William Dixon doubted there was a God. Even if there was, he could not forgive Him for taking away his young wife, Mary, just two years after they were married. His little boy had also died, and Dixon felt desolate and bitter.
Some years after Mary’s death, a stirring event occurred in the little village of Brackenthwaite. Old Peggy Winslow’s cottage caught fire, and burned to the ground. The poor woman was pulled out alive, though nearly suffocated by smoke.
Suddenly, the bystanders heard the terrified voice of little Dickey Winslow – Peggy’s orphan grandchild. Awakened by the flames he had run shrieking to the attic window.
Horrified, the crowd gazed at the child in the window, but it was too late to save him. The stairway had already collapsed. Suddenly, William Dixon rushed to the burning cottage, climbed up the now-hot iron piping, and took the trembling boy in his arms. Down he came again, holding the child in his right arm, while supporting himself by his left. Just as the smoking wall fell, the two safely reached the ground.
Dickey wasn’t hurt, but Dixon’s hand which had held on to the piping was terribly burned. The burn healed, but left deep scars he would carry to his grave. Poor Peggy did not recover from the shock, and died soon after.
Who would look after Dickey? James Lovatt, a respectable man in the community, begged that Dickey be given to him to adopt. He and his wife longed for a little son of their own. To everyone’s surprise, Will Dixon made a similar request.
The minister, the miller and others assembled to decide between the two. Mr. Haywood, the miller, said: “It is very kind of both Lovatt and Dixon to offer to adopt the orphan boy, but I am in a great perplexity as to which of them ought to have him. Dixon having saved his life, has the firs claim. On the other hand, Lovatt has a wife, and the care of a woman is necessary to a child.”
Mr. Lipton, the minister, said: “A man of Dixon’s atheistic notions cannot be a suitable guardian for a child, while Lovatt and his wife are both Christian people, and would train up the child in the way he should go.
“Dixon saved the child’s body, but the boy will have a sad future if Dixon leads him to his eternal ruin.”
“We will hear what the applicants themselves have to say” said Mr. Haywood, “then vote, Mr. Lovatt.”
Mr. Lovatt replied: “Well, gentlemen, my wife and I lost a little boy of our own not long ago, and we feel this child would fill the vacant place. We would do our best to bring him up in the fear of the Lord. Besides, a child so young needs a woman to look after him.”
“Good, Mr. Lovatt; now, Mr. Dixon.”
“I have only one argument, sir, and it’s this,” answered Dixon quietly, as he took the bandage off his badly scarred hand and held it up for them to see.
For a few moments quiet settled over the room; the eyes of some dimmed with tears. Something in the sight of that scarred hand appealed to their sense of justice. He had a claim on the boy because he had suffered for him. So, when the question was put to a vote, the majority decided in favour of William Dixon.
Dickey never missed a mother’s care, for Will was both father and mother to the orphan boy, and lavished all the pent-up tenderness of this strong nature upon the child he had saved. So a new era began for Dixon.
Dickey was a clever boy, and quickly responded to his adopted father’s training; he adored him with all his heart. He remembered how “daddy” had saved him from the fire, and had claimed him because of the hand so dreadfully burned for his sake. It moved Dickey to tears, and he showered kisses on the hand that had been scarred for him.
One summer a great exhibition of painting came to town and Dixon took Dickey to see them. The boy was greatly interested in the pictures and the stories his daddy told about some of them. One of the Lord Jesus reproving Thomas impressed him most; underneath which were the words:
Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands.1
Dickey read the words and said, “Please, Daddy, tell me the story of that picture.”
“No, not that one!”
“Why not that one?”
“Because it’s a story I don’t believe.”
“Oh, but that’s nothing,” urged Dickey; “you don’t believe the story of Jack the Giant-killer, but it’s one of my favourites. Tell me the story of the picture, please, Daddy” So Dixon, to Dickey’s great interest, told the story.
“It’s like you and me, Daddy,” said the boy. “When the Lovatts wanted me, you showed them your hand. Maybe when Thomas saw the scars on the Good Man’s hands he felt like he belonged to Him.”
“I suppose so,” answered Dixon.
“The God Man looked so sad,” said Dickey; “I guess He was sorry that Thomas didn’t believe at first. It was bad of him not to, wasn’t it, after Jesus had died for him?”
Dixon didn’t answer, and Dickey went on, “It would have been bad of me if when they told me about you and the fire I said I didn’t believe you had done it, wouldn’t it, Daddy?”
“I don’t want to think about Him, my boy.”
“But maybe he loved Jesus after that, though – like I love you. When I see your poor hand, Daddy, I love you more than millions and millions.” Tired little Dickey fell asleep hugging his daddy.
Dixon slept fitfully that night. He couldn’t get the tender, sorrowful face in the painting out of his thoughts. He dreamed that he and Lovatt were competing for the custody of Dickey, but when he showed his scarred hand the boy turned away from him. A bitter sense of injustice surged up in his heart.
He did not yield to this influence at once, but his love for Dickey had softened his heart. Being an honest man, Dixon couldn’t help seeing that his claim to Dickey’s love condemned him, because he had denied the claim of the hands that had been pierced for him. Seeing the child’s warm-hearted gratitude toward him for saving his life, Dixon felt ashamed of himself.
After a while, Dixon’s heart became more open. He found out by reading the Bible that, just as Dickey belonged to him, so he belonged to the Saviour who had been wounded for his transgressions. Dixon finally yielded his body, soul and spirit into the keeping of the blessed hands which had been pierced for him.
Have you too bowed to the claims of Christ’s love? Can’t you see Him dying on Calvary’s cross for you – dying to put your sins away?
See from His head, His hands, His feet. Sorrow and love flowed mingled down; Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not…But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.2
His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.3
May your heart respond to the love of the Lord Jesus who died so that you could be saved. Accept him as your Saviour today.
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head! Our load was laid on Thee; Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead, To bear all ill for me. A Victim led, Thy blood was shed; Now there’s no load for me.
Bible References:1John 20:27; 2Isaiah 53:3,5; 31 Peter 2:24.