Page images
PDF
EPUB

drunk in his life; and where a farmer is sober himself, his men are less likely to drink, or, if they do, the master can reprove them with the better grace.

Tom was not naturally fond of drink, yet for the sake of being thought merry company, and a hearty fellow, he often drank miore than he ought. As he had been used to go to church twice on a Sunday while he lived with the farmer, (who seldom used his horses on that day, except to carry his wife to church behind him,) Tom felt a little uneasy when he was sent the very first Sunday a long journey with a great family; for I cannot conceal the truth, that too many gentlefolks will travel, when there is no necessity for it, on a Sunday, and when Monday would answer the end just as well. This is a great grief to all good and sober people, both rich and poor ; and it is still more inexcusable in the great, who have every day at their command. However, he kept his thoughts to himself, though he could not now and then help thinking how quietly things were going on at the farmer's, whose waggoner on a Sunday led as easy a life as if he had been a gentleman. But he soon lost all thoughts of this kind. and in time did not know a Sunday from a Monday. Tom went on prosperously, as it is called, for three or four years, got plenty of money, but saved not a shilling. As soon as his horses were once in the stable, whoever would might see them fed, for Tom. He had other fish to fry. Fives, cards, cudgel-playing, laying wagers, and keeping loose company, each of which he at first disliked, and each of which he soon learned to practise, ran away with all his money, and all his spare time; and though he was generally in the way as soon as the horses were ready, (because if there was no driving there was no pay,) yet he did not care whether the carriage was clean or dirty, if the horses looked well or ill, if the harness was whole, or the horses were shod. The certainty that the gains of to-morrow would make up for the extravagance of to-day, made him quite thoughtless and happy; for he was young, active, and healthy, and never foresaw that a rainy day might come, when he would want what he now squandered.

One day being a little flustered with liquor as he was driving his return chaise through Brentford, he saw just before him another empty carriage, driven by one of his acquaintance: he whipped up his horses, resolving to outstrip the other, and swearing dreadfully that he would be at the Red Lion firstfor a pint,-" Done,” cried the other—a wager ! Both cut and spurred the poor beasts with the usual fury, as if their credit had been really at stake, or their lives had depended on this foolish contest. Tom's chaise had now got up to that of his rival, and they drove alongside of each other with great fury and many imprecations. But in a narrow part, Tom's chaise being in the middle, with his antagonist on one side, and a cart driving against him on the other, the horses reared—the carriages got entangled—Tom roared out a great oath to the other to stop, which he either could not or would not do, but returned an horrid imprecation that he would win the wager if he was alive. Tom's horses took fright, and he himself was thrown to the ground with great violence. As soon as he could be got from under the wheels, he was taken up senseless, his leg was broken in two places, and his body much bruised. Some people, whom the noise had brought together, put him in the post-chaise, in which the waggoner kindly assisted, but the other driver seemed careless and indifferent, and drove off, observing with a brutal coolness, I am sorry I have lost my pint; I should have beat him hollow, had it not been for this little accident. Some gentle

men who came out of the inn, after reprimanding this savage, inquired who he was, wrote to inform his master, and got him discharged; resolving that neither they nor any of their friends would ever employ him, and he was long out of place, and nobody ever cared to be driven by him.

Tom was taken to one of those excellent hospitals with which London abounds. His agonies were dreadful, his leg was set, and a high fever came on. As soon as he was left alone to reflect on his condition, his first thought was that he should die, and his horror was inconceivable. “ Alas!" said he,“ what will become of my poor soul? I am cut off in the very commission of three great sins: I was drunk, I was in a horrible passion, and I had oaths and blasphemies in my mouth. He tried to pray, but he could not; his mind was all distraction, and he thought he was so very wicked that God would not forgive him ; because, says he, I have sinned against light and knowledge; I have had a sober education, and good examples; I was bred in the fear of God, and the knowledge of Christ; and I deserve nothing but punishment.” At length he grew light-headed, and there was little hope of his life. Whenever he came to his senses for a few minutes, he cried out, “Oh! that my old companions could now see me! surely they would take warning by my sad fate, and repent before it is too late!"

By the blessing of God on the skill of the surgeon and the care of the nurses, he, however, grew better in a few days. And here let me stop to remark, what a mercy it is that we live in a Christian country, where the poor, when sick, or lame, or wounded, are taken as much care of as any gentry; nay, in some respects more, because in hospitals and infirmaries there are more doctors and surgeons to attend, than most private gentlefolks can afford to have at their own houses, whereas there never was an hospital in the whole heathen world. Blessed be God for this, among the thousand other excellent fruits of the Christian religion ! a religion which, like its Divine Founder, while its grand object is the salvation of men's souls, teaches us also to relieve their bodily wants. It directs us never to forget that He who forgave sins, healed diseases, and, while he preached the gospel, fed the multitude.

It was eight weeks before Tom could be taken out of bed. This was a happy affliction ; for by the grace of God, this long sickness and solitude gave him time to reflect on his past life. He began seriously to hate those darling sins which had brought him to the brink of ruin. He could now pray heartily; he confessed and lamented his iniquities with many tears, and began to hope that the mercies of God, through the merits of a Redeemer, might yet be extended to him, on his sincere repentance. He resolved never more to return to the same evil courses ; but he did not trust in his own strength, but prayed that God would give him grace for the future, as well as pardon for the past. He remembered, and he was humbled at the thought, that he used to have short fits of repentance, and to form resolutions of amendment, in his wild and thoughtless days; and often, when he had a bad head-ache after a drinking-bout, or had lost his money at all-fours, he vowed never to drink or play again. But as soon as his head was well and his pockets recruited, he forgot all his resolutions. And how should it be otherwise ? .for he trusted in his own strength, he never prayed to God to strengthen him, nor ever avoided the next temptation. He thought that amendment was a thing to be set about at any time; he did not know that " it is the grace of God which bringeth us to repentance.” The case was now different. Tom began to find that “ his strength was perfect weakness," and that he could do nothing without the Divine assistance, for which he prayed heartily and constantly. He sent home for his Bible and Prayer-book, which he had not opened for two years, and which had been given him when he left the Sunday-school. He spent the chief part of his time in reading them, and derived great comfort, as well as great knowledge, from this employment of his time. The study of the Bible filled his heart with gratitude to God, who had not cut him off in the midst of his sins, but had given him space for repentance; and the agonies he had lately suffered with his broken leg increased his thankfulness, that he had escaped the more dreadful pain of eternal misery. And here let me remark what encouragement this is for rich people to give away bibles and good books, and not to lose all hope, though, for a time, they see little or no good effect from it. According to all appearance, Tom's books were never likely to do him any good, and yet his generous benefactor, who had cast his bread upon the waters, found it after many days : for this bible, which had lain untouched for years, was at last made the instrument of his reformation. God will work in his own good time, and in his own way, but our zeal and our exertions are the means by which he commonly chooses to work.

As soon as he got well, and was discharged from the hospital, Tom began to think he must return to get his bread. At first he had some scruples about going back to his old employ: but, says he, sensibly enough, gentlefolks must travel, travellers must have chaises, and chaises must have drivers : 'tis a very honest calling, and I don't know that goodness bėlongs to one sort of business more than another; and he who can be good in a state of great temptation,

« PreviousContinue »