THE AFRICAN SERVANT.
During a residence of some years' continuance in the neighborhood of the sea, an officer in the navy called upon me and stated that he had just taken a lodging in the parish for his wife and children, and that he had an African whom he had kept three years in his service. "The lad is a deserving fellow," said the officer, "and he has a great desire to be baptized; I have promised him to ask you to do it for him, if you have no objections."
"Does he know anything," I replied, "of the principles of the Christian religion?"
"O yes, I am sure he does," answered the captain; "for he talks a great deal about it in the kitchen, and often gets laughed at for his pains; but he takes it all very patiently."
"Does he behave well as your servant?"
"Yes, that he does; he is as honest and civil a fellow as ever came aboard a ship, or lived in a house."
"Was he always so well behaved?"
"No," said the officer; "when I first had him he was often very
unruly and deceitful; but for the
last two years he has been quite like another creature."
"Well, Sir, I shall be very glad to see him, and think it probable I shall wish to go through a course of instruction and examination; during which I shall be able to form a judgment how far it will be right to admit him to the ordinance of baptism. Can he read?"
"Yes," replied his master; "he has been taking great pains to learn to read for some time past, and can make out a chapter in the Bible pretty well, as my maid-servant informs me. He speaks English better than many of his countrymen, but you will find it a little broken. When will it be convenient that I should send him over to you?"
"To-morrow afternoon, Sir, if you please."
"He shall come to you about four o'clock, and you shall see what you can make of him."
With this promise he took his leave. I felt glad of an opportunity of instructing a native of that land whose wrongs and injuries had often caused me to sigh and mourn.
At the appointed hour my African disciple arrived. He was a very young-looking man, with a sensible, lively, and pleasing turn of countenance.
I desired him to sit down, and said, "Your master informs me that you wish to have some conversation with me respecting Christian baptism?"
"Yes, Sir, me very much wish to be a Christian."
"Why do you wish so?"
"Because me know that Christian go to heaven when he die."
"How long have you had that wish?" I said.
"Ever since me hear one good minister preach in America two year ago."
"Where were you born?"
"In Africa. Me was very little boy when me was made slave by the white men."
"How was that?"
"Me left father and mother one day at home to go to get shells by the sea shore; and, as I was stopping down to gather them up, some white sailors came out of a boat and took me away. Me never see father nor mother again."
"And what became of you then?"
"Me was put into ship and brought to Jamaica, and sold to a massa, who keep me in his house to serve him some years; when, about three years ago, Captain W——, my massa that spoke to you, bought me to be his servant on board his ship. And he be good massa; and me live with him ever since."
"And what thoughts had you about your soul all that time before you went to America?" I asked him.
"Me no care for my soul at all before then. No man teach me a word about my soul."
"Well, now tell me farther about what happen-
ed to you in America. How came you there?"
"My massa take me there in a ship, and he stop there one month; and then me hear the good minister."
"And what did that minister say?"
"He said me was a great sinner."
"What, did he speak to you in particular?"
"Yes, me think so; for there was a great many to hear him, but he tell them all about me."
"What did he say?"
"He say about all the things that were in my heart."
"My sin, my ignorance, my know nothing, my believe nothing. The good minister made me see that me think nothing good, nor do nothing good."
"And what else did he tell you?"
"He sometime look me in the face, and say, that Jesus Christ came to die for sinners, poor black sinners as well as white sinners. Me thought this was very good, very good indeed, to do so for wicked sinner."
"And what made you think this was all spoken to you in particular?"
"Because me sure no such wicked sinner as me in all the place. The good minister must know me was there."
"And what did you think about yourself while he preached about Jesus Christ?"
"Sir, me was very much afraid when he said the wicked must be turned into hell fire. For me felt that me was very wicked sinner, and that make me cry. And he talk much about the love of Christ to sinners, and that make me cry more. And me thought me must love Jesus Christ; but me not know how, and that make me cry again."
"Did you hear more sermons than one during that month?"
"Yes, sir; massa give me leave to go three times, and all the times me wanted to love Jesus more, and do what Jesus said; but my heart seem sometime hard like a stone."
"Have you ever heard any preaching since that time?"
"Never, till me hear sermon at this church last Sunday, and then me long to be baptized in Jesus' name."
