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Luke 15

The Parable of the Prodigal Pig

There was a man who had two son
And loved them for they were his own.
The younger said, “Dad, I want my estate,
I think that I’m now fully grown.”

The son left home, went far away,
And spent all he had living high.
A famine then hit and low and behold,
He found himself in a pigsty.

The young man soon came to himself.
He turned to a piggy and said,
“Let’s get out of here and go to my dad.
He’ll see that we’re warm and well-fed.”

The father saw them from afar.
He ran and received them with glee.
He kissed his son, gave the pig a big hug,
And washed them as clean as can be.

He tied a bow around pig’s neck,
And placed a gold ring in his nose.
The father put shoes upon his son’s feet
And gave him a new set of clothes.

Both son and pig sat down to eat.
The boy became full as a tick.
But each time the food was passed to the pig
He cried out, “I’m gonna be sick!

There’s no way I can eat this stuff.
The lack of mud’s drying my skin.
The ring in my nose is just killing me.
I’m going back home to my pen.”

A son may run from his father,
Waste all to try making it big.
He will not stay in the pigsty because
A son is a son, not a pig.

Take care how you judge another,
‘Cause they appear good or look bad.
The one clean may be pig on his way home,
The muddy one, running to dad.

From a story told by J. Vernon McGee

Comparisons

Self-will (12)Rejoicing (23-4)
Selfishness (13)Re-clothing (22)
Separation (13)Reconciliation (20)
Sensuality (13) Return (20)
Destitution (14)Repentance (19)
Abasement (15) Resolution (18)
Starvation (16) Realization (17)

Source unknown

For All Who Knew the Shelter of the Fold

For all
who knew the shelter of The fold,
its warmth and safety
and The Shepherd’s care,
and bolted;
choosing instead to fare
out into the cold,
the night;
revolted
by guardianship,
by Light;
lured by the unknown;
eager to be out
and on their own;
freed
to water where they may,
feed where they can,
live as they will;
till
they are cured,
let them be cold,
ill;
let them know terror;
feed
them with thistle,
weed,
and thorn;
who chose
the company of wolves,
let them taste
the companionship wolves give
to helpless strays;
but, oh! let them live—
wiser, though torn!
And wherever,
however, far away
they roam,
follow
and
watch
and keep
Your stupid, wayward, stubborn
sheep
and someday
bring them Home!

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 15

Fleeing From You

Fleeing from You,
nothing he sees
of Your preceding
as he flees.

Choosing his own path
how could he know
Your hand directs
where he shall go.

Thinking he’s free,
“free at last,”
unaware that Your hand
holds him fast.

Poor prodigal!
seeking a “where” from
“whence,”
how does one escape
Omnipotence'

Waiting for darkness
to hide in night,
not knowing, with You
dark is as light.

Based on Psalm 139:7-12 in light of Luke 15. Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 38

The Prodigal Daughter

It seemed to the other elders that Lachlan Campbell dealt hard with young people, especially those who had gone astray, but they learned one evening that his justice at least had no partiality.

One elder, Burnbrae, said afterward that Lachlan “looked like a ghost comin’ in at the door.” But Lachlan sat in silence in the shadow, and no one marked the agony on his face till the end.

“If that is all the business, moderator, I must to bring a case of discipline before the Session, and ask them to do their duty,” Lachlan began.

“It is known to me that a young woman who has been a member of this church has left her home and gone into the far country. There will be no use in summoning her to appear before the Sessions, for she will never be seen again in this parish. I move that she be cut off from the roll, and her name is—” Lachlan’s voice broke, but in an instant he recovered. “Her name is Flora Campbell.”

Carmichael the minister confessed later he was stricken dumb, and that Lachlan’s ashen face held him with an awful fascination. It was Burnbrae who first found a voice: “Moderator, this is a terrible calamity that has befallen our brother, and I’m feelin’ as if I had lost a little one o’ my own, for a sweeter lassie dina cross our kirk (church) door. None o’ us want to know what has happened or where she has gone, and not a word o’ this will cross our lips. Her father’s done more than could be expected o’ mortal man, and now we have our duty. “It’s not the way o’ this Session to cut off any member o’ the flock at a stroke, and we will not begin with Flora Campbell. I move, moderator, that the case be left to her father and yourself, and our neighbor may depend on it that Flora’s name and his will be mentioned in our prayers, every mornin’ and night till the good Shepherd o’ the sheep brings her home.”

Burnbrae paused and then, with tears in his voice—men do not weep in the Scottish glen of Drumtochty—added, “With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.”

The minister took the old man’s arm, led him into the manse (minister’s home) and set him in the big chair by the study fire. “Thank God, Lachlan, we are friends now; tell me about it as if I were your son and Flora’s brother.”

The father took a letter from an inner pocket with a trembling hand:

Dear Father,

When this reaches you I will be in London and not worthy to cross your door. Do not be always angry with me, and try to forgive me, for you will not be troubled any more by my dancing or dress. Do not think that I will be blaming you, for you have been a good father to me, and said what you would be considering right, but it is not easy for a man to understand a girl. Oh, if I had my mother, then she would have understood me and I would not have crossed you.

