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The Swiss Peasant by Caesar Malan

Charles Doe Caesar Malan




 Ye who sincerely desire rest for your souls; who would rejoice to have peace with God, and to be assured of his love towards you; listen to a simple narrative of scenes which I have witnessed.

Is it possible that a nation can dwell in wickedness, and not fear that Divine justice will overtake it? The concerns of this life proceed in their accustomed course: the farmer pursues his labors, the tradesman is immersed in his traffic, and the man of pleasure follows the vanities in which his soul delights. All, outwardly, appears to go on as usual; the same hopes, the same fears, the same frivolous and criminal pursuits, succeed each other in their accustomed course. Men are regardless of the darkness which covers their mind; they perceive not the enmity of their hearts against God. Surrounded with the blessings of Providence, they deny Hint who alone is the author and giver of all they enjoy. But God has seen them. “Destruction shall come upon the workers of iniquity;” yet, “he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. His chastisements are sent both to punish and to save.

Thus it was with the fertile and romantic valley of Baynes; in that place man had forgotten his Maker, and was asleep in prosperity. Were the dwellers in this valley more wicked than the inhabitants of other valleys in Switzerland? Were these men greater sinners than those who dwelt in other, and neighboring countries, and who survived to be witnesses of their sufferings? “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” said our Lord on a like occasion; “I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:4,5. He is the all-powerful God, and all things are subject to his control. At his word, immense masses of ice fell from the summit of a neighboring mountain; they arrested the course of a rivulet which flowed through the valley, its stream soon swelled into a lake, and an immense body of water was restrained only by a feeble barrier of ice. Its fall was certain and near; devastation and ruin to the valley beneath inevitably must ensue.

In an instant the flood bounded from the heights, and carrying away in its foaming waves all that opposed its course, traversed the valley as a swift messenger of destruction. Forests were torn up by the roots; fields were laid waste; the houses, with their inhabitants, and their flocks and herds, were all confounded together in the torrent. Many immortal souls were, in an instant, either called to the mansions of eternal bliss, or reserved for the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. Baynes was desolated; its villages and fields no longer exist. Its children are no more. Heavenly Father! have the few who survived acknowledged thy hand in this event—have they returned to thee?

Occupied with these reflections, I wandered over the scene of desolation; and as I paced slowly along, I looked around, and saw an aged woman sitting near: she endeavored to rise; “Oh, bestow your charity,” said she.

“Do not rise, poor woman; you appear unhappy.”

“Oh,” said she, “I know not what will become of me.”

In fact, all the outward appearances of misery seemed, as it were, united and present before me. She was tall, and a threadbare garment scarcely covered her form; her feet were bare, and one of them severely wounded; her face was shriveled by hunger; her eyes hollow and dim; a few white hairs strayed from the tattered cloth which covered her head; and near her, upon the sand left by the torrent, was a bag containing a few scraps and morsels of bread.

“Have you no family?” said I; “are you quite alone, and without any help?”

“My last surviving son died twenty years ago, and I lived with my grandson near the village of Morgne; but I have never seen my poor grandchild since the day when the wrath of heaven fell upon us: he never appeared again: he was carried away with his dwelling. His wife and children are now living nine miles from hence, among the mountains; they could hardly find enough for themselves, so I staid in this place. I want but little, and have but a short time to remain here.”

“But a short time!” said I to myself, “where will she go when called hence?” and turning to her, I added, “You then think you have not long to live?”

“Yes,” said she, looking steadily at me, “the days of my pilgrimage are nearly ended, and I feel that soon, very soon, I must appear before God.” She groaned deeply as she uttered these last words.

“Well, poor woman, I hope your soul is prepared to meet your God.”

“No, sir, I fear it is not; and this troubles me, and takes away all my comfort.”

“Do you desire to be saved? Would you escape from the wrath to come; from the just judgment of God?”

“O yes,” she replied, “I do desire to be saved; and covering her face with her hands,” she exclaimed with earnestness, “O that I might go to heaven! but I know not how.”

“Have you long thought about these things?”

