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THE RIGHT DECISION. “I do not think it can be so," said the invalid. He was looking pale and languid, and had evidently been long ill. He was now in his chamber, which he was likely never to leave again ; he was not, however, confined to his bed, but was able, as yet, to sit up a part of the day with tolerable comfort. At the time when he uttered the words above recorded, he was leaning with his elbow on a small round table, which had been placed by his side, and on which there lay a Bible. There was but one person in the room with him, and this was not an attendant, but à visitor—a kind and Christian visitor, who had been some time in conversation with him, and had succeeded in obtaining at least a degree of thoughtful and serious attention.
“I do not think it can be so," said he, directing a somewhat timid and incredulous look towards his visitor. "I am, of course, a sinner, but I cannot accuse myself of being so bad as you represent me."
“You will, at least, give me credit for this,” said the visitor, “ that I do not wish to represent you as worse than you really are."
“ Surely," replied the sick man, “ you can have neither interest nor pleasure in doing that; and the trouble you take in visiting me so often is a proof that you are too kind to give me unnecessary pain. But you may be mistaken.”
"I may," said he ; “ but as the matter is a very serious one, and one on which it is of infinite importance to ascertain the truth, shall we make a little further inquiry into it?"
“ By all means," rejoined the invalid ; " and may God make me willing to know the truth; for it would be a fearful thing to die, as the Scripture says, with a lie in my right hand.”
The serious tone in which this prayer was uttered inspired the pious visitor with hope ; he added his hearty Amen to it, and then led the conversation.
Visitor. “ What, then, is the view that you take of your own character ?”
Invalid. “I have already admitted that I am a sinner-all men are so; but I cannot see that I am a great sinner. I have been free from profligacy; I have maintained in every way a respectable character; I have also kept to my church, and have at all times been ready to do an act of kindness when it was in my power.”
The sick man looked in the face of the visitor as he said this, as if expecting commendation. That gentleman, however, proceeded gravely to reply,–
"I do not call any of these statements in question. Indeed, in part, I know they are true; but you will admit that they express rather your general recollection than the absolute facts of your life, and that this general recollection has been supplied by a very superficial survey of it. You have not passed your life in review with any very minute or searching scrutiny, have you?”
“ Why, no," rejoined the invalid ; “how can I ? There must be much that I have forgotten.”
“But there is nothing that God has forgotten, my friend. He will bring every forgotten and every secret thing into judgment. Are you prepared to bring your whole life, in the vividness of a quickened and perfect memory, before his bar ?"
“No, sir, I am not. În my whole life there must have been much more sin than I am now conscious of; and perhaps, in my foolish pride, I may have forgotten many of the worst parts of it."
“ Just so; and are you sure that you form such an estimate of your own character, so far as you are conscious of it, as the judgment of God will confirm ?”
Invalid. “ Will not God acknowledge the excellency of virtue, and approve the keeping of his commandments ?”
“ Undoubtedly; but this raises a question of fact-namely, whether you really have been keeping God's commandments ?"
The invalid looked surprised, but he made no reply.
“I understand your meaning," said his visitor," and I will endeavour to explain myself. You are thinking, no doubt, of what are commonly called the commandments,— Honour thy
THE RIGHT DECISION.
kill,' and others; and you have been accustomed to limit the meaning of these commandments to outward acts. But this is a mistake, of which you must beware. These, and all other specific précepts, belong to a much larger declaration of God's will, the moral law. To show you what the moral law really is, I need only present to you a single passage out of this blessed book :- Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,' Matt. xxii. 35-40. You see now what the law of God is.”
“ Yes, that is too plain to be misunderstood, and it is certainly as reasonable as it is plain. To love God with all my heart, and my neighbour as myself, is a just rule of duty."
“And you cannot say you have lived according to that rule?”
“Oh, no; this places the matter in quite a new light. If the question is to be, whom or what I have supremely loved, certainly I cannot say that I have so loved God.”
Visitor. “ I need scarcely, then, direct your attention to any evidences of this state of things ?"
