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Authors: Al Lacy

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“Well, if he was gonna listen to anybody on this plantation, Ol’ Mose, it would be you. But I’ll sure be a-prayin’ the Lawd will give you wisdom and power as you keep talkin’ to him.”

The next day, when Mose was working inside the Colvin mansion, Martha set him to work using a feather duster in each room where two of the maids had swept the floors and cleaned furniture ahead of him.

When Mose entered the library, Finn was there sitting in an overstuffed chair, reading a book. He looked up and said, “The maids told me you would be coming in to dust.”

“I’ll hurry, Massa Finn.”

“No need to hurry, Ol’ Mose. Just do your job thoroughly.”

“I will, suh.” Mose started with one of the paintings on the wall. Soon the old slave preacher was at the bookshelves, working the feather duster to rid dust from the spines of books on the long rows. When he came to the old Bible that lay on its side, he smiled at it. He had dusted it many times in days gone by but had never opened it.

He glanced at Finn Colvin and noted that the man was
engrossed in the book he was reading. Ol’ Mose picked up the Bible, pulled a soft cloth from his hip pocket, and began wiping dust from its cover. He looked back at Colvin, and this time found the man’s eyes on him.

Mose held the Bible a little higher and said, “My, my, Massa Finn. This Bible has gathered a lot of dust. Do you ever read it?”

Finn laughed dryly. “Naw. I have many more important books to read than that outdated Bible. My grandmother gave it to me when I was in my teens, but I’ve never looked between the covers.”

“Outdated, Massa?” Mose flipped the pages of the Bible. “Oh, it isn’t outdated, suh. It is the Word of God, and it never goes out of date. With God there is no past or future, just eternal now. This is why the Lord was able to give His Word as He did, and all of its prophecies are true.”

Finn chuckled hollowly. “They are?”

“Yes, suh. For sure. Many of the prophecies, written thousands of years ago, have already come true. I mean, to the letter. And all the other prophecies will come true in God’s time, even those about judgment to come against sinners who have rejected God’s precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Finn didn’t respond, though his eyes were still on the old man. He gave a slight shake to his head and went back to reading his book.

Mose flipped page after page in the New Testament, noticing that salvation passages and those about heaven and hell had been underlined.

“I see yo’ grandmother marked lots of verses in here, Massa.”

Finn looked up. “Oh? Well, like I said, Mose, I’ve never looked inside.”

“You really should.” The old man was praying in his heart for God to use him at that moment. “Listen to this place that she underlined. John the third chapter. The Lord Jesus is talkin’ to one of the rulers in Israel. Verse 3: ‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ ”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Massa Finn …”

“Yeah?”

“I talked to you ’bout this before. You need to be born again or you can’t go to heaven.”

Finn laughed mockingly. “Being born once is enough for me, Mose.”

“But it’s not enough for the Lord, Massa. Your grandmother underlined verse 7 here. Jesus said, ‘Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.’ To be a child of God, you have to admit to the Lord that you are a lost sinner and receive the Lord Jesus into your heart. Only God’s children go to heaven when they die, Massa. Lost people go to hell.”

“So says that old outdated Book, Mose. I’m not worried about hell. Go ahead and get your dusting done.”

Mose swallowed hard, determined to press harder since Finn Colvin had not become angry up to this point.

“M
ASSA
F
INN, IN THE BOOK OF
R
OMANS
, God says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. That includes you and me, does it not?”

Finn, who was looking down at the book in his lap, lifted his eyes and said, “Nobody’s perfect, Mose.”

“True, suh, but we are sinners before God. We sin on purpose, and this makes us guilty before Him. As sinners, we need to be forgiven, and we need to be saved.”

Mose’s eyes settled on a page he had purposely found. He was pleased to see that Finn’s grandmother had underlined the verse he planned to read. Though his vision was hindered, like the other verses he had shared with Colvin, he followed it with his eyes but was actually quoting from memory.