"And what have been your thoughts all the time since you first heard those sermons in America; did you tell any body then what you felt?"
"No; me speak to nobody but to God. The good minister say that God hear the cry of the poor; so me cry to God, and he hear me. And me often think about Jesus Christ, and wish to be like him."
"Can you read?"
"Who taught you to read?"
"God teach me to read."
"What do you mean by saying so?"
"God give me desire to read, and that make reading easy. Massa give me Bible, and one sailor show me the letters; and so me learn to read by myself with God's good help."
"And what do you read in the Bible?"
"O me read all about Jesus Christ, and how he loved sinners; and wicked men killed him, and he died and came again from the grave, and all this for poor negro. And it sometime make me cry, to think that Christ love so poor negro."
"And what do the people say about your reading and praying, and attention to the things of God?"
"Some wicked people, that do not love Jesus Christ, call me great fool, and negro dog, and black hypocrite. And that make me sometime feel angry; but then me remember Christian must not be angry. Jesus Christ was called ugly black names, and he was quiet as a lamb; and so then me remember Jesus Christ, and me say nothing again to them."
I was much delighted with the simplicity and apparent sincerity of
this poor African; and wished to ascertain what measure of light and
feeling he possessed on a few leading points. St. Paul's summary of
religion* occurring to me,
I said, "Tell me
what is faith? What is your own faith? What do you believe about Jesus Christ, and your own soul?"
"Me believe," said he, "that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; and though me be chief of sinners, Jesus will save me, though me be only poor black negro."
"What is your hope? What do you hope for, both as to this life and that which is to come?"
"Me hope Christ Jesus will take good care of me, and keep me from sin and harm, while me live here: and me hope, when me come to die, to go and live with him always, and never die again."
"What are your thoughts about Christian love or charity? I mean, whom and what do you most love?"
"Me love God the Father, because he was so good to send his Son. Me love Jesus Christ, because he die for poor sinner. Me love all men, black men and white men too; for God made them all. Me love good Christian people, because Jesus love them, and they love Jesus."
Such was my first conversation with this young disciple; I rejoiced in the prospect of receiving him into the church, agreeably to his desire. I wished, however, to converse somewhat further, and inquire more minutely into his conduct; and promised to ride over and see him in a few days, at his master's lodgings.
When he was gone, I thought within myself, God hath indeed redeemed souls, by the blood of his Son, "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." It is a happy thought, that "Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth, O sing praises unto the Lord!"
Not many days after the first interview with my African disciple, I went from home on horseback with the design of visiting and conversing with him again at his master's house, which was situated in a part of the parish near four miles distant from my own. The road which I took lay over a lofty down or hill, which commands a prospect of scenery seldom equalled for beauty and magnificence. It gave birth to silent, but instructive contemplation.
The down itself was covered with sheep, grazing on its wholesome
and plentiful pasture. Here and there a shepherd's boy kept his
appointed station, and watched over the flock committed to his care.
I viewed it as an emblem of my own situation and employment.
Adjoining the hill lay an extensive parish, wherein many souls were
given me to watch over, and render an account of, at the day of the
great Shepherd's appearing. The pastoral scene before me seemed to be
a living parable, illustrative of my own spiritual charge. I felt a
prayerful wish that the good Shepherd, who gave his life for
the sheep, might enable me to be faithful to my trust.
It occurred to me about the same time, that my young African friend was a sheep of another more distant fold, which Christ will yet bring to hear his voice. For there shall be one fold and one Shepherd, and all nations shall be brought to acknowledge that he alone "restoreth our souls, and leadeth us into the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." On the left hand of the hill, as I advanced eastward, and immediately under its declivity, extended a beautiful tract of land intersected by a large arm of the sea, which (as the tide was fast flowing in) formed a broad lake or haven of three miles in length. Woods, villages, cottages, and churches, surrounded it in most pleasing variety of prospect. Beyond this lay a large fleet of ships of war, and not far from it another of merchantmen, both safe at anchor, and covering a tract of the sea of several miles in extent. Beyond this again, I saw the fortifications, dock-yards, and extensive public edifices of a large seaport town. The sun shone upon the windows of the buildings and the flags of the ships, with great brightness, and added much to the splendor of the view.