Forget poor Flora’s foolishness, but you will not forget her, and maybe you will still pray for me. Take care of the geraniums for my sake, and give milk to the lamb that you called after me. I will never see you again, in this world or the next, nor my mother.(Here the letter was much blotted.) When I think that there will be no one to look after you, and have the fire burning for you on winter nights, I will be rising to come back.

But it is too late, too late. Oh, the disgrace I will be bringing on you in the glen.

Your unworthy daughter, Flora Campbell

“This is a fiery trial, Lachlan, and I cannot even imagine what you are suffering,” said the minister. “But do not despair, for that is not the letter of a bad girl. Perhaps she was impatient and has been led astray. But Flora is good at heart, and you must not think she is gone for ever.”

Lachlan groaned, the first sound he had made, and then he tottered to his feet. “You are kind, Master Carmichael, and so was Burnbrae, and I will be thankful to you all, but you do not understand. Oh no, you do not understand.”

Lachlan caught hold of a chair and looked the minister in the face. “She has gone, and there will be no coming back. You would not take her name from the roll of the church, and I will not be meddling with that book. But I have blotted out her name from my Bible, where her mother’s name is written and mine. She has wrought confusion in Israel and in an elder’s house, and I have not daughter. But I loved her, she never knew how I loved her, for her mother would be looking at me from her eyes.”

The minister walked with Lachlan to the foot of the hill on which his cottage stood. After they had shaken hands in silence, the minister watched the old man’s figure in the cold moonlight till he disappeared into the forsaken home, where the fire had gone out on the hearth, and neither love nor hope was waiting for a broken heart.

The railway did not think it worthwhile to come to Drumtochty, and the glen was cut off from the lowlands by miles of forest, so manners retained the fashion of the former age. Six elders, besides the minister, knew the tragedy of Flora Campbell and never opened their lips.

Mrs. Macfadyen, who was Drumtochty’s newspaper and understood her duty, refused to pry into this secret. The pity of the glen went out to Lachlan, but no one even looked a question as he sat alone in his pew or came down on a Saturday afternoon to the village shop for his week’s provisions.

“It makes my heart weep to see him,” Mrs. Macfadyen said one day. “So bowed an’ distracted, him that was so tidy and firm. His hair’s turned white in a month, and he’s away to nothin’ in his clothes. But least said is soonest mended. It’s not right to interfere wi’ another’s sorrow. We must just hope that Flora’ll soon come back, for if she does not, Lachlan’ll no be long wi’ us. He’s sayin’ nothin’, and I respect him for it; but anybody can see his heart is breakin.’”

Everyone was helpless till Marget Howe met Lachlan in the shop and read his sorrow at a glance. She went home to Whinnie Knowe in great distress. “I was woesome to see the old man gathering his bit things wi’ a shaking hand, and speaking to me about the weather, and all the time his eyes were saying, ‘Flora, Flora.’ “It’s laid on me to visit Lachlan, for I’m thinking our Father didna comfort us without expecting that we would comfort other folk.”

When Marget came round the corner of Lachlan’s cottage, she found Flora’s plants laid out in the sun and her father watering them on his knees. One was ready to die. He was taken unawares, but in a minute he was leading Marget in with hospitable words: “It’s kind of you to come to an old man’s house, Mistress Howe, and it’s a very warm day. You will not care for spirits, but I am very good at making tea.”

Marget spoke at once: “Master Campbell, you will believe that I have come in the love of God and because we have both been afflicted. I had a son, and he is gone; you had a daughter, and she is gone. I know where George is an am satisfied. I think your sorrow is deeper than mine.”

“Would to God that she was laying in the kirkyard; but I will not speak of her,” Lachlan answered. “She isn’t anything to me this day. See, I will show you what I have done, for she has been a black shame to her name.”

He opened the Bible, and there was Flora’s name scored with wavering strokes, but the ink had run as if it had been mingled with tears.

Marget’s heart burned within her at the sight, and she would hardly make allowance for Lachlan’s blood and theology. “This is what you have done, and you let a woman see your work. You are an old man, and in sore travail, but I tell you before God, you have the greater shame. Just twenty years o’ age this spring, and her mother dead. No woman to watch over her, and she wandered from the fold, and all you can do is to take her out o’ your Bible. Woe is me if your Father had blotted out our names from the Book o’ Life when we left His house. But He sent His Son to seek us, an’ a weary road He came. I tell you, a man would not leave a sheep to perish as you have cast off your own child. You’re worse than Simon the Pharisee, for Mary was not kin to him. Poor Flora, to have such a father.”

“Who will be telling you that I was a Pharisee?” cried Lachlan, quivering in every limb and grasping Marget’s arm.

“Forgive me, Lachlan, forgive me. It was the thought o’ the misguided lassie carried me, for I did not come to upbraid you.”

