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Let him then lay hold firmly upon Christ crucified; and do thou send besides thy blessed Spirit, to improve the godly sorrow which now reigns within him; and to renew whatever has been decayed by the fraud of the devil, or his own carnal will. O Father of all comfort, thou hast opened thine eye of mercy upon him; shut it not again in displeasure; continue to regard him with pity and compassion; and allay his troubled conscience with peace through Jesus Christ."
Thus I prayed, combining together various thoughts chiefly from the visitation service, which was so familiar to me. There is no wonder that such a prayer, imperfect as it might be, was useful to one in the condition of my patient. I intended to instruct him whilst I both awakened and consoled him, invoking, at the same time, superior aid. Every good design appeared to be fully answered, and great was my joy when I heard him say, after a short pause of silent abstraction, "It was a happy thing, Dr. Warton, that I sent for you. I am a new man. But it is
too much, perhaps, to ask for another favour, that you would give me the holy sacrament. I am most unworthy of it I very well know; but, if you think proper, I would leave no duty unperformed. God puts this in my power; I wish every other were equally so. But, as you have said, the past cannot be undone." You are unworthy, Sir,
certainly," I replied; "we are all unworthy; but you have the feelings which are essential to a worthy reception of the sacrament; and, therefore, I trust you will receive it worthily. I will administer it to you immediately."
Upon this I rose from my knees; and all the necessary things having been provided and properly arranged in a few minutes, I performed the holy rite. Mrs. Greathead, Mr. Benson, and the nurse were voluntary communicants. The servants declined and retired; nor did I press them to stay. The poor illegitimate daughter had not been confirmed. "It is a pity," I said to her," that you cannot properly join with us on so striking an occasion. But remain in the chamber, nevertheless. The mere sight of the ceremony, administered at such a moment, and for the sake of one under such awful circumstances, who is your own father, may make a wholesome impression upon your mind, and be not easily erased in after life."
Nothing else occurred which was not common; and Mr. Benson soon left us, taking the nurse with him down stairs, to give her some directions about the medicines, and other things. So there remained with the sick man none but the daughter, Mrs. Greathead, and myself.
§ II.-MR. AND MRS. GREATHEAD.
When the poor penitent perceived that the rest were gone, he said, in a faltering voice, “ I am glad that they have left us. I have been guilty of a grievous injury, and now I will do an act of justice, for which one witness will be sufficient; and no witness could be better than you, Dr. Warton." Then so far you will be like Zacchaeus," I replied. "They who hold any intercourse with the Saviour, must depart as soon as may be from all iniquity. You have partaken of his body and blood; an act of justice is an admirable sequel, and a good proof of the benefit of what you have done. This night, I trust, is salvation come to this house."
Thank you, thank you, Dr. Warton," he said,
energy, "for reminding me of that scripturestory. It spreads a comfort over me which I have not felt before." And at once his brow expanded, and his eyes, no longer scowling darkly and wildly, and expressive of apprehension and fear, became clear, serene, and tranquil. It was evident that hope was growing rapidly in his breast; but it was my business to take care that it did not grow too fast, or from an unsound root; I meant to comfort him by mentioning the story of Zacchæus, but not to exalt him at once into an assurance of his sal
vation. So I said with caution, "We must take care that we have put ourselves into all the same circumstances, or are capable of doing it, in order to derive a full and well-grounded comfort from any scripture-story. There may be peculiarities in our own case, which give a different feature to it, and destroy the seeming similitude. Undoubtedly every malefactor should think of the malefactor on the cross; and every fraudulent or unjust man should think of Zacchæus; and others might think of David; but if the next thought were that, like Zacchæus, and the malefactor, and David, they would certainly be pardoned and saved, the recording of those stories in the Scriptures would be fatal to many a soul. The first feeling upon reading them will naturally be a feeling of comfort; we should naturally say to ourselves, the Scripture forbids all despair, even to the worst of sinners. But when we have expelled despair, then we must begin to reason calmly upon the subject, and consider what we have done, and what we have left undone, and what remains to do, to make our cases similar, not in the letter but in the spirit of the transaction, to those which received so signal a pardon. Otherwise our comfort may be but a delusive comfort after all, and our rising above despair may only alleviate the pang of death without leading to our salvation. If a person, on the strength of those
stories, should have pursued the career of profligacy without any check, in the expectation that either on the bed of death or in consequence of some striking unforeseen incident, he might acquire at the last enough of repentance and faith to save him; unquestionably such a person could never properly compare himself with David, Zacchæus, or the malefactor. We have no reason at all to suppose, that they were ever in such a condition as to intend to sin as long as they might be able, or until something extraordinary diverted them from their course of sin; and still less that they had been encouraged to go on sinning by any known antecedent cases of sin pardoned on a death-bed, or under any peculiar circumstances. Here, therefore, the cases will not apply. The person reasoning in that manner puts himself for the time out of the pale of salvation; he endeavours to impose upon God, which assuredly will fail. Still I do not say, that even such a person may not ultimately be saved; but I do say, that his heart must be broken indeed; that rivers of tears must flow; that he must abhor himself in dust and ashes, for this sin more than for all the rest. I do say that tenfold sorrow and humiliation, and tenfold prayer, importunate prayer, knocking incessantly at the door of heaven, and pleading for entrance in Christ's name, will be absolutely necessary to procure him forgiveness for the wicked thought of his heart."