« PreviousContinue »
tal consumption, who, on Mr. to tears, and told him her er Heywood's arrival, confessed, with agonies of conscience, his dreadful sin, in taking upon him the ministry, while he knew himself to be unconverted; and begged him to pray with him, and earnestly asked him what repentance was. Mr. Heywood gave him his best advice, and was desired to come again. But before he could go, this young clergyman died, without a sadisfactory evidence that he had obtained mercy. An awful warning for ungodly ministers!
Mr. Heywood, after the loss of his income, was reduced to such great straits, that his children became impatient for want of food. He called his servant Martha, (who would not desert the family in their distress) and said to her, "Martha, take a basket, and go to Halifax ; call upon Mr. N, the shopkeeper, and desire him to lend me five shillings. If he is kind enough to do it, buy such things as you know we most want. The Lord give you good speed; and in the mean time we will offer up our requests to him, who feedeth the young ravens when they cry." Martha went; but, when she came to the house, her heart failed her, and she passed by the door again and again, without going in to tell her errand. Mr. N-, standing at the shop dcor, called her to him, and asked her, if she was not Mr. Heywood's servant? When she told him, she was, he said to her, "I am glad to see you, as some friends have given me five guineas for your master, and I was just thinking how I could send them." Upon this she burst in
rand. He was much affected with the story, and bade her come to him, if ever the like necessity should return. Having procured the necessary provisions, she hastened back with them, when, upon her entering the house, the children eagerly examined the basket; and the father, hearing Martha's narrative, smiled and said, "The Lord hath not forgotten to be gracious; his word is true from the beginning; they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
Another anecdote is as follows: When the spirit of persecution was so hot against this good man, that he was obliged to leave his family, he set off on horseback, one winter's morning, be fore it was light, like Abraham, not knowing whither he went, and without a farthing in his pocket. Having committed himself to the care of Providence, he determined, at length, to leave his horse to go which way he would. Having gone all day without any refreshment, the horse, towards evening, bent his course to a farm-house, a little out of the road. Mr. Heywood calling at the door, a decent woman came, of whom (after a suitable apolo. gy) he requested, that she would give him and his horse shelter for the night, telling her that he only wished for a little hay for his beast, and liberty for himself to sit by her fire-side. Upon calling her husband, they both kindly invited him in. The mistress soon prepared something for him to eat, at which he expressed his concern, as, he said, he had no money to make
them a recompense; but he hoped God would reward them. They assured him, that he was welcome, and begged him to make himself easy. After some time, the master asked him, what country man he was. He answered, that, he was born in Lancashire, but had now a wife and children near Halifax. "That is a town," said the farmer, "where I have been, and had some acquaintance," After inquiring about several of them, he asked, "if he knew any thing of one Mr. O. Heywood, who had been a minister near Halifax, but was now, on some account, forbidden to preach.". To which he replied, "There is a great deal of noise about that man; some speak well, and some very ill of him; for my own part, I can say very little in his favour." "I believe," said the farmer," he is of that sect, which is every where spoken against; but pray what makes you form such an indifferent opinion of him?" Mr. H. answered, "I know something of him; but, as I do not choose to propagate an ill report of any one, let
us talk on some other subject." After keeping the farmer and his wife some time in suspense, who were uneasy at what he had said, he at length told them, "that he was the poor outcast, after whom they made such kind inquiries." All was now surprize, joy and thankfulness, that Providence had brought him under their roof. The master of the house then said to him, "I have a few neighbours who love the gospel; if you will give us a word of exhortation, I will run and acquaint them. This is an obscure place, and as your coming here is not known, I hope you will have no interrup tion." Mr. Heywood consented, and a small congregation was gathered, to whom he preached with that fervour, affection and enlargement, which the singular circumstances served to inspire. A small collection was then made to help the poor traveller on his way. This interview providentially introduced Mr. Heywood to a new circle of ac quaintance, among whom he afterward preached with great
ON THE EVIDENCE OF DIVINE GOODNESS.
If there be evidence of the goodness of God, aside from the positive testimonies, the history or doctrines of the holy scriptures; it is probable that this evidence is exhibited by the scriptures themselves.
The Bible abounds in arguments from the light of nature,
to prove important points of doc trine; and if no such argument be found, if this mode of reasoning be not used in the scriptures, to prove the goodness of God, even this affords a presumptive argument, that the light of nature affords no evidence on this point.
The scriptures no where intimate, that the doctrine of the Trinity, or the doctrine of Atonement by the sufferings of the Son of God are evident from the light of nature. But the Eternal Power and Godhead are said to be clearly seen or inferred from the work of creation. It is a rule to be observed, respecting all the doctrines of divine truth, that if the scriptures treat them as evident from the light of nature, they are thus evident, whether sinful, blinded mortals can see the evidence or not. But if the scriptures consider and treat them as doctrines of mere revelation, then they are not evident from the light of nature.
A question now occurs: Do the scriptures consider the good ness of God, as being evident from the light of nature? From the light of nature, the apostle appears to reason on this subject, in the 14th chapter of the Acts. To the idolaters of Lycaonia, the apostles made known the living God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things therein; who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. "Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." God's doing good is here urged as a witness of his goodness.
In the same manner the apostle, in the first chapter to the Romans, proves the eternal power and godhead of Jehovah, from the creation of the world. He argues from the light of nature, to prove those perfections of
God, the clear evidence of which renders the idolatrous world without excuse. But if his argument contained no evidence of divine goodness, how were the heathen deprived of all excuse? "The invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse."
