’I thought she would have shrunk from me with horror; but she did not; her hand, it is true, trembled once or twice; but that was all. At last she gave mine a gentle pressure; and, looking up in my face, she said—what do you think my wife said, young man?’
‘It is impossible for me to guess,’ said I.
“Let us go to rest, my love; your fears are all groundless."’
Getting late—Seven years old—Chastening—Go forth—London Bridge—Same eyes—Common occurrence—Very sleepy.
‘And so I still say,’ said Winifred, sobbing. ’Let us retire to rest, dear husband; your fears are groundless. I had hoped long since that your affliction would have passed away, and I still hope that it eventually will; so take heart, Peter, and let us retire to rest, for it is getting late.’
‘Rest!’ said Peter; ‘there is no rest for the wicked!’
‘We are all wicked,’ said Winifred; ’but you are afraid of a shadow. How often have I told you that the sin of your heart is not the sin against the Holy Ghost: the sin of your heart is its natural pride, of which you are scarcely aware, to keep down which God in His mercy permitted you to be terrified with the idea of having committed a sin which you never committed.’
‘Then you will still maintain,’ said Peter, ’that I never committed the sin against the Holy Spirit?’
‘I will,’ said Winifred; ’you never committed it. How should a child seven years old commit a sin like that?’
‘Have I not read my own condemnation?’ said Peter. ’Did not the first words which I read in the Holy Scripture condemn me? “He who committeth the sin against the Holy Ghost shall never enter into the kingdom of God."’
‘You never committed it,’ said Winifred.
‘But the words! the words! the words!’ said Peter.
‘The words are true words,’ said Winifred, sobbing; ’but they were not meant for you, but for those who have broken their profession, who, having embraced the cross, have receded from their Master.’
‘And what sayst thou to the effect which the words produced upon me?’ said Peter. ’Did they not cause me to run wild through Wales for years, like Merddin Wyllt of yore; thinkest thou that I opened the book at that particular passage by chance?’
‘No,’ said Winifred, ’not by chance; it was the hand of God directed you, doubtless for some wise purpose. You had become satisfied with yourself. The Lord wished to rouse thee from thy state of carnal security, and therefore directed your eyes to that fearful passage.’
‘Does the Lord then carry out His designs by means of guile?’ said Peter with a groan. ’Is not the Lord true? Would the Lord impress upon me that I had committed a sin of which I am guiltless? Hush, Winifred! hush! thou knowest that I have committed the sin.’
‘Thou hast not committed it,’ said Winifred, sobbing yet more violently. ’Were they my last words, I would persist that thou hast not committed it, though, perhaps, thou wouldst, but for this chastening; it was not to convince thee that thou hast committed the sin, but rather to prevent thee from committing it, that the Lord brought that passage before thy eyes. He is not to blame, if thou art wilfully blind to the truth and wisdom of His ways.’