But Lachland had sunk into a chair and had forgotten her. “She has the word, and God will have smitten the pride of my heart, for it is Simon that I am,” he said. “I was hard on my child, and I was hard on the minister, and there is none like me. The Lord has laid my name in the dust, and I will be angry with her. But she is the scapegoat for my sins and had gone into the desert. God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

So Marget knew it would be well with Lachlan yet, and she wrote this letter:

My dear Lassie,

You know that I was always your friend, and I am writing this to say that your father loves you more than ever and is wearing out his heart for the sight o’ your face. Come back, or he’ll die through want o’ his born.The glen is bright and bonny now, for the purple heather is on the hills, and down below the golden corn, wi’ bluebell and poppy flowers between. Nobody will ask you where you’ve been or anything else; there’s not a child in the place that’s not wearying to see you; and, Flora, lassie, if there will be such gladness in our wee glen when you come home, what think you o’ the joy in the Father’s house? Start the very minute you get this letter; your father bids you come, and I’m writing this in place o’ your mother.

Marget Howe

Marget went out to tend the flowers while Lachlan read the letter, and when he gave it back, the address was written in his own hand.

He went as far as the crest of the hill with Marget and watched her on the way to the post office till she was only a speck on the road. When he went back into his cottage, the shadows were beginning to fall, and he remembered it would soon be night.

“It is in the dark that Flora will be coming, and she must know that her father is waiting for her.” He cleaned and trimmed a lamp that was kept for show and had never been used. Then he selected from his books Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and on it he laid the large family Bible out of which Flora’s name had been blotted. This was the stand on which he set the lamp in the window, and every night its light shone down the steep path ascending to Flora’s home.

It was only by physical force and strength of personalities that the Kildrummie passengers could get on the train at the junction, and the Drumtochty men were always the last to capitulate. They watched the main line train disappear in the distance, then broke into groups to discuss the cattle sale, while Peter Bruce, the baggage handler, drove his way through their midst with large pieces of luggage and abused the passengers by name without respect of persons:

“It’s most aggravatin,’ Drumsheugh, that you all stand there complainin’ about the prices, as if you were a poor cottage body that had sold her a cow, and us twelve minutes late. Man, get into your carriage.”

“Peter’s in an awful excitement tonight,” Drumsheugh responded. “You would think he was a mail guard to hear him speak.”

Peter escaped this winged shaft, for he had detected a woman in the remote darkness. “Woman, what are you stragglin’ about there for out o’ a body’s sight? I near set off without you.”

Then Peter recognized her face, and his manner softened of a sudden. “Come away, lassie, come away; I didna know you at the moment, but I heard you had been vistin’ in the south. The third car is terrible full with the Drumtochty lads; you will maybe be as handy in our second car.”

And Flora Campbell stepped in unseen. Between the junction and Kildrummie, Peter was accustomed to wander along the bootboard, collecting tickets and identifying passengers. He was generally in fine trim on the way up and took ample revenge for the insults of the departure. But it was supposed that Peter had taken Drumsheugh’s withering sarcasm to heart, for he attached himself to the second car that night and was invisible to the expectant third till the last moment.“You’ve had a long journey, Miss Campbell, and you must be nearly done with tired; just you sit still till the passengers get away, and the good wife and me would be proud if you took a cup o’ tea wi’ us before you started home. I’ll come for you as soon as I get the train emptied and my little chores finished.

Peter hurried up to his cottage in such haste that his wife came out in great alarm. “Na, there’s nothin’ wrong; it’s the opposite way this night. You remember Flora Campbell, that left her father, and none o’ the Drumtochty folk would nay anything about her. Well, she’s in the train, and I’ve asked her up to rest, and she was glad to come, poor thing. So give her a hearty welcome, woman, and the best in the house, for ours will be the first roof she’ll be under on her way home.”

Mary Bruce’s hand sent a thrill to Flora’s heart: “Now I count this real kind o’ you, Miss Campbell, to come in without ceremony, and I’d be terrible pleased if you would do it any time you’re travelin.’ The rail is ordinarily fatiguin,’ and a cup o’ tea will set you up.” And Mary had Flora in the best chair and was loading her plate with homely dainties.

No one can desire a sweeter walk than through a Scottish pine wood in late September. Many a time on market days Flora had gone singing through these woods, plucking a posy of wild flowers and finding a mirror in every pool; but now she trembled and was afraid.

The rustling of the trees in the darkness, the hooting of an owl, the awful purity of the moonlight in the glades, were to her troubled conscience omens of judgment. Had it not been for the kindness of Peter and Mary Bruce, which was a pledge of human forgiveness, there would have been no heart in her to dare that woods, and it was with a sob of relief she escaped from the shadow and looked upon the old glen once more.

Beneath her ran the little river, spanned by its quaint, old bridge; away on the right the parish kirk peeped out from a clump of trees; halfway up the glen, the village lay surrounded by patches of corn; and beyond were the moors with a shepherd’s cottage that had her heart.

Marget had written to Flora for her dead mother, but no one could speak with authority for her father. She knew the pride of his religion and his iron principles. If he refused her entrance, it would have been better for her to have died in London.

A turn of the path brought her within sight of the cottage, and her heart came into her mouth, for the kitchen window was ablaze with light. One moment she feared Lachlan might be ill, but in the next she understood, and in the greatness of her joy, she ran the rest of the way.

