Page images
PDF
EPUB

Attlictions are often accompanied with many valuable benefits; as David said, " It is good for me that I have been afflicted, for before that I went astray."

Amictions 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?

Afflictions 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 aMiction 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 mean time I have sent you a copy of Fleetwood's Life of Christ. A careful perusal of that valuable work will reconcile you to the various disa pensations of Providence, especially when you consider the character of the Redeemer, who suffered so much for us. 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 af one mercy in order to besiow 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. Lel.your care at present be, to attend to the education of your children.. Your duty is now doubly increased, and all that wasincumbent on your beloved spouse is now transferred to yourselt; but the blessings of the Almighty will be bestowed in proportion to your cheerfulobedience. 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 ever can acquire, to instruct your children in those principles which made 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 melavcholy occasion. But how comfortable are those words of St. Paul, “Our light si 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 cust 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 te afflict you, continue to support you under this and every other trial, till you arrive at the last in the kingdom, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are.at rest, is the sincere prayer

of Your most affectionate friend.

LETTER CVH. From a clergyman to a young gentleman who had former

ly been his pupil, but now at the university. Dear Sir,

HILST you was under my care, I made it my princi.

palstudy to discharge the duties of my station consist. ent 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 uoder the same obligation. In a letter I have lately received from your tutor, I hear, with great pleasure, that you make great progress in your studies. Altho’ 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 knowledge to practice, and that unless the one corresponds with the other, learning, instead of a blessing, becomes a real curse.

To different men God hascommunicated different advantages. From Pagans less is required than from Christians, and as much less, as they know less of their master's will: sonie are obliged to grope by the light of the moon and stars, and others are blessed with the light of the sun. It is much more desirable to walk by day-light than by moon-light. All however have light enough, if they rightly improve it, to enable them to find the way to God's favour. If there

W

is any one who has no knowledge given him, he is not a moral agent, and nothing cau be expected from him. But this cannot be supposed of any reasonable creature. There is no person so ignorant as not to have some knowledge of moral good and evil; and his acceptance and happiness depend on his acting up to this knowledge, whatever it is, and not on his acting up to any more extensive knowledge which others in more advantageous circumstances have.

The most knowing ought to be the most virtuous; but in. stead of this they are very often the most vicious. They employ their knowledge, not to mend their hearts, or restrain their passions, but to gain applause, or to over-reach and deceive. They make use of for ostentation or mischief, and not for directing them in a course of upright and Useful conduct. We can never conclude what a man's character is from the parts he possesses, or the opinions he holds. Nothing is more common than for men to believe one thing and to practise the contrary. The best sentiments may have possession of their heads, whilst the vilest dispositions govem their actions. We see continually that those who receive the best principles, and make the fairest pro fessions, are very wicked and worthless. In short, it is one of the most undeniable truths, that we may have ail the faith and knowledge in the world in our understandings, without one spark of genuine goodness in our hearts.

The reason of this common separation between know. Jedge and practice, is the influence of particular affections

and passions within us, leading us coritrary to our know. Jedge. Our judgment directs us one way, our passions draw us another. Reason dictates piety and righteousness : brutal passions and the allurements of the world incline us to irreligion and wickedness. The latter becomes predosminant, and thus we are seduced and corrupted; our knowIedge becomes of no avail, and our lives are rendered a scene of inconsistency between our principles and our conduct. The knowledge of our duty is given us on purpose that we may do it. Practice is all, and il signifies little what we know if this is wanting. No intellectual calents or accomplishments are of any service to those who possess them, unless they render them better than other men. It is the subserviency of wit and learning to virtue, that makes them indeed ornaments and blessings. Knowledge that is not attended with correspondent practice, defeats its own

412799

intention. It becomes mained, vairi, cod unprofitable. We may shine and make a greai noise, but we are still destitute of all real worth. One good disposition in the soul, is infinitely prezerable to the nest parts, or the most brilliant wit. One virtue in the heart is more valuable than a million of truths foating in the head, or any, even the most excellent, arts and sciences with which the understanding can be stocked.

We are too apt to be dazzled with the lustre of great talents, and to-set an under value on wit and genius. But the endowments of the head deserve no admiration compared with those of the heart. Virtue is the one thing that is truly and invariably great and admirable, and to This chiefly allother qualities owe their excellence. There is indeed an excellence in knowledge, but it is founded principally on its connexion with practice. There is a greatness in it; but, when separated from'a virtuous character, it is nothing but the greatness of a demon. It is important and valuable, but ihe importance of it consists in its furnishing us with greater means and powers of usefulness. Some degree of knowlelge is absolutely necessary to the practice of virtue; and the more any one has of it, the 'more he is capable of the improvement and happiness connected with virtue. For this reason, it may be considered as the foundation of all the dignity of a rational creature, and consequently it must be our duty to acquire as much of it as we can.. But still we should remember, that it is the use we make of it, or the superstructure we raise upon it, that must render it an advantage and a blessing, it will -render us more honourable, or more deformed, just as we apply it; and the lowest degree of it, when attended with suitable practice, will turn to infinitely more account than the highest degree of it, when applied to vicious purposes.

It is unspeakably better to be the silliest creature upon erearth, and at the same time virtuously disposed, than to be the finest wit, or the first scholar in the world, and at the same time proud, ill-natured, or envious.

Koowledge, when separated from right practice, is not only unprofitable, but even hurtful and pernicious. It only aggravates guilt, and makes us more vile and detestable. Instead of contributing to our happiness it becomes a nuisance and a curse, and will sink us deeper into ruin. If a man of an isu proved understanding, is mcan, or false, or toelous, he is so much the more base and hateful. Those who

I

are above vulgar errors and prejudices, ought also to be above vulgar passions and vices, and if they are not, they are more contemptible than mechanics or beggars.

I have a few more thoughts to send you on the same“ subject, but must delay for a few days. In the mean time, I am

Your sincere well-wisher.

LETTER CVIII. The clergyman's second letter on the same important'

subject. Dear Sir, CONCLUDED my last with a promise of sending you

a few more thoughts on the same important subject, as a part of that duty I owe to you and your family.

There is always an inconsistency in moral evil when joined to superior knowledge, which increases its odiousness and demerit. The more a person knows, the more he must 'see of the importance of righteousness; and, therefore, the more inexcusable if he deviates from it: such a person must bé more dépraved, and he must expose himselfne want of severe punishment, in proper abused; and to live and light and smasi idiot, is more desirable than to possess , knowledge, without applying it to the practice of virtue.

How great and bonourable are those, who are as much distinguished by the excellence of their lives, and sweetness of their tempers, as by the brightness of their parts, and the superiority of their understanding. What an honour and dignity knowledge, when attended with virtuous practices, bestows on a character! as there is nothing more monstrous than a bad heart, joined to a head adorned with knowledge, so there is nothing more excellent than the contrary. A life regulated by piety and virtue, united to an understanding improved byscience; superiortalents of judgment and learn. ing, directed by candour, benevolence, and goodness; this includes all that is noble and respectable in a character.

Practice united to knowledge, capacitates particularly for usefulness in the world. There is no such ornament to religion, as the man who employs his knowledge to do good, and lives agreeably to the light and dictates of a well-informed judgment; such a person has the greatest satisfaction within himself; he has, in his own mind, an inexhaustible

« PreviousContinue »