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The Man of His Counsel | Effie M. Williams

Attracted by a Christian Life

Enough has been said in the previous chapters of my story about Joe Holmier to arouse both admiration and sympathy as well as pity on the part of my readers. Joe’s high moral standing, his integrity, his hospitality, and his having the name of being the best worker in the community merits the admiration of all, but as we see him—a man who cannot control himself and giving vent to outbursts of rage—he at once becomes an object of pity. Through it all, however, the better Joe was always seen, for he was always ready to make right anything that he did. But it seemed that none escaped his sharp tongue when once he gave vent to his temper.

I said none escaped, but there were two against whom no one ever saw Joe seem to get the least bit provoked. These were the two little jewels in the home—a little boy and girl. They were the idols of his heart, and none ever saw him the least bit stirred against them, no matter what they would do, and they were children who did things that would often upset the mildest tempered man. Joe was never too tired to have a romp with the little boy or walk the floor with the baby girl long in the hours of night, when she was screaming with the colic. Many times he would tell his wife, “If you take care of them in the daytime while I am working, I ought to be willing to care for them at night.” And he did. But patient as he was with the children he could not control himself at other times, and his neighbors, his stock, and even his good wife often felt the sharpness of his tongue when his anger was aroused, and then saw him lapse into sullen moods which would often last him for several days, from which he would emerge ready to make right the thing that he had done.

It did not take Alfred Giese long to understand what kind of man Joe was and the thing that he needed to make him the man he should be, and Alfred and his wife Tillie began to pray that Joe might be made to see his need. One day as Alfred came in to dinner, he remarked that he could see why God had so arranged it that he be on the place with Joe that summer, for he could see that Joe knew nothing of what real Christianity was, and felt sure that he was tired of the profession that he had. But as Alfred could see that Joe was possessed of some conceit, he knew that he would have to advance slowly and cautiously, else the seed that he was trying to scatter would be wasted. Much as he desired to converse on the Word of God, he never mentioned it unless Joe inquired regarding his belief.

It would seem to my readers that as the two families lived together in the same house and under the same roof, there would be almost the same familiarity between them that there would be with one family, but that was not the case. These two families were as much two families as though they were living miles apart, so far as their familiarity was concerned. Alfred and Tillie had three rooms in the house, which consisted of a kitchen and living room downstairs and a bedroom upstairs, and when once Alfred’s work was done for the day he went to his home and was as far from the Holmier family as though he lived miles away. Tillie, too, lived in such a way that Susie felt she had a neighbor and could not regard her as one of the family.

Alfred proved himself quite as competent a farmer as Joe, so there could be no complaint made in any way. Although the two lived such separated lives in their homes, Alfred and Tillie sought for every opportunity they could find to make themselves accommodating, and many times the two little ones were left in their care while Joe and Susie went to town to do some trading. As Tillie was very fond of children, and had been the eldest in a large family of children, she knew how to care for the little ones, and Susie felt safe in leaving them in her care. But, much as she appreciated the company of the little ones, when Susie returned they were sent home. How wisely these two dealt with their neighbors that they might be able to win them to the Lord!

The sleeping room of Alfred and Tillie joined that of Joe and Susie, and the Holmiers had to pass the door of the Gieses before reaching their own room. Many times, as Joe passed their door, he would hear them reading from the Word and pause to listen, and when he would do so he would often hear them in their evening devotions and found that they never failed to mention both his name and that of his wife in prayer; and he also found that they were desirous of Joe and Susie finding the peace which they desired. Joe could never listen to their prayers but that he would feel disturbed in his soul and go to his room, only to toss upon his bed, unable to sleep. But, much as the prayers disturbed him, the daily life of Alfred as they were thrown together in the field and in the other work about the farm disturbed him more, for he found Alfred possessing something that kept him when he himself gave vent to rage.

One thing happened while they were doing their spring plowing which caused Joe much disturbance and again made him seek his pastor for advice. While plowing he lost a bolt from his plow, and in trying to insert the bolt through a hole in the plow-beam, he struck it with a hammer which caused the bolt to slip and the hammer to strike his finger. Immediately he threw the hammer with all the vengeance he could and in doing so it came so close to the head of one of his horses that it jumped to one side, turning over the plow. At this, he jerked on the lines, which set both horses back on their haunches, and he then gave the plow a kick which turned it over again. All this Alfred saw from the other side of the field, and when he came to see what had happened to cause this outburst he found Joe nursing a finger, which had a large blood blister near the nail, and Joe was in a very unpleasant mood.

“I wish I had an ax to cut this old plow in splinters and knock out the brains of those old horses,” said Joe, as Alfred approached, “and just for two cents I’d do it, too.”

“Well, I’d rather give you two dollars not to do it than to give you two cents to do it,” said Alfred as he walked around and patted each of the horses’ necks and then righted the plow. It took him but an instant to see what was needed about the plow, and then he called for the hammer, that he might drive the bolt through the plow beam.

“I think you will find it over there close to those bushes,” said Joe rather shamefacedy as he saw Alfred meant to fix it for him. Alfred found the hammer but had no better success in driving the bolt through the beam than Joe had, for at the first lick the hammer slipped again and caught Alfred’s thumb, bursting the skin near the nail, causing the blood to flow freely. He, too, let go the hammer, but only to fall at his feet, and as he was kneeling on one knee near the plow, he bent his head over on the plow-beam and groaned aloud, grasping the injured thumb tightly in the other hand. He remained in this posture a few moments, then, raising his head and looking Joe straight in the face, said, “Praise the Lord.”