When she reached the door, her strength had departed, and she was not able to knock. But there was no need, for the dogs, who never forget nor cast off, were bidding her welcome with short, joyous yelps of delight, and she could hear her father feeling for the latch, which for once could not be found, and saying nothing but “Flora, Flora.”

She had made up some kind of speech, but the only word she could now say was “Father,” for Lachlan, who had never even kissed her all the days of her youth, clasped her in his arms and sobbed out blessings over her head, while the dogs licked her hands with their soft, kindly tongues.

“It is a pity you don’t speak Gaelic,” Flora later said to Marget. “It is the best of all languages for loving. There are fifty words for darling, and my father will be calling me every one that night I came home.” Lachlan was so carried with joy, and firelight is so hopeful, that he had not seen the signs of sore sickness on Flora’s face. But the morning light undeceived him, and he was sadly dashed.

“You will be very tired after your long journey, Flora, and it is good for you to rest. There is a man in the village I am wanting to see, and he may be comin’ back with me.” Then Lachlan went to his place of prayer and lay on the ground and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, and spare her for Thy servant’s sake. Take her not till she has seen that I love her. Give me time to do her kindness for the past wherein I oppressed her. Turn away Thy judgment on my hardness, and let not the child suffer for her father’s sins.”

Then he arose and hastened for the doctor. It was afternoon before Dr. MacLure could come, but the very sight of his face, which was as the sun in its strength, let light into the room where Lachlan sat at the bedside holding Flora’s hand and making woeful pretense that she was not ill. “Well, Flora,” said the doctor, “you’ve got back from your visit, and I tell you we’ve missed you most terrible. I doubt the south county folk have been feeding you over well, or maybe it was the town air. It never agrees with me.”

Flora put an arm around her father’s neck and drew down his face to hers, but the doctor was looking the other way.

“Don’t worry about medicine,” the doctor said. “Just give her plenty o’ fresh milk and plenty o’ air. There’s no livin’ for a doctor with this Drumtochty air; it has not an equal in Scotland. There’s the salt o’ the sea and the cooler air o’ the hills and the smell o’ the heather and the bloom o’ many a flower in it. A puff on Drumtochty air would bring back a man from the gates o’ death.”

“You have made two hearts glad this day, Dr. MacLure,” said Lachlan outside the door, “and I am calling you Barnabas.”

When Marget came, Flora told her the history of her letter: “It was a beautiful night in London, but I will be thinkin’ that there is no living person caring whether I die or live, and I was considering how I could die.

“It is often that I have been alone on the moor, and no one within miles, but I was never lonely. I would sit down beside a brook, and the trout would swim out from below a stone, and the cattle would come to drink, and the birds would be crying to each other, and the sheep would be bleating. It is a busy place, a moor, and a safe place, too, for there is not one of the animals will hurt you. No, the big highlanders will only look at you and go away to their pasture.

“But it is weary to be in London and no one to speak a kind word to you, and I will be looking at the crowd that is always passing, and I will not see one kind face, and when I looked in at the lighted windows, the people were all sitting round the table, but there was no place for me.“Then a strange thing happened, as you will be considering. It is good to be a Highlander, for we see visions. You maybe know that a wounded deer will try to hide herself, and I crept into the shadow of a church and wept. Then the people and the noise and the houses passed away like the mist on the hill, and I was walking to the kirk with my father, and I saw you all in your places, and I heard the Psalms, and I could see through the window the green fields and the trees on the edge of the moor. And I saw my home, with the dogs before the door, and the flowers I had planted, and the lamb coming for her milk, and I heard myself singing and awoke. “But there was singing, oh yes, and beautiful, too, for the dark church was now open. There was a service in the church, and this was the hymn: ‘There is a fountain filled with blood.’

“So I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon was on the prodigal son, but there is only one word I remember: ‘You are not forgotten or cast off,’ the preacher said. ‘You are missed.’ And then he would come back to it again, and it was always ‘missed, missed, missed.’

“Sometimes he would say, ‘If you had a plant, and you had taken great care of it, and it was stolen, would you not miss it?’ And I was thinking of my geraniums and saying yes in my heart.

“And then he would go on: ‘If a shepherd was counting his sheep, and there was one short, does he not go out to the hill and seek for it?’ “And I saw my father coming back with that lamb that had lost its mother. “My heart was melting within me, but the minister was still pleading, ‘If a father had a child, and she left her home and lost herself in the wicked city, she will still be remembered in the old house, and her chair will be there.’ “And I saw my father alone with the Bible before him, and the dogs laying their heads on his knee, but there was no Flora.

“So I slipped out into the darkness and cried ‘Father,’ but I could not go back, and I knew not what to do. But this was ever in my ear, ‘missed,’ and I was wondering if God was thinking of me. “‘Perhaps there may be a sign,’ I said and went back to my room and saw the letter. “It was not long before I was on the train, and all the night I held your letter in my hand, and when I was afraid, I read, ‘Your father loves you more than ever,’ and I would say, ‘This is my warrant.’ Oh, yes, and God was very good to me, and I did not want for friends all the way home.”

