For the Last Time.
by A. S. Ormsby
I had been visiting at the Cottage Hospital for some months, principally in the "Kenyon Ward," and had seen many cases, more or less interesting from a natural point of view, pass out, cured. But I rarely came down from reading or singing to the patients without turning into the sitting-room to have a few words with the matron, about whom there was to me an indescribable attraction.
She was a young woman about thirty; tall and graceful, with gentle brown eyes, and a winning smile, which lighted up her face when she spoke. But the brilliant fluctuating colour, while it added to her personal attractions, told but too plainly a tale of the mischief working within. Still she seemed quite unconscious of this herself; and as she was very reserved as to her spiritual experiences, and for many weeks, I was anxious and unhappy about her, though the Lord in a special way laid her upon my heart in prayer.
After kindly assisting me to put up some texts upon the walls, one Friday afternoon, I put the personal inquiry to her for the first time, "Do you know Christ as your Saviour?"
With a slight hesitation, while the colour rose to her cheeks, she replied, "I hope so; I have not served Him as I ought; but I think I can say, I do know Him."
"Then it is all well with you for time and eternity," I responded, as I took her hand to say goodbye.
A week passed before I was able to call at the hospital again. When I did so, it was to hear from one of the nurses the startling message, "The matron has been taken suddenly ill since yesterday, miss; and wishes you to go up and see her."
In a few moments, I was at her bedside, listening to her account of her sudden attack, and her plans for removal to a convalescent home when she got over it. Then, anxious—perhaps faithlessly anxious—to have a dear testimony from her, I said, "And you are resting in Christ, in His finished work, dear?"
She looked up quietly, as she replied, "I've—nowhere----else----to----rest; please read—to me"
I opened at John x, and as I came to those blessed words, "The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep," herheavy breathing told she was asleep. It was getting dark, and snowing heavily; and as my time was up, I rose softly, and left the room, giving a promise to the nurse that I would call early the next day.
Never shall I forget the sight which met me when I entered her room the next morning. Tossing restlessly to and fro, laughing, muttering, singing, utterly unconscious of anything passing around her, the scarlet cheeks and sparkling eyes telling of the fever raging within.
"She has been like that all night," said the nurse. "She knows no one, not even the doctor; but maybe she'll know you, miss."
I bent over her. "Do you know me, dear?"
What a thrill went through me as those dull, unconscious eyes looked up at mine, and she muttered, "Your hair looks nice."
Then there flashed to my mind the lines—
"Go with the name of Jesus to the dying,"
and laying my cold hand upon her forehead, I said, "Well, you know Jesus—Jesus the Saviour?"
Oh, the power of that name! How it breaks hearts now, as it shall bow knees hereafter! Her dull eyes brightened, and she bent her head as she replied, "Yes, I—know—Him."
These were the last coherent words I heard from her. She lingered some days in the same sad state (as regards her body), and then, as an early December evening was closing in,
"Her spirit still mourning its fetters
Was loosed by the hand of God."
Reader, how little I thought, as I sat in her cozy private room that Friday afternoon, that I was talking to her then, calmly and quietly, "for the last time." Talking of the hospital, of her prospects, and of things which would never again be of interest to her. Yet so it was.
And to you and to me, dear reader, there will come a day when we shall do everything "for the last time." Can we tell how soon? This may be the last paper I shall ever write. It may be the last you will ever read; how solemn, yet how sweet, is the thought to me. Is it less so to you? and do you shrink from the thought as one of dread and gloom?
Ah, if you know not Christ as your Saviour, you may well shrink! And the future—the future perhaps so near at hand—can only be "blackness of darkness" forever. "Because I have called," are His own words, "and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded . . . I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." One more appeal He makes to you now through these pages. One more entreaty falls from His own loving lips: "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" Once more, and it may be "for the last time," the unlimited offer reaches your ears: "I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Will you accept or reject this salvation? A. S. O.