Daniel Whittle shares with us the account of a colporteur – someone employed by a religious society in the 1800s to spread the Word door-to-door by selling religious books. Only this colporteur forgot the “why” for his work!
A colporteur in the Wabash valley became quite discouraged and was almost ready to give up his work, on account of the smallness of his sales. On every side, his ears were filled with complaints of ‘hard times’ – the wheat crop had partially failed two years in succession, the California emigration, and railroad and plank-road speculations had almost drained the country of money. Frequently he would be told, that if he could come after harvest they would buy his books, but that it was impossible to do so then.
His sales were daily decreasing, and he became more and more disheartened, until one night, after a laborious day’s effort, he found that he had only sold twenty-five cents’ worth! He felt that he could not go on in this way any longer. He was wasting his strength and time, and the money of the Society.
On examination of the state of his heart, he found that it had, gradually and almost unconsciously, grown cold and departed far from Christ. He felt that he had not prayed as he ought to have done, especially he had neglected each morning, and on his approach to each dwelling, to pray that then and there God would guide him, and own and bless his efforts to sell books. He saw that probably here was at least a part of the cause why his sales had become so small.
Early the next morning, before any of the family were up, he arose and retired to the adjoining woods, where he had a long and precious season of communion with God. There he anew dedicated himself and his all to the service of Christ. There, as under the eye of the Master, he reviewed the time he had labored as a colporteur, and prayed for forgiveness for the past and grace for the future. There he told the Saviour all about his work, and asked him to go with him that day, preparing the way and enabling him to succeed in the work on which he had entered.
The result was what might have been expected. He went forth a new man; his heart was interested more deeply in the truths which he was circulating – they were more precious than ever to his own soul, and he could recommend his books, as he failed to do when his heart was cold and prayerless.
That first day he sold more books than during the whole week before. In one instance, he sold several dollars’ worth in a family where, as he was afterwards told by pious men in the neighborhood, the father was most bitterly opposed to everything connected with true religion. God had prepared that man’s heart, so that he was ready to purchase quite a library for his family.
And in many families that met him that day with the usual salutation, ‘no money,’ he succeeded in disposing of more than one volume by sale.
As he went from family to family, lifting up his heart in prayer to God for success in the particular object of his visit, God heard his prayers and owned his efforts. And so, he assured me, it had been since; whenever he had been prayerful – prayerful for this particular object – and then had diligently and faithfully done his best, he had invariably succeeded in doing even more than he expected.