Mrs. Wiseman (the next day)—I don’t desire, James, to talk on any subject that is unpleasant to you; but if you have no objections, I should like to tell you some more things before I go to meeting, that the preacher said on repentance last night.
Mr. Wiseman—I have no objections; of course not, I think I am able to hold my own. I was converted forty years ago, and do you think I can be annoyed by a woman talking repentance to me? You must think I’m a sinner.
Mrs. W.—I have your own testimony; but we will not discuss that point now, for it will soon be time for me to start to meeting, and I want to tell you more about real, true Bible repentance. As I said last night, we must forgive our enemies. If we don’t, we’re not Christians.
Mr. W.—I tell you, Sarah, I am a Christian. I’ve been a member of the church for forty years; I pay the preacher as much as the next one; I help in the missionary cause; I gave two hundred dollars toward building the new church; I gave ten dollars on the funeral expenses of the Widow Sanders; I visit and help the sick all I can. Just last week I gave Mr. Jenkins five dollars to help him replace the barn he lost by fire, and if a neighbor comes to me for a favor, he always gets it.
Mrs. W.—What if Mr. Smith should come over for a favor?
Mr. W.—I don’t want that man to come on my place, and he’d better not. You know how he treated me.
Mrs. W.—But we must love our enemies. We must return good for evil, and do good to those who despitefully use us, and bless those who wrong us. Can’t you bless Mr. Smith? You say he has done you a great wrong, and I admit he did, but the Bible says to bless such.
Mr. W.—Old Smith had better not come about me, or he’ll get something he won’t call a blessing.
Mrs. W.—But, dear, we’re not Christians simply because we do some good deeds. Good works do not save us. Paying the preacher, helping the missionary cause, building churches, giving to the poor, and favoring our neighbors don’t make us Christians. Here is Mr. Wright, who gave fifty dollars more on the church than you did and twice as much on the Widow’s funeral expenses, and he even pays the preacher as much or more in the course of a year than you do, yet he doesn’t profess to be a Christian.
Mr. W.—He does not belong to the church nor make any profession of Christ, and I do. I am a Christian, thank the Lord!
Mrs. W.—And you know, James, what you did when you gave that two hundred dollars on the church. You cut down the wages of your laboring men twenty-five cents on the day; you raised the price of wood fifty cents a cord and the poor people had to have it. The man who has your valley farm rented had to pay fifty dollars more for it the year we built the church than he did the year before. You even sold wheat to your poor neighbors for ten cents on the bushel more than you could have gotten for it on the market. So, after all, the poor have paid the two hundred dollars, but you get the praise for it—the praise that comes from men.
Mr. W.—It’s not a woman’s place to meddle with a man’s business. I’m able to attend to that.
Mrs. W.—But we must obey the Bible. Let us make our calling and election sure. The Bible is the only way. I am concerned about your soul. The preacher said we must plead for the widow, judge the fatherless, and relieve the oppressed.
Mr. W.—What do I care what those preachers say? They know no more about it than other people.
Mrs. W.—But he proved it from the Bible. “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widows.” (Isaiah 1:17-18)
Mr. W.—There’s nothing in that that you can condemn me with.
Mrs. W.—I’m not trying to condemn you: I only want you to be right with God, just as I want to be right myself. Oh, let us be real Christians, not merely having a profession of religion and doing many things we ought not to do.
Mr. W.—Well, what now? What more do you find to fault me for? The Bible says to judge not. Now, if you believe in living to the Bible, then stop judging me.
Mrs. W.—Let us be kind and talk for the good of our souls. I’m not judging you; neither do I mean to find fault. I only want you to see that the way you have been living is far from the way a Christian should live. The text I read says, “Relieve the oppressed.” In the margin it says “righten.” We should give the oppressed their rights, and not take advantage and oppress them more.
Mr. W.—Just tell me where I did anything of that kind. Didn’t I give Mr. Jenkins five dollars just last week to help him build a barn?
