John Leland wrote:
Samuel Harriss, of Pittsylvania, Virginia, was converted and called to preach, about the year 1758; on which he quitted all his honorary and lucrative offices, and applied himself to the work of an evangelist. A train of seriousness followed him; and, for a number of years, he was more blessed of God than any man in the southern states. His preaching was not much fraught with the wisdom of man, but so full of simplicity, zeal, and the Holy Ghost, that judgment and eternity would seem to be present before himself and his hearers. His heart was so full of burning love to the souls of men, that his domestic concerns fell into derangement, while he was seeking to pluck them as brands out of the fire. Finding, at length, the absolute need of providing more grain for his family than his plantation had produced, he went to a man (whose name I do not retain) who owed him a sum of money, and addressed him thus:
Harriss. Sir, I should be very glad if you would let me have a little money.
Man. Mr. Harriss, I have no money by me, and, therefore, cannot oblige you.
H. I want the money to purchase wheat for my family; and, as you have raised a good crop of wheat, I will take that article of you, instead of money, at a current price.
M. I have another use for my wheat, and cannot let you have it.
H. What will you do?
M. I never intend to pay you until you sue me, and, therefore, you may begin your suit as soon as you please.
H. To himself, “good God, what shall I do? shall I leave preaching for a vexatious law-suit? Perhaps a thousand souls will perish in the time. I will not. Well, what will you do, Harriss? This I will do: I will sue the man at the court of heaven.” Having resolved what to do, the colonel retired into the woods, and, falling on his knees before the Lord, opened his mouth to this effect: “Lord Jesus, thou hast redeemed my soul from hell and sin, and thou hast called me to preach faith and repentance to my fellow men; but, while I am doing it, my family is like to suffer. Blessed Jesus, a man owes me, and will not pay me unless I sue him. I am in a great strait - O, Lord, teach me what to do.” In this address, the colonel had such nearness to God, that (to use his own words) Jesus said unto him: “Sam, I will enter bondsman for the man - you keep on preaching, and omit the law-suit - I will take care of you, and see that you have your pay.” Mr. Harriss felt well satisfied with his security, but thought it would be unjust to hold the man a debtor, when Jesus had assumed payment. He, therefore, wrote a receipt in full of all accounts which he had against the man; and dating it in the woods, where Jesus entered bail, he signed it with his own name. Going the next day by the man’s house to attend a meeting, he called a little negro to the gate, gave him the receipt, and bid him deliver it to his master. On returning from meeting, the man hailed him, and said - M. Mr. Harriss, what did you mean by the receipt which you sent me by the boy?
H. I mean just as I wrote.
M. You know, sir, I have never paid you.
H. Yes, sir, I know it. I know, moreover, that you said you never would, except I sued you. But, sir, I sued you at the court of heaven, and Jesus entered bail for you; and I thought it would be unjust to hold you in debt, when I had got so good security, and, therefore, I sent you that receipt.
M. I insist upon it, it shall not close in this manner.
H. I am well satisfied - Jesus will not fail me. Farewell.
A few days after this, the man loaded his wagon with wheat, and carried it to Mr. Harriss.
From The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, as published in The Baptist Waymark, Vol. III No. 2, March-April 1995, p. 3