In one of the deplorably miserable East London homes, in a dark, wretched room at the top of the house laid a cripple boy. He had lain there for over two years, greatly neglected and comparatively unknown. When quite young his parents had died, leaving him to the mercy of an aged relative, whom he called "Granny."
Born a cripple, he had always been a sufferer, but as long as he was able, he had swept a-crossing on his crutches, or gone short errands to earn a few pence. But soon after his parents death the boy had to take to his bed. Very ungraciously the old woman allowed him to occupy the top room in her house, which room he never left again.
His mother had taught him to read and write. Sometimes, on a stormy night, the lad had crept into the mission hall merely for the sake of getting warm. Numb with cold and weary in body he took little heed of what he heard on those nights; but, lying alone day after day, there came into his mind the memory of it, and by degrees he was possessed with a great longing to know more about God, and to have a Bible of his own. He knew that it was from the Bible that the speakers had gathered their knowledge and that was all. So, summing up courage, he one day consulted Granny about it. His only encouragement was an ironical laugh. "Bibles weren't in her line. What did a lad like him want with Bibles?" So the matter dropped for a time, but the lad's desire to possess one did not grow less.
One day, however, up the creaky stairs came noisy Jack Lee, the only friend the cripple boy had in the world. "Come to say good-bye, Tom," he cried, all excited, seating himself on the bed. "But I've got a real present for you, my lad," taking from his pockets something wrapped in a greasy bit of brown paper.
Tom raised himself on his elbows. "A bright new shilling for you, Tom. And you're not to spend it till you wants suffin' real particular." "Oh, Jack, you are good, but I want something now very, very particular." "Yer do? What's he?" "I want a Bible." "A Bible! Well I never! Who ever heard of a poor lad spendin' all that on a Bible, when I had to scrape months and months to save it in coppers." "Don't be angry, dear Jack," said the cripple boy, "you're going away and I shall be lonelier than ever, and oh, I do so want a Bible. Please get it, Jack - now - this very evening, at Fisher's, before the shop closes. Granny never would, she'd spend it for gin if I let it get into her hands."
"What can yer want with a Bible, Tom? Only scholars understands them things," he answered, rather crossly. "Maybe so, Jack, but I'm hankering after one. Let it be your parting gift, Jack, and you will make me so glad." "Very well lad, then I'll go, but I knows naught of Bible buyin'." "Fisher has 'em at a shilling, for I saw 'em marked in the window when I used to go by. Quick, Jack, or the shop will be closed!"
Jack complied very ungraciously and descended the stairs less rapidly than he had mounted them. But he got over his disappointment before he returned with a beautiful shilling Bible. "Fisher says I couldn't leave you a better friend, Tom, and he declares the shilling couldn't be 'vested better. So 'pears there's suffin we ought to know about."
Tom's joy and gratitude were unbounded. "I know it, Jack! I know it!" hugging the Book to his breast. "I'm happy now. Oh, how kind you were to save that shilling!"
The lads never met again; but if the honest errand boy could only have known what a precious treasure that Holy Book became to his crippled friend, he would have been amply rewarded for the sacrifice he had made to save the shilling. After a month's hard reading, Cripple Tom knew more about his Bible than many who have professed to study it for twenty years.
He had learned that all have sinned (Romans 3:23 ), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 ). He had also learned the more blessed truth that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and by Him all that believe are justified from all things (Acts 13:39 ). Having received Him as his Savior he had become a child of God (John 1:12 ).
He had also read in God's Word: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20).
"I can't keep all this blessed news to myself," he said; so he thought, until at last a simple, but very blessed work was decided on for the Master. His bed stood close by the windowsill, which was low. Somehow he got a pencil and paper, and wrote out different texts and then dropped them into the street below, directed: "TO THE PASSERBY - PLEASE READ"
He hoped by this means someone might hear of God and His salvation. This service of love, faithfully rendered, went on for some weeks, when one evening he heard a strange footstep and immediately afterwards a tall, well-dressed gentleman entered the room and took his seat by the lad's bedside.
"So you are the lad who drops texts from the window?" he asked kindly. "Yes," said Tom brightening up. "Have yer heard as someone has got hold of one?" "Plenty, lad, plenty! Would you believe it if I told you that I picked one up last evening and God blessed it to my soul?" "I can believe in God's word doing anything, sir," said the lad, humbly. "And I am come," said the gentleman, "to thank you personally." "Not me sir! I only does the writin'; He does the blessing." "Are you happy in this work for the Lord?" asked the visitor. "Couldn't be happier, sir. I don't think nothin' of the pain in my back, for shan't I be glad when I sees Him? I suppose yer gets lots o' chances to serve Him, don't yer, sir?"
"Ah lad, but I have neglected them. I have been a Christian for twenty-two years and when I made inquiries and found out who dropped these texts into the street and why it was done. And when I read this one which fell on my hat: For the love of Christ constraineth us;...And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again , (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), I was so ashamed and humbled that I determined to go home and live for the One you are serving so faithfully."
Tears of joy rolled down the lad's face. "It's too much, sir," he said - "altogether too much." "Tell me how you managed to get the paper to start it, lad?"
"That warn't hard, sir. I jest had a talk with Granny, and offered to give up my ha'-porth of milk she gives me most days if she would buy paper instead. You know, sir, I can't last long. The parish doctor says a few months of cold weather will finish me off, and a drop of milk ain't much to give for my blessed Lord Jesus. Are people happy as has lots to give Him, sir?"
The visitor sighed a deep sigh. "Ah, lad, you are a great deal happier in this wretched room, making sacrifices for Christ, than thousands who profess to belong to Him, who have time, talents and money, and do little or nothing for Him." "They don't know Him, sir. Knowin' is lovin' and lovin' is doin'."
"You're right, Tom. But now about yourself. How would you like to end your days in one of those homes for crippled lads, where you would be nursed and cared for, and where you would see the trees and flowers, and hear the birds sing? I could get you into one not far from my home, Tom." The weary lad looked wistfully into the man's kindly face, and after a moment's silence replied:
"Thank'ee, sir; I've heard tell of 'em before, but I ain't anxious to die easy when He died so hard. I might get taken up with them things a bit too much, and I'd rather be lookin' at Him and carryin' on this 'ere work till He comes. Plenty of joy for a boy like me to have a mansion with Him up there through eternity."
The visitor, feeling more reproved than ever, replied: "Very well, my lad; then I will see that you have proper food and all the paper you need while you live. I will settle it all with one of the Bible women."
Then the gentleman rose and said farewell. Before leaving London he made every arrangement for the lad to be cared for. He also built a mission hall on his own grounds and preached Christ to the villagers. News of the dying lad reached him from time to time through the Bible woman, but it was not till winter set in that he heard that the dear lad 'had gone to be forever with the Lord.'
CRIPPLE TOM STILL SPEAKS!
Some fifty years ago a young man in San Francisco read a Cripple Tom tract in a streetcar while on his way to work. As he read, the claims of Christ pressed heavily upon him, and he had to take his lunch kit and go to the back of the car where he could brush away his tears. Next day he quit his job and gave the rest of his life to holding forth the precious word of life. Thousands were saved through his labors.
How about you, Christian friend? Can you now sit in ease and comfort, while the lost perish, and the suffering Savior pleads?
"And that he died for all,
that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves,
but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
(2 Corinthians 5:15)