One winter my wife and I met German head-deaconess in Stockholm, and learned from her lips an unusual incident.
She was a woman in middle life, of large frame and full of physical vigour. She was engaged, and had been for years, in mission work in Berlin, especially among girls and young women who had been led astray.
We were guests together in the same home for a week, and had many opportunities for fellowship and exchange of experiences.
We came to respect her for her homely common sense, and cautious mature judgments, and to love her for her evident saintliness and her sacrificial life in the difficult field of service into which she had been led.
The incident I am speaking of now was one of many. I would hesitate to tell it were it not for the sanity, and cautiousness, and thoughtful care in detailed observation, that marked the deaconess' speech.
But as I listened and questioned and thought and prayed throughout that week, I found an answer of acceptance in my inner spirit to her unusual story.
The story was of a woman whom the deaconess knew personally. This woman lived out in the country not far from Berlin. Her little daughter accidentally feel in an open fire, and was seriously burned in her face.
The woman did a thing that seems incredible. And yet the more one comes in touch with actual life in the old world the less incredible it seems. Facts open one's eyes.
The woman said that she went out to an old tree in the forest, and there made compact with the Devil that if he would heal her daughter of the burn she would serve him faithfully.
The thing seemed impossible, both in the willingness to do such a thing, and that such a transaction could take place.
But the woman herself afterward told the story to the deaconess who was telling us. And it was clearly real to the woman who said she made the pact.
The woman said that at once her child's face was as if the fire had not touched it. The healing seemed complete. No scars remained. That's the first part of the story.
The child grew to be a young woman of fine sweet beauty and face and form. Meanwhile they had moved into Berlin and settled there.
The young woman attended some meetings at a mission hall and was deeply impressed. And one night she accepted Christ as her personal Savior, and dedicated her life to Him. I think the mother herself had become a Christian about this same time.
And, at once, the marks of the fire appeared on her daughter's face as though just fresh. The deaconess was present. They were all greatly distressed. The mother had explained to the deaconess about the earlier experience.
The deaconess knew about Christ's healing power, and so taught them. They had a time of prayer together. And again, the young woman's face showed no marks of the fire. The deaconess herself witnessed this.
That was the deaconess' story. The thing seemed quite incredible. But we were in the home for week with this thoughtful, matured, rarely-poised, saintly woman.
And as the days passed, and I studied her, and talked with her from day to day, and questioned, the conviction deepened that she was reliable.
Her caution, her detail of description, her habitual accuracy of observation, and her carefulness in statement, quite convinced me of her reliability as a witness of what she told us. And so I have repeated her story here.
The story is more striking in telling of a double healing, the Devil's and Christ's. There is the rivalry very real between the two, bitter and hopeless on the Devil's side, insistent and certain of victory on Christ's side.
And the human will, sovereign in its choice, decides in the conflict. Here was a decisive defeat for the Devil, and the sweeping victory of Christ, on the battlefield of one human life. And the young woman's decision, insisted on under stress, was the decisive thing.
The Devil's intense selfishness stands out, his spite spirit. He touches only to hurt. He helps only to help himself. He helps only to hurt.
The Devil is all for himself. There was the ugly fling-back of a defeated foe. He would do his worst when forced to go.
The Devil is always on the heels of God to hurt. God is ever quick as a flash on the heels of the Devil to reach eagerly out and help and heal.
Christ was God Himself coming down to the battlefield. He gave the Devil the decisive blow.
And so man may be set quite free. And so he is made strong to choose right, and only right, regardless of consequences.