“But there is something I must be telling,” said Lachlan, coming in, “and it is not easy.” He brought over the Bible and opened it to the family register where his daughter’s name had been marked out. Then he laid it down before Flora and bowed his head on the bed. “Will you ever be able to forgive your father?”

“Give me the pen, Marget.” Flora wrote for a minute, but Lachlan never moved.

When he lifted his head he read:

Flora Campbell
Missed April 1873
Found September 1873

Adapted from Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush by Ian Maclaren, (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1895). Quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, pp. 51-63

Finding Men for Christ

The Thames, flowing through London, was at low tide, causing the freighter to be anchored a distance from shore. The long plank, which led from the ship across the mud flats to the bank, suddenly began to jiggle precariously.

The smallish man who was carefully pushing his barrow across the plank from the freighter to the shore lost his balance and found himself tumbling into the muddy waters. A roar of laughter erupted from the dockers and from the tall worker on board ship, who had jiggled the plank.

The muddied man’s instinctive reaction was anger. The fall was painful; he was dripping wet and knee deep in muck. “This is your opportunity,” a voice whispered in his heart.

The victim, unknown to his tormenters, was a clergyman disguised as a docker in hopes of getting to know how the dockers felt, lived and struggled. Perhaps as he gained their confidence and made friends, he could tell them of the love of the Savior, who died to give them new life and hope and joy.

George Dempster came up laughing. A docker made his way to where Dempster had been dislodged, dropped some empty boxes into the slush and jumped down to help him out.

“You took that all right,” he said as he helped Dempster clamber back to the boxes he had dropped. His accent was not that of a cockney. He was no ordinary docker.

Dempster told the story of this unusual docker in Finding Men for Christ. He recounted the ensuing events:

“Did I? Well, what’s the use of being otherwise?” I replied and followed this by a challenge.

“You haven’t been at this game long.”

“Neither have you,” he retorted.

“No! And I shan’t be at it much longer if I can help it. Tell me your yarn, and I’ll tell you mine.”

I was watching his face as well as I could with my eyes still half full of mud. He was trying to scrape some of the slime from me and meanwhile becoming almost as filthy as I was. We agreed to exchange yarns. I therefore proposed that we should adjourn to a coffee shop nearby and over a warm drink exchange the story of our experiences, and how we came to be “down under” life’s circumstances.

Along we journeyed through Wapping High Street, up Nightingale Lane to London Docks and so “To where I dossed” (slept). When we reached the Alley and I indicated the door he said, “Do they let beds here?”

“Well,” I replied, “I sleep here, come in and see.”

“Oh! I’ve often passed this place but did not know they put men up here.”

We entered and I instructed that a cup of coffee and something be brought for my friend, while I disappeared without explaining to anybody exactly how I came to be so inelegantly decorated.

Mud baths had not yet become a prescribed treatment for certain human ailments, but never could such a remedy, however well prepared or appropriately prescribed, prove so effectual as this one. It had been involuntarily taken it is true, but for like results who would not undertake even such drastic treatment daily? “His ways are higher than our ways.” His permissions are all for somebody’s good, and in this instance the reason for His permission was not long unrevealed.

A hurried bath soon put me right. After donning my usual attire, while seeking Divine guidance I hastened to return. “Here we are, now for our yarns,” I began.

He was staring in amazement and was for a few moments lost for reply. “This is your yarn, is it? What do you do this for?”

The first part of his question needed no reply, but I did not hesitate to answer the second. “To find you.”

He looked perplexed as we sat gazing at each other; then dropping his eyes before my enquiring look, shook his head sadly and rose as if to depart. Restraining him I said cheerily: “Now, friend, a bargain is a bargain. Thank you for helping me out of the river and thus giving me the privilege of meeting you, but you promised, you know, and I want that story of yours. You can see mine.”

He was a tall, well-built man in middle life. There were indications beyond his speech that his years had not been spent in his present conditions and surroundings. His features gave evidence of intellect, and the obvious deterioration was recent. His expression was softening even as we stood facing each other. The previous callous demeanor was giving place to something finer. I pursued the question, feeling certain now that here was the purpose of my adventure.

“Come now, tell me if I can be of help to you.”

Very decisively he answered at once, “No, you cannot.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve gone too far.”

As I prayed silently, presently he looked me squarely in the face as if measuring whether he could trust me and confide. No words came, so I continued. “Does it not appeal to you as a very remarkable thing,” I asked, “that we should be sitting here like this if you have really gone too far?”

No answer.

“Was it an accidental thing that I happened to get a job alongside you at that particular wharf this morning? Was it mere chance that those rascals chose me for their rather cruel joke? Is it pure coincidence that of all the crowd you should be the one to fish me out? Or—did Someone know where to find you and is even now answering someone else’s prayer for you?”

From the pocket he drew hastily two photographs. “These are mine,” he said, laying them gently upon the table. One was the picture of a fine-looking lady, the other bore the figures of two bonnie young girls of nearly equal age, obviously the daughters of the elder woman. I was looking closely at them when I heard a groan and then a sob as my friend again dropped his head upon his arms.

