Page images

says not he shall never die—but he shall not taste of deathhe shall never feel its sting, because his sins which give it all its awful power and virulence are taken away.

“O death!” added the venerable pastor, “ where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? I thank thee, my Father, and my God, that thou hast permitted us so many times to see the sting taken away in the cases of thy dying children, and this is our earnest and first-fruits of the promise which we receive in assurance of its fulfilment in every jot and tittle; whilst we desire heartily to thank thee for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As if inspired by this quotation the dear old christian went on for some minutes to expatiate upon the views which Scripture authorizes, of the state of the redeemed in a future existence, shewing particularly that regeneration was the first step to individual happiness in all cases ; and it might be, that he would have proceeded to greater lengths on the subject of the death of the regenerate, and their admittance thereby into that state of perfection for which the spirit was preparing them below, when our young brother interposed, saying, “You consider then that the work of regeneration is still very imperfect with persons whilst remaining on earth ?

“My dear son,” replied Paternus, " there can never be imperfection in a work of the Divine Spirit. It must therefore be due entirely to our confused and clouded apprehensions if it seem that such there is. Unless, indeed, our principles on this subject are quite clear, we must be often deeply perplexed by the inconsistencies, if not by worse—much worse—failures, which we observe in persons we believe to be really regenerate; not to say anything of what we feel in our own breasts even after having received the inward assurance that we are regenerate. How many of us have been puzzled with the assertion, that he that is born of God cannot sin, when every page of ecclesiastical history and every day's experience in our own lives assures us, that there never was any child of Adam, excepting the man Christ Jesus, who ever ceased from sin.— But,” he added, my friends, shall we, instead of relating our experiences of deathbed scenes, as we have hitherto done, somewhat vary our purpose, and speak of such examples as may have come before

“ what say you, us of persons, now living or otherwise, who being regenerated, as far as we understand, in the mid career of a worldly course, have been enabled to give such evidence of a change of heart, as to afford undeniable proof to other believers that they were born again of God, and were in possession of a principle which must finally overcome that carnal nature which encumbers all of us like a body of death ?"

With one voice we accorded to this proposition, and as we were none of us prepared for this change of plans, and our time had been already much occupied, Paternus volunteered a little narrative which he said would not long occupy our time.

A long time since,” he said,—"for my memory goes back many years- I observed a neat aged female cottager, seated every Sunday morning nearly the year through, amongst others of her own standing and degree, on a bench just opposite my desk, and saw also, that not a person in the church went through the routine of the service with more attention.

Many other calls prevented me from making any acquaintance with the old lady, some time after I had taken my cure, as she resided in a hamlet at the farthest end of my parish. At length, however, having twice missed her from her customary position, I was led to make some enquiries about her, and having learned her name to be Priscilla Wild, and found that she resided with a married daughter, I set out to pay her a visit.

“I found her in the chimney corner of a neat cottage, sitting with much appearance of quiet homely comfort, busy with her needle, but complaining of a rheumatic pain in her foot. When I told her that my reason for calling was because I had twice seen her wonted place at church unoccupied, she answered ‘Yes, my good sir, I thank God that I have always kept my churchever since I saw the value of my soul-no weather ever hindered me, so long as I had the use of my precious limbs. She then proceeded, as all of us, my brethren, must have experienced in instances innumerable, on occasions of visits to the sick poor especially, to establish her character with me, as one of the best and most worthy of any woman in the hamlet, She had brought up her children carefully, she said; she had striven for them late and early : though long a widow, she had put them well forward-she had never missed the regular attendance at the sacrament; she had paid her dues to every one, and was even then, though in much pain, working as well as she could with her needle for her poor grand-children.

Of course I told her, that as far as these things went, they were good and commendable, and left her free from censure in the eyes of all her neighbours, added to which she must have great pleasure in thinking that her children were doing well in a worldly point of view. But my good woman,' I added, 'at your time of life especially-nay at all times of this uncertain life-the consciousness of present prosperity, or even any notions we may have of our own well-doing, are but poor comfort, and for these reasons :—because earthly prosperity must pass away and be as if it never had been ; and it is


certain that many of those works which man accounts good, are only evil in the sight of God, if mixed up with self. righteousness, or not done with any reference to the pleasure of God. In such cases they partake more of the nature of sin than of what is right.'

“ I then proceeded to open out to her, and to enforce, some of the leading doctrines of Christianity, particularly pressing this point-that Christ came not to save the righteous, or those that supposed themselves to be righteous—that no man could be saved but by the blood of Christ, and therefore that no man was accounted righteous on any other ground.

