A Christian Business Man
From out the bank across the road there came a gentleman, who, with steady step and quiet mien, walked up street and turned into his store.
One of a group of men pointed toward him and exclaimed, “There goes Ed Swales, the best living man in our town.”
These words were not spoken in flattery; they were not the expression of vain eulogy, but the fixed opinion of many who had watched him during years of progress and in years of depression. Many still remembered how years ago they had sought to acclaim him their mayor; a worldly honour he had declined graciously. And some of the older men about town still recalled his faithful service in days long ago as secretary of the Sons of England.
What was the secret of this man’s life? Wherein lay the source of his success? Who had taught him the art of living? Why was his life inspired and brightened by a glorious hope when others appeared distressed and fearful? We might well ask such questions as these, and search the annals of his history for their answers.
Ed. Swales had known the advantage of a mother’s prayers. Grandma Swales loved the Lord Jesus. Many simple applications of the Word of God she made to her boy’s conscience, deeply impressing him, and finally convincing him that, in spite of his morality, all was not well for Eternity. This conviction grew deeper and deeper until he was made to realize his sinnership before God, for on one occasion shortly after his marriage he went to church along with his young wife. The earnest Methodist preacher closed the meeting that night by asking the solemn question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” And although everyone else in the building arose, this young couple remained seated. They were not on the Lord’s side; they had never been born into the divine family; they were not saved, so how could they stand up and pretend a lie.
Bitterness filled Ed Swales’ soul as a true conception of sin led him to conclude that he was altogether unworthy of God’s Heaven. “How could man be just with God?” was the cry of his heart. These matters made him so unhappy that he decided to go away alone to a quiet resort called Little Current for a holiday, where with his rod and line he might enjoy himself and forget his distress.
Wyebridge is a small place on the map, but a very important place in the history of this Christian gentleman. In the summer of 1900 two evangelists pitched a tent in the village, and conducted nightly services. One July evening Grandma Swales entered the tent with her daughter-in-law, a religious young woman. The first speaker took for his text, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” The message suited the young wife for through it she saw that her way did not lead to Heaven. Anxiously she watched the second preacher take his place, and announce the text, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” She was ungodly that she knew right well, but then, Christ died for the ungodly; therefore He must have died for her. Thus through the substitutionary work of Christ, Mrs. Swales was saved.
The pleasant days at Little Current passed quickly, but the change and sport afforded no comfort to our troubled friend. With a sorrowful heart he commenced his trip home. On his way as he walked from Parry Harbour to Parry Sound his attention was drawn to a Scripture painted on a large mill burner: “Prepare to meet thy God.” This like another arrow pierced his conscience and greatly added to his anxiety. In making boat connections at Parry Sound he was compelled to wait over Sunday, so seeing the advertisement of special gospel meetings, he determined to go in the evening, and settle this great matter that had so distraught his mind. He went, listened to the messages that were given, but came away in utter despair, feeling that since he had sincerely tried to get saved and had not, most likely he would eventually be lost forever. On his arrival at Midland, Ontario, a warm welcome awaited him, but as he walked from the railway station to his house the thought came into his mind, I am home again, and not saved, there is nothing but hell for me. His little daughter of three dashed out and smothered him with kisses. Mrs. Swales, with a brighter smile than usual, in greeting him said, “Oh, Ed, I have good news for you.” Poor man! In later years he used to say, “What news could be good news to a man that was going to hell.” With rapt attention he listened to the happenings that had taken place at Wyebridge. As his wife told how simply she had been saved, he too believed the story of the gospel. He now saw that Christ had died for him; the burden rolled away; his soul was saved, and he was happy. That week salvation came to his house, and now by the grace of God it has embraced his whole family.
Nearly forty years have gone since these events took place, and during that long time Mr. W. E. Swales has lived before the eye of the public. His business has been a success; his conduct has been an example and an inspiration to others; but more than these, his life has been a testimony for God in his home town. From the public platform and in private conversation he has witnessed for the Lord Jesus; so that, when the eternal day dawns many shall arise to call him blessed.
In honour to the memory of a prominent citizen the flag over the town hall, at half mast, flutters in the morning breezes. Down the street the blinds of the large haberdashery are drawn, and a purple crepe hangs on the door handle. It is with profound regret that the town hears of the passing of this Christian businessman who, in their midst, had lived a quiet consistent life; had worked with his own hands in a conscientious way, and had preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.
During the early hours of October 5th, 1937, our beloved brother in Christ, quietly fell asleep in Jesus. Two days later, neighbours and friends, business associates and fellow Christians, gathered to do him honour, and to lay away his remains in certain hope of a glorious resurrection. He now rests from his labours but his works do follow him.