A HEAVY SPLASH was followed by many ripples, and then the water below the pier was still. An American crouched on the low Indian pier, his eyes riveted on the place where a stream of little bubbles rose to the surface from deep under the water. In a moment a black head appeared and a pair of bright eyes looked up. Then the old Indian pearl diver was clambering onto the dock, grinning and shaking the water from his shining, oily body.
“As nice a dive as I’ve ever seen, Rambhau!” cried David Morse, the American missionary.
“Look at this one, sahib,” said Rambhau, taking a big oyster from between his teeth. “I think it’ll be good.”
“Rambhau! Look!” exclaimed Morse, “Why it’s a treasure!”
“Oh, yes, but there are better pearls, much better. Why, I have one—” his voice trailed off. “See this one—the imperfections—the black speck here, this tiny dent, even in shape it is a bit oblong, but good enough as pearls go.”
“Your eye is too sharp for your own good, friend,” lamented Morse. “I would never ask for a more perfect pearl!”
“It is just as you say of your God. To themselves people look perfect, but God sees them as they actually are.” The two men started down the dusty road to the town.
“You’re right, Rambhau. And God offers perfect righteousness to all who will simply believe and accept His free offer of salvation. He says, ‘The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23). Can’t you see that, my friend?”
“No, sahib. As so many times before I have told you, it’s too easy. That is where your good religion breaks down. I cannot accept that. Perhaps I am too proud. I must work for my place in heaven, or I would always be uncomfortable.”
“Oh, Rambhau!” Behind the missionary’s words were years of prayer for this man. “You are getting older now. Perhaps this is your last season of diving for pearls. If you ever want to see heaven’s gates of pearl, you must accept the new life God offers you in His Son.”
“My last season! Yes, you are right. Today was my last day of diving. This is the last month of the year, and I have preparations to make.”
“You should be making preparations for the life to come.”
“That’s just what I’m going to do. The first day of the New Year I begin my pilgrimage. All my life I have planned it. I shall make sure of heaven this time. I am going to Delhi on my knees.”
“No! Never! It’s nine hundred miles to Delhi! The skin will break on your knees, and you’ll have blood poisoning or leprosy before you get to Bombay.”
“But, I must get to Delhi. And then the immortals will reward me. The suffering will be sweet, for it will purchase heaven for me.”
“Rambhau! My friend! You can’t! How can I let you do this when Jesus Christ has died to purchase heaven for you!”
But the old man could not be moved. On the afternoon of Christmas Day, Morse answered a knock at the door to find Rambhau there.
“My good friend!” cried Morse. “Come in, Rambhau.”
“No,” said the pearl diver, “I want you to come with me to my house, sahib, for a short time. I have something to show you. Please do not say no.”
The heart of the missionary leaped. Perhaps God was answering his prayer at last.
“Of course I’ll come,” he said.
“I leave for Delhi just one week from today, you know,” said Rambhau as they neared his house ten minutes later. The missionary’s heart sank.
Inside, Morse was ushered to a seat his friend had built especially for him. Rambhau left the room to return soon with a small but heavy English strongbox.
“I have had this box for years,” he said. “I keep only one thing in it. Now I will tell you about it. Sahib Morse, I once had a son.”
“A son! Why, Rambhau, you have never said a word about him!”
“No, sahib, I couldn’t.” Even as he spoke the diver’s eyes moistened. “Now I must tell you, for soon I will leave, and who knows whether I shall ever return? My son was a diver too. He was the best pearl diver on the coasts of India. He had the swiftest dive, the keenest eye, the strongest arm, the longest breath of any man who sought for pearls. What joy he brought to me! He always dreamed of finding a pearl beyond all that had ever been found. One day he found it. But when he saw it, he had already been underwater too long. He lost his life soon after.” The old pearl diver bowed his head for a moment.
“All these years I have kept the pearl,” he continued, “but now I am going, not to return. I know that this is a day among Christians for the giving of gifts, and to you, my best friend, I am giving my pearl.”
The old man worked the combination on the strongbox and drew from it a carefully wrapped package. Gently opening the cotton, he picked up a mammoth pearl and placed it in the hand of the missionary. It was one of the largest pearls ever found off the coast of India, and it glowed with a luster and brilliance never seen in cultured pearls. It would have brought a fabulous sum in any market.
For a moment the missionary was speechless and gazed with awe.
“Rambhau! What a pearl!”
“That pearl, sahib, is perfect,” replied the Indian quietly.
“Rambhau,” he said, “this is a wonderful pearl, an amazing pearl. Let me buy it. I would give you ten thousand dollars for it, or if it takes more I will work for it.”
“Sahib,” said Rambhau, stiffening his whole body, “this pearl is beyond all price. No man in all the world has money enough to say what this pearl is worth to me. I will not sell it to you. You may have it only as a gift.”
“No, Rambhau, I cannot accept that. As much as I want the pearl, I cannot accept it that way. Perhaps I am proud, but that is too easy. I must pay for it or work for it.”
The old pearl diver was stunned.
“You don’t understand, sahib. Don’t you see? My only son gave his life to get this pearl, and I wouldn’t sell it for any money. Its worth is in the lifeblood of my son. I cannot sell this, but I can give it to you. Just accept it in token of the love I bear you.”
The missionary was choked and for a moment could not speak. Then he gripped the hand of the old man.
“Rambhau,” he said in a low voice, “don’t you see? That is just what you have been saying to God.”
The diver looked long and searchingly at the missionary and slowly, slowly he began to understand.
“God is offering you everlasting life as a free gift. It is so great and priceless that no man on earth could buy it. No man on earth could earn it. His life would be millions of years too short. No man is good enough to deserve it. It cost God the lifeblood of His only Son to make the entrance for you into heaven. In a million years, in a hundred pilgrimages, you could not earn that entrance. All you can do is to accept it as a token of God’s love for you, a sinner. Rambhau, won’t you accept God’s great gift of eternal life, in deep humility, knowing it cost Him the death of His Son to offer it to you?”
“Sahib, I see it now. I have believed in the doctrine of Jesus for two years, but I could not believe that His salvation was free. Now I understand. Some things are too priceless to be bought or earned. Sahib, I will accept His salvation.”
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