« PreviousContinue »
been recently made use of from the same pulpit, as a powerful engine to confirm unbelief and hardness of heart.
I observed, in the commencement of my discourse, that we were greatly favoured respecting the portion of sacred writ then under consideration. Some parts of the divine word seemed given as sealed testimonies, of which only he who could break the seals could determine the import. But our Saviour, having in this passage, in answer to the questioning disciples, himself given the explanation, the exposition was consequently as infallible as the text. Here, continued I, we are greatly indulged. Here we believe God, because we see for ourselves. Sometimes we are bound to believe God, although we may not so clearly understand.
A dweller in the town, I do not perfectly recollect his name, and if I did it would perhaps be as well to suppress it, who had seemed to hear with greedy attention, insomuch that he quitted his accustomed seat, and ascending the pulpit stairs, fixed his eyes full in my face; on my saying sometimes we are bound to believe God, stopped me, and vociferating like a madman, violently exclaimed, 66 What! what! do you not believe God always ? So, Sir, you say we must believe God sometimes !” Thus he ran on, until one of the first characters in the town ordered him to hold his
when he went off, repeating, however, the same charge.
After his departure, addressing my audience in the fulness of my heart, I said : Permit me, my friends, on this occasion to make a small digression, which, considering my character, and circumstances, I humbly hope will be tolerated.
You have now an opportunity of forming some judgment of the nature of those reports that are in circulation, calculated to injure the reputation, both of the messenger and his message. You have seen a person intoxicated by liquor, or by the spirit of the adversary, attending for a little moment, and then catching part of a sentence, fly off, maliciously determined to publish it abroad.
Suppose you had not been present, and had met him on his departure from this place, he would have told you he had been to church, and had tarried as long as he was able; that he had heard mé speak blasphemy, even to the telling my audience they were not always to believe God; that in some places they may confide; that sometimes they might believe the Deity; and he would confirm his testimony by an oath, adding that he was so provoked, he could not forbear speaking aloud in the midst of the congregation.
Thus he would go on, and prejudice would greedily receive his report. Ministers would publish it from their pulpits, and congregations would believe. Nay, it is probable this will be the case, until the slander is propagated through the country.
From this instance, however, you will observe how necessary it is to hear patiently to the end, before you make up a judgment. This circumstance induces me to repeat a little anecdote which occurred in the British House of Commons. A certain gentlemen rose to say, “ That the Ministry never proposed any thing in this house for the good of the nation,”-here he was interrupted, by a person calling him to order, and vociferating against him, for abusing the Ministry.
“ Sir, I beg I may be allowed to finish the sentence I began. I said the Ministry never proposed any thing for the good of this country, (and I should have added, if I had been permitted) to which the members in opposition did not readily accede.”
Thus from a variety of considerations, my hearers will acknowledge the absolute necessity of fixing their attention to every part of our discourse.--And I am persuaded they did so; nor could my friend S. forbear observing, that the adversary, in sending the interruption, had entirely defeated his own purpose.
Friend. And so you are really settled in
F. I thought as God had sent you out to preach the gospel to every creature, you never would have confined yourself to any particular part of mankind.
M. You see I have not; I should not have been here now if I had. But, my friend, you should remember that “God's works of Providence are his most holy, wise and powerful, preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions ;” and that it is this all-wise God, who first fixeth the bounds of our habitation, and then renders the habitation he hath chosen our deliberate choice. For me, I am satisfied with the will of heaven. The people of whom you speak believe the gospel of God our Saviour. We have taken sweet counsel together. They listen to the truth as it is in Jesus, with avidity, with rapture. Should they ever give me reason, by their non-attendance, or any diminution of those testimonies of
attachment, I am in the habit of receiving from them, to suppose I am becoming burdensome, or even indifferent to them, I shall ask, and I doubt not they will generously grant me leave for departure.--I am interrupted.
I was engaged in writing before the sun rose this morning. This moment it makes its appearance in all its splendour, in all its beauty. Hail, thou blessed ruler of the day! Thou never yet madest us a visit, but thou wert welcome to my soul.
Thou best image of the world's great light! So may thy august Master one day shine forth, luminous and powerful, chasing by iis refulgent beams the shades of mental darkness from the purchased world.
