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THE FLAX DRESSER.
The following are extracts from letters written by a flax-dresser, exactly fifty years ago (in the spring of 1794) to a gentleman who had taken much interest in his spiritual welfare. This poor contented man died not many years after; and certainly never dreamed that his letters would ever appear in print, or be cited in reply to a cabinet minister's speech in Parliament.
"I confess I have been too long in acknowledging your kindness, but our friend will inform you how very little time I can command. I hope, however, we shall have more time shortly, when death shall have closed our eyes on all things under the sun. There is a glorious prospect before us, an incorruptible and eternal inheritance, to which we have ready access through the blood of Christ. We shall then rest from all our labours, and join that honourable company which now surrounds the throne. There we shall serve him, and see his face, and be fixed as pillars in his Temple, to go out no more. O glorious day! when he shall rend these blue heavens above us, and put an eternal stop to the wheels of time. Eternity is a solemn yet pleasing word, though it is also a dreadful one to those who have reason to conclude that they shall dwell for ever with devouring fire. How would the thought of eternity, if it were really believed in and expected, sink the spirits of any man who knew himself a stranger to religion! What is the reason that men trifle so much with religion? It is, because they have not believed heartily what the Scriptures reveal to us about an eternal state. Heaven and hell seem to be words of small import with many; but they are the most momentous words which ever resounded in the ears of man. What is it that makes many Christians so exceedingly warm, I would also ask, when you touch the least pin of that hedge of distinc
tion they have set up between themselves and others, while you can easily observe the weightier matters of the law are neglected, but that the Gospel of the grace of God is not heartily believed, and neither the hope of salvation, nor the fear of God's anger, has properly affected their consciences?"
"I am sensible of your kindness, in offering me your assistance to enable me to move in a higher sphere; but, for my own part, I see no other way pointed out by Providence in which I should serve our blessed Lord and Master, than by occupying in that lower sphere, wherein His infinite wisdom has seen fit to place me. I feel exceedingly defective in a small circle, and perhaps I should be much more so if my sphere were enlarged; and whatever you may think of me, I know and feel myself to labour under so many moral and mental weaknesses and infirmities, as makes me well satisfied with my present private and comparatively hidden situation. As to differences of rank, place, or station, farther than as a Christian's usefulness is thereby diminished or enlarged, I see nothing in them that needs either to excite ambition or dissatisfaction. For, as a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth, so neither doth a Christian's happiness consist in his moving in a higher sphere; but it consists in his serving God singly, humbly, and contentedly, in the station he is placed in, though it should be no higher than that of a servant or a bond-slave. These things are but mere temporary differences which God has designed to serve a purpose, but from which Christians shall be altogether freed and disencumbered, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life. I feel, it is true, something of the embarrasment of a low and comparatively dependent station; but then I seem to experience interpositions of Divine Providence in answer to my prayers, and the accomplishments of God's promises, in a way which I might not, were I in a more independent line of life. Besides, what a satisfaction is it, in any station, to think that we are placed there by our heavenly Father, and enjoined to occupy therein till
Christ come. He certainly is the best Judge of every one's talents, and in what way he can best serve his own ends by them. If God has given us hearts to wish well to his cause, so that we should rejoice to be instrumental in promoting it through the whole creation, may we not leave it to his wisdom to determine how far, or in what station, he will employ us, while he has ten thousand fitter instruments at command? If he hath given us an inclination to his service, it is an unspeakable mercy, though he should not afford us such opportunities of extensive usefulness as those he has seen meet to employ in another line. Alas! that we should be so unprofit able in the line wherein he has placed us, and that we should do so much less than we might, without other opportunity than he has been pleased to give. We cannot say that we have done what we might have done, nor that we have done anything as we ought, when all is done. But blessed for ever be our heavenly Father, who hath made us to know that Christ died for the ungodly, and that there is eternal life given through him. We hope, through the belief of this, and of all the promises of God, at length to overcome every hindrance to our salvation, and to join in the triumph and eternal praises of the heavenly train of saints and martyrs, who came up out of great tribulation, and now behold the face of their heavenly Father, and of the Lamb in the midst of the throne; and the forethought of this eternal glory makes us even now anticipate the work of heaven, and begin the Songs of Zion in a strange land." What a sunshine was there in the soul of this poor flax-dresser! Who can read these passages without admiration?