“Massa, the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.…’ Jesus is the only one who can save us and forgive our sins, Massa Finn. Ol’ Mose repented of his wicked ol’ sin many years ago and took Jesus into his heart. John 1:12 says about Jesus, that ‘as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.’

“Ol’ Mose is goin’ to heaven because he has received Jesus and been born again, Massa … born into God’s family. God’s only begotten Son went to the cross of Calvary and paid the price to save sinners. But He will only save those who will put their faith in Him. Those who do are heaven-bound. Those who don’t are hell-bound. Jesus said hell is everlasting fire, Massa.”

“Look, Mose,” Finn said, “we’ve had this conversation many times before and I’ve heard you preach the slave burials and tell the same thing. I’m simply not interested.”

“But, Massa, one day you will die. If you die without Jesus, you—”

“That’s enough, Mose! I have different beliefs about life, death, and eternity, as does the rest of my family. I don’t care what the Bible says. I don’t believe it.”

Heavy of heart, the old man said, “Massa Finn, I simply care about you and your family. I don’t want any of you to go to hell when you die.”

The plantation owner wiped a hand over his mouth. “Mose, we aren’t going to hell. I don’t believe in hell. My family and I are good people, and good people go to heaven.”

“Massa Finn, how do you know there is a heaven? The only way mankind has ever heard that there is a heaven is from the Word of God—the Bible.”

For a few seconds, Finn Colvin’s mouth was stopped. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I do believe that part of the Bible, Mose.”

“But, Massa, the same Bible that says there is a heaven says there is a hell.”

Again, Finn was speechless.

Mose took advantage of the silence to say, “Massa, the existence of heaven demands the existence of hell.”

Finn Colvin drummed the book in his lap with his fingertips. “And why is that?”

“You said that good people go to heaven. Are there bad people, Massa?”

“Well, of course.”

“Then, where do the bad people go?”

“Look, Mose. Let’s just say that I believe part of the Bible. It can’t all be true. I don’t believe I need to be saved. I don’t believe that part of the Bible, nor the part about an eternal burning hell for people who don’t get saved … or born again, as you call it.”

Tears filmed Mose’s eyes. “But Massa Finn, what if you are wrong and the Bible is right? That means without Jesus in your heart, you will die and spend eternity in hell. Please don’t reject Him any more. Please open your heart—”

“That’s enough, Mose! I want to get back to my book. You get your dusting done.”

Mose nodded. “Yes, Massa.”

He put the Bible back on the shelf and went back to his work.

Colvin did not look up from his book until the old man had left the library, closing the door behind him. Seconds after the door went shut, Finn Colvin pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his sweaty brow.

Mose’s words reverberated through his mind:
Massa Finn, what if you are wrong and the Bible is right? That means without Jesus in your heart, you will die and spend eternity in hell
.

Finn laid down his book and went to the bookshelves. With dry mouth and trembling hand, he picked up the Bible and opened it to the New Testament, noting verses his grandmother had underlined. He took a few minutes to read the underlined passages on several pages, then closed the Bible and returned it to the shelf.

When he sat down in the chair again and picked up his book, he found it difficult to concentrate. The Scriptures he had just read, and those read and quoted to him by Ol’ Mose kept pressing themselves into his mind.

Dan Johnson opened the door to Charleston’s post office and greeted a man and woman who were just leaving, then went to the counter.

“Hello, Dan,” said the clerk.

“Hello, Eugene. I’m just here to pick up the mail.”

The clerk pivoted and disappeared behind a partition.

Seconds later, he returned, bearing a small stack of envelopes. “Here you are, Dan.”

“Thanks, Eugene. See you later.” As he spoke, Dan’s eyes fell to the envelope on top. “Oh! Good!”

Eugene cocked his head. “Somebody you’ve been wanting to hear from, I take it?”

“Yes. You remember the Wickburgs?”

