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The Poorhouse Waif And His Divine Teacher by Isabel C. Byrum


Faith builds a bridge across the gulf of death,
To break the shock blind nature can not shun,
And lands thought smoothly on the further shore.

-- Young.

During his visit in the Kauffman home, Edwin learned what was meant not only by prayer but by a life of true devotion, for Mrs. Kauffman was a very spiritual woman. She was sorry for the decision of the brethren to refuse Edwin even a trial for membership in the church, but she endeavored to encourage him in the belief that all would come out right in the end, and Edwin very courageously said that he was sure it would. And the fact that he was misunderstood by some did not lessen his confidence in the brethren nor cool his intense love for humanity. Neither did it dampen his desire to be a blessing to mankind, and so great did the latter longing become that he began to seek for opportunities of doing good.

By living in such sweet communion with God he learned a great many lessons that were very helpful to him in different ways; and with a little help from his kind friends he learned to read in such a marvelously short time that it was plain to all that God was truly his teacher.

One day while Edwin was quietly meditating upon the wonderful things that he had read within the Bible, he compared them with the experiences through which he had passed, and he marveled at the manner in which they corresponded. Then, while thinking of what had taken place at the camp meeting, he remembered his mother and his surprize at seeing her at such a place. |Could it be possible,| he said to Mrs. Kauffman, |that my mother's reason for attending the meeting was that she was interested in spiritual things?| His friends thought it was probable, and then Edwin said that if such was the case he would like to tell her about some of the wonderful things God had done for him. In this Mrs. Kauffman encouraged him, and she helped him to find several appropriate passages of Scripture that he could read to his mother, and when he went she bade him Godspeed.

Edwin had not visited his mother since the time when her proud heart was crushed because of the shame and disgrace that had been forced upon her through Elmer's actions. Since then many things had taken place in her life that had caused her to change some of her ways, but the |faith| that she claimed to have taken up and that had encouraged her to attend the camp-meeting was only a |try to do better| plan.

When Mrs. Fischer saw her son approaching the house, she at once remembered his ignorance at the camp-meeting, the ridicule created by his queer actions, and the hard feelings that, in her embarrassment, she had felt toward him; still, she endeavored to treat him kindly, and at first she permitted him to talk freely about his experiences before and after the meeting. But when in conclusion, he said, |Mother, can't you see how necessary it is for any one to be converted, or to be born again into God's great family?| she exclaimed: |Oh, such trash! I won't listen any longer! I've committed no sins that I need to repent of. My 'faith' is good enough for me, and I don't expect to know everything about heaven in this life. The church that I have joined teaches that if you do as well as you can you'll go to heaven anyway, and after you have pledged any church that you will stand by it and then you go and join another and take up their 'faith,' you become a shame and disgrace to the church to which you did belong.|

|Yes, but you may not get to heaven if you do not anxiously seek to know the right way,| Edwin said, and the earnestness in his voice could be felt.

Then opening his Bible, which was already well marked, he read: |Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called and ye refused.... I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.... Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil| (Prov.1:20-33).

That his mother was surprized to hear Edwin reading the words was very plain to be seen, but her spirit was still proud, and she cried: |No, Edwin, I won't listen to any more. Those words are in the Old Testament, I know, but they were written for the people who lived at that time, and not for us. The New Testament is for us.|

|Well, then, Mother,| Edwin said, quickly turning to the third chapter of St. John, |let me read to you something from the New Testament, some of the words of God's own Son to all the world. Jesus was talking to a man who was a teacher and very wise, but he told him that the only way to get to heaven was to be born again, for he said: 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered.... God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.' And now, Mother,| Edwin said, |here is the part that I want you to listen to especially: 'He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.'|

The reading of the last scripture had been more difficult for Edwin, but he had reviewed the words so often under the direction of Mr. Kauffman, who had taken a keen interest and delight in the manner in which Edwin was learning, that he was able to read them both plainly and distinctly. But still his mother said:

|That, too, was long ago. Things are different today. You needn't try to tell me that what the people did and said at that time were anything like what they say and do today.|

Then as Edwin attempted to explain, she said:

|No, Edwin, you must not say anything more to me about these things. I'm satisfied to let well enough alone; and if I'm contented, you ought to be.|

Seeing that his mother was determined to continue in her uncertainty, Edwin next thought of his own brother and sister in the flesh, whom he had never seen. Through his mother he had found out where they were living, and although it was a long distance to their homes and they were as strangers to him, he decided to visit them and at once set out upon the journey.

The brother had heard through the mother some things about Edwin's stupidity, as she called his extreme ignorance (for which she was herself to blame), and he had also heard of Edwin's willingness to suffer cruel punishments and unjust blame. |But,| the mother had also said, |with all his block-headedness, he has never done anything to compare with what Elmer, his cousin, has done to make me ashamed.|

It was therefore with real interest and curiosity that the brother received him into his home, and he was shown much kindness by his brother's wife. When Edwin explained how wondrously he had been led and taught of God, the brother was astonished, for he could see that all Edwin had said was very reasonable and sensible, and he wondered why he had never thought to search out some of the things for himself. The brother's wife as well was greatly interested, and when Edwin read and explained the verses from his well-marked Bible, they were both convicted and exclaimed:

|O Edwin! what must we do to get this great salvation?|

Immediately Edwin turned to Acts 16: 30, 31, and read the jailer's words to Paul and Silas, |Sirs, what must I do to be saved?| and Paul's answer, |Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house.| He then explained that Jesus came to seek and save the people from their sins and that he went about preaching the glad tidings of salvation, after which he gave his life upon the cross that their salvation might be possible.

