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I HAVE lived long enough in the world to exhaust all its pleasures, and to be more than wearied with its cares. Like other old men, I look back upon a life of mingled joy and sorrow, light and darkness, and take an equally melancholy satisfaction in the remembrance of each. There is one light, as I look back, which I see shining every where; brighter than the sun of my prosperity, and casting the rainbow of peace on every cloud of my adversity; and that is the light of God's love. I cannot remember the hour when I have seen it hidden. O that I had always honored and loved it as became his child! And even now, when the infirmities of age are stealing upon me, and, to the outward eye of man, nothing remains for me but toil and sorrow even now, that love is not withdrawn. It has lighted up, as I may say, a torch of hope, which dissipates all the present clouds of earth, and scatters the thick darkness of the valley of the shadow of death. He who was the guide of my youth, is the strength of my age. He who was my sun at the noon of life, is my shield at its close.
Why should I fear for the future, when the past, though checkered with ill, is yet one continued testimony of divine faithfulness?
Methinks, as I draw near the tomb, I am as much tranquillized and gladdened by my remembrance of the past, as by my hope of the future. And why should I not be? For my faith in the promises is always the clearer and brighter, when I think of my experience of past faithfulness; and my hope is never so steadfast, as when it is supported upon the arm of memory. It is when I reflect on
the joy and peace of days gone by, that I feel most able to trust those which are coming. It is then that
Religion bears my spirits up,
And I enjoy a blessed hope.
I cannot remember the time when I had not a sense of religion, and a fear of God; and I have no doubt that it is owing to my early and habitual impressions, which became interwoven in my soul, as a part of its very fabric, or constitution, that I have enjoyed such quietness and steadfastness throughout a long pilgrimage. Little do parents consider, while they are forming their infants' hearts and characters upon other principles, and teaching them to act by other motives, how difficult they render a subjection to religious motives afterward, and how they subtract from the sum of their religious enjoyment. Were all mothers like mine, how greatly would the obedience of the young Christian be facilitated, and the peace of his pilgrimage insured! I love to dwell on the memory of that honored woman. My earliest recollection of her is in the act of teaching me to pray, when she every evening took me on her knees, and, clasping my little hands, made me repeat after her my childish petitions. Methinks I still see the beautiful expression of her maternal eye, and feel the kiss, full of affec
tion and piety, with which she closed the service. At such times, she would explain to me the purposes of prayer, and teach me to love the good Being, who gave me father and mother, and made me happy. It was her practice, also, to seize the moments when my young heart was overflowing with cheerfulness and good-will, to remind me of the Father above, and direct my gratitude to him. Thus his image. became associated in my thoughts with all that was gladsome and delightful; with every satisfaction and every enjoyment. It was mingled with all my remembrances of maternal fondness; and the love of God grew upon the same branch with the love of my parents. I sought to please him, I feared to offend him, I loved to speak of him, and to him, in the innocent openness of my young heart, and to regard him, in all respects, as I did my parents. Thus there was nothing of severity, or gloom, or dread, in my early religious feelings. I knew nothing of the dislike of religion, which I have seen in many others. The judicious piety of my parents made it a delight to me, and not a burden. I saw it mixing with all their thoughts and pursuits; most evidently the ingredient of life which did most to make them happy; never casting a gloom over them, never arraying them in sternness, nor driving away innocent pleasures; and thus it found its way to my heart, and- blessed be He who has supported me! it has never left my heart, or ceased to be its joy and peace. I have much inconsistency to be ashamed of, and many sins to lament; but pious parents, and the grace of God!—I have never failed to find religion a pleasure, and never withdrawn from my father's God.
thanks to my
O that parents would but take a hint of wisdom from this, and treat the young immortals committed to them as if they were indeed immortal! I have no children. It
hath not pleased my Father that I shall leave my name behind me. I cannot, therefore, repay to my own offspring the debt which I owe to my parents. I can only entreat others to do it. And I do most earnestly solicit them to drive austerity from their religious teachings, and to make the idea of God not only one of the earliest, but one of the happiest of the infant mind. Let it be presented, not rarely, with ceremony, and on occasions of sadness and alarm, as if a fearful object of dread, which shuns all that is happy, but let it be a familiar thought, beloved, because always connected with happiness, and to be feared only by those who do wrong.
Thus passed the years of my childhood happier were never known. I was made early familiar with the history and truths of revealed religion, and taught to act, every day, from a regard to them, before any other motive. My parents were very seldom known to employ other motives with their children than those of religion; and the consequence was, I was always made to inquire, Is it right? Will it please God? Would Jesus approve this? Is this doing as I would be done by ? till such questions formed the standard of my conduct, just as, What will people think? Is this genteel? Is this for my interest? are the inquiries which decide the men of the world. They referred me, on all occasions, to the life and example of the Savior, and taught me to contemplate, with admiration and delight, the purity, benevolence, and piety, of that holy pattern. They tried to make it my ambition to imitate him; and never shall I forget how I was sometimes affected by the earnest and feeling manner in which they told me the wonderful story of his love and sufferings, and urged me to begin young and follow him.
Such, in general, was something of the system of parental instruction to which I owed so much; for it gave me a
religious propensity, which, in all the after struggles and sins of life, I never lost. Truly, God's greatest blessings are pious parents.
IN the account which I gave, in the former chapter, of my religious education, I rather described the method of my parents, and the design they had in view, than its actual effect on myself; for I can by no means think that I at any time became altogether such as they wished to make me. But assuredly their labor was not lost; for the seed which they so faithfully planted, and assiduously cultivated, never has died, however feebly it may have flourished. The trunk has grown old, and begins to decay; it will soon fail; but there is hope that it "will sprout again, though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground," that it will spring up with new vigor and eternal beauty in the garden of God.
My childhood passed like that of other children who have tender and watchful parents, and has left as few distinct traces which are worth recording. The waves of time have flowed over the track which my little boat made, and I can discern its path no longer.
I was in my fourteenth year when I lost my mother. This is one of the events which made a lasting impression. She had been, for a long time, gradually wasting away, and I had seen the anxious countenance and manner with which my father watched her. But a boy, even of thirteen, is not likely to understand or realize such signs, and I remember I had no foreboding of the coming calamity. But, at length,