Page images

indeed, she was a kind and good mother, but that she did not know what was most becoming a young man in his situation.

About this time, he fell in with some sceptical writings. He at first hesitated as to reading them; but as he had attended infidel meetings once or twice without experiencing, as he supposed, any harm, he foolishly thought there could be no danger in seeing what such writers had to say, especially as it was his principle to examine all sides. He first read, then doubted, then began to be more wise than all his teachers. His seat in the house of God was henceforth quite forsaken.

He was now prepared for more desperate steps. He lost his situation from irregularities and vices. He afterwards succeeded in finding another engagement, but it was not such as he had lost. It was a much humbler position, to which he found himself reduced. He was mortified and discouraged. This rendered him still more subject to the power of baser motives. To these he continued to yield; losing, of course, what remained of self-respect, and falling under those severe lashes of conscience, which if they do not bring to repentance, drive to more desperate lengths in sin.

One day an individual applied to the writer and said, "There is a young man at my house, whom I am desirous you should visit. We took him in some three or four weeks ago, out of charity; for he is destitute, homeless, and sick; although he is a young man of respectable manners, and appears to have seen better days. But he is not inclined to talk. The physician thinks that he is in a fixed and rapid consumption. He has a wasting cough, seems to be very much dejected, and is at times apparently in very great distress of mind. I asked him if he was willing to see a minister or Christian friend; he at first refused, but has since consented.”

On visiting him, his condition was found even worse than had been represented. He had a wan ghastly countenance, a sunken eye, a hollow voice, an expression of intolerable anxiety upon his countenance; every thing indicated extreme wretchedness and approaching death. He was at first dis

inclined to converse. After addressing a few words to him, such as were thought best calculated to lead his thoughts to the only Saviour of sinners, with his permission a short prayer was offered. assented.

When asked if he would wish another visit, he

On seeing him again, he was in bed, and had just recovered from a severe paroxysm of coughing. After a short time he beckoned the writer to him, and with a low voice said he should like to see him alone for a few moments. The nurse left the room. When we were alone, he fixed his eyes upon his visitor's face in silence. There seemed to be a conflict in his mind, whether to speak or refrain. At length his struggling spirit burst its restraints, and he began to tell his history, as has been related, and then said he saw clearly where the work of ruin commenced; it was in resisting his early convictions of truth and duty, and in neglecting the instructions of his pious mother, who he had no doubt had often wept tears of bitterness for him.

So deep was his emotion, that for a moment it suspended his utterance. He proceeded to state that it was not infidelity that ruined him; he was virtually ruined before he became an avowed infidel. It was his resisting the admonitions of God and the strivings of his Spirit, that made him an infidel; but his infidelity had served to plunge him into more open and desperate iniquities, for since he had embraced infidelity, he had committed vices at which his earlier youth would have shuddered; and had led others into the same sins.

"But these," continued he, "are only the outward marks of my ruined character; the ruin itself lies deep in the soul, and the misery with which it is overtaken here, is only premonitory of the everlasting misery which awaits it beyond the grave. For several years I tried to disbelieve the Bible. I succeeded --I have been a confirmed infidel. More than that, I have been an atheist. I used to hear it said that no man can be an atheist; but I know the contrary. I have been an atheist. I have perfectly and fatally succeeded in 'being given over to a strong delusion, to believe a lie, that I might be damned

because I obeyed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.' But I am no longer an atheist. I am convinced that there is a God. I feel, I know that I am an accountable being, and that a righteous judgment awaits me in eternity." After a moment's rest, his countenance gathering more intensity of expression, he added, with increased energy, "But the most terrible to reflect on is, that I have not only ruined myself, but I have been the cause of leading others to ruin. Oh, I am sure that the execrations of ruined souls must follow me into eternity! Oh that I had never been born, or had sunk in death upon my mother's arms!" The writer endeavoured to calm his tempestuous spirit, by reminding him of the great mercy and forgiveness there is in God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. "No," replied he, "not for me: I cannot be forgiven, I cannot repent. My day of grace is over. But, I feel greatly relieved since I told you my story. I am glad you came, sir. Wretched as I am, this is the best moment I have seen for a long time. I have

[ocr errors]

hitherto kept all this to myself; it has been as a fire shut up in my breast. I have not known one hour of peace since I left the paths of virtue; and for two or three years I have been perfectly wretched. I have often been upon the point of committing suicide."

