SAD NEWS FROM HOME — FIGHTING AGAINST GOD
“OH, mother, mother!” Harold Wilson stood in the post office at Honolulu, holding in his hand a letter sent by an old friend in California. It read as follows:
“We have been hoping for several weeks for your return home. We had heard indirectly that you were on the way home, and we were encouraged to believe you might come in time to be a support to your mother during her last illness.
“Several weeks ago she had a hard fall, superinducing pneumonia. She made a brave fight; but her anxiety over you, coupled with financial reverses, proved too much for her, and she passed away last Thursday.
“Her last request was that I should write to you, and urge you not to forget the gift she placed in your box the day you left home. You will know, of course, to what she referred. She did not tell me its nature, but she did say that it took all she had in the world to get it for you.
“By the way, my boy, since you left us, I have changed my whole course of life. No more drinking, gambling, or profanity for me. I am a Christian now and am enjoying life wonderfully.
“God bless you! Don’t be discouraged over your great loss. Live for Christ, and you will meet her again.
“I am sending this to Honolulu at a venture.
“Your one-time friend in booze, but now free,
Yes, Harold had been working his way homeward. For many years he had been absent, during which time he had seen much of the world, visiting Australia, China, South Africa, South America, and Europe.
He had continued his hard life of drink and profanity, but always planning to do better when he saw his mother again. He had thrown overboard his beautiful Bible, in order to silence the voice of the Reprover; but never once had he seen a day of peace. Somehow the heartless ingratitude of that moment when his anger caused him to destroy his mother’s gift, had become a nemesis, which seemed to trail his every step and to bring him only defeat and failure in all he undertook.
Honolulu was “almost home” to him, and his heart was already beginning to enjoy a foretaste of the blessed reunion with mother. Like the prodigal of the Scripture, he had formulated his confession; and he was confident that, restored to his mother, he should be able to “make good.”
One may easily understand, therefore, what were his feelings as the letter from home was placed in his hands — feelings of deep heart satisfaction.
But how cruel was the disappointment! The words, “She passed away last Thursday,” fell upon his soul as a bolt of lightning from out the blue. He was stunned. The letter fell from his grasp.
“Oh, mother, mother!” he cried, forgetting that all around him were strangers, from whom he must hide his grief. And then under his breath he said, “You wanted to help me, you could have helped me; but now you’re gone, gone, g-o-n-e.”
His Grief Drove Him Downward
He picked up the missive, and hurried into the street, and down to the launch that was to convey him to his vessel.
“Harold Wilson, what will you do now? Will you be a man, as you ought to be, or will you absolutely and perhaps forever throw yourself away?”
Such were the questions that some good spirit whispered in his ear as he boarded the ship, which was to sail next day.
The answer was at once forthcoming; but, sad to say, it was an answer dictated by his lower nature. As with many others, inability on Harold’s part to carry out his plan made him desperate and ofttimes apparently irresponsible. He had been acknowledging the existence of God, and he had planned that when with his mother he would lead a better life. But this thwarting of plans angered him, and he now determined to go deeper into wickedness than ever before.
“There is no God. If there is, He is only a brute, and I hate Him. He hates me, because He robs me off my mother at the very time I need her. Oh, I’ll show Him, if He lives, that Harold Wilson can outdo Him. If He won’t let me do right, why, I’ll do my best at doing wrong.”
And surely it seemed that from that day forward, he succeeded in fitting his life to his resolution; for upon reaching San Francisco, he abandoned himself to a course of riotous pleasure, licentiousness, and crime.
His companions were of the baser elements of the city, versed in the business of lawbreaking, even to the extent of staining their hands with the blood of their fellow men.
Suspected of Murder
Howard Huffman, the writer of the message sent to Honolulu, picked up the morning Chronicle. As he glanced over the headings, his eye was held by the following:
“Murder in the Mission District. Harold Wilson, a Sailor, Held as a Suspect. Police Sure They Have the Right Man, an Old Criminal.”
Mr. Huffman paled and dropped his paper. “An old criminal.” Yes, he knew it to be true; for in that robbery of many years before, he himself had been associated. And now Harold had returned to continue his course in crime. What should he do?
Fearing to breathe to his young wife the cause of his agitation, he hurriedly donned his coat and hat and left the house. The Huffman home was now recognized as one of the happiest as well as one of the finest in the city of Oakland. Mr. Huffman was well known throughout the city as a man of sterling integrity and large business acumen, and prosperity had smiled upon him from the first day that he turned his feet to the way of Christianity. The past had been forgotten, but not until Mr. Huffman had made restitution, so far as he could, for everything he had ever taken from a fellow man. He had gone to the man whose home he and Harold Wilson had entered, and confessed his part, and paid back, with compound interest, the money he had taken.
