An English soldier in India, who seemed to be a hopeless drunkard, had been brought time and again before his superior officer for drinking and severely punished.
"Here he is again," said this officer one day, when the man was brought before him by a sergeant. "Flogging, disgrace, solitary confinement, everything we can think of, has been tried to cure this man of drinking and it is no use. He is hopeless."
"Pardon me, sir," the sergeant said, "but there is one thing that we haven't tried yet." "Well, sir, what is it?" "He has never been forgiven, sir." "Forgiven!" shouted the officer, with a look of blank astonishment, but turning to the culprit he said, "What have you to say to this charge." "Nothing, sir," replied the man; "only I am awfully sorry for having got drunk again." "Well," said the officer, "we certainly have tried everything with you, and now we are going to do as the sergeant suggests, try one thing more; we are going to forgive you."
Tears streamed down the man's face as if he were a child, and thanking the officer he retired, apparently a hopeless victim of drink. But no, this first kindness of his Colonel touched his heart, and he resolved that he would never drink again. The chaplain of his regiment, who told the story, said that the man became a model soldier and never again had to be reprimanded for drinking.
The miracle worked in this drunken soldier by forgiving love is proof that the age of miracles has not passed. It will never pass while love endures, for love is continually working miracles in all sorts of people.
The possibilities of a single individual as illustrated in "The Passing of the Third Floor Back" to revolutionize a whole household by the power of love alone are not exaggerated.
Those who have seen or read the play will remember how, in response to an advertisement in a London paper, "Room to let, third floor back," comes a remarkable man, who is given the title of "The Stranger." This man takes the third floor back, and finds himself in a boarding-house filled with questionable characters. Among them are petty thieves, gamblers, a rogue, a bully, a snob, a shrew, people who had led fast lives, and all sorts of uncharitable, envious, men and women. They stoop to every kind of meanness. One woman even steals candles. Every one tries to cheat every one else and is cheated in return. The landlady is of the same type as her boarders. She preys on them and they prey on her. She waters the milk, adulterates the food, steals and overcharges, and then to keep herself from being robbed she puts everything under lock and key.
In spite of the fact that they all make fun of the newcomer because he does not fall into their vicious ways, he takes no offense, but on the contrary gives them kindness and courtesy in return. Not only that, but he seems to see in each of them something good, some fine qualities or talents which they had not discovered themselves. Beneath all their wickedness, their dishonesty, their licentiousness, their gambling propensities, he recognizes in these unfortunate people the divinity of their being, the reality of themselves.
He would talk to the rogue about his splendid ability, his latent powers, the resources which he was not using, the great possibilities there were in him. He would tell the bully what fine things he was capable of doing if he would only arouse and get hold of his real self. He assured one young man who took especial delight in making fun of him, that he really had great artistic ability which he should cultivate. To another he pointed out his unusual musical talent. And so, he tried to encourage each in turn, his whole aim being to arouse the divinity in his fellow-boarders, to show them that there was something better in them than what they were using.
The bully and the "painted lady," his wife, had managed to get their daughter engaged to a man of wealth, although she did not love him. But she was going to sell herself for money, as that was what her parents were after. The new boarder persuaded the girl to listen to her own heart, and marry only the man she loved. This she finally did, and the rich man, whose money her parents had coveted, under the influence of the occupant of the third floor back, became her very helpful friend.
Under the same benign influence the shrewish landlady was also transformed. She ceased watering the milk, adulterating the foods, stealing from her boarders, and locking things up to guard against their stealing from her. She began to trust people, to trust herself, to have more respect for herself and others. She turned over a new leaf in her treatment of her poor little "slavey" who, previous to the new boarder's advent, had received nothing from her but abuse and ill treatment.
She had constantly taunted the girl with the fact that she had been an inmate of the workhouse, that she was a nobody, that she didn't amount to anything and never would. And although she worked the girl nearly to death, she rarely gave her an evening off. Now the woman's manner began to soften toward her, and one day she surprised the girl by telling her she looked tired and that she had better run out doors for a change. In fact, the hitherto harsh, slave-driving mis tress became kind and considerate, more like a mother than a brutal employer.
The poor slavey herself was an object of especial interest to the Stranger. He persistently encouraged her and tried to show her that she was not the nobody her mistress had been telling her she was, and like all the others he inspired her with a new feeling of respect for herself and a new and enlarged estimate of her possibilities. Through the stimulus of the love spirit she ultimately became a fine, self-reliant, noble woman.
In a short time, the whole atmosphere of the house was changed. Every occupant of it responded to the divine influence of the gentle, unobtrusive lodger who was really a personification of the Christ spirit. He had shown every man and woman of that discordant jangling household his or her better self, and so, literally, made them anew. They had been born again.