Page images


Letter XVI.



If it were in my power to communicate to thee my motives for this address, how reluctantly I entered upon it, how willingly I would have found myself wholly excused from it, how sensible I am of the ungrateful task of administering reproof, and how little naturally I desire to be "my brother's keeper;" how much I wish to mind my own business, and heartily despise the character of being "a busy body in other men's matters," thou wouldst at least excuse me for giving thee the trouble of this letter: but didst thou know the power and end of that divine love, which at seasons I have felt to counteract and overrule all natural reluctance, to silence all human reasoning, to baptize into a deep feeling and care for the things of others, for those things which are Jesus Christ's, the things which concern His people, His cause, and His Honour; how, under the prevailing influence of this love, the condition of my brethren hath sometimes been brought near to my heart, and therein an ardent travail raised for the redemption of the whole creation; didst thou know the ineffable nature and principle of this love, thou wouldst surely open thy heart to receive whatever might be communicated under its blessed influence.

And first, it is with me to put thee in mind of the uncertainty and transient continuance of all human satisfactions. Time is short, and it remaineth, that those "who have wives be as though they had none;""they that buy, as though they possessed not," and they that plant, as though they did it not; "for the fashion of this world passeth away;" for man hath but a short time to live, his days are few, and often full of trouble ; "he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." Were it possible for us to secure to ourselves the full possession and gratification of all the desires of the heart and of the mind, to the latest period of existence here, the time would soon be over, and what should we do in the end thereof? But alas! how frequent and great are the disappointments which attend those who are devoted to pursue the pleasures, profits, and honours, of this perishable world! what ups and downs attend our pilgrimage through time! how many, who are brought up in palaces, embrace dunghills, whilst others are raised from a very low estate to sit amongst princes; so that there is no certainty of the continuance of any sublunary enjoyment, because that He, who is the God of heaven and of the whole earth, ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and raiseth up and pulleth down at His pleasure, that all the earth might learn to fear before Him.

Many, who have been tried with seasons of prosperity, having departed from the fear of the Lord, and not walking humbly and thankfully before Him, have been stripped suddenly of their greatness, and brought into circumstances truly humiliating; and, like the abased king of Ba bylon, have been brought to acknowledge to the supreme power and wisdom of that God, whose mercies they have perverted, that all His "works are truth, and His ways judgment; and that those who walk in pride He is able to abase.”

Oh! that we might be awakened in time, to a sense of our true interest, and danger of our standing; that so we might see the great necessity of, and be concerned earnestly to apply to the Father of Mercies for, the precious gift of that adorable wisdom, which directs the mind to God, and is able to preserve us in a state of humble, upright walking before Him, out of all the snares of the devil, the lusts of the flesh, and all the pomps and vanities of this wicked world.

And now, having thus far expressed what has been presented, and opened the way, it seems, at least in my apprehension, in the line of duty, to put thee upon considering thy religious profession, and the consistency or otherwise of thy conduct with it; and this I do in a disposition the most unwilling to offend; I do not wish to upbraid or irritate, but to stir up the pure mind, and that not only for your own sakes, but that the occasion

of offence and stumbling might be removed from others. Oh! that it was thy concern to know and answer the end for which the Lord raised us up to be a people, and in adorable condescension to set his name amongst, that so we might be for a remnant of a holy seed, to hold up faithfully to the nations the standard of truth and righteousness and become as "lights in the world," "as the salt of the earth," as waymarks to the people, "as a city set on a hill, that cannot be hid ;" that others, seeing our good works, might glorify our Father who is in heaven. Now, when the professors of this blessed truth walk in the holy light and nature of it, under the exercise of the cross of Christ, this gracious end is so far answered; and in this sense it is strictly true, that no man liveth to himself; our lives have a certain influence upon others, as saith our blessed Lord, "he that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth."

When the virtue of divine light and truth first broke forth amongst our predecessors, it brought forth its proper effects; humility, meekness, resignation to God, self-denial, and universal love, were conspicuous amongst them. What circumspection, what simplicity and moderation, appeared amongst them! a life all opposite to the nature and spirit of this vain world, by which the witness in others was reached, and numbers who saw them, did fully acknowledge them to be "the

seed which the Lord hath blessed." Now, since it hath pleased Divine Wisdom to favour thee with a birthright amongst this people; and, after having exercised thee a little in the line of adversity, to give thee the desire of thy heart, and turn the balance of prosperity in thy favour, what have been the effects and consequences of it? What returns have been offered, of love, of gratitude, of humble dedication and obedience? What concern to set up thy banner in the name of the Lord, and to supplicate that unmerited Goodness, which, for a season, hath appointed thy lot as in a southern land, to give thee also springs of water, those sure, nether, inexhaustible springs of consolation, which flow from the Divine Presence, I do not know, but I am sure appearances declare the contrary, (I wish they did not,) to the grief of some, and the offence of others. I do not wish to enter into particulars, either of what I have seen as to your appearance, or what hath been reported of your appearing at public places of amusement and dissipation; but you are both of years to consider, that such an appearance and conduct are diametrically opposite to the principles you profess, and must consequently obstruct every degree of fellowship with the most sincere part of the body, and will not recommend you to the more serious and upright part of the people of any denomination; and what is worst of all, will certainly tend to separate from the Divine favour.

« PreviousContinue »