I thought of the concerns of empires, the plans of statesmen, the
fate of nations, and the horrors of war. Happy will be that day, when
He shall make
wars to cease unto the end of the earth, and peace to be established on its borders!
On my right hand, to the south and south-east, the unbounded ocean displayed its mighty waves. It was covered with vessels of every size, sailing in all directions; some outward-bound to the most distant parts of the world; others, after a long voyage, returning home laden with the produce of remote climes.
At the south-west of the spot on which I was riding, extended a beautiful semi-circular bay of about nine or ten miles in circumference, bounded by high cliffs of white, red, and brown-colored earths. Beyond this lay a range of hills, whose tops are often buried in cloudy mists, but which then appeared clear and distinct. This chain of hills, meeting with another from the north, bounds a large fruitful vale, whose fields, now ripe for harvest, proclaimed the goodness of God in the rich provision which he makes for the sons of men. It is he who "prepares the corn: he crowns the year with his goodness, and his paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn: they shout for joy, they also sing."
As I pursued the meditations which this magnificent and varied
scenery excited in my mind, I approached the edge of a tremendous
cliff with which the down terminates; I dismounted from my horse and tied it to a bush. The breaking of the waves against the foot of the cliff, at so great a distance beneath me, produced an incessant and pleasing murmur. The sea-gulls were flying between the top of the cliff where I stood and the rocks below, attending upon their nests build in the holes of the cliff. The whole scene, in every direction, was grand and impressive; it was suitable to devotion. The Creator appeared in the works of his creation, and called upon the creature to honor and adore. To the believer this exercise is doubly delightful. He possesses a right to the enjoyments of nature and providence, as well as to the privileges of grace. His title-deed runs thus: "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
I cast my eye downwards a little to the left, towards a small
cove, the shore of which consists of fine hard sand. It is surrounded
by fragments of rock, chalk cliffs, and steep banks of broken earth.
Shut out from human intercourse and dwellings, it seems formed for
retirement and contemplation. On one of these rocks I unexpectedly
observed a man sitting with a book which he was reading. The place
was near two hundred yards perpendicularly below me; but I soon
discovered by his dress, and by the black color of his features,
the white rocks beside him, that it was no other than my African disciple, with, as I doubted not, a Bible in his hand. I rejoiced at this unlooked-for opportunity of meeting him in so solitary and interesting a situation. I descended a steep bank, winding by a kind of rude stair-case, formed by fishermen and shepherd's boys, in the side of the cliff down to the shore.
He was intent on his book, and did not perceive me till I approached very near to him.
"William, is that you?"
"Ah! massa, me very glad to see you. How came massa into this place? Me tought nobody here but only God and me."
"I was coming to your master's house to see you, and rode round by this way for the sake of the prospect. I often come here in fine weather to look at the sea and the shipping. Is that your Bible?"
"Yes, Sir, this is my dear good Bible."
"I am glad," said I, "to see you so well employed; it is a good sign, William."
"Yes, massa, a sign that God is good to me; but me never good to God."
"Me never thank him enough; me never pray to him enough; me never remember enough who give me all these good things. Massa, me afraid my heart very bad. Me wish me was like you."
"Like me, William? Why, you are like me,
a poor helpless sinner, that must, like yourself, perish in his sins, unless God of his infinite mercy and grace pluck him as a brand from the burning, and make him an instance of distinguishing love and favor. There is no difference; we have both come short of the glory of God: all have sinned."
"No, me no like you, massa; me think nobody like me, nobody feel such a heart as me."
"Yes, William, your feelings, I am persuaded, are like those of every truly convinced soul who sees the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the greatness of the price which Christ Jesus paid for the sinner's ransom. You can say in the words of the hymn,
"I the chief of sinners am,
"O yes, Sir, me believe that Jesus died for poor negro. What would become of poor wicked negro, if Christ no die for him? But he die for the chief of sinners, and that make my heart sometime quite glad."
"What part of the Bible were you reading, William?"
"Me read how the man on the cross spoke to Christ, and Christ
spoke to him. Now that man's prayer just do for me. 'Lord, remember
me;' Lord, remember poor negro sinner: this is my prayer every
morning, and sometime at night too:
when me cannot think of many words then me say the same again, Lord, remember poor negro sinner."