THE WRATH OF MAN.
"The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."-JAMES i. 10.
It is sad to think how often Christians disregard this sacred truth, and try, as it were, to scold their friends and relatives into being religious. People who take up this carnal weapon, err in one of these three respects:
either their judgment is not enlightened, their natural feelings are not subdued, or they have so little enjoyment in religion themselves that they urge it on others as a necessary duty, and hard service, rather than a path of pleasantness and peace.
This, however, was not the case with happy Susan, of whom I shall say but a few words, although very much might be said, for she was no common Christian; but her record is on high. She was poor, living on small parish relief, afflicted with a long and sore disease cancer in the mouth and throat, which was attended by an unusual degree of suffering. She was separated from a most cruel husband, and the relatives with whom she lived were ungodly people; all this was more grievous to her than words can express: horror often took hold of her, knowing that the wrath of God must fall on them if they died in their sins, therefore she warned them faithfully. "Leave all, leave all, and follow Christ," was the oft repeated affectionate entreaty, uttered even in her dying moments. As the servant of the Lord she did not strive, but spoke the truth in love, and in pity too; for she mourned that they should be strangers to, and reject Him, who filled her soul with joy and peace in believing, in the midst of such fiery trials from without. She was jealous also for her Master's glory, and greatly pained to hear Him despised, and His precious name blasphemed by those around her; but she had learned from her Bible, that until the root be made good, no good fruit can be expected, (Matt. xii. 33.) and also, that it was not in her power to effect the mighty change she so ardently desired in her friends. (Ezek. xxxvi. 26.)
To the Author and Giver of all good poor Susan fled; and the following was her constant comprehensible supplication at the throne of grace: "Be pleased, O Lord, to reveal thyself to them; if they did but see Thee as Thou art they could not help loving Thee.”
In the spirit of this prayer, which sweetly accorded with John xvii. 3, she lived; her relations, who would not turn from their ways, were constrained to acknow
ledge that it was a happy thing to have the Lord as a friend in the day of trouble. Her cheerfulness astonished all: she ever greeted the few friends who could visit her with a smile; praise was her loved employ. She delighted to recount the mercy and goodness which had followed her all the days of her life, and the many direct answers which she had received to prayer. Christ in her was the hope of glory, whom having not seen, she so loved, that she patiently longed for the blissful moment to see Him face to face-to behold His glory-to join the company of the redeemed, when her grateful song would know no interruption. With humble transport she would exclaim, "Oh! I shall make heaven ring." "They to whom much is forgiven, the same love much."
She is now in the blessed enjoyment of infinitely more than it could have entered into her heart to conceive. May the bread which she "cast on the waters be found after many days."
PRAYING FOR THE SPIRIT.
(From "Hard Bible Words made easy.")
Remember, my dear friends, that the Bible is the very Word of God, therefore that there must be many things in it which man cannot fully understand. But let us take comfort; for if the wisest man that ever lived cannot fully understand all the hidden things of God's most Holy Word, we know that the poorest little child taught by the Holy Spirit may understand enough to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. My dear friends, I know a poor labouring man, who never learned to read till he was past thirty years of age. At this time it pleased God to put into his heart a longing wish to see, with his own eyes, that precious story of peace, the history of his Saviour, as it is given in the Bible. What will not a man do when his heart is in the work? When his day's work was over, he learned to read from his own little child, who sat on his knee every evening with her Bible in her hand.
This poor man worked in the fields or upon the road for his daily bread; he prayed as he worked that God would send hist