Far away on the trackless ocean, many, many miles from sight of land, a ship is on her homeward passage from Australia. She is the bearer of many a home-sick, weary one, but none so anxious for a sight of home as Jessie, from the hills of Fife.
Years before this, the iron hand of poverty had forced her family to sell their dearly loved little farm, and leave their native land in search of employment over the sea.
With breaking hearts they bade adieu to all that was dear to them, and, after many years of hard toil, they are now homeward bound, having repurchased their little farm in Fife.
Far up in the bush, in the cold ground, lay, the body of the valued wife and mother of the family, and Jessie had early to take upon her the care and toil of her father's young family. She had left Scotland a blooming girl in her teens; now she is returning, worn from the roughing life in the bush; a fatal disease, too, having laid its relentless grasp upon her still youthful form.
But Jessie heeded little the racking cough that gave her weary days and sleepless nights, and often she would smile, and say, "I shall be well when I get home, and see the hills o' Fife again."
Her father's strong arms carried her daily on deck, where she lay watching the waves that bore her onward towards her desired haven; and, when the roughness of the weather or her own weakness made it impossible for her to be on deck, she would watch with an intense yearning for the first sight of land, and at times she fancied she could see the outline of the hills of Fife from her cabin window.
As days passed on, the sick one got more weary and faint, and her father saw with sorrow that she must be taken to a hospital as soon as they got to land.
It was hard to convince Jessie that this was necessary; the deceitful nature of her disease giving her fitful gleams of strength, and a little relief from her cough blinding her eyes to the fact that she was so very ill; and when at length she did reach Edinburgh, she could scarcely be persuaded that, for a time at least, she was unfit to continue her journey.
In great grief her friends left her in a ward of the infirmary, while they pursued their journey without her.
I was in the habit of visiting the infirmary, and there I first saw Jessie the very day she was left there by her friends.
I had just entered the ward, and had been greeted by kindly smiles and welcome looks of recognition from some of the suffering ones, when my eye rested upon one, who, though a stranger, at once awakened my deepest sympathy.
She was sitting up in bed. Her face, which was intelligent and pretty, glowed with the excitement almost of despair, as she rocked herself to and fro, from time to time, and then threw herself exhausted on the pillow, in a paroxysm of weeping.
After a word or two with some of my old friends, I quickly crossed the ward to where she lay, and, after a little tender soothing, she told me, through her tears, the story just related, every now and then clasping my hand in almost childish weakness and saying, "Oh! you'll get them to take me home. I must see the hills o' Fife again."
With a promise that I would speak to the nurse about her, and see what could be done, I left her a little comforted.
As I went out I called the nurse aside, and asked her what the doctors thought of Jessie's case. "Oh!" she said, "both lungs gone, and no hope of recovery; and my own thought is she will never be off that bed."
A strong desire filled me to return to that sad, lone, sick one, and tell her of Christ. I had listened to her tale of sorrow, and seemed unable to do anything but sympathize, and I had failed to tell her of the only One who could satisfy her weary heart. I remembered I had some grapes with me which I had brought for another patient, so I went back to her, and put them on her pillow, saying as I did so, "Jessie, do you know that Jesus loves you?"
"No! for if He did He would have taken me home to Fife, and not left me amongst strangers."
"Did anyone ever speak to you about Christ in Fife?"
"Did anyone in Australia ever speak to you about Christ?"
"Well, Jessie, perhaps God sent you to this hospital to hear about His beloved Son, who loved you so much that He died for you, and He wishes you to be with Him forever, in a land far more beautiful than the lands of Fife."
She shook her head as if incredulous, and said, "You never saw my home."
"No, Jessie, I have not, nor have I yet seen the home that God has prepared for those that love Him, but I have read about it, and I know it is more beautiful than any home on earth. Here you would, if spared a little, have many a weary, suffering day, Jessie; but there 'God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.' (Rev. 21:4.)"
Visiting hours were over, and, having told her of Him who could save her, and make her happy forever, I left with her a little Testament, in which I had marked for her some passages, and came away.
It was not for several days that I could again visit the hospital. I went in prayer that the Lord would give me the right word to meet Jessie's case.
I found her much in the same state as before.
Her father had been seeing her, and she had again passed through the disappointment of being left behind. I felt it was best to try and interest her with something outside her own sorrowful circumstances, so I spoke to her, as I would to a child, of Jesus, of whom she seemed quite ignorant.
Soon she was melted by the tale of what He had suffered for her, and through her tears said softly, "I never heard of such love. I thought there was no one could love me like Jamie," she said, pointing to a little ring on her finger. "He gave me that when I left Scotland, and he has waited for me all these years, and he came in to-day to see me; but I never heard of love like Christ's; it's more than any earthly love, far more."
I rested my head upon my hand, and let my tears have their own way, while I silently thanked God that the exceeding beauty of Christ had won this weary, sorrowful heart. I had felt powerless to help her, but God had given her soul to grasp at once the most blessed of all gospels, for it was the Person of the One who had died for her that had captivated her heart.
As I was leaving the ward she called me, and said, "Will you write home and tell them I've got One now who is more to me than the hills o' Fife —or Jamie," she whispered, as the color mounted to her cheeks, " though he knows I love him well?"
Then, after a moment's thought, she said, "No, the Lord will give me strength to write myself, for none of them know Christ."
A week had passed when I saw Jessie again. A great change had come over her face; it was calm and sweet, but the lines of death were on it, and her voice was feeble. She seemed not as usual to notice me as I entered the ward, and I had to lean over her, and whisper, "Jessie, dear, you're very weak to-day."
"Yes," she said, smiling, "I'll soon be home. Not to Fife," she added, quickly, as if fearing I might misunderstand her; "but to see His face. Oh! tell me more about Him."
We had a blessed hour together. I shall never forget it. We feasted upon our meditation of Him who is "altogether lovely," "the chiefest among ten thousand." (Song of Solomon 5:10, 16.) I felt we should never meet again, for I was to leave Edinburgh for a time. I almost feared to tell her, for she seemed to cling to me; but she answered, "He is enough; He saved, and then He satisfied."
She seemed exhausted, so I left her for a few moments, to speak to a suffering one at the other end of the ward. As I was going out at the door I turned round to take a last look at Jessie. I saw she was asleep, her sweet face like a piece of chiselled marble, a smile upon her parted lips. She was "homeward bound!" I involuntarily went up to her bed, and gently pressed a last kiss upon her pale forehead.
A few days after I had left home I got a message from a sister in the Lord to say, "Jessie has gone home full of joy."
Reader, do you know anything of the Christ who first saved and then satisfied Jessie? Has He saved you? or is your heart bound up with some earthly love, or in some cherished home, to the exclusion of Christ? The earthly friend may disappoint, and the earthly home pass away from your hands, and "what then?" You are left desolate, for you have no Christ. As one said, "Give me Christ and I have everything; but give me everything without Him, and I have nothing." —K
From Gospel Light, vol. 11 (1921).