he said.
"Well, I am your friend, and..."
But the oaths came quickly, and he said: "You ain't my friend. I never had any friends, and I don't want any now."
I reached out, at arm's length, the fruit I had brought for him, and stepping back to the doorway, asked if he remembered his mother, hoping to find a tender place in his heart; but 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, saying to myself that I knew it was of no use. But he next day I went again, and every day for two weeks. He did not show the gratitude of a dog, and at the end of that time I said that I was not going any more. That night as I was putting my little boy to bed, I did not pray for the miner. My little boy noticed it and said:--
"Mama, you did not pray for the bad man."
"No," I answered, with a sigh.
"Have you given him up, mama?"
"Yes, I guess so."
"Has God given him up, mama? Ought you to give him up till God does?"
I could not sleep that night. I thought of the dying man, so vile, and with no one to care! I rose and went away by myself to pray; but the moment that I knelt, 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 his soul for God. O, the shame of such missionary zeal! I fell on my face literally, as I cried, "O Christ, give me a little glimpse of the worth of a human soul!" Did you, Christian, ever ask that and mean it? Do not do it unless you are willing to give up ease and selfish pleasure; for life will be a different thing to you after this revelation.
I remained on my knees until Calvary became a reality to me. I cannot describe those hours. They came and went unheeded; but I learned that night what I had never known before, what it was to travail for a human soul. I saw my Lord as I had never seen him before. I knelt there till the answer came.
As I went back to my room, my husband said:--
"How about your miner?"
"He is going to be saved."
"How are you going to do it?" he asked.
"The Lord is going to save him; and I do not know that I shall do anything about it," I replied.
The next morning brought a lesson in Christian work which I had never learned before. I had waited on other days until afternoon, when, my work being over, I could change my dress, put on my gloves, and take a walk while the shadows were on the hillsides. That day, the moment my little boys went to school, I left my work, and, without waiting for gloves or shadows, hurried over the hills, not to see "that vile wretch," but to win a soul. I thought the man might die.
As I passed on, a neighbor came out of her cabin, and said, "I will go over the hills with you."
I did not want her to go, but it was another lesson for me. God could plan better than I could. She had her little girl with her, and as we reached the cabin, she said, "I will wait out here."
I do not know what I expected, but the man greeted me with an awful oath. Still it did not hurt; for I was behind Christ, and I stayed there; and I could bear what struck him first.
While I was changing the basin of water and towel for him, things which I had done every day, but which he had never thanked me for, the clear laugh of the little girl rang out upon the air.
"What's that?" said the man eagerly.
"It's a little girl outside 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; then, taking her hand, said, "Come in and see the sick man, Mamie." She shrank back as she saw his face, but I assured her with, "Poor sick man! He can't 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 hands she held the flowers that she had picked from the purple sage, and, bending toward him, she said: "I'm 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 tears came to his eyes, as he said: "I had a little girl once. 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 knew at once that I had the key to the man's heart. The thought came quickly, born of that midnight prayer service, and I said, "When I spoke of your mother and your wife, you cursed them; I know now that they were not good women, or you could not have done it."
"Good women! O, you don't know nothin' 'bout that kind of woman! You can't think what they was!"
"Well, if your little girl had lived and grown up with them, wouldn't she have been like them? Would you have liked to have her live for that?"
He evidently had never thought of that, and his great eyes looked off for a full minute. As they came back to mine, he cried: "O God, no! I'd killed her first. I'm glad she died."
Reaching out and taking the poor hand, I said, "The dear Lord didn't want her to be like them. He loved her even better than you did, so he took her away. He is keeping her for you. Don't you want to see her again?"
"O, I'd be willing to be burned alive a thousand times over if I could just see my little girl once more, my little Mamie!"
O friend, you know 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 ashy pale as I talked, and the man threw up his arms as if his agony was mastering him. Two or three times he gasped, as if losing his breath. Then, clutching me, he said, "What's that you said t'other day 'bout talkin' to some one out o' sight?"
"It is praying. I tell Him what I want."
"Pray now, quick. Tell him I want my little girl 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. As nearly as I remember, this was Mamie's prayer:--
"Dear Jesus, this man is sick. He had lost his little girl, and he feels bad about it. I'm so sorry for him, and he's sorry, too. Won't you help him, and show him how to find his little girl? Do, please, Amen."
Heaven seemed to open before us, and there stood One with the prints of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side.
Mamie slipped away soon, and the man kept saying: "Tell him more about it. Tell him everything. But, O, 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 at that hour.
By and by the poor man grasped the strong hand. It was the third day when the poor, tired soul turned from everything to him, the Mighty to save, "the Man that died for me." He lived on for weeks, as if God would show how real was the change. I had been telling him one day about a meeting, when he said, "I'd like to go to a meetin' once."
So we planned a meeting, and the men from the mills and the mines came and filled the room.
