Chapter 10 – At the Blacksmith’s

Early next morning they set out from the village of Peace, retracing their steps along the way they had come. After two days’ journey they came to the Blacksmith’s. He and his brother welcomed them in. Sitting everyone down, they brought mint tea. Then Amsiggel told them about their arrival at the village of Peace, and he introduced their companions. “This man,” he said, “is Faithful. He and Honey, his daughter, have been very good to us – looking after us in their village, and now in coming along with us.” “Anyone who does good,” the Blacksmith replied, “is very welcome!” Then he said to Amsiggel, “Do you remember our conversation that day, and how we discussed what might happen on the Day of Judgment?” “Ask them,” Amsiggel agreed, “They’ll know the answer.” “Alright, I’ll tell you all what’s troubling us,” said the Blacksmith, “We’d like to know what will happen to someone who fails to do all that God requires of him? Must he inevitably stand up on the Day of Judgment and recite a full account of all he’s done? And what should he do if he knows he’s done things that make him ashamed or make him unacceptable to God: that’s what troubles us.” “It’s a difficult question,” replied Faithful, “because anyone in doubt will always live in fear of the Day of Judgment.” Hearing this, the Blacksmith’s brother spoke up. “But won’t our good deeds balance the Scales?” he asked.

Faithful regarded him and said, “I’ll tell you a story. Once there was an old man who had a large house and many fields. All his life he’d bought and sold and accumulated wealth for himself. He thought about nothing except what would be to his own advantage. He had no time to consider the hardship faced by others; he turned a blind eye to any who were sick or in need. That’s how he lived until he got old. Then he began to think about the hereafter. He said to himself, ‘I’ll do some good deeds to balance the Scales before I die.’ So this old man went out and began to give to the disabled and the blind; he gave to the mosque and to the poor.” Faithful stopped speaking and looked round at them all. Then he asked, “What do you think will become of that old man in the Scales of God? He spent sixty years indulging himself for the present, and now he wants to spend one year providing for his future. Will he purchase a place in Heaven that lasts forever with the alms of one short year? What will God say to him on the Day of Judgment? He’ll say, ‘You foolish man! Did you think to get for yourself in the hereafter more than you got for yourself in the world? Hell is the place for you and for all who care only about themselves!’“

They all went quiet, thinking about this. Then the Blacksmith’s brother said, “But if we do good deeds from childhood, perhaps they’ll be enough to outweigh our sins.” “Do you think there’s any one of us,” retorted his brother, “who’s counted all his good deeds and all his sins since childhood to know which will weigh more?” His brother looked up thoughtfully and said, “But one who’s done even a single good deed – God may have mercy on him if he wishes.” “Well what good is that?” replied the Blacksmith, “We don’t know if he wishes or not! Look, God has decreed that we must always live half way between hope and fear – we hope for his mercy and we fear his punishment.” “Well in that case,” said his brother doubtfully, “perhaps he’ll have mercy on us if we believe there is no god but him.” “Not likely,” retorted the Blacksmith, “Even Satan believes in God and knows he’s unique, but what good does that sort of faith do? Does it make Satan acceptable to God?” “I don’t know,” sighed his brother, “There’s nothing for it but to hope he’ll be merciful towards us!” They he turned to Faithful and asked, “Isn’t God called the Merciful One?”

“He certainly is the Merciful One,” replied Faithful, “but he doesn’t have mercy on everyone who disobeys his word. Do you know what happened to our ancestor Adam? God told him, ‘Don’t eat the fruit from that tree in the middle of the garden.’ But he went and ate some. What happened to Adam then? God drove him out of the garden and posted angels there to guard the gateway. The way back into the garden was blocked by God so that Adam and his wife could never again go back into it. However much Adam might try to call out to God and bang on the gate, he could never return to that paradise. Even if he did all the good he could do, and put all his effort into pleasing God throughout the rest of his life in this world, he could not go back to where he’d been. God did not allow him to go back into paradise. Now then, Adam disobeyed God’s word once, guilty of one transgression, and God took him away from the paradise he’d been in. So what do you think? Was God merciful to him or not?” “No, he was punished,” the Blacksmith agreed, “God was not merciful to him.” “But if God judges so strictly,” said his brother, “how will anyone receive his mercy? Can you explain this puzzle to us, Faithful?”