“Yours! And you here like this? Why?”

It was a sad story, but, alas, only too familiar. Bit by bit I got it from him; although several times with an almost fierce “it’s too late,” he would have left me. He was a fully qualified medical man with a fine record. He had married into a well-known family where there was no lack of money. Having conducted a splendid practice in the south of England, all went well for him for years. Two girls were born to them, and it was a happy home with a very wide circle of friends.

But as so frequently happens, the allurements proved too strong for the man whose gifts and natural endowments made him a popular and welcome guest wherever he went. He was too busy to continue his regular attendance at church; gradually he ceased altogether and always had plenty of excuses to offer when his wife urged him to accompany her. The girls were sent away to school where they were educated with a view to following a medical career, but he who should have been their guide and helper failed in his obligations because he had become addicted to drink.

At first this fact was hidden, but the habit grew stronger until it mastered him. His practice as well as his home and family were neglected. This naturally led to great unhappiness and depression. In spite of the loving devotion and care of his wife and daughters, he went from bad to worse and finally decided to disappear. So by a number of subterfuges he effectually vanished from the world which knew him and became a wanderer.

After years of wander in America and Canada, he returned to London. He had never been discovered; he had never communicated with his kin. Down, down he went, living the life of a casual hand, sometimes finding a job, sometimes literally begging for food. He slept out at night, often in lodging houses with those with whom he had nothing in common save a degraded and sinful way of life. When he could get drink, he took all he could obtain to drown his sorrows.

Once he was lodged in the Tower Bridge Police cells but was discharged and warned. He had simply been found “drunk and incapable,” and his identity had not been revealed.

Now this thing had happened, and it could not be explained away by saying it was a coincidence. There was more in it than that. “Someone” had known where to find him. Suppose those three whom he had so shamefully deserted had been all the time praying for his recovery? Recovery that he had so foolishly resisted—so often longed for—so often dreamed of.

Suppose it were true that God was now “causing all things to work together for good to them”—those three—“that love Him”? Suppose that He was at this moment giving him another—possibly a last—chance to return'

Such, he later admitted, were his thoughts, and he began to pray for himself. He had known in past days the comforts and consolations of worship. Now he began to pray very deeply and truly as he heard from a friend the old, old message.

Presently he said calmly, “I see,” and kneeling by the table, he and I talked with God. Never can I forget his prayer. At first the halting, stumbling petition of a brokenhearted repentant sinner who felt acutely two things.

First, his base ingratitude to a merciful God Who had not cut him off in the midst of his sins, and then the cruelty of his conduct toward those who loved him on earth. As he confessed his feelings in these ways, he seemed to become capable of clearer utterance.

How long we thus communed I do not know, but we were both much moved as we stood to shake hands. I seemed to feel again his grip on mine as I now record these happenings.

“And you will stand by me?”

“Yes,” I answered, “as well as another man can.”

“Then I’ll prove what Christ can do.”

We then fell to considering whether it would be advisable to write at once to his wife and tell her the news.

“No! Not yet. Please God we’ll try and improve matters before we do that. I must find out more about the position there first. There are the girls to think about. I must not spoil their careers. About now they must be in the midst of their exams. No! Please wait a while until by God’s help I am a little more like a father they need not be ashamed of—then!”

So we planned. With the aid of a friend who had influence in a certain large, well-known company, he was found a berth in the warehouse, packing drugs and chemicals. In a few weeks, the results were surprising. He was found to be so useful that a better paid job was offered him. Soon it was discovered that he knew a great deal about the contents of the packets he was handling, and when he admitted that the work of a dispenser was not strange to him, he was again promoted.

It was then that he agreed to my suggestions to write to his wife and inform her that he was alive and well. Very carefully I wrote, telling her something of the events above recorded and suggesting that if she would like to see me on the matter I would gladly arrange to meet her.

A letter came back, breathing deep gratitude to God for His wonderful answer to prayer and for His mercy. An expression of appreciation for the human agency He had provided, and an explanation that the two daughters were facing some difficult hospital examinations. It would therefore, she thought, be best to defer any meeting until they were through. But would I please keep her informed of his progress. It was a wonderfully understanding and gracious letter considering all the circumstances.

I showed him the letter.

He was deeply moved as he carefully and eagerly read it, then returning it to me he said quietly, “I must ask you to honor her wishes. Painful as delay is to me, I must submit. I deserve it and much more. Will you now pray with me that I may prove worthy of her confidence and their love?”

Six months passed, each day bringing continuous evidence of the “new birth” and of his loyalty to Christ. There was no wavering or falling back. Whatever struggles he had with the enemy, no one saw the least evidence of any weakness. In every way he was proving that he was “a new creature,” that “old things had passed away.”

Two brief notes had come from the wife asking more details than my letters conveyed. I gladly told her all she desired to learn. Then one day there came a letter asking me to arrange a time for her to visit me. This was soon done, and without telling either of them what I had planned, I made my own arrangements. He was not informed of the impending visit but patiently awaited developments.

