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denly to the grave. During his confinement, his mind was seren and tranquil. In a letter written at this time, he says, “I think am truly grateful that my happiness does not depend upon exter nal circumstances; that in the midst of darkness, I can be greete with celestial light; that in weakness and disease, we can be sensi ble of communications of divine strength; that in the midst o discouragement and gloom, we can look forward to a hope full o immortality.” But, as usual, bis thoughts passed beyond himselt. and though in a situation, in which the mind is peculiarly directed to one's self and friends, he spoke of his favorite subject, the prosperity of the whole church of Christ, and concluded his remarks with these lines of the poet
We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race,
Sing thy redeeming grace.
The nature of his disease prevented him from holding much conversation, but whenever he could talk, it was on the subject of religion. His mind dwelt on the employments of heaven. He anticipated a meeting with the saints above. He saw while on earth, the glories of the future world. He gave his solemn testimony, with multitudes of others, that sickness is a poor time to prepare for death, and sent forth from his death-bed, a message to his impenitent friends, to make ready to meet their God in peace, before the body and mind are exhausted by disease. He spoke not of his sufferings, nor had he any anxiety for himself. Nature however dropped a tear, when the grief of parents, of brothers and sisters, of friends, came across his mind, but he commended them to God, and felt relief. Two days before his death, when it was supposed he could not recover, he was asked what petition should be offered for him at the throne of grace. He replied, " that he might resign himself entirely into the hands of God.” He said, “ he wished to live only to preach the gospel of Christ to a perishing world, if it might be consistent with the will of God.” When the joys of heaven were called to bis mind in this declaration of scripture, “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things, which God has prepared for those that love him ;" he answered, “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ; for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Allusion being made to the society in heaven, when he repeated the stanza
Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er,
Should fright us from the shore.
* He is now himself about to enter into that society. His strength fast wears away and almost fails him. His lips but just move, and a friend bends over his body and catches bis last words“Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name: thy kingdom come.”
What is there that should shroud the chamber of the dying christian with gloom, when the departing spirit is thus serene and joyful? What is there in the silence and solemnity of his last moments, that should not make it a privilege to be near, when the veil is rent, and the prison doors are opened at the presence of the angel of God? But oh, had the summons come to our departed friend but a single year before, with what horror would it have filled his soul? In what language could we describe the anguish of that conscience, or the distraction of that mind so convinced of the realities of a future retribution, as it looked down through the vista of a coming eternity? But we will not further interrupt by a supposition so painful, the resignation with which parents and friends have been enabled to say, through the blessing of God, 6 thy will be done.” And yet, if this imperfect Sketch should be read by a friend, by an acquaintance, or by any one who has received the education which he did, who is convinced as he was of the reality of religion, and is yet unre
conciled to God, we beseech him to let that thought possess his - mind, and we pray that it may arouse hiin, before it is too late, to the care of his soul's salvation.
We ought not to say “it is a mystery," when the church militant loses a warrior, and the church triumphant receives a victor. : The mystery is, that under the moral government of God, his
servants must wait for their full reward in a future state of beingthat the events of his providence on earth, happen alike to the Just and the unjust. It is all, no doubt, ordered in wisdom. And It should animate the church to new zeal and constancy, in the good fight before them, whenever they see one of their number gone to receive “the crown of righteousness."
URANCE OF THEIR PIETY PECULIARLY THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS AT THE PRESENT DAY.
We have the fullest evidence in the history of past ages, that those periods of the church which have been most conspicuous Vol. IV.
for their labors and sufferings in the cause of the Redeemer, han been characterized by a prerailing assurance on the part of chris tians, that they were truly the sons of God. This was pre-em inently the case with the early believers, who received the gospel in all its purity and power, from the immediate follower of Christ. The apostles every where took it for granted in their letters to the churches, that the primitive christians knew thei spiritual condition, and were sustained under all their trials by an assurance of an interest in the promises of the gospel. The same state of feeling, though less universal in its extent, prevailed in the protestant churches at the era of the reformation. Luther, Calvin, Zuingle, and Knox, were men who could say, we not merely hope, but “we know in whom we have believed ;" and the frequency and earnestness with which they pressed upon others the duty of obtaining a similar assurance, show the high estimation in which they held it, as a practical principle of the christian life. Our Pilgrim Fathers were men of the same stamp. That love of religion, which bore them up amidst the trials of the wilderness and the incredible hardships of sarage warfare, was not the offspring of a trembling, doubtful hope, but of a settled assurance, that as real children of God, for them “to live was Christ, and to die was gain.' The attainment of such an assurance they inculcated on the generation which came after them, not as the prerogative of a few, but as the duty and privilege of all who truly believe in Christ. To these sentiments the New-England churches adhered for nearly a century after their first foundation. The duty in question was one of the most frequent subjects of discussion, both in the pulpit and in the private intercourse of christians; and the consequence was, that very large numbers of the early inhabitants of New-England, lived and died with a well grounded assurance, that they were children of God and heirs of eternal life.
