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Christ's precious salvation. I saw many who were sinking in hopeless disease, yet buoying themselves up with hopes of recovery, to whom I dared not even hint the dreaded announcement—-" Thou shalt die, and not live;" and whose hopes of escape from the wrath to come, and of happiness beyond the grave, were, I fully believed, entirely destitute of a scriptural foundation. It was fearful to contemplate; and I felt my own responsibility to be fearful also; but 1 knew not what to do.
According to the etiquette and opinions of society, it is not the province of a medical attendant to show any concern for the souls of his patients. His professional duties extend only to the cure, or treatment of bodily disease, leaving the care of the soul to recognised and duly accredited ministers of religion. I was, of course, aware of this, but it did not--satisfy me. I saw, in many instances, in the circle to which my engagements were limited, that "Peace, peace," was whispered into the ears of the dying, when there was, when there could be, no peace; while, in other instances, even the professional visits of the clergy were either declined or postponed almost to the last hour of mortal existence. With the full conviction that trie dying were Godless, Christless, and therefore hopeless, I pondered this question, " If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not: doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keopeth thy soul, doth not ho know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?"
Yes, I thought of this, till I was very sorrowful; my mind, indeed, was deeply exercised; and many were the almost sleepless nights I passed after witnessing scenes of nature sinking, with the soul unsupported by the consolations and hopes of the gospel.
There were times when I would gladly have relinquished my profession ; but two considerations forbade the thought. The first was that, in doing this, I must necessarily relinquish also my only means of subsistence. The second consideration was that, in fleeing from what appeared to me to be such a painful responsibility, I should be incurring the charge of putting my hand to the plough, and looking back, and of being ashamed of Christ and of his words.
I prayed—long, I know, and earnestly and sincerely, I believe—to be directed in what was really my duty, and to be assisted in performing it, however difficult; and at length I camo to a decision: I would as carefully and earnestly seek to promote the eternal interests of my patients, as it was my professional duty to attempt the cure of their bodily maladies. I would not usurp the office of a Christian teacher; but, quietly avowing myself to be a Christian physician, I would endeavour to supplement the labours of the Christian teacher by every means in my power. If this should prove inimical to my worldly interest, or even destructive to my professional prospects, I would submit, and bear the cross. Duty was mine: results were my heavenly Father's.
Soon after 1 had come to this conclusion, I was called in to attend a young lady of whom I had no previous knowledge. I found that she was in a deep decline, and it needed very little penetration to see that no remedies could restore health; her life was closing; and tho end was, probably, not far distant.
She was a superior person, and evidently highly accomplished; and I did not wonder that her brother, who was some years her senior, and was her only near relative, as well as her guardian, was deeply distressed by his sister's illness. I understood that tho brother and sister had been Home time travelling on the continent, vainly in search of health, until, yielding to her entreaties, Mr. F— had hastily returned to England for medical advice for the invalid.
"Well, doctor, what do you think of my sister?" was the first question put to me by Mr. F—, as he drew me aside into his library, after a short interview with the patient. He was much agitated.
"Miss F— is very ill, sir."
"Yes, yes, I know; at least I have feared this for some time; but is her case hopeless?"
I warded off the question as well as I was able, pleading that I could scarcely be expected to arrive at a decided opinion from one short visit.
Mr. F— acquiesced in tbis, and, to my relief, forbore to question me further; but I could see that my reserve increased his distress. "Save her if you can, doctor," he said in a mournful tone. "I cannot live without her;" and he burst into tears.
I said what I could to reassure, or at least, to comfort him; and for that time, took my leave.
My visits were daily repeated; and for a time some slight amendment took place in the patient's health; but there was a gloom on her spirits for which I could not account, since she had not been apprized, and was most likely unaware of the danger of her condition. Meanwhile I had little opportunity for introducing the subject of religion; and, on one or two occasions when I might have done so, I shrank like a coward from the duty to which I had pledged myself before God.
One day, however, when shown into the drawing-room, I found Miss F— alone, and I perceived that she had been weeping, though she endeavoured to hide the signs of recent emotion. I saw, too, what I had never before observed, that on a table which was drawn up to her sofa, was a pocket Bible. Probably Miss F— saw that this attracted my attention, for she was about, in some confusion and agitation, to remove it, when I interposed.