The same mode of reasoning is used by the Psalmist to prove the adorable perfection of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shew. eth his handy work." It was doubtless the design of the Holy Spirit to exhibit evidence of the same divine perfection, from the light of nature, in the beginning of this Psalm, as from the law of God, mentioned in the latter part. If the glory of God was declared, by the works of nature, so as to excite the adoration of his creatures; this implies, that his goodness was declared. Whether sinful and benighted men, whose understandings are darkened by the blindness of their hearts, can discern the evidence of divine goodness from the light of nature, is not the question. If it were, the answer from scripture and observation would be in the negative. The question is, Whether the scriptures consider the light of nature as exhibiting evidence of the goodness of God? It appears that the Psalmist and the apostles have reasoned from the light of nature, to prove this divine perfection.
We may notice further, in the 34th and subsequent chapters of
Job, a long train of reasoning from this topic, to prove the goodness of God. It is argued from his supremacy. This is the drift of Elihu's argument. In Job xxxiv. 10, and onwards, we find his argument. "Far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity." The argument is, that God is the Almighty; there fore will not do wickedly. He proceeds, "Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?" Does he act by a delegated power? Is he not absolutely independent? He goes on to represent it as a great absurdity, whether we can see the absurdity or not, to imagine that the Almighty, the independent Creator and Disposer of all things, should do wickedly, "Shall even he, that hateth right, govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just? Is it fit to say to a king, thou art wicked? and to princes, ye are ungodly? How much less to Him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they are all the work of his hands." It is here represented as marvellous, that those who can discover from the works of God, his absolute supremacy, should entertain a doubt respecting his goodness. He seems to take for granted, that men of understanding, men of piety and spiritual discernment, may, from a view of the supremacy of God, have as clear a discovery of bis moral perfection, as of his natural.
This is the manner of the whole of Elihu's reasonings. And we may notice, that Elihy
was acquitted of God; and God himself, who was Job's last reprover, argued with him on the same ground. From his mighty works, which displayed his infinite power and godhead, he argued the perfection of his moral government. On this ground he challenged the love and submission of Job. Job yielded his cordial submission; and upon the very ground on which it was demanded. "Then Job answer
ed the Lord and said: I know that thou canst do every thing; and that no thought can be withholden from thee. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Thus, from the light of nature, from the exhibitions of divine power and majesty, the moral perfection, or goodness of God is argued, successfully, in the book of Job. No appeal is made to divine testimonies, or to the plan of redemption and grace, or to any thing else but the visible displays of divine power and supremacy.
The scriptures certainly ar gue from the light of nature, to prove the goodness of God; and they challenge the conviction of mankind from such evidence. Whether, therefore, we can see this evidence or not, we have the highest reason to believe that it exists; and that mankind are not left, by a necessity of nature, to perish for lack of vision. If mankind, in all ages, had been disposed to discover the holiness and goodness of God, they would have always enjoyed the revelation of his grace. But as they became vain in their imagi. nations, their foolish heart was
darkened, and God gave them over to a reprobate mind, and they perish without excuse.
LETTERS FROM A CLERGYMAN TO HIS SON,
In reading my two preceding letters, you have anticipated the thought, which will be the subject of this: That daily prayer will be a great security against deliberate deviations from the path of duty.
The man who daily commits to God in prayer the works of every day, cannot, with a cool, unreluctant mind, enter on any works, which he knows will be offensive to that Being, whose fayour he has implored. He sees, he feels the inconsistency of addressing God in prayer, and dishonouring him in practice. By daily prayer we set God before us; we awaken in our minds a sense of his presence, power, knowledge, purity and goodness; we call up the recollection of our dependence and accountableness; we compose
our spirits, banish criminal passions, and fix pious thoughts and resolutions; and thus prepare ourselves to proceed steadily and uprightly in the course of duty before us.
Who would venture to address the Deity in prayer, while his heart was full of malevolence, avarice, revenge, envy, or any other detestable lust or passion? Who would dare to call on God for his blessing, while he was contriving to execute a vil
lainous design, plotting to circumvent an honest neighbour, or devising to revenge an imag inary injury, or trifling affront? Every one sees the guilt and impiety of bringing into a prayer such inclinations and intentions. The man who really means to pray will banish, or at least suspend all criminal purposes and deliberations, that his prayers may not become a new provocation. And surely, whenhe has been with God in the sacred exercise of devotion, he will not dare immediately to recal those guilty passions, which he, just before,. thought it necessary to exclude. There is, at least, as much impiety in rushing from God's presence into works of wickedness, as in hurrying from these into his presence. The man, there-* fore, who makes prayer a customary and serious business, will act with caution and deliberation in his ordinary conduct. That deliberation, which accompanies his prayers, will attend his other important transactions. The man addicted to profaneness perceives the gross absurdity and detestable impiety of passionate swearing immediately after a solemn prayer. If he knew a neighbour, who statedly prayed in his family, and frequently fell into violent fits of wrath and storms of impious language, as soon as the solemnity was closed; he would condemn the palpable inconsistency of this neighbour's conduct. He would think himself a much better man; for, though he often swore, yet he never prayed; so that his impiety was not aggravated by being mixed with prayer. But while the man feels an impres