"And be assured, William, the Lord hears that prayer. He pardoned and accepted the thief upon the cross, and he will not reject you; he will in no wise cast out any that come to him."
"No, Sir, I believe it; but there is so much sin in my heart, it make me afraid, and sorry. Massa, do you see these limpets,* how fast they stick to the rocks here? Just so sin stick fast to my heart."
"It may be so, William; but take another comparison: do you cleave to Jesus Christ by faith in his death and righteousness, as those limpets cleave to the rock, and neither seas nor storms shall separate you from his love."
"That is just what me want."
"Tell me, William, is not that very sin, which you speak of, a burden to you? You do not love it: you would be glad to obtain strength against it, and to be freed from it, would you not?"
"O yes; me give all this world, if me had it, to be without sin."
"Come, then, and welcome, to Jesus Christ, my brother; his blood washes
sinners from all sin. He gave himself as a ransom for sinners. He
hath borne our
griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Come, freely come to Jesus, the Savior of sinners."
"Yes, massa," said the poor fellow weeping, "me will come, but me come very slow; very slow, massa; me want to run, me want to fly. Jesus is very good to poor negro, to send you to tell him all this."
"But this is not the first time you have heard these truths."
"No, Sir, they have been comfort to my soul many times since me hear good minister preach in America, as me tell you last week at your house."
"Well, now I hope, William, that since God has been so graciously pleased to open your eyes, and affect your mind with such a great sense of his goodness, in giving his Son to die for your sake; I hope that you do your endeavor to keep his commandments; I hope you strive to behave well to your master and mistress, and fellow servants. He that is a Christian inwardly, will be a Christian outwardly; he that truly and savingly believes in Christ, will show his faith by his works, as the apostle says. Is it not so, William?"
"Yes, Sir, me want to do so. Me want to be faithful. Me sorry to
think how bad servant me was
before the good things of Jesus Christ come to my heart. Me wish to do well to my massa, when he see me, and when he not see me, for me know God always see me. Me know that if me sin against mine own massa, me sin against God, and God be very angry with me. Besides, how can me love Christ, if me do not do what Christ tell me? Me love my fellow-servants, though as me tell you before, they do not much love me, and I pray God to bless them. And when they say bad things, and try to make me angry, then me think, if Jesus Christ were in poor negro's place, he would not revile and answer again with bad words and temper, but he say little, and pray much. And so then me say nothing at all, but pray God to forgive them."
The more I conversed with this African convert, the more satisfactory were the evidences of his mind being spiritually enlightened, and his heart effectually wrought upon by the grace of God.
The circumstances of the place in which we met together,
contributed much to the interesting effect which the conversation
produced on my mind. The little cove or bay was beautiful in the
extreme. The air was calm and serene. The sun shone, but we were
sheltered from its rays by the cliffs. One of these was stupendously
lofty and large. It was white as snow: its summit hung directly over
our heads. The sea-fowl were flying around it. Its whiteness was
occasionally chequered with dark
green masses of samphire, which grew there. On the other side, and behind us, was a more gradual declivity of many-colored earths, interspersed with green patches of grass and bushes, and little streams of water trickling down the bank, and mingling with the sea at the bottom. At our feet the waves were advancing over shelves of rocks covered with great variety of sea-weeds, which swam in little fragments, and displayed much beauty and elegance of form, as they were successively thrown upon the sand.
Ships of war and commerce were seen at different distances. Fishermen were plying their trade in boats nearer to the shore. The noise of the flowing tide, combined with the voices of the sea-gulls over our heads, and now and then a distant gun fired from the ships as they passed along, added much to the peculiar sensations to which the scene gave birth. Occasionally the striking of oars upon the waves, accompanied by the boatman's song, met the earth. The sheep aloft upon the down sometimes mingled their bleatings with the other sounds. Thus all nature seemed to unite in impressing an attentive observer's heart with affecting thoughts.
