JANE. Well, Mary, how do you do today?
MARY. I hardly know what reply to give. I am almost overwhelmed with anxiety of mind, and have had very little sleep for some nights past.
SUSAN. How so, Mary? What in the world has distressed your mind? For my own part, I feel, on the whole, tolerably comfortable, to think that after all I am so well provided for.
JANE. Indeed in that respect, I think we have all cause to be thankful; but I have for some days perceived that Mary has been very gloomy. Do you want to go out, Mary, and return to your old practices?
MARY. No, Jane, indeed I do not.
JANE. Then what is the matter with you?
SUSAN. Aye, come, Mary, tell us all about it, and let us see if we cannot make you cheerful.
MARY. You know, since we came to this place of refuge, we have sometimes heard part of the word of God read, and some of us have read part of it ourselves. The other day, I read this passage: "For because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience;" (Eph. 5:6) and the moment I read it, the awful words, "The wrath of God," filled me with a degree of horror which I never felt before. Thought I, if the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience, then I am sure it must come upon me; for my whole life has been a life of disobedience and sin against a holy God.
SUSAN. O, is that all? That's all gloomy nonsense. There are thousands as bad as we are, after all; and what is the use of you troubling about the wrath of God any more than the rest of us?
JANE. Why, Mary, you may think about these things till you are quite distracted. I myself was a little gloomy the other day, while one of the visitors was talking about death and judgment, and the awful nature of sin, and such like things; but I shook off my gloom as soon as I could, and, by putting on a good resolution to be cheerful, I soon got rid of my uneasiness.
MARY. Then, Jane, I think it was not very deep; for the more I attempt to get rid of mine, the deeper it appears to take root in my mind; and yesterday, while pondering over my sad state, another passage of the word of God came with greater force than ever, and I appeared as if on the very verge of destruction, and was forced to cry out, What must I do? I am undone for ever; there is no hope for me.
SUSAN. And pray, Mary, what other passage of the word of God, as you call it, was that?
MARY. O Susan! I do not trifle with the word of God, for there is a day coming when it will not trifle with you; for it is written, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." (2 Thess. 1:7-9) "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. 10:31)
JANE. But, Mary, you have not told us what portion of Scripture it was which struck your mind so forcibly.
MARY. It was these words, "The vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction." (Rom. 9:22) O wretched being that I am, and I; if there be such a thing as a sinner being a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction, it must be me. I trembled every limb of me, and my soul was filled with terror. I sighed, and groaned, and cried, again and again, "What must I do to be saved? Is there any hope for such a wretch as I?" Well; I began to read the connection of the first passage, which is, "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." (Eph. 5:3-6) Here I found my own character pointed out as clearly as possible, and my very soul cried out Alas for wretched me! I am everything which is base and vile, and the wrath of God awaits me; yea, I already feel a measure of it in my mind.
SUSAN. O Mary, you are making too much of the matter. Though we have all done wrong, yet, when I consider how I was first brought into this degraded state, I in great measure excuse myself; and did you take that into account, I think you would excuse yourself also.
MARY. I cannot excuse myself. I know I have awfully sinned against a holy God, and I must appear at his righteous bar, to give an account of my very thoughts and words; for thus it is written, "The thought of foolishness is sin." (Prov. 24:9) And again, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment." (Matt. 12:36)
JANE. I know I have done very wrong; but still, like Susan, when I consider how I was first brought into this state, I make great allowance for myself.
SUSAN. Well, Jane, how were you first ensnared? If you'll tell me, I'll tell you how it was with me; and perhaps Mary will have no objection to give the same information, and it may relieve her mind.
MARY. That will never relieve my mind. I feel myself a guilty sinner before a righteous God, and must soon stand at his holy bar, where there will be no disguise: "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body;" (2 Cor. 5:10) and the Lord will set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left; and he will say to them on his left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:35-45) With such solemn and awful things awaiting me, how can I be cheerful?
At this time a female visitor, together with the matron, who are supposed to have been listening to their conversation, enter the room, and being seated, the visitor begins to ask questions connected with what they had said to each other.
