A Hard Lesson

adapted from the diary of A. B. Simpson


A. B. Simpson recalls how, though he knew as a boy that he was called to the ministry, he found it difficult to give up a cherished pastime. Family finances then threatened to put his plans on hold.

If I were a minister it would not be the thing for me to be going hunting, and for a time my little soul waged a big battle over this. During the conflict I remember I had saved up a little money from funds that I had earned by special work, and one day I stole off to the town and invested the whole of it in a shooting gun, and for a few days I had the time of my life. I used to steal out to the woods, concealing as best I could this forbidden idol and then smuggling it back to hide it in the garret.

One day, however, my mother found it and there was a scene. Her brother had lost his life through the accidental discharge of his gun, and I knew and should have remembered that guns were things proscribed in our family. It was the day of judgment for me when that wicked weapon was brought down from its hiding place, my mother standing at a safe distance, wringing her hands and pouring out the vials of her wrath while I sat confounded and crushed.

The next day my sentence was to march back to the town and take that gun to the place from whence it came, and with deep humiliation return it to the man from whom I had wickedly bought it, and see, not only the gun, but the good money that I had paid for it go, too.

That tragedy settled the question of the ministry. Soon after I quite decided to give up these side issues and prepare myself, if I could only find an open way, to be a minister of the gospel. But as yet, the matter had not been mooted in the family. One day, however, my father in his quiet, grave way, with my mother sitting by, called my elder brother and myself into his presence and began to explain how my elder brother had long been destined to the ministry, and the time had now come when he should begin his studies and go in special training. My father added that he had a little money, rescued from the wrecked business of many years before, which would be sufficient to give an education to one of his boys, but not to both. Therefore, he quietly concluded that it would be my duty to give place to my brother; while I would stay at home and help them on the farm, he would go to college.

I can still feel the lump that rose in my throat as I stammered out my consent, for I could clearly see that he had been foreordained to be a minister, at least by my father and mother, if not by the Lord; but I ventured to plead that they would consent to my getting my own education if I could. I asked no money, no help, but only my father’s blessing and consent, and I still remember the quiet trembling tones with which he said, “God bless you, my boy, even if I cannot help you.”

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