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truths of the Gospel; arrested in a life of sin, perhaps, by some fearful accident, and brought, for the first time, within reach of a clergyman.
Others have known Christ once, and then have fallen away, till this sudden change to a sick bed, with nothing to distract their minds, has awakened them to a sense of their present state. The fear of death overwhelms them, and they are thankful and willing to listen to words of instruction and prayer.
“ Oh that any one had come to speak seriously to me, during the first days that I was brought in !" said a poor girl who had had a frightful accident; “I was so afraid I might die in my sins." The fear of death, and the repentance it awakened, faded away with returning health, and the poor sinner returned to her evil ways.
“ The Chaplain is very kind,” said another,“ but he has no time to hear all I should so much like to say to him."
“I feel very lonely,” said a poor blind girl, who was in the darkened corner of a large ward; “I
have been here two months, and I have had no one to speak to. I hear the clergyman reading prayers at the end of the ward, but I suppose he has overlooked me in this corner.”'
Who that saw it, could forget the kindling eye of a dying sufferer, on hearing the well-known sounds of Christ's promises ?—“I could listen all day, if it did not tire you to read. It is lying so long with no one to speak to, which tires me.'
One patient expressed great gratitude for all the kindness and comfort she enjoyed in the hospital. On its being remarked to her how much a nurse had to undergo, how much her patience was tried, and that nothing could enable her to fulfil the post as it ought to be done but doing it from love to Christ, she said, in a low earnest voice, “And that is what is wanting here. There is kindness; but when I thank the nurse, she says, “It is my duty to do it;' and I feel it is just that,-duty, and not love. There is no religion here; it is all done as a profession, and what is done in this spirit is hard and
cold. I see what a nurse might do, how she might check unseemly conversation and encourage the good; but there is nothing of the sort here."
Others, who have lived what may be called a respectable life, and have been in the habit of attending their church, are roused to a sense of the deadness and unreality of their faith. “I was saved,” said one woman, by a miracle: it is God's doing, that I
may serve Him better. I have been used to go to church, to say my prayers in an evening, but I always felt a want, a craving for more, and I might learn that here, if I knew how, if I had any one to help me.”
An excellent clergyman, who was for some years chaplain to one of the great London hospitals, writes on the subject as follows:
“The philanthropist has long been accustomed to associate the Hospital with the furtherance of his disinterested endeavours to promote the welfare of his fellowcreatures. The man of science has estimated the
opportunities presented by its wards as amongst the most pre. cious means for attaining the knowledge of disease, and for the discovery of its remedies. The public generally have conceded to such an institution a very high and honourable position, as a house of mercy and a refuge for the afflicted in the time of trouble.
“ These are great and important benefits ; but there is another light in which the Hospital may be viewed, and in which its value has seldom, if ever, been fully appreciated,—it is as affording to its afflicted inmates the most invaluable opportunities for religious meditation and improvement.
* In the good providence of God, a season of affliction has often proved instrumental in humbling the human heart, in disclosing the guilt and consequences of sin, and in preparing the mind for the reception of the great truths of religion. It is under such circumstances that the poor come to the Hospital, and to many of them it proves the first little pause in life—the first resting-place for looking back upon the past, and for contemplating
the future. How important is the due improvement of such a season ! How incalculable the benefit which may attend the faithful and affectionate delivery of the Gospel message at such a time!
"In the visits paid by the parochial minister to the poor of his flock, he is often embarrassed by the inconvenience of the humble dwelling in which the sick man lies. The necessary arrangements of the family, the noise of the children, and interruptions from other causes, frequently distract the attention, and interfere with the solemnity of the occasion. In the Hospital, all these inconveni. ences are obviated. There the sick are in quiet and comfortable wards; the heart is already in some measure softened by the kindness received, and the mind is prepared to attend to the great concerns of eternity. What an opportunity for winning their souls to the Saviour! What a season for instructing them in the realities of the Kingdom of God!
