based on 1 Timothy 6:9
Over two hundred ago, on a summer day like this, a solitary horseman departed
from a cave situated north of the town of Howard and rode 3 1/2 miles to the
Niels Creek Road. He was one of those cut-throats and highwaymen who hid out in
that place called “the Castle”.
The group was made up of Delaware Indians, deserters from the British army,
escaped convicts, fugitive slaves and refugees from various Indian tribes. These
people would prey upon travelers along the banks of the Cohocton river.
This particular man wore a patch over one eye and he rode a huge black horse
that was famous for its speed, whose name, strangely, was ,,, “Damnation”.
On this day, which was a Monday, it was this man’s great misfortune to begin
to follow the footprints of another horse and rider which he hoped would become
his very next victim. The tracks led him away from the river, through thick
brush and into a water-logged forest known today as “the haunted swamp.”
B. I think you know whose trail he was following. It was the trail of our
friend, the ancient circuit-rider astride his loyal horse whose name, (as you
some of you know), was “Revelation.”
Instinctively, the preacher knew he was being trailed. “”Whoa,
Revelation”, he whispered. The preacher dismounted and backed his horse into a
shadowy covert. Silently, he pulled back the hammer of his rifle and primed it.
He took aim at the path and the bandit rode into his sights, “Hold right there
and don’t move.” But the out-law did not want to be captured. He spurred his
horse. Damnation reared and bolted from the path. Horse and rider splashed into
the water of the swamp.
The strong horse swam across a small dark pond and climbed out on a spit of
sand where the highwayman then dismounted and prepared to defend himself.
He had too much gold in his saddle-bags to escape, but he was not afraid of a
fight to the finish in order to keep it.
II. A. He heard the preacher’s voice, but saw nothing. “Well, brother, it
seems that today I will save you!” The highwayman said something vulgar in
return. Then he added, “what good is salvation to the likes of me? Is there
heaven in a noose?”
“It is your soul I want,” said the preacher. “”Let the sheriff catch
your body. But I would save that as well.”
“How so?” asked the robber.
“Your feet and the feet of your horse are planted in quicksand.” The man
looked down and saw the quicksand that had risen to his ankles.
At this point he demonstrated the virtue of his horse’s name.
“Damnation!” he cried, whereupon the horse of that same name understood
the danger to itself and tried to leap. All it could manage was the sound of
hooves sucking in the wet trap.
“Take this rope and tie it to your bridle,” cried the preacher,
“Revelation will pull you both to safety.” He threw the rope and it was
tied. Revelation pulled, and slowly the other giant horse broke free. No sooner
had it done so, than it swam across the pond to safety. The bandit was clinging
to the pommel.
He lay on the ground dripping and looked up at the preacher.
“I owe you my life,” he said. “Will you take some gold and let me
go?” “Better than that,” said the preacher. “You may go and take your
gold, but not without a bit of sermon.” “Sermon?” said the man, “if you
are what you seem to be, that is-- a Methodist,,,,, would I not be better off to
sink beneath the swamp than to endure a lengthy sermon?”
“Well then, if that is how you feel, let me serve simply as your
prophet.” “And what exactly is a prophet?” “A prophet,” said the
preacher, “mearly speaks the word of God, and leaves the listener to live out
his or her reaction.”
“What am I to God?” asked the highwayman. “You were made in His own
image, so you are much. Our Lord would have you with him forever. But the choice
“Then be a prophet. Tell me something true that even you people who call
yourselves ‘Methodists’ would rather never hear.
Read it from the Bible and pick some aspect of your faith that many in the
flock ignore. I want to be amused while I am educated.” “That will be
easy”, said the preacher.
There is one verse from the New Testament that our founder repeats to no
avail. Now the circuit-rider opened his Bible to 1 Timothy 6:9. He read: “They
that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and
hurtful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
I think this applies to you quite nicely, given that Revelation has just
pulled you from a drowning and a snare.”
The highwayman was silent. Then be burst out, “But you said this applies to
Methodists as well. What snares have they that riches make?”
Now Revelation the horse rolled his eyes as if to say, “You had to ask,
“There, there, Revelation, this will ease the pain.” The preacher pulled
out a flask, pulled the cork and gave the horse a drink.
“He doesn’t like to hear this either.”
“Be a prophet then and get it over. Tell me what the Bible and John Wesley
have to say to me and Methodists.”
“Any money more than what you need to pay your debts, to live a modest
life, to support your children and your home, should be used for the benefit of
fellow Methodists first, then for other Christians, and then for humanity at
John Wesley has preached upon the subject many times, and those who would be
Methodists, he argues, must follow his advice to bear the title,
“That theology is hard,” said outlaw. “Do you preach it?” “I preach
it not,” said the ancient circuit rider. “I am prophetic. I tell this
teaching to every church and then I close the book. I say, “It is in the
Bible, spoken by Paul. It is in the Book of Discipline, put there by John
Wesley, and it will be there even in the 21st century. You have heard the
rule,,, choose to live like Methodists or not.” “What do they choose?”
asked the highwayman. “Do they just ‘talk the talk’, or do they ‘walk
“I never stay to learn,” said the preacher. “As Jesus said, ‘A
prophet is not respected in his home town’, so I say the words and leave. Let
them not deny the word of God because they see the preacher is too human. But I
do return, and I can tell you that every church is different.
If I were you, I would change my ways and find a church that holds 1 Timothy
6:9 to its heart.”
“Why?” asked the man.
“Because only such a church can live the will of Jesus Christ, and there is
no greater beauty on the earth than a church that does the will of God.
Take this.” He handed him a Bible.
“It is my very best, but I can buy another.”
And then he turned, and rode into the mist.