I continued for a considerable time in conversation with the
African, finding that his master was gone from home for the day, and
had given him liberty for some hours. I spoke to him on the nature,
duty, and privilege of Christian baptism; pointed
out to him the principles of the Scriptures upon that head, and found that he was very desirous of conforming to them. He appeared to me to be well qualified for receiving that pledge of his Redeemer's love; and I rejoiced in the prospect of beholding him no longer a "stranger and foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints and household of God."
I was much pleased with the affectionate manner in which he spoke of his parents, from whom he had been stolen in his childhood; and his wishes that God might direct them by some means to the knowledge of the Savior.
"Who knows," I said, "but some of these ships may be carrying a missionary to the country where they live, to declare the good news of salvation to your countrymen, and to your own dear parents in particular, if they are yet alive."
"O! my dear father and mother: my dear, gracious Savior," exclaimed he, leaping from the ground as he spake, "if thou wilt but save their souls, and tell them what thou hast done for sinners—but—"
He stopped, and seemed much affected.
"My friend," said I, "I will now pray with you for your own soul, and those of your parents also."
"Do, massa, that is very good and kind; do pray for poor negro souls here and every where."
This was a new and solemn "house of prayer." The sea-sand was our
floor, the heavens were our
roof the cliffs, the rocks, the hills, and the waves, formed the walls of our chamber. It was not indeed a "place where prayer was wont to be made," but for this once it became a hallowed spot: it will by me ever be remembered as such. The presence of God was there.—I prayed.—The African wept. His heart was full. I felt with him, and could not but weep likewise.
The last day will show whether our tears were not the tears of sincerity and Christian love.
It was time for my return; I leaned upon his arm, as we ascended the steep cliff in my way back to my horse, which I had left at the top of the hill. Humility and thankfulness were marked in his countenance. I leaned upon his arm with the feeling of a brother. It was a relationship I was happy to own. I took him by the hand at parting, appointed one more interview previous to the day of baptizing him, and bade him farewell for the present.
"God bless you, my dear massa."
"And you, my fellow-Christian, for ever and ever."
The interesting and affecting conversation which I had with the
African servant, produced a sensation not easy to be expressed. As I
returned home I was led into meditation on the singular clearness and
beauty of those evidences of faith and conver-
sion of heart to God which I had just seen and heard. How plainly, I thought, it appears, that salvation is freely by grace, through faith; and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. What but the Holy Spirit, who is the Author and Giver and the life of grace, could have wrought such a change from the once dark, perverse, and ignorant heathen, to this now convinced, enlightened, humble, and believing Christian? How manifestly is the uncontrolled sovereignty of the divine will exercised in the calling and translating of sinners from darkness to light! What a lesson may the nominal Christian of a civilized country sometimes learn from the simple, sincere religion of a converted heathen!
I afterwards made particular inquiry into this young man's
domestic and general deportment. Every thing I heard was
satisfactory; nor could I entertain a doubt respecting the consistency
of his conduct and character. I had some further conversations with
him, in the course of which I pursued such a plan of scriptural
instruction and examination as I conceived to be the most suitable to
his progressive state of mind. He improved much in reading, carried
his Bible constantly in his pocket, and took every opportunity which
his duty to his master's service would allow, for perusing it. I have
frequently had occasion to observe, that among the truly religious
poor, who have not had the ad-
vantage of learning to read in early youth, a concern about the soul, and desire to know the Word of God, have proved effectual motives for their learning to read with great ease and advantage to themselves and others. It was strikingly so in the present case.
I had, for a considerable time, been accustomed to meet some serious persons once a week, in a cottage at no great distance from the house where he lived, for the purpose of religious conversation, instruction, and prayer. Having found these occasions remarkably useful and interesting to myself and others, I thought it would be very desirable to take the African there, in order that there might be many witnesses to the simplicity and sincerity of real Christianity, as exhibited in the character of this promising young convert. I hoped it might prove an eminent means of grace to excite and quicken the spirit of prayer and praise among some over whose spiritual progress I was anxiously watching.
I accordingly obtained his master's leave that he should attend me to one of my cottage assemblies. His master, although he did not himself appear to live under the influence of real religion, or to manifest any serious concern respecting his own state, yet was pleased with my attention to his servant, and always spoke well of his behavior.
I set out on the day appointed for the interview.
