Dying Experience of A Poor Prostitute
You have so repeatedly requested that I would transmit to you in writing the very remarkable case of the poor penitent, whose last moments I attended in my parochial capacity, and you have expressed your wishes so strongly that the history of her wonderful conversion through grace might be made more generally known for the comfort of the Lord’s people in general, and for the encouragement of sinners in particular, that I cannot resist your importunity.
Indeed, as I am led to believe that the memoirs of such characters have a very happy effect, through God’s blessing, to lift up the hands that bang down, and to support the feeble knees, and the extraordinary conversions of notorious sinners, which now and then occur, should seem to be intended, by the divine goodness to this end, I am as much prompted from principles of duty, as from inclination to gratify your wishes in this particular; hoping that the great Disposer of all events may so graciously direct the publication of it to good, in causing the influence of his Holy Spirit to accompany it, that it may terminate to his glory, in awakening others to repentance through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I am verily persuaded few instances have occurred within these latter ages, which more strikingly have illustrated the goodness of God, and the sovereignty of his grace, than that of the person whose conversion it was my peculiar happiness to be an eye-witness of, the circumstances of which I am going to relate. And as the apostle Paul (acting as the amanuensis to the Holy Ghost) was commissioned to declare, that it was “for this cause he obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting;” may we not hope that this, and every other renewed instance of his long suffering and patienee, are intended as so many patterns of mercy to his sinful and unbelieving people.
From motives of tenderness and delicacy to her surviving relations, I am not permitted to mention her name, neither indeed can this be at – all material to the object in view.
It will be sufficient to all – the purposes intended from the relation of her history to observe, in the outlines of it, that she was one of those unhappy and everto-be-deplored characters who live by prostitution.
At a very early period, having been seduced from the path of chastity, and the sense of female modesty being once removed, she gave herself up to work “all uncleanness with greediness;” and, from the age of seventeen, to within a few months preceding her death, which happened in her-thirty-second year, she had lived in a state of the most abandoned profligacy.
When I was first called to visit her, I found her in the last stage of an atrophy and consumption, most probably induced from the effects of her intemperance and debauchery. The poor creature had, it seems, long struggled, amidst the conflict of various passions, of shame and fear and distrust, mingled with the most earnest desires, to find some means of grace, before she could summon sufficient fortitude to send for a minister for that purpose.
But, in proportion as her illness increased, the burden of sin becoming more and more intolerable, the distresses and agonies of her mind pressing harder upon her, the approach of death, judgment, and eternity opening in full prospect before her, and swelling in magnitude and awfulness at every renewed view, and, above all, no doubt, the blessed Spirit of a compassionate God, operating, by his gracious influence, to lead her heart to repentance-these awakening causes triumphed over every other consideration, and, in earnestness hardly to he described, she desired that I might be sent for.
It seems that I was particularly chosen to this office, from a circumstance which had taken place a few months before.
I had, at that time, been engaged in my daily duty of visiting the sick, in attending the last moments of a man who kept a house of ill fame, with whom at that season this woman lived; and (as she afterwards informed me) she had then contrived to render my visits to him profitable to herself.
For though, at that period, she was actually engaged in the very career of all her sinful courses, and lived in his house for the very purpose of prostitution, yet she always watched the moments of my approach, and hastening from her loose companions, she would hide herself in a room adjoining to the sick man’s, where the thinness of the partition favoured the opportunity of hearing all that passed unperceived, and, with floods of tears, and in the most poignant agony of mind, would pour forth
her soul in prayer to God.
The scene which presented itself before me at my first interview with this poor Magdalene, was, I think, the most powerful arrest upon my feelings I ever experienced – it baffles all the powers of my pen to describe. Portray to your imagination, my dear sir, a dying woman, with just life enough – to speak, under the impression of the quickest sensibility her sinking frame could sustain, confessing, with every aggravating circumstance she could recollect, the iniquities of her life; awed by no consideration of fear or shame to conceal or keep back the whole truth, seeking no palliation, studying not to extenuate, or throw a covering over, transgression which she had committed, but very evidently feeling in the heart what she openly proclaimed with the mouth, that she was the chief of sinners.
Your mind may probably furnish you with suitable images, so as to give you some idea of what this affecting scene afforded; but to describe it as it really was, is impossible.
Never shall I forget the manner with which she addressed herself to me, after she had gone through the melancholy tale of her life – methinks her form is now before me.
With a look of the most exquisite distress, at once expressive of hope and fear, and a thousand anxieties, she directed her dying eyes towards me, and said.
“Can there, sir, do you think, be any mercy for such a wretch as I am?”
You may readily suppose what answer I gave to this most interesting question, and how eagerly I sought, by a faithful representation of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” to pour balm into her distracted mind.
With a number of questions from the Gospel, which represents Jesus as the Saviour and the friend of sinners, and of the express purpose for which he came, “not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” I endeavoured to soothe and comfort her spirits; and I could perceive a gleam of hope brightening up her saddened countenance as I dispensed to her the divine cordials from the sacred promises.
But how was my astonishment awakened, when, proceeding from general promises of revealed truths to make application to her particular case, by leading her into a brief view of the doctrine of the fall, and man’s utterly lost state before God, with the design of the Redeemer in the scheme of salvation, she frequently anticipated my account, and gave me every now and then proofs that she was no stranger to the great subjects of which I spoke.
I could not help expressing my surprise how a person in her unhappy way of life should have been brought to the knowledge of these truths; and this opened a new source of grief in her mind, and brought many tears from her eyes.
Her parents, she told me, had early taught her principles of piety, and, no doubt, had seasoned their instructions with fervent prayers to God for his blessings upon them; but her sinful course of life had tempted them to fear all was fruitless, and they had left the world (for, as well as I can recollect, they had both been dead some years) lamenting the inefficacy of their supplications to God for their graceless child.
How ought the sequel of this sinner’s history to encourage believing parents to pray without fainting!
How many prayers thus offered up, have been answered years after the humble petitioners have been gathered to their fathers, though the seemingly unpromising conduct of the subjects suppressed every hope, and caused the parents to descend, in this respect with sorrow to the grave.
Nonetheless, their prayers were answered. To Christ she came.