Faithful looked round at them all again and said, “If you’ve broken God’s word, what will you need most of all?” No one spoke. “If you’ve not done what God wants of you, what will you need most of all?” Still they said nothing. “If the judgement of God lies upon you, what will you need most of all?” They all looked at him, then the Blacksmith said, “It seems to me you’d need someone to stand between you and God, someone who has himself done all that God requires. You’d need someone able to ask God to have mercy on you!”

“Listen, all of you” said Faithful, “I’ll tell you a story. Once there was a village magistrate, a good man who always kept his word and judged justly and wisely. One day a boy went out hunting birds with a catapult. He shot a pebble which shattered the window of the magistrate’s house. They seized him and brought him before the magistrate. Trembling with fear, he fell to the ground saying, ‘O Sir, may God lengthen your life!’ The magistrate told him to be quiet, then asked, ‘Was it you who broke this window?’ ‘O Sir,’ he replied, ‘I didn’t mean to – the wind just carried the stone!’ ‘Whoever breaks a window,’ declared the magistrate, ‘must fix it!’ ‘Oh please forgive me,’ begged the boy, ‘I’m very sorry for what I’ve done!’ ‘How are you going to fix it?’ asked the magistrate. ‘I won’t ever break another one,’ replied the boy. ‘How are you going to fix it?’ insisted the magistrate. ‘O Sir, I’ll do a good deed. I’ll go and give two loaves of bread to those blind men at the door of your house.’ ‘Do you think that food for beggars will mend the window? Come on now, how are you going to fix it?’ ‘O Sir, I don’t know,’ said the boy, ‘No one can mend a pane of glass once it’s got broken.’ ‘You’ll pay for a new pane,’ replied the magistrate. ‘But Sir,’ said the boy, ‘I haven’t got any money to buy a pane of glass.’ He bowed then to the ground saying, ‘O Great Magistrate! O Great Magistrate!’ ‘That’s not how to pay for the window,’ said the magistrate. The boy continued, ‘O Magistrate, great is your mercy! O Magistrate, great is your mercy! Just forgive me this one time.’ ‘No,’ insisted the magistrate ‘You must fix what you’ve broken.’ The boy bowed his head: he didn’t know what to do. He had no money to pay for the glass he’d broken. He just stood there in silence. Then the magistrate asked him, ‘Have you parents or brothers with money who can come and free you from this debt?’ ‘I’ve got an uncle,’ he replied, ‘but I don’t know if he’d come.’ His uncle was sent for. When he arrived, he took two silver coins from the pouch of his robe and gave them to the magistrate. Then the magistrate said to the boy, ‘Go in peace, son! Your uncle has paid for you!’“

Faithful looked round at them all and asked, “Did you understand this parable?” At this, Amsiggel spoke up. “The magistrate is like God,” he said, “and the boy is like me. The window that got broken represents the bad things I’ve done and the good things I’ve not done. But as for the boy’s uncle, I don’t know who he is!” Then Faithful replied, “The one who paid our debt – we call him our Saviour. Because really we’re all like that boy: we haven’t enough to settle up what we owe. So God sent one who was able to settle up for us. He came to pay for you and me, and each one of us, to save us from our doom. And on the Day of Judgment the Great Magistrate will say to us, ‘Go in peace, son! Your Saviour has paid for you!’“

At this, they all went very quiet, thinking about what they’d heard. Then the Blacksmith’s brother asked, “So, if he’s already paid for us, what should we do ourselves?” Hearing this, Faithful asked, “What would the boy in the story do?” Amsiggel spoke up: “He’d feel very grateful to the one who came to his rescue. He’d be really attached to him. He’d want to go everywhere with him because he’d love him so much.” “We can’t do a thing,” agreed Faithful, “except feel grateful to the one who has freed us from our Debt. We can’t do anything except believe in him, hold onto him, lean on him.” Then the Blacksmith asked, “What will happen on the Day of Reckoning to one who believes in him?” “For us, there won’t be any Reckoning,” replied Faithful, “because he’s already paid all we owe. He won’t let us suffer the Torments of the Grave, because he’s already taken us past the Scales and the Reciting of Accounts and saved us from the Fire of Hell. And that’s how we receive the mercy of God, just as he intended from the beginning of time!”

Three days they spent there; then the blacksmiths said, “This is all quite new to us. Stay another few days because we want to understand more about these things.” But Faithful replied, “God bless you. We’d like to stay, but there are still other people and we must help them too.” “Alright,” said the Blacksmith, “Just let us come with you!”