‘My Dearest Mary,—I have lived through many wonderful scenes since I saw you last; my life has been so adventurous that I scarcely know myself when I think of it. But it is not of that I am going now to write; I have written all that to mother, and she will show it to you: but since I parted from you there has been another history going on within me, and that is what I wish to make you understand if I can.

‘It seems to me that I have been a changed man from that afternoon when I came to your window where we parted. I have never forgotten how you looked then, nor what you said; nothing in my life ever had such an effect on me. I thought that I loved you before; but I went away feeling that love was something so deep, and high, and sacred, that I was not worthy to name it to you; I cannot think of the man in the world that is worthy of what you said you felt for me. From that hour there was a new purpose in my soul—a purpose which has led me upward ever since.

‘I thought to myself in this way, “There is some secret source from whence this inner life springs;” and I knew that it was connected with the Bible which you gave me, and so I thought I would read it carefully and deliberately, to see what I could make of it. I began with the beginning; it impressed me with a sense of something quaint and strange—something rather fragmentary; and yet there were spots all along that went right to the heart of a man who has to deal with life and things as I did.

‘Now I must say that the Doctor’s preaching, as I told you, never impressed me much in any way. I could not make any connection between it and the men I had to manage, and the things I had to do in my daily life. But there were things in the Bible that struck me otherwise; there was one passage in particular, and that was where Jacob started off from all his friends, to go off and seek his fortune in a strange country, and lay down to sleep all alone in the field, with only a stone for his pillow. It seemed to me exactly the image of what every young man is like when he leaves his home, and goes out to shift for himself in this hard world. I tell you, Mary, that one man alone on the great ocean of life feels himself a very weak thing: we are held up by each other more than we know, till we go off by ourselves into this great experiment. Well, there he was, as lonesome as I upon the deck of my ship; and so lying with this stone under his head, he saw a ladder in his sleep between him and heaven, and angels going up and down. That was a sight which came to the very point of his necessities; he saw that there was a way between him and God, and that there were those above who did care for him, and who could come to him to help him.

‘Well, so the next morning he got up, and set up the stone to mark the place; and it says “Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God.” Now there was something that looked to me like a tangible foundation to begin on.

‘If I understand Dr. Hopkins, I believe he would have called that all selfishness. At first sight it does look a little so, but then I thought of it in this way. Here he was, all alone; God was entirely invisible to him, and how could he feel certain that He really existed unless he could come into some kind of connection with Him? The point that he wanted to be sure of was more than merely to know that there was a God who made the world; he wanted to know whether He cared anything about men, and would do anything to help them. And so, in fact, it was saying “If there is a God who interests himself at all in me, and will be my friend and protector, I will obey Him so far as I can find out His will.”

‘I thought to myself, “This is the great experiment, and I will try it.” I made in my heart exactly the same resolution, and just quietly resolved to assume for a while, as a fact, that there was such a God, and whenever I came to a place where I could not help myself, just to ask His help honestly in so many words, and see what would come of it.

‘Well, as I went on reading through the Old Testament, I was more and more convinced that all the men of those times had tried this experiment, and found that it would bear them; and, in fact, I did begin to find in my own experience a great many things happening so remarkably that I could not but think that somebody did attend even to my prayers: I began to feel a trembling faith that somebody was guiding me, and that the events of my life were not happening by accident, but working themselves out by His will.

‘Well, as I went on in this way there were other and higher thoughts kept rising in my mind. I wanted to be better than I was; I had a sense of a life much nobler and purer than anything I had ever lived, that I wanted to come up to. But in the world of men, as I found it, such feelings are always laughed down as romantic and impracticable and impossible. But about this time I began to read the New Testament, and then the idea came to me that the same Power that helped me in the lower sphere of life would help me carry out these higher aspirations. Perhaps the Gospels would not have interested me so much if I had begun with them first; but my Old Testament life seemed to have schooled me, and brought me to a place where I wanted, something higher, and I began to notice that my prayers now were more that I might be noble, and patient, and self-denying, and constant in my duty, than for any other kind of help. And then I understood what met me in the very first of Matthew, “He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

‘I began now to live a new life, a life in which I felt myself coming into sympathy with you; for, Mary, when I began to read the gospels I took knowledge of you, that you had been with Jesus.

‘The crisis of my life was that dreadful night of the shipwreck. It was as dreadful as the day of judgment. No words of mine can describe to you what I felt when I knew that our rudder was gone, and saw those hopeless rocks before us—what I felt for our poor men!—but in the midst of it all the words came into my mind, “And Jesus was in the hinder part of the vessel asleep on a pillow,” and at once I felt He was there; and when the ship struck, I was only conscious of an intense going out of my soul to Him, like Peter’s when he threw himself from the ship to meet Him in the waters.

‘I will not recapitulate what I have already written—the wonderful manner in which I was saved, and in which friends, and help, and prosperity, and worldly success came to me again after life had seemed all lost, but now I am ready to return to my country, and I feel as Jacob did when he said, “With my staff I passed over this Jordan, but now am I become two bands.” I do not need any arguments now to convince me that the Bible is from above. There is a great deal in it that I cannot understand—a great deal that seems to me inexplicable; but all I can say is, that I have tried its directions, and find that in my case they do work; that it is a book that I can live by, and that is enough for me.

‘And now, Mary, I am coming home again quite another man from what I went out; with a whole new world of thought and feeling in my heart, and a new purpose, by which, please God, I mean to shape my life. All this, under God, I owe to you; and if you will let me devote my whole life to you, it will be a small return for what you have done for me.

‘You know I left you wholly free: others must have seen your loveliness and felt your worth, and you may have learnt to love some better man than I; but I know not what hope tells me that this will not be, and I shall find true what the Bible says of love, that “many waters cannot quench it, nor floods drown.” In any case I shall be always from my very heart yours, and yours only, till death.

‘James Marvyn.’

Mary rose after reading this letter wrapped into a divine state of exaltation,—the pure joy in contemplating an infinite good to another, in which the question of self was utterly forgotten. He was then what she had always hoped and prayed he would be, and she pressed the thought triumphantly to her heart. He was that true and victorious man; that Christian able to subdue life, and to show in a perfect and healthy manly nature a reflection of the image of the superhuman excellence. Her prayers that night were aspirations and praises; and she felt how possible it might be so to appropriate the good, and the joy, and the nobleness of others, so as to have in them an eternal and satisfying pleasure. And with this came the dearer thought that she in her weakness and solitude had been permitted to put her hand to the beginning of a work so noble. The consciousness of good done to an immortal spirit is wealth that neither life nor death can take away.

And so, having prayed, she lay down with that sleep which God giveth to His beloved.

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