The cottage at which we usually assembled was near four miles distant from my own residence, and was situated at the corner of an oak wood which screened it both from the burning heat of summer suns, and the heavy blasts of winter south-west storms. As I approached it I saw my friend, the African, sitting under a tree waiting my arrival. He held in his hand a little Tract which I had given him; his Bible lay on the ground. He rose with much cheerfulness, saying,
"Ah! massa, me very glad to see you; me think you long time coming."
"William, I hope you are well. I am going to take you with me to a few of my friends, who, I hope, are also the friends of the Lord. We meet every Wednesday evening for conversation about the things that belong to our everlasting peace, and I am sure you will be a welcome visiter."
"Massa, me not good enough to be with such good people. Me great sinner. They be good Christians."
"If you were to ask them, William, they would each tell you they
were worse than any body. Many of them were once, and that not very
long ago, living in an openly sinful manner, ignorant of God, and the
enemies of Jesus Christ by thought and deed. But divine grace stopped
them in their wicked course, and subdued their hearts to the love and
obedience of him and his Gospel. You will
only meet a company of poor fellow-sinners, who love to speak and sing the praises of redeeming love; and I am sure that is a song in which you will be willing to join them."
"O! yes, Sir, that sing just do for poor William."
By this time we had arrived at the cottage garden-gate. Several well-known faces appeared in and near the house, and the smile of affection welcomes us as we entered. It was known that the African was to visit the little society this evening, and satisfaction beamed in every countenance, as I took him by the hand and introduced him among them, saying, "I have brought a brother from Africa to see you, my friends. Bid him welcome in the name of the Lord."
"Sir," said a humble and pious laborer, whose heart and tongue always overflowed with Christian kindness, "we are at all times glad to see our dear minister, but especially so to-day, in such company as you have brought with you. We have heard how gracious the Lord has been to him. Give me your hand, good friend, (turning to the African,) God be with you here and every where; and blessed be his holy name for calling wicked sinners, as I hope he has done you and me, to love and serve him for his mercy's sake."
Each one greeted him as he came into the house, and some addressed him in very kind and impressive language.
"Massa," said he, "me not know what to say to all these good friends; me think this look like little heaven upon earth."
He then with tears in his eyes, which, almost before he spoke, brought responsive drops into those of all present, said,
"Good friends and brethren in Christ Jesus, God bless you all, and bring you to heaven at last."
It was my stated custom when I met to converse with those friends, to begin with prayer and reading a portion of the Scriptures.
When this was ended, I told the people present that the providence of God had brought this young man for a time under my ministry; and that finding him very seriously disposed, and believing him to be sincere in his religious profession, I had resolved on baptizing him agreeably to his own wishes. I added that I had now brought him with me to join in Christian conversation with us; for, as in old times, "they that feared the Lord spake often one to another," as a testimony that they thought upon his name, so I hoped we were fulfilling a Christian and brotherly duty in thus assembling for mutual edification.
Addressing myself to the African, I said, "William, tell me who made you?"
"God, the good Father."
"Who redeemed you?"
"Jesus, his dear Son, who died for me."
"Who sanctified you?"
"The Holy Ghost, who teach me to know the good Father, and his dear Son, Jesus."
"What was your state by nature?"
"Me wicked sinner, me know nothing but sin, me do nothing but sin; my soul more black than my body."
"Has any change taken place in you since then?"
"Me hope so, massa, but me sometime afraid no."
"If you are changed, who changed you?"
"God, the good Father; Jesus, his dear Son; and God the Holy Spirit."
"How was any change brought about in you?"
"God make me slave when me was young little boy."
"How, William! would you say God made you a slave?"
"No, massa, no; me mean God let me be made slave by white men to do me good."
"How to do you good?"
"He take me from the land of darkness and bring me to the land of light."
"Which do you call the land of light; the West India Islands?"
"No, massa, they be the land of Providence, but America be the
land of light to me; for there me first hear good minister preach.
And now this place where I am now, is the land of more light;
for here you teach me more and more how good Jesus is to sinners."
"What does the blood of Christ do?"
"It cleanse from all sin. And as me hope, from my sin."
"Are then all men cleansed from sin by his blood?"
"O no, massa."
"Who are cleansed and saved?"
"Those that have faith in him."
"Can you prove that out of the Bible?"