VISITOR. Well, young women; I have with the matron been listening to your conversation, and I should like to speak a few words to you upon the subject of your discourse; and, as I am one of your own sex, and really seek your welfare, I hope you will not object. Will you, Susan, say how you were first seduced, as the forerunner of your present degraded state?
SUSAN. Well, Ma'am. I was sent out to service when I was very young, being only about fourteen or fifteen years of age, and I was then a very blooming lass. My master soon appeared to take a liking to me, and made me several little presents, unknown to my mistress. I began to think him one of the kindest masters in the world, and for some time had no suspicion of his intentions; but he went on step by step till he ruined me. In a short time, the fact was made known, and I was brought into disgrace; consequently, for want of a character, I could not get another place; so I plunged myself into vice. But, then, I lay the blame to my base master, and excuse myself in great measure because I was young, and almost friendless, and not at first aware of my master's vile intentions; and when my character was gone, not being able to get another place, I had no resource left but that of giving myself up to complete ruin.
VISITOR. Indeed, Susan, I feel for you. Your lot in the first instance was a very trying one; but, then, you should have made known your master's proceedings to your mistress, when he first appeared to take liberties with you. Indeed, you should never have received anything from him, without making her acquainted with the circumstance; and you should have left the place before he had accomplished his wicked design. Then you would have preserved your character, and might have lived an industrious, virtuous life.
SUSAN. Yes, Ma'am, I am aware of that now; but do you not think that my master was all in the blame? He was a married man, much older than myself, and ought to have known better.
VISITOR. I admit your master was awfully to blame, and I consider such men little better, in the sight of God, than murderers, and that they ought to be shunned as you would shun the plague; but, then, Susan, your submitting to his hateful desires was your crime; and since then you have added sin to sin, by ensnaring others. Thus you are awfully criminal, and, as poor Mary in truth said, must give an account of deeds done in the body at the solemn bar of God.
SUSAN. Why really, Ma'am, I do not understand that.
VISITOR. May the Lord in mercy teach you.--Well Jane, and what was the first cause of your ruin?
JANE. Indeed, Ma'am, I am quite ashamed of naming it; but I was employed in work which I had to procure from a warehouse, and the putter-out of the work was a young man who appeared to have great power, as he could either give us good work or bad work, or keep us in or turn us out of employ, at his pleasure; so that by degrees he ensnared me, by giving me plenty of the best work, and not appearing very particular whether I did it well or not. Indeed, he professed great attachment to me; but soon after he had accomplished his end in ruining my character, he turned me out of employ, and, shame for me, I gave myself up to dissipation.
VISITOR. And do you think there are many in such places who take the advantage of the situation they fill, and the power they possess, to ruin thoughtless females?
JANE. Yes, Ma'am too many. Were you able to see, and converse with, a great number of our awfully-degraded class, you would find that masters and master's sons, with clerks, and various supposed trusty servants in warehouse and factories, ruin many poor females. Masters have done it at the expense of their families, and some of them at the expense of their creditors and ruin of their families, and some have done it at the expense, and to the distress, of their parents; and servants at the expense of their employers.
VISITOR. Why, Jane, such characters, in the sight of God and every honest man, can appear nothing better than a detestable gang of unclean thieves and robbers, and must by and by appear in their real characters: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9,10 See also Gal. 5:19-21)
JANE. If that be true, they must be in an awful state indeed.
VISITOR. True, Jane! Every particle of the word of God is true. It is true when it says that "a whore is a deep ditch, and he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein." (Prov. 23:27; 22:14)
JANE. Indeed, Ma'am, these are strange expressions.
VISITOR. Strange as they may appear to you, they are true; and the case of such poor creatures as you is much worse, and more awfully dangerous, than you appear to have any real view of. Having been ruined yourself, you have used all the powers you possessed, and have summoned to your assistance all the flattering words and devices that your desperate mind could suggest to you, for the purpose of seducing and ruining poor thoughtless youth, and have thus increased your guilt, by ruining others as well as yourself. The word of God points out both the ways and end of such characters: "For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell;" (Prov. 5:3-5) "Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death." 7:27)
JANE. These are hard sayings.
