Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

darkness and misery. It was truly affecting, indeed, to contemplate the reverend form of the priest standing over the bed of death, his snowy locks giving to his care-worn features an expression of solemn grace, such as became the messenger of mercy. I think he is yet in my eye, as the dim light fell upon his meek countenance, raising his eyes and his arms to Heaven, in attestation at once of the truth of his message, and of the trembling anxiety with which he delivered it. Long, and earnest, and heart-rending was the struggle between guilt and mercy;-between the long-cherishedthe delusive hopes of the perishing sinner, and the simple command to surrender up the idols of the heart; to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and live. The only reply to all this was a continual cry for absolution. “Absolve me-for the sake of the Blessed Mother, absolve me, I say!" shrieked Lynch, as he stretched out his fleshless arms, with the most intense supplication, to the priest; "let me get absolution an' die." "I too am a sinner," replied the priest; "think not to draw consolation from me. I cannot, nor will I, mock the awful power of God by the unmeaning form of a rite, particularly when the heart is dead to a living faith." "Anoint me then," said the other, "anoint me; surely you wont let me die like a heretick or a dog, without the benefit of that, at laste ?" "I am myself," replied the priest, "on the brink of the grave, and I cannot trifle either with your salvation or my own. I could not meet my Redeemer, if I turned away your heart from Him, in this awful hour. Tell me that you renounce every thing, except HIM ALONE, and I will then speak peace to your soul." "Sure I do believe on my Redeemer," replied the man,-" didn't I always believe on him? I only want absolution." "Hear me, you deluded man," said the priest: as I shall stand before the throne of judgment, and as God liveth, there is none but the God Christ Jesus, who redeemed you by his most precious blood, who can give you absolution." A murmur of surprise and disapprobation at this strange doctrine, burst from all present;--the priest looked round, but he was firm. "Heaven and earth, cannot you do it?" asked the other, distractedly. "No," replied the priest, solemnly; to forgive sins is the province of God alone, as well as to give grace for repentance and faith." "God of Heaven!" cried the other in a kind of impotent fury, "why didn't you tell me this before ?" The priest gasped for breath, and only answered with a groan that shook his whole frame. "Is there no hope ?" asked Lynch. "Repent," said the priest-" repent from the bottom of your heart, and believe that Christ died for you, and rest assured, that if your sins were ten thousand times greater than they are, they can be made whiter than snow;-can you, therefore, believe that Christ died for you?" "I can, I can," said the other; "didn't I always believe it?" A gleam of delight passed, like a glimpse of sunshine; over the priest's features, and he turned up his eyes gratefully to Heaven. He proceeded-"Can you believe that nothing else but repentance and that faith which I have described, are able to save you?" "I can, I can," said the man; "will you absolve me

66

66

66

now?" "Do you renounce all trust in this, and in this ?" said Father Moyle, taking up the Cord of St. Francis and the Scapular, both of which the other had pressed to his bosom. The man clutched them more closely, and was silent. "Answer me," said Father Moyle, "ere it be too late.” "Here," said the man, “I can give up the Coard of St. Francis; but-but-is it to give up the Ordher of the Mother of God?-no, no, I couldn't give up that; I darn't make her my enemy." "Do you feel that a form of absolution, or the application of extreme-unction, from me, cannot pardon your sins?" "Sure I know they can," replied the other. The priest clasped his hands despairingly, and looked up to Heaven for strength to sustain him under this heavy trial; and the tears streamed down his cheeks. Like a faithful champion, however, he was determined not to surrender the soul of this miserable man, without another struggle. He knelt again, and prayed aloud in a strain of the most fervent and exalted piety, whilst his glowing words, which he requested the other to repeat after him, though couched in beautiful simplicity, (he had been the most eloquent man of his day,) breathed forth the holy energy of intense faith. With tears, with supplications, and with deep groanings, did he direct the hopeless man to the fountain of love, pardon, and repentance. With sincere affection and tenderness did he endeavour to lead him to the foot of the Cross; strongly did he struggle, and urge, and entreat, pleading only in the name of One Mediator between God and man. He prayed, however, alone; the heart of the dying man was not in the prayer-the aspirations of his spirit rose not to the throne of grace; on the contrary, he manifested symptoms of impatience and irritability; he hugged and kissed his cords and his scapular, like a man given over to some strong delusion that he should believe a lie; and, from time to time, dipped his thumb into the holy water, or black paste, and then formed the sign of the Cross upon his forehead, lips, and breast. When the prayer was over, the priest spoke to him again with redoubled earnestness, and with still streaming eyes pressed, entreated, and commanded him to cast away all but Christ, who, he told him, would not give his glory to another. Vain was every exertion to accomplish this -fruitless every struggle. His hopes, his habits, his opinions, his experience had all been twined round his idols, and these idols were grown into his innermost heart; how could he cast them out now, without tearing up the heart in which they were rooted? To witness such a death-bed-to contemplate him striving to hope against hope, was worth a thousand homilies. But, in fact, he had no hope; and it was this pervading conviction, so strongly at variance with his creed and opinions-this fatal error of mistaken trust, and the inward torture of actual despair, that constituted his misery.

