Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ner.

spiritual troubles of his parishioners, that they were in the habit of consulting him in the most familiar man

On one occasion, he was requested, in the midst of a cold and rainy night, to visit a poor and sick woman, who resided at a distant part of the town. He found that she had no fire, and inquired if she had any firewood; she replied that there was some in the cellar, but that her sons would not split it. She urged him not to trouble himself in regard to it, as the cellar was wet and the stairs were broken. But he immediately went into the cellar, prepared the wood and made a comfortable fire. He then conversed with the afflicted woman, offered a prayer, and returned home.

The following letter was addressed to one of his parishioners, who has lately “fallen asleep”-Mr. John B. Lawrence. He endured great bodily suffering for forty years. He was a man of a gentle and excellent spirit, “full of good works and alms-deeds." His name is cherished in grateful remembrance.

“ You say it has caused you the 'most heart-felt grief, and numberless sighs and tears, that you never experienced any degree of liberty in the important duty of prayer, even in secret, and much less if possible in social worship, insomuch that you have never ventured to pray extemporaneously.' And you wish to know my opinion,

whether such a state can possibly consist with a possession of vital religion ?'

You are aware, no doubt, that Christian character is nowhere made to depend upon a single fact or circumstance, but upon the general course and uniform tenor of a man's life. , But few persons, we have reason to fear, would be able to satisfy their minds of personal piety, if in no respect they must find themselves deficient. We must not only inquire if we have freedom in prayer, but if we set a value upon the ordinances, institutions, and duties of religion; and when it might be impossible to de rive any satisfactory conclusion respecting our piety from secret or social prayer, it may perhaps be in ferred from the pleasure with which we attend on other duties of religion. For example, we may love the word of God, we may love the doctrines it reveals, and the way of salvation ; we may have some inward desire to be conformed to God, to bear his image, to do his will, to promote his glory, and have strong desires to be employed in his service and to advance his kingdom among men. We may feel conscious of deep interest in the spiritual welfare of our fellowcreatures ; may feel pain when we see them live in the neglect of God, and rejoice when we hear of their conversion. Now all these circumstances, and numberless others which I might specify, go to prove, as really as 'freedom in prayer,' that a man is born again, because they are feelings to which the natural heart is a stranger. But you ask, “If I possessed all those other feelings and graces that you have named, should I not take pleasure in prayer, and enjoy freedom of access at the throne of grace?' I answer, that under ordinary circumstances I should suppose that you would, though, by no means at all times, and to the same degree. But we are to remember that the constitution of our nature is two fold, being made up of understanding and affections, or, as it is sometimes denominated, the mind and the heart. Now the religion of the Bible, though it implies a degree of mental effort, has its seat in the heart, and its existence is to be decided by the nature of those affections which are usually cherished in the heart. This I conceive to be a very important distinction, for not making which, many Christians distress themselves unnecessarily. There are many things that affect the mind, so as to weaken its powers and embarrass its operations, which have nothing to do with the moral character. Now this I conceive is a distinction which will contribute, in some degree at least, to resolve the difficulty of which you complain, and I was impressed with the truth of this remark, when I read the apology contained in the commencement of your letter, where you say, 'I am induced to endeavor to communicate my ideas in this way,' that is by writing, 'because though writing costs me an immense deal of bodily as well as mental exertion, especially the latter, yet I am not quite so apt to forget the principal part of what I would say as when speaking.' Now here, to my mind, it is completely manifest that your bodily infirmities exert a strong influence over your mind, so that you cannot fix it upon a particular subject, and keep it there for a long time, without immense labor; that owing to the same cause, extemporaneous speaking costs you more effort when you attempt to communicate a number of ideas in succession, than writing. And this is easily accounted for on wellknown principles, viz., that writing helps the memory, and enables the mind to put its ideas together with more coherency and correctness. Apply then, these remarks to prayer.

What is prayer but the communication of our ideas to God in a connected and continuous manner'? It requires mental exertion as well as moral feeling. And why should you not feel the same difficulty when you make a mental effort in one way as another ; at one time as another; when you communicate your ideas to God, as when you communicate them to men ? Now that your mind is affected by the state of your body, is a fact which your own experience testifies to be true in other cases.

Why then should it not have an influence in prayer? And if it has, then certainly you would be very wrong in making your Christian character to depend upon the manner in which you perform this duty, because it would be to make it depend upon a natural, and not a moral criterion. You

66

say it has caused you the most heart-felt grief, and numberless sighs and tears,' that you have not had more freedom in prayer. Does not this prove that the feelings of your heart are not in accordance with that state of mind which you suppose yours to be, and that the heart is making an effort to overcome these constitutional and natural infirmities of the body?”

In the memoranda to which allusion has been made, it is ascertained that during a period of about four months, from July to December, 1820, Mr. Cornelius made just two hundred ministerial visits and calls, one hundred and thirty-two of which were closed with prayer. In the January following, he visited every day but one for three weeks, a person suffering both from bodily and mental distress, accompanying his visits with religious conversation and with prayer.

He was habitually attentive to children. He almost uniformly recognized those whose parents or relatives belonged to his congregation; and seldom did a child pass him unnoticed. His interest in children was the result of native kindness, and also of Christian principle. He wished to secure their affections, in order that he might do them good. “Rarely ever," remarks a member of his church, "did a pastor so enlist the affections of children. Every little countenance brightened when he came in sight-the children loved him indeed."

He originated and maintained a Bible class in his congregation, and succeeded in interesting all who attended. He had no parish Sabbath school during his ministry, as the schools of that description were then under the direction of the Moral Society, an association previously established.

There was nothing in his habits, as a watchman for souls, more prominent, than his faithfulness in communicating instruction to those who had recently professed

conversion. His anxiety did not subside in the least, when he supposed that the inquirers had become Christians. On the contrary, he evinced much solicitude for the cultivation and enlargement of their piety. He wished them to become Bible Christians, “rooted and grounded in the truth.” He adopted systematic methods for teaching them self-knowledge, as well as the great principles of Christianity. He was never satisfied until they were able to give scriptural reasons for the hopes of eternal life which they cherished. With what fidelity and discrimination he taught them, and with what parental care and affection he watched over them, not a few will always remember; nor will they forget the solemnity with which, after several months' probation, he admitted them into the communion of the church, over which “the Holy Spirit had made him overseer.”

A vigilant attention to this class of persons is unquestionably one of the principal sources of a clergyman's influence, and of the prosperity of the church. Not unfrequently, the impression has been conveyed, if the sentiment has not been openly maintained, that the condition of recent converts to Christianity being comparatively safe, they require but little attention, and that the principal efforts of the pastor and of the church are to be directed to the conversion of sinners. Regeneration is represented truly as a great and instantaneous change. All who have experienced it, will assuredly attain salvation. But regeneration is not glorification. Many who are savingly taught by the Holy Spirit, are ‘novices' in Christian knowledge. The illumination of their hearts does not immediately and necessarily extend to their minds. They have never been taught to apply the truths of the Bible to their own circumstances, nor been instructed in the great duty of self-examination, in any of its departments. They know not how to

« AnteriorContinuar »