A brigand arrested

 

 

In an interior town in North Brazil, there existed an unholy alliance between the local priest and a notorious brigand who lived by crime, and he shared his spoils with his sacerdotal confederate. No Gospel work had ever been attempted there: at that time it would have meant death to any evangelical who tried to begin work in that priest-ridden community.

Nevertheless, a certain colporteur, well aware of the reputation of the place, determined to gain an entrance for the Word of God. He was warned against any such foolhardy attempt; but, determined to trust and obey God, he dropped off a train that passes not far from the town, and quietly entered and began to canvass the city with his books. There was a ready sale for the Scriptures, though the buyers looked fearful and did not linger in conversation. Others refused the books and threatened to inform the priest. Someone did. There was a heretic in the town daring to sell his false and corrupt Bibles! Immediately the priest got busy. He had the church bells rung; the crowds gathered; and from the church steps he exhorted them to drive this emissary of the devil out of town.

The poor colporteur soon heard what was afoot, and wisely deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he took to his heels and fled. But where to go? That was the problem. There was no hope of getting another train that day and the mob would soon overtake him – they were already streaming out of the town in pursuit, for the priest had got into touch with his crony the brigand, and set him on the track of the fugitive. “Let me get my hands on him,” shouted the ruffian, “and I’ll soon make short work of him.”

By this time the colporteur had reached the railway line, and realizing that it was useless to run further, he sat down on the embankment, and poured out his heart to God in prayer, committing his cause to Him Who, he believed, had sent him to that town. The crowd poured down on to the line, headed by the burly brigand. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. “I came to preach the Gospel and sell the Word of God to the people.” “Preach!” retorted the other; “can you preach?” “Well, I try to tell the Good News,” the young man fearlessly answered. “All right! We’ll hear you preach”: and he led the colporteur up the hill to his own house, the crowd streaming after them.

He took the now trembling young colporteur into a big bare room, and shouted to as many as could crowd in to enter, till the room was full. “Now, here you have a congregation: let’s hear you preach.”

Lifting his heart to God in a moment’s silent prayer for help, the young man began to tell in simple language the story of the Gospel. He told it briefly, and when he had finished he said: “That is my message: that is the story of what God has done for men, for you and for me.”

There was still a crowd outside for whom there had been no room in the house, so the brigand hurried the first lot out, and shouted to more to come in and hear the heretic preach. Again the room was filled; and again the young colporteur told the story of God’s love to a now quieted and listening crowd. Yet again the bandit turned them out, and for a third time the room was filled with the remainder of the crowd, to whom a tired young preacher delivered his message. When he had at last finished, the big brigand led him outside and with his hand on his shoulder he cried to the waiting crowd: “This young man is now my friend. If one of you dares to lay a hand on him, he will have to deal with me!”

“You’re tired,” he said as he led the colporteur back into the house: “You’ll sleep here, but first you must have something to eat.” And leaving him he went off to prepare food for them both, and it was a wonderfully subdued brigand who served the weary young man with a good meal and afterwards showed him a room where he could sleep.

It was with a thankful heart – a heart full of gratitude and praise to God Who had so wonderfully delivered him – that the young man fell on his knees and poured out his thanksgivings, then continued in prayer that the witness he had been allowed to give might bear fruit. Especially did he pray for his brigand host.

While yet on his knees he heard a timid knock on the door, and opening it found his host. “Excuse me, but I heard you talking to someone, but you seem to be alone. To whom were you talking?” “Oh,” said the young man, “I was thanking my Father in Heaven for all His kindness to me, and praying for my enemies as Christ told me to; and I was praying for you.” “Praying for me! Can I come and join you and hear you pray?” – and the two, brigand and colporteur, knelt together while the latter again poured out his heart for his companion, and asked God to cleanse him from his sins. Then he said, “Won’t you pray for yourself?” “Me? I don’t know how to pray.” “Well, God is here; just tell Him you are sorry for your sins and want to be forgiven and saved from them…” And after a long pause and many fumbling attempts, at last that hardened sinner broke down and confessed his black past, crying to God for mercy and forgiveness. He rose from his knees a new creature in Christ Jesus.

That is some time ago now; and to-day there is a growing evangelical church in that town, and the onetime brigand is a shining light in the surrounding darkness. The evil priest, his complicity in crime having been brought to light, was removed from his post, and the long reign of terror ended.

 

From: Anon. True Stories Re-told. London: Evangelical Union of South America, 1965, pages 53-55

 

 

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