“I remember”, said Mr. Brown, “to have heard Mr. N——, the famous Maine lumber-merchant, who you know is an infidel, say that the only way the lumbermen can be kept from stealing each other’s logs, is by preaching to them eternal punishment”.
“No doubt it is true”, replied the good man, “and if these souls cannot be sweetly constrained into the beautiful fields of peace, they must be compelled into them by the terrors of that death that hangs over the transgressor. Besides, I feel a strong presentiment that some great judgment is about to descend upon this people. All day, the thought has weighed upon me like an incubus. I cannot shake it off. Something terrible is in store for them. What it may be, I know not. But I am impressed with the duty of preaching a judgment to come to them, this very afternoon. I will do it”.
A slight rattling of dishes at the door announced the arrival of Bess, with a tray of refreshment for Mr. Brown, and, at the same moment, the tinkling of a bell below, summoned Mr. Norton to the table.
Half an hour later, the missionary, with a slow pace and the air of one oppressed with a great burden, walked to the Grove. He seated himself on a rustic bench and with his head resting on the trunk of an immense elm, which overshadowed him, sat absorbed in earnest thought, while the people gathered in a crowd around him.
At length, the murmuring voices were hushed into quiet. He rose, took up his pocket Testament, read a portion of the tenth chapter of Hebrews, offered a prayer, and then sang in his trumpet tones, Charles Wesley’s magnificently solemn hymn, commencing,—
“Lo! on a narrow neck of land
’Twixt two unbounded seas, I stand
He then repeated a clause in the chapter he had just read to them. “If we sin wilfully after that we have received a knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries”.
He began his discourse by reminding the people of the truths he had presented to them during the weeks past. He had told them faithfully of their sinfulness before a holy God, and pointed out the way of safety and purification through a crucified Saviour. And he had earnestly sought to induce them, by the love this Saviour bore them, to forsake their transgressions and exercise trust in Him. He now told them, in accents broken with grief, that he had every reason to fear they had not followed his counsel, and observing their hardness of heart, he felt constrained to bring them another and different message,—a message less tender, but coming from the same divine source. He then unfolded to them the wrath of the Most High, kindled against those who scorn the voice of mercy from a dying Saviour.