Why, then, should he be anxious? — Ah, for Harold’s sake! He had trusted that God would help him to redeem his old pal in sin, and lead him to be a fellow worker in righteousness. But Harold had come, had fallen even lower; and perhaps the uncorrected and unforgiven past, now coming to light, would serve to defeat the purpose he had in mind.
Reaching San Francisco, Mr. Huffman hastened to the police station, and asked to interview the prisoner; and his name gave him easy access. What a picture met his gaze as he looked upon his companion of former years! Brutality seemed stamped upon every feature. But the adage,
“So long as there’s life, there’s hope,” buoyed him up; and with loving interest, he sought to have Harold understand that he still trusted him, and would stand by him in this hour of need.
Inquiry revealed the fact that Harold had not actually had a part in the murder, yet the circumstances were such as to cause the hand of the law to be laid heavily upon him. Howard Huffman now endeavored to lighten the penalty.
The story of the steps he took to secure his end need not be given. Suffice it to say here that Harold Wilson received freedom only on condition that he leave the country for five years, and with the admonition that when he should return, it must be with a recommendation of good behavior from his employers.
These conditions made him almost “a man without a country,” and they seemed hard indeed to meet; but through Howard Huffman’s encouragement, he determined to try.
He secured a position as common sailor on the “Tenyo Maru,” which sailed from San Francisco to Yokohama one week later; but little did he suspect that the captain of that vessel was his old friend, Captain Mann, of the trip of many years before.
Another Marked Bible
Harold left the Huffman home in Oakland for San Francisco, where his ship lay at the wharf, ready to leave on the morrow. As he passed into the waiting room at the Oakland mole, he observed a “Free Literature” distributor, in one receptacle of which was a Bible; and seeing it, he was struck with its likeness to the one his mother had given him. Taking the Good Book from its place, he opened it, and, lo, found it to be marked! And it was not only marked, but marked much as the other had been marked!
Forgetting all else, — forgetting that he was waiting for the ferry boat, that he was a man banished because of crime, and that he was an almost helpless wreck of humanity, — he sank into a seat, and for a long hour he searched back and forth through that Bible. Yes, many of the same texts were marked; and opposite the message of Exodus 20:8-11 were these words written in the margin: “God’s blessing upon the Sabbath is His presence in the Sabbath. He who keeps Sabbath has God’s presence in the heart; and all who have His presence will delight to keep Sabbath. Isaiah 58:13.”
How much this sounded like his mother! And there was Psalms 107:23-31 marked with red ink, the only text marked in red by his dear mother. He was deeply stirred. A tear stole down his cheek. A vision of a new life floated before him. And in it all, his mother spoke again, and the Christ she loved made His appeal to a lost soul.
“This Bible! O mother, may I take it with me? How can I go without it? It was marked for me. Surely it must have been. Mother, did you mark this Bible too?” He spoke thus to himself aloud.
“Friend,” — a voice spoke from behind, — “take the Book. It was marked for you. Take it, and God bless you with a knowledge of its truth, and give you a Christian life.”
Startled and embarrassed, Harold turned himself, but only to be comforted. The kind face of a father and friend beamed upon him. He quickly arose, and addressing the stranger, said: “Do you mean it, sir? May I have this Bible? But, sir, I have no money with which to pay for it.”
“That matters nothing, my friend. I represent a people who love God’s word, and who are seeking to carry its truth to the whole world. They will be happy to know that this Book is keeping company with one in need. But what did you mean by referring to another marked Bible? — Pardon my overhearing.”
He was in the company of a true friend; and with brokenness of heart, he told the whole sad story of his battle against his mother, the Bible, and God, and particularly how he had thrown into the sea the sacred gift of his mother’s sacrifice and love.
Only a brief interview was possible; but during the few minutes that the two men spent together, Harold Wilson caught a glimpse of the plan of salvation. He saw God’s law in its completeness. He saw sin as its transgression. He saw Christ as the One who redeems from the curse.
A word of prayer was offered for Harold by that friend and father — a prayer which he would never forget. Especially did he take to heart this sentence: “Give him rest, Lord, from all evil habits.” Of course, it seemed a strange idea, but only to be the longer remembered.
“On what vessel do you sail, young man?” asked the old gentleman as they were parting.
“The ‘Tenyo Maru,’ sir.”
“Ah, that is interesting! She sails to-morrow. Some friends of mine have engaged passage on her, and you must be sure to meet them.”
With the treasured Bible in his grip, Harold was soon aboard the ferry. Great experiences were in store for him.