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found every story assuming the same rigid features of In a corner of the upper story was the
iron and stone.
cell of the murderer.
A little grated window opened into the passage-way. The jailer tapped softly at the window; and informed the prisoner, in a kind and gentle tone, that the clergyman had come.
“Should you like to have us come in?" asked the jailer.
The prisoner instantly assented; and the jailer unbolted and unbarred the door. "Strange!" thought I. "Here is a man who has outraged the laws of both God and man; and a whole community has arisen in justice, and declared that he is unworthy to live, and to-morrow he is to die by the hand of justice: and yet his very keeper treats him so tenderly, that he will not come into his cell without first obtaining permission!"
As we passed through the narrow aperture in the thick stone wall which the iron door had closed, the whole aspect of the room and of the prisoner was one which effectually removed my surprise that he should be treated with kindness and compassion. He was pale and haggard, and he trembled exceedingly. He seemed exhausted by the agony of remorse and terror. A few hours before, his wife had been in his cell, to bid him a final farewell; and the next day he was to be led forth to execution, in the presence of thousands. In the mean time, the walls and floor and roof of his cell, of continued uninterrupted stone and iron, seemed to say to him, wherever he looked, "You shall not escape." It seemed as if the eye would have rested with a feeling of relief upon a board or a curtain, even if it concealed a stone behind; with so forbidding and relentless a gripe did this dismal cell seem to hold its unhappy tenant. As I looked, between the heavy iron bars of his grated window, upon the distant plains and
hills, and thought how ardently he must wish that he were once more innocent and free, I forgot the cold-blooded brutality of the crime, and only mourned over the misery and ruin of the man.
The world does, in some cases, sympathize with one suffering from remorse; but, generally, men are indignant with the offender if his crime is great, and they treat him with ridicule and scorn if it is small. Jesus Christ, however, pities a sinner. He loved us while we were yet in our sins: He came to save us. He sympathized with us in our suffering.
This disposition of our Saviour, to look not so much at the guilt which we have incurred, as at the sufferings into which it has brought us, is everywhere very apparent, in His history. Often the greatest sinners came to him; and He never reproached them, unless they came in pride and stubbornness of heart. He always endeavoured to relieve them of the burden of guilt, and to give them assurance of pardon and peace. On one occasion, how kindly does he say to a very guilty sinner, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more!" Instead of adding to the burden of guilt, by exhibiting coldly the contrast of His own bright example, or by his severe rebukes, he says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!
Persons who wish to be saved from sin very often distrust the Saviour's willingness to receive them. They acknowledge, in general terms, His kindness and compassion; and think that he is, in all ordinary cases, willing to save the chief of sinners; but they think there is something peculiar in their own case, which should prevent them from coming to him in confidence. This peculiarity is almost always one of two things: 1. That they are not enough in earnest in the work of salvation; or, 2. That they have often resolved before, and broken their resolutions.
Do not some of you, my readers, feel unwilling to come
to the Saviour, because you think that you do not feel
a sufficient interest in the subject? You know that you are sinners, and would like to be free from sin. You would like such a friend as I describe the Saviour to be; but you have no sufficiently strong conviction, and you : think the promises cannot be for you.
Or, perhaps, some of you, though you feel a deep interest in the subject, may be discouraged and disheartened by the sins you find yourselves constantly committing, and by your repeatedly-broken resolutions. You think the Saviour must be wearied out with your continual backslidings and sins; and you are ready to give up the contest, and to think that final holiness and peace are not intended for you.
Inquirers after the path of piety are very slow to learn that the Saviour is the Friend of sinners. They will not learn, that he came to help us while we are in our trials and difficulties, not after we get out of them. How many say in their hearts, 'I must overcome this sin, or free myself from that temptation, and then I will come to the Saviour: I must have clearer views of my own sins, or deeper penitence, or more true love to God in my heart; and then, but not till then, can I expect Christ to be my friend'! What! do you suppose that it is the office of Jesus Christ to stand aloof from the struggling sinner, until he has, by his own unaided strength, and without assistance or sympathy, finished the contest? and then only to come and offer his congratulations after the victory is won? Is this such a Saviour as you imagine the Bible to describe?
At the door of one of the chambers in which you reside, you hear a mourning sound, as of one in distress. You enter hastily, and find a sick man, writhing in pain, and struggling alone with his sufferings. As soon as you understand the case, you say to him:
"We must send for a physician. There is one at the next door, who will come in a moment."
Oh, no," groans out the sufferer;
"I am in no state
to send for a physician. My head aches dreadfully: I am almost distracted with pain. I fear I am very dangerously ill."
"Then we must have a physician immediately," you reply. "Run and call him," you say, turning to an attendant: " ask him to come as soon as possible."
Oh, stop! stop!" says the sick man: "wait till I get a little easier. My breath is very short, and my pulse very feeble; and, besides, I have been getting worse and worse every half-hour for some time, and I am afraid there is no hope for me. Wait a little while, and perhaps I may feel better; and then I will send for him.” You would turn, after hearing such words, and say in a gentle voice to the attendant: "He is wandering in mind. Call the physician immediately."
Now Jesus Christ is a physician. He comes to heal your sins. If you wish to be healed, come to Him at once, just as you are. The soul that waits for purer motives, or for a deeper sense of guilt, or for a stronger interest in the subject, before it comes to Christ, is like the sick person waiting for health before he sends for a physician. Jesus Christ came to help you in obtaining these feelings; not to receive you after you have made yourself holy without Him. You have, I well know, great and arduous struggles to make with sin. Just as certainly as you attempt them alone, you will become discouraged, and fail. Come to the Saviour before you begin them; for, be assured, you will need help.
One great object which our Saviour had in view, in remaining so long in the world, was to understand our temptations, and the contests which they raise in the heart.
It is very often the case, that persons are struggling with temptations and sins almost in solitude; and those to whom they are directly accountable do not appreciate the circumstances in which they are placed, and the efforts they make to overcome temptation. I presume that teachers very often blame their pupils with a severity which they would not use if they remembered distinctly the feelings of childhood. Perhaps a little boy is placed on a seat by his intimate friend, and commanded, upon pain of some very severe punishment, not to whisper. He tries to refrain, and succeeds perhaps for half-an-hour in avoiding every temptation: at last, some unexpected occurrence, or some sudden thought, darts into his mindhis resolutions are forgotten-the presence of the master, the regulations of the school, and the special prohibition to him, all flit from his mind; and after the forbidden act, which occupied but an instant, is done, he immediately awakes to the consciousness of having disobeyed; and looks up, just in time to see the stern eye of his teacher upon him, speaking most distinctly of displeasure and of punishment. Now, if any severe punishment should follow such a transgression, how disproportionate would it be to the guilt! Suppose the boy may indeed have done wrong; -how slight must the wrong be, in the view of any one who could look into the heart, and estimate truly its moral movements in such a case! It is unquestionably true, and every wise teacher is fully aware of it, that, in school discipline, there is constant danger lest the teacher should estimate erroneously the moral character of the actions he witnesses, just because he has forgotten the feelings of childhood. He cannot appreciate its temptations, or understand its difficulties; and many a little struggler with the inclinations which would draw him from duty, is chilled and discouraged in his efforts, because the teacher never knows that he is making an effort to do his duty,