« PreviousContinue »
thoughts of peace and not of evil. Well then, although the ways of heaven may be dark and intricate, these winding ways will finally lead us to himself; and the creature, first created for the pleasure of the Creator, however permitted to wander, or whatever he may be in the present state, must ultimately answer the prime end of his creation, which end, the compilers of the shorter catechism assure us, “Is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
Yet still it is asked, “Why does infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, suffer so much moral and natural evil to prevail in this lower world ?” We say, the greater part of the miseries of the present state, originate with ourselves. I suppose all we mean by this is, that if we were wise and good, we should be happy. But why are we not wise and good ? why are we not meek and gentle? Why do men, though all gone out of the way, take such various courses? Why are some penurious and others profuse? We say, “The diligent hand maketh rich, and the sluggard shall be clothed with rags.” But, why are some naturally industrious and frugal, and others naturally the reverse ? and why are all either directly, in consequence of their own perverse dispositions, or indirectly through the weakness or wickedness of others, made to drink so deep of the cup of adversity ? Why are those who are, humanly speaking, the most deserving, made to suffer the greater part of their lives? Why are little infants early the subjects of sorrow ? but it is abundantly easy to ask questions which neither the sage nor the philosopher can answer. With God, however, remaineth the issue of all things, and he can give in one short hour's enjoyment, large remuneration for the ills of time.
Frequent reflections on the brevity of the present scene are of much use. Blessed be God, we shall shortly bid adieu to every species of distress. There is one apostolic injunction, which neither
you nor I can find it very difficult to observe-Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. Yet if we should at last set our hearts on things above, if we should feel ourselves weaned from things below, still we shall not even then have whereof to glory. If our august Parent had not made our present sweets very bitter, we should never turn therefrom. Some mothers while weaning their infants, seeking to make necessity the choice of the child, lay aloes on the breast. Our omnipotent Father usually renders every breast of human consolation bitter to his children, to wean us the more effectually from this distem
pered state. But after all, these weaning times are, and must of course be distressing times. However, the Redeemer renders all things profitable ; all things shall work together for good ; and as thy day is, says the Father of mercies to the children of adversity, so shall thy strength be.
True, we may say with the inimitable Shakespeare, this world's a stage ; and all the men and women are but actors. And happy they, who under the conduct of the great Manager, can acquit themselves in their respective parts with propriety. It is indeed a consoling consideration, that the performers will ultimately be set right. Perhaps these human performers are, even now, more correct than those who consider themselves merely as spectators, may be inclined to allow. At any rate it is good that we both hope, and quietly wait for the full salvation of our God; and in the interim, it is our interest and our duty to make the best use of the scenes of time. Be not unhappy at the hints contained in my last letter. The truth is, I love you as an imperfect friend : I do not adore you as perfect : and although at the time, I may not love you so well for reproving me, I shall, upon reflection respect and admire you the more.
I do not speak at random ; I have had repeated trials of this sort, both here, and elsewhere. When once convinced, I am the object of genuine affection, although those precious reproofs from those I love, may like other precious medicines, create a temporary pain ; yet deriving advantage therefrom, I shall expe-' rience for the kind physician who administered so efficacious a remedy, enduring gratitude.
Blessed be God, we are both under the eye of infinite wisdom ; that we are seen by the eye of infinite wisdom in the new and living way. ; and that we are to the eye of the Father, in this new and living way, blameless and without spot. O that we could walk unpolluted, while on our way to Zion. O may.
O may the prayers of the great High Priest of our profession put up in behalf of all who should believe in his name, be answered in behalf of my friend N. and his truly affectionate, &c. &c.
To the same.
Am told you intend visiting this place ; if you do, let me know, in time that I may be in season to adjust a little account of my own. Ah me, when will all my accounts with this world be made up, and completely balanced ! I want to retire ; I want to go home, I am sick of life, of this present life ; sick of the world, of this present evil world. God grant I may thus feel when I am called out of time.
Many are afraid of death, until they stand upon the threshold of this world, and then become impatient for the arrival of the messenger. If the scene should be reversed with me, I should be indeed unhappy. I do not think I can ever be afraid of death, as the change may effect my eternal felicity. I cannot fear a conquered foe. But, if when I am about to leave it, the world should smile on me, as on a parting friend, how then ; may I not be under the influence of its fascination? Do you say there is no danger of this, except I should miss my way? But may I not miss my way? Not if I am kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. May his Almighty power keep me in this everlasting way, in this bright and shining path ; which shineth more and more to full perfection. But
my friend, do you indeed wonder that when you would do good, evil should be present with you? Are you puzzled to find the law in the members warring against the law of the mind ? Have you forgotten that there are two armies in the Shulamite ? Ah my friend, if the daily discovery of such inconsistencies distract you ; if a deceitful, unbelieving, and desperately wicked heart appals you, undisturbed repose will not, this side eternity, be yours.
