“Except Joe Whitbread”
The following circumstances were related by a gracious lady, shortly before she died. She was visiting in Dorset and had been asked by the friend with whom she was staying, to go and see a poor woman in a village about two miles from Bridport.
On arriving at the cottage, she learned from a neighbour that the woman she had come to see had gone out.
But this neighbour, hearing that she had called to speak to the woman about the Word of God, said there was a poor sick man a few doors lower down, named Joe Whitbread, who would be glad of a visit.
Whereupon the visitor immediately went to his house, and after knocking at the door, as no one answered, walked in. She found the man was alone, and in fact very ill, being doubled up with pain before the fire.
After speaking to him for a few minutes about his complaint, she turned the conversation to his state before God.
Without hesitation he declared that in that respect he was alright, as he had never injured anyone in his life, and was not a bit afraid to die, altogether indicating his state to be one of complete self- righteousness.
Having heard all that he had to say, without making any answer, she asked if she might read a portion of Scripture to him, to which he quite readily agreed.
Accordingly, she opened her Bible at the Scripture commencing Romans 3:9, reading it as follows, very slowly, and with much emphasis upon the words in italics:
“What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” – except Joe Whitbread.
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one” – except Joe Whitbread.
“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” – except Joe Whitbread.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” – except Joe Whitbread.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” – except Joe Whitbread.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” – except Joe Whitbread.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” – except Joe Whitbread.
When she came to the last of these verses, he cried out in great distress:
“Oh, stop, ma’am!”
She, affecting surprise asked what was the matter, remarking:
“I’m only putting together what God says and what you say. God says: ‘All have sinned,’ and you say you have not; so that all must be except Joe Whitbread.”
Only a few more words were passed and she left.
A day or two afterwards, this lady went again to the house; but to her surprise was refused admittance. His wife was at home this time and said that her husband was confined to bed, very much worse in health, and not able to see anyone.
Asking a few more questions, it came to light that the clergyman had been to see the sick man, and was very much surprised to find how his parishioner had been disturbed from the false security in which he had previously been so completely lulled; that he had received the sacrament, administered by the clergyman, who had assured him that all was right; and they were charged on no account to admit the lady to see him a second time.
As the man’s wife persisted in obeying these instructions, she had very reluctantly to forego an interview with the poor invalid.
Believing, however, that the Lord would still open a way for her to go, she made a third visit some days later, when she found the woman agreeable, and was able to gain admission to the bed of the dying sufferer. The moment she appeared in the room, his face brightened with joy and he told her how much he had been longing for her to come.
He then related what agonies of soul he had gone through since they last met, so much so that a report began to spread in the village that he had lost his reason.
The truth was that the Lord had revealed Himself to him, and he now knew peace, of a very different nature from that false peace he had been resting in not many weeks ago.
They accordingly rejoiced together for the wondrous grace that had rescued him from the self-righteousness in which Satan had so long held him a prey. It was not many days after this that he fell asleep, ‘made meet’ we believe, to be an inheritor with the saints in light.
Friendly Companion – 1929