« PreviousContinue »
way) yourself, permit me, for this time, to preach again, and take some passages in your letter for my text.
In the present debate I will accept your compliment, and suppose myself to be, as you say, a man of sense. You allow, then, that all the sense is not on your side. This, indeed, you cannot deny; for, whatever becomes of me, it is needless to tell you, that Hale, Boyle, and other great names I could mention, were men of as great penetration and judgment, had as good opportunities, and took as much pains to be informed of the truth, as many of the advocates of infidelity can pretend to. And you cannot, with any modesty, absolutely determine that they had not as good grounds for thinking themselves right, as you can have for concluding they were wrong.
But, declining the advantage of haman authority, I am content the point should rest between you and me. And here I beg to observe, that I have one evident advantage over you in judging, namely, that I have experienced the good and evil on both sides, and you only on one. If you were to send me an inventory of your pleasures, how charmingly your time runs on, and how dexterously it is divided between the coffee-houses, play-house, the card-table and tavern, with intervals of balls, concerts, &c., I could answer, that most of these I have tried and tried again, and know the utmost they can yield, and have seen enough of the rest most heartily to despise them all. Setting religion entirely ont of the question, I profess I had rather be a worm to crawl upon the ground, than to bear the name of man upon the poor terms of whirling away my life in an insipid round of such insignificant and unmanly trifles. I will return your own expression,—“I believe you to be a person of sense,"
,"_but, alas ! how do you prostitute your talents and capacity! how far do you act below yourself, if
know no higher purpose of life than these childish dissipations, together with the more serious business of rising early and sitting up late to amass money, that you may be able to enlarge your expenses ! I am sure, while I lived in these things, I found them unsatisfying and empty to the last degree; and the only advantage they afforded (miserable are they who are forced to deem it an advantage) was, that they often relieved me from the trouble and burden of thinking. If you other pleasures than these, they are such as must be evil and inconvenient, even upon your own plan; and, therefore, my friendship will not allow me to bring them into the account: I am willing to hope you do not stoop still lower in pursuit of satisfaction. Thus far we stand upon even ground; you know all that a life of pleasure can give, and I know it likewise. On the other hand, if I should attempt to explain to you the
source and streams of my best pleasures, such as a comfortable assurance of the pardon of my sins, an habitual communion with the God who made heaven and earth, calm reliance on the Divine providence, the cheering prospect of a better life in a better world, with the pleasing foretaste of heaven in my own soul---should I, or could I, tell you the pleasure I often find in reading the Scripture, in the exercise of prayer, and in that sort of preaching or conversation which you despise, I doubt not but
would think as meanly of my happiness as I do of yours. But here lies the difference, my dear friend, -you condemn that which
have never tried. You know no more of these things than a blind man does of colours ; and, notwithstanding all your flourishes, I defy you to be at all times able to satisfy yourself that things may not possibly be as I have represented them.
Besides, what do I lose upon my plan, that should make me 80 worthy of your pity? Have you a quicker relish in the prudent use of temporal comforts ? Do you think I do not eat my food with as much pleasure as you can do, though, perhaps, with less cost and variety? Is your sleep sounder than mine ? Have not I as much satisfaction in social life? It is true, to join much with the gay fluttering tribe who spend their days in laugh and sing-song, is equally contrary to my duty and inclination ; but I have friends and acquaintance, as well as you. Among the many who favour me with their esteem and friendship, there are some who are persons of sense, learning, wit, and (what perhaps may weigh as much with you) of fortune and distinction. And if you should say Ay, but they are all enthusiasts, like yourself,”—you would say nothing to the purpose ; since, upon your maxim, that “happiness is according to opinion," it cannot be an objection, but the contrary, to have my acquaintance to my own taste. Thus much for the brighter side of your situation. But I need not tell
you that the present life is not made up of pleasureable incidents only. Pain, sickness, losses, disappointments, injuries and affronts with men, will more or less, at one time or another, be our lot; and can you bear these trials better than I ? You will not pretend to it. Let me appeal to yourself. How often do you toss and disquiet like a wild bull in a net, when things cross your expectations? As your thoughts are more engrossed by what you see, you must be more keenly sensible of what you feel. You cannot view these trials as appointed by a wise and heavenly Father in subservience to your good-you cannot taste the sweetness of his promises, nor feel the secret supports of his strength in an hour of affliction—you cannot so cast your burden and care upon Him, as to find a sensible relief to your spirit thereby-nor can you see his hand engaged and employed
in effecting your deliverance. Of these things you know no more than of the art of flying: but I seriously assure you, and I believe my testimony will go farther with you than my judgment, that they are realities, and that I have found them to be so. When my worldly concerns have been most thorny and discouraging, I have once and again felt the most of that peace which the world can neither give nor take away. However, I may state the case still lower. You do pretty well among your friends, but how do you like being alone ? Would you not give some thing for that happy secret which would enable you to pass a rainy day pleasantly, without the assistance of business, company, or amusement?
Would it not mortify you greatly to travel for a week in an unfrequented road, where you should meet with no lively incidents to recruit and raise your spirits ? Alas! what a poor scheme of pleasure is yours, that will not support an interval of reflection !
What you have heard is true: I have a few friends that meet at my house once a fortnight, and we spend an hour or two in worshipping the God who made us. And can this move your indignation, or your compassion ? Does it show a much nobler spirit, a more refined way of thinking, to live altogether without God in the world? If I kept a cardassembly at those times, it would not displease you. How can you, as a person of sense, avoid being shocked at your own unhappy prejudice ? But I remember how it was once with myself, and forbear to wonder. May He who has opened my eyes, open yours ! He only can do it. I do not expect to convince you by anything I can say of myself; but if He be pleased to make use of me as his instrument, then you will be convinced. How should I then rejoice! I should rejoice to be useful to any one, but especially to you, whom I dearly love. May God show you your true self, and your true state ! Then you will attentively listen to what you disdain to hear of his goodness in providing redemption and pardon for the chief of sinners, through Him who died upon the cross for sins not his own. Keep this letter by you, at my request; and when you write, tell me that you receive it in good part, and that you still believe me to be, &c.
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY,
27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON;
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, LONDON
J. & W. Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.
ALTHOUGH we cannot add to the truth of God's Word, there is such a thing as what the apostle calls making that truth manifest to our consciences. Our own observation may be made to attest the very same truth which God announces to us in his Word; and if it be a truth respecting the state of our own heart, this agreement between what God says we are, and what we find ourselves to be, is often most powerfully instrumental, by the Divine blessing, in reclaiming to the knowledge of the truth, and in bringing the mind under its influence.
“ The carnal mind is enmity against God.”—Rom. viii. 7. We cannot make the assertion more strongly than God has made it already; but it were well to seek a deeper sense of the fact than we have ever obtained before. There is a mantle of delusion which the accomplishments of nature throw. over the heart in its unrenewed state, by which it is prevented from seeing itself in its true colours, and by which it is, as a matter of course, prevented from seeking or appreciating the spiritual remedies God has provided. Let us endeavour to attend to the facts of the case closely; that if our finding of our own case should agree with God's saying about it, our consciences may feel all the energetic influence of the painful truth.
Now, it is no absolute proof of our love to God, that we do many things, and that too with the willing consent of the mind, the performance of which is agreeable to his law. If the same thing might be done upon either of two principles, then the doing of it may only prove the existence of one of these principles; while the other has no presence or operation in the mind whatever. I do not steal; and the reason of it may be, either that I love God, and so keep his commandments, or it may be, that I have honourable feelings, and would spurn at the disgracefulness of such an action. This is only one example; but the bare statement of it serves for a thousand more: it lets us in at once to the decisive fact that there are many principles of action applauded and held in reverence, and most useful to society, and urging us to the performance of what, in the matter of it, is agreeable to the law of God, which
may tical ascendancy over a man whose heart is alienated from the love of God. Propose the question to yourself - Would not I do this, or abstain from this evil thing, though God had no will in the matter ? If you would, then put not down what is altogether due to other principles, to the principle of love to God, or a desire of pleasing him. The principle upon which
have a prac