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him whatever they hoped might restore or revive him. But it was too late; sorrow had done its work;-Wolsey was dying. As he lay there, thinking on the changes, so many and so great, of his past life, he addressed those who stood around his bed, and said, "If I had served my God but half as diligently as I have served my king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs." These were some of the last words of Cardinal Wolsey;--what a lesson of instruction do they convey!
And now, I will conclude this chapter with some beautiful lines from Shakespeare, which affectingly describe, in part, what I have just been relating. The words are supposed to be addressed by Wolsey to his servant and friend Cromwell, afterwards Earl of Essex.
Let's dry our eyes; and thus far hear me, Cromwell;
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not;
Thy God's, and truth's; then if thou fail'st, O Cromwell,
O Cromwell, Cromwell,
Had I but served my God with half the zeal
XXVI. HOPES BLIGHTED.
Ah, when did wisdom covet length of days,
A spark, which upward tends by nature's force;
A pilgrim, panting for the rest to come;
You have already heard more than once the name of Sir Thomas More; and as I have a good deal to tell you about him, we will begin this chapter with his history,—that part of it, at least, which will most interest you,—and a mournful story I fear it must be. You remember that Sir Thomas More was very active in opposing the Reformation, and that the death of the martyrs Fryth and Tyndale was, in a great measure, owing to him; and so you are
probably expecting to hear the history of a cruel and hard-hearted man. You will be surprised then when I tell you, that More was a very different character from what you suppose. He was kind and gentle in his disposition; beloved by his family and friends for his amiability, and for his truthfulness and sincerity; and so pleasant and agreeable, that every body who knew him loved him and desired his society. He was a talented and erudite man too; and his acquaintance was courted by many of the learned people of those times, who frequently visited him at his house in Chelsea, in order to enjoy his clever conversation. And yet, notwithstanding all these good and pleasant points of character in Sir Thomas More, he was, as we have seen, a bitter opposer of the Reformation, and a stern persecutor of those who held its doctrines. How can we understand this? How could a man so wise and so good in many things, fail here, and be foolish enough to oppose God's truth, and heartless enough to put to death those who possessed it?
Now I think we cannot doubt that Sir T. More opposed the Reformation conscientiously, -upon principle, and because he thought it right to do so. He was certainly an honest and sincere man, who would not profess what he did not believe, and who would act up to the principles he considered right. We shall
find proofs of this in the course of his history. But here comes in another difficulty. Perhaps you are inclined to ask, Is a person to be blamed, is he really wrong,-when he acts according to his principles, and the dictates of his own conscience? This is an important matter to decide, and one which it will be well to settle at this part of our history, that we may be saved from future difficulty when we come to other characters of a similar kind. Let us consider it then for a moment, before we go on with the story of Sir Thomas More.
You remember I have before remarked, that ignorance is no excuse for doing wrong; because, when there are means and opportunities of knowing better, ignorance is itself a sin. Now it is much the same in regard to conscience. Some people do that which is contrary to the word and will of God, and then try to justify themselves, by saying that they acted according to their consciences. But this does not free them from guilt; because it is their duty to form their principles in accordance with the law which is laid down in the Bible, and then to act accordingly. The conscience, as well as every other faculty of the mind, has felt the effects of the fall; and only when it is enlightened by the Spirit of God, can it become a safe guide for our conduct and actions. The natural conscience of