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MEDITATIONS FOR JULY.
"I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."-ECCLES. i. 14.
Sin has spread a curse around,
Poison'd all things here below; On this base polluted ground
Peace and joy can never grow.
Think how little the world can do for you, and what it doth, how deceitfully-what stings there are with its honey-what a farewell succeeds its welcome! When this Jael brings you milk in the one hand, know she hath a nail in the other.-Bp. Hall.
"And other (seed) fell on good ground, and did yield fruit.' MARK iv. 8.
But where the Lord of grace and power
Has bless'd the happy field, How plenteous is the golden store The deep-wrought furrows yield! The good ground is the good heart. No one is good but through the grace of God. It was a mercy of thee, O Lord, to purchase, at so dear a rate, such barren and accursed ground, full of thorns and briers, and fit only to be burned, that thou mightest make it a rich and blessed soil, fruitful in every kind of good fruit! Blind and miserable must that man be who attributes this work to himself, and gives not thee the glory of it, O my Saviour!-Quesnel.
"The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.' -JAMES iii. 18.
Mercy I ask to seal my peace,
And never grieve thee more! The still and quiet soul is like a ship that lies still and quiet in the harbour. You may take in what goods, what commodities you please, whilst the ship lies quiet and still; so, when the soul is quiet and still
under the hand of God, it is most fitted and advantaged to take in much of God, of Christ, of heaven, of the promises, of ordinances, and of the love of God, the smiles of God, the communications of God, and the counsel of God; but when souls are unquiet, they are like a ship in a storm-they can take in nothing.-Brooks.
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found."-Is. v. 6.
He will not let me seek in vain;
For all who trust his word
And favour from the Lord.
Know the Lord and seek Christ. You have a soul that cannot die; seek for a lodging for your poor soul; for that clay-house will fall! Set your thoughts often upon death and judgment. Fear not men, but let God be your fear, and make the seeking of Christ your daily task.— Rutherford.
"I wound and I heal."-DEUT. xxxii. 39.
Physician of my sin-sick soul,
To thee I bring my case;
And heal me by thy grace.
Thy heavenly Father is a physician as wise as he is loving. When thy heart begins to grow high, he sees there is need of some heavy affliction to bring it low; when thy heart grows cold, he sees there is need of some fiery affliction to heat it and warm it; when thy heart grows dull and dead, he sees there is need of some smart affliction to enliven and quicken it; and as thy afflictions shall continue no longer than there is need, so they shall last no longer than they shall work for thy good. If all along they shall work for thy good, thou hast no cause to complain that thy afflictions are long.Brooks.
FOSTER, PRINTER, KIRKBY LONSDALE.
In a small and retired village in one of the midland counties of England lived Robert Leslie. He was descended from poor but honest parents, who had early impressed his mind with the importance of religion. Through the grace of God, the instructions he then received were never forgotten. When I first entered on my ministry, he had been for some years the clerk, and his humble manners and retiring disposition highly raised him in my esteem.
Robert had been at the usual age put apprentice to a shoemaker, who was his uncle; and, after having finished his apprenticeship, continued to work as journeyman at the same shop. This was very favourable for him, as the family were decidedly pious, especially the aunt. On a summer evening the place was often resorted to by the villagers, and Robert seldom failed to impart some excellent lesson. After the example of our Saviour, every occasion was improved for some good purpose. Robert, the people used to say, was very strict; yet his sincerity was so evident, that he was always listened to with attention and even respect. Psalmody was his great delight, and teaching the boys to sing. Often on my evening rambles have I heard their hymns of praise with joy. There was another man of the same business in the village, but he had little custom. He was an idle, dissipated character. His earnings were generally spent in the company of men of dissolute habits, like himself, instead of ministering to the comfort and happiness of his family. His downcast and degraded appearance was a miserable contrast to the cheerful and happy countenance of Robert. The man's conscience was completely hardened by habitual drunkenness. never could persuade him to come to church. His whole pleasure seemed to be in the clamour and noise of the publichouse. Robert in his kindness of heart had frequently advised him to turn from his evil courses, but his words were completely thrown away upon him, such a slave had he become to his appetite and passions.
The clerk's wife was a quiet, industrious woman, and as they had no children, she occupied her time in attending to a school. Her mind was evidently actuated by the grace of God, though she was far inferior to her husband in Christian humility. Robert's mother lived near him, and it was gratifying to observe his kind attentions to her. He was, indeed, a pattern for every son. The books I left with him, he would take and read to her.
Robert and his wife were very fond of children. They brought up a little girl of one of their relations, and their whole affections centered in her. I have often heard with pleasure the short verses and passages of Scripture she had been taught to repeat.