Next he read Isa.55: 6, 7: |Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.|

|To forsake sin,| Edwin explained, |is to stop doing anything that one knows to be wrong, like stealing, lying, swearing,| and he named over a number of other things. |By the power of the will it is possible for any who have formed such habits to stop doing the things that are wrong, but before a person can really be delivered from sin, he must be very sorry for having disobeyed God. That sorrow is repentance if the person is sorry enough to ask God to forgive him and to cleanse him from all unrighteousness.|

Edwin did not tell them that it had always been his desire to do to others as he would be done by, for to him this had been only his privilege and duty to mankind, and he fully realized that before he was converted he was, with all the rest of humanity, in a sense separated from God. Instead he said:

|You must think of God's goodness,| and he read: |Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.| And then he read Heb.10:39: |But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.|

|O Edwin!| his brother cried, |why is it that we have never heard of these things before? Surely God has sent you to us.|

As a large revival was being held in the city at that time, they all decided to attend, and at the meeting and with Edwin's help the brother and his wife were gloriously saved.

When the meeting was over, Edwin was urged to prolong his stay. This he did, and he spent a few weeks very profitably in helping his relatives to become established and to learn how to study the Bible that had so long been only an ornament in their home.

His sister also was deeply impressed with the wonderful things that God had done for Edwin, but she was the mother of several small children, and her life was such that she thought that she was unable to make the necessary sacrifices. Edwin read to her from the seventh chapter of Matthew these words of Jesus: |Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.| Then he explained to her about the house that fell, but she only answered: |No, Edwin, it is of no use. I can not live it now,| and thus Edwin left her feeling her need but unwilling to yield.

From his sister's home Edwin returned to Mrs. Kauffman's, where he was again treated with the greatest affection and respect. As he told of his experiences, his kind friends were deeply interested as well as astonished at the manner in which he had succeeded in his brother's home, and Mrs. Kauffman thanked God for so wonderfully answering prayer.

Learning that Edwin was again in the neighborhood, the farmers with whom he was acquainted did their best to engage him to work for them, but to all he said: |No, not yet. I have not satisfied my mind. I am still a guest in the home of Mrs. Kauffman, and since they are satisfied to have me stay, I think that there must be more things that God would teach me from his Word, so I will study my Bible for a while longer.|

Baptism was the next subject that bothered him. During his recent visit with his mother he had learned from her that, as an infant, before he was taken to the poorhouse, he was baptized; but he had read in his Bible, |He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved| (Mark 16:16). |No infant could believe or reason anything about the Lord Jesus,| he told Mrs. Kauffman, and he asked her advice about having the work done again.

|You had better go to your minister and ask him what he thinks,| Mrs. Kauffman said. Edwin improved the very first opportunity, which happened to be the following Sunday immediately after the morning service. Replying to him, the minister asked:

|Don't you think the baptism in your infancy amounted to anything?|

|I don't know,| Edwin answered cautiously. |That is what I came to see you about. The Bible says, 'He that believeth and is baptized,' and I'm sure that I didn't know enough at that time to 'believe' anything, and the way that I understand that verse is that I am to be baptized after I am converted.|

|Well, then,| said the minister, |if you do not feel satisfied, I will, at some convenient season, attend to the matter.|

For several weeks Edwin anxiously waited for the |convenient season|; then on entering the chapel one Sunday morning, he noticed on a stand beside the altar a large bowl of water, and he wondered if it was in any way connected with his baptism. He was not kept long in suspense, for immediately after the morning exercises he was requested by the minister to come forward and to take his seat upon the altar. Edwin quickly obeyed, and the minister, after a short ceremony, took the bowl in his hand and with his fingers sprinkled a little of the water upon Edwin's head.

To Edwin it was a very solemn affair, for he was very sincere. At the close of the ordinance the minister said, |Now, whether you consider that your other baptism amounted to anything or not, I hope that your doubts will be forever gone.| At the time Edwin thought they were, but later on when he read, |Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead| (Col.2:12), he thought that to be really baptized meant more than merely to have a little water sprinkled upon his head; and when he considered that John baptized people in the river Jordan and that Jesus, his example, walked down into the water, saying, |Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,| and that when Jesus came up out of the water the voice from heaven said, |This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased| (Matt.3:15, 17), he felt that he should like to go down into the water as though he had been buried from the sight of the world just as his Savior had done.

As was his custom when perplexed over such problems, he went to Mrs. Kauffman that he might have the benefit of her judgment. She advised him to go to a body of people that believed in immersion and be baptized by their minister. Edwin followed her direction, and as soon as possible he was put under the water as a testimony to the world that he was dead to sin.

Thus, day by day God in his wisdom continued to be Edwin's teacher in the deep as well as in the simple things of life until the wisdom of the poorhouse waif was in many things far beyond that of many who professed to be leaders of men.

|For his God doth instruct him to discretion and doth teach him| (Isa.28: 26).

|Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.| |Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear| (Psa.119: 33, 34, 38).

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