"No," said the invalid, with a look of sorrow and humiliation; "I am self-condemned. I have, beyond all question, given my heart to the world. I have loved my family and my friends; I have loved my business and my pleasures : but I have not loved God.”
Tears were now in the sick man's eyes, as he proceeded to say, without waiting for any answer from his friend, “ No, I have not loved God. God has not been in all my thoughts; I have made no effort to realize his presence ; I have sought no communion with him; I have not made it my business to promote his glory; I have lived without him in the world.”
“ Yet you said just now that you had kept his commandments."
“Ah, sir,” replied the invalid, covering his face with his hands, and bursting into tears, “how ignorantly I made that assertion! I never thought of them as his commandments; love to him was no part of my motives, and his glory was no part of my end. Poor virtues that I boasted so !” he continued ; but he now sobbed too violently to be able to proceed further.
His friend was moyed by this burst of grief, and he would gladly have adverted at once to the consolations of the gospel ; but he felt it his duty to see that the wound he had probed should not be slightly healed. After leaving the invalid a few moments to his feelings, he said:
“You see now that you are a much greater sinner than you "Oh yes," replied the sick man, “much—very much.”
“ And that my representation of your character was not very much exaggerated ?”
“ It was not at all exaggerated ; all that you said of me was true,"
“ Your condition before God, then, is_ ” The visitor paused at this word, as if to allow the invalid to finish the sentence according to his own feelings. The young man understood him, and promptly said, with a sad and solemn emphasis
" That of a great and wretched sinner. Oh, sir!” he added, after a period of silence apparently spent in realizing the awfulness of his position as now discerned, " is there hope for me?”
“ There is hope for all,” said the visitor, energetically; ""God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoeyer believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' Is this hope welcome and precious to you?"
“ Have I any other?” exclaimed the sick man, eagerly ; “ or ought I to wish for any other, when my offended God presents to me one so blessed and so glorious ?”
“ You can trust, then, in the name of Jesus?”
“Oh! not as I ought, or as I would; but I cannot wholly ·mistrust him—that would be an additional sin, would it not ?"
He said this with a degree of firmness by which his friend was gratified, and he said—“. You believe in Christ as your Saviour, then, from choice, and not only from necessity ?"
Invalid. “I ought to do so. How attractive a way of salvation ought to be to me, which at once glorifies God, and saves such a poor, lost sinner, as I am! Yet, I am ashamed to say, my proud heart hardly submits to it. Oh! to count all things but loss, that I may win Christ! Lord, help my unbelief !”
“He will help you," said the visitor, emphatically, and at the same moment kindly grasping his hand ; “ trust him, and do not be afraid. He is able to save even to the uttermost all that come unto God by him ; and his own words are, · Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'”.
“ You will pray with me, sir ?" said the invalid, who was now calm, but deeply serious.
“ Surely," replied his friend; and after a brief but solemn prayer, in which he implored the aid of the Holy Spirit to teach the sufferer both the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the unsearchable riches of Christ, he left the invalid to his own thoughts.
THE MEN OF NINEVEH. AFTER nearly three thousand years, parts of the city of Nineveh have been disinterred. The great winged bulls, and the curiously sculptured slabs, now in the British Museum, give an insight into the manners, and customs, and social life of the ancient Assyrian people: they enable us to picture the great metropolis of the east as it was when the prophet Jonah visited it,with its broad halls, its palaces, temples, and houses, vast gardens, fields, and pasture lands; and with its streets, the thoroughfares for busy thousands ---statesmen, merchants, and artificers passing to and fro; and armies, with their heavy tramp, marching along the immense highways.
That place was a scene of luxury and vice, of superstition and idolatry. It was crowded with men whose iniquities cried to Heaven for vengeance. But God, who saw more of its wickedness than man can imagine, looked on it in mercy, and sent Jonah to preach repentance to the people. It was not merely as mortals, but as immortals, that God contemplated them. They were not like the gourd—which came up in a night, and withered in a night-but they were beings to whom belonged an existence more enduring than the great works they had built up. It is an overpowering thought, as we look on any great city-on London, for example-to think that all the people who inhabit it are on their way to another world; and that, should it