A Poor But Happy Boy by John Wesley

A VERY poor child, of the parish of Newington-Butts, came to the door of a friend of mine, in a very lamentable case: it pleased God to raise in the heart of my friend a great pity and tenderness toward him: so that he took him out of the streets, who had nothing at all to commend him to any one's charity but his misery. My friend, seeking the glory of God, discharged the parish of the child, and took him as his own; yet there seemed to be little hopes of doing good upon him, for he was a very monster of wickedness, and a thousand times more miserable and vile by his sin than by his poverty. He was running to hell as fast as he could go, and was old in vice when he was but young in years: we scarcely hear of one so like the devil in his infancy as was this poor child. What sin was there that his age was capable of, which he did not commit? What by the corruption of his nature, and the abominable example of little beggar boys, he was indeed arrived at a great pitch of impiety. He would call names, take God's name in vain, curse, swear, and do all kinds of mischief; and as to any thing of God, he was worse than a heathen.

2. No sooner had this good man taken this creature into his house but he prayed for him, and laboured with all his might to convince him of his miserable condition by nature, and to teach him something of God, the worth of his own soul, and that eternity of glory or misery to which he was bound. And, blessed be God, it was not long before the Lord was pleased to let him understand that it was himself who put into his heart to take in this child. The Lord soon blessed his instructions, so that an amazing change was seen. In the space of a few weeks he was convinced of the evil of his ways; no more calling of names, swearing or cursing, no more taking of the Lord's name in vain. His company, his talk, his employment, were changed, and he was like another creature.

3. And this change was not only an external one, but he would get by himself, and weep and mourn bitterly for his wicked life.

4. He was still more and more broken under a sense of his undone state by nature; often in tears, and bemoaning his lost and miserable condition. When his master spoke of the things of God, he listened earnestly, and took in with much eagerness and affection, what he was taught. There was seldom any discourse about religion in his hearing, but he heard as though it were for his life.

5. Thus he continued seeking after the knowledge of God, till the sickness came into the house, with which he was smitten. At his first sickening the poor child was greatly amazed and afraid; and though his pains were great, and the distemper very tedious; nevertheless, the sense of his sins, and the thought of the condition that his soul was still in, made his trouble ten times greater.

6. He was in grievous agonies of spirit; his former sins stared him in the face, and made him tremble. The poison of God's arrows did even drink up his spirits; the sense of sin and of wrath were so great that he knew not what to do. The weight of God's displeasure, and the thought of lying under it to all eternity, broke him even to pieces, and he bitterly cried out, "What shall I do! I am a miserable sinner, and I fear that I shall go to hell." His sins had been so great and so many, that there was no hope for him. He was not by far so much concerned for his life as for his soul: what would become of that for ever. Now the plague upon his body seemed nothing to that which was in his soul.

7. He not only cried out against his swearing, lying, and other outward notorious sins; but was in great horror for the sin of his nature; the vileness and original corruption of his heart. For this he was in so great anguish that the trouble of his spirit made him forget the pain of his body.

8. He very particularly confessed and bewailed his sins, and some sins so secret that none in the world could charge him with.

9. He would ask others whether they thought there were any hopes for him, and would beg of them to deal plainly with him; for he was greatly afraid of being deceived.

10. Being informed how willing and ready the Lord Jesus Christ was to accept of poor sinners, and being counselled to venture himself upon Christ for mercy and salvation, he said he would fain cast himself upon Christ, but he could not but wonder how Christ should die for such a vile wretch as he was, and he found it one of the hardest things in the world to believe.

11. But at last it pleased the Lord to give him some hope that there might be mercy for him, the chief of sinners; and he was enabled to lay hold upon that, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Nor was it long before he was full of praise and admiration of God; so that, to speak in the words of one that was an eye and ear witness, he was so full of joy and praise that he longed for heaven.

12. He now grew exceedingly in knowledge, experience, patience, humility, and self-abhorrence. He prayed before, but now the Lord poured out upon him the spirit of prayer in an extraordinary manner; so that now he prayed more frequently, more earnestly, more spiritually than ever. O how eagerly would he beg to be washed in the blood of Jesus! And that the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who was over heaven and earth, would pardon and forgive him all his sins, and receive his soul into his kingdom. And what he spoke was with so much life and fervour of spirit, that it filled the hearers with astonishment and joy.

13. He had no small sense of the use and excellence of Christ, and such longings and breathings of his soul after him, that when mention has been made of Christ, he hath been ready to leap out of his bed for joy.

14. The Wednesday before he died, he lay in a trance for about half an hour, in which time he thought he saw a vision of angels. When he was out of his trance, he asked his nurse why she did not let him go? "Go! whither?" said she; "Why, along with those lovely gentlemen," said he; "but they told me they would come and fetch me away upon Friday." And he repeated these words many times, "Upon Friday next those lovely gentlemen will come for me."

15. He was very thankful to his master, and very sensible of his great kindness in taking him out of the streets when begging, and he admired the goodness of God, which put it into the mind of a stranger: said he, "I hope to see you in heaven, for I am sure you will go thither. O blessed, blessed be God, that made you to take pity upon me; for I might have died, and have gone to the devil, and been damned for ever, if it had not been for you."

16. The Thursday before he died, he asked a friend of mine what he thought of his condition, and whither his soul was going? for he said he could not still but fear, lest he should deceive himself with false hopes. At which my friend spoke to him thus:—"If thou art but willing to accept of Christ, thou mayest have Christ, and all that thou dost want with him. Thou sayest thou fearest that Christ will not accept of thee! I fear that thou art not heartily willing to accept of him." The child answered, "Indeed I am." "Why, then, if thou art unfeignedly willing to have Christ, I tell thee he is a thousand times more willing to have thee, and wash thee, and save thee. And now at this time, Christ offers himself to thee again; therefore, receive him humbly by faith into thy heart, and bid him welcome, for he deserveth it." Upon which words the Lord discovered his love to the child; and he gave a kind of leap in his bed, and snapped his finger and thumb together with abundance of joy. And from that time forward, in full joy and assurance of God's love, he continued earnestly praising God, desiring to die, and to be with Christ. And on Friday morning he sweetly went to rest, using that expression, "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit!" being not much above nine years old.