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“ A thousand heartfelt thanks, my dear friend,” exclaimed Mr. Stately, with visible emotion, still retaining the hand which he had seized; "a thousand heartfelt thanks for this truly Christian visit. You have come at the hour of my greatest need. I am ill,—dreadfully ill,—as well in soul as in body; and I greatly fear in mortal peril as to both. My numberless sins,—and many of them so aggravated,-committed against the upbraidings of conscience, and the light of religious knowledge, gathered from yourself most especially, now rise up in judgment against me. Oh! speak peace to my disturbed spirit, and if possible give it to me! Let me hear words of comfort and consolation from you. Teach me to pray! Teach me to repent!” The sick man here wept bitterly; and after a pause of some length he said, with agitated voice and look, “ Well may I address you in the solemn language of our great poet,
• Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;
I should much prefer your addressing me, my dear friend," replied Mr. Gracelove, “in the inspired and infinitely more solemn language of the Bible, rather than in the effusions of profane poetry, however beautiful and striking, as I acknowledge your quotation to be. Rather address to me that momentous question put to Paul and Silas by the jailor at Philippi,- What must I do to be saved ?' To such a solemn inquiry I should return the same answer that was given by those holy men,- Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.'"*
“May God forgive me,” said the afflicted man, " for so long
* Acts xvi. 30, 31.
despising that holy name—and for despising it because it was holy. Oh! may He now at length give me grace, and spare my life, that I may redeem the misspent time that is past, and learn henceforth to adore that sacred name which I have hitherto blasphemed, -and to practise that righteousness which, I have cast behind
my back.” “ Most devoutly,” replied his christian comforter,“ do I say amen! to such a prayer of faith and penitence.
“ I most sincerely grieve," proceeded the latter," to witness the severe sickness which it has pleased God to bring upon you. But I feel satisfied that God, who never does anything in vain, nor without the tenderest compassion towards those whom He graciously inclines to seek Him, has a design of saving mercy to your soul in the bodily affliction with which He has seen it good to visit you. Finding that, while in health and strength, you refused to obey his word, and be guided by his Spirit, He has cast you on a bed of sickness; that you may at length practically learn the instruction of wisdom,' and turn unto the Lord with all your heart, ` while yet He
“ That God has not abandoned you, my dear friend," continued Mr. Gracelove, (drawing a Bible from his pocket,) “ but that He still invites you to come unto Him, labouring and heavy-laden, as you are, with the burden of your sins, that you may find ' rest unto your soul,' listen to the following all-gracious words from the book of Ezekiel, which the Almighty Himself is pleased to express with a divine emphasis : As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.' And then, with the tenderest expostulation, He thus condescends to invite them to repentance,— Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?'"
• Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
“ That is truly a blessed Scripture,” exclaimed Mr. Stately, with a faltering voice.
Let us take another verse," proceeded his honoured guest, “ from the same portion of the sacred Scriptures; which, however indifferently and thoughtlessly you may have passed over for so many years of your life, occupies, nevertheless, the very first place in the Prayer Books of our church-'When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.'* Let these two passages,” said Mr. Gracelove, “comfort you in your deep affliction ; if, as I truly hope and believe, you are now inclined, in the language of the text, to turn away from your wickedness,' and to do that which is lawful and right.'”
“ These verses are, indeed, very consolatory," observed the humbled man of the world ; "especially to those who have had the merciful experience granted to them, from a long continuance in well doing, that their hearts have been really changed; and whose sins, at the same time, have been less numerous and less heinous than mine; for, oh! my dear friend, I almost fear they are unpardonable. Can I hope for mercy ?” he continued, in great anguish of mind. Do the sacred Scriptures encourage me to hope for forgiveness, should I die in this my extremity, after having passed all my life a votary of mammon, instead of a worshipper of God ?”
The mercy of God in Christ,” said his sympathizing guest, “is infinite ; and if you can cast yourself upon His redeeming grace with real sincerity of heart, in penitence and faith, the Word of God warrants us in believing that you will be pardoned and accepted. Remember the instance, recorded in the Bible, of the labourers hired into the vineyard. They who came in at the eleventh hour received the same reward us those who had
* Ezek. xviii. 27.
'borne the burden and heat of the day.” Let me remind you, also, of the thief on the cross. He felt that Jesus was the Lord of life; he believed in Him, although at the instant of leaving the world by a violent death, and he declared his faith, accordingly, in most unequivocal language
Lord, remember when thou comest into thy kingdom.
“ And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.'*
“ Thus you perceive, my dear sir, how universal is this inestimable gift of salvation :-'He tasted death for every man.'t How compassionately free, also, the heavenly boon -without money and without price.'
“ At the same time, it must ever be remembered,” remarked our Christian friend," that while this example of marvellous grace to the dying thief is given to save even the worst sinners from despair, it is the only example recorded in the Bible to restrain us from a too fatal presumption.
“Never can you despair,” he observed, with an expression of the kindest sympathy, “until that beneficent declaration be blotted out from the book of Isaiah, which I have now found, and will read for your great comfort:
“'Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
“ 'If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.'
“ And mark, it is God Himself who condescends to make this cheering and comforting declaration ; for in the 20th verse of the chapter it is thus explicitly announced, — For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.' Listen, also, with repentant faith, to that precious text in Revelation : As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten : be zealous therefore, and repent.'*-'For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth't
* Luke xxiii. 42, 43.
+ Heb. i. 9.
* Isa. i. 18, 19.
“ But it must never be forgotten,” added our kind friend, “as I have before remarked, that such an unspeakable grace is alone extended to those who 'repent them truly of their former sins,'-as our excellent Church Catechism expresses it, -stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men. For, as the Divine founder of our faith has solemnly declared, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.'" I
“But where shall I obtain, and as speedily as my mortal exigences may require, this lively faith, this 'thankful remembrance,' this charity with all men ?' exclaimed Mr. Stately with increasing anxiety,—I, who have neglected and despised these things, in order to serve and enjoy the world, which, in my hour of extremity, I find is utterly impotent to support and to save me?
“How do the reproaches of conscience, for my wanton and numberless transgressions, now probe me to the quick, like the stings of scorpions! With what acute sensibility do I now feel the bitter scorn with which I received your kind Christian remonstrance, some few months ago, against the danger of my remaining any longer in a state of unresolved doubt as to the requirements of Scripture; and on the necessity of my seriously, and speedily, examining the foundation of my hopes for a better world. I then answered, with wicked flippancy of speech, that
* Rey, iü. 19.
+ Heb. xii. 6.
* Matt. vii. 21.