When the prayer was over, in which he joined as well as he was able, he commanded them to raise and support him in a sitting posture. He now breathed short, trembled, or rather shivered unusually, every two or three minutes, and cried at intervals for absolution and the unction. I remarked, that as he sat, thus sup

66

[ocr errors]

none can

[ocr errors]

ported, in the miserable bed, his eyes, which were fixed keenly on the priest, shone with a yellow but intense glare, whether in supplication or anger I could not say; but, wherever the latter moved, the sick man's eyes followed him with a rivetted gaze which he seemed incapable of changing. Such a look was really enough to make a man's flesh creep. "Will you not absolve me?" he enquired. "I cannot absolve myself," said the priest; absolve you but God, to whom I implore you, John, to raise your head in sincere repentance." "Do you remember then?" said Lynch. "I do, I do,” replied the other; "but this hour is not that-the hand of God is fastened on us; death and judgment are both present," Lynch again shivered terribly. "You will not," he shouted out hollowly and hoarsely, whilst his eyes darted at him, and the dead-ereak was quite loud over his words; "then," said he, may my eternal misery rest upon your head, where it ought to rest!" and he fell back faintly in the bed. Father Moyle staggered, but I caught and supported him. "Father of all mercies," he exclaimed, 'support me under this great trial;" and, as he uttered the words, he wiped the big drops of anguish off his face. He was not, however, to be daunted: again he grappled with him, wrestled, fought, disputed every inch, under the banner of the Cross, but with no success; the man would give up nothing; he did not refuse to go to Christ, but he brought the enemies of his God along with him.. Matters now took a most singular and unexpected turn. Those who were present had, for some time before this last scene, considered the conduct of the priest unjustifiable, for they knew not his views, nor the responsibility of his duties; they now attacked him in the language of anger and exasperation, and he endeavoured, meekly and calmly, to give them a correct view of that which, as a minister of Christ, he ought to do. But this was doctrine which they understood not; that a priest should be incapable of forgiving sins, they considered rank heresy, and they told him so. Like the poor creature on the bed, they expected that he could save him if he would, and they were determined to compel him to do so. Their language became high, and their visages fierce, so much so, that I myself, who, to tell the truth, attributed Father Moyle's conduct either to incipient dotage, or some temporary hallucination, began to feel apprehensions as to the result of this strange business; ➡at all events, I saw clearly that they would effect their object, "Father Moyle," said the man who had come for him, brother to Lynch, "it's no use in spakin' any more about it; this door is now bolted;"-he bolted it as he spoke,-" and out of this house you will not go, if you don't give that dyin' man the rites of the church. One word for all, I've said it.' The priest, who knew their determined character and prejudices on this subject, saw the difficulties of his situation; but he trembled at the thought of making this awful compromise between conscience and humanity. They were knit to their purpose. "Come," said the brother, "bring up the little table to the bed; its a folly to talk I'll not see my brother

die in this state, and a priest in the house with him; bring the table quick," said he to the woman, in a voice of passion-" what about-and put the candle on it."

are ye

[ocr errors]

My friend," said the priest, and he trembled excessively, "I'm an infirm old man, and very incapable of bearing any kind of a severe shock; do not, therefore, for the sake of God, compel me to do what my conscience condemns. I have endeavoured to lead him to Christ, as a sinner, like myself, wanting mercy and pardon; but I cannot administer a dead service which would only involve myself in deep guilt, without benefitting him." "That's all fine," replied the other; "but walk up, yer reverence; not a word nowit must be done;" and he forcibly led the trembling old man up to the table. "Let the priest alone, Larry," said the woman, alarmed at seeing him under his grasp." "Keep off of me," said he, "or I'll knock you down. Come, Sir, we'll all go into the little room; and now fall to yer duty."