VISITOR. But it is God's word, and will stand firm; and poor thoughtless youth, who are left to be captivated with, and carried away by, the flatteries and apparent charms of a harlot, are often made as wretched as herself: "With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till a dart strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life;" (Prov. 7:21-23) "He knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell." (9:18)
MATRON. Will you, Ma'am, allow me just to say a word or two?
VISITOR. Certainly, Ma'am.
MATRON. I have listened to your conversation with Susan and Jane very attentively; and I can assure you, from the various interviews I have had with other poor wretches since I have been in the place I now fill, that some poor girls are ruined through the instrumentality of their own parents, who have devoted their daughters to destruction, in order that they themselves might live in idleness and low luxury; and others have been inveigled by monsters who keep houses of ill-fame, under the idea of living a life of ease and pleasure; and not a few have devoted themselves to this awful practice at a very early period of life.
VISITOR. I do not doubt your statement in the least, nor do I suppose it possible for us to know all the ways and means by which such creatures are brought to ruin; but when parents are the means of thus ruining their own offspring, they must be dreadfully dissipated indeed, and an awful account they will have to give to that God who will one day bring them to judgment.
MATRON. I think so too; but there is poor Mary all this time in great distress. Will you, Ma'am, speak a few words to her?
MARY. O wretch that I am! What have I done? Ruined others as well as myself! I am undone, for ever undone!
VISITOR. Well, Mary, I am glad to see you have such deep concern of soul. I hope the dear Lord will in very deed give you real repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But will you just state how you were first led into this awful snare?
MARY. O Ma'am, I have nothing to say for myself. I was a poor fool, easily deceived; but first of all, a young man paid his addresses to me, and I thought he was sincere, as he professed great attachment to and love for me, and promised again and again to make me his wife, and even appeared to be making preparations for our marriage; but all his pretended love was only to deceive and ruin me. Still I confess I too readily believed his statements and flatteries, and submitted to his vile intentions. When he had obtained his purpose in accomplishing my ruin, he very soon discarded me, and as a poor, disappointed, distracted, forlorn wretch, I sank into the greatest degradation.
VISITOR. Indeed, Mary, it would be well for females if they were more upon their guard with their pretended lovers, and what attachment soever a lover, or pretended lover, may profess, the moment he attempts to sully their honor, resist him as they would Satan himself; and if he repeated his dishonorable attempts, immediately discard him, as one seeking their destruction.
MARY. Yes, Ma'am, I see that now, but it is too late. My ruin is accomplished, and I have ruined others. O the awful thought, the wrath of God! It will very soon be said, "The great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:17) I am sure I shall not be able to stand, for my own conscience will witness against me. Indeed, I already feel the forebodings of eternal misery.
VISITOR. Do you not read in the word of God that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners?
MARY. Yes, Ma'am, I have read it; but how can the Lord save such a vile sinner as I am? I think those he came to save were not such awful wretches as I am.
VISITOR. He saves none but vile sinners. We are all awfully vile by nature, and though some go farther in practical guilt than others, still we are all vile sinners, and come short of the glory of God. The Lord Jesus Christ died for the ungodly, (Rom. 5:6) and he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Awful as your sins are, you have not sinned beyond the uttermost.
JANE. Why, Mary, that is a nice text; and you know what Mrs. Plaister said the other day, do you not?
SUSAN. O yes, Jane; she will remember that. I do very well. She said the Lord was very merciful, and wished to save us all; and if we would but be pious, and do our duty, God would love us, and save us; and when Mary said she was such a great sinner, Mrs. Plaister said, "Well, you are but a sinner, and as the Lord is merciful, and wishes to save all, why not you?"
JANE. Yes, and you know what Mrs. Self-Righteous and Mrs. All-Piety, and Mrs. Save-Self all told us, that we must now be good, and do our duty, and then they would all love us, and the Lord would love us too.
