Killed By His Brother
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHEN my father moved from our little log house in the country to the town, I was sent to the Sunday School and day school. At the first session of the Sunday School I attended, they had large white cards with texts in green and red letters which awed me. I then went into the service ; the minister preached on the terrors of the Law, kindling the fires of the pit so graphically that I was frightened almost to death and " Lifted up my voice and wept." I do not think that the fright did me any harm ; but I remember what a sensation my first appearance produced. One block above our house there lived a family by the name of Hunnel. The father waa a carpenter and owned a planing mill ; the mother was a devout Christian woman, a member of the church which our people were accustomed to attend. There were a number of sons. The boys had a dog which they called Beelzebub. He undertook to jump the fence one day, and getting stuck between the pickets, he broke his neck. The Hunnel boys were among those with whom I played Vineyard " in the streets and " Hum-bum-pull-away " through the stables and alleys, and "Shinny on the ice." They were very bright in school, especially in arithmetic.
We boys grew to be men—Tom Hunnel to become a carpenter, John Hunnel a saloon-keeper and influential politician, and I to become the pastor of the church whose Sunday School I had joined when four years of age, and of which I had been a member from the time I was a boy of twelve.
One day a messenger came to the parsonage door and said : " John Hunnel wants to see you at once. Come quickly." I said, "What is the matter?" He replied, "His brother Tom has shot him. The doctor says he cannot get well, and he wants you to come and pray for him." I said, "Horrible ! So terrible a thing cannot be true." Seizing my hat off the rack, I hurried with the messenger, and said to him, "How did it happen ?" He answered, "John was behind the bar himself when Tom came into the saloon, very much under the influence of liquor, and called for a drink. John refused him, saying, `Tom, you have had too much in you already ; I will not let you have any more.' Tom became very angry and threatened to break the bottles and clean the concern out. John attempted to eject him, and Tom whipped out a pistol and shot him in the abdomen." Just as we were entering the door of the wounded man's residence, I saw a crowd approaching, with the omnipresent small boy in the lead. It was the sheriff bringing Tom to the bedside of his brother to receive what might prove to be an ante-mortem statement. Everybody but the sheriff, the prisoner and I were shut out, and we entered the bedroom together. The sheriff said, "Is this the man that shot you?" "Yes," said the suffering man; then addressing his brother, he said, "Oh, Tom, what a bad job you have done! You have sent yourself to the jail-house and me to the grave." Tom began to weep and said, "Johnny, I am so sorry. Won't you forgive me?" He answered, "Yes, Tommy, I will. I am asking a merciful Saviour to forgive me, and I cannot expect him to hear me unless I forgive you. Oh, Tommy, it was not you who did it, but the drink in you that made you crazy." When the sheriff had taken the prisoner away, I went up to the bedside of the wounded man, and, taking him by the hand, said, "Johnny, this is too bad." He, calling me by my first name, said, "Yes, it is too bad. The doctor says I cannot get well," and, showing me the little pink wound, he asked me if I thought he could recover. I told him I feared he could not. He said, "I should like to live for my wife and family, but I suppose that is out of the question. I have sent for you because I thought you would help me to Christ. I am sorry for my sins, and I want to be forgiven. You know what a good mother I had." " Yes," I said, " many a time I have heard her tell of her love for Christ in the class-meeting, and pray for you boys, and you by name, Johnny, in the prayer-meeting; and I was at the meeting when your brother Henry joined the church, and I heard her say, `O my boy, I am so happy to see you take this step !' " The sick man said, "It may be God will hear my mother's prayers, though the lips that uttered them are cold ; maybe he will hear your prayer, and mine, and save me. Let us try." I prayed aloud, and then put a little prayer in his mouth, which he said aloud ; and the Holy Spirit seemed to help us both to offer the prayer of faith, for light came into his face and peace into his heart, as he said:
"`His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood avails for me.'
" Christ has forgiven all my sins. How thankful and how happy I am!" He lingered until the evening of the next day, suffering unspeakable physical agony, but enjoying sweet rest of soul; then he passed away. The family asked the privilege of having the funeral service in the church, which request was granted. The building, which seated a thousand people, was too small for the audience which gathered. In the congregation were leaders of both political parties, people of all classes and conditions, including about fifty saloon-keepers. In my message I told of our early friendship and of my personal sorrow. I reminded the people of the danger of putting off the question of the soul's salvation till the dying hour. I spoke of the love of the Saviour, of his infinite compassion; I made mention of the dead man's penitence, of his belief in the atonement, of his faith in Christ as his personal Saviour, and of the hopes which inspired his soul. I put special emphasis upon the fact that whiskey had done it all ; that strong drink is a vice containing nearly every other vice ; that it is a crime containing about every other crime ; that it spares no man, however promising, nor tie, however sacred, and that its especial pleasure is in making funerals and in filling jails. It was one of the most solemn services I ever attended ; the Holy Ghost seemed to fill the house. During most of the service large numbers, including many of the saloon-keepers, wept like children.