"Yes, Sir; 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.' John, 3:36."
"What is it to have faith?"
"Me suppose that it is to think much about Jesus Christ; to love him much, to believe all he says to be true, to pray to him very much; and when me feel very weak and very sinful, to think that he is very strong, and very good, and all that for my sake."
"And have you such faith as you describe?"
"O! massa, me think sometimes me have no faith at all."
"Why so, William?"
"When me want to think about Jesus Christ, my mind run about after
other things; when me want to love him my heart seem quite cold; when
me want to believe all to be true what he says to sinners, me then think it is not true for me; when me want to pray, the devil put bad, very bad thoughts into me, and me never thank Christ enough. Now all this make me sometimes afraid I have no faith."
I observed the very earnest glow of attention and fellow-feeling in some countenances present, as he spoke these words. I then said,
"I think, William, I can prove that you have faith notwithstanding your fears to the contrary. Answer me a few more questions.
"Did you begin to think yourself a great sinner, and to feel the want of a Savior of your own self, and by your own thought and doing?"
"O! no, it came to me when me think nothing about it, and seek nothing about it."
"Who sent the minister in America to awaken your soul by his preaching?"
"God, very certainly."
"Who, then began the work of serious thought and feeling in your mind?"
"The good God; me could not do it of myself, me sure of that."
"Do you not think that Jesus Christ and his salvation is the one thing most needful and most desirable?"
"O! yes, me quite sure of that."
"Do you not believe that he is able to save you?"
"Yes, he is able to save to the uttermost."
"Do you think he is unwilling to save you?"
"Me dare not say that. He so good, so merciful, so kind, to say he will in no wise cast out any that come to him."
"Do you wish, and desire, and strive to keep his commandments?"
"Yes, massa, because me love him, and that make me want to do as he say."
"Are you willing to suffer for his sake, if God should call you to do so?"
"Me do think me could die for the love of him; he not think it too much to die for wicked sinner; why should wicked sinner think it much to die for so good and righteous a Savior?"
"I think and hope I may say to you, William, Thy faith hath made thee whole."
Thus ended my examination for the present. The other friends who were in the house listened with the most affectionate anxiety to all that passed. One of them observed, not without evident emotion,
"I see, Sir, that though some men are white, and some are black, true Christianity is all of one color. My own heart has gone with this good man every word he has spoken."
"And so has mine," gently re-echoed from every part of the room.
After some time passed in more general conversation on the subject
of the African's history, I said,
"Let us now praise God for the rich and unspeakable gift of his grace, and sing the hymn of 'redeeming love'—"
"Now begin the heavenly theme,
which was accordingly done. Whatever might be the merit of the natural voices, it was plain there was melody in all their hearts.
The African was not much used to our way of singing, yet joined with great earnestness and affection, which showed how truly he felt what was uttered. When the fifth verse was ended,
"Nothing brought him from above,
He repeated the words, almost unconscious where he was.
"No, nothing, nothing, but redeeming love bring him down to poor William; nothing but redeeming love."
The following verses were added, and sung by way of conclusion:
See, a stranger comes to view;
Welcome, Negro, welcome here,
I concluded with some remarks on the nature of salvation by grace, exhorting all present to press forward in the heavenly race. It was an evening, the circumstances of which, had they never been recorded on earth, were yet doubtless registered in the book of remembrance above.
I then fixed the day for the baptism of the African, and so took leave of my little affectionate circle.
The moon shone bright as I returned home, and was beautifully reflected in the waters of the lake: harmony and repose characterized the scene. I had just been uniting in the praises of the God of grace and providence; and now the God of nature demanded a fresh tribute of thanksgiving for the beauties and comforts of creation, as David sang, "When I consider they heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou has ordained: what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
In a few days the African was baptized; and not long after he went a voyage with his master.
Since that time I have not been able to hear any tiding of him:
whether he yet wanders as a pilgrim in this lower world, or whether
he has joined the heavenly choir in the song of redeeming love in
glory, I know not. Of this I am persuaded, he was a monument to the Lord's praise. He bore the impression of the Savior's image on his heart, and exhibited the marks of converting grace in his life and conversation, with singular simplicity and unfeigned sincerity. O! give to God the glory.