Sunday, June 25, 2006


John Bunyan, on looking out through Bedford jail, saw the officers of the law, forcing a drunken, blasphemous wretch along the street to prison. The great heart of the Christian was touched by the passing specimen of depravity, and he exclaimed, “But for the grace of God, there goes John Bunyan!” He saw the wickedness of the human heart in its natural state, and was impressed with the “exceeding sinfulness of sin.” He thought of the period in his own life, when he was a stranger to God and the “covenant of promise,” a sinner unsaved, and his soul was filled with love and gratitude to God for leading him to that “fountain opened in the house of David for sin and uncleanness,” for taking his feet out of the miry clay and placing them upon the “Rock.” And he ascribed all the praise and glory of his salvation to Jesus.

“But for the grace of God” what a different history might have been written of my father’s family!

A short time ago, on a lovely evening, as twilight was closing the day, a horrible tragedy was enacted in the quiet little town of Alma, that will illustrate the point I wish to emphasize.

A little after dusk, three married men and an eighteen-year-old boy crossed the railroad which runs through the center of the town, and entered the premises, or barn lot of an old man, who, with his wife and sons was finishing up the labors of the day; the father and mother milking the cows, the sons feeding the stock. The object was to avenge an imaginary insult which the demon whisky had magnified into a horrible crime. The assault was made upon the youngest son, the elder son witnessed the assault, and rushed to his brother’s assistance, and closed in combat with a brother of the assailant, and stabbed him in the heart. In a moment a pistol shot rang out upon the air, and was quickly followed by another, which brought every man and woman in town to their doors or the street, as this was the usual fire alarm. In a moment the piercing shrieks of the old mother paralyzed or excited every one, and many, both male and female, rushed to the scene of action, and found two men lying on the ground in a dying condition, and two others badly wounded and covered with blood. Before they could realize what had happened, one was dead. And the screams of his young wife, who had rushed with others to the spot, were added to those of the agonized mother, whose son lived but a few hours longer. The whole town was shocked by the terrible tragedy, and there was little sleeping done that night in Alma. Three days ago, three of the four men mentioned were indicted by the grand jury for murder, in the first degree, and are to-day, while I am writing, on trial for their lives,* and nearly half of the town people are at court as witnesses, away from home, exposed to the inclement weather, besides, the mortification of appearing in the court room, filled with curious spectators, to give evidence in a horrible murder case. Oh, what sorrow, distress, inconvenience, and suffering sin produces! “Think you these men were sinners above all men,” because they did these things? “I tell you nay.” The secular papers stated that they belonged to prominent families. They represent a class of people, a very large class of people: the ungodly, the wicked! The lines delineated in this family history also represent a class of people. They were men of like passions with these naturally. They were no better than these, no worse. What makes the difference? The one living under the benign influence of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the other under the dominion of sin, and “led captive of the devil at his will.”

To which class do you belong, reader? “Choose ye this day whom you will serve.” Accept the “free gift” of your Father in heaven: the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, which makes a gentleman out of a savage, a Christian out of a Hottentot, a saint out of a sinner which enables, uplifts and beautifies our poor human nature, gives us a new heart, and precious hope of heaven. Then we can sing with the spirit and understanding:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see;
Through many danger, toils and snares,
We have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought us safe thus far,
And grace will take us home!

* This horrible tragedy spoken of in the papers as the “Alma Tragedy,” shocked the feelings of our people to such an extent that, in the State election which soon followed, we voted whisky and the saloon out of the County by four hundred majority, for the first time in history of the County; and in two succeeding elections have increased that majority by 800, and we have no fears of its return in the future.


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