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is so plain that he who runs may read; and the way-faring man, although a fool, shall not err therein. Sir, I am taught in that blessed word, that you, and I, and every human being, are separate grains of wheat, and have closely adhering to us a portion of chaff, which grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength; but when we are gathered into the garner of our owner, God will separate the precious from the vile, securing the one for himself, and burning up the other with unquenchable fire,
With good Mrs. E. I dined, who I knew had been accustomed to attend to table prayers, and on my own omission, I could not forbear addressing her: When, Madam, our Saviour was visible among men, the most upright among the people narrowly watched him, to see if he conformed to the religious customs of the times; one of which was, to wash their hands previous to their meals. It was in the judgment of all holy good people, very criminal to take the good things of God, in unclean hands; he was therefore complained of, to his disciples,
The Christian Pharisee has substituted words instead of deeds, and in the place of washing their hands as a religious ritual, they make long prayers; either long or short, according to the prevalence of custom. I have heard it urged as a reason for this practice, that our Saviour blessed the food before it was made use of ; and we are exhorted to eat with thanksgiving, and therefore we ought always to pray for a blessing on our food. But we believe that our Saviour has blessed all things, and our consciences being sprinkled by the blood of Jesus, they are cleansed from dead works; therefore to the pure, all things are pure. Yet we take our food with thanksgiving, not only in Jesus, in whom we are blessed with all spiritual blessings, but in our own hearts also. To say, a formal grace is to be conformed to the world, as all that do so are. "Hence the grace," they say, "is only occasional." Some will attend to this preliminary at all their stated meals, others omit a part and are satisfied if they perform this duty at dinner only; but every observer of this ceremony omits it on every other occasion, and how frequently do we make use of the provisions of our God, when not seated at a breakfast, dinner, or supper table. Now if my conscience never wounds me for omitting this ceremony between my stated meals, you may be certain I am only conformed to this world; I am not transformed in my mind.
But, believing that the earth is no more cursed for man's transgression, that a blessing from the Lord abideth on all his good creatures that are received, and righteousness from the God of our salvation on all those who receive them, we take them with gratitude, and eat them with singleness of heart.
Thus, Madam, have I given you a reason why I do not rank this ceremony among the Christian duties. I do not regularly observe it at my own table, but when requested either at home or abroad thus to do, I am not backward. I can never experience reluctance at addressing the throne of grace; but to turn from the chit-chat, the laugh, the frolic of the moment, and with a heart all unprepared and lips unconsecrated to rush to an act of devotion, appears to me little short of a solemn mockery; and, although our own hearts may be right with God, yet the frivolity, the smiles, the impatience, generally evinced by the table guests, make the religious appeal upon this occassion, wear the semblance of profanation.
You say, "I ought not to take thought for the morrow, that the morrow should take care for the things of itself;" but we can always say with the Apostle, "When we would do good, evil is present with us." You see it is we; thus it is we shelter ourselves when we are seeking justification, but for me this is not necessary; I am sure, that in me dwelleth no good thing, and with the same Apostle I add, ""Tis a light thing with me to be judged by man's judgment;" and yet notwithstanding all this boasting, it would be a grievous thing to me, to be thought lightly of by you.
Yes, we must receive those who are weak in the faith, and cherish them with the utmost indulgence. Let us never forget the graff on the apple-tree: how many different sorts of fruit were there on one tree? I think several. I assure you, the discovery made in the orchard has rendered me great service; it has soothed and quieted my mind in its most depressed situation.
Alas, for poor D. and every son of sorrow! turn which way we will, difficulties and distresses open upon us, but for the prospect of a new heaven and a new earth, we should be very much at a loss to know, why the present was formed: As it is, we pretend not to account for the conduct of the Supreme Being; we can only say, infinite wisdom could not err, nor infinite wisdom be counteracted in any of his designs, nor could infinite love have any baneful designs; his thoughts from everlasting, must have been VOL. II.
thoughts of peace and not of evil. Well then, although the ways of heaven may be dark and intricate, these winding ways will finally lead us to himself; and the creature, first created for the pleasure of the Creator, however permitted to wander, or whatever he may be in the present state, must ultimately answer the prime end of his creation, which end, the compilers of the shorter catechism assure us, "Is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."