In due time the day arrived, and the wife kept her appointment. I instantly recognized the lady of the photograph, and to my intense delight she had brought her elder daughter with her. Both were much affected as I told them as much as I deemed needful of the facts. I felt it would be wise to leave the husband to give his own version of affairs.

Then, at a suitable moment, I said, “Would you like to see him at once?” I had not revealed to them that I had him in an adjoining room. But when the wife and daughter said eagerly together “Yes, please,” I opened the door and led them in to him. The lady had approached her husband with a smile of welcome and had kissed him; the daughter had put her arms about her father’s neck, and I heard just two words, “Dad, darling.”

It was no place for an outsider, so I made for my study and there lay the whole case again before the Father, asking that His will should be done. He heard and answered.

For an hour I left them alone. Then he came to fetch me. His eyes were very red, and I thought he walked with a new and firmer step. No word was said, but he looked his deep gratitude as he beckoned me to return with him.

As I entered the room, the wife approached me with an eager look which spoke eloquently of the tense feelings she had. When, after a few moments, she found voice, it was to tell me that it had been arranged to await the second daughter’s examinations, which were just pending. This girl did not yet know the purport of her mother’s visit to London that day with the sister, who now told me on top of her own success in the exams, she was overjoyed at finding her father.

“Do dare not tell Margery yet. She is rather highly strung, and as Dad says, it might interfere with her progress. But won’t she be just delighted. You know she has never ceased praying for this.” So spake the daughter, still holding her father’s hand, as if unwilling to part again. It was a most affecting scene, and one felt that there was Another present, rejoicing with us. “If all goes well we shall, please God, make home again when Margery is through, and oh what a day that will be.”

The mother was now feeling the stress of it all and needed rest and refreshment. A happy little meal was prepared, and thanks were given to Him Who had thus brought His promises to fulfillment. But the best was yet to be.

A happy home was restored.

In a certain south coast town, a place famous for its exhilarating air and for many of its citizens who have made history, there is held every Sunday afternoon a Bible class for young men. Sixty or more of the finest young fellows in that district meet week by week. It has been the birthplace of many splendid young Christians. Some of them have entered the Civil Service and today hold important positions at Whitehall, where I have had the joy of meeting them.

Coming one day along one of the corridors in the colonial office, I met a friend who said, “I’m very glad to see you today, because I promised that the next time you came this way I would ask you to come along with me and meet a man who wants to see you. He has another friend in the home office who also wants to meet you. Have you the time to do so?”

I assented and was led to the room indicated. Here was a man holding a responsible position who, upon being introduced, said, “I’m glad to meet you, sir, because I have an idea that you must be the gentleman of whom a very dear friend of mine often spoke. May I ask if you were acquainted with Dr. ______?”

“Yes indeed, I know him very well.”

“Then I guess you are the one of whom he spoke. I owe everything in life after my own parents to Dr. ______. He was a wonderful factor in the shaping of my career and that of many others. How did you come to know him, sir, if I may so question? And do you know his gifted family?”

Of course I could not tell him under what circumstances I had first met the doctor, the beloved physician who had sat in the leader’s chair of that Bible class Sunday by Sunday teaching youths the Way of Life, nor that it was he who had helped me out of the river that day when I had my involuntary mud bath.

Slightly altered from Finding Men for Christ by George Dempster, (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 1935). Quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, pp. 85-94

No One Is Hopeless

When I first began to work for God in Chicago a Boston businessman was converted there and stayed three months, and when leaving he said to me that there was a man living on such a street in whom he was very much interested, and whose boy was in the high school, and he had said that he had two brothers and a little sister who didn’t go anywhere to Sabbath School, because their parents would not let them. This gentleman said, “I wish you would go round and see them.”

I went, and I found that the parents lived in a drinking saloon, and that the father kept the bar. I stepped up to him and told him what I wanted, and he said he would rather have his sons become drunkards and his daughter a harlot than have them go to our schools. It looked pretty dark, and he was very bitter to me, but I went a second time, thinking that I might catch him in a better humor. He ordered me out again. I went a third time and found him in better humor. He said, “You are talking too much about the Bible. I will tell you what I will do; if you teach them something reasonable, like ‘Paine’s Age of Reason,’ they may go.”

Then I talked further to him, and finally he said, “If you will read Paine’s book, I will read the New Testament.”

Well, to get hold of him I promised and he got the best of the bargain. We exchanged books, and that gave me a chance to call again and talk with that family.

One day he said, “Young man, you have talked so much about church, now you can have a church down here.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, I will invite some friends, and you can come down here and preach to them; not that I believe a word you say, but I do it to see if it will do us chaps any good.”

“Very well,” I said, “now let us have it distinctly understood that we are to have a certain definite time.”

He told me to come at 11 o’clock, saying, “I want you to understand that you are not to do all the preaching.”

“How’s that?”

“I shall want to talk some, and also my friends.”

I said, “Supposing we have it understood that you are to have 45 minutes and I fifteen; is that fair?”

