Some years since my wife and I, in the providence of God, were in charge of a cottage-home for poor, homeless boys. One day a little boy was brought to us – a poor little fellow who had been found on a doorstep in one of the squares in the West End of London. He never knew either his father or mother. I need not tell you that our hearts beat fast in sympathy to the poor little outcast, and we gladly took him into our ‘family’. As Harry grew up we found he was a weakly one, and feared that his early neglect would result in consumption, which it ultimately did. We often noticed that, instead of running about with the other boys, he would get into a corner of the playroom, apparently liking to be alone and seeming to have nothing in common with others.

One day, addressing my wife, he said: ‘I wish you would let me call you mother; will you?’ She answered, ‘Of course I will, Harry’. ‘And do you think Mr. Popham will let me call him father?’ ‘I am sure he will’, was the reply; and from that time till his death there was, I believe, a deep under-current of affection between Harry and ourselves. He would often sit and read to his ‘mother’ and many a word was spoken on those occasions which bore fruit very early.

Now it came to pass – and you children think about it – that one day Harry said to me, ‘Father, I am such a sinner – I feel I am such a sinner!’ Being particularly concerned about him on account of the serious nature of his disease, and desirous of knowing how he came to a knowledge of sin, I said: ‘Why, Harry, what do you know about sin? You have never played roughly with the boys; you have not cheated at their games; you have not bullied other boys; you have done nothing of that kind’. He quietly and soberly replied: ‘I know I have not done the things you mention. I have not been able to do them. But I have sometimes felt very angry in my heart against God because I could not do as others do’. And as Harry went on to tell me of his shame and sorrow on account of heart sins, I felt and said to myself, ‘This is the secret but powerful teaching of the Holy Ghost in the lad’s heart’.

We had for a long time looked after Harry’s temporal wants, but now my wife and I were all anxiety and concern about his soul. We knew he could not be long with us, so we listened carefully to every word he spoke and watched his every movement. He would often say: ‘Oh, how great a sinner I am! Do you think God can have mercy upon a wicked boy like me?’ His heart-sins were made known to him by a gracious inward teaching, and on account of them he wept and sorrowed deeply before the Lord. I have ever felt Harry’s deep repentance to be one of the most genuine marks of his call by grace.

At times, when the Bible was read to him, he would make comments: ‘Jesus Christ did take great interest in children. He did bless them. And will He not bless me – a sinner like me?’ In all that he read and saw of Jesus Christ’s pity, mercy, and grace to the poor and the lost, he sought for a personal knowledge of the same. He wanted to know Jesus Christ in His power to forgive sins.

He told me that one day his sins felt so heavy he could bear the weight no longer. He went upstairs to his room and there cried to the Lord for mercy; and with great simplicity and sincerity he explained how Jesus Christ had taken all his sins away and cast them behind his back. His heart seemed full of joy and peace, and he quietly repeated:

‘When mothers of Salem their children brought to Jesus, The stern disciples drove them back and bade them depart;

 

But Jesus saw them ere they fled,

And sweetly smiled and kindly said,

‘Suffer the children to come unto Me’

 

….. and that is what He has said to me’. Once he said to my wife, ‘Jesus Christ came to His own, and they received Him not. My own father and mother cared nothing for me, but Jesus cares for me and takes me for His own’. More than once he said his heart was full of gratitude to the Lord for giving him another ‘father’ and ‘mother’. ‘He has given me a home with you, but only for a very little while’ he used to say. As strength permitted, he read and spoke with remarkable soberness for one so young. He said how hateful his sins were to him; but for the most part there was a simple, child-like believing and resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. He showed much kindness to those about him, and with great earnestness and tenderness would speak to them about death.

The dreadful disease was making most rapid progress, and it was clear to us that the end was not far off. Harry manifested great patience, and several times expressed himself as quietly resting on Jesus Christ. ‘Yes’, said he one day, in reply to a pointed question: ‘I believe my sins are all forgiven. I am washed in Jesus’ blood’. His favorite hymn was –

‘O Paradise, O Paradise, I greatly long to see

The special home my dearest Lord is fitting up for me,

Where loyal hearts and true stand ever in the light,

All rapture through and through in God’s most holy sight’.

 

The last Sunday he spent on earth will not be forgotten while memory remains. He spoke most sweetly of his hope through Jesus Christ’s sufferings and death, and, with many expressions of his love to us, said he had a greater longing to be with Jesus for ever. He asked us to sing the hymn, the first verse of which is quoted above, and with sweet resignation he joined in singing the following verse:

 

‘O Paradise, O Paradise, I feel ‘twill not be long,

Patience! I almost think I hear faint echoes of their song.

Where loyal hearts and true stand ever in the light,

All rapture through and through in God’s most holy sight’.

 

The last night of his life I sat with him. He slept peacefully for some time, his life fast ebbing away. Once he awoke and, turning to me, said: ‘Father, don’t you see them? They are the angels, waiting to take me home’. After this he fell asleep, and for a time it seemed as though he would pass away and awake in heaven. But once more he awoke and said: ‘Father, there is the King – the King! Jesus Christ has come! Do let me go, father; do let me go’. And with these words on his lips, his hands outstretched, and a look of intense longing in his eyes, Harry sank back on his pillow and fell asleep in Jesus in the 14th year of his age.

Oh, my dear children, think of this dear little fellow – fatherless, motherless, and homeless; how the Lord undertook and managed all things for him in this life and, through Jesus Christ, had special regard for him in a way of grace.

How great a mercy it is to know what sin is by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and then to know what Jesus Christ is in His power to save! ‘Blessed Jesus Christ! O how free and sovereign is that grace of Thine that comes even to children – the poorest, the lost, and the outcast!’

 

‘Around the throne of God in heaven

Thousands of children stand,

Children whose sins are all forgiven,

A holy, happy band.

 

What brought them to that world above?

That heaven so bright and fair?

Where all is peace and joy and love,

How came those children there?

 

Because the Saviour shed His blood

To wash away their sins;

Bathed in that pure and precious flood,

Behold them white and clean’.

 

 

From: Van Zweden, J. The Wonderful Providence of Almighty God Seen in the Lives of Young and Old: Series No 10. Stickney, South Dakota: Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America, 1978. pages 107-110

 

 

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