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


Boldly and wisely in that light thou hast;
There is a hand above will help thee on.

-- Bailey.

When Edwin heard of the heathen in other lands across the sea, a great longing to help them to understand God's love and to bear them the message of Jesus' mission to the earth came into his heart. So great did this longing become that he spoke of it to the brethren at the church, but he was told that it would be better to first prove his calling at home, for there were plenty of heathen all around him needing his help.

Without criticism or feelings that he had been dealt with unwisely, he accepted this judgment as proper and right, and at once began by seeking for opportunity to talk about his experiences with both neighbors and friends. In this way he made his efforts for doing good to count, and he became personally acquainted with the greater part of the community. Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman, seeing Edwin's zeal and courage, were surprized and pleased, and, taking note of the good he was accomplishing, offered him the privilege of holding prayer-meetings in their home. Soon others gave him the same opportunity, and it was evident that God was using him even to the saving of a few souls.

As Edwin continued to grasp every opportunity for usefulness, the brethren who had refused to accept him as a candidate for membership in their church, became anxious to have him enroll, but Edwin told them: |No, my ten years are not yet up. You must remember that I told you I wanted that long to prove to you that I could stand and that I am truly converted.|

When Edwin felt that he could spare the time from studying the Bible and doing spiritual work, to resume his labors as a farm-hand, he found that it required no effort to find a place, as all seemed to know of his ability and willingness to work. There was even contention among the farmers as to who would be so fortunate as to secure his services.

Finding out the true state of affairs, Edwin was pleased, and he decided to divide his time among them. In this way he was able to enter other homes and lives and to help them spiritually as well as with his labor. But through all this service Edwin was not without various trials and tests; but in everything he was able to give God thanks and to draw useful lessons. |For thou, O Lord, hast proved us: thou hast tried us as silver is tried.| (Psa.16:10).

After a time Edwin felt that he would like for at least a while to try city life. Finding a man that was engaged in peddling spring-water, he agreed to work for him for a share of the income. The business did not prove to be a profitable one for Edwin, but by very careful management he was able to make both ends meet. But when he had met his necessary expenses, he had nothing left that he could use for the work of the Lord.

This soon became a great trial to Edwin, and when one Sunday there was a call (in the new church he was attending in the city) for a liberal amount of money, he felt that he must subscribe twenty-five dollars even though he did not know how he could ever pay it. He believed that in some way or other he would be able to raise the money even though the time allowed for paying it was only one month. |God will help me in this thing as he has helped me through all my other difficulties,| he said as he set out on Monday morning in his covered wagon to dispose of his bottled water.

At first the sales were as they had been on other days, but along in the afternoon they began to increase, and when night came and he had time to figure up the amount of the water sold, he found that there was over and above all his expenses five dollars extra to his credit. For four successive days this increase of sales continued, until he had four five-dollar bills laid aside.

On Friday morning Edwin started with a glad heart; for he thought, |If only I succeed today as well as I have been doing all week, by this evening I shall have the amount I subscribed.| He expressed his gratitude in thanksgiving and praise to God. To his great disappointment, that day the extra amount of water was not sold, and on Saturday and Sunday he did not peddle. Climbing into his covered wagon filled with bottles, he started out for his boarding-place; but he was not in the least discouraged, for he was sure that the remainder of the money would be raised in some unexpected manner before the month was up.

Scarcely had Edwin dismissed the matter from his mind when he came to an electric-car crossing. It was a dangerous place, for a few feet above the crossing the track was completely hidden from view by a large ledge of rock and a sudden curve. At this place Edwin always listened carefully for a signal. Hearing nothing and knowing that the car had been due fully ten minutes before, he was soon driving upon the track without any thought of danger, as he had so often done before. His surprize was therefore complete when, just as the back wheels of the wagon were dropping heavily over the last rail, there was a sudden breeze and whiz came the car around the curve. No warning whatever had been given, and a second later Edwin found himself among the legs and hoofs of the faithful animal that he had been driving.

It was indeed a narrow escape, and as Edwin crept from his dangerous position he found that not only his horse but his wagon and load of bottles were upside down and that the conductor and motorman were by his side inquiring of him how badly he was hurt.

