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his heavenly light and love.” “This has been a day of fasting to the body, but of feasting to the soul. I have experienced the love and power of God in a manner which words cannot express. Othat I could more adequately praise him.” “I arose this morning joyful in the Lord, and found the divine presence with me all the day. Blessed be God that he enables me to walk in the light of purity, and to enjoy that perfect love which casteth out all fear, especially the fear of death.' “I have been powerfully tempted to-day ; but, praised be God, without yielding to sin. May I live at the fountain-head, evermore thirsting for God, and evermore filled.” “I feel my dependence upon God in a manner which I cannot describe. My will is swallowed up in the will of God, and all the powers of my mind seem filled with holy faith and humble love. Jesus is my all in all. I have enjoyed for some time such close communion with the Father and the Son as words cannot describe. May I be always filled with the Spirit !” “ Christ is precious to me. I sometimes long to be dissolved, that I may be with him. But my will in this is perfectly resigned. He knows, and will do, what is best for me; and when he has fully completed his gracious purposes and work, he will take me to himself.”
The reality and power of her religious experience were evinced by what in her was truly a " burning charity,” shown in its proper fruits. She endeavoured to spread religious knowledge, and visited the fatherless and widows in their affliction. She loved the house of mourning better than the house of feasting. Often was she a comforter to the sorrowful, the sick, and the dying ; and in numerous instances she was made wise to win souls, and turn them to righteousness. On one occasion the powerful influence of her character was very remarkably manifested. Approaching near the house of a person whom she was about to visit, she heard the door locked against her. She retired for the time, but resolved to make another attempt. The second time she went, she found the person who had thus refused admission to her, in great distress ; and on inquiring the cause, the poor woman said, that ever since she had locked the door, she had so felt the baseness of her conduct, that her wretchedness had become extreme, and she had been driven to seek to God for mercy, both on account of all her sins, and for her conduct in thus rejecting one who came as a messenger from him. In a short time she found the mercy that she sought, and the tempter was deprived of his prey by the very means he had employed for securing it.
In 1823 she went, along with her oldest brother and two of her sisters, to reside at Hamburgh, where she continued about eight years. Changes of abode so complete as this, are frequently found injurious to personal religion. Entirely novel circumstances engage the attention, and produce a mental confusion leading to a weakness and indecision which, while they mark an incipient decay, contribute to its extension. Nothing can counteract this tendency but habitual watchfulness, and abiding faith. They who continue “instant in prayer,” preserve the solemn recollection of the divine presence;
and wherever this is, circumstances, instead of bearing away the soul on their rushing and bewildering torrent, are subdued and directed by it. It was Miss Oakden’s great object to “set the Lord always before her.” Wherever she dwelt, the language of her inmost spirit was,
“Thou, God, seest me!" and therefore, duty, privilege, and danger were, in their great principles, alike unchangeable ; the same in Hamburgh as in England. No change of mind followed upon a change of place: the Gospel was her rule, and everywhere, and always, the Gospel is the same. In some respects, indeed, her new situation appeared less favourable to spiritual growth than her former one had been. She was removed from that ministry from which she bad derived so much profit, and separated from that Christian communion in which she had found so much happiness. But though she had so diligently attended the means of grace, they were never forgotten to be means, in the use of which, as the appointed channels, she sought the blessing of God which gave them their value. She was not removed from God, who could give her his grace without the means, when she no longer possessed them, or make even inferior means efficacious, if her providential circumstances afforded her no other. And thus it was. Through watchfulness, faith, and prayer, her residence in Hamburgh was not only not injurious, it was positively beneficial.
The spirit in which she left the home in which she had so long dwelt, will appear from the following extracts from her diary :
Sheffield, March 18th, 1823. After much prayer for heavenly direction, I am leaving England for Hamburgh. This morning I felt myself in a very weak state of health : this evening, however, I am better. What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards
, 21st.-At six this morning we left Leeds. This has been a day of deep humiliation and self-abasement before God, for an error into which I fell in repeating something which I found afterwards that I had misunderstood. The Lord forgive me, and help me in future to say nothing but what I have reason to believe I understand, and know to be as I repeat it. I would have the words of my mouth acceptable in the sight of my Redeemer.”
She experienced the general inconveniences of her voyage, and was able to write very little ; but that little serves to disclose her habitual disposition. “I am at a loss to express the sense I feel of the goodness of God to me. My dear brother and sisters do all in their power to make me comfortable in my present circumstances. How can I recompense them? Be thou pleased to reward them, O Lord! Let thy blessing continually rest upon them."