I preached twice yesterday, at different houses of worship. My congregations in this place are much larger than heretofore. No resistance is made to my entrance into any pulpit in this town. It is pleasant to observe the gradual decay of prejudice. Yet is this despot still strong in many bosoms. A clergyman in a neighbouring town has been, during my journey, indefatigable in his efforts to shut his doors against me. He devoted the labours of one Sabbath to the abuse of the messenger, and his message. “ These vile heresies,” said he, “ were invented by two brothers in England, James and John Relly ; tle one a statesmen and the other a lawyer. The lawyer commenced preaching, and has written a shocking book. I once saw one of those books which was the foundation of this dainnable heresy, this doctrine of Universal Salvation. This Murray, as an instrument of the Devil, is endeavouring to spread it through this country. He is expected among us, and should he come, I now caution you, in the presence of God and his holy angels, not to countenance him by your presence, lest
partakcrs of his sins."
Thus he proceeded with great devotion, warning the congregation, and concluded by requesting the church to tarry, after the congregation'were dismissed, when he expostulated with them still more earnestly, supplicating them to enter into covenant, that I should not preach, at least in their church ; and that they would petition their magistrates to prevent me from delivering my damnable heresies among them. Thus he went on. The court-house, however, was obtained for my reception, and it was thronged by the dwellers in the town, and individuals from many parts of the adja
VOL. II. 5
cent country. So little doth the wrath of man understand the human heart.
It is really astonishing. The gentleman at whose house I abide was totally ignorant of the gospel plan, until being ill used by some of the brethren of the church to which he belonged, he set about searching the scriptures for some passages with which to condemn them, and in thus seeking for their condemation, his own stared him in the face. In real distress of mind, he pursued his search for something to justify and console himself, when, to his unspeakable joy, he found not only his own, but the salvation of his fellow men. How unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out! From this period he has been an advocate for the truth as it is in Jesus. At first he was considered as a madman even by his own family. But God gave him much to say; his life was exemplary, and his testimony consistent and unvarying. Many, strong in opposition, listened from curiosity, and were convinced. The union made its appearance among them : great was the power of truth, and numbers have associated, setting their seals to that sacred word which testifieth of Jesus and the great redemption. Nothing could exceed the good gentleman's rapture at my appearance in his house: my visit was in consequence of his solicitation ; but it had been so long delayed, that he had began to despair. “Is it possible,” he exclaimed, “that I am so blessed? God be praised, God be praised. Since I first beheld my Saviour, my own and the world's Saviour, I have never experienced such heart-felt happi. ness.”
Never did I listen to more delightful music than is produced by the choir in this town. There is not, I believe, any thing equal to it in this country; at least I have never heard music since I left London, that deserves a comparison with my musical friends in this town. The circular gallery presents, first, ten men who sing bass; secondly, ten who sing tenor; thirdly, fifteen young ladies, with three lads, who sing counter; fourthly, sixteen misses who sing treble.
But what renders this music nearly divine, is its softness. The notes, mellow and blending, seem to mingle and soothe like the sweet sounds of the Æolian harp. The musicians in this place have attained a perfectly correct idea of music; and I prefer, greatly prefer listening to themi, to any instrumental music I ever heard. Whence is it, that vocal musicians in general are so injudicious as to think loud music good music? Singers who p rform
without violent exertion, might continue many hours in this delightful employment, without injury to their voices.or lungs.
O, for that happy period, when the redeemed of the Lord shall form one grand choir, one universal band of music! Then we shall not be hearers only, of what at best, in this imperfect state, must of necessity be imperfect; but we shall ourselves become performers, hymning the praises of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, not only with spirit and understanding, but with all that glowing rapture, which holy gratitude and a never ending sense of the most important and enduring benefits can inspire. Having a convenient opportunity, I shall make up this letter; I
your answer to my clerical querist. I am not absolutely determined to send your letter. I rather suspect the questions were mischievously, if not ludicrously proposed; and if so, silence is as much as the inquirer ought to expect. Accept, however, my utmost gratitude. Farewell.
I Have so long delayed the narration of my visit to that I am fearful it will be now but an iinperfect attempt. It shall however be the best which my memory can render.
When the convention of preachers, called Universalists, assembled at application was made to the Selectmen of the town, for the use of their meeting-house, which was cheerfully and politely granted.
The officiating minister of that house, and the neighbouring clergy, collected for the purpose of devising means to prevent my delivering my inessage among them, or being heard, if I did.
One gentleman, as I am told, proposed that I should be interrupted in my discourse, while engaged in preaching, by some question which it was believed I should not be able to answer. But this was opposed, on the supposition that I should think myself entitled to ask questions in my turn; and after much deliberation it was concluded, it would be best to let me proceed to a close, and then