The French Nobleman and the Physician

WHEN I was in London in 1867 I was told a story which made a very deep impression upon me. A young French nobleman, laboring under an extraordinary depression of spirits, came to consult an eminent physician, who devoted himself especially to diseases of the mind.

The Count was a man of wealth as well as of rank, and brought with him letters of introduction from the Emperor Napoleon III, who had a great regard for him. Beloved in his family and esteemed by his friends, his cup seemed to run over. But was he happy? No, for strange as it may appear, a deep gloom hung over his spirits, which neither the charms of a happy family circle nor the important duties of public life could dispel.

Just at this juncture an intimate friend advised him to go to England and consult the above-mentioned physician. To this he willingly assented, and before many days had passed he was standing before the doctor in his study. Having put a number of questions to him, the doctor, after a most careful examination, saw there was something upon his mind, and said to him, "What is troubling you? You have something weighing upon your mind." "Oh," said he, "there is nothing particular." "I know better," replied the doctor, "I must know what is on your mind; I must know what is troubling you. Perhaps an inordinate ambition may have to do with it." "No, I have no desire for great things. I am in the position just suited to my tastes and wishes." "Some family trouble or bereavement?" "No, doctor; peace and love reign in my family, and my circle is unbroken." "Have you any enemies?" "Not that I am aware of." "Have you lost any reputation in your country?" "No."

The doctor studied for a few minutes, and then said, "What subject most frequently occupies your thoughts?"

"You are approaching a matter which I hardly like to speak of, doctor. My father was an infidel; my grandfather was an infidel, and I was brought up an infidel. The ceremonies of religion are in my view as repugnant to common sense as its mysteries are to reason. I do not believe in revelation, and yet, I must confess, one of its dogmas haunts me like a specter. I try to persuade myself that it is the result of a disordered state of the brain, but yet my mind is continually occupied with it." "Will you tell me what it is?" asked the physician. "For the last three years these words have haunted me, 'Eternity, where shall it find me?' A vision of the last judgment is constantly present to my mind. The end of all things seems to have come, and the great white throne is set up. There is One seated on the throne, whose look of stern justice terrifies me. I try to escape from His penetrating glance, but Heaven and earth have disappeared, and I am left alone. Every moment I expect to hear the awful words, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels'."

"What makes you fear such a sentence?" "Well, in the eyes of men my life is deemed irreproachable, and not without reason. I have less to accuse myself of than most of my acquaintances; but in the presence of such dazzling glory, such spotless purity, my very best actions appear black and hideous. I feel guilty and condemned, and long to find some spot where I can hide from His presence."

"Is that what causes the melancholy?" "I suppose so. I cannot get rid of this terrible vision." "Ah!" said the doctor, "I am afraid you have come to the wrong physician." "Is there no hope for me?" cried the young man. "I walk about in the daytime; I lie down at night, and it comes upon me continually, 'Eternity, and where shall I spend it?' This depression of spirits endangers my reason. Do, doctor help me, if you can."

"Now, just sit down and be quiet. A few years ago I was an infidel. I did not believe in God, and was in the same condition in which you are now. I have by me an Old Book, which contains a remedy for your disease," said the doctor as he took down his Bible, and turned to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and read, 'Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him'.

"Of whom do these verses speak?" asked the Count.

"Of the Lord Jesus Christ whom God sent into the world that by His death He might make atonement for sin. 'He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not'."

"That is indeed true," asserted the Count.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

"What does that mean, doctor?"

"That the Son of God took the sinner's place, and bore the punishment due to the sinner." "Is it possible, doctor? What divine beauty and simplicity! The guiltless dies for the guilty!"

The doctor read on through the chapter. When he had finished, the Count said, "Do you believe this, that He voluntarily left Heaven, came down to this earth, and suffered and died that we might be saved?" "Yes, I believe it. That brought me out of infidelity, out of darkness into light." And he preached Christ and His salvation to him, with the result that the Count was able to do what the doctor had done. Put in 'my' for 'our,' and say: 'He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquities: the chastisement of my peace was upon Him; and by His stripes I am healed.'

Some time after his return to France the young nobleman wrote to Dr. Whinston, in London , telling him that the question of Eternity, and where he should spend it, was settled, and troubling him no more. He had found joy and peace in believing.

By D. L. Moody