After her arrival at Hamburgh, the observations she made in her diary respecting her voyage abundantly prove, that powerful as were her religious feelings, they were truly enlightened and spiritual; there was nothing of the enthusiasm which, professing to be occupied by heaven, passes by all on earth with contempt. When the vessel, by entering into the Elbe, had come into smooth water, so that she could walk on deck, and look around her, she was evidently impressed by the new scenery that presented itself, admired what was beautiful in it, compared or contrasted it with unforgotten England, noticed the dresses of the females, and various other objects. But it was to the religious circumstances of her new abode that her attention was chiefly directed. She expressed her fears that religion itself was in a very low condition, and deplored the awful profanations of the Sabbath that she witnessed. Still she says, that she had found a few
real and devoted Christians, with whom she believed it to be her duty and privilege to unite. “We have,” she adds to the observation just referred to, “ an English Minister, Mr. Matthews, a man of piety and talent. His church is denominated the English Reformed Church. They appear to be much like the Independents in England.”
Two or three extracts are subjoined, as illustrating the manner in which she commenced, and continued to prosecute, the duties of her altered position :
“ Hamburgh, April 5th, 1823.-It is with much fear and trembling that I enter upon my new situation. Since I began decidedly to walk in the way of wisdom, I have lived almost in a state of seclusion from the world; but now I appear to be surrounded by snares and temptations. I have a deep sense of my ignorance and nothingness. May I continually look unto Him who is able to keep me from falling!" “ August 24th. It is nine years this month since God first revealed himself to me as my reconciled Father. O how kindly has he dealt with me, causing his goodness and mercy to pass before me! No good thing has he withheld from me ; and he enables me to rest in the solemn and comfortable assurance that the very hairs of my head are numbered.” To-day I have been visiting the poor, and have found it profitable. My attempts to point them to Him who is the sinner's Friend, and who is able to save them, are very feeble ; but do thou give thy blessing, O Lord, and they shall not be altogether in vain.” My brother is very kind to me, and confers on me many favours. I know not how to repay him. I frequently fear that my ignorance must be a great exercise to him. Forgive me, O
heavenly Father, and vouchsafe to my brother even a double portion of thy Spirit, that he may be enabled to bear with me more easily.”
" I find the means of grace channels through which the Lord conveys his blessings to my soul.” “I do not know that I ever felt my affections so entirely sanctified as at present. I dare not desire anything that I have not, except it be more grace ; for I know that my heavenly Father gives me all that is needful: and I cannot murmur at what is painful; for he ordereth all things for my real good.” “This day has been set apart for abstinence and prayer, and I have found it profitable. I still must say, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
Her theological reading, while at Hamburgh, included selections from the best works of those who are generally termed “the Mystic writers,” both German and Romanist. From these she made, for her own use, copious extracts. She thus filled up a large volume, containing six hundred and sixteen pages, in which are a great number of passages, closely and elegantly written, on the most important subjects. She copied also, into other volumes, a number of letters, with some biographical compositions, of a similar character. This course of reading, however, does not appear to have had any injurious effect, but rather to have excited her to increased spirituality, a closer communion with God, and a state of mind more tranquil, submissive, and resigned. Perhaps it occasioned a greater love of seclusion; but, in her circumstances, this would be rather advantageous than otherwise. She was less exposed to the dangers of mental dissipation, and enabled to preserve more completely self-recollection and control, and
the peace, flowing as a river, of a mind stayed upon God, and seeking to follow him fully. *
A few more extracts from her diary, during the remainder of her stay on the Continent, will be given.
