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66 I must
fury of the waves. I have in my possession papers of his which, with his dying breath, he charged me to deliver to his father, though poor soul, in the hurry and distress of the moment, he forgot to say, and I to ask, whereabouts his father lived." "You will not refuse to show the papers you speak of to the master ?" asked old Robin, his breast heaving with conflicting emotions. Perhaps he may be able to direct you to the lad's father. At least I guess as much."
The sailor made no objections, and rose to accompany Robin. “But wait a little,” added the old man. break the matter to the old gentleman. Hear ye, sirs, the lad
ye speak of is his own, his only child, or I am sorely mistaken. He has long mourned over his lost Edward, and I doubt not the certainty of his death will kill him outright." So saying, he threw aside his employment and entering the parlour, told his tale in as delicate a way as possible, and then waited in the doorway for an answer. " Eh ?" said the farmer, looking up wistfully, “ did you speak of Edward ? Did you say he was dead ?” “ I know not what Edward it may be," replied old Robin. “I only thought, sir, that as the two names answered, there could
be no harm in looking at the papers addressed to his father.” “Bring the lad in, Robin, bring him in,” repeated the farmer; and as he spoke his frame shook convulsively, and a thick film passed before his eyes, and for a moment interrupted his vision.
“For all sakes,” cried Robin, “ do not be in so much trouble. Perhaps it may not be true. Who knows but the rogue has made the story for the sake of getting charity ? At
any rate, if you make yourself both blind and stupid, you will neither see to read the papers, nor be able to comprehend them.” Thus fortified by the shepherd's sage reasoning, farmer Beechhill endeavoured to retain both his sight and his understanding ; but no sooner did he discover on one of two letters that were handed to him his own penmanship and signature, than both again fled, and he fainted away. It was long before his physician allowed him to peruse the papers of his much mourned, and now for eyer
lost son. He, however, was able to give directions about Jack, who was sent away well provided with both clothes
Farmer Beechhill, as I before said, had written to his son, but received no answer. One of the papers handed to him by the sailor, was his own letter, and the other was Edward's reply, written but a short time before the shipwreck, but which, from various causes, never had been forwarded. It was as follows
My dear father,—I know not in what terms to address myself to you, whom I have so much injured and distressed; but neither my conscience nor my feelings will allow me to remain longer silent. I received your letter containing the mournful tidings of my dear mother's death. She never, you say, recovered the shock of my disappearance. Ah, what a fool I have been! I have been the murderer of her who bore me, and the destroyer of my own prospects. I have been most unfortunate at sea, having twice suffered shipwreck, and both times been stript of every thing, not excepting my body clothes and hammock. It was, it is true, not wealth but liberty that lured me from home; but I have got as little of liberty as of wealth. I have got much hard duty to perform,-far at sea, and exposed to every change of weather. But for pride and shame, I would have been with you long ago. These, however, have latterly been made to give way to more powerful feelings; and while I write this, I am on my way to my father's house. No doubt, my dear father, you wish to know what sort of feelings those were, which could influence the determined temper of your unhappy son, to quit for ever a sailor's life, and to endure the scoff of the world in his own neighbourhood. You shall be gratified.
I have spoken of shipwrecks, but these came and went without bringing me to my senses. No sooner was the danger over, and a glass of grog in my power, than I was the same unreflecting mad fool as before. It pleased Almighty God, however, to speak at length to my soul in
language too plain to be misunderstood, and too awful to be forgotten. We were making within the warm latitudes, when a mortal sickness broke out in the ship, during which the lifeless body of many a brave fellow was committed to the deep. I was daily called to assist in this mournful office, which at length became so painful to my feelings, and so depressing to my spirits, as nearly to incapacitate me for active duty. It was at this period that I first began to think seriously on the state of my soul. Where were the departed spirits of my comrades ? Alas! their lives but too plainly told me that they were unfit for the regions of purity, and I had but one other conclusion to make regarding them. The thought was dreadful. I shuddered at an eternity of torment, though as yet I felt no inclination to forsake my sins, nor any desire after holiness, without which, the Bible says no man shall see the Lord.