Edwin himself was uninjured, and after the harness had been loosened, the horse was able to rise, and when the wagon and bottles were examined, it was found that nothing was at all harmed. But before Edwin was again on his seat in the wagon, the conductor had taken his name and address.

As he drove away from the scene of the accident Edwin was rejoicing in the fact that he had escaped so well, and with no thought of ever hearing any more about the affair he was soon putting his things away for the night. In the morning, therefore, he was greatly surprized when he was called to the door and by the same conductor that had the evening before taken his name and address was handed an envelope and told that the contents were his because of the accident that had occurred the evening before at the crossing. Edwin tried to explain that no harm had been done to anything, but the conductor replied that the blame was his because he had given no signal. |But,| he continued, |it will always be a mystery in my mind how such an accident could occur without a single injury to anything.|

Then the conductor went away, and when Edwin opened the envelope, he found that it contained just five dollars, the exact amount that he needed to complete his purpose-money. One week out of the four had not yet passed, and yet he had the full amount of his obligation. And when, on Sunday morning, he carried the money to the church and told of the wonderful manner in which it had been supplied (for indeed it was wonderful), many marveled.

In the city Edwin continued to do all in his power for the Lord as he had done in the country, and just about two years from the time that he attended his first prayer-meeting in the home of Mrs. Miller, he received an urgent invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman to return to their home and hold a series of revival meetings; |for| said the letter, |our house and all that we possess are turned over to the Lord, and we feel that you have proved yourself sufficiently to come and be our minister.|

To Edwin the privilege of holding the meeting and the confidence of these people meant very much indeed, but he still felt keenly his inability of doing anything in his own strength. To think of himself as a preacher he did not, for God at that time had not revealed to him his calling in life. Still, he submitted the matter entirely to the Lord, and when the way was opened for him to go he was glad to accept the opportunity. As a result there was a wonderful revival; for Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman did their best to have the meetings advertised, and as Edwin's present, and early history as well, was well known throughout the country, the people for miles around, many of them out of curiosity, however, came to see if what they had been hearing about Edwin as a Christian was true.

When the meeting closed, Edwin had in the minds of the people proved himself to be a real minister of the gospel, and arrangements were soon made to buy a piece of ground and to build a small meeting-house. The idea was sanctioned by Edwin, and he saw it carried into effect, but when they begged him to stay as their pastor, he refused. |It is better,| he said, |for you to get some one else to be your leader until I know positively that God has set me apart for that work|; and referring them to a certain brother who claimed to be a minister, he left them in his charge and returned to the city where he had been peddling water.

Edwin's object in leaving the community in which he had been holding the meetings was that he might have a better opportunity to know positively whether or not God had really called him to preach the gospel. His first duty, therefore, after arriving in the city was to go to the minister for advice and counsel. After confiding his desire to work for the Lord and the manner in which he had been used in the meeting, he was told: |There are many who mistake their calling in life. Sometimes the enemy of souls puts such feelings in the heart to mislead honest souls, or to get them out of God's order.| And the minister related an instance of a young man who had once come to him just as Edwin had come for advice. |Seeing his earnestness, I gave the fellow a chance to prove himself, but it was found that he had no gift or ability at all to teach. In fact, he did so poorly in all public work that he was forced to confess that he was really mistaken. After that he never wanted to preach again, and it was even difficult for him to testify.|

|Well,| Edwin answered, |if it is the enemy in my case, I will have no trouble to get rid of this feeling, for I shall only be too glad to know that I am misled. All I want to know is what God wants me to do. If he doesn't want me to preach, that is the last thing I would care to do.|

From that moment Edwin ignored the thought of preaching, and while he applied himself to his manual labor, he endeavored to forget all about his usefulness during the revival. And as he was thus striving with himself, the minister in whom Edwin had confided, desiring to know if there was anything to Edwin's convictions, paid a visit to the community in which Edwin had held the revival. Several months had passed, but the fire was still burning in the hearts of the people (although the one left in charge of them had done more harm than good), and as the minister listened to the glowing accounts of Edwin's works among them and the good that had been accomplished through his labors, he was forced to change his mind. |God's hand must surely be on that man for service,| was his secret thought, and on the Sunday morning following his tour of investigation he brought the matter before the church.

