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WAS at this time invited to preach in a church in Devonport, where it pleased the Lord to give blessing to His word. With this exception, my work was, generally speaking, confined to individual cases. I will give an account of a few which present the most instruction and interest.
The first I will mention is that of one of the curates of the church in which I was asked to preach. At this time he was preparing for confession, and his self-examination had brought him to see and feel that he was a sinner. Under this course of preparation, the preaching of the Gospel had much effect upon him, and he came to tell me of his state. I was able to show him from the Word of God that he was in a worse condition than he supposed—that actually, by nature, we are lost sinners now. Under the operation of the Holy Spirit he was brought to feel this also, and was very miserable.
One day, while officiating at a funeral, the Lord spoke peace to his soul; so great was his joy, that, he said, he
could scarcely refrain from shouting aloud in the middle of the service. After it was over he went about everywhere, telling of his conversion, and the Lord's dealings with his soul.
The result of this was that his fellow-curate (who was also preparing for confession) was awakened, and came to me in great distress of mind, declaring he "could not say he was converted," and that he was very unhappy. He acknowledged that he should not like to die as he was, and therefore knew he ought not to be satisfied to live in that state. However, when I got to close dealing with him about his soul, he said that though he could not say he was saved, he certainly thought that he was being saved by continual absolution and the sacrament. Upon this, I was enabled to show him that he did not go to the means of grace, or even to the Lord's table, because he was saved, but in order to be saved; and that he was working for life, and not from life. He gave up disputing, and was not long before he too found peace in believing.
The time was approaching for these two curates to go, as usual, to confession. They came together to ask me about it. I counselled them to go, by all means, to the reverend doctor, who usually received their confession, and to tell him in their own words how the Lord had convicted and converted them. I said that Bilney, one of the first martyrs of the Reformation, when he was converted, went immediately to make confession to Latimer, and by doing so he became the means of his conversion. "Go, by all means; you do not know what use the Lord may make of your testimony."
They went accordingly, but did not meet with the happy success of Bilney, for they were sent indignantly away one after the other for saying their sins were pardoned and their souls saved and that by direct and personal faith in Christ,
"ARE YOU A CLERGYMAN?"
without the intervention of a priest. The reverend confessor, unlike the honest Latimer, said these young men had come to mock him.
Notwithstanding these instances of usefulness and encouragement, I continued to be very unhappy, for want of more general work, and felt as if God had cast me off. I can now see that this trying and perplexing dispensation through which I was passing, was not altogether such a barren desert as I felt it to be at the time. It was fraught with many lessons, which have stood by me ever since, though I must confess I never revert to this period without many unhappy memories.
I will record one more lesson which I was taught in this place, and then go on to other subjects.
One warm spring day, while I was sitting in my house with the doors and windows open, a gentleman came running into it in great haste, somewhat to my surprise, he being a perfect stranger to me, and I to him. Standing in the passage, and looking into the room where I was seated, he said, "Sir, are you a clergyman ?
I replied, "Yes, I am."
"For God's sake, come; follow me!"
So saying, he went away. I immediately took up my hat, and ran after him down the side of the square, and noticing the gate where he turned in, I walked leisurely to the same place, and found him in the passage of his house panting for breath. He had run so fast that he could not speak, but made a sign to me to go upstairs; then pointing to a door, he bade me go in. On doing so, I saw at once it was a sick-chamber, and found myself alone in the presence of a lady, who was sitting up in the bed. I bowed to her, and said, "Can I help you?"
She said, "Oh, no! it is too late!"
"Too late for what?"
"I am dying; I am lost-I am lost! It is too latetoo late!"
"But Christ came, and is present, to save the lost." 'Oh, yes! I know all that. I taught it to others, but I never believed it myself. now it is too late: I am lost!"
"Then believe it now! Why not 'now'?"
"Because it is too late!"
"While there is life there is hope! Lose no more time. 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish' (John iii. 16).
"That is not for me. I know that text very well, but it will not do for me. I am lost! I am lost! It is too late!"
While I was speaking I saw her falling over the side of the bed. Springing forward, I put out my arm, and, with her head resting on it, and her despairing eyes looking into my face, she expired. I could scarcely believe it, when I saw that flush on her face fade away into the pallor of death. She was gone! I placed her poor head on the pillow, and rang the bell for assistance. Her möcher and sister came in, saying, "Is it not dreadful?"
I said, "Look at her. She is gone. She said it was too late, and that she was lost for ever."
"Oh," exclaimed the mother, "it is most dreadful!— most dreadful!"
This poor young lady used to be a Sunday-school teacher and district visitor; but she was never converted, and she knew it. She had full head-knowledge, but no heart experience, and thus she died in unforgiven sins. Lost-for ever lost!
Notwithstanding this, and other solemn lessons which the Lord was teaching me at this time, I was still restless
"I WISH I HAD NEVER BEEN BORN!" 247
and unhappy. I felt as if my life, with its work, was cut off in the very beginning of its usefulness, and that there was no more for me to do. As the weather became hot with the advancing summer, I was more and more dejected in mind and body. I lived now among strangers, and had no settled occupation, nor could I apply myself to study.
One very hot and dusty afternoon, as I was slowly toiling up a steep hill, two women overtook me; and as they were passing, I heard one say to the other, in a very sad and disheartened tone, "I wish I had never been born;" and the other responded much in the same spirit, though I could not hear what she said. A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind, and has the effect of drawing out our sympathies. I followed these poor women, and when we were on the top of the hill, I spoke to them, and then added, "You seem very weary. Will you come in and take a cup of tea, and rest a little ?" They thanked me, and consented. So I took them into the house, and asked for some tea. While it was being prepared, I said to them, "I overheard you talking on the road as you passed me. Do you really wish you had never been born?" The poor woman who had uttered these words burst into tears; and as soon as she could command her feelings sufficiently, she told me her sad tale of sorrow and trouble. She was a soldier's wife, as was also the other, and they were both in the same distress. “Well,” I said, "trouble does not spring out of the ground; and we may be equally sure that God, who sends, or at least permits it, does so for our good. One thing is certain, that if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He can and will lift us up, for He has promised to do so. He will make all things work together for our good, if we trust Him. I then asked them if they had given their hearts to God.
One of them said, "Ah, that is what I ought to have