The parish of S. was very scattered, and, as I kept no horse, any help was very acceptable. Robert could read well, so I often gladly employed him amongst the sick. In these errands of mercy he delighted, and, I am led to believe, derived from them great spiritual benefit. For lessons are learned in the sick chamber, which never can be learned in the world. There we behold the veil removed, and every thing is seen in its real colours; all that is highly prized, that is accounted valuable and sought after amongst men, now sinks rapidly in our estimation. How vain appear all earthly things; how unstable all earthly joys! There we see the nothingness of resting our hope in any but Christ, the Saviour. Robert could deeply pity the infirmities of the afflicted, for he was himself of a very delicate frame of body, which was greatly increased by his sedentary life. Sickness had been to him the greatest blessing. It was during a long illness that he first saw the necessity of that entire change of heart which is so requisite in a fallen creature. He prayed earnestly for it, and by divine grace soon bore evident marks of being truly a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things passed away and all things became new. All his hopes of salvation now rested in Christ, the Redeemer. On this topic he delighted to dwell, and he wept in secret over the darkness of others. He was thus well qualified to instruct the ignorant; he laid before them the great truths of the everlasting Gospel with earnestness and affection. He knew and had experienced its blessings, and was therefore anxious for all others to share in his joy.
The healthy air in the parish of S. was remarkable; during the two years I did duty there, not more than six funerals occurred. Two of the persons buried were the clerk's near
relatives, and he assisted on both occasions. He was possessed of very fine feelings, and wept bitterly whilst reading. To him that part of the Psalm-" Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with thine ears consider my calling: hold not thy peace at my tears" was very appropriate. I would willingly have excused him the mournful task, but he modestly refused. A funeral, from its rarity, caused much attention in the village. The service was always attended with the greatest decorum. The frequency of the occurrence in many large towns has, undoubtedly, a strong tendency to blunt its influence, and to suppress those thoughts of our mortality, which it is so calculated to draw forth.
Robert by his industry, assisted by his wife, acquired sufficient money to buy a comfortable cottage, some few years after their marriage. Order and cleanliness reigned within it. On a shelf lay some well-selected books. Some of these were highly valued, being the gift of preceding ministers, as marks of their remembrance. There were two rooms in front, one of which is the school. Around the door a thick and spreading shrub throws its luxuriant branches. A garden attached to the house supplied them with vegetables through the year. A pretty little spot was decorated with flowers almost of every description, the lily, the tulip, the carnation, with many others whose names I forget. Robert was passionately fond of these frail but beautiful productions of nature, and many came to beg seeds and roots of him. The cheerful appearance without was sweetly of a piece with the piety and peace within. As the family knelt, morning and evening, their praises ascended as holy incense to heaven in gratitude for the mercies they enjoyed. They were indeed blest, every thing prospered with them. How many complain of the hardness of the times, and of the difficulty of procuring a livelihood for themselves and families. Happy would it be for such murmurers, if they were to imitate Robert in industry and perseverance! The clerk's aunt, whom I have before mentioned, I frequently talked with, and every conversation increased my good opinion of her. She was one of the excellent of the earth." Her countenance would beam with pleasure when I spoke of her nephew, for she loved him as her own son. This woman was a real comfort to the village. Often in my visits to the sick have I seen her ministering to their wants. She was a nurse without fee or reward; and, from her benevolent disposition, was peculiarly qualified for the office. Her manner of
speaking was very fervent and kind. When I bid her good morning, she would reply,—“ I wish you a very good morning, sir." Books and sermons were always gladly received. On the day of my departure from the curacy, she came to bid me farewell, and said, with a burst of tears, "Thank you, sir, for that book.” I am unconscious at this time to what tract she alluded, but to one, doubtless, from which she had derived comfort. When I had been reading to the sick in her presence, she would generally give an exhortation to the poor invalid, and tell him, "How thankful he ought to be for hearing that good book." She was a regular attendant at church ; for an important event it must have been indeed which would have kept her from the house of God. Long before prayers might you see her coming in her neat and clean attire.
A little before service, Robert would look with evident anxiety for my little flock, and if few came he would prolong the ringing for some time. When the congregation was good, he would always mention it with great satisfaction. As clerk, he read with a solemnity most congenial to the place and the occasion. He felt deeply what was said. In those parts where the name of our Saviour is noticed, he was very emphatic. Happy man! what to many in his situation is a task, to him was the greatest pleasure. To the sermon he paid marked and profound attention, taking down, as I went on, those sentences which struck him most forcibly to meditate upon at home. Sunday was to him the happiest of all days, for it afforded him abundant time to read the Bible. The design of this holy day, which is to worship God and to edify our souls, was duly acted upon. Thus he enjoyed a foretaste of that everlasting sabbath which remaineth for the children of God.
My predecessor in the ministry of S. had established a Sunday-school, which has been of great advantage to the poor. The fruits of Sunday instruction were very apparent; the scholars were often the means of teaching their parents, and bringing them to church. Most of the respectable farmers, and others, gave their gratuitous assistance. Amongst the number was the clerk; but in consequence of his easy temper the lads were generally turbulent under his care. They presumed upon his good-nature.
Sometime after I left the parish, Robert was delivered from this world after a few week's illness, and received into glory. He died in peace and hope. May we die the death of the righteous, and may our last end be like his! (Num. xxiii. 10.)