A minister, simply referred to as Brother T., had been out ministering all day to individuals during a horrific cholera epidemic in London. Very little is recorded about him. We know that he a clergyman of the Church of England, and that he was 100% committed to his calling. Here's his story, taken from Anecdotes and Illustrations of the Christian Ministry compiled by Rev. Daniel Smith in 1853.
Brother T. fell into bed exhausted, but unable to sleep. He had been ministering to the sick and dying all day long, and couldn't forget their faces. Some of them had been ready to meet God, but not all of them. His mind kept spinning, thinking about the terrible fate of those that didn't know God, and the fear that gripped them as the end drew near. He had tried his best to point as many people as he could toward Jesus, but the disease was taking so many people so quickly that he felt overwhelmed.
A Mysterious Visitor
He finally fell into a light sleep shortly before midnight, only to be suddenly awakened by a knock at his door. He could hear his servant answer the door, followed by the sound of voices and then footsteps approaching his room. His servant reluctantly opened his bedroom door, and announced that Brother T. had a visitor. Putting on a robe and slippers, Brother T, hurried to the front door.
As he drew near with a candle, the man seemed to try to hide his face. What Brother T. could see was rather startling. The man had a thick mustache and along, unkempt dark beard. His eyes, too, were dark -- and not just in color, but in spirit. By the looks of him, he appeared to a member of the criminal element. "What do you need?" asked Brother T.
"I need you to come to a dying man," was the mysterious man's reply.
"What is his complaint?" asked Brother T.
"Cholera," he said.
The man refused to tell Brother T. where he wanted him to go, merely stating that he would take him there. He also refused to give his name, or the name of his friend. "I cannot go with you," said Brother T. "You won't even tell me your name, or where we're going. Honestly, I'm afraid to trust my life in your hands."
The man wasn't offended at all. "You don't need to fear. What end would it serve for me to kill you? Come with me, don't bring any money with you, and on my honor you will be safe."
Brother T. agreed to go, and went back to his room to change. While there, he took a few moments to pray. When he finished, the Lord gave him a strong assurance that he would safe and all the fear that had been nagging him disappeared.
He headed downstairs, and left with his companion. They took a long and circuitous route that, judging by the sound of church bells, took about an hour. Brother T. recognized their destination as being a dangerous part of crime, rife with both wickedness and severe poverty. He was a bit puzzled when his companion knelt down to the ground and began, with a very large knife, to scrape away some dirt. Brother T. started to refuse to continue, but stopped as his companion uncovered a hidden door in the ground. He pulled it open to reveal a dark vault.
The man reached in and grabbed a rope. "Don't be afraid, sir," he said as he let himself down. For an instant. Brother T. was struck with terror. Here he was, following what was no doubt a hardened criminal, down into a hidden room beneath the ground in a notorious part of town. Not even his servant knew where he was! Of course, he didn't see how he could find his way back home in the dark, and was probably safer with this man than without him.
Brother T. decided to see the adventure through, and grasped the rope to to begin his descent into the darkness below -- with a quick prayer to the Lord for safety. When he landed on the ground below, he felt a bit like Daniel in the lion's den -- stretched on the ground all around him were men he looked like his companion. This was no doubt a hideout for criminals.
A Place of Darkness
Brother T.'s first thought was this: "Have I got into the region where hope never comes at all?" His companion quickly led him to a dark corner where a man lay on a bed of straw, obviously at death's door. His eyes were sunken in, his limbs cramped in awkward positions, and his skin had taken on a blue-black hue. Brother T. had never seen a case this advanced that was still alive. "Did you wish to see me?" he asked the dying man.
"I did," he answered. "Some short time ago, I wandered into your church, and heard you read a scripture that I wish you would read for me again. I want to hear it before I die. O! It has never left my mind; night and day it sounded in my ear. You see, I thought I could hide myself from God, but the darkness hasn't hid me from him. He has found me out, and has laid His hand on me very heavily, and I will appear before Him soon, covered over with my crimes."
A Message of Hope
"And did I not hear you say, sir, that God would slay the wicked? That He would say, 'Depart from me, ye bloody men!' O God! I have sinned against You! There is no hope for a wretch like!" he cried out, every nerve in his body seeming to convulse in utter agony. He looked to Brother T., wanting to hear the Scripture that had first convicted him of sin.
Brother T. wasn't sure of the verse the man was referring to ... it could be one of many. "Tell me some verse that will bring it to my memory," he said to the dying man.
"O, it told me that God knew my down-sitting and up-rising; that He understood my thoughts; that He compassed my path and my lying down, and was acquainted with all my ways. It said that there was not a word in my tongue that God didn't know about it. It said that if I climb into heaven He was there, and if I went down to Hell that He was there, also."
Brother T. realized it was Psalm 139, and prayed in his heart before reading it to the dying man. "O, that is it!" he whispered as Brother T. finished reading it. "Thank God, I have heard it again."
"The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,," added Brother T.
"To save sinners, but, I, not such sinners as I have been," replied the dying man.
Brother T. knew better than that. "Yes, such as you," he said with conviction and anointing. "Hear what comfortable words are here: 'If any man sin, we have an advocated with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins.' And there is more, 'Come now and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'"
"How?" asked the man. "How? What must I do to be saved?"
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Your past sins will not condemn you. Christ is able to save to the uttermost everyone that comes to him."
The dying man stretched out his arms, and looked up toward heaven. "God, be merciful to me, a poor sinner!" And upon uttering those words, he died.
Sharing the Message
Brother T. looked around. The light of the Gospel had penetrated this dark, hidden place. Around him were a multitude of men, who out of respect for the dying man had kept their distance. But they too, realized Brother T., needed to hear this message. He turned his attention toward them. He plainly told them of the awful state of their souls, and reminded them that at any time they knew death could be around the corner. Cholera, he stated, was sweeping the city and taking man with it -- that even the corpse of the man who had just died was a contagion. This might well be the last time they would have a chance to hear the Gospel.
He told them that he was man no different from them, and pleaded with them to get their lives made right with God. Just as he had informed their dying comrade, there was no sin too great but that the blood of Jesus could remove its stain. There was hope for each and every one them. There was a changed life -- a life of honesty, of hard work, of honor -- possible for them. He implored them to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ.
As he prepared to leave, his companion reminded them that there were nothing but a gang of robbers -- they could never live any other type of life, because no one would ever trust them.
"Trust in the Lord's words," Brother T. instructed him. He reminded him that the scriptures said, "Let him that stole steal no more." That changed life, he explained, was possible in Jesus Christ.
As they made their way up the rope and back onto the street, Brother T.'s companion asked him to keep their location a secret, and he agreed. Brother T. was safely returned to his home, and when he turned to speak to his companion, the man had already disappeared into the darkness.
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.