« AnteriorContinuar »
CONVERSION OF A DEIST. It is now about seven years since I first knew the subject of this narrative. About two years afterwards. I overtook him on the road, and we had a long and very interesting conversation. He made no secret of his sentiments, but instantly avowed himself a deist. It was evident that he had read the bible a great deal, and that he had thought much on religious subjects. He spoke warmly in praise of God's goodness, and power, and wisdom, and ridiculed the notion of there being no God; pointing to the star-spangled sky over our heads in proof of God's being and glory. But he utterly rejected the bible as a revelation from God.
I saw no more of him until the early part of last year. He had married since we met, and I heard that he was confined to his house, seriously ill. I also heard that his illness was very generally ascribed to his intemperance. When I visited him, therefore, I spoke very plainly to him about sin and its certain consequences, and earnestly pressed on him the testimony God has given in His Word concerning salvation through the blood of Jesus. I thought him dangerously ill, and told him so; refusing to give much heed to his very sanguine hopes of recovery. He evidently struggled hard to throw off the effect of what was said to him. Sometimes he appeared almost annoyed at not being able to escape importunity which he disliked.
After several visits, he freely spoke out his sentiments. He said that he felt no longer able to deny that the bible was true; but he could not believe in the real divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. From a deist, he had, in fact, become a unitarian.
During many subsequent visits, I sought to lay before him, from the scriptures, the great truth, that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. And as he was so ready to admit that “God is love," I especially endeavoured to show him that the cros3 of Jesus was itself the crowning display of God's love. This appeared to surprise and interest him, for I question whether he had ever once thought of the cross as something provided by God himself on behalf of his enemies.
Sometimes, after speaking to him in this way, I challenged him to show me so attractive, so glorious, a display of God's character, as when he was seen pointing his impotent enemies to the cross of his Son, as his own provision for their pardon and salvation. And often as I dwelt on this wonderful truth, the big tears would roll down the cheek of this resolute and lion-hearted man. He had nothing to reply. A professed admirer of God, he found God set before him in an attitude far more gloriously blessed than he had ever seen him--no shadow cast over his holiness, and yet his love finding its joy in pardoning and enriching his enemies.
It pleased God to restore him to a sufficient degree of health to enable him to resume his usual occupation. For a time he went
CONVERSION OF A DEIST.
on most steadily, but after a few months he again relapsed into his former courses. Again he drank down iniquity like water. While he was living in this way, I occasionally met him in the street, but he would stop but for a moment, and always seemed glad to escape from me.
When I heard that he was again laid on his sick-bed, and very ill, I visited him. But I was, on the whole, less satisfied with him than ever. He would listen to anything I pleased to say ; contradicting me in nothing, whether I spoke of God, or of himself, or of the Lord Jesus; but it always seemed like a tale told to a man who knew it all beforehand. He would rouse himself when I spoke of his body-or of any remedy for its diseases —or of his beloved wife and children—and he always manifested the strongest possible anxiety to live. Indeed, he would never allow the idea of his not recovering to be entertained. The last time I saw him in this state was on Wednesday afternoon, the 4th March. When I left him then, I was exceedingly depressed about him. I thought him very much worse, and told him so. Had he died then, I could not have had hope in his death,
About half-past three o'clock that very night, I was summoned to his bed-side, and there I found a scene of terror such as I never before witnessed. His whole appearance was expressive of extreme agony. He looked like a man who felt he was seized by some power hitherto unknown to him—a power alike irresistible and terrible! And yet, fearful as his appearance then was, those in the room told me that the groans he was then uttering were not to be compared to his cries about half an hour before!
When I entered his room, the terrible storm was subsiding, and he then appeared to be quickly settling down into death ; but to our astonishment, he continued in this state for nearly seven hours; till, at about ten o'clock in the morning; a most remarkable change took place. I was then alone in the room with him. The others who had been watching by him had gone down stairs; for the scene had become almost too much for us all. While thus alone by his side, I thought I heard his beloved brother's step below, and I went to the door of the room to listen if it was so. Just as I reached the door, I turned and looked on him who lay like a corpse on the bed, when he suddenly raised his arm, and beckoned to me with his finger! This was as startling a movement to me as if it had been made by one actually dead. Seeing, however, that he was looking very calmly at me, and that his consciousness was evidently restored, I instantly returned to his side, when he detailed to me the anguish of mind and body he had just passed through, adding, amongst other expressions of assurance and delight, that he was now as happy as an angel. :
My first thought, on hearing this, was, naturally enough, “Is he wandering ?-is he in his senses ?" And the following mode of putting this to the proof occurred to me. When I saw him the
CONVERSION OF A DEIST.
previous afternoon, it was agreed between us that he should get a certain account, and show it to me on the following day. I now asked where it was, and he told me it was tied in the corner of his handkerchief under the pillow, where I found it. His mind was as clear, and his manner as prompt and as self-possessed as ever I saw it in my life.
Satisfied as to this, I said, “Well, now, tell me what you mean by saying that you are happy—and that you are going to heaven ?"
“Oh," said he, with striking emphasis, “it's all through Christ -through his blood—it's this that has washed away my sins !".
“This is a most solemn and important moment," said I; “I have been standing over you for hours, watching for your last breath; but God has been pleased to give you back your senses again ; for how long I cannot tell; do let me, then, again ask you, as a dying man, and in the presence of God, what you mean by telling me that you have peace in your soul, and that you are going to heaven? For you know what a sinner you have been."
He replied, with peculiar solemnity and earnestness of manner, “I know I have but a very short time in this world ; perhaps not five minutes; but I believe in Jesus, the Son of the living God; and my trust is entirely in His merits and in His blood; and -(this he said as if very anxious to impress on me the reality as well as the blessedness of it)–my sins are all forgiven; I have peace with God.”