VISITOR. Do you remember reading that the Lord says, "A false witness will utter lies," (Prov. 14:5) and that he pronounces a woe on the "women that sew pillows to all armholes?" (Ezek. 13:18) Creature piety and creature duty can never save a sinner. There is no Saviour but the Lord Jesus Christ. If you or I had all the creature piety in the world, separate from Christ, it would not save us. Our old sins would damn us, if we never committed another. Remember, young women, that unless the Lord give you true repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you must perish. Hence the Lord says, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3,5) And again: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him;" (John 3:36) "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved;" (Acts 4:12) "Except ye be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
JANE. Well, Ma'am, but Mrs. Go-Between told us if we did our best, the Lord would do the rest; and though she said Christ was the only Saviour, and that we could not be saved without him, yet she said it was in our power to get Christ, and to get salvation, and that we ought to do it immediately; for if we did not do our duty, and receive the offered mercy, we must perish; but if we did our duty, and accepted offered mercy, we should be saved. For my own part, I thought that was very nice; and, some time or other, when I had less care on my hands, and more time to attend to it, I would embrace this offer of mercy, and be saved; but as it respects being born again, or regenerated, I really do not know what that means; but I think the prayer book says we were regenerated when we were baptized.
VISITOR. Mrs. Go-Between is another false witness; for the word of God says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" (Titus 3:5) "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Tim. 1:9) This is the word of God; and to deny it, or to point out any other salvation, is to be a false witness; and what even the prayer book says about being regenerated at baptism is false; for the word of God says no such thing. It is an awful delusion to say an infant is regenerated at its baptism, as it is called; for all poor sinners who are regenerated are quickened by the Holy Ghost, and made alive to God, and so passed from death unto life. (Eph. 2:1; John 5:24) Being thus quickened by the power of God the Holy Ghost, the eyes of their understanding are enlightened, (Eph. 1:18) and they begin to see and feel their own vileness and God's purity, and to cry for mercy; nor will anything satisfy them but a complete salvation in Christ. They are made new creatures in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 5:17) They have new feelings, new thoughts, and new views, both of God and themselves. In a word, they are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10) But do all christened (or baptized, as it is called) infants walk in good works as they grow up? No; but the reverse. Therefore, be not deceived; you must either undergo a divine change, which the Lord alone can accomplish, or you must for ever perish. It requires the exceeding greatness and the working of God's mighty power to regenerate a sinner, and give him true faith in Christ. (Eph. 1:19)
JANE. I remember that Mrs. Speak-Truth told us that it became us in all things to act uprightly and honestly, to be prudent and industrious, and to do our duty in the various stations we might fill in life, and thus become useful members of civil society; but she said at the same time this was not the salvation of the soul, nor any part of it; for salvation was wholly of grace.
VISITOR. Then Mrs. Speak-Truth said that which was strictly true. Had you always acted uprightly, and as became you as the creatures of God, how much misery you would have escaped, and how much more useful you would have been in the world. But the eternal salvation of the soul is "not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:9) A becoming conduct ought to be maintained with all care and diligence. Our own good, and the good of others is connected with it. But however properly we may act, or however good our works may appear to be, either in our own eyes or those of others, or however useful we may be, as members of civil society, this is not Christ or salvation; for "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God." (Rom. 3:20) Publicans, harlots, and pharisees stand on a level here: "Ye must be born again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God." This is said to all classes.
SUSAN. For my part, I do not understand it; but I really should not like to be as miserable as Mary is.
MARY. Indeed, Susan, I am miserable; but, then, the worst is to come, in the next world; for as it respects what Mrs. Plaister said about me being but a sinner, I really cannot find a place in my heart for the term, as connected with my sin and guilt; for I feel I am all vile and loathsome, an ungodly sinner from head to feet, and I really wonder how it is that God, as a just God, does not send me to hell; and O! those words, "The wrath of God," torture me day and night. My cry is, when I dare cry at all, "God be merciful to me a sinner." But I fear I ask too much, and that the Lord will spurn me and my cry from him in righteous indignation.
VISITOR. Mary, hear what the dear Lord says: "And shall not God avenge his own elect, that cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." (Luke 18:7,8)
MARY. Yes, Ma'am, "his own elect," but I am too wicked to be one of them.
VISITOR. No, no, Mary; God's electing love, and the whole of his salvation, is all of grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8,9) And again: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)." (Eph. 2:4,5) Thus you see it is all of rich mercy. Nevertheless, I am glad to find that you do not wish to have a false peace. God grant that you may never rest till the Lord gives you rest by faith in Christ. Real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will bring rest and peace of mind. Hear what the dear Lord farther says upon this subject: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:14-16)
MARY. It is a blessed passage to those that believe; but my sins are so great I cannot believe.
