A Tale of Two Fathers
A soldier, wounded during our last war, lay dying in his cot. Suddenly the deathlike stillness of the room was broken by the cry, “Here! Here!” which burst from the lips of the dying man. Friends rushed to the spot and asked what he wanted. “Hark,” he said, “they are calling the roll of heaven, and I am answering to my name.” In a few moments once more he whispered “Here!” and passed into the presence of the King. If we have made sure that our own names are written in heaven, the next most important thing is to be sure that our children’s names are there. The promise is not unto you only but unto your children.
Mother, is the name of that boy of yours written in the Lamb’s Book of life? Is it not better that your children’s names should be written there, than that you should secure for them great possessions on this dark earth? Oh, I pity the son who has never had an interest beyond the grave; but more the mother who has never told him of the rest that remaineth for the people of God. May God make fathers and mothers more faithful and true to their solemn charge, that their children may grow up to be a blessing to the world, and that they meet at last, an unbroken circle, in heaven!
Whenever I think about this subject, two fathers come before me. One lived on the Mississippi river. He was a man of great wealth. Yet he would have freely given it all could he have brought back his eldest boy from his early grave. One day that boy had been borne home unconscious. They did everything that man could do to restore him, but in vain. “He must die,” said the doctor. “But, doctor,” said the agonized father, “can you do nothing to bring him to consciousness, even for a moment?” “That may be,” said the doctor; “but he can never live.” Time passed, and after a terrible suspense the father’s wish was gratified. “My son,” he whispered, “the doctor tells me you are dying.” “Well,” said the boy, “you never prayed for me, father; won’t you pray for my lost soul now?” The father wept. It was true he had never prayed. He was a stranger to God. And in a little while that soul, unprayed for, passed into its dark eternity. Oh, father! If your boy was dying, and called on you to pray, could you lift your burdened heart to heaven? Have you learned this sweetest lesson of heaven or earth, to know and hold Communion with your God? And before this evil world has marked your dearest treasures for its prey, have you learned to lead your little ones to a children’s Christ?
What a contrast is the other father! He, too, had a lovely boy, and one day he came home to find him at the gates of death. “A great change has come over our boy,” said the weeping mother; “he has only been a little ill before, but it seems now as if he were dying fast.” The father went into the room, and placed his hand on the forehead of the little boy. He could see the boy was dying. He could feel the cold damp of death. “My son, do you know you are dying?” “No; am I?” “Yes; you are dying.” “And shall I die today?” “Yes, my boy, you cannot live till night.” “Well, then, I shall be with Jesus tonight, won’t I, father?” “Yes, my son, you will spend tonight with the Savior.” As he turned away, the little fellow saw the tears trickling over his father’s cheeks. “Don’t weep for me, father,” he said; “when I get to heaven I will go right to Jesus, and tell that ever since I can remember you have tried to lead me to Him.” God has given me one little boy, and if God should take him, I would rather have him carry such a testimony as that to my Master, than have all the wealth of the world rolled at his feet.
~ This is from “Heaven, Part 1” in Twelve Select Sermons