He was a blacksmith and a most wretchedly wicked man. He knew everything that was blatant and blasphemous in infidelity. He hated everything that was good, and loved everything that was bad. He studied to make himself an irritation to all who believed God, never sparing his wife who did the best she could in the patience and Kingdom of Jesus. This man was given up as altogether beyond moral recovery, and so indeed he seemed. Prayer was made as though he had no existence; churches were opened and shut, but never with reference to him; The Gospel was preached and mercy offered, but no one connected him with God's Message to the world.
A few miles back in the country from the blacksmith's town there lives an old couple, Father and Mother Brown. They were close to ninety years of age. Theirs were lives of conscious acceptance with God and of patient, waiting without sorrow and without fear for the promised home-going.
Very early one morning the old man awoke, terribly agitated, and began to call his wife, "Get up, wife! Get up!"
Why, old man, she said, "What is the matter?" He answered, "I can't tell you now what's the matter for I must start a fire in the kitchen. I want you to get breakfast ready as soon as you can for I've got to go to town this morning! "You go to town this morning!" she exclaimed, "Why , you are out of your head, you can't go to town, you haven't any way of going, and I know you can't walk." "Don't tell me what I can't do," the old man persisted. "I tell you, I've got to go to town. I had a dream last night, and-well, I'll go and make the fire, then tell you about it.
His wife followed him; the breakfast was prepared; and when the meal was over, the old man started to town. It was a long and weary way for an old man to walk, but some strange strength was supplied him and without stopping to rest he kept on. The village was reached. Through the main street he trudged, and into the narrow cross street and to the shop of "Devil John," the blacksmith.
"Farmer Brown!" he exclaimed in great amazement. "What are you doing here, and so early in the morning?"
The old man answered, "That's just what I've come to tell you. Let's go inside where I can sit down for I am tired.
Together they went into the shop; and when seated the old man said, "John, I had a dream last night; and I've come to tell you about it. I dreamed that the hour that I have thought about so much and tried to keep ready for so long was come. It was my time to die. And it was just like I thought it was going to be for it was as the Lord had promised it should be. I wasn't the least bit afraid. How could I be? My room was full of angels, and they all spoke to me; and I Loved them and know that they Loved me. Then some of them stooped and slipped their arms under me and away we went. Beyond the hills and beyond the clouds, we mounted through the starry skies. Oh, how they sang! I never heard anything like it in my life. On we swept, an on, 'till one of them said: "Look yonder now; there's heaven!"
Oh John, I can't tell you how I felt when I was in sight of heaven; nor can I tell what I saw when I looked. I don't believe anyone could tell it. It was so peaceful, so beautiful, so glorious! as we drew nearer, I saw the gates swinging open; and with even faster wing we than we come we swept through them into the city. Such a welcome! Welcome fragrance of the flowers, in the music for every harp, in the song of every tongue, in the grasp of every hand; gladness was everywhere because I had come. Why, they made over me like I was somebody, when I was only a poor sinner saved by Jesus' Blood. I found all my children there--not one of them lost--my boy that you used to be with and play with so much when you went to school together was there, and your old mother, who was in my classes when I went to school. And after a time-I don't know how long it was--I saw the same angels that brought me, bring another; and it was my dear sweet wife. I loved her more than ever when they brought her to me there. She was fairer than the day we married. We sit under the tree of life together and walked by the river that flows from the Throne of God. So happy! And I saw angels bringing in others--others that I love and you love. And so the years of ETERNITY rolled.
"Then, John, all at once it came to me that I hadn't seen you anywhere. I set out to look for you. I went into every street, asked everybody, but could not get any trace of you. I was distressed more than you can know and went to The Lord, my Precious Saviour, and asked Him where you were. And, O John, that you could have seen how sorry He was when, He told me that you hadn't come! "Not Come!" I said. "Why didn't John come?" And He wept as I suppose He often did when He was down here and told me, "Nobody ever asked John to come." Oh I fell at His feet. I bathed them with my tears. I laid my cheeks upon them and cried, Blessed Lord, just let me out of here half an hour, and I'll go ask him to come. I'll give him an invitation. And right then and there I woke up. It was beginning to get light in the east, and I was so glad I was alive, so I could come and ask you to go to heaven and now here I am and I have told you my dream, and want you to go to heaven when your life is ended here on earth."
With other words the old man urged the Royal invitation, but the blacksmith stood as one petrified. He could not speak nor move. Father Brown got up and saying "Good-bye, John; remember you've got an invitation; remember you are asked to come," took his staff and started for home.
The blacksmith seemed to come to himself; and as one recovering from a magician's charm, he sit out to pursue the labors of the day. But everything went wrong--the bellows would not work right, the hammers would not strike right, the nails would not go in right, the horses would not stand right. "O God, be merciful to me a sinner!" he began to sob at last; leaving the shop, he went home. He told his wife of Father Brown's visit. "Blessed be God!" she said, "We will send the horse and buggy and have him come back." "Yes," he added, "for I mean to accept the invitation; and I want him to pray to God to keep me true and steadfast to the end."
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