"Now, boys," said he, "get down on your knees, while she tells about that Man that died for me."
I had been brought up to believe that a woman should not speak in meetings, but I found myself talking, and I tried to tell the simple story of the cross. After a while he said:--
"Boys, you don't half believe it, or you'd cry: you couldn't help it. Raise me up. I'd like to tell it once."
So they raised him up, and, between his short breathing and coughing, he told the story. He had to use the language he knew.
"Boys," he said, "you know how the water runs down the sluice-boxes and carries off the dirt and leaves the gold behind. Well, the blood of that Man she tells about went right over me just like that. It carried off about everything; but it left enough for me to see Mamie, and to see the Man that died for me. O, boys, can't you love him?"
Some days after, there came a look into his face which told that the end had come. I had to leave him, and I said, "What shall I say tonight, Jack?"
"Just good night," he said.
"What will you say to me when we meet again?"
"I'll say, 'Good morning,' over there."
The next morning the door was closed, and I found two men sitting silently by a board stretched across two stools. They turned 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.
"Tell me about it."
"Well, all at once he brightened up, 'bout midnight, an' smilin', said: 'I'm goin', boys. 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, which had been stained with human blood, I asked that I might understand more and more the worth of a human soul, and be drawn into a deeper sympathy with Christ's yearning compassion, "not willing that any should perish." --Original story title is: "The Man That Died for Me."
The question of the hour is this: What is the worth of a human soul?
Unless Calvary is experienced, unless Calvary is real to us, we will never know the answer to this question. We will never be drawn into a deeper sympathy with Christ's yearning compassion and infinite love for sinners. Thus, we will miss out entering into that blessed and glorious experience of seeing a life touched by the Master's Hand.
The soul is of value, and is regarded by God as more precious than gold, even the golden wedge of Ophir. Christ has given us the estimate He places upon the human soul. Look at His humiliation, His sufferings, His death. Had He studied His pleasure, His choice, His convenience, He would never have left the royal courts of heaven. --In Heavenly Places, Page 170.4.
The love of Jesus--who can comprehend it? Infinitely more tender and self-denying than a mother's love! If we would know the value of a human soul, we must look in living faith upon the cross, and thus begin the study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. The value of our time and our talents can be estimated only by the greatness of the ransom paid for our redemption. --Reflecting Christ, Page 100.4.
Christ and Him crucified should become the theme of our thoughts and stir the deepest emotions of our souls. . . . It is through the cross alone that we can estimate the worth of the human soul. Such is the value of men for whom Christ died that the Father is satisfied with the infinite price which He pays for the salvation of man in yielding up His own Son to die for their redemption. What wisdom, mercy, and love in its fullness are here manifested! The worth of man is known only by going to Calvary. In the mystery of the cross of Christ we can place an estimate upon man. God's Amazing Grace, Page 175.4.
The love of God revealed for man is beyond any human computation; it is infinite. And the human being who is a partaker of the divine nature will love as Christ loves, will work as he worked. The love that is inspired by the love we have for Jesus will see in every soul, rich or poor, a value that cannot be measured by human estimate. The world sinks into insignificance in comparison with the value of one soul. This love can exist, and be kept pure, refined, and holy, only through the love in the soul for Jesus Christ, nourished by daily communion with God. There will be an inborn compassion and sympathy which will not fail nor be discouraged. This is the spirit that should be encouraged to live in every heart, and be revealed in every life. -- Review and Herald, January 4, 1898 par. 2.
The worth of a soul cannot be fully estimated. How gratefully will the ransomed and glorified ones remember those who were instrumental in their salvation. Not one will forget his self-denying labors, his persevering efforts, his patience, perseverance, and earnest heart yearning for these souls who might have been lost to Jesus Christ, had he neglected his duty or became weary in well doing. --Manuscript 1, February 18, 1880.
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile:
"What am bidden, good folks?" he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar! A dollar!" then "Two! Only two?"
"Two dollars, and who'll make it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice . . .
And going for three . . . " but no.
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low
Said, "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars! And who'll make it two?
"Two thousand! Who'll make it three?
"Three going once? Three going twice?
"And going . . . and gone!" said he.
The people cheered but some of them cried,
"We do not understand!
What changed its worth?" -- Swift came the reply,
"The touch of the Master's Hand."
And many a man with life out of tune
And battered and scarred with sin
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A "mess 'o pottage"
A glass of wine
A game and he travels on.
He's "going" once
And "going" twice
And "going" . . . and almost "gone"
Then along comes the Master, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul or the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's Hand.
--Myra Ross Welch (1926)
And no music soothes the soul,
Seek out The Master whose gentle touch
Will bless you and make you whole.
Like an old violin, weathered and worn
A life may not be so grand,
But may be uplifted, transformed, and renewed
By the touch of The Master's Hand.