After a few words, intended to direct his mind to the source of hope in the gospel of Christ, his visitor left him, promising to see him again the next morning, if he should survive till then. He did survive; the morning came; but it was no morning to him. The sweet rays of the rising sun shot no kindling gleam of hope into his dark and troubled soul.

The writer has entertained doubts as to the expediency of relating his expressions the next morning; but he thinks that he would not do right to withhold a part of them, especially as this young man not only permitted, but requested him to admonish all others by his example, if peradventure he might serve as a beacon to warn them off from the ruin into which he had been drawn. He had no longer any wish to conceal anything; he seemed rather to wish to proclaim his wretched

ness to the world. He was dead to hope, and alive to despair. With recollections of his past life, an awakened conscience, eternity full in view, and every gleam of hope excluded; oh, it was indeed a painful illustration of the fact, that "he that sinneth against" conviction of the truth "wrongeth his own soul."

The following conversation took place on the occasion now referred to ;

"How do you do, my friend, this morning?"

"As miserable as sin and wrath can make me!"

This he said with an emphasis which surprised and startled


"And did you obtain no rest last night?"

"Nota moment's rest; my soul has been in perfect misery." "You are excited; your body is diseased; your mind is weak. Endeavour to compose yourself. Look to that source of forgiveness and mercy which still is open to you, if you repent and believe."


No, no, it is impossible, I cannot compose myself, I cannot be calm. My body is well enough, but my soul has been in hell all night! I have denied that there is a hell; I have scoffed at it; I have induced others to do the same, and now God is convincing me of my error. Oh, I know now that there is a hell; I feel it in my own spirit. I am glad that you have come to see me, that I may tell you how miserable I am. This is the only relief I can get. You are the first person to whom I have ventured to make known my misery. I have for a long time kept it to myself; but I can no longer conceal it."

"It is well for you to acknowledge your sins. But you should confess them to God. He has said, 'Acknowledge thy transgressions;' and, He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall find mercy.'

[ocr errors]

"No, no, I cannot approach God, I cannot meet him, I cannot! Oh that the same grave which will soon bury my body, could bury my soul with it! Oh that I might be annihilated! This is what I have long hoped for; but this

hope has failed me. I never before understood the meaning of that scripture, 'When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish. All my expectations have perished. I have been for some time reviewing my past life, and during the last night, that text was continually passing like a burning arrow through my spirit, 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.' Yes, I have walked in the ways of my heart, and in the sight of my eyes; and now God is bringing me into judgment. The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit.' You can pray for me, but it is of no use. You are very kind; the family here are very kind: I thank you all, but you cannot save me.”

These words were uttered with a pathos, a calm, fixed, significant earnestness, which almost overcame me. I can never forget his expression, when he fixed his dark, restless, glassy eyes upon me, and uttered these last words. Perceiving it in vain to say anything more to him while in such a state, I withdrew, that he might, if possible, be composed to rest. On the next visit, he was evidently drawing near his end. His power of utterance had almost failed. The writer took hold of his hand, and told him it would afford great relief, to know that he left the world trusting in the Saviour's grace. His only reply was, "If the grave would bury my soul with my body, I should consider it my best friend; that would be immeasurably better for me than my present condition, or anything I have a right to expect." After again commending him in a short prayer to the mercy of God, his visitor left him, and in about an hour afterwards he expired.

Thus died this young man, possessed of fine natural talents, and whose early instructions and impressions gave promise of a more hopeful end. What was the cause of the dreadful misery, the fear of coming vengeance, which he experienced ? It was sin; the sin of resisting his convictions, of grieving the Spirit of God, of apostatising to infidelity and atheism.

« PreviousContinue »