“In the best-regulated parish there are many persons almost removed by circumstances from the happy influence of pastoral visitation. There are the young apprentices, the servants of careless families, the various classes of humble mechanics and artisans, who are not to be found at their own homes during the week, and who too frequently absent themselves from the house of God on the Sabbath. These are brought by sickness, or by casualty, to the Hospital; and experience has proved that many of them have left it, no more to return to the broad road of sin and folly, but to walk in the narrow way that leadeth unto life.
In large and populous parishes, there are generally to be found a class of lawless and abandoned men, who bid defiance to the ministers of religion, and who reject all invitations to attend the house of prayer. These, in a day of adversity, are thankful to find refuge in the Hospital, and there, for one little period of life, they must hear the narrative of a Saviour's love.
“In daily life, what is found so important as practical experience P-what so valuable as facts tending to
deepen our impressions of truth? In this point of view the minister of a parish often wishes that he could impart to his flock the salutary lessons which he himself receives from cases of conscience and from death-bed
He longs to conduct the thoughtless and the giddy, for one brief hour, to the house of mourning. He would gladly carry the youth, to whom sin is presenting its allurements, to the wretched chamber where its consequences are displayed in the most loathsome aspect. In the ward of the hospital this great practical benefit is not unfrequently attained. There the remorse and despair of the hardened offender speak far more powerfully to the consciences of those around them, than the most pointed address can do. There, scenes of an opposite character leave a sacred impression. The dying experience of the good man, the expression of his simple faith in the Redeemer, the patience granted to him in suffering, the calmness with which he welcomes the approach of death,—these are not speedily forgotten; they touch the tenderest sympathies of our nature, and have often drawn from the once careless and unconcerned the heartfelt prayer, ' May I die the death of the righteous, and may my last end be like his !'
“ If then we desire to benefit the poor; if we would diffuse the blessed influences of religion amongst the lower orders of society; if we would reclaim citizens to our country, and children to our God, let us watch with anxious care over the Hospitals of our land. Let it be our concern to procure for them the blessings of our pure Reformed religion, and to defend them from the baneful influence of lukewarmness on the one hand, and of error upon the other.
Then shall they be instrumental in promoting the best interests of our race, and they shall enjoy the blessing of that gracious God who has been pleased to connect the glory of his great name with peace on earth and goodwill towards men.'"
Such is the need; such the opportunity for good. . How far do our present hospital arrangements meet the case ?
Most London hospitals have a chaplain connected with the house, who has no other duty but to attend to the patients. In some there are also assistant chaplains. But even with the greatest desire to fulfil such an arduous duty, it is almost impossible for one chaplain to give to each individual case the time and attention it may require. The hours of admission to the wards, or rather those in which spiritual instruction can be administered, are necessarily limited. Till nine, the patients are dressing, breakfasting, and the ward is being cleaned. Till ten, wounds are dressed. From ten till twelve, the chaplain may succeed the doctors, who then make their medical rounds; twelve or one is the dinnerhour. From two to half-past four, visitors are admitted. At five the patients have tea. At eight or nine the ward is closed for the night.
The same excellent man whose words have been already quoted, had the charge of twenty-seven wards, containing altogether about 300 patients. His time was divided as follows:-On Wednesdays and Fridays there was service in the chapel, with a lecture; and the remainder of these mornings were occupied with special cases, and in giving and exchanging books. The other four days of the week he read prayers and gave a brief exposition in the wards : this occupied from ten to twelve each day, allowing about ten minutes to each ward. Each evening he again attended, to visit dying patients.
Where the numbers are larger, even this is impossible, and all that can be done is to read prayers in each ward, and pay special visits to extreme cases. “I am in the wards,” said another Chaplain, “from ten to one, and again from three to five; but with the five hundred patients I have to attend, I can do little more than read prayers in the wards, and attend to the worst cases, of which I have a list; and when I look over this list at night, of the forty extreme cases I have seldom been able to visit more than twenty*."
* Mr. John Hewer, a student of St. Bartholomew's, has written an interesting pamphlet on the spiritual wants of that Hospital : it is entitled The Souls of the Sick.'