I was too much overcome by this astonishing scene to say any. thing for a few moments. I was drinking in the blessed fact that he was plucked, by God's most precious mercy, as a fire-brand out of the burning!
He presently asked me to pray with him at once, as he thought his time here was very short, and his senses might not be continued to him. It will not be wondered, that when I responded to this request, I found myself rather pouring out thanksgivings than presenting supplications. After this, he wished to see his beloved wife and children. About the same time also his brother arrived. And to all these dear relatives he again and again professed his faith in the precious blood of Jesus, and his peace and happiness in the prospect of immediate death. He then requested that several of the men, over whom for years he had acted as foreman, might be sent for, in order that he might tell them that he was dying a believer in Jesus. I was not present when he saw them, but those who were present tell me that he spoke most impressively to them; urging on them the sufficiency of the Saviour and his blood, and telling them of his own peace and hope.
During the night, he spoke to me several times, in the sweetest and happiest manner, of the preciousness of the blood of Jesus, and of his wonderful conversion. Once, when he bad lain for some time with his eyes closed, though evidently not asleep, he
CONVERSION OF A DEIST.
opened his eyes, and turning round to me, said, “I used to think that I should be the only one of our dear family who would be lost. I thought I was to be the outcast one, for I knew that all the rest were christians; but now you see we shall all meet above clothed in the white robe. Several times during that night he spoke in a similar strain. Sometimes he seemed quite lost in wonder at the grace God had shown in his conversion.
During the following morning I took a christian brother to see him, whose spiritual judgment I much valued, for I was anxious that others should witness, and judge of, this very interesting case. On being asked by this visitor as to the state of his mind, he said _“I am as happy as an angel, sir; quite happy. I have nothing but heaven before me; and I hope it will please God to take me there to-day. It is no wonder, is it, sir, that I should wish that, for you see I never had the chance of going there before ?" He meant that the way into heaven seemed never open before him until now—that now it was the immediate prospect of his soul-and how was it possible for him not to wish to pass on into it.
“But,” he was asked, “How do you hope to go to heaven ?”
Turning his face quite round towards the speaker, he instantly replied, “ Through the blood of Christ!"
"But you despised that blood once ?” it was rejoined.
“No one more so," said he, “I have ridiculed Christ, and christians, in every possible way. According to my sphere of life, I have been as great a persecutor and blasphemer as Saul, and worse. But it is all changed now! Now, I see that nothing but Christ and his blood can save any man!"
In the course of the afternoon of that day, fever again attacked him, and until mid-day on the Saturday, he was quite delirious. The blasphemies he uttered during this, awful period would perhaps bave staggered the faith of many; but I had such decided proof of the alienation of his mind at the time, that I sought and found comfort and strength from God, in the very presence of satan and his power.
After coming to himself, he was lifted out of bed for a short time, and as he lay on the sofa, he spoke very solemnly to a young man who had assisted to lift him out, and whom he had long known. He told him to see in his emaciated frame the effects of intemperance and bad company; warned him most earnestly as to his own course of life; and set before bim the Lord Jesus as the only Saviour of sinners. He appeared very anxious to warn others against the vices he had himself indulged. I believe it was at this time that he said, “I wish all the drunkards in Plymouth could see and hear me now!".
While I was with him that evening, I inquired his state of mind, but he said, “I would rather collect my thoughts a little, and ask myself a few questions, before I say any thing. I hope
CONVERSION OF A DEIST.
God will be pleased to give me some sleep to-night, and then in the morning I will speak to you about my state of mind."
On the following morning, I saw him very early. I was anxious to hear the result of his own examination into the state of his mind. On my asking how it was with him, he looked up cheerfully, and said, “It is all right; it is all right!".
“What is all right?"
“Oh, it's all right here," said he, putting his hand on his breast. “I am happy Christ had not moved, though I was so tossed about. The Rock never moved. And He is my trust."
"And you find Him precious to you ?" I asked.
“Yes; His precious blood is all I trust. So, you see, it's all right,” said he, looking at me with a smile of triumph on his face !
One circumstance I must mention, of which I was not a witness. Either on the Saturday or the Sunday, his beloved brother was going up stairs to sce him, when he overheard him in prayer. There was no one just then in the room with him; he had asked to be left quite alone. His brother, who did not know this, stopped at the door when he heard how he was engaged, and for ten minutes be heard him praying most earnestly to the Lord. He appealed to God that He himself knew that now he trusted entirely in the blood of His dear Son--for which precious blood he repeatedly thanked God and he prayed that if any scales were yet on his eyes, God would be pleased to take them off. He appeared to be engaged in the most direct and simple intercourse with God. When he concluded, his brother entered the room, and presently asked how he felt. He said, “I am very peaceful, and very happy. I have been able to pray a little, and I feel very composed indeed now.” “Oh,” said he, placing his hand on his breast, “how precious Jesus is!"
On the three 'following days, he gradually grew weaker and weaker ; but he never suffered any violent agitation; and when sensible, he invariably manifested his continued peace and hope through Jesus.
On the Wednesday, he repeatedly said he should die that night. He spoke of this, it appears, to almost every one who waited on him that day, and he always spoke of it as a happy prospect to bim. I saw him, for the last time, about seven o'clock that evening. He did not say as much to me as to others about his conviction that he should depart that night, but he gave me his hand very affectionately when I left him, and asked me to kiss him. As I stooped and kissed his forehead, he said, “We shall meet above, before the Throne, next!”.
About eleven o'clock that night, he asked for some tea. When it was brought to him, by one who waited on him with great kindness, he said, “I hope you will not be offended at what I am going to ask, but I should like Grace (his wife) to give me that. It is the last thing I shall take, and I should like to take it from