I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6)
On my bookcase, just by the door into the study, are the six hardback volumes which make up the works of John Flavel (1628-1691), one time vicar of Dartmouth. Here is a man who struggled against much adversity, and excelled in his ministry such that one parishioner remarked:
”I could say much, though not enough of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, suitable, and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of Scripture; his talking method, his genuine and natural deductions, his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his heart-searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those that were afflicted in conscience. In short, that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected”
One who had a soft head (or hard heart) was a young lad called Luke Short, who as a teenager heard Flavel preach. The minister warmed to his text - “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” - but Short was unmoved. As the years passed he emigrated to America, and the life there evidently suited him well. In fact, Luke Short lived a long life and was laid to rest aged 106.
Three years before his death, he was reflecting on his long life whilst standing in a field. His mind searched back through the years, and he remembered the sermon he had heard eighty-five years before in Dartmouth. As he meditated on the words he was converted to Christ, long decades after Flavel himself had died and fallen silent.
His final three years, now a Christian, were ones of such significance to Short that when he died they were mentioned on his gravestone. The words?
“He lies a babe in grace, aged three years, who died according to nature, aged 106”.