Mr. J. So I see you have been reading, my lad?
Slave. Yes, sir.
Mr. J. Well, I have a great curiosity to see what you were reading so earnestly; will you show me the book?
Slave. To be sure, sir. (And he presented it to him very respectfully.)
Mr. J. The Bible!—Pray when did you get this book? And who taught you to read it?
Slave. I thank God, sir, for the book. I do not know the good gentleman who gave it to me, but I am sure God sent it to me. I was learning to read in town at nights, and one morning a gentleman met me in the road as I had my spelling book open in my hand: he asked me if I could read, I told him a little, and he gave me this book and told me to make haste and learn to read it, and to ask God to help me, and that it would make me as happy as any body in the world.
Mr. J. Well did you do so?
Slave. I thought about it for some time, and I wondered that any body should give me a book or care about me; and I wondered what that could be which could make a poor slave like me so happy; and so I thought more and more of it, and I said I would try and do as the gentleman bid me, and blessed be God! he told me nothing but the truth.
Mr. J. Who is your master?
Slave. Mr. Wilkins, sir, who lives in that house.
Mr. J. I know him; he is a very good man; but what does he say to your leaving his work to read your book in the field?
Slave. I was not leaving his work, sir. This book does not teach me to neglect my master’s work. I could not be happy if I did that.—I have done my breakfast, sir, and am waiting till the horses are done eating.
Mr. J. Well, what does that book teach you?
Slave. Oh, sir! every thing that I want to know—all I am to do, this book tells me, and so plain. It shew me first that I was a wretched, ruined sinner, and what would become of me if I died in that state, and then when I was day and night in dread of God’s calling me to account for my wickedness, and did not know which way to look for my deliverance, reading over and over again those dreadful words, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire,” then it revealed to me how Jesus Christ had consented to come and suffer punishment for us in our stead, and bought pardon for us by his blood, and how by believing on him and serving him, I might become a child of God, so that I need be no more terrified by the thoughts of God’s anger but sure of his forgiveness and love....
(Here Mr. J. pursued his walk; but soon reflecting on what he had heard, he resolved to walk by Mr. Wilkins’s house and enquire into this affair from him. This he did, and finding him the following conversation took place between them.)
Mr. J. Sir, I have been talking with a man of yours in that field, who was engaged, while his horses were eating, in reading a book; which I asked him to shew me and found it was the Bible; thereupon I asked him some questions and his answers, and the account he gave of himself, have surprised me greatly.