He thought that was fair. He was to have the first 45 and I the last 15 minutes.

I went down, and the saloonkeeper wasn’t there. I thought perhaps he had backed out, but I found the reason was that he had found that his saloon was not large enough to hold all his friends, and he had gone to a neighbor’s, whither I went and found two rooms filled. There were atheists, infidels, and scoffers there. I had taken a little boy with me, thinking he might aid me. The moment I got in they plied me with all sorts of questions, but I said I hadn’t come to hold any discussion; that they had been discussing for years and had reached no conclusion. They took up the 45 minutes of time talking and the result was there were no two who could agree.

Then came my turn. I said, “We always open our meetings with prayer; let us pray,” I prayed, and thought perhaps someone else would pray before I got through. After I finished the little boy prayed. I wish you could have heard him. He prayed to God to have mercy upon those men who were talking so against His beloved Son. His voice sounded more like an angel’s than a human voice. After we got up, I was going to speak, but there was not a dry eye in the assembly. One after another went out, and the old man I had been after for months—and sometimes it looked pretty dark—came and, putting his hands on my shoulder with tears streaming down his face, said, “Mr. Moody, you can have my children go to your Sunday School.”

The next Sunday they came, and after a few months the oldest boy, a promising young man then in the high school, came upon the platform, and with his chin quivering and the tears in his eyes, said, “I wish to ask these people to pray for me; I want to become a Christian.”

God heard and answered our prayers for him. In all my acquaintances I don’t know of a man whom it seemed more hopeless to reach. I believe if we lay ourselves out for the work there is not a man but can be reached and saved. I don’t care who he is, if we go in the name of our Master, and persevere until we succeed, it will not be long before Christ will bless us, no matter how hard their heart is. “We shall reap if we faint not.”

Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 84ff

Find Someone Who Has Fallen

I remember the first good Samaritan I ever saw. I had been in this world only three or four years when my father died a bankrupt, and the creditors came and swept away about everything we had. My widow mother had a cow and a few things, and it was a hard struggle to keep the wolf from the door. My brother went to Greenfield, and secured work in a store for his board, and went to school. It was so lonely there that he wanted me to get a place so as to be with him, but I didn’t want to leave home. One cold day in November my brother came home and said he had a place for me. I said that I wouldn’t go, but after it was talked over they decided I should go. I didn’t want my brothers to know that I hadn’t the courage to go, but that night was a long one.

The next morning we started. We went up on the hill, and had a last sight of the old house. We sat down there and cried. I thought that would be the last time I should ever see that old home. I cried all the way down to Greenfield. There my brother introduced me to an old man who was so old he couldn’t milk his cows and do the chores, so I was to do his errands, milk his cows and go to school. I looked at the old man and saw he was cross. I took a good look at the wife and thought she was crosser than the old man. I stayed there an hour and it seemed like a week.

I went around then to my brother and said: “I am going home.”

“What are you going home for?”

“I am homesick,” I said.

“Oh well, you will get over it in a few days.”

“I never will,” I said. “I don’t want to.”

He said, “You will get lost if you start for home now; it is getting dark.”

I was frightened then, as I was only about ten years old, and I said, “I will go at daybreak tomorrow morning.”

He took me to a shop window, where they had some jackknives and other things, and tried to divert my mind. What did I care for those old jackknives? I wanted to get back home to my mother and brothers; it seemed as if my heart was breaking.

All at once my brother said, “Dwight, there comes a man that will give you a cent.”

“How do you know he will?” I asked.

“Oh! he gives every new boy that comes to town a cent.”

I brushed away the tears, for I wouldn’t have him see me crying, and I got right in the middle of the sidewalk, where he couldn’t help but see me, and kept my eyes right upon him. I remember how that old man looked as he came tottering down the sidewalk. Oh, such a bright, cheerful, sunny face he had! When he came opposite to where I was he stopped, took my hat off, put his hand on my head, and said to my brother: “This is a new boy in town, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir, he is; just came today.”

I watched to see if he would put his hand into his pocket. I was thinking of that cent. He began to talk to me so kindly that I forgot all about it. He told me that God had an only Son, and He sent Him down here, and wicked men killed Him, and he said He died for me. He only talked five minutes, but he took me captive. After he had given me this little talk, he put his hand in his pocket and took out a brand new cent, a copper that looked just like gold. He gave me that; I thought it was gold, and didn’t I hold it tight! I never felt so rich before or since.

I don’t know what became of that cent; I have always regretted that I didn’t keep it; but I can feel the pressure of the old man’s hand on my head today. Fifty years have rolled away, and I can hear those kind words ringing yet. I never shall forget that act. He put the money at usury; that cent has cost me a great many dollars. I have never walked up the streets of this country or the old country but down into my pocket goes my hand, and I take out some money and give it to every forlorn, miserable child I see. I think how the old man lifted a load from me, and I want to lift a load from some one else.

Do you want to be like Christ? Go and find some one who has fallen, and get your arm under him, and lift him up toward heaven. The Lord will bless you in the very act. May God help us to go and do like the good Samaritan!

Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 10-12