Old and new friends.
James Boswell attributes this near quotation of William Camden (originally “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, Mercy I ask’d; mercy I found.”) to Samuel Johnson, and goes on to report that Johnson said “Sir, we are not to judge [with certainty] the state in which a man leaves this life. He may in a moment have repented effectually, and it is possible may have been accepted of God.” James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson 543 (1830) [link].*
We can never know the depth of God’s grace or the end of his persistent pursuit of each human heart. Let us resolve to speak the gospel of grace whenever we can.
*In the novel Brighton Rock (1938), Graham Greene has his character Pinkie rely on this quotation as a basis for rejecting grace on the assumption that he will be able to repent at the last moment. But in a moment in which his death seems imminent, he finds that he has hardened himself against repentance.
“You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone else the . . . appalling . . . strangeness of the mercy of God.”
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock 297 (Everyman’s 1993, orig. 1938).
“Betwixt the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I ask’d; mercy I found.”
attributed to William Camden (1551-1623).