An Atheist Save By The Death Of His Wife
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHILE pastor in a Western city, word came to my study that a woman, who belonged to my church, was dangerously sick. I hastened to her residence. Her husband, who was a bitter sceptic, and her sister were at her bedside, when my presence was announced. The husband, speaking to his sister-in-law about his wife said : " She is not going to die, and I am not willing to have her scared to death by a preacher. If she lives she is good enough, if she should chance to die, there is no need of the service of a minister, as there is no such thing as God or a future life." His sister-in-law said to him : " You can be a heathen yourself, but you can not expect the rest of us to be heathens; you know sister is a devoted Christian woman, and would be glad to see her pastor." He said gruffly, " Well, let him come up." I went upstairs, knowing nothing of the conversation that had introduced me; talked as tenderly with the sufferer as I could and offered an earnest prayer for her restoration, if consistent with the Divine Will, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort her in her affliction. That night she died. The following day I called at the residence. I was met in the parlor by the husband, who, taking me by the hand, trembled like a leaf, and cried like a child. " O pastor," said he, " I am the most wretched man in this world. I have no wife ; I have no children ; I have no God. I am all alone, and life is an intolerable misery to me." I tried to calm and comfort him with brotherly advice, instruction, and prayer. Returning to my study, I fell upon my knees, and asked God to give me a special message for the funeral service, which would result in the salvation of the wretched man's soul. The evening after the funeral I spent with him alone, in personal religious conversation and in earnest prayer. In an agonizing prayer, in which he made a full surrender to Christ, peace came to his soul. The burden fell off, and his face seemed to shine with a reflection of the upper glory. "Things seem so different to me now," he said. "I have always said that the Bible was false. I feel within me now, that it is true. I have denied the existence of God. I feel the presence of God in my heart. I thought it the most unreasonable thing to count Christ divine ; in the depths of my soul I feel him to be divine. I said there was no other life; I feel in my heart the presence of that other life." He said: " I will tell you a dream I had last night. In it I saw my lovely wife, with the face of an angel, riding through the sky in a golden chariot of cloud; she called to me, saying, ` Meet me, O dear, won't you meet me?' I called back to her, ` Yes, my darling, I will.' I awoke and found my pillow wet with tears, and when you came to-night I felt that God had sent you to help me prepare to meet my precious one in heaven." The next Sunday, he made an open confession of Christ and united with our church.
It often happens that the visit of death to a family awakens the survivors from their spiritual slumber ; raises them from their spiritual death. Some will not believe in eternity until its tide comes up to the little shores of earth, and bears a loved one away from them on its bosom. Some will not believe that there is such a place as heaven, until they follow with their eyes the spirits of their darlings and see them enter the Gates of Pearl. Some will not believe that there is such a person as Christ, until death robs them of all earthly supports and they cry out, in the agony of their loneliness, for the only real Being in the uni-verse. In the blackest cloud of earthly affliction there often appears the loveliest rainbow of promise.