Here is the fourth installment in this series. To begin at part 1, click here.
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Though intemperance was the main cause of poverty, suffering, misery, and vice in that district of Glasgow, I had also considerable opposition from Romanists and Infidels, many of whom met in clubs, where they drank together and gloried in their wickedness and in leading other young men astray. Against these I prepared and delivered lectures, at the close of which discussion was allowed; but I fear they did little good. These men embraced the opportunity of airing their absurdities, or sowing the seeds of corruption in those whom otherwise they could never have reached, while their own hearts and minds were fast shut against all conviction or light.
One infidel Lecturer in the district became very ill. His wife called me in to visit him. I found him possessed of a circulating library of infidel books, by which he sought to pervert unwary minds. Though he had talked and lectured much against the Gospel, he did not at all really understand its message. He had read the Bible, but only to find food there for ridicule. Now supposed to be dying, he confessed that his mind was full of terror as to the Future. After several visits and frequent conversations and prayers, he became genuinely and deeply interested, drank in God’s message of salvation, and cried aloud with many tears for pardon and peace . He bitterly lamented the evil he had done, and called in all the infidel literature that he had in circulation, with the purpose of destroying it. He began to speak solemnly to any of his old companions that came to see him, telling them what he had found in the Lord Jesus. At his request I bought and brought to him a Bible, which he received with great joy, saying, ” This is the book for me now ;” and adding, ” Since you were here last, I gathered together all my infidel books; my wife locked the door, till she and my daughter tore them to pieces, and I struck the light that reduced the pile to ashes.”
As long as he lived, this man was unwearied and unflinching in testifying, to all that crossed his path, how much Jesus Christ had been to his heart and soul; and he died in the possession of a full and blessed hope.
Another Infidel, whose wife was a Roman Catholic also became unwell, and gradually sank under great suffering and agony. His blasphemies against God weie known and shuddered at by all the neighbours. His wife pled with me to visit him. She refused, at my suggestion, to call her own priest, so I accompanied her at last. The man refused to hear one word about spiritual things, and foamed with rage. He even spat at me, when I mentioned the name of Jesus. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him!” There is a wisdom which is at best earthly, and at worst ” sensual and devilish.” His wife asked me to take care of the little money they had, as she would not entrust it to her own priest. I visited the poor man daily, but his enmity to God and his sufferings together seemed to drive him mad. His yells gathered crowds on the streets. He tore to pieces his very bed-clothes, till they had to bind him on the iron bed where he lay, foaming and blaspheming. Towards the end I pled with him even then to look to the Lord Jesus, and asked if I might pray with him? With all his remaining strength, he shouted at me,—
“Pray for me to the devil!”
Reminding him how he had always denied that there was any devil, I suggested that he must surely believe in one now, else he would scarcely make such a request, even in mockery. In great rage he cried,—
“Yes, I believe there is a devil, and a God, and a just God, too; but I have hated Him in life, and I hate Him in death!”
With these awful words, he wriggled into Eternity ; but his shocking death produced a very serious impression for good, especially amongst young men, in the district where his character was known.
How different was the case of that Doctor who also had been an unbeliever as well as a drunkard! Highly educated, skilful, and gifted above most in his profession, he was taken into consultation for specially dangerous cases, whenever they could find him tolerably sober. After one of his excessive “bouts,” he had a dreadful attack of delirium tremens. At one time, wife and watchers had a fierce struggle to dash from his lips a draught of prussic acid; at another, they detected the silver-hafted lancet concealed in the band of his shirt, as he lay down, to bleed himself to death. His aunt came and pled with me to visit him. My heart bled for his poor young wife and two beautiful little children. Visiting him twice daily, and sometimes even more frequently, I found the way somehow into his heart, and he would do almost anything for me and longed for my visits. When again the fit of self-destruction seized him, they sent for me; he held out his hand eagerly, and grasping mine, said,—
“Put all these people out of the room, remain you with me; I will be quiet, I will do everything you ask!”
I got them all to leave, but whispered to one in passing to “keep near the door.”
Alone I sat beside him, my hand in his, aid kept up a quiet conversation for several hours. After whad talked of everything that I could think of, and it was now far into the morning, I said,—
“If you had a Bible here, we might read a chapter, verse about.”
He said dreamily, “There was once a Bible above yon press ; if you can get up to it, you might find it there yet.”
Getting it, dusting it, and laying it on a small cable which I drew near to the sofa on which we sat, we read there and then a chapter together. After this, I said, ” Now, shall we pray? “
He replied heartily, “Yes.”
I having removed the little table, we kneeled down together at the sofa; and after a solemn pause, I whispered, “You pray first.”
He replied, “I curse, I cannot pray; would you have me curse God to His face?”
I answered, “You promised to do all that I asked ; you must pray, or try to pray, and let me hear that you cannot.”
He said, “I cannot curse God on my knees ; let me stand, and I will curse Him; I cannot pray.”
I gently held him on his knees, saying, “Just try to pray, and let me hear you cannot”
Instantly he cried out , “O Lord, Thou knowest I cannot pray,” and was going to say something dreadful as he strove to rise up. But I just took the words he had uttered as if they had been my own, and continued the prayer, pleading for him and his dear ones as we knelt there together, till he showed that he was completely subdued and lying low at the feet of God. On rising from our knees he was manifestly greatly impressed, and I said,—
“Now, as I must be at College by daybreak and must return to my lodging for my books and an hour’s rest, will you do one thing more for me before I go?”
“Yes,” was his reply.
“Then,” said I, “it is long since you had a refreshing sleep; now, will you lie down, and I will sit by you till you fall asleep?”
He lay down, and was soon fast asleep. After commending him to the care and blessing of the Lord, I quietly slipped out, and his wife returned to watch by his side. When I came back later in the day, after my classes were over, he, on hearing my foot and voice, came running to meet me, and clasping me in his arms, cried,—
“Thank God, I can pray now! I rose this morning refreshed from sleep, and prayed with my wife and children for the first time in my life; and now I shall do so every day, and serve God while I live, who hath dealt in so great mercy with me!”
After delightful conversation, he promised to go with me to Dr. Symington’s church on Sabbath Day; there he took sittings beside me; at next half-yearly communion he and his wife were received into membership, and their children were baptized; and from that day till his death he led a devoted and most useful Christian life. Henceforth, as a medical man he delighted to attend all poor and destitute cases which we brought under his care; he ministered to them for Jesus’ sake, and spoke to them of their blessed Saviour. When he came across cases that were hopeless, he sent for me to visit them too, being as anxious for their souls as for their bodies. He died, years after this, of consumption, partly at least the fruit of early excesses; but he was serenely prepared for death, and happy in the assured hope of eternal blessedness with Christ He sleeps in Jesus; and I do believe that I shall meet him in Glory as a trophy of redeeming grace and love!