“Oh, sure. Sold their plantation a couple of years ago and moved out West.”

“Right. Their oldest son, Bill, was one of my closest friends in school and at church.”

“I remember that.”

“This letter is from Bill. We’ve been corresponding some.”

“I see. Where are they living out there?”

“Texas. They’ve got a large cattle ranch about ten miles south of Austin and are doing well.”

“I’m glad for them. Nice people.”

Dan nodded and headed for the door. “See you later.”

At the Johnson plantation, Zack entered the kitchen, sniffed the pleasant aroma, and smiled at their cook, saying, “Sure smells good, Samantha.”

The silver-haired cook gave him a big smile. “Thank you, Massa Zack. Cornbread and beans. Yo’ favorite.”

Zack headed for the table, where Catherine, Alexander, and Angeline were already seated. He looked at Dan’s empty chair. “He’s not back from town?”

“No,” Catherine said. “We’ll have to go ahead and eat lunch without him.”

Zack looked at his youngest son. “It’s your turn to pray, isn’t it, Alexander?”

“Yes, sir.”

During Alexander’s prayer, there were footsteps on the back porch, and just as he said the amen, the door opened.

“Sorry to be late,” Dan said. “I ran into Jed Farnham and Foster
Wiggins when I came out of the post office. I told them I had a letter from Bill Wickburg, and they wanted to know all about how the Wickburgs are doing in Texas. Took a few minutes to tell them what I know without opening the letter and reading it right there. I did read it after I was in the buggy.”

“Well, get your hands washed, son,” said Catherine.

“Okay.” Dan laid the mail on the cupboard and sniffed the pleasant aroma. He grinned at the cook. “Ah-h-h, Samantha. Cornbread and beans. You are the best cook in Charleston County.”

Samantha giggled. “How does you know that, Massa Dan? You ain’t eaten all the other cooks’ food in the county.”

He went to the washstand then looked over his shoulder and said, “Don’t have to. When you have the best, you know it.”

Samantha giggled again. “Well, if I’s that good, why haven’t you said anythin’ about takin’ me to the West with you when you go out there to become a cattle rancher? Somebody’s gotta cook fo’ you.”

Dipping his hands into the soapy water in the basin, he said, “Sh-h-h! Don’t tell that bunch at the table, but I am planning to take you with me!”

Zack laughed. “No way, son. You’d have to buy her from me, and Samantha’s not for sale. Not at any price.”

“Then I guess I’ll just have to kidnap her!”

“We’ll talk about it later, Massa Dan,” said the cook. “Now, all of you enjoy yo’ cornbread and beans. I’ll be back to clean up in a little while.”

As the Johnson family started to eat, Zack said, “So what did Bill say in his letter, Dan?”

“Well, Pa, it’s full of how great the cattle ranching business is in Texas, and how happy he and his parents are to be there.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Catherine. “Certainly it was God’s will for them to sell their plantation and go West.”

“I would say so,” said Zack. “When a Christian is in God’s will, he is content.”

Alexander looked at his brother and said, “Is this why you aren’t
content to be here anymore, Dan … because the Lord wants you in the West?”

“I’m really beginning to feel strongly that way, little brother. Bill’s encouraging me to come to Texas, since he knows I feel I should be in the West. He says Texas is the place to be out there if a man wants to get into cattle ranching.”

“Texas is God’s place for Bill and his family,” Zack said. “But that might not mean that’s where God wants you, Dan.”

“Maybe not, Pa, but I’m sure going to be praying about it.”

“Please put a lot of prayer into it, son,” Catherine said. “Your father and I are. As we have cautioned you … don’t rush it.”

“I won’t, sweet mother. Oh! And something else Bill told me in his letter. He’s getting married!”

Angeline gasped. “Really? Found him a nice Christian girl out in Texas, huh?”

“No.”

“What do you mean?” Catherine said. “He’s not marrying a Christian girl?”

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