“I TELL you again, mate, ‘religion’ may do finely for women and children; but it will not do for men,” said Jonathan Winter, a rough old miner, to one of his comrades, who had lately determined to follow Christ. “And as for you, Roger, I'm sure you don't need making more of a woman than you be already. You be the softest, most chicken-hearted chap I know. And if you really are going to be pious and ‘Bible-reading’ into the bargain you'll turn so soft that a shadow will fright you. Give it up, mate; give it up. You're only half a man as ‘tis, but whatever will you become if you sticks to religion I should like to know?”
“Something better than I have been,” replied Roger, in a low voice, which was scarcely heard amid the jests and laughter of his fellow workers.
Roger and Jonathan, with about a hundred other men, were employed in a working of a coalmine. Roger Martin had been led to knowledge of his sins, and to faith in pardon through the blood of Jesus. He was the only Christian among those rough men. Months went by, and Roger, though jeered at and annoyed, had never given up religion.
It was a bright day at noon, when Roger was let down in the bucket to the bottom of the mine. When he reached the bottom, he commenced handing some tools and stores to ‘Little Ben,’ a lad sometimes employed below. The bucket was soon emptied, and Roger was just stepping out, when, hark, what sound was that which made his cheek pale? It was the rushing of water. His long experience made him aware that the water from a neighboring stream had forced its way into the mine. In a few minutes, his fellow workmen might be overwhelmed and lost.
One foot was yet in the bucket, a jerk at the rope, and it would be raised, and be saved. It was a great temptation to his timid nature. Then he remembered his comrades, their unfitness to die and their willful ignorance of Christ's love. The thought of the Saviour nerved his heart; he would not save himself while they were unwarned. Quickly jumping out, he seized Little Ben, placed him in the bucket, saying, as he jerked the rope, “Tell all the village that the water is coming in and that we are probably lost; but we will seek refuge at the far end of the right gallery. Be quick. Good-bye.” In a moment the bucket was raised, and Little Ben disappeared.
The mine was full of long narrow passages, from which the coal had been dug. Hurrying along these, Roger soon reached the miners, and told them their danger. It was a terrible moment, and each one would have rushed hither or thither, madly, in a vain effort to save himself. His noble purpose made the timid Roger firm and calm. He told them what he had done, and bade them follow him with the picks to the end of the right gallery. It was the highest portion of the mine, and with their picks the men succeeded in hollowing out a sort of chamber higher up still, which they trusted might be above the level which the fast rising water would reach. A few provisions had been saved though little enough for even a day’s need. Into this chamber the men hurried, there to wait a slow deliverance, or to perish by hunger, drowning, or suffocation. During the long, dismal hours that followed, Roger prayed and entreated, and after the first excitement had passed, they listened as men listen when face to face with death.
Meanwhile, the friends and villagers were doing their best for their relief. Guided by Roger’s message, they sank a shaft above the right gallery, working days and nights. At length, on the morning of the fifth day, a muffled sound of blows from within met the ears of the workmen above. With new vigor they toiled, and soon the poor miners were reached. Several were dead but more than half, and among them Roger, were yet alive. Tenderly they were carried home and cared for, and soon recovered from the effects of that awful time; though with many, the impressions then made on their souls were never forgotten, but brought forth good fruit in their after lives as converted men.
Among these was Jonathan Winter, who had been the first to sneer at Roger’s profession of Christianity. When he learnt how Roger might have saved himself and Little Ben, leaving the others to their fate, he exclaimed, “I said that religion would make Roger more of a softy than he was before. But it seems to me, mates, it has made him do what many of us would scarce have dared. The Bible-reading that can make a timid chap like he risk life for the sake of telling us about a Saviour, must be good for us all, and I, for one, cast in my lot with Roger.”