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But when Mrs. Goodman, in her zeal, uttered her apprehensions before him, he checked her, and solemnly asserted it as his opinion, that it had nothing whatever to do with his illness, and that he also believed it to be the will of God, by the gentle means he was now using, so to loosen, by degrees, the ties that held him to earth, that he should speedily be set free from all mortal cares and sorrows.
He then spoke of his entire, firm, and unchangeable confidence in Him who had given up his soul unto death in order that he might bring many sons to glory; and added, that he had a full assurance that the Lord had, through his free and unmerited grace, appointed him to eternal happiness, and that even before the world began: in consequence of which every thing had been so ordered and established for him, that his salvation had been begun, carried on, and completed by the almighty wisdom of God, in a manner which had in nowise depended upon himself. To this effect, and in this way he frequently expressed himself; while his heart, his soul, and spirit, seemed, as it were, already elevated to heaven.
Mr. Parnel arrived at Edmund's lodgings immediately after a new and dreadful alarm had been excited by a violent recurrence of the terrifying symptoms which had taken place a few nights before. Francis found the door of the house unfastened, the surgeon having passed through it in baste a moment before. He therefore entered without knocking, and, going up into the large room above stairs, he proceeded to Edmund's bed-room, which opened into this apartment, and which was well known to him as the chamber in which he had been his sleeping-companion in their early days. The door of this room was standing ajar. Francis gently pushed it open, and thereby unfolded to his sight a scene so beartrending, that he could never forget it. He saw his Edmund lying on the bed, supported on one side by the worthy Mr. Barret, while the surgeon and Mrs. Goodman stood on the other. The physiognomy of Edmund was already that of a dying man. His features were exceedingly pale and sunk, though the colour had not yet left his lips, and there was a faint hectic on his cheeks. His eyes were expressive of somcthing more than composure; they beamed with hope, with love, with joy, as he lifted
them up to Mr. Barret, who was gently administering some of those sweet portions of consolation with which the Holy Scriptures so richly abound for those who are made one with Christ. Mr. Parnel stood a moment, and then stepped forward, half irresolute; for whereas his love for Edmund drew him onward, the stings of remorse held him back. At the noise he made every one looked that
way. Barret and the physician expressed surprise; Mrs. Goodman's face flamed with displeasure, and she motioned to him to retire; but the countenance of Edmund brightened with pleasure. A stronger hectic flushed his cheek; his eye sparkled; he would have spoken, but wanting the power, he could only smile: and such a smile—so sweet, so tender, so full of forgiveness, and even of compassion, surely never appeared but on the face of a dying Christian, of one, in a word, whose affections were already
above ! On beholding this, Francis could contain himself no longer; but springing forwards, and falling on his knees by the bed-side, he implored the pardon of his friend in terms so warm, so animated, so affecting, that
every one present trembled for the effect which they might produce on the dying Edmund. No
very serious effect, however, followed. Edmund was perhaps past that period when earthly scenes could produce any very powerful influence on his mind. A tear, however, trembled in his eye, as he extended his arms to his friend; and in the effort which he made for this purpose his head sunk upon the bosom of Mr. Parnel. “O my Edmund !” repeated Francis, as he clasped his friend to his heart, “can you forgive me? O restore me to your affection, wretch that I am! O, live, my Edmund, and not only the curacy, but the rectory shall be yours, if I have the power to procure it for you by my resignation: and God is my witness that I am now sincere."
Edmund sighed, but made no reply; for a momentary faintness had come over him, and the surgeon directed Mr. Parnel to release his head gently from his arm to the pillow. When restored to his place, Edmund uttered another deep sigh, and those around him almost feared that he was dying.
An awful silence now prevailed in the chamber for some minutes, occasionally interrupted by the smothered sobs of Mr. Parnel, during which interval the surgeon was feeling the pulse of his patient, Mrs. Goodman was bathing his temples with vinegar, and Mr. Barret was engaged in prayer.
After a short time, some slight colour returned to the cheeks of Edmund. He opened his eyes. He looked at Mr. Parnel with an expression of unutterable love, and, taking his hand, placed it within that of Mr. Barret, attempting at the same time to speak; but though his lips moved, no voice was heard.
“I understand you, ever-dear Edmund,” said Mr. Parnel; “
yes, my Edmund, I now understand you. Your wishes shall be attended to. Mr. Barret, will you accept the friendship of the first and chief of sinners?”