The timid old man turned his eyes to heaven and fell over against the corner of the bed, senseless and convulsive. The woman gave a scream of terror, and ran to his assistance, and I aided her in raising him. The sick man, who did not speak during this, watched the proceedings with the eye of a lynx; but the death-rattle became louder and more harsh, in proportion as his interest in what was going forward encreased.

It

We placed Father Moyle on a chair, and were endeavouring to recover him, when a loud knocking was heard at the door, and immediately after, the curate's voice, desiring to be admitted. appeared that the servant told him, on his returning from the sick call, that he feared something must have happened Father Moylean alarm which the severity of the night, his illness, and his long absence, sufficiently justified. The curate felt the same apprehension, and, on hearing whither he had gone, followed him.

"In the name of heaven," said he, on seeing the situation of Father Moyle, "what does this mean ?" "Never you heed that," said Lynch's brother, "it wont signify-give this man the rites of the church, while he has life and sense in him, and we'll take care of Father Moyle;-come," said he, "we'll bring him, chair and all, into the next house, an' in a short time he'll be well enough." This the curate refused to do, until he saw that Father Moyle, who now opened his eyes and drew his breath, was likely to recover. In the mean time he was removed to the other house, whither we all accompanied him, leaving the curate and the dying man together. When the last rites of the church were administered, we returned, and, Christian reader, he who clung to his idols, his scapulars, and his unctions, lay before us calm and composed, apparently prepared to meet that Redeemer on whom he refused to ground his hopes of salvation! The wooden crucifix was either in his hands or next his heart, according as the caprice of the moment dictated.

[ocr errors]

Dennis," said he to his brother, "I have one commandment to lay on you before I die,--will you do it?"

"You know, John," replied the other, "if 'tis what I'm able to

do, I'll do it, God willin'; any thing, John, avourneen, that could give you ase or pace where you're goin'."

[ocr errors]

"Well," said the other, "'tis this, I lay id upon you to make three stations to Loughderg, for myself three, remimber, in my name; an' you don't know bud may be tis yer gardin angel I'd be for this, when my soul's relased out of Purgathory. Will ye promise, before God, to fulfil this?" "I promise before God that I will," said the brother, "if I'm spared: or, if I don't live to do id myself, that I'll lay it upon some one else to finish it." Well, God be praised," said the sick man; if you will light this bit of blessed candle, that I may have the light of it shining upon me, I will now die happy." This was complied with; and in less than twenty minutes after these words, he expired.

66

When Father Moyle saw that the miserable man was gone, a dark shade of intense misery settled upon his countenance; he had been standing over him whilst in the throes of dissolution, and truly he appeared to feel pang for pang; but when the last convulsion quivered away into the stillness of utter death, he dropped down on the chair as if seized with another fit; the upper part of his face was cold, but his throat and lips were so dry and parched, that he gasped for breath. It was not without a strong trial of Christian fortitude that he was able to contemplate the death and life of the unrepentant being who had gone to judgment, and between whom and himself there had been evidently a mysterious community of knowledge which it is out of our power to unseal. His natural feelings were strong and acute, but the consolations of religion, notwithstanding his sufferings, calmed and supported him under them. When he had regained a little strength, and was sufficiently com. posed, we prepared to go.

Ere we left the house, I went over and took a last glimpse of the corpse; it was an unpleasant object to view; his black bushy brows, bent into a scowl by the last agonies, contrasted disagreeably with his pallid face, and gave his countenance an expression of "grim repose," exactly in keeping with his character, and the delusive security in which he died.

WILTON.

BAGSTER'S COMPREHENSIVE BIBLE.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER, SIR-On being referred a few days since to your Number for May last, I was much surprised and pained to find myself accused in my editorial capacity of " an error of the grossest nature in the introduction" to the above work, "C an error" which your correspondent R. H. N. affirms, "cannot be attributed to the printer, and would afford a most malignant triumph to the enemies of the Reformation;" in short, that I should have called, "Gregory Nyssen, the author of the Nicene Creed-a creed drawn up by the council of Nicoa before Gregory was born!!! Allow me, Sir, to assure your worthy correspondent, that his fears are in this instance groundless; and that Dr. Doyle will never have occasion to "glory

« ZurückWeiter »