I was sitting one day on deck watching the movements of the vessel, and ruminating on the forlorn condition to which I had brought myself, when a young gentleman, a passenger on board, perceiving, I suppose, my dejected look, accosted me in a friendly manner, and took a seat by my side, He proved to be a missionary, sent out by a society in Scotland for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen. We got into conversation, which was at first of a general character ; but on my using the word badluck, he looked at me with an air of pity mixed with severity, and said “My dear fellow, there is not such a thing in God's universe as bad-luck. Every thing is conducted under the superintendence of the Almighty, whose care extends to that very surf on the brim of the ocean." "The more then," said I,“ is the wonder that there is so much suffering in the world." 66 That there is so little, rather,” he replied, “Man is a sinner, and as such deserves God's wrath and curse. Should we then wonder, that he at times allows us to feel the power of his anger ? Should we not rather wonder that ever he permits us to experience his mercy and favour?" “ God knows, sir,” said I, “that feeble Aesh cannot stand constant sufferings.” “Yes," answered the missionary firmly; "God knows it, and, blessed be his name! he has provided against it. He has sent his own Son to suffer in our stead; and any mental or
bodily affliction with which he is pleased to visit us here, is neither to atone for our offences, nor to punish our guilt, but to correct our faults and to fit us for heaven." “I know at least,” said I, “that my faults have occasioned my troubles; for if I had not foolishly run off from the best home ever a boy had to leave, I might have escaped much fatigue of body and more of pain to my feelings than I can express. And if sincere repentance for the step I have taken be any evidence that my troubles have corrected my faults, I have every reason to hope well of myself; for rather than live another month as I have lived, and do the duty that I have done, I shall submit to the meanest employment and the hardest fare on land." “ It would appear, my dear fellow," said my companion, “that your troubles have indeed shown you the evil consequences of sin in this world ; but before you can become the object of saving repentance, they must show you more, they must teach you not only that your faults have made your earthly condition bad, but also they have hazarded the happiness of your precious soul for eternity,not only that you have offended and grieved your earthly parent, but also that you have dishonoured your Father in heaven, and vexed his Spirit. If you feel in this way,
the result will be the same with regard to your spiritual state, as it is now with your earthly condition. As you have resolved, come what will, to leave off a sailor's life, and to return to your friends; so, in God's strength, you will determine to quit for ever your sins which have separated you far from your Maker, and return to your duty and to God.”
The limits of a letter, my dear father, will not suffer me to tell you more of what passed between us; but I may add, that I became every day more and more attached to my spiritual instructor, though it was some time before I could say that the load was taken from my heart, and the veil from my mind. I hope, however, that I have obtained that peace which passeth understanding, and become in some measure acquainted with that joy of which the world knows nothing, but which constitutes in some measure the felicity
of heaven. Such are my present views and feelings, which I
pray God to deepen in my mind. Pray for your once rebellious but now penitent son, who would with deep contrition for past faults subscribe himself, His father's in the bonds of the gospel,
“Let me 'praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" exclaimed farmer Beechhill, on the first reading of this letter. “Poor Edward !” he added, " he has indeed been on his way to his Father's house, and he has now I trust, reached it. O Robin, Robin !” he continued, “what a miracle is the salvation of the sinner! and how useless are the best means, till once the Spirit of God begins his work in the heart! I think I have erred there, Robin. I have trusted too much to human power, and too little to infinite mercy; and I have been shown my error. Certainly the medicine has tasted bitter, but I hope the effect will be good. I shall try to be | more humble for the future, more dependent on divine grace, and more afraid of offending Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, to discern the slightest blemish in his creatures.”
After this Farmer Beechhill improved much in his general health, but he never afterwards took any interest in the farm. “ Whom am I labouring for ?” he would say.
My house is desolate, and my very name is rooted out." He therefore committed the management of his affairs to the old shepherd, in whom he had the greatest confidence, and devoted his time chiefly to the study of his Bible, and to prayer. Indeed, from this period he seemed as if his chief and dearest interests lay in another world than this. On that world he seemed to have fixed his whole attention, and daily and hourly appeared as if waiting for the summons of his transition thither. It came at last, and found
“You are very ill, farmer,” said one who called to see him in his last illness. “Yes,” he replied, “but it is well. Weakness and pain are the passage to immortal strength and heavenly felicity; and if it be dark, I have reason to think it will not be long. I once thought,” he