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MR. GREATHEAD-HOPES AND
§ 1. MR. AND MRS. GREATHEAD, MR. BENSON, &c.
ONE Sunday night, near eleven o'clock, as I was reading by myself, my whole family being gone to bed, a loud and continued rapping at the front door announced some urgent business that required immediate attention. I opened the shutters of one of my windows, threw up the sash, and inquired what was the matter. The answer was that Mr. Greathead was dying, and that he was perpetually exclaiming with vehemence, "Why do you not fetch Dr. Warton? Will you leave me to die without seeing him? I must have him here, or I shall die distracted!"
Such being the case, I told the messenger without hesitation that I would accompany him instantly. I must honestly confess that, fatigued as I was with the service of the day, and intending soon to retire to sleep, and the night being very wet, I should most gladly have dispensed with this
summons to go one mile and more from home, with the probable chance of being absent an hour My courage drooped a little; but the greatness of the act which I was called upon to perform, to speak peace to the conscience of a dying sinner, to appease, as I thought, the agonies of a whole family, admitted of no evasions on my part. The minister must spend and be spent for his flock. In a few minutes, equipped with gaiters, goloshes, a great-coat, and an umbrella, I was on the road, but doubting of my own sufficiency, even after so many years of experience. I have somewhere described the apparently-evil' effects of this feeling, in causing me to decline opportunities of doing good: on the present occasion, as I had a specific object in view, which could not be declined now that I was sent for, the feeling of insufficiency was of no detriment to me. On the contrary, it prompted me to ask for, and to trust in, the help of a superior power, which might show its strength in my weakness. In truth, there is no sufficiency but in God.
"What is Mr. Greathead's disorder?" I said to the messenger, as we walked along side by side together. "I fear," he replied, "that my poor master has got a great many bad disorders, Sir; but it is an asthma of which he seems to be dying now. The worst however is, Sir, that he is sadly troubled in his mind. We hear him all over the
house crying out aloud that the Devil is coming to take him; and sometimes he is persuaded that the Devil is actually come, and sits at the head of his bed, ready to pounce upon him... Ah! Sir, he has been a good master to us all; we shall never see his like again. I hope you will be able to quiet him, Sir, that he may depart in peace. peace. Why, to be sure, he drank a good deal, and meddled sometimes with other women besides his own lawful wife; but he is very sorry now, Sir, and so you will try to comfort him, I hope, in the way that you know how to do so well, Sir, as I hear. If he departs in peace, I shall be better content.'
This was amiable at least in the servant; so I answered that I would do my utmost for his mas
"do you ever read
But," I asked, " do
your Bible?" "Yes, Sir," he replied, "I read it
now and then, when I can get time." know perhaps," I said, "that adultery, and fornication, and drunkenness are doomed to everlasting punishment in hell-fire." I do, Sir," he answered, "but at last my poor master repents." "O, then you think," I said, "that a short repentance, just at last, will be quite enough to do away all the sins of a whole life." He hesitated: at length he replied that, if it were not so, it must go hard with vast numbers of people. "Well," I said," and so it will. Does not your Bible tell you that only a few will be saved? Vast numbers
of people therefore will be condemned, and perhaps because their repentance began too late." He hesitated again longer than before; so I asked him how long he thought his master had been a penitent? "Why, Sir," he replied, my poor master had a serious attack two years ago, and he was very sorry then; and when he recovered we expected to see him a very different man; but he took to his old ways, Sir, he could not refrain; and I verily believe he will die in a few hours. But he is troubled now worse than he was before, and I am sure he is in earnest; he has been so for a couple of days, Sir." "I am glad to hear it," I said; “it is a good thing to be troubled about our sins in real earnest, even for a single minute. But tell me, do you think your master's case the better or the worse, in consequence of his first repentance, and his falling again into his sins, in spite of it?" He hesitated as usual, but at length confessed that it must be the worse; "Only now, Sir," he added, "he repents ten times as much as he did formerly." "I am glad of that too," I said; "if we have been warned, and have not taken sufficient notice of the warning, and God is so gracious as to warn us a second time, without striking us dead at once, surely it requires much more sorrow to place us in the condition in which we were before. I hope your master has really, as you suppose, ten times as much trouble as formerly;
it is the best thing for him in his situation. But God knows what the event will be! Do you think that any quantity of the most sincere repentance will undo what he has done?"
"No, Sir," he replied, "I know very well that can never be." "If," I said, " by habits of drunkenness and profligacy, he has ruined his own constitution, and given a diseased constitution to his children, will his sorrow for it afterwards be a remedy for these evils? Will his children instantly become stout and strong?"
Sir," he replied; "it is impossible." "If,” I said again, he has seduced and polluted an innocent young woman, will his repentance, be it ever so deep and sincere, restore to her her lost virtue, her fair reputation, her sweet peace of mind?" "Ah! Sir,” he answered, "they can never be restored.” "Will his sons and daughters, who have been sworn to him before the magistrates," I asked, "cease immediately to be pointed at by the finger of scorn, and called bastards, and to carry this painful recollection about them, because he repents?" “I know it, Sir, I know it," he cried, in a tone of agitation; "none of these misfortunes can be undone."
Well," I said, "I will ask only one question more. Will any of the persons who have been corrupted and fallen into habits of sin by his example be a bit the better for all his sorrow when he lies on his death-bed? Will they even know