Had a bomb exploded at Joe’s feet it would not have surprised him more than the “praise the Lord” which came from the lips of Alfred at this time. Joe stood open-mouthed, wide-eyed, and speechless, for he took in the situation at one glance. Alfred’s thumb had received a harder lick from the hammer than his finger had, for the blood was dripping from the injured thumb, whereas it had only raised a blister on his finger, and here Alfred was saying, “Praise the Lord.” For some time Joe stood speechless. Then he said, “What made you say that?”

“Sit down with me on this plow-beam, and I shall tell you what made me say that at this time,” said Alfred as he seated himself on the plow, holding his hand out from him so the blood could drip onto the ground. Joe sat down beside him and he began, “I said, ‘Praise the Lord,’ for He alone is to be praised at this time for my actions. I could not have done it within myself, but as I knelt there by that plow I could not help but recall an incident of my early teens. I was building a wagon for my little brother and he was standing near me when the hammer slipped and I mashed my thumb as I did today. But no sooner had I done it than I threw the hammer as you did, and in doing so I threw it in such a way that it struck my little brother just over the eye. For three days he lay in an unconscious or semi-conscious condition, and when he emerged from the shadows the first words that he spoke were, ‘What made Al do that?’ Of course, I could not tell him what had made me do it other than I just got so angry. I had something to remind me of that outburst of mine, for my brother carried a deep scar just above his eye until he died and as I looked at his cold form in the casket, that scar was still a reminder of my uncontrolled temper.

“Not only in this incident, but many other times I lost control of myself. But I am glad to say, ‘Praise the Lord,’ for one day I heard that there is power in the blood of Jesus, and I sought the Lord with all my heart, and when He came into my heart, I found Him a present help in time of need, and when do we need Him more than at times when we are not master of ourselves? I do not know what I should have done today had I not had the Lord to help me, but since He has so completely filled me and helped me to be an overcomer in times like this, why should I not say, ‘Praise the Lord’? I do not enjoy being hurt any more than you do and even now the pain is severe, for my arm is aching to my shoulder and I know that I shall have a very sore thumb for several days, but I can say, ‘Praise the Lord,’ for sustaining grace and for the keeping power which I have found in Him.”

Tears were streaming down Alfred’s face as he related his experience to Joe, and Joe felt the hot tears coursing down his own cheeks. He would have liked to inquire more into Alfred’s life, but his throat seemed to close and he could not find voice to speak one word. For some time they sat together in silence, but the Holy Spirit was doing His work in Joe’s heart. Over and over he said to himself, “Here is a man who really knows God.”

At last Alfred arose and went to the house to have his thumb dressed, and Joe picked up the hammer, and after several trials drove the bolt through the hole in the plow-beam. But all the anger was driven from him, and as Alfred again came into the field and resumed plowing Joe could hear him whistling, “Take the name of Jesus with you.”* And this only deepened the conviction in his soul.

The next Sunday Joe again sought advice from his pastor. After the morning service, as Preacher Brumbaugh was leaving the chapel, he was confronted at the door by a very anxious member, and listened for some time to the inquiries of a troubled soul, as Joe related the happenings of the week which led to the interview. But if Joe hoped for encouragement he was sadly disappointed, for he received none. In his interview with Preacher Reinhart he left with the consolation that he believed and had been baptized, and if he only continued faithful to the end he would be saved, but Preacher Brumbaugh failed to give him the least bit of encouragement.

After listening to Joe’s story he said, “Uh, huh. You mashed your finger and threw the hammer, and your hired man saw you do it, and he comes along and mashes his purposely so he can put on a sanctimonious air with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and then relate a sob story to you. The thing you should have done was to let him know that he was your hired man and not your master.”

“But, Brother Brumbaugh,” said Joe, “he does not take the position of master, for there could be no better hired hand than Alfred. And I am sure that he did not strike his thumb purposely.”

“If you will take my advice,” replied Preacher Brumbaugh, “go on home and act like a man instead of a baby and do not let such trifling things trouble you. I have not found anything in the Word of God yet that says anything against throwing a hammer away when you mash your finger. In fact, we do not know what the Lord would have done in such cases for the Bible is silent about it and when the Bible is silent we ought to be silent, too. Our Lord was a carpenter and we do not know how many times He threw the hammer away when He mashed His finger. We are not told all things that He did. In fact, one of the writers tells us that if all that He did had been written, the world could not contain the books. And when we remember that He went into the temple, and with a scourge of ropes drove out the money-changers, we might picture Him throwing away a hammer if He should mash His finger, for our Lord was human as well as divine and the human part of Him had feelings as well as you or I.”

“I can understand why He should drive out the money-changers, but I cannot think of Him throwing away a hammer because of a mashed finger,” replied Joe as he turned away.

“Well, we do not know that He did not,” said Preacher Brumbaugh laughingly.

Joe could not understand why his spiritual adviser should answer his inquiries as he did that day, but had he been with him a few weeks previously, he could well have understood, for Preacher Brumbaugh, too, had lost control of himself and had thrown the hammer away because of a mashed thumb. And so the preacher could not have given any advice other than he gave. His advice, however, did not help to lift the load from Joe’s heart, and he repeated to himself again and again, “Alfred has something that I know nothing about.”

While Alfred was convincing Joe, Tillie, in her quiet way, was letting her light shine, and often through some word or act of hers, though done unconsciously many times, was making Susie to see her real need. And while Joe was keeping his convictions to himself, Susie was doing the same, both of them ashamed to confess to the other, because both had been members of the same church for so long. Many times Susie would pass Tillie’s door and hear her voice lifted in prayer, and many times hear her own name mentioned. In this way Tillie kept such victory that her daily life was a real light to her neighbor. How Susie longed for such an experience, yet she never mentioned it to her husband. And Joe in turn longed for such an experience as Alfred had, yet he never mentioned it to his wife. Both of them were being attracted by a real Christian life.