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LETTER CV. From a Gentleman, whose Wife was lately, Dead,
to a Clergyman in the Neighbourhood. Reverend Sir,-You have often, both in public and private, enlarged on those comforts and consolations which Christianity affords to the afflicted ; and if ever they were necessary to one under those circumstances, they must be so to myself. About seven last night my wife died in child-bed, and I am left the disconsolate parent of five young children. Had you seen the excruciating tortures under which she expired, it would have reminded you of the emphasis of the curse pronounced upon our first parents for their rebellion against God. When she saw the king of terrors approach, she was all resignation to the divine will, and left this lower world in the same manner and with the same cheerful alacrity, as if she had been going to visit a friend, or attend the service of her Maker. Overwhelmed with grief, I entered her chamber, when she exerted the small remains of strength, and spoke to me as follows:
“My Dear,-I am now going the way of all flesh, but God, the everlasting God, will be your comfort. When I first became yours, I looked for all the happiness consistent with the state of human nature in this vale of misery ; and I must confess that my highest wishes have been gratified, and your tenderness has been even more than I could expect. You may have seen faults in my conduct, but I do assure you, (and is this a time to dissemble ?) they were altogether involuntary. My principal study was to obtain the favour of that God before whom I am soon to appear. My obedience to the commands of my God has been attended with many imperfections, but I trust for pardon and acceptance in the merits of my dear Redeemer.” Here she fainted,—looked wistfully at me, and shed a tear over her dear children, who were crying by her bed. She attempted to speak, but in vain. At last, fixing her eyes towards heaven, she repeated those beautiful words : “ Into thy hands I commit my soul, for thou hast redeemed me, 0 thou God of my salvation,” and then closed her eyes, never to be opened till the sound of the last trumpet. I was sunk for some time in the greatest distress, looking on the dear departed remains of my beloved spouse, and endeavouring to silence, by persuasions, the cries of her orphan children. At last I recollected that I had still a friend left in you, to whom I might, with a view of consolation, lay open the inmost recesses of my heart. I am afraid your indisposition may hinder you from visiting me, and if so, let me beg that you will, in the meantime, favour me with a few lines. At present every sort of consolation will be acceptable, but whatever comes from you will be doubly so. I know not what to write ; excuse incoherence and impropriety from one whom you have often honoured with the appellation of friend.
I am, &c.
The Clergyman's Answer. My dear friend, -I sincerely commiserate your variegated calamity, and wish there was any thing in my power that could alleviate your distress. You well know that all affliction, of whatever kind it is, proceeds from God.—“I create light and make darkness, I inake war and peace; I, the Lord, do all these things.” This, Sir, should be your first consideration, and this should regulate the whole of your conduct.
It was this consideration which reconciled old Eli to the severest doom that perhaps was ever denounced. Though contrary to human nature, and much more so to natural affection, yet it is the Lord, let him do what shall seem good.
This reconciled Job to all his unparalleled sufferings, “ the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away;" rapacious hands, and warring elements, were only instruments of his power, therefore I bless and adore his holy name. This consolation fortified them and Christ Jesus on the approach of his inconceivably bitter agony : But it is my Father's pleasure, and not the malice of my enemies, therefore not my will, but his be done.
If your Father, dear sir, your heavenly Father, who loves you with an everlasting love, has thought proper to mix some gall with your portion of life, sensible of the beneficent hand from which your visitation comes, may you bow your head in awful silence, and say with the afflicted Hezekiah of old, “Good is the word of the Lord concerning me.”
Afflictions are often accompanied with many valuable benefits; as David said, “It is good for me that I liave been afflicted, for before that I went astray.”
Afflictions serve to wean us from the world. When every thing goes smoothly on, and nothing interrupts the present enjoyments, we are apt to forget the God that made us, and say with unparalleled assurance, Who is the Almighty, that I should serve him?
Afictions serve to lead us to value the blessings of Christianity, and to hold in the lowest estimation our own worthiness. When sorrows harass our circumstances, and trouble oppresses our minds, we are glad, we are earnest, to find rest in Christ.
The severe affliction under which I have so long laboured, hinders me from seeing you, although I shall take the first opportunity of doing so, when it pleases God to restore me again to health. In the meantime, I have sent you a copy of Fleetwood's Life of Clirist. A careful perusal of that valuable work will reconcile you to the various dispensations of Providence, especially when we consider the character of the Redeemer, who suffered so much
He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief.
From these considerations, my dear friend, endeavour to reconcile yourself to this awful dispensation of Providence ; I am sensible of your loss, but you know not what God may yet have in store for you. Perhaps he has only deprived you of one mercy in order to bestow another. I doubt not but the Almighty has thousands of mercies yet in store for you, both in time and eternity; and that period is fast approaching when you yourself must put off this earthly tabernacle, and pay that debt to nature which your beloved spouse has already done. Let your care at present be, to attend to the education of your children. Your duty is now doubly increased, and all that was incumbent on your beloved spouse, is now transferred to yourself ; but the blessings of the Almighty will be bestowed in proportion to your cheerful obedience. It is a great comfort that your beloved spouse died in the faith and fear of the dear Redeemer; and it will be the greatest honour you can ever acquire, to instruct your children in those principles which niade the prospect of death agreeable, and even welcome to their mother ; so that when the great God shall appear to judge the world, you may be
able to stand before him and say, Here I am, and the children which thou hast given me. Thus, sir, I have said all that I can think on the present melancholy occasion. But how comfortable are those words of St Paul,“ Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, shall work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal
. There is nothing permanent or lasting in this world, and the tall oak is as easily cut down by the hand of Omnipotence, as the plant is plucked up. I feel myself growing weak, and must therefore conclude May that gracious God who has thought proper to afflict you, continue to support you under this and every other trial, till you arrive at the last at that kingdom, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest, is the sincere prayer of,-Your most affectionate friend.
LETTER CVII. From a Clergyman to a young Gentleman who had
formerly been his Pupil, but now at the University.
Dear Sir,—Whilst you was under my care, I made it my principal study to discharge the duties of my station, consistent with the character of a minister of the gospel ; and now that you are removed to the fountain-head of learning, I consider myself in some manner still under the same obligation. In a letter I have lately received from your tutor, I liear with great pleasure that you make great progress in your studies. Although Providence has placed me at this distance, yet I have a strong inclination to communicate my thoughts to you on a subject of the utmost importance; I mean the necessary obligation you are under, of reducing know