We need not say how different has been the state of our churches in this respect, for nearly a century past. Nor is it difficult to assign the cause. The great revival of religion in 1740, was followed by a season of wild fanaticism, in which, among other doctrines, that of assurance was grossly abused and perverted. Hence, in common with revivals of religion, it fell into disrepute with most sober christians, and with all the timorous and worldly minded. It took the church nearly two thirds of a century to recover from this panic in respect to revivals; and it is not therefore surprising that the doctrine of assurance is still regarded by so many among us, with coldness and distrust. The time has arrived, however, when the churches, we think, are called upon most seriously to consider, whether the sentiments of our fathers and of
the early christians on this subject, ought not to resume their former influence over the public mind. The experience of thirty years has shown, that revivals may be so conducted, as to avoid nearly all the evils by which they were once attended, and to secure those glorious results, in the rapid conversion of immense multitudes, which have made them the richest blessing that has descended upon the church since the days of the apostles. It is certainly an interesting inquiry, whether, under the happier auspices of the present day, the full assurance of hope may not again pour its cheering light on the great body of christians, to support them under the labors and sacrifices to which they are so abundantly called, without exposing the church to any of those evils which have resulted at former periods, from a perversion of this doctrine.
We would therefore ask the attention of our readers to a few remarks on,
The nature of christian assurance,
Some misapprehensions which have existed, respecting the evidence on which it rests, and
The motives for endeavoring to attain it, resulting from the peculiar circumstances of the age and country in which we live.
Io speaking of the nature of this assurance, it can hardly be necessary for us to say, that it does not derive its character from any thing peculiar in the mode of our becoming interested in religious subjects. It is no part of the evidence on which it rests, that after a season of deep spiritual anxiety, we experienced a sudden and marked transition into a state of joy and peace. The nature and sources of that joy and peace, must be rigidly examined, as affording the only ground of certainty that we are the children of God. Nor does this assurance result, as many have imagined, from any special intimations from God, that we are in a state of acceptance with him. The “ witness of the spirit” is not of this nature : it is simply a transforming influence, which by creating us anew in the image of God, testifies to our spirits, through the change produced, that we are indeed his children. Any supposed intimations from on high, aside from this testimony, are a gross delusion; and the mischiefs occasioned by these imaginary communications from heaven, have been incalculably great. Almost all the fanaticism, which has existed on earth, has been in some way connected with such feelings. Nor is this all. Not a little of the infidelity and chilling scepticism which have prevailed on religious subjects, have taken their rise indirectly from the same source. Far different from any thing of this sort, is the assurance of which we now speak. Nor does this assurance rest on the judgment of others, however distinguished for piety or spiritual discernment, that we are real christians. Any reliance of this kind on the favorable opinion of our friends or religious teachers, is essentially a distinct state of mind from that which the scriptures call “knowing ourselves.” It is not always, to say the least, a safe state of mind, or one which can be indulged without very great hazard. A hope or confidence, resting on the judgment of those who, with all their discernment, can know so little of the real state of our hearts, may often mislead to the ruin of our souls. And if this is the whole, or the principal ground of any man's confidence respecting his personal piety, he not only may be, but in all probability he actually is, deceived.
Christian assurance, in distinction from these states of mind, is such a consciousness, (accompanied by a correspondent course of action,) of having fixed the governing choice and desire of our souls on God and the interests of his kingdom, that we cannot upon the whole, and taking one time with another, seriously doubt that this is the fact. By assurance in this case, we do not mean a certainty like that which results from mathematical evidence, or the testimony of the senses. The nature of the case forbids it. It is moral certainty of which we speak; the certainty we feel respecting the character of men, under any circumstances, when we have a full opportunity to bring their character to the test. The man who has attained to the full assurance of faith, knows that the ruling desires of his mind are fixed on God, in the same way and on the same kind of evidence by which he knows that the governing purpose and choice of his soul were once directly opposite-away from God and the interests of his kingdom. His knowledge in both cases is founded on his own consciousness of those feelings which control his actions, taking one day with another, and one week, or month, or year, with another. Nor is it at all incompatible with this consciousness, as to the predominant choice and purpose of his soul, that he feels within him the workings of other and inferior principles. He may see much in himself that is amiss; much over which he mourns; much to humble him in the sight both of God and man, and to make him feel a deep and thorough conviction, that when he shall come to the end of his course, and shall receive the crown of life, (as he humbly trusts he shall,) it will be as a matter of free, unmerited, and astonishing favor. Still he can say, with all this consciousness of remaining sinfulness and ill desert, 'if the main bent and bearing of my heart are towards any objects, more strongly and perceptibly than towards others, they are towards God and his blessed service. If, in this sense, I love and prefer any thing, it is my Savior and his precious cause. If my heart has any supreme, paramount, controlling attachments,