The venerable minister (for Mr. Barret was an old man) could make no reply; but the starting tear in his eye, and the cordial grasp with which he pressed the hand of the repentant young man, spoke more than volumes. And before we cease all mention of Mr Barret, we rejoice in being able to say, that the bond of Christian brotherhood formed at the bed-side of Edmund was never broken, and that Mr. Parnel was ever afterwards enabled to love and honour those virtues in the character of Mr. Barret which the eye of prejudice had hitherto prevented him from distinguishing, although they had been so frequently pointed out to him by Edmund.
We might dwell long, very long, on scenes such as we have just described; but at present we forbear, trusting that little more can be added to shew the power of religion as it appeared in the character of Edmund and in the repentance of Francis.
For some days, Mr. Parnel, who scarcely left the side of bis dying friend, flattered himself that his disease would not, as others seemed to expect, prove fatal. He ardently longed for an opportunity of making up to his beloved friend the injuries he had done him; and now that it was no longer in his power, he would have given the half of his substance to procure for himself the support, the assistance, and the guidance of such a man as his Edmund. He wondered what could hitherto have blinded his eyes to the Christian excellencies of this
friend; and he asked himself, when too late, this question—“For what did I barter the friendship of such a man as this?”
But the prayers of Mr. Parnel for his Edmund were not heard: he was not permitted to have the opportunity he so much desired, of making compensation to this beloved friend for the injuries he had done him.
In a very few days after Francis's first visit to the sick chamber of Edmund, the latter was removed far beyond the reach of all the injuries of earth and hell, having entered into that glory which had been the object of his desire from the earliest years of his childhood.
Mr. Parðel and Mr. Barret stood by Edmund till he breathed his last, and his soul was gently released from his body; they also followed his beloved remains to the grave in the parish church-yard, where they were deposited by the side of those of Mrs. Mary Stephens. Thousands of the parishioners of this excellent young, pastor followed him to his last home; and to this day many of these persons cannot speak of him without tears.
But who lamented his loss as Francis Parnel did? When his departed friend was no more, he then became feelingly sensible of his numerous virtues, the review of which made him feel keenly, at the recollection of those evil passions which had induced him, as much as he could, to weaken the hands and counteract the efforts of this excellent young man. He also now perceived the exceeding sinfulness of that narrow and selfish spirit which induces the professor to obstruct and hinder the good works of others, regardless of the souls that may be lost through this pragmatical and cruel interference. Mr. Parnel now plainly understood and never afterwards lost sight of the drift of the many pious exhortations which Mrs. Mary Stephens had given, and particularly did his mind dwell on that sentiment so frequently and so variously expressed by her respecting the dreadful nature of selfish feelings of any kind, especially when indulged by professors. Neither did he longer question the fact, that these feelings, if pursued to their remotest consequences, must certainly produce murder in some form or other: for, is not the condition of every creature duly allotted and laid out for him by his Maker? and does not that man who indulges envious thoughts, who
covets the fame, the honour, the credit, or the
possessions of another, in fact desire injuriously to interfere with the existence of that other? and were his wishes granted him, would he not either wholly remove his rival out of his way, or deprive him of those circumstances to which his existence owes its chief value? That this is the true character of worldly persons, do not the records of all past ages fully convince us? How many millions of the human race, who now lie low in the dust, were brought thither by the ambitious and envious feelings of their fellow-men! And although in the present state of society in this country the more open and atrocious forms of murder hide their diminished heads, yet it is to be feared that the seeds of murder still lurk in every heart, and that there is not a single individual existing who has not, at some time or other, indulged a murderous thought, or rejoiced in the misfortunes of a neighbour. But if those passions which lead to the invasion of our neighbour's property, and the destruction of the human body, appear so execrable, as to provoke even our detestation when we behold their operation in the characters and conduct of the openly profane, with what abhorrence must the searching eye of the Holy Creator contemplate the remaining power of these destructive sentiments, when they are allowed in any degree to operate in the breasts of professed believers ! Would the camp of Israel have wandered so long in the wilderness, and the tabernacle of the Lord have made such a delay in the desert;-had the host of Israel continually marched forward in one mind;--had the strong endeavoured to support the weak, and the old to direct the young ;—and had not discord subsisted even among the bearers of the sanctuary itself? would so many thousands have died before they saw the promised land?
Such were the reflections which habitually occupied the mind of Francis Parnel from the moment when he consigned his Edmund to the grave, until, at no very late period of life, he himself was also gathered to his people. Neither did these reflections of his solitary hours, directed, as they no doubt were, by the Holy Spirit, fail of producing such effects of a humble and holy walk through the remainder of his life, as caused