VISITOR. "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin;" (1 John 1:7) "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Go as a poor guilty wretch, and, like the poor publican, cry to the Lord for mercy, and pray that he would be gracious to give you real faith in the Lord Jesus; for faith is God's gift.
MARY. I tremble at the word of God; it all appears to make against me, I am such a dreadful sinner.
VISITOR. Do you in very deed tremble at the word of God? The Lord says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word." (Isa. 66:2) God brings all his dear blood-bought children to tremble at his word. "Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." (Rom. 3:19,20) All poor sinners that obtain eternal salvation are brought in this world to have their mouths stopped by the holy law of God, and to stand guilty before the Lord, without any goodness of their own to plead; but they fully justify God in their own condemnation, and wonder how he can be just in saving them. A real feeling sense of God's holiness and our vileness, under the quickening energy of God the Holy Ghost, making known in the conscience the purity and extent of God's holy law and our awful departure from it, is sure to make us tremble at the word of God, and at the God of the word too; and those who never tremble at the word of God here will eternally tremble under the fiery indignation of his righteous wrath in the world to come.
MARY. Then, Ma'am, do you think there is any hope for such a sinner as I?
VISITOR. Yes, Mary, indeed I do. You appear to be a prisoner shut up under the law; (Gal. 3:23) but "the Lord looketh down from heaven to earth, to hear the groanings of the prisoner, and to loose them that are appointed to death." (Ps.102:19,20) Bless his precious name, he opens the blind eyes, and brings poor sin-burdened, law-wrecked, Satan-tortured prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. (Isa. 42:7) "By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is now water. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope." (Zech. 9:11,12) When his blessed Majesty brings such precious truths with power to the conscience, it is sure to set the soul at large.
MARY. But, Ma'am, you know I have been an awful character.
VISITOR. Read the last fourteen verses of the 7th chapter of Luke, and you will there find that the Lord Jesus pardoned a poor sinner like you. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "For he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned."
MARY. Then I fear I must be damned; for I am so completely wretched and guilty, that I cannot believe. I do not know how to believe.
VISITOR. O that you may be made to pray to the Lord to give you faith; for faith is his gift, and the fruit of the Spirit. The Lord enable you to look to Jesus, for he is both the author and finisher of faith.
MARY. O my dear Madam, will you pray for me, that the Lord will be gracious to give me true faith, that I may be delivered from my dreadful sins, guilty, and misery, and love and obey the Lord! But O! the wrath to come is awful, and I fear it will come upon me. I am quite sure I deserve it.
VISITOR. I hope I shall pray for you; but remember, God's people are all brought by the power of the Holy Ghost to pray and believe for themselves. Real religion is a personal matter. The kingdom of God is set up within his people, and this kingdom stands in God's own power, and not in outward show, nor in the wisdom of man. I therefore hope you will daily read the word of God, confess your sins unto the Lord, and pray for faith in Christ, and pardon through his precious blood; for the Lord Jesus Christ lived, and died, and rose again from the dead, and ever lives to make intercession for poor sinners. And if the Holy Ghost gives you true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord your righteousness and strength, and applies his precious blood and love to your conscience, you will then sweetly sing, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God." (Isa. 61:10) But I must leave you for the present, and I do hope that when I see you again, your heart will be at rest by faith in the precious name, love, blood, and obedience of the dear Lamb of God, who says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)
MARY. Do pray for me, and come again soon.
JANE. I am sure the lady has taken great pains with you, and yet you do not seem happy. For my part, I cannot think what you would have.
SUSAN. I quite wonder the lady has patience with her, she makes so much ado.
VISITOR. Young women, I do assure you it gives me great pleasure to talk with Mary. I believe the Lord has begun a work of grace in her soul, and if he have, he will carry it on. (Phil. 1:6) But both of you appear to be dead in trespasses and sins, and if you die in the state you are, you will eternally feel what poor Mary now fears, and a measure of which she feels, namely, the wrath of God. If it be the Lord's sovereign pleasure, the next time I come to visit you, I shall be glad to find you in the same state of mind that poor Mary now is in; but for the present I must say, Farewell.