‘And God has made you see your sins, my poor boy,’ said Mr. Cope. ‘That is a great blessing.’
’But if I can’t do anything to make up for them, what’s the use? And I never shall be well again.’
’You can’t make up for them; but there is One Who has made up for them, if you will only truly repent.’
‘I wasn’t sorry till I knew I should die,’ said Alfred.
’No, your sins did not come home to you! Now, do you know what they are?’
’Oh yes; I’ve been a bad boy to Mother, and at church; and I’ve been cross to Ellen, and quarrelled with Harold; and I was so audacious at my Lady’s, they couldn’t keep me. I never did want really to be good. Oh! I know I shall go to the bad place!’
’No, Alfred, not if you so repent, that you can hold to our Blessed Saviour’s promise. There is a fountain open for sin and all uncleanness.’
‘It is very good of Him,’ said Alfred, a little more tranquilly, not in the half-sob in which he had before spoken.
‘Most merciful!’ said Mr. Cope.
‘But does it mean me?’ continued Alfred.
’You were baptized, Alfred, you have a right to all His promises of pardon.’ And he repeated the blessed sentences:
’Come unto Me, all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’
’God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
‘But how ought I to believe, Sir?’
’You say you feel what your sins are; think of them all as you lie, each one as you remember it; say it out in your heart to our Saviour, and pray God to forgive it for His sake, and then think that it cost some of the pain He bore on the Cross, some of the drops of His agony in the Garden. Each sin of ours was indeed of that burden!’
‘Oh, that will make them seem so bad!’
’Indeed it does; but how it will make you love Him, and feel thankful to Him, and anxious not to waste the sufferings borne for your sake, and glad, perhaps, that you are bearing some small thing yourself. But you are spent, and I had better not talk more now. Let me read you a few prayers to help you, and then I will leave you, and come again to-morrow.’
How differently those Prayers and Psalms sounded to Alfred now that he had really a heart grieved and wearied with the burthen of sin! The point was to make his not a frightened heart, but a contrite heart.
Mrs. King was very anxious about Alfred for many hours after this visit from the Curate, for he was continually crying, not violently, but the tears flowing quietly from his eyes as he lay, thinking. Sometimes it was the badness of the faults as he saw them now, looking so very different from what they did when they were committed in the carelessness of fun and high spirits, or viewed afterwards in the hardening light of self-justification. Now they did look so wantonly hard and rude—unkind to his sister, ruinous to Harold, regardless of his widowed mother, reckless of his God—that each one seemed to cut into him with a sense of its own badness, and he was quite as much grieved as afraid; he hated the fault, and hated himself for it.