This is a classic of Canadian literature written by a prairie Presbyterian minister using the pen name Ralph Connor.
It traces the growth of a young Christian man in the Townships at the eastern end of Ontario and near the Ottawa River. The protagonist goes to work in a lumber operation and rises in the organization as he acquires quite honourably the favour of the owners.
It has been a long time since I read the book. The part that sticks in my memory has to do with the forest logging and the treacherous river ride of the cut logs in a huge mass contained within a boomed perimeter.
A French Canadian is heralded as the master at riding the logs with sturdy boots and gaffed pole. A severe workplace accident is described in detail as the man becomes isolated on a section which comes into furious rough water. Eventually he loses his balance and falls between the wooden monsters and is crushed and drowned.
We then come to the logging camp funeral where the superintendent is called upon to say a few kind words. He mentions the years of dedication, the tireless effort of each work day and the happy esprit de corps. Surely the good logger will be missed. God rest his soul.
But that is not all. An old Scot who has been with the Company longer than most is the reputed spiritual mentor of the men. Always a willingness with sincere and appropriate prayer. Always a facility in saying a good word in season from the Book of books. But his countenance now is troubled. He must be entirely honest before the men for sake of their own souls. He speaks bracing words:
“Aye, and the gewd Jacque* wull trewly be messed. But ah must say men that a’am lewkin’ fer the signs – signs of peace made with ower Holy Gawd. Signs of a broken an’ contrite sperit, havin’ gone threw the Vale o’ Repentance. A’ve seen it not, an’ ah moost warn ye men that a gewd disposition and a hearty desire to dew one’s best wull not do the busness of salvation. One moost ne’er be too certain of oneself.
Ah pray trewly that there’s summat a’ve messed. The judgment is the thing I’ll be warnin’ ye of. Bless all yew fine men. In Jesus’ name.”
(Note: We have all attended funerals where the words have been kind and the preacher has attempted to celebrate a life and apply the hope of glory to that life. What must be the pain when the preacher sees no signs of grace in operation? No putting of Christ’s agenda first.)
(*name escapes me)