He would make certain all, and all behold.
At the age of twenty-one Edwin had formed one bad habit. Having had nobody to tell him that the use of tobacco was harmful to his body and seeing it used as commonly as a food by nearly all, regardless of age or sex, he had learned both to smoke and to chew. By the permission of the farmers for whom he had worked, he had raised a few tobacco-plants for himself, and the leaves of these plants, when carefully dried, were what he used as smoking-tobacco, but the cigars and chewing-tobacco he purchased at the store.
But although Edwin had never heard that tobacco was in any way unfit for the use of man, something within him seemed to suggest that there were some things about its use that were filthy and unclean. One thing that he abhorred was the chewing of tobacco in the house, because he pitied the women who were forced to look after and clean the spittoons. When in the house in the evening or on Sunday he considered smoking his pipe or cigars more appropriate, and he had supplied himself with special mouth-pieces for his cigars and convenient cases in which to carry them in his pockets. He did his chewing when at his work in the field. He also felt that it was placing his employer's property in too much danger to smoke when about his work in the barn, and this he always avoided. Thus, the same principle that had governed his earlier years was still his ruling trait.
Although for so many months Edwin had been seeking carefully and often with tears for some clue to the mystery connected with the hereafter, he had as yet found no one who could inform him on the subject; for those whom he considered the best people living were as uncertain concerning the future reward as the most vile. But from information gleaned he felt that there must be a place somewhere beyond the grave where the good and the bad would live again. When reasoning about the matter, he would say, "Now, if I am on the road to heaven, how am I to know if I get off that road and take a branch that will land me in hell?"
The thought of his own good behavior and abhorrence of all that he considered evil did not suggest to his mind that for this reason he might be the more entitled to enter the better place, for all his actions had been prompted by a sense of justice and his duty toward his fellow men.
Having become acquainted with a young married couple named Frank and Amanda Kauffman, Edwin went often to their home to pour out his troubles and perplexities. But although these people tried hard to help him, their efforts often plunged him into greater doubts and confusion. Whenever he went to them or to any one else with his question, it seemed that the answer was still the same: "No one can know about these things. We must all wait and see." Still he was not discouraged. Instead he was more than ever determined to keep on trying until he did find out.
Had Edwin been able to reason about the drunkard, the thief, or the liar, as not being fit for the good place, it might have been different, but to him the evils with which they were bound were a matter of choice. He had never heard the story of Adam and Eve, and so did not know that their first sin had severed not only them but also the entire human race from God's family (Rom.5:19). Had he known that it is impossible for any one to know God or to enter the better world without first realizing that he is already condemned and on the road to destruction, and that the only way to be transferred to the highway leading to heaven is to be forgiven and adopted back into the family of God as a redeemed child, it would not have been so hard for him to understand upon which road he was traveling.
It was springtime, and as the days grew warm and bright, the tiny grass-blades in the meadowlands made their appearance. Then it was that the farmer for whom Edwin was working realized that it was time to gather the stones that were scattered here and there throughout the meadow into piles that they might be hauled away before they became lost in the soft, velvety carpet of green; for should they be left where they were, later on the knives of the mowing-machine and the teeth of the hay-rake would be badly damaged and perhaps broken. Edwin was told, therefore, that his work for a time would be to gather all the stones, both large and small, into heaps in systematic order so that they could be easily hauled away by the team in the large farm-wagon.
As THe field was large and level, it was a pleasant place to work, and Edwin, having plenty of time to think, confined his thoughts principally to the things that were uppermost in his mind. He reasoned thus:
"Now, if a man must walk every step of the way through life in uncertainty and doubt as to what the end will be, and has such a short time to stay in this world how miserable THe remainder of my life will be! If only I could do something whereby I could know surely that I would at the last have my desire, I would be so glad! Still," he reasoned on, "there must be some way to know these things, and I will not stop trying to find out just what it is. It's altogether unreasonable to believe that we can not know until after we die about these things. God surely has some way to let us understand; for if he didn't what would there be to hinder every person on earth from going to hell? Surely God wants some of the people to go to the other place."
His belief that some were surely on their way to heaven was firm, and he felt that those few must not be in doubt as to where they were going, and that God must in some way let them know how to live in order to keep on the right road, and also that their lives must be peaceful and happy. But he felt that some great change would have to take place in one's life before this assurance could come.
Thus, God again, when all men failed him, became Edwin's teacher, for these thoughts were in accordance with the Bible, and in wisdom and love his heavenly Father helped him to comprehend the very principles of a true Christian life. The truths he thus learned were so deeply stamped upon his mind with the divine seal that they could never be erased. Still within his heart there was another question that had not been answered: "How can I get this assurance within my own heart?" Nothing could ever bring satisfaction until he knew without a doubt that he was going aright, and nothing but facts would ever dispel his doubts.
"God," he reasoned, "is the only one who knows, and the only way for me to understand is for God to let me know just what he thinks about me. God will not deal with me according to what the people may think of me, or by what they may say. Some say that I am all right now; but if I were all right, I should be the first to know it, and I do not feel that I am fit now for heaven if I should die."
The knowledge that he had always tried to do the best that he could and that he had endeavored to treat every creature living as fairly as he knew how was not enough to satisfy him, and he said: "There is something still of which I have never heard or dreamed. If only I could find out what it is or by what means I could get it, how glad I should be! Can it be that I must die before I know what it is?"
"Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psa.44:21).