“A happy life here! For me, who have deeply offended and disgraced my friends and my pure and unstained ancestry!”
“It is true, in an hour of weakness and irresolution, you have sinned against your friends. But you have sinned all your life against a Being infinitely higher that earthly friends. Your conduct has disturbed family pride and honor, and thereby destroyed your peace. But, do you never think of your transgressions against God? For a world, I would not have had you present yourself before His just tribunal, with your sins against Him unrepented of. Is there no other thought in your heart, than to escape the misery of the present?”
Mr. Brown was silent. Mr. Norton continued.
“It is utter weakness and cowardice, in order to escape present discomfort and wretchedness, to rush from this world into another, without knowing what we are to meet there”.
A flush of resentment at these words covered the invalid’s face. Just then Adele knocked on the door, and said a poor woman below wished to see Mr. Norton.
He rose instantly, went towards Mr. Brown, and taking his thin hand between his own and pressing it affectionately, said, “Look back upon your past life,—look into your heart. Believe me, my dear sir, I am your friend”.
Then he went to obey the summons, and Mr. Brown was left alone.
The emotion of anger towards his benefactor soon passed away. He had been trained early in life to religious truth, and he knew that Mr. Norton presented to him the stern requisitions of that truth, only in friendliness and love. The good man was absent several hours, and the time was employed, as well as the solitude of several subsequent days, by Mr. Brown, in looking into his heart and into his past life. He found there many things he had not even suspected. He saw clearly, that he had hitherto held himself amenable only to the judgment of the world. Its standard of propriety, taste, honor, had been his. He had not looked higher.
His friend Mr. Norton, on the contrary, held himself accountable to God’s tribunal. His whole conversation, conduct, and spirit, showed the ennobling effect which that sublime test of character had upon him. In fine, he perceived that the basis of his own character had been false and therefore frail. The superstructure he had raised upon it, had been fair and imposing to the world, but, when its strength came to be tried, it had given way and fallen. He felt that he had neglected his true interests, and had been wholly indifferent to the just claims of the only Being, who could have sustained him in the hour of temptation. He saw his past errors, he moaned over them, but alas! he considered it too late to repair them. His life, he believed to be irretrievably lost, and he wished only to commit himself to the mercy of God, and die.
For a few days, he remained reserved and sunk in a deep melancholy.