Your trials are no doubt many, and severe ; but the most precious metal is purified by trial. Is it not of more consequence to try you, than to try gold? Are you not more precious than gold ? It is extremely natural to think the prevalence of unanimity in re, ligious sentiments will ensure domestic peace : so it is natural to suppose eternal sunshine, uninterrupted by storms or tempests, would be one of the greatest blessings which the elementary world
could give-but-but-no matter we shall learn much more by and by.
In the present scene, the ways of our God are in the great deep; he dwelleth in the thick darkness. Who by searching can find him out ? Yet he doeth all things well. Hereafter, it my be wę shall know the why, and the wherefore.
It may be foolishness in the extreme, to suppose business and christianity incompatible; and it is not wonderful to find you glo. rying in the capability of deriving your own support from your own industry. What can be so pleasing to a proud or a pious mind, as. to have something we can strictly speaking, call our own ; acknowledged to be our own by those from whom we obtain it: to be able to administer to the necessities of those who are not able to help themselves :- This is a blessing devoutly to be wished. You have no conception of the glooms attendant on a state of depend
But you will say we are all dependent upon the divine Being : true, we are so ; and were human beings as good as their Creator, who could complain of dependence ? But if dependence be galling in the meridian of our days, it is terrible in prospect, when old age approaches and the rising generation may resemble the king, who knew not Joseph. The infirmities of body and mind, generally appendages to lengthened years, are naturally calculated to create disgust, even in those who are prejudiced in our favour-Dependance, in such a situation, how tremendous ! But you will ask, where is your faith ? I answer where it ought to be ; fixed on the word of promise ; which so far from quieting my fears, rather strengthens despondency. Christians are no where assured they shall be exempted from the common calamities inci. dent to humanity. The afflictions consequent on the life I live, o!' may live, may be mine. Some of the most faithful servants of the Redeemer have been called to encounter great trials, and why not I? I do not know of any promise respecting this life, except that of much tribulation, and I have faith to believe I shall have a plentiful share of this.
But you will say all these things shall work together for goodNo doubt they will : yet if this thought could always render us happy, where woull be the tribulation which we are taught to expect? It may perhaps be supposed, that a person who believes and preaches the doctrine of Universal Redemption, should never be unhappy ; and that if he be, he is a very inconsistont character,
I should indeed be a very inconsistent character if my unhappiness arose from the dread of future misery, either for myself or my connexions ; or from an apprehension that I have not now in Christ Jesus, all spiritual blessings. But I say again, if my unhappiness respects only this world, where I am assured I shall have much tribulation, and where I know that the most uniform believers, the most faithful servants of my master have suffered hunger, nakedness, loss of friends, reproach, and every species of contumely ; not one of which calamities can be considered joyous, but .grievous : if I say this prospect sometimes makes me melancholy, I do not sce that I am inconsistent. Nay, I think I should be much more inconsistent if I felicitated myself in the expectation of peace or happiness in this present world.
It appears to me it would be quite as rational to expect a believer in, and a preacher of the gospel, to be entirely exempted from every bodily indisposition, as that he should never be tortured by mental pangs. But these reflections will never be made by those who understand the doctrines of the cross : such know it is not in this state we are promised happiness ; that we are liable to suffer every species of calamity; and that knowing this, we may groan, being burdened with either present suffering, or the fear of what evils may take place during our mortal pilgrimage ; and I am free to own that my future prospects appear so gloomy, as to induce me to tremble at the approach of that time of life, when I shall stand most in need of that assistance which I shall then have least reason to expect. Yet it is the desire of my soul to cast in this, and every other respect, iny care upon him whọ careth for me. I
very much lament my present state of inaction. Flavel says, " souls are like tools, they rust if not used.” How much more honourable to wear out than to rust out. Well, I will gird up my mind, and once more up, and be doing.
We have been expecting you a very long season, and we still hope you will join us on the anniversary of the birth of our, of the world's Saviour. I am fearful I shall have no voice on that day ; the pressure on my lungs is so violent, that I speak with the greatest difficulty, and I think it is momently increasing ; yet I still struggle to speak. How can any who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, be content without proclaiming his goodness?
My whole heart joins with you in praising the Preserver of men; who, making the clouds his chariot, holds the reins of the whirlwind,