“One evening, about two years ago, a stranger stopped at our cabin, and remained there all night. He spoke much of God and of heaven; and read to us about the evil of sin, and our need of a Savior, from a book which he had with him; and several times he spoke to me particularly. During the night, I heard him praying for all of us, and especially for the aged woman, who, he said, must soon appear before God. He left us at break of day; I think I still hear his parting words; he took my hand, and said, ‘My poor friend, the hour of your death is near; I shall not see you again in this world. Oh, do not forget the Savior. Seek him, seek him earnestly, while he may be found.’ Since that day, I have had no rest; his words are fixed deep in my heart. I feel that I am a sinner; I have done all I could, but I am still under condemnation.”

“What sort of a life have you lived?”

“I have not been worse than my neighbors, but God is holy, and looks at the heart. I am too great a sinner to go to heaven, and I know not what to do.”

“Blessed are they that mourn,” said our gracious Savior, “for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4. This precious promise came strongly to my mind while the poor woman related her history. I seemed to hear the Savior himself calling this poor wandering sheep, and drawing her to him; and I fervently implored, that He who opened the heart of Lydia[†] would open the heart of this poor woman; then looking earnestly at her, I said,

“I can tell you what you ought to do—how you may be delivered from the burden of your sins, and assured of admission to heaven.”

“Oh, sir,” she exclaimed, stretching her trembling, withered hands towards me, “Oh, sir, pity me! pity my gray hairs; the grave is ready to receive me.”

“No, my poor friend, not before Jesus has spoken peace to your soul. Listen to me. Did not the stranger tell you that Christ Jesus, the Son of God, came down from heaven to save sinners?”

“Yes, he said many things about him, but I do not re­member them all; I only recollect that he told us there was no Savior except the Son of God, and that if a sinner did not find rest in Christ, there was no hope for him.”

“Well, my friend, do you believe this, or do you think that man is able to save himself, and to blot out his sins by his own good works?”

“Once I thought so. Before I heard this stranger, I thought I was good enough to please God, and that my good deeds would do away my offences. But now I see plainly that I am a great sinner, and that I cannot myself procure the pardon of my sins, or do away the evil I have committed.”

“Are you sure of this? Have you tried to deliver yourself from the guilt of sin?”

“I have done all that any mortal can do. As soon as my eyes were opened to see my sinful state, and that I was under the curse of God’s holy law, I was terrified, and I determined to do what would please him. From that day I have given up my pleasures and my former pursuits. I have willingly undergone all sorts of privations and sufferings. I have been constant in attending public worship, and regular in my private devotions; but all, all is useless. They tell me, indeed, that I am sure to go to heaven; and they call me a saint; but I have it here—I have upon my heart and conscience a burden intolerable—a horrible dread which overwhelms me. Oh, deliver me from this; take it—take it away from me, if you are able.”

“Christ alone is able to deliver you; he is able, and he is willing; he came into the world to save sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15; to give rest to all who are weary and heavy laden. Go to him, and you shall find rest for your soul.” See Matthew 11:28-30.

“But will he, can he receive such a vile creature as I am? Often would I have gone to the Savior, but I felt I was too unworthy. Yesterday I recollected what the stranger told us of the prodigal son, and I wept while I thought on his happiness. Ah, said I, how happy must he have been in his father’s arms!”

“And do you think that the everlasting arms are less ready to receive you than the prodigal son?”

“To receive me! Ah, I am not worthy.”

“And was the prodigal worthy? When a free pardon is offered, there is no question about what we deserve.”

The poor woman looked at me, anxious to understand my meaning, but she could not.

It is, indeed, hard for the heart of man to think that it is possible to be loved of God! Speak to the vilest of sinners of the necessity of obtaining pardon for his sins; and if he is convinced of this, he will readily undergo the most severe sufferings, and make the greatest sacrifices. But tell him of free pardon; tell him that his Creator, that God himself has become his Savior, and is ready to bestow upon him life everlasting; he will not believe you—he is not willing to accept pardon on these terms. He cannot receive the free mercy of God, or rather he rejects it, because his proud heart would obtain salvation as a reward of his own works; he would receive it as a recompense, not as a free gift.

Here was the mistake of this poor woman. Apparently taught that man could work out his own salvation by his own strength, she had persisted in this fatal error, and had not the remotest idea that she was wrong. I saw the cloud which darkened her understanding, and endeavored to remove it.

“You have not, then,” said I, “yet learned why our Lord Jesus Christ came upon earth.”

“To save sinners,” said she.

“But you do not perceive how he has done this; you know not that he has died, ‘the just for the unjust;’ that he became a ransom for sinners. He saw them yet afar off, lost and helpless in their sins, when, moved by an all-powerful love, which passeth man’s understanding, he took upon himself their iniquity, and bore their sins in his own body on the tree. He has borne the burden from which he delivered them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13.

