My Dear Children,


During a time of persecution, a young Christian was kept for a space in solitary confinement in a bare and cold cell, fed - most days - only on bread and water.  He was often harshly treated by gaolers, [i.e., jailers – men in charge of prisoners] and in consequence of this, and of the many indignities, the nerve-racking noises, and - to one gently reared - the horrifying experiences of prison routine, his life was one of great strain.  He had gone to prison for obeying the Word of God at a time when the law of the land forbade such obedience, and he knew that God was with him in his cell, and that He had a purpose in this imprisonment so that His child's presence there for obedience' sake was itself an act of witness which He would use for His own glory, and the prisoner was steadfast in his determination to endure to the end.  Nevertheless, as time passed, he often wondered whether the Lord would speedily deliver him, or whether His will would be to leave him there, as it were, indefinitely.


One day, being desolate in heart, he stood a-tiptoe on his stool (which, with a Bible and mug of water, constituted the cell's sole furniture), and looked upwards through the tiny square of window towards the sky, visible above high walls.  Presently, his eye lighted on a spider’s web, woven across the pane, and - caught in its meshes - a tiny fly, or “midge.”  Whereupon, he communed thus with himself:-Shall I, a captive longing for liberty, tolerate the captivity of this helpless creature beside me? But then - God has so arranged it.  He has appointed to the spider his meat; and the fly which, after all, is a pest, is ordained as meat for the spider.  I am hungry; if I deprive the spider, will he not be hungry too?  But then again, if I spare this fly, I do not starve the spider, for he is under no necessity to catch his prey just here.  There is something indecent in this setting up of a prison within a prison!  The window is open - let him spin a web elsewhere, and furnish his larder. My pity must be for my fellow-prisoner!


With that, he picked up a wooden splinter, on which a hunk of bread had been spitted and tossed to him, approaching it cautiously to the web.  But as he touched the threads, the poor fly made frantic efforts to break loose, buzzing in terror, and entangling itself more and more.  Silly wee fly!” exclaimed the prisoner, “will you not be quiet?  Don't you know that I am your friend?  Already you have made it more difficult for me to save you.  You have got the threads round you tighter than ever, and how I am to pull them off without pulling your limbs with them is more than I can tell!


Then, like a flash, came another thought.  Why, that's just like myself!  Here am I so easily made afraid when - for aught I know ‑ the very things from which I shrink may betoken the approach of God's merciful hand working for my deliverance. And it may be as difficult to deliver me as it is to rescue this fly, and may need as great delicacy of manipulation lest I be hurt and the balance of His larger plans disturbed in the process.  I must not struggle as it struggles, trying to escape from the one who would save, but be still, and trust my Deliverer, putting away uneasy questionings as to the method He may employ to deliver me, and accepting all - even that which looks terrifying - from His love.  The wisest thing I can do is to get on with my own work, which is to continue in the presence of God, and by His Grace to witness as faithfully as I am able to my gaolers and all with whom I am brought into contact, leaving the question of my liberation entirely to the judgment of my Lord Himself.  For life or for death I am Christ’s.  He may require my life or my death for His Glory - my continued imprisonment or my freedom. Only let Him do with me, as seemeth Him good!


Still musing, he set himself to rescue the tiny fly, patiently seeking to extricate without maiming it, appealing to it to be quiet, and soon it would be at liberty.  The fly neither knew nor heeded.  But at last, in spite of itself, it was free, save for a few tattered shreds of web sticking to it which human skill could not entirely remove.  Thus it was sent forth - nor can we say for certain whether it recovered and lived to enjoy its freedom, or whether it succumbed to some subtle poison which may have clung to it through contact with the spider's web.  For man saves not as Christ is able to save “to the uttermost” (Heb. 7: 25), and only to ONE can the prayer be made with confidence:-heal me, 0 Lord, and I shall be healed.  Save me, and I shall be saved. For Thou art my praise” (Jer. 17: 14).


And to you, dear young reader, who have not yet fled to Christ as your Refuge, I would say:- if this picture illustrates some aspects of Christian experience, does it not also portray you, entangled in the fatal snare of him who “was a murderer from the begin­ning?  Yet, “if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8: 36, 44).  Will you not cry to Him?  For you cannot save yourself, but “whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2: 21).


Your affectionate friend,


                                   HELEN RAMSAY.