"Pray do not put that volume away," I said; "I am rejoiced to see it so near you."
The hectic flush on her cheek deepened: "Do you know what book it is?" she said, faintly.
"1 see it is the Bible," I replied.
"And do you advise your patients to read the Bible?" she asked.
"Yes, indeed I do."
The young lady seemed surprised at the avowal, but she did not reply.
"If the truths of the Bible were more firmly believed, and its consolations more. earnestly sought, the anxiety of the physician would be immeasurably lightened," I said.
"You speak as though you really believed the Bible, doctor," said Miss F—, almost incredulously.
"Yes," I said, "I believe the Bible; I am no stranger to its contents. Blessed be God, I can say that the gospel—the good tidings—which it reveals is the foundation of my hopes for eternity."
"Oh, I am very glad—" her voice faltered here, and she left the sentence unfinished.
"And I am glad—glad that you are acquainted with the—"
Miss F— interrupted me hastily—"No, no," she said, very mournfully, " do not misunderstand me, doctor. I do not know—I am not a Christian—Oh! I am very miserable. If you could know all that I feel, you would pity me ;** and her eyes filled with tears.
"The Saviour knows all that you feel, though I do not; and he is very pitiful, and full of compassion: cannot you trust him?" I asked.
She shook her head sorrowfully, " If I knew where I could find him," she feebly uttered.
I had now, or thought I had, the key to that gloom on my patient's spirits for which I had before been at a loss to account; and I endeavoured, as well as I was able, to point out the way of salvation by faith in Christ. In conclusion, I besought her not to trifle with the convictions which gave her such distress; but to search the Scriptures, which were able to make her wise unto salvation by faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Miss F— listened eagerly. "I will do so," she said; "but my brother—"
"Mr. F— surely cannot object to your reading the Bible?"
"You do not know him, doctor. He is the kindest, most affectionate brother on earth, I believe; and we are very dear to each other. But he hates religion very bitterly; and he hates it the more, because he thinks it is at the root of my illness. Has he not told you this?"
"No, he has not."
"It is so, however," continued the invalid; "and I cannot persuade him that he is mistaken."
"And on what does he found his opinion?" I ventured to ask.
"I will tell you, doctor," she said. "It is more than
two years ago that I was at "(she named a fashionable
watering-place) "with my brother, and we strolled one Sunday into a crowded place of worship. The sermon I then heard I have never forgotten, I shall never forget; it made me wretched, for it convinced me that I was lost and ruined. But if then I had yielded to my convictions, there would have been hope for me."
"There is hope now," I said. "The Lord Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."
The invalid looked up mournfully. "Yes, I know that this book "—she laid her hand on the Bible—" says so, and I know that it is true; but oh, doctor! to come to him—how?"
There was a plaintive, pathetic tone in this question, thus put, inexpressibly touching; and I could only whisper a reply—" By repentance and faith. 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'"
"It is the same thing in other words, sir," she said, evidently in deep dejection. "Bepentance and faith! yes, I know it; but if I cannot repent—cannot believe?"
What could I do but repeat the apostle's words, "' Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of .sins.' Is not this enough?" I asked.
Miss F— made no reply to this question; but she went on to say that, having been deeply impressed with the sermon to which she had referred, she, for a time, abstracted herself from the gay scenes of the world, and regularly attended the preaching of the gospel; that her brother quickly perceived the change, and, tracing it to its cause, used every means in his power, of argument, contempt, flattery, reproach, invective, temptation, and finally, of authority, to detach her from her strange, methodistieal notions. Unhappily, he succeeded—succeeded in inducing her to banish from her mind the thoughts which had distressed her, and to return, with fresh zest, to the pursuits of fashion and folly. "Then came this illness," she added. "And have you never thought," I asked, "that this illness has been permitted, in mercy, to recall to your mind the impressions which you had put away from you, and to lead you back to the Saviour, whose love you had slighted?"
"If I could think so," said my patient, "I should be very thankful; but I cannot." "Why cannot you?"
"See, doctor, here,"—and she opened the Bible at a passage which was turned down,—" it was only just before you came in that I was turning over the leaves, and, without my seeking for it, this text ".—she laid her finger on it —" stared me in the face."
I read the verses,—" Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh."
"How is it that these words distress you?" I asked, when I had glanced at them.