« EdellinenJatka »
nature was almost incapable of any accession to it; the very faculty of grief and terror seemed paralysed within him.
I knew, indeed, that the blood of his Saviour was sufficient to wash out all stains of guilt, however deep ; – that the Lord had said, “ though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool;” but I remembered also that these gracious promises were conditional; that it was only he who, “ with a true, penitent heart," turned to his God for mercy and forgiveness, who had “part or lot" in them; and could I believe the dying sinner before me was in that condition? I could not.
It is true we can place no limits to the Divine grace. It might be that as his soul fluttered on the very brink of eternity, prepared to take its everlasting flight, the gift of true repentance might be vouchsafed it; it might find mercy and forgiveness at that dread moment; but it was not for a weak mortal like myself to hold out such a hope.
It has always appeared to me, indeed, most unwise and cruel to the community at large to yield ready credence to the assumed compunction of each dying criminal; to suppose that a life of sin and violence can be atoned for by a tardy, death-bed repentance. It is to throw wide the portals of heaven to all who would enter at the eleventh hour, when we are expressly assured by the blessed Saviour himself, that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
If it does not tend directly to the discouragement of virtue by sharing its rewards with the guilty, causing the upright man to say, “ Then have I cleansed my heart in vain, and washed mine hands in innocency;" it certainly removes the greatest possible check on vice, by holding out the flattering hope that it is never too late to set about the work of repentance ; forgetting that we are commanded to “bring forth fruits meet for repentance," which seems hardly pos. sible to our human perceptions when the time for action is past, and our account, such as it stands at the moment, will be required to be produced “ before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Perhaps the most favourable sign for the eternal destiny of the miserable creature before me, and so soon to appear in the presence of his Maker, was the depth of his humiliation and abasement, that forbade him even to smite upon his breast, and cry, “God be merciful to me, a sinner."
But it is not for man to pry into “ the deep things of God.” It is not for mortal to determine the everlasting destiny of him who is now his fellow-mortal. Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
If I had lived next door to a police officer, I could not have found it in my heart to disturb the dying hour of the poor guilty creature who had taken shelter under my roof; but fortunately there was no "divided duty.” In the American backwoods Law and its myrmidons are but little known and slightly regarded. Long before I could have betrayed his secret to the nearest magistrate, his spirit had passed the bourn from whence there is no returning.
He had kept his gloomy secret fast locked within his breast until Nature's decline had proceeded so far as to render him safe from earthly punishment. He had for eighteen months cunningly concealed his guilt from the world; but yet his existence was rendered exquisitely wretched and miserable from a constant dread of discovery, from endeavouring to flee from the wrath of man. He was “afraid where no fear was ;” and though he had baffled the pursuit of human justice, he could not for a moment escape from the terror the thought of it inspired.
If he was so circumstanced with regard to man, how could he hope to cloke his guilt from Him 66 from whom no secrets are hid ?"
Well, indeed, might he exclaim with the royal Psalmist, but with feelings of horror akin to despair, “ Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit; or whither shall I go then from thy presence ? If I climb up into heaven, thou art there : if I go down to hell, thou art there also.” “ If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me; then shall my night be turned to day. Yea, the darkness is no darkness with Thee, but the night is as clear as the day: the darkness and light to Thee are both alike."