Yet still it is asked, "Why does infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, suffer so much moral and natural evil to prevail in this lower world?" We say, the greater part of the miseries of the present state, originate with ourselves. I suppose all we mean by this is, that if we were wise and good, we should be happy. But why are we not wise and good? why are we not meek and gentle ? Why do men, though all gone out of the way, take such various courses? Why are some penurious and others profuse? We say, "The diligent hand maketh rich, and the sluggard shall be clothed with rags." But, why are some naturally industrious and frugal, and others naturally the reverse? and why are all either directly, in consequence of their own perverse dispositions, or indirectly through the weakness or wickedness of others, made to drink so deep of the cup of adversity? Why are those who are, humanly speaking, the most deserving, made to suffer the greater part of their lives? Why are little infants early the subjects of sorrow? but it is abundantly easy to ask questions which neither the sage nor the philosopher can answer. With God, however, remaineth the issue of all things, and he can give in one short hour's enjoyment, large remuneration for the ills of time.
Frequent reflections on the brevity of the present scene are of much use. Blessed be God, we shall shortly bid adieu to every species of distress. There is one apostolic injunction, which neither you nor I can find it very difficult to observe-Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. Yet if we should at last set our hearts on things above, if we should feel ourselves weaned from things below, still we shall not even then have whereof to glory. If our august Parent had not made our present sweets very bitter, we should never turn therefrom. Some mothers while weaning their infants, seeking to make necessity the choice of the child, lay aloes on the breast. Our omnipotent Father usually renders every breast of human consolation bitter to his children, to wean us the more effectually from this distem
pered state. But after all, these weaning times are, and must of course be distressing times. However, the Redeemer renders all things profitable; all things shall work together for good; and as thy day is, says the Father of mercies to the children of adversity, so shall thy strength be.
True, we may say with the inimitable Shakespeare, this world's a stage; and all the men and women are but actors. And happy they, who under the conduct of the great Manager, can acquit themselves in their respective parts with propriety. It is indeed a consoling consideration, that the performers will ultimately be set right. Perhaps these human performers are, even now, more correct than those who consider themselves merely as spectators, may be inclined to allow. At any rate it is good that we both hope, and quietly wait for the full salvation of our God; and in the interim, it is our interest and our duty to make the best use of the scenes of time. Be not unhappy at the hints contained in my last letter. The truth is, I love you as an imperfect friend: I do not adore you as perfect and although at the time, I may not love you so well for reproving me, I shall, upon reflection respect and admire you the more. I do not speak at random; I have had repeated trials of this sort, both here, and elsewhere. When once convinced, I am the object of genuine affection, although those precious reproofs from those I love, may like other precious medicines, create a temporary pain; yet deriving advantage therefrom, I shall experience for the kind physician who administered so efficacious a remedy, enduring gratitude.
Blessed be God, we are both under the eye of infinite wisdom; that we are seen by the eye of infinite wisdom in the new and living way; and that we are to the eye of the Father, in this new and living way, blameless and without spot. O that we could walk unpolluted, while on our way to Zion. O may the prayers of the great High Priest of our profession put up in behalf of all who should believe in his name, be answered in behalf of my friend N. and his truly affectionate, &c. &c.
To the same.
I AM told you intend visiting this place; if you do, let me know, in time that I may be in season to adjust a little account of my own. Ah me, when will all my accounts with this world be made up, and completely balanced! I want to retire; I want to go home. I am sick of life, of this present life; sick of the world, of this present evil world. God grant I may thus feel when I am called out of time. Many are afraid of death, until they stand upon the threshold of this world, and then become impatient for the arrival of the messenger. If the scene should be reversed with me, I should be indeed unhappy. I do not think I can ever be afraid of death, as the change may effect my eternal felicity. I cannot fear a conquered foe. But, if when I am about to leave it, the world® should smile on me, as on a parting friend, how then; may I not be under the influence of its fascination? Do you say there is no danger of this, except I should miss my way? But may I not miss my way? Not if I am kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. May his Almighty power keep me in this everlasting way, in this bright and shining path; which shineth more and more to full perfection.
But my friend, do you indeed wonder that when you would do good, evil should be present with you? Are you puzzled to find the law in the members warring against the law of the mind? Have you forgotten that there are two armies in the Shulamite? Ah my friend, if the daily discovery of such inconsistencies distract you; if a deceitful, unbelieving, and desperately wicked heart appals you, undisturbed repose will not, this side eternity, be yours.
Your trials are no doubt many, and severe; but the most precious metal is purified by trial. Is it not of more consequence to try you, than to try gold? Are you not more precious than gold? It is extremely natural to think the prevalence of unanimity in religious sentiments will ensure domestic peace: so it is natural to suppose eternal sunshine, uninterrupted by storms or tempests, would be one of the greatest blessings which the elementary world