“Happy are those whom he has redeemed!”

“Yes, they are truly happy; and I trust you will find this happiness. If you believe in Christ, you will share in his favor and his love.”

“What, is it possible that the Savior can love me, and receive and pardon me?”

“Why not you, when he says, ‘Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely?’ When you have believed in him, you will find that he has loved you with an everlasting love. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15:13. And did not he lay down his life for you; yes, even for you, when he died on the cross? Do not you believe this?”

“Is it possible? Did he die for me? For my sins; for mine?”

“Why was he smitten of God and afflicted, Isaiah 53:4, if not for poor sinners such as you and I? Who can need more than we do, that a Savior should interpose between us and the justice of the Most High? And since it is written, that Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost, Luke 19:10, since he died for the chief of sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15, was it not for me, was it not for you, lost and ruined by nature and practice, that he laid down his life upon the cross?”

O blessed Gospel of Christ, the message of peace and life eternal, who can understand and declare thy power! What words can describe the emotions which passed over the countenance of this poor sinner, weary and heavy laden with the burden of her sins, and beginning to hope for pardon and deliverance!

Language cannot express the joy which this poor soul felt, when touched by the power of God. The day of her salvation was come. She thought of her sins, and was troubled; but she mourned, and was in bitterness. She thought of her enmity to God; but she could be his enemy no longer. She thought of the spirituality of his law; but she delighted in the law of God after the inward man. She thought she could forsake all, and follow Christ, and submit herself to his authority and grace. Her eyes were opened; her heart, for the first time, tasted the love of Christ; the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, now taught her to call Jesus the Lord.

“Then may I believe that Christ died for me?” said she, still appearing fearful to think so.

“Do you doubt this? Do you desire to refuse the benefits of our Redeemer’s sacrifice?”

“Oh no; the happiness of believing in him is too great to be rejected.”

She was silent some minutes. Engaged in reflection upon these truths, she appeared deeply moved. At length she clasped her hands, and bursting into tears, exclaimed, “Then I am saved! the Savior died for my sins, though I knew it not. O blessed news! this indeed is consolation!”

She then leaned forward, and rested her head upon her hands. Tears trickled down her arms, and fell upon her garments as she uttered the words “Heavenly Father, Jesus, Savior,” mingled with her sobs. At length raising herself, she said, “Then Christ has become my ransom. O my God,” she added, raising her eyes towards heaven, “thou hast had compassion upon me, aged and wretched as I am. Thou hast not suffered me to go down to the grave ignorant of thy love and pardoning mercy. O what love, what exceeding love!”

“His love is indeed great, ‘in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:8. Ought we not then to love him?”

“Yes, I love him, and will strive to serve him. Ah, sir, if you could but see what passes within me; I seem as just awakened from sleep, and as if I was delivered from a mountain which weighed down my soul. This, then, was what the stranger meant, when he told me I must be ‘born again.’ Let me go,” added she, rising, “let me go and declare these things to my granddaughter and her children. Would that my poor son had known them before he died.”

“My mother,” said I, “leave your son in the hands of the Most High, and haste and tell your grandchildren what a Savior you have found. Go and declare it abroad during the short time you have to remain here, before you go hence to Him who has loved you with such exceeding love. Declare that you were a sinner, that you sought to obtain salvation by your own strength; but that your only dependence is now on your Savior Christ; now you believe in him, and are persuaded, from his own words, that he was sacrificed for you; and that his blood, shed for the sins of many, has washed away your stains. Go, my poor friend, and, during the short interval which yet separates you from your God, consecrate yourself to his service; offer to him what he has given to you, a new heart, a heart now filled with joy and consolation, even as he has imparted it to you this very day.”

“May it be so,” said she; “may God be pleased to direct me: I am but a poor peasant, ignorant of every thing; but he will instruct me.”

“And it is by this book he will teach you,” replied I, giving her a New Testament; “this is the book the stranger read; it contains all that I have this day told you of Jesus, and his love for us. It contains the declaration of the eternal and unchangeable love of God. All that your soul can desire, or your heart can wish, are here. Yes, all knowledge and understanding; all truth, life, and peace; and happiness both for this world and that which is to come; all is declared in this blessed book; and may God, whose eye now beholds us, himself teach you to understand it.”