Mrs. W.—Yes, but Mr. Jenkins is not at all a poor man. He is able to help you in return; and if we do good only to those who are able to help us or return the favor, we shall not get much reward. What did you do the day after?
Mr. W.—I don’t know what you mean.
Mrs. W.—Why, you know the next day when we went to town, you told the old Widow Jones, who lives in your town property, that you were at so much expense you would have to charge fifty cents a month more for the rent of your house. So the widow in less than a year will pay your five dollars for you, but you get the thanks and favors from Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. W.—A man has a right to do as he pleases with his own. If I want to give five dollars, it’s my business. and if I want to raise the rent, it’s my business.
Mrs. W.—In one sense that may be be true, but in another it is not, and God who knows the heart will some day bring all into judgment. But again, dear, you remember about the Widow Perkins’ cow?
Mr. W.—I bought her cow of her. That’s all I or anyone else knows.
Mrs. W.—The old man Dodson, you remember, had a mortgage of fifty dollars yet on her little cottage, and he was demanding payment, and if she did not pay it by a certain date, he was going to foreclose it. You went to the widow and told her that you were always ready to help any one in trouble and that it is our Christian duty to aid the poor and that you had come over to help her in paying off the mortgage, and you would buy her cow. She said that she regretted to sell her cow, as it was her main support, but she supposed she would have to sell her; and she asked you what the cow was worth. You told her she was worth about thirty-five dollars. She wanted more, but you told her that she was not worth a cent more than thirty-five dollars, but that you would show her a favor under such circumstances and give her forty dollars. So you bought the cow. The next day when Mr. Brown was over here looking at the cow, you told him that she was worth every cent of fifty dollars and that you wouldn’t take a cent less. And I think you sold her for fifty dollars, didn’t you?
Mr. W.—Well, I’m using that ten dollars in paying up my life insurance fees. I have my life insured for the benefit of my wife and children, and that is right. “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8) I know I care for my family and have not denied the faith, so I know I am a Christian.
Mrs. W.—To rob one to help another is sinful in the sight of God. The Bible commands us to relieve the oppressed, and we must keep the commands of God, or we shall never have right to the tree of life.
Mr. W.—Well, the steward in our church bought her hog for ten dollars, and he told me he wouldn’t take fifteen dollars for it; and if this isn’t wrong for him, I know it’s not for me. I’m sure he has had enough experience in the Christian life to know what is right and what is wrong.
Mrs. W.—His evil doings do not justify you in doing wrong. The poor widow’s cow and hog both gone—all her living—bought by two men that stand high in the church, for fifty dollars, when they were well worth sixty-five dollars. Oh, for shame! The preacher said we should have to make right all our wrongs as far as we could. We should have to give money back we had cheated others out of. But I must go to meeting, as it’s now time. I will leave you to think over the matter of selling that horse last month for one hundred and fifty dollars, which you said was sound and all right so far as you knew, but which you knew had the heaves bad last summer and fall. But won’t you come and go with me and hear the sermon tonight, dear?
Mr. W.—I think I’ve had sermon enough for one night, SO I’ll not go, if you please.
Mrs. W.—Good night; sit up for me.
Mr. W. (talking to himself)—I feel strange; the words of that woman make me uneasy. I halfway believe she is right. I don’t want to miss heaven. Oh! What if after all my years of profession I should be wrong and be lost at last? But there are hundreds of others in the churches living no better than I do. If they are all right, I am, too. But somehow I feel uneasy. I don’t know what is the matter. But I’ll be a man! I’ll not come down now and admit that I’m not right after I’ve belonged to church all these years. I know my preacher approves of my conduct and will stand by me, and I’ll not give up—that I won’t. I’m a fool for giving away as much as I have, but my wife doesn’t know it and she shan’t. I’m going to step over and talk with my pastor a while and come back before wife returns.