The Man Who Died for Me
MANY YEARS ago I wanted to go as a foreign missionary, but my way seemed hedged about, and after a few years I went to live on the Pacific Coast. Life was rough in the mining country where I lived, and this was my chance for missionary work.
I heard of a man over the hills who was dying of tuberculosis. “He is so vile,” they said, “no-one can stand it to stay with him, so the boys place some food by him and leave him for twenty-four hours. 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 I tried for three days to get someone to go and see him and find out if he was in need of better care. As I turned from the last man, vexed at his indifference, the thought came to me, Why don’t you go yourself? Here’s missionary work, if you want it.
I’ll not tell how I weighed the probable uselessness of my going or how I shrank from one as vile as he. It wasn’t the kind of work I wanted.
At last one day I went over the hills to the little wooden cabin. It was just one room. The door stood open, and up in one corner on some blankets, I found the dying man. Sin had left awful marks on his face. If I had not heard that he could not move, I would have retreated hastily.
As my shadow fell upon the floor, he looked up and greeted me with a dreadful oath.
“Don’t speak so, my friend,” I said.
“I am not your friend,” he said. “I never had any friends, and I don’t want any now.”
I reached out, at arm’s length, the fruit I had brought him; and stepping back to the doorway, I asked him, hoping to find a tender place in his heart, if he remembered his mother; 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 a lie. Nobody ever died for others.”
The next day I went again, and every day for two weeks, but he did not show the gratitude a dog would have shown.
At the end of that time, I said, “I’m not going anymore.” That night, when I was putting my young boys to bed, I did not pray for the miner, as I had been accustomed to. Young Charlie noticed it and said, “Mamma, you 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 you to give him up, Mamma, before God does?”
That night I could not sleep. The man dying, and so vile - with no one to care!
I got up and went away by myself to pray. As my knees touched the floor, I was overpowered by the sense of how defective had been my prayers. I had had no faith, and I had not fully cared, beyond a half-hearted sentiment. Oh, the shame, the sham of my missionary zeal! I fell on my face literally, as I cried, “Oh, Lord, give me a little glimpse of the worth of a human soul.”
Did you 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 that revelation.
I stayed 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 is to travail for a human soul. I saw my Lord that night as I had never seen Him before.
The next morning brought a lesson in Christian work I had never learned before. I had waited on other days until the afternoon, when, my work being all 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 boys went off to school, I left my work and hurried over the hills, not to see “that vile wretch,” but to win a soul. There was a human soul in the balance, and I wanted to get there quickly.
As I passed on, a neighbor came out of her cabin and said, “I’ll go over the hills with you.”
I did not want her, 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’ll wait out here; and you hurry, won’t you?”
I do not know what I expected, but the man greeted me with an awful oath. It did not hurt me as it did before, for I was behind Christ, and I stayed there. 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, and which he had used but for which he had never thanked me, the clear laugh of the little girl rang out upon the air like a bird’s note.
“What’s that?” said the man eagerly.
“It’s a little girl outside who is waiting for me.”
“Would you mind letting her come in?” he said in a tone different 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 the sick man, Mamie.”
She shrank back as she saw his face and said, “I’m afraid.” But I assured her with, “Poor sick man! He can’t get up, and he wants to see you.”
She stood near him with her face framed in golden curls, her eyes tender and pitiful, and in her hands the flowers she had picked from the purple sagebrush. Bending toward him she said, “I’m sorry that you’re a sick man. Would you like some flowers?”
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 and she died. Her name was Mamie. She cared for me. Nobody else did. Guess I’d have been different if she’d lived. I’ve hated everybody since she died.”
I knew, then, I had the key to the man’s heart, and the thought came quickly, born out of that midnight prayer service. “When I spoke of your mother and your wife, you cursed them; and I know now that they were not good women, or you could not have done it.”
“Good women! Oh, you know nothing about that kind of women. You can’t think what they were.”
“Well, if your little girl had lived and grown up with them, wouldn’t she have been just like them? You would not have liked to have her live like that, would you?”
He had not thought of this, and his great eyes looked off for a full minute. As they came bac to mine, he cried, “Oh, no! no! I’d have killed her first! I’m glad she died.”
Reaching out and taking his hand, I said, “The dear Lord didn’t want her to be like them. He loved her more than you did. So He took her away where she could be cared for by the angels. He is keeping her for you. Today she is waiting for you. Don’t you want to see her again?”
“Oh, 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.”
Oh, friends, 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 a shy pale as I talked; and the man threw up his arms as though his agony were mastering him. Two or three times he gasped as though losing breath. Then clutching me, he said, “What did you say the other day about talking to somebody out of sight?”
“It’s called praying. I tell God what I want.”
“Pray now! Pray 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 hand of the man. Then dropping on my knees, with the child in front of me, I asked her to 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 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 where to find his little girl? Do please. Amen.”
Heaven seemed to open before us. There stood One with the prints of the nails in His hands and the wounds in His side.
Mamie left the cabin soon; but the man kept saying, “Tell Him more about 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 the One that was close to us that hour, reaching out after that lost soul.
It was the third day when the poor, tired soul turned from everything - to Him, the Mighty to save, “the Man who 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, and he said, “I’d like to go to the meeting once. I never went to one of them.”
So we planned a meeting, and the boys came from the mills and the mines and filled the room.
“Now, boys,” he said, “get down on your knees while she tells about the Man who died for me.”
I had been brought up to believe that a woman shouldn’t speak in a meeting, but I found myself talking, and I tried to tell the simple story of the cross.
After a while he said, “Oh, boys, you don’t half believe it, or you’d cry. You couldn’t help it. Boys, 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, and this, as well as I can recall, is a part of what he said:
“Boys,” he said, “you know how the water runs down the sluice boxes and carries off all 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 who died for me, Oh boys, can’t you love Him.
Some days later I saw that the end was near; and as I left him, I said, ‘’What shall I say tonight, Jack?”
“Just good night,” he said, “and when we meet again I’ll say good morning up there.”
The next morning the door was closed, and I found two of the boys sitting silently by a board stretched across two stools. They turned back the sheet from the dead man and looked on the face, which seemed to have come nearer to the “image of God.”
“I wish you could have seen him when he went,” they said. “He brightened up about midnight, and smiling, said, ‘I’m going, boys. Tell her I am going to see Mamie. Tell her I’m going to see the Man who 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 to come to understand more and more the worth of a human soul and to be drawn into deeper sympathy with Christ’s yearning compassion: “Not willing that any should perish.”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16