“She answered, that she knew as much already, and falling in with my assertions, she echoed back every one of them, in that most hopeless of all tones which a poor sinner can use before one anxious to be the means of enlightening him—the tone of heartless acquiescence--concluding in the strength of her selfrighteousness by taking credit to herself for a faith superior to that of any of her poor acquaintance, some of whom, she said, she verily believed never took the name of Christ in their mouths but to blaspheme.

“ I thought, as I took my leave,-'her mountain stands too strong for me to subvert—this is a case for God only, and to Him I must commit it.'

This visit was paid in autumn; a long and heavy winter followed, and for months afterwards my finite resources were so exhausted by other cares and duties, that Priscilla Wild passed wholly from my mind. Such instances of forgetfulness should


admonish us to be thankful that we have a Friend on high, who, though regulating the movements of millions and tens of millions of worlds, never for a moment forgets the most trifling concern of the meanest of his creatures.

“I cannot now recollect how many months had passed away since my visit to Priscilla Wild, when one fine summer's morning having been called by some business to a cottage in the hamlet where she resided, I saw two little cottage-children standing near together on a causeway, both looking down on the fragments of a broken pitcher which lay in the dust between them. One it seems, had broken the pitcher, and was in dire dismay-apprehending some domestic chastisement, no doubt ; and the other was advising and comforting her. So deeply were both engaged, and so fixedly were their eyes upon

the broken pitcher, that they neither saw nor heard me. It were well if the minds of infants only were thus fixed on the broken potsherds of earth. I think it hardly fair to steal even upon the confidence of little children ; yet though these little ones did not speak loudly, yet their voices were so clear that I heard several sentences of their discourse before I came close up to them.

Mother will beat me,' said the weeping child.— I dare not tell her how it was.'

“"You had better—indeed you had,' replied the other. Oh I dare not; I dare not,' repeated the unfortunate one.

“'Let us go to our friend, the Little Children's Friend,' said the second speaker, 'she always tells us what to do right. Come, come, let us go ;'-and taking the hand of her weeping fellow, away they ran, and I soon saw them go in before me to the cottage of Priscilla Wild.

I was about to follow them, when my attention was diverted by seeing a woman come out of the door of a cottage at some little distance from where I stood, perhaps rather farther than a good marksman could send his arrow. She looked first to the right, then to the left, as if in quest of some one she expected to behold, but who did not meet her eyes ; and then, raising her voice, she called aloud, Mary! Mary!' but no answer was returned to her. She was silent a second or more, and then repeating her cry, she began to advance towards where I stood, still looking round for the absent Mary. It at once struck me that the little unfortunate breaker of the pitcher must be this identical Mary; and anxious, if such should prove the case, that I might assist in soothing any angry feeling the mother might experience on hearing the catastrophe, I did not attempt to follow the children, but drew close to the broken fragments, and was actually in the act of lifting a portion from the ground, when the woman came up to me.

It needed not for me to speak : the poor woman had not so many possessions but what she could recognize her own, even in this mutilated state, and notwithstanding my presence she burst forth in a very violent and cruel abuse of her child. I waited till the first impetuosity of her feelings was over, and then addressing her, I enquired if I understood her rightly, whether the pitcher had been hers, and if she supposed her daughter had wilfully destroyed it?

"She answered me at once, by saying that it was her propertythe only one of the sort she possessed, and she did not know how she could get on without it; that she had intrusted it about half an hour ago to her daughter, to go and fetch her some milk, but the child not returning, she foreboded mischief, and she now saw she was right in her conjecture ; and she finished her speech with such severe threatenings on the little one, that I no longer wondered at her fears and sorrow. 'My good woman,' I said, when I could persuade her to

have you then so little mercy for an offence committed against you? Have you no pity for your child ?'

". The little plague,' she answered, she does not deserve pity : she is one of the most thoughtless children I ever knew, for if she would think for an instant, she must know how much trouble she has cost me by her carelessness.'

'Stop, my good woman,' I said, for I saw that she had talked herself somewhat cooler, and would now listen to me. 'Stop a moment and just consider what you have said. When you blame your daughter so severely, and have no mercy on her for her offence against you, do you not consider that if you were to be dealt with as harshly by your Parent who is above, your case would be hopeless indeed? You cannot forgive seven times, whilst He shews mercy seventy times seven. Where is the love you shew your child, when you deal thus by her, without even listening to what she has to say in her justification. Think but

hear me,

« PreviousContinue »