How Samuel Williams Was Made Happy
James Smith, 1856
Jonathan Hardy was one day taking a walk in the country, feeling sad and dejected. His mind was ill at ease. He scarcely knew the cause — but he could not rally his spirits. As he went on, gloomy and depressed, he was overtaken by Samuel Williams, whom he formerly knew — but had not seen for a considerable time. Samuel looked bright and happy, and spoke in such a cheerful tone that Jonathan felt rather surprised.
After a little chat about the weather, the times, and so on, Jonathan said, "You seem very happy, Sam." "Yes," said he, "I feel happy." "That's a fine thing," said Jonathan, "in times like these; but what makes you so happy?" "Well, you know," said Samuel, "I used to be much as the rest of my class are — careless, thoughtless, and ignorant. But I often felt a craving in my mind for something I had not got. I was uneasy. I didn't know what I wanted — but there was a kind of gnawing in my heart. By and bye I got worse, and was very often gloomy, low-spirited, and unhappy. I became very irritable, and it was very difficult for anyone to please me. I reflected on God for placing me in such circumstances. I looked upon my employers, and all above me in circumstances, with envy, and thought it very hard that I was not as well off as they were. Why shouldn't I have a good business as well as Mr. Jones? and why shouldn't I have a large house and carriage as well as Squire Naylor? Many such thoughts rankled in my mind, until I was truly miserable. Unhappy myself, I could not bear to see others enjoying themselves.
"Well, one day, when I went home from work, I sat down in my chair, and there lay the Bible open on the table; I cast my eyes on it, and read that verse, 'Happy is the man who has the God of Jacob for his help, and whose hope the Lord is.' The word 'Happy' was what struck my mind. There are some happy people then, thought I. I sat thinking for a time, and then I sighed out, 'Oh, that I was happy! I wish I knew how to be happy!' I turned over the leaves of the Bible without reading, until at last my eye caught these words, 'Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened.'
"I thought to myself, 'I wonder if this is true.' Something seemed to say, 'Try it, try it.' But, thought I, 'How am I to try it? Well, after a little consideration I thought, 'To ask is to pray, to seek must be to pray too, and to knock must mean the same.' After a bit I felt something working within me, and as it were urging me to try. So at length I went up stairs, and after some struggling with my feelings, for I had not gone down upon my knees for many a year, I knelt down and tried to pray. But my mind was all confusion, and I felt as if I had not a word to say. But I felt also as if I could not give up without trying, so I groaned out, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' This seemed to give me a little relief, for by this time my heart was full, so I tried again, and cried, 'Lord, I want to be happy! Lord, make me happy! I have read in the Bible that there are some people happy — but I am miserable; I want something, Lord — but I don't know what — something to make me happy; Lord, give me what I want, for Jesus Christ's sake!'
"I got up from my knees and went downstairs — but I could not rest. My sins now began to stare me in the face, I thought over my past life, and it seemed as if my past life was painted in a picture and placed before me. I couldn't help thinking of how I had spent my Sundays, how I had neglected to read my Bible, how I had sometimes sworn, and enjoyed the company at the Black Horse. Then it came to my mind that I had lived without prayer, that I had forgotten God who made me, and was a great sinner before God. My sins now seemed to be like a heavy burden on my soul, pressing me down, and filling me with distress and trouble. I didn't know what to do. I used to go aside as often I could, and down on my knees, and cry, 'Lord, have mercy upon me! O God pardon my sins, and save my poor guilty soul!'
"For a time I found no relief — but everything seemed against me, and it got darker and darker, and something seemed to whisper, 'There is no hope. It is all over with you. You may just as well enjoy your sins as you used to do. God will never save such a wretch as you are. You will never be happy, either in this world, or in that which is to come.' This made me almost desperate. But I could not give up. I took to going to hear the gospel; but for a time it seemed to do me no good. I got worse and worse — and yet I could not leave off going. The more I read my Bible, the clearer my condemnation appeared — and yet I could not keep away from it. The more I prayed, the more the burden of my sins pressed me down, and the harder my heart felt. I used to go out of an evening and wander about the lanes, crying and praying — but all to no purpose.
"But at length deliverance came. Our minister one Sunday took for his text, 'What shall I do tobe saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.' As soon as he read the words, I was all eyes and ears, hoping to catch something to suit my case; and a glorious time it was to me. He showed us that Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth out of pure love, on purpose to save sinners. That He can save any sinner, and that He will save every one who is willing to be saved by him, and that He does save every one who believes in Him. That to believe in Christ was to receive his message, accept his invitation, and, renouncing all others, place implicit confidence in Him, and that then his obedience was placed to our account to justify us, and that his death was reckoned as though we had died, and consequently we are saved.
"I saw for the first time how a sinner could be saved; I gladly accepted the proposal that Jesus Christ should save me; I cast myself into his arms to be saved by Him; and at that moment I lost my burden, the darkness and confusion was banished from my mind, I felt peace — more, I was Happy. I did not feel that I wanted one thing more. Jesus seemed to be and to have everything that I needed or desired, I felt an inward persuasion that Jesus Christ was mine. Oh, Jonathan, if you could but once feel what I felt, and enjoy what I enjoyed — you would then know what true happiness is, nor would you any longer wonder to see me look bright and happy. But I see I am at the end of my journey. One word before we part: I see that you are not happy; but you may be. That same Jesus who has saved me — can save you, and He is willing to save you!
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost--but now am found,
Was blind--but now can see!
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
When first my soul believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
Ho will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures!
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace!