Page images
PDF
EPUB

der regard and affectionate care. of my former life be banished He possessed a talent of con. from thy presence ! Hitherto, versing with children in an thou hast led me with as much eminent degree, condescending wisdom as mercy; and, I trust, to their very lowest capacities, thou wilt lead me to-day, to-morknowing how to keep alive their row, and so on, till my dear attention, to occupy their under friends may be enabled to say at standing, and to make a deep my dying bed,'He has overcome!" impression upon their tender Very few ministers can be hearts.

found, who more constantly and But still a larger field of use conscientiously officiated, except ful activity was opened to Mr. a few weeks in summer, when Lavater, when he was chosen, in the delicate state of his health the year 1778, to be deacon, or rendered it necessary for him assistant minister, at the large to take a little excursion into the parish of St. Peter, in Zurich, country. To the instruction of which contained about 5000 peo- young people and the visitation ple. Most deeply impressed of the sick, he devoted a conwith a sense of the infinite im- siderable portion of his time. portance of this charge, and of Under these circumstances, it his own insufficiency for the fis difficult to conceive how it same, he wrote the following was possible for him to keep effusions of his heart :

up the most extensive corres“ () God, take away the veil pondence, and to compose so from my eyes and from my many literary and religious heart! Darkness is around me. works, by which he obtained Oh may I hear that word : “Let celebrity, even in foreign parts : 'there be light!" Oh thou, who, but it must be observed, that his alone knowest me, how shall I time was exceeding precious to know thee? How shall I teach him ; so that he was continually others to know thee? Oh thou employed, wishing to redeem divine Omnipotence, draw near the very smallest particle, and to help me in my extreme weak- not to lose a single moment.-ness ! Oh thou divine Love, un- Even when at table, some books veil thyself to my waiting soul! or papers used to lie near him ; I am thine : let me feel it, feel and when taking a walk, which it anew, feel it continually, that was his constant practice every I belong to thee, in a much day, he was always seen reading 'higher sense than to any one or writing. In his short exelse. I Have not deserved the cursions to the country, and confidence of my congregation even when he went to see some as yet : Oh let me deserve it in friends in town, his pockets were 'future by godly simplicity, and full of papers; and he used to "the most faithful discharge of sit down at the very first table, my duty! Let a sense of thy and continue his writing. He presence every where accompa- had, however, the happy talent 'ny me! Be near me when in to suffer himself continually to business or retirement, when at be interrupted, and to keep up 'work or at rest ! Hide the days the most cheerful conversation; that are past let the iniquities and yet, at the first leisure mo

[ocr errors]

:

ment, he could take up his sub-| ble skill as a physician, he adject, like one who had not expe- dressed the young couple in rienced the least interruption. the following manner :-- BeIn summer, strangers crowded lieve me, children, I speak it deto see him from every quarter..liberately and with full convicThough there was a considera- tion, I have enjoyed many of the ble number whose only object comforts of life, none of which was to gaze at him ; yet, on the I wish to esteem lightly: often other hand, many visitors affor- have I been charmed with the ded him no less pleasure than beauties of Nature, and refreshreal instruction. Never there- ed with her bountiful gifts : fore, did he suffer his patience I have spent many an hour in to be exhausted ; nor did he ev- sweet meditation, and in reader cease to treat strangers of ev-fing the most valuable producery rank and description in the tions of the wisest men : I most polite and respectful man- have often been delighted with ner. Scarcely any one ever the conversation of ingenious, saw him in an ill humour; even sensible, noble and exalted charwhen he happened to be deeply acters : my eyes have been powdepressed, he had such a com- erfully attracted by the finest mand over himself, that, sup- productions of human art, and pressing his grief, he could my ears by enchanting melomost cheerfully receive and use dies : I have found pleasure fully entertain visiting friends or when calling into activity the foreigners.

powers of my own mind; when At the end of the year, 1786, residing in my own native counhe was unanimously chosen to try, or travelling through for. the rectory of St. Peter's Pareign parts; when surrounded by ish, in Zurich. When he large and splendid companies, preached the first time after his still more, when moving in the election, he thus addressed his small endearing circle of my congregation :- I will not own family : yet, to speak the promise much. A man out of truth before God, who is my the fulness of his heart, may Judge, I must confess, I know easily promise too much. Who not any joy that is so dear to can be sufficiently cautious and me, that so fully satisfies the incircumspect in his promises, most desires of my mind, that more especially in those of so so enlivens, refines, and elevates important and solemn a nature ? my whole nature, as that which -Where is the preacher who I derive from religion, from faith has not, in his first sermon, pro- in God as one who not only is mised more than he could, in ev- the Parent of men, but has conery respect fulfil? Instead, there- descended as a brother, to clothe fore, of promising too much, himself with our nature. Nolet us rather encourage, stir up, thing affords me greater delight confirm, and pray for each oth- than a solid hope that I partake

of his favours, and may rely on At the nuptials of his only his never-failing support and son, whom he had the satisfac- protection. tion to see acquiring considera- And now, my dear children,

er."..

may God be with you! May sermons, letters, and writings God unite and help you ! May may serve as indisputable proofs, his approbation be infinitely that, to the last, he continued to more in your esteem than mine, avow, in the most open and posor than that of the whole world! itive manner, bis unshaken be-My son, may the God of thy lief in Christ, and his most sin. father be thy God! He who has cere and fervent attachment to been so often my hope, my re- the system of the Bible. A few fuge, and my confidence when I extracts from his writings will stood on the brink of an abyss, sufficiently illustrate this point :where I could not move one step “ Klopstock's Messiah,” says forward ;-He who, in answerhe, in a letter to a friend, « is to my prayer, has helped me my favourite. Though I canwhen every prospect of help not equally approve or relish ev. had vanished ;-that God who ery part of this excellent poem, has safely conducted me, not yet it is the only book which I merely through flowery paths, can read repeatedly in connection þut likewise across precipices with the Bible : the Bible, I say, and burning sands ;-May this which you seemingly forgot to God be thy God, thy refuge, thy mention; for in whatever point comfort, as he has been mine! of view I may consider myself, Let the world laugh me to scorn, as a clergyman, as a Christian, I rejoice in the God of my sal or as a man, my Bible is ever to vation ! Let Ignorance and Infi- me a most dear and precious delity mock, I enjoy that which book, which I can never suffithe world cannot enjoy ;-I re- ciently study, for it is full of unceive that which infidelity will searchable riches. Read, I benever receive ! I say with St. seech you, my friend, this sacPaul, “ Is he the God of the red volume, as if you had never Jews only, the God of Abraham, read it before. Read it without Isaac, and Jacob only ?” By no a commentary. Leave alone means! Assuredly, he is my the obscure passages, just as God also. I say with Luther, you leave the clouds in the sky, “If I have the faith of Abraham, or the mist on a mountain. En. I am Abraham !"

joy that which is clear as the Mr. Lavater was exceedingly light; and the thickest mists grieved at the vain objections of will appear to you venerable. late so commonly made against The first book of Moses, the the inspiration of the Scriptures; History of Elijah and Elisha, and especially against the per the first chapters of Daniel, the son, the character, and the work Four Gospels, and the Acts of of our blessed Lord. Some of the Apostles, are more especialthe modern anti-Christian wri- | ly my delight,-more valuable ters took great pains to draw than all the treasures of the him over to their pariy ; but all whole globe !" their united endeavours proved

In another letter, dated Nov. in vain, he stood firm like a rock ; neither flattering promis- * Klopstock is, among the Geres, nor frowning threatenings the English. His most celebrated

man poets, what Milton is among could move him ; and all his work is entitled, “ The Messiah,"

[ocr errors]

24, 1794, he thus declares some the talents of his mind, and exof his religious principles to a erted all the powers of his elofriend, in contradiction to a re- quence to assuage the fury of an port, that he had adopted the unruly passion to advise the modern rational system of di-mildest and most tonciliatory vinity :-" I assure you, in the measures on the part of the most solemn manner, that I en-government, and to exhort the tertain, to this very moment, the people, in the most impressive fullest conviction that the Bible language, to the strictest obsercontains a true record of the re- vance of due respect and obedivelations of God. More espe-ence towards their lawful macially, I believe in the supreme gistrates, divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. When the total subversion of Him I regard with daily renewed the Swiss constitution took satisfaction, and joy, as the im- place, in the year 1798 ; and inediate object of our religious soon afterwards that free and worship :-Him I revere as the happy country, which, for cenutmost perfection which human turies, had enjoyed the blessings nature can exhibit, and as the of peace, was involved in all the express image of the Godhead. dreadful calamities of war, I believe, with increasing in- Mr. Lavater's character shone tuitive knowledge, that no man forth with peculiar lustre. can come unto the Father, but without attaching himself to by and through him. I believe, any party whatever, his constant that, thro' his person and medi- aim appeared to be to lessen, as ation only, the human race can much as possible, the sum of be conducted to its proper desti- human misery at this awful penation, restored to its original Tiod ;-to promote, by all the dignity, and attain to the com- means in his power, mutual unplete purpose of eternal love. It ion, concord, and peace ;-to is he on whom I am daily more prevent still greater mischief ; and more constrained to place -to instruct and comfort his an entire dependence. As a people from the word of God; mortal man, as a helpless sinner, -o impress their minds with as a philosopher, I stand in need the necessity of genuine repenof him. The more I examine tance, of a firm and unshaken all the different systems of phi- belief in the gracious promises losophy, the more I am led to of the gospel, of fervent and unadore Jesus Christ as my Lord remitting prayer, and of a due and my God. Christ, or des improvemene of their present pair, is my only alternative.- afflictions. His incarnation, his sufferings, On the morning of the 18th death, and resurrection,-his of May, he was torn from the close affinity to mankind, serve arms of his afflicted wife, and to dispel all my darkness, to carried, by an armed force, to supply all my defects.”

Basil ; where he was detained When, in the year 1795, the as a prisoner, in the house of first revolutionary movements the Prefeci. In this distressing appeared in the canton of Zu- situation he manifested the most rich, Mr. Lavater employed all manly and Christian character. His enemies accused him of ha- this painful dispensation. His ving betrayed the interests of wound seemed to heal sooner his country to the Russian gov- than was at first expected ; and, ernment, for the sum of 1001. ; some months afterwards, he had but providentially, at the very the satisfaction to appear once time of his trial, a letter from more before his congregation, Petersburgh arrived, which be- to whom he was attached in the ing opened by the Prefect, de most affectionate manner. He monstrated, in the clearest man- chose for his text, Psalm lxxi, ner, that the sum in question 7, 8, “ I am as a wonder unto was merely the price of some many; but thou art my strong paintings, which the Empress refuge. Let my mouth be filled had purchased-of Mr. Lavater; with thy praise, and with thg. his enemies were thus con- honour, all the day.” strained to set him at liberty. Towards the close of his dis When he returned to Zurich, course, he made the following after a banishment of three application to hiinself :God months, he was received, as it has led me in the most gracious were, in triumph, not only by manner ; his hand has been ve his friends, but by his fellow- ry conspicuous in all the events citizens in general.

of my life. O God! where Soon afterwards, however, a should I begin, were I to tell all far greater calamity befel him, the great and good things thou which ultimately proved fatal : hast done for me ! I had hardly On the 26th of Sept. 1799, entered upon my earthly course, Zurich was retaken. At this when my life was despaired of ; crisis, Mr. Lavater was hu- but thou didst preserve it. Thou manely relieving some poor didst admit me by baptism to neighbouring widows from the the privileges of the church of importunities of the soldiery, Christ; thou didst carly. im. whom he accommodated in his plant in my heart a love of that own house with meat and drink, which is good, and an abhorwhen one of these ungrateful rence of evil. Never was I wretches discharged his gun at destitute of salutary instruchis benefactor. The ball enter- tion, encouragement, and ex; ed his body a little below his ample. All the pleasant, and heart, and went out on the right all the unpleasant, circumstanside. The blood rushedout from ces of my life, have had one each aperture. His wife, child-common end-to lead me to a ren, friends, and neighbours sur. conviction of my entire depenrounded him,terrified, lamenting, dence on God; to confirm my weeping, and loudly exclaiming faith in Christ, to render his against the perpetrator of this gospel of growing importance atrocious deed ; but he was re- to me, and to fill me with an hosigned ; freely forgave his cruelly awe for every thing that ,reenemy; and in the midst of ex lates to Jesus. Whether I re. cruciating pains, adored the gard friends or enemies, a good chastening hand of his Heaven- report or bad report, comforts ly Father, whose unchangeable or afflictions, enjoyments or pri love he acknowledged even in /vations-I cannot but crery.

« PreviousContinue »