The means of grace have been to-day blessed to me. Help me, O my Father, solemnly to renew the dedication of myself to thee; and may I refuse and resist everything that is not for my soul's advantage, howsoever desirable in other respects it may appear.” “I have been, to all human appearance, on the borders of the eternal world ; but never did I enjoy such intimate communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It seemed as though my Saviour were always standing by my bed, assuring me that the chastening was all in mercy, and that my great High Priest was touched with the feeling of my infirmities. O how sweet to lie passive in the hands of infinite
* The writers to whom reference is here made, were those who may be called, by way of distinction, the “ Pietist Mystics,” who wrote chiefly on the inward exercises of the divine life; not the “ Dreaming Enthusiasts,” to whom the name of “mystic ” has been applied with little propriety. Kempis, Terstegen, Gerard, and the Port-Royalists, are never to be confounded under one class, by means of a general and little-understood term, with such writers as Jacob Behmen, whose mysticism consisted in an unsubstantial cloudiness of language, which neither themselves nor their readers understood, and that for the plain reason, that it was altogether meaningless. The others were deeply impressed with the fact, that religion, while its object was truth, was, subjectively and personally considered, an inward and divine life; and to the exercises of this their attention was principally directed. Their great defect--which is particularly evident in the writings of the pious Romanists—was, their omission of proper reference to the commencement of the life. To a great extent, they overlooked the method of the divine mercy, in justifying freely the awakened and penitent sinner, by a spiritual faith, itself the gift of God, in the great propitiatory sacrifice, and the restoration of the soul to a new life, its regeneration, by the gift of the Spirit of adoption, shedding abroad in the heart the pardoning love of God. Perhaps Miss Oakden was not only not injured, but really profited, by these writings, for such reasons as these : 1. The foundation was well laid. Weary and heavy laden, she had come to Christ, and had found rest to her soul; and her subsequent experience, with her diligent attention to Scripture and the ministry of the word, had taught her, that whatever she did for the preservation of her spiritual health, the basis of all was the preservation of her spiritual life. Of this, the Holy Ghost, given through faith in Christ for pardon and acceptance, was the great Author. She had therefore to maintain her first faith in Christ, living by faith in Him who had loved her, and given himself for her. To whatever else she attended, of this she never lost sight. Then, 2. The reading itself was profitable. Her mind was kept from stagnation and narrowness. It was quickened and expanded by the exercise by which it was thus stirred up and disciplined. With her, Pietism was far removed from that mere quietism which tends to make the soul either self-willed, obstinate, and bigoted, or indolent, visionary, and useless. And, 3. The reading, in its own sphere, was excellent. If it is necessary to hold firmly by first principles, it is not less so to attend to their application and developement. Many so abide by first principles, as never to advance from them : they hold general truths without carrying them out in their extensive particular implications. Their acorn never becomes an oak, sometimes not even a sapling. The writers in question develope what is general in truth, and follow it into its various, and often most important, however seemingly minute, details. Let the life of faith in Christ be preserved, that is essential, and even among the pious Romanists (Nicole may be mentioned as an instance) much invaluable reading may be found on the great subject of practical religion, including in that phrase the inward exercises of the soul, as well as the visible actions of the outward life. Because Miss Oakden was truly a Christian, and was careful to maintain that which made her so, by God's blessing on her reading, it contributed to make her a more complete Christian. It were well if, along with the Christian activities of the present day, there were more of this Christian Inwardness and retirement.-EDIT.
goodness and wisdom !” “I can say, with David, 'O how I love thy law! The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.'” “I am enabled to rejoice in hope of eternal glory ; but this hope rests entirely in the mercy of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." I am very poor and needy, helpless, and less than nothing. May I every day live more and more for God and eternity!” “When I think of remaining at Hamburgh, I feel it hard to say, “Thy will be done !' but with an increase of grace, I shall say it cheerfully. O suffer me not to have my own will!”
Not long before she left Hamburgh, she thus wrote to one of her sisters :-“0, seek to be cleansed from all sin, and to be entirely delivered from all self, that you may live a life of faith and prayer. It is indeed sweet, my dear sister, to abide in the love of Christ, to be enabled to say, · Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee.'”
In 1831 she returned with her brother, who settled for a time in England. She writes thus impressively on the occasion of this return :-“I went out in firm dependence, that if infinite Wisdom was pleased to call me to new duties and trials, those supplies of strength would be given that should keep me from fainting under them; and I have not been disappointed.” She returned, indeed, as she went, maintaining the same purpose, that while life lasted, she would live to God. But she rejoiced that she was again permitted to sit under the ministry which, as she believed, afforded her the clearest and most consistent and extensive views of divine truth : to the society, likewise, with which she had been formerly connected, she now gladly re-united herself. During her residence in Liverpool, her whole conduct declared her to be the humble and devoted Christian, mild and affectionate in her manners, but uncompromising in all that concerned the interests of religion. She had the pleasure, also, of witnessing the union of her brother with the Wesleyan society. He had previously held different sentiments; and, though always kind to his sister, his opinions had sometimes led him to speak of those with whom she was still one in spirit, slightingly and, as she thought, disrespectfully. The change was produced by sincere conviction. On one occasion being asked by a friend what had more particularly led to it, he replied, “It was the consistency and faithfulness of my sister Catharine." He is now a useful ClassLeader at Launceston, Van-Diemen's Land, having left England for that country in 1833. When he was on the eve of departure, his sister wrote to him, as she understood he was not likely to have any religious companion on his voyage. She urged him to pray much, to acknowledge God in all his ways, and to preach Christ in his conduct and conversation. “Guard," she writes, “ against an over-anxious concern for the things of this world. Though in themselves lawful, they become a hinderance to our piety, and a snare to our souls, if we allow them to engross too much of our affection and our time. We are commanded to come out from among the unbelievers. If we are in their company more than the necessities of duty require, we shall be apt to drink into their spirit, especially if they be well educated and amiable.
When her brother again left England for a foreign land, she returned to Bentley-Hall, and continued her usual and unwavering course.