« PreviousContinue »
with GOD, than the Believer, who, while daily confessing himself to deserve nothing but punishment, is receiving nothing but mercy. This is indeed to follow up the divine precept, and becomes the best comment upon what, it may well be supposed, the Lord requireth. But the view of the prophet's words, according to this interpretation of them, is what I did not learn in the early part of my pilgrimage. The reader will forgive the introduction of it here.
THE FAMILY AT PRAYERS.
For ever driven from the asylum of moral du. ties as a justifying principle before God; and still restless and uneasy from the suspense of an awakened mind, in respect to the solemn events of futurity; I found myself compelled to go further in the pursuit of the wished-for happiness; though what path to explore, or where to direct my inquiry, I knew not.
There lived a family of long reputed piety, whose place of residence lay not far out of my way ; from whom it struck me that some information might be obtained. I instantly directed my steps towards the house. And I was led to consider it as a very peculiar coincidence of circumstances, and not unfavourable to my purpose, that the household were engaged at their morning devotions, just in the moment that I entered their dwelling.
There is a rinciple, I know not by what term to call it, which acts with singular energy on the human mind, at the very appearance of religious worship. The heart is instinctively brought within the sphere of attraction, and is secretly inclined to participate in what it beholds. I felt this influence operating the moment I entered the room. I considered what this family was engaged in, as a common interest, a common concern; so that without giving any interruption, I dropped upon my knees, unbidden and uninvited, in the midst of the circle.
When the devotion was finished, the master of the house desired me to be seated, and our conversation, naturally taking its rise out of the incident of the moment, turned on religion.
It is my uniform custom, Sir,' said he, to begin and end the day in prayer-I consider it to be my duty. I know it exposes me to the sneer of the fashionable world; but I cannot help that. It appears to me to be the obligation of every master of a family; to set up the form of religion in his house ; and for exame ple's sake, to lead his household to the church on Sundays. For the sarne reason I make it a point that all the elder branches of my family, after they have been confirmed, should attend the monthly sacrament; and it is my wish, that my wife and daughters should go to prayers on the week days and festivals: and I believe they are pretty constant in their attendance. And, Sir, we all find the good effects of it. We are prosperous in the world, and cheerful and happy, as you see. Religion has nothing gloomy with us. No family, I persuade myself, is more comfortable than ours.'
The master of the house said this with so much complacency and satisfaction, and there seemed to be so much cheerfulness appearing in every countenance of his household, that I began to hope the object of my visit was answered without further inquiry. I concluded with myself, that if the observance of religious duties was capable of inducing so much happiness in their instance, it would have the same tendency in mine. I only remained therefore long enough among this apparently happy family, to present my congratulations on what I had seen; and then took my leave, to put into practice the lesson which I had learnt from them.
It is impossible to tell my reader what a round of duties I laboured through, of reading, hearing, fasting, watching, praying. And to the constant routine of this kind, when the monthly sacraments came about in their periodical returns, 'I added every page which is prescribed in the weekly preparations. I could not have ventured in those days to the Lord's table with any of the appointed forms 'unfulfilled for the world. And as this path in the trammels of devotion opened a continual feast to feed the pride of my heart upon, I soon began to feel the sweet effects of it in the gratification it afforded me, For finding greater confidence from the supposed rectitude of my life and dutiful obedience towards God, than heretofore, I concluded that I stood on much safer ground for acceptance with him. Not that I then thought that my goodness alone and without the merits of Jesus Christ, would be sufficient to salvation : (for by this time I had learnt somewhat of the nature of the Christian religion :) but I took it for granted, that what I did would be the sure method of recommending me to God for it. So that, upon the whole, I was well pleased with myself. There were indeed certain seasons, now and then, when upon the omission of any duty, or the commission of any sin, my mind would misgive me, and for the moment induce fear. But these were but transient impressions, which I endeavoured to efface as fast as possible, in atoning for the evil, by increasing diligence in the path of what I thought good. And thus, by carrying on a commutation with God, I strove to make up what was remiss or offensive in one instance, by an over-attention in another.
-How long I should have gone on under a delusion so fatal I know not. But a circumstance occurred, which at once threw to the ground the whole edifice I had been building up for myself with so much labour, and levelled all my fancied goodness in the dust. I had been reading a chapter in Paul's second Epistle to Timothy, when those words arrested my attention so forcibly, that I could not help dwelling upon them: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away*.' What if this should be my case, I thought with myself; and after all, I am taking up with the form, while destitute of the power of godliness? The very idea made me tremble ; and the bare possibility of the thing itself induced me to bring the matter to an instant issue by examination. And the result terminat
* 2 Tim. üi. 5.