The Road to Joy - Chapter I
The evening was the fourteenth of December. The year was 1873. It was bitterly cold outside, yet I sat comfortable inside, warmed by a fire, and content and happy. But I could have been outside, chilled by the frosty fingers of the wind, and been just as content and happy. How could anyone not be who was in my place? God had blessed me, immensely. I was not yet twenty-three years of age and I had more than I could ask for. I was now a partner in ownership of a very successful shipping company, but that was just a trifle of a blessing compared to the other gifts God had flooded me with my whole life.
Ever since my days as a little child, my parents had raised me to fear and love the Lord. They taught me His character, but most of all, they had taught me the gospel. Ah! It was a pleasure just thinking about it. God could not have given me better parents.
My father had immigrated to America from Scotland and had established himself as a trusted silver and gold smith among the populous of Boston's higher class.
I remember one day as a youngster helping him in the workshop. He was in the back, and I was handling customers. One very wealthy man overpaid, and I didn't realize it until he had left. I brought the extra bit to my father, advising him to buy Mother flowers. My father looked down at me from his high stool, and said with a loving concern, "M' lad, good hard work honors the Lord, but remember, honesty honors Him more, for it reveals who you work for and the reason you live."
My mother's family, on the other hand, had immigrated from England many generations back, yet she always seemed to have come straight from there herself. She held herself in an honorable way, as a lady of some standing would do, yet she had a humility about herself.
When my father went off to fight in the Army of the Potomac near the end of the War between the States, my family had to live off of a much smaller sum of money than we were used to. As a child, I would complain, but my mother would take me, look into my eyes, and say to me in her calm, gentle voice, "Now Charles, when you complain, you are saying you are not worthy to be given this low place in life with this hardship. When that thought enters your mind, think on the life of Christ, for he willingly took the lowliest of places, and died upon the cross to take the wrath of God you deserve. The cross should then make you happy to bear anything the Lord sends your way."
I loved my parents for guiding my heart and firmly planting my faith in Christ.
And my siblings were all such a blessing to me. I had six siblings: two sisters and four brothers. I loved them all, but I was closest to my sister Matilda. She and I would stay up after everyone had gone to bed and discuss books we had read. Her favorite book was The Lamplighter and mine was Comfortable Troubles, but we liked most to talk over theological books. Jonathan Edwards was our favorite. I remember a night when we were both younger we stayed up so late the clock struck two before we headed for our beds. Matilda and I were so very much alike.
I must admit, though, the main reason for my joy was that a certain Miss Sarah Burke had said yes to my proposal the evening before, and I was to be married within two months.
I couldn't sleep, and I wasn't tired. I was overflowing with joy, though Miss Burke had left that morning on a train with her family to visit cousins in Richmond. I didn't mind. It was only for two weeks. I could be patient, especially for her. She was such a sweet young woman, godly, gentle, and humble. She was gracious with everyone, and was always looking for ways to serve. And she was beautiful; her hazel eyes shone kindness and there was always joy in her face.
Most of all, she pointed me to Christ. She had such a love for the lost and the weak and the lowly of this world. She reflected the love of Christ.
My fondest memory of her is when we were walking with my sister in a poorer district of the city and a little girl, no older than nine, came up to us and offered us roses. I bought two, one for Sarah and one for Matilda. Then Sarah knelt down next to the little girl, and you could see the tender love radiate from her face. She truly loved and cared for this little girl she had only just met. She invited the little girl, who introduced herself as Jessica, to eat lunch with us, for we were just going to stop by a cafe on the corner. The whole time she talked to the little girl, Jessica, and told her about Jesus. She was so loving. At the end, Sarah invited her to our church, and little Jessica has been coming to our evening service ever since.
I got up from the fire. "I ought to get some sleep," was my thought, but I still wasn't tired. "A walk might solve that. The cold will make me more eager to get into a warm bed."
I headed downstairs to the doorway, donned my hat and coat and called out to my butler, "Thomas, I'm heading out for a short walk. I'm going to walk some weariness into myself. I'll be back soon."
Thomas walked in from the other room and responded, "Yes sir, but do be careful to not catch a chill! It's dreadfully cold out there."
I smiled and opened the door. The cold wind blew in from outside as if it were waging war against the warmth. I quickly went though and closed the door. My hat almost blew off. I straightened it and looked around. Not a soul to be seen in this bitter cold.
I began to walk, not really paying heed to where I was walking. The frosty wind, with its long icy fingers, began to reach into my coat, trying to choke the warmth hiding inside. I pulled my coat tighter together, flipping up the collar to keep my face warm. I continued walking for a time until I found myself back at my front door. I was ready for the warmth of my bed.
I went inside quickly. The warm air rushed to welcome me. I hung up my hat and was taking off my coat. "Charles." I looked up and was surprised to see my brother John standing in front of me.
"Jonny, what are you doing here?" I said with surprise and a bit of confusion in my voice.
"Charles," John looked worried as he talked, "I have grave news."