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REVEREND AND DEAR S
I HAVE already acknowledged the much esteemed favor of your letter dated April 15th last. Though many weeks have intervened, I am not conscious of being remiss-indeed “I “ have made haste and have not delayed,” in my compliance with your request. Your candour will admit the consideration of my engagements, in the present extent and importance of them, as a sufficient apology.
I cannot wonder that the hints, suggested some months since in the Evangelical Magazine, * should have produced enquiries relative to the progress of the work of God amongst us. Nothing, in
this vain, degenerate, and dying world, can afford equal gratification to heaven-born: minds as “ the “ signs of the times”—those copious showers of heavenly blessing—those operations of almighty providence and grace which declare that, God is mindful of his covenant, and that the interest of Zion dwells upon his heart. These are signs encouraging to the faith and hope of God's tried people. Often they cheer a very dark night: they are always pledges of a bright and glorious day.
To the praise of the glory of divine grace we have to acknowledge.“ the day-spring from on “ high hath visited us, to give light to them who “ sit in darkness.” The display of God's mercy, contrasted with the state of ignorance, sin, and misery, in which it found us, is marvellous and surprising.
The operations of his hand we behold with wonder and with joy. That word belongs to us, "I am sought of them that asked not for me; “ I am found of them that sought me not."
It is now seven years since Providence, by some remarkable circumstances, directed my way to Darwen. This congregation was my first ministerial charge. Here I was placed as in a wide extended desart. The congregation was numerous (perhaps more than five hundred) in a populous part of the country.
(s) Among the people were professed infidels. Others resembled self-righteous Pharisees. While the greater part were “working all iniquity with greediness.” Many, however, were sufficiently conscious of good and evil, to express their approbation of earnest and faithful addresses from the pulpit. And when contributions to relieve any extraordinary expences were called for, they would keep back nothing that was needed. But their civility to me, and their generous habits, were far more conspicuous than their christian tempers.
Here I continued to labour from year to year, not without some earnest solicitude. The fallow ground. was unbroken, and thorns and briars covered the face of it. As to myself, had I then been alive, only as now, in my regards to the interest of Christ and the good of precious souls, I could not have endured the sight. As it was, I saw with grief the triumph of iniquity. Grief provoked encreased exertion, and was aggravated by disappointment. Principles, implanted, I trust, by the grace of God in early youth, and fostered under the wing of parental care, though afterwards checked and injured by a chilling atmosphere, now began to revive and stir within me. How can I but adore the grace of my dear Redeemer! He saw " the things that remained were ready to die;" and, in great mercy, called back the expiring life
Had he determined in wrathful justice to quench the smoking flax, what else could I expect? but, in mercy to my soul, he raised it to a flame. This, my dear Sir, was grace indeed! My astonished mind, with mingled grief and gratitude, exclaims, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is “mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto???
The God of Salvation prepared his way before him, by a very secret but commanding influence. His voice was heard while himself was not seen. He was girding his servant, while he scarce “ knew “ the Lord.” It is delightful to trace the operations of his grace in the review. Often my mind anticipates the joy of a revisal, on the other side Jordan, when the rending of this vail of flesh, shall admit a renewed and immediate association with that dear celestial Spirit who, by the inspiration of the Almighty, was made, in this reference, to share my grief and anxiety.
A very few years have revolved, since a serious consideration of the state of things in our religious connection produced a painful concern. The impression was mutual. We both felt an earnest solicitude to see happier times. With this view we often consulted and prayed together. The issue was, the institution of a weekly prayer-meeting at our own house. We hoped to find the minds of many disposed to favor
such a measure. However we could gather but a very little flock, the company rarely exceeding twelve. Yet, “ God, who heareth prayer,” did not “ despise the day of small things.”. The spirit of grace and supplications was not withholden.
In the review of those seasons, “ my soul doth “ magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in “ God my Saviour.” They were “ times of re“ freshing from the presence of the Lord.” “ His “ ways are all judgment." Full well he knew what a short ripening season remained to my dear, dear partner: and hy how swift and sudden a flight she would be wafted beyond these mortal shores. On these occasions he was pleased to grant an abundant blessing. Her soul was “ as a watered 66 garden.”
And well he knew the burden of trouble, of conflict, and of service, which the feeblest and most unworthy of his servants would be called to sustain. My mind was alive on these occasions. I was abased, and yet encouraged-clothed with shame, yet enabled to plead, “ my Father, thou “ art the guide of my youth!” My prayer was for “ the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the know“ ledge of Christ”—for grace to be faithful—and the blessing of God on my poor feeble attempts of service.
God did not shut out my prayer, nor hide his mercy from me. He had “ prepared my heart,