Near one of the tiny schoolhouses of the West is a carefully tended mound, the object of the tenderest interest on the part of a man known far and wide as “Preacher Jim,” a rough, unministerial-looking person, who yet has reached the hearts and lives of many of the men and women in that region, and has led them to know the Master whom he serves in his humble fashion.
Twenty years ago Preacher Jim was a different man. Rough and untaught, his only skill was shown by the dexterity with which he manipulated the cards that secured to him his livelihood. Then, as now, he was widely known, but in those days his title was “Gambler Jim.”
It was during a long, tiresome trip across the Rockies that a clergyman and his wife, having undressed their little boy and tucked him snugly into his berth, repaired to the observation-car in order to watch the November heavens.
An hour passed swiftly; then suddenly a rough-looking fellow made his way toward the group of which the clergyman was one.
“Anybody here got a kid what’s dressed in a red nightgown and sings like a bird?” he demanded, awkwardly.
The father and mother sprang excitedly to their feet, gasping in fear. The man nodded reassuringly.
“The’ ain’t nothing the matter of him,” he said, with yet deeper embarrassment. “The matter’s with—us. You’re a parson, ain’t you? The kid, he’s been singin’ to us—an’ talkin’. If you don’t mind, we’d take it mighty good of you to come with me. Not you, ma’am. The kid’s all safe, an’ the parson’ll bring him back in a little while.”
With a word to his wife, the minister followed his guide toward the front of the train, and on through car after car until thirteen of them had been traversed. As the two men opened the door of the smoking compartment, they stopped to look and listen.
Up on one of the tables stood the tiny boy, his face flushed, his voice shrill and sweet.
“Is you ready?” he cried, insistently. “My papa says the Bridegroom is Jesus, an’ he wants everybody to be ready when he comes, just ’cause he loves you.” Then, with a childish sweetness, came the song which had evidently made the deepest impression upon the child’s mind: “Are you ready for the Bridegroom when he comes?”
“He’s sung it over ‘n’ over,” whispered the clergyman’s companion, “‘nd I couldn’t stan’ no more. He said you’d pray, parson.”
As the two approached, the boy lifted his sweet, serious eyes to his father’s.
“They want to get ready,” he said, simply. And, his boy snuggled childishly in his arms, the minister prayed, as he never had prayed before, for the men gathered about the child.
It was only a few moments before the clergyman bore the child back to the sleeping-car, where the mother anxiously awaited his coming. Then he returned to talk with the men, four of whom that night decided to “get ready,” and among them was, of course, the man who sought out the father of the child, Gambler Jim.
To this day it remains a mystery how the child succeeded in reaching the smoking-car unnoticed and unhindered.
As for the little fellow himself, his work was early done, for a few weeks later, upon the return trip through the mountains, he was suddenly stricken with a swift and terrible disease, and the parents tenderly laid the little form under the sod near the schoolhouse where Preacher Jim now tells so often the story, which never grows old.
Christ Is Coming
Little children, Christ is coming,
Coming through the flaming sky,
To convey his trusting children
To their glorious home on high
Do you love the Lord’s appearing?
Are you waiting for the day
When with all his shining angels
He will come in grand array?
All who keep the ten commandments
Will rejoice his face to see;
But the wicked, filled with anguish,
From his presence then will flee
Now while yet probation lingers,
Now while mercy’s voice is heard,
Haste to give your heart to Jesus,
Seek to understand his Word
Quickly help to spread the message,
You to Christ some soul may turn.
Though the multitudes his goodness
And his tender love may spurn.
Little children, Christ is coming,
Even God’s beloved Son;
When in glory he descendeth,
Will he say to you, “Well done”?