Nearly the entire congregation with the exception of Edwin were present, and as the minister related carefully and in detail what had taken place recently in the community where Edwin had been so |strangely| converted and had formerly made his home, he added that only the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit could have enabled him to accomplish such a work. |There is no doubt now in my mind,| he continued, |that God's hand is upon the young man for the ministry; for his moral character is without spot and blameless in the eyes of all who know him, and he is well known and respected throughout the country for this and because of his unusual conversion.|

In that meeting it was decided that it would be best to have another talk with Edwin before he was encouraged to preach. When the minister went to him, it was with these words:

|Edwin, do you still feel your desire to preach the gospel?|

|Oh yes,| Edwin answered. |Since talking with you, I have tried in every way to get rid of the thought of preaching, if it was not God's will for me to preach, but the burden is only growing heavier. I have submitted the matter to you and the church, however, to decide for me, and I know that God knows the same; so I can quietly trust him until you tell me what you think would be best for me to do.|

|Are you still fully agreed to allow the church to consider the matter for you?| Edwin was then asked.

|Oh yes, sir!| he quickly replied. |I have submitted everything into your hands, for I want to know just what you consider is best. I will be perfectly satisfied either way it may go. I am not anxious; for I know that if God really wants me to preach he will take care of it all and will work everything out in his own good time and way. If he does not work it out so that I am considered capable of preaching, then I shall take it for granted that it was a suggestion of the enemy, and I will take a vehement stand against those feelings as an imposition of the enemy. Now, I consider what I have said is sufficient, and it will be no trial for me, for I shall feel that I am in God's order, and I care for nothing else.|

When the minister heard Edwin's humble answer and noted his willingness to allow God to have his perfect way with him and compared his manner with the many remarkable reports to which he had listened concerning his experiences, he was more convinced than ever that God's hand for service was surely upon this devoted young man. But he felt that since the thing had been left for the church to decide, he must in Edwin's absence once more place the subject before the congregation.

The time chosen was the following Sunday. When the minister asked for an expression from the people concerning Edwin's case, with one united vote they said that they were perfectly agreed to accept Edwin as a minister, provided he could prove his gift. It was therefore decided that since they had never heard him preach, they would call him in and let him deliver the morning sermon; and severe as was the test, it was carried out.

When Edwin a few minutes later entered the room and looked over that large audience, he had not the faintest idea of preaching to the people. His only thought was to learn what their decision had been, and his surprize was therefore complete when the almost painful hush that prevaded the room was broken by the request that he take the pulpit and assume full charge of the meeting that morning.

Had it not been that Edwin already knew the Lord to be an unfailing source of strength and an able helper in every time of need, his courage might have failed him, for upon the rostrum were several ministers and gospel workers. Instead, he instantly submitted the matter to the Lord, and, forgetting about his ignorance, he rejoiced that he could have an opportunity to glorify God and took his position between God and poor blighted humanity.

|Let us pray,| were his first words, and, falling upon his knees, he poured out his heart in fervent prayer to God, asking him for help and divine guidance in this, his great hour of need. While still upon his knees he was given a text, and, rising to his feet, he opened his Bible, turned to Luke 7:47, and read, |Her sins, which were many, are forgiven; for she loved much.|

Then as he explained the meaning of the words, his eyes became blinded by tears. As he lost sight of his audience, the Holy Spirit came to his rescue, and as the words poured forth from his mouth, it was evident to all that the sermon was given him by divine power. So lost to himself and the opinions of others did he become that he seemed to be swimming out into the vast ocean of God's boundless love.

That God was glorified and his name honored it is needless to say, and from that time Edwin was accepted without question as a gifted and qualified minister of the gospel, and his calls both in his home community and in other places were many. He was even preferred above other able ministers because of his strange and wonderful experiences.

As Edwin continued to preach, he remembered how hard it had been for him to understand that there were other languages than his own mother tongue, and he prepared himself to preach not only in the German and the English languages, but in Pennsylvania Dutch as well.

While studying his Bible he found that there was even healing virtue in prayer. In James 5:14, 15, he read, |Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.| In his own case he had found this to be true. God had not only healed his soul's sickness but also removed his bodily afflictions. Finding that he could receive such instant relief for himself, he was soon exercising his gift for others, and many were healed through his earnest prayers.