She took the book, without replying; kissed it, and pressed it to her heart. I took her by the hand; and after a few moments turned away, thinking I should see her no more in this world.

She called after me, “Shall we not meet again in heaven?” “Yes,” said I, “I trust both you and I are tending thitherward.”

She then shall be saved at the last day, thought I. O heavenly Father, may thy holy name be glorified in these mountains! Blessed Savior, may thy all-powerful voice be heard calling thy children unto thee. Be pleased thyself to lead this solitary sheep. Thou hast revealed thyself to her; be ever present with her, strengthening her soul. O make her path straight, and cause her to walk steadily therein.

She shall go therein, the Christian will say, in whose heart Christ is formed the hope of glory;[‡] being satisfied that it is when we are united to him that we truly love and serve him. She is a child of his kingdom, and shall walk in the path of the just, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.[§] The righteousness of Christ, the precious blood he shed upon the cross, have made her free, and she is no longer under condemnation. Christ has suffered for her; she has believed, and has this witness in herself.[**] See 1 John 5:10. The burden which oppressed her is taken away, and instead of sorrowfully crying, “Who shall deliver me from mine affliction?” she has learned to ascribe praises to the Lamb of God, who has washed her from her sins in his own blood.[††] See Revelation 1:5.

The love of God brought these things to pass, and in his love she will dwell, living unto him who hath redeemed her. Let the unbeliever or the scoffer of our day assert that it is dangerous thus to declare a free salvation to sinners. Let them say that it is buoying up with false hopes; and that to announce pardon “without money and without price,” telling them that faith alone can justify, is to invite to licentiousness, and will only wrap them up in carnal security. Mistaken indeed! They are ignorant that the knowledge of Christ is life everlasting; that he will abide with the heart that openeth unto him, Revelation 3:20; and that the soul which has tasted that the Lord is gracious, which has contemplated Christ dying upon the cross, the just for the unjust, cannot live unto sin, seeing that sin crucified the Lord of glory. They know not that the desire of the believer is to live according to the will of Christ.

Had they, like me, seen this poor woman brought to the knowledge of the Savior and his love; had they seen her countenance, worn with care and anxiety, at once enlightened by that peace and hope which the Savior alone can give; had they heard the voice with which she bade me farewell as to this world; they could not, if open to conviction, assert that these things are dangerous to the souls of men.

As for myself, I trust that this poor woman was led by the teaching of the Holy Spirit to believe in him who justifies the ungodly.[‡‡] See Romans 4:5. If she was enabled truly to believe in Christ crucified, she has been, by this faith, put into possession, through hope of the world that is to come, of an eternal inheritance.

And if you, my reader, sincerely desire to partake of this salvation, you have no cause to despair of pardon. This poor woman believed in Christ, and was delivered from her fears. Do you also give your heart to Jesus Christ; repent of and forsake your sins; submit yourself unto God; and he will impart to you his righteousness, and THAT PEACE WHICH THE WORLD CANNOT GIVE.



                THE STORM HUSHED.


’Tis past—the dreadful stormy night

   Is gone, with all its fears!

And now I see returning light,

   The Lord, my Sun, appears.


Oh, wondrous change! but just before,

   Despair beset me round;

I heard the lion’s horrid roar,

   And trembled at the sound.


Before corruption, guilt, and fear,

   My former comforts fell;

And I discover’d, standing near,

   The dreadful depths of hell.


But Jesus pitied my distress,

   He heard my feeble cry,

Reveal’d his blood and righteousness,

   And brought salvation nigh.


Dear Lord, since thou last broke my bands,

   And set the captive free,

I would devote my tongue, my hands,

   My heart, my all to thee.




[*]An account of the overwhelming calamity which visited the valley of Bagnes, in the canton of Valais, in Switzerland, is contained in the Paris “Moniteur,” of the 28th June and 2nd July, 1818. On the 16th June, in the space of half an hour, 40 houses, 118 barns, 10 mills, 22 granaries, besides a great number of shepherds’ huts, etc. were carried away. Many individuals also perished in this dreadful catastrophe.


[†]Acts 16:14— And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

[‡]Colossians 1:27—To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

[§]Proverbs 4:18—But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

[**]1 John 5:10a— He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.

[††]Revelation 1:5b—Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.

[‡‡]Romans 4:5— But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

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