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on high was poured upon the people in such a degree, as before had been scarcely conceived of: the fire ran, and its quickening, purifying influence was acknowledged by thousands, and tens of thousands.
That such as had waited and prayed for this manifestation of grace and mercy, should richly partake of, and rejoice in it, can create no surprise. Among that number stood the pious Mrs. Bretange. If, before this period, the solicitude of her heart ran high, in reference to her profligate son, from analogy it might be agreed, if proof had not been afforded, that it would increase in the same ratio as her own spiritual knowledge and experience advanced. Every motive which ingenuity could devise, and every argument which wisdom, and love, and zeal could supply, were employed, to induce the son of many prayers to turn from the evil of his way, and live. There was
one feature in the character of Bernard, which seemed to hare been placed there, as a redeeming quality, to save the whole from execration and abhorrence ;-it was the strong natural affection which he bore towards his mother. It is indeed admitted, that this did not always operate; passion led him frequently to perpetrate what his improved judgment reprobated. There were periods, however, when no pleasure of which he was capable, could bear comparison with that he experienced on beholding his mother happy, and, in so far as he was able, contributing to that felicity, It was during one of these periods of rationality, and while the spirit of inquiry was strong and extensive, that the pious widow besought her wandering son to accompany her to the church which she constantly attended, and where multitudes, both of men and women, had heard and felt the Gospel, and had become obedient to the faith. For some time he treated the request, as he had frequently done on former occasions, those of a similar kind, with heartless raillery; but at length, won by the earnestness of his mother's entreaty, he consented to accompany her.
That a mother,-a Christian mother,--should feel emotions, such as cold, calculating theorists cannot even imagine, at beholding the sole object of her earthly affections and anxious solicitudes, brought within the sound of the proclamation of those truths which are declared, and frequently have been proved to be, “the power of God unto salvation,” is not, cannot be surprising, even on natural principles. Admitting so much (which admission can only be made for argument sake), as that enthusiasm, in the popular sense of that word, or the wild, uncontrolable sway of strongly excited imagination, working on the animal passions, be the whole of what is generally denominated religious feeling,-still the enjoyment is positive, is real, although the nature of the enjoyment may not be correctly understood; while the recollection that the same means as those now resorted to, produced the results experienced, will of what you may hear, and by that means derive a satisfaction which the ordinances of the sanctuary have not failed to afford me, now for many years. You will go, will you not, Bernard ?” A tear started into her eye, as the request was urged ; it was irresistible. The powerful feelings of the prodigal had as yet been only benumbed, not entirely crushed: he returned the pressure of the hand, and replied, “Well, mother, as you wish it, I will go this once, although I had promised to spend this evening another way: and yet,”—and he hesitated, -" will not some other time do as well ?-I
promise you that”—The quick, speaking eye of Mrs. Bretange kindled with instant anxiety, and in a tone, solemn, and yet affectionate, she observed, before he had finished the sentence,
“ Procrastination is the thief of time :
Be wise to day; 'tis madness to defer.”
Bernard, half-reluctantly, promised that for once it should be as his mother wished, and, after adjusting his dress for the occasion, he departed.
There are periods when the mind, for want of external objects upon which to exercise thought, turns in upon itself; during which time, neither the sophistry of fallen human nature, nor the objecting depravity of the heart, can furnish satisfactory apology for past conduct, or deprive the unwelcome intruders-reflection and thought-of their inquisitive and annoying influence. Thus it was with Bernard, and so he felt, as he walked forwards.
Daylight had for a full hour receded, and darkness had wrapped its impervious mantle round the recent objects of vision. He was alone too: he had rather shunned, than courted the unwelcome companionship of those who went to the house of God with joy,—and hence he became a prey to reflections, personal, and confounding. The peculiar anxiety of his mother, on his account, in connexion with a strong something within, which he could neither shake off nor explain, led him into a reverie, which, by the time he had reached the place of worship, prepared him to give so much attention to the service, as might enable him to judge concerning the claims of Religion upon his attention and reason.
The devotional exercises which preceded the preacher's address, were attended to by Bernard with little more than outward propriety ; but the pathos, the vigour of thought, and felicitous adaptation of the discourse to the character of the audience, which were displayed by the “ambassador for Christ,” rivited his attention. Conviction followed the light which was imparted: gradually he yielded up his prejudices one by one, until the wounded spirit groaned its agony in prayer,--silent, yet strong,—“God be merciful to me a sinner.” The big tear rolled down his cheeks; a tremor, powerful as new, possessed him: destruction seemed to yawn at his feet, while no way of escape as yet appeared to him.
The sermon was concluded, and, as was usual on such occasions, an invitation was given by the minister, to all persons present who might feel a desire to "flee from the wrath to come,” to approach the front of the pulpit, in order that special prayer might be by the church presented to God for them. Several attended the invitation;-a circle was already formed, -yet Bernard was not one of the number that composed it. He sat, confused and condemned, and half concealed in his solitary seat. His character had been well known; and even his presence excited the surprise of not a few. That he should be there alone, was strange ; but that he should remain when special prayer was made, and after many had retired, was stranger still, and could only be accounted for on the score of curiosity, if, indeed, a worse feeling were not working within him. Prayer became fervent,it increased: the place, to many, became a Bochim; to others, a Bethel. One after another, on that memorable evening, was seen approaching the place of penitents, who, like Ephraim, repented, after that they were instructed, and presently, among that number, knelt the recently scoffing, but now deeply penitent Bernard. The hour grew late, but the flight of time was not perceived by those who prayed, or by those who were prayed for: one holy purpose seemed to possess each, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me;" while one prevailing prayer was offered by every individual, “ Bless me, even me, O my Father.”