In one place where he was preaching, he made his home with a family in which there were two small children, a girl three years old and a boy about one year younger. To these children Edwin soon became greatly attached, and their love for him was no less than his own. Once when Edwin was away for a few days holding a series of meetings, the little boy became seriously ill with pneumonia. The parents, who knew the worth of prayer in time of sickness, took his case at once to their Great Physician; but although they prayed very earnestly, their prayers seemed to be of no avail, for the child grew constantly worse. A number of the brethren were repeatedly called in to pray for little Charley, but the child grew constantly worse until it seemed that it would be a question only of a few hours until he would be called into eternity. Finally the mother said, |If Edwin were only here, I believe that the child would be healed,| but Edwin did not even know that little Charley was ill.

At last the parents, while gazing down upon the little unconscious form burning with fever, gave up all hope of his recovery, consecrated their child afresh, and submitted their own wishes in the matter to the One who had lent them the darling. Then they seemed to see upon the fevered brow the angel touch of death, and the troubled spirit of little Charley, moaning piteously, appeared to be preparing for its upward flight to a better world.

Feeling that there was nothing more that they could do, the brethren had taken their departure, but only a short distance from the house they met Edwin returning unexpectedly from his trip. Had Edwin endeavored to do so, he could not have told them why he was coming just at that hour, but something seemed to bid him hasten, for his presence was needed. From the brethren he learned of the child's illness, and, hurrying into the house, he was soon beside the parents, who were still weeping over their little one.

As Edwin looked down upon the face of the one whom he so dearly loved, the words, |The prayer of faith shall save the sick| (Jas.5:16), appeared to be all that he could see or hear. He went hurriedly to the door and called loudly to the brethren and bade them return at once. Fortunately, the latter had been walking slowly, for their hearts were troubled because of their neighbor's distress, so they heard the sound of Edwin's voice calling to them, and they immediately retraced their steps.

The little group, with the addition of Edwin, once more gathered around the child's crib. As Edwin knelt he clasped his own hands and raised them before him; then with upturned face and pleading tones, he asked God, for Jesus' sake, to heal little Charley.

For several minutes he prayed, and in his earnestness his body swayed backward and forward, and tears flowed freely over his cheeks. When the prayer was ended, and Edwin opened his eyes to look about him, to his great surprize and joy he saw before him upon the floor the little child with his hands clasped and raised as Edwin's had been and his large blue eyes turned heavenward. He too was praying, trying to imitate Edwin's example. At the very first of the prayer when Edwin's voice arose, the child regained consciousness and, seeing his friend upon his knees beside him, he had begged his mother to allow him to |pway| too. Lifting him tenderly from the crib, the mother had placed him carefully upon the floor. From that moment little Charley was well, and soon called for some food.

At another time, when Edwin was holding a meeting about seventy-five miles from this home, the little girl became seriously ill. |Have Edwin pway! have Edwin pway!| was all they could hear from little Charley; so a letter bearing the news and telling the nature of the child's illness was posted as soon as possible. When the word reached Edwin, he went to his room and there remained before the Lord until he felt that his little friend was healed. When another letter came from the mother, it brought the word that the little girl was healed, and the day and hour that the work was done agreed perfectly with the time when God had witnessed to Edwin in his room that the child was healed.

A few days after the healing of the little girl Edwin received still another letter. This time it was from the wife of a certain man for whom Edwin had worked and whose confidence he had won before God called him to preach. |Please pray for my husband,| the letter ran. |He is in the hospital with a cancerous sore upon his right leg. The doctors give him no hopes that he will recover, but we have not forgotten how often God has heard your prayers, and we believe that if you will pray for him he will recover. There is no earthly remedy that can help him.|

Edwin remembered the old gentleman well, and he went out in the woods where he could be alone and prayed earnestly a long time for the man, but he received no answer or impression that the work was done. For three successive days Edwin went alone to the woods to pray. On the third day he felt that the man would recover, and immediately he mailed a letter to the lady to that effect.

When the message was received and read to the sick husband, the faith of both him and his wife were increased and strengthened, and they too believed that he would soon be well. From that very hour there was a change in the man's condition, and the sore began at once to heal. When the nurses came to dress the sore, they were astonished at the change, and the doctors confessed that it was a mystery too deep for them to fathom, but to Edwin it was only another blessing from the Lord.

|And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease| (Matt.10: 1).

|For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.... How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!| (Rom.10:11-15).

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