Where’s The House?
Pastor Merritt Warren had not been in China long when he made this particular trip. Like most every journey he would take in that country, it was full of danger, leading through a robber-infested area.
He had been traveling several days when he was delayed one afternoon by a stranger who invited him to his home. He had learned that Pastor Warren was a Seventh-day Adventist minister and wanted to ask questions about his belief. Pastor Warren, of course was glad for the opportunity to talk with one who showed such an interest.
He thought he had plenty of time. The coolies, with the boxes, had gone on. The village of Chintaipu was only five miles away. He could easily ride that distance before dark. As he was leaving, however, his host told him that it was nearly three time that far. He warned him that it was not safe to travel in that region after dark.
Hastily he mounted his horse and hurried over the low hills. Just at dark he reached a small village along the way. He hoped the carriers would be waiting there. But he learned that they had gone on up the mountain.
What could he do? The carriers had his food and his bedding. And he must pay for their lodging wherever they stopped. He knew now that he was in danger.
The coolies had his lantern too, and he would have to have a lantern. So he bought a paper lantern, and the shopkeeper lighted it for him.
But in a little while, as he walked ahead, leading his horse down the slippery stones of the mountain, the candle sputtered and went out. He started to light another, but then he said to himself, “Now, look here! You can see better with the lantern, but so can the robbers. If they are following you, the light will help them more than it will help you.” So he trudged on, hoping the robbers wouldn’t hear the clank of the horse’s shoes on the stone steps.
At the bottom of the mountain he came to a bridge made of stone slabs. He couldn’t see what he was crossing—it might be a stream or a chasm. He could see only the dim trail and the bridge. Beyond the bridge the trail turned to the right and began another ascent.
About a hundred and fifty feet from the bridge, to his right, Pastor Warren saw a house and a light burning inside. The house was about fifty feet long and seemed to front on the road. A door in the center opened as he arrived, and two men came out.
Pastor Warren had a good excuse for stopping, for he was alone and without a light. Speaking in the humble manner used by the Chinese, he said politely, “May your younger brother borrow a light from his older brother?”
“I shall be glad to give my brother a light,” one of the men answered. He stepped inside and returned with a piece of flaming bamboo. When the candle in the lantern had been lighted, one of the men asked, “Where are you going?”
“I am traveling that way myself.”
“I shall be honored to have my older brother lead me,” Pastor Warren answered.
They started off together, talking as they traveled. Merritt asked questions, but he was careful not to say anything that would sound as if he were trying to identify him. If the man were a robber, the situations would be dangerous.
Finally the man said, “There are many robbers through this section, and they are robbing all the time. No one is really safe on this road. I am glad I could come along with you.”
That was strange. The man wore ordinary clothes, the rice-straw sandals of the common peasant. Why would a robber try to rob him? And why was this stranger happy to have a foreigner with him?
Soon they came to a place where a path branched off. The Chinese said, “I must leave you here.”
“Aren’t you going to Chintaipu?”
“No, I’m turning off here.”
“How much farther is it to Chintaipu?”
“Not very far. You will be there right away. I am glad I could walk with you.”
When Merritt arrived in the village, he found the people worried about his safety. They told of many travelers who had been robbed. And some had been killed. The young missionary had reason to be thankful—very, very thankful!
The next time he traveled that way, he was anxious to see by daylight the places he had walked that night. It was all just as he remembered it. The shop where he had bought the lantern. The climb up the mountain. The stone steps down the other side. The ravine with the stone slabs for crossing. As he started up the slope, he looked for the house. No house was there!
Had the house burned down? “It has to be here! It was a large house and it stood right here!”
But as he examined the slope, he saw that the ground had never been leveled at any place along the road. It would have been impossible to build a house without leveling a large piece of ground. But there was no level ground. The hillside had never been disturbed!
No wonder he stood silently with bowed head. He knew now that an angel had walked with him that dark night!
Says an inspired writer, “We need to understand better than we do the mission of the angels. It would be well to remember that every true child of God has the co-operation of heavenly beings. Invisible armies of light and power attend the meek and lowly ones who believe and claim the promises of God.”
And from the same pen we read: “not until the providences of God are seen in the light of eternity shall we understand what we owe to the care and interposition of His angels. Celestial beings have taken an active part in the affairs of men. They have appeared in garments that shone as the lightning, they have come as men, in the garb as wayfarers. They have accepted the hospitalities of human homes; they have acted as guides to benighted travelers.”
Angels as guides? Yes, again and again!