"I Only Got Fourteen"
A poor leper had been admitted as a patient in a settlement for lepers in Foochow, China. He came because someone had said that there he would find a room in which to die. He was in the final stage of the disease, and was clad in a piece of canvas with a scrap of matting tied around him with a string. He had not a relative in the world, and had long wandered about in utter wretchedness, so it was a new experience for him to be kindly treated and invited to the meetings in the little brick church.
He settled down in the room allotted to him and the Chinese pastor visited him there. After having told him the gospel story, the pastor asked if he did not want to become a Christian.
"No," he said, he did not, or rather, could not do so.
"And why not," asked the pastor, gently.
"Because," he said falteringly, "you say your Jesus died for me. I have nothing to give Him in return for a gift like that."
The Chinese idea of propriety is that when you receive a gift, you must make one in return, however small, as a recognition of the kindness.
"He wants no gift except yourself," said the pastor.
But this was too strange for belief, so the visitor had to leave him unconvinced. At the door, he said, "When Seegu [Teacher, Auntie] comes, she will tell you just as I have done, that Jesus wants you."
The Seegu came not long afterward for a day of general inspection All the lepers gathered round, and they were as eager as children to tell her of the new inmate who could not believe the gospel because it was too good to be true.
There he was in the midst to add his own word. "They say He wants me," he broke out incredulously, "but how could he possibly want an ill-smelling, rotten leper like me? It is not so, Seegu, is it?"
She felt at that moment as if eternal issues hung on her reply. A human soul was at stake! Could she so speak as to convince him of the love of God?
At last she spoke, and the divine light shone out from her eyes as she said, "He sent me all the way from America to tell you so -- you and others like you."
"I suppose then, it must be true," he said in bewildered wonder. So he believed and entered into rest.
He learned to love the Word of God, and the gospel hymns they sung together. He never tired of telling others the story of the cross.
Some thought him crazy and said so. "He is always talking about some one who loves him and wants him. Now, how could anyone ever want such a poor creature as he? But it is good that he has that notion, for it seems to help him bear his pain."
The days of pain were soon to end for him, however. He lay in his little bed awaiting the home-call. By this time both feet had dropped off and both eyes were gone, but he could still talk to Seegu about his happy prospect.
His only regret was that he had not been able to do more for his Lord. He had learned the good news so late, when he was hardly fit to move about.
"When I reach the Father's house," he said, "will Jesus blame me, Seegu, for not getting any more, or will He remember I was just an old leper? I only got fourteen."
"Only got fourteen." What did the old man mean? Was his mind wandering? Oh, no, he meant that he had only won fourteen souls for Christ during the two years he had known Him.
In the great day that is coming, when many that are first shall be last and the last first, will not that dear old saint be likely to take precedence over many professing Christians? Who can say after years of experience and opportunity, "I have only led fourteen souls to Christ?" Perhaps it might be more practical to ask how many of us have even brought a single one?
An old leper who knows the Lord and strives to make Him known to others, is incomparable more rich and more wise than the self-satisfied and self-centered Christian who never goes out of his way to seek the lost and who one day will meet his Master empty-handed.
Which one will you be like?