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them as affecting an exhibition of the tears of a Christian parent as can be found upon record. The particular point which I adduce the narrative to illustrate is, the poignancy of that grief which has for its object spiritual apprehensions, respecting the character or end of a beloved child. It is not often that the secret feelings of a religious father's heart for an irreligious child become thus fully known to the world; I will therefore quote somewhat largely, for the sake of the important instruction conveyed in the passage.
Mr. Fuller writes, May 12, 1796, "This day my eldest son is gone to London upon trial, at a warehouse belonging, to Mr. B. My heart has been much exercised about him. The child is sober and tender in his spirit: I find too he prays in private, but whether he be really godly I know not. Sometimes he has expressed a desire after the ministry, but I always considered that as arising from the want of knowing himself. About a year and half ago, I felt a very affecting time in pleading with God on his behalf. Nothing appeared to me so desirable for him as that he might be a servant of God. I felt my heart much drawn out to devote him to the Lord, in whatever way he might employ him. Since that time, as he became of age for business, my thoughts have been much engaged on his behalf. As to giving him any idea of his ever being engaged in the ministry, it is what I carefully shun; and whether he ever will be is altogether uncertain; I know not whether he be a real Christian as yet, or, if he be, whether he will possess those qualifications which are requisite for that work; but this I have done, I have mentioned the exercises of my mind to Mr. B., who is a godly man, and, if at any future time within the next five or six years he should appear a proper object of
encouragement for that work, he will readily give him up.
"I felt very tenderly last night and this morning in prayer. I cannot say, 'God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk;' but I can say, 'God, who hath fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lad.'"
In the short space of two months after writing the above-such are often the vicissitudes of parental hopes and alarms-we find Mr. Fuller secretly recording, respecting one thus apparently hopeful, "sober and tender in his spirit,” "praying in private," and "expressing a desire after the ministry," the following bitter lamentation: "I perceive I have great unhappiness before me in my son, whose instability is continually appearing; he must leave London, and what to do with him I know not. I was lately earnestly engaged in prayer for him, that he might be renewed in his spirit, and be the Lord's; and these words occurred to my mind-Hear my prayer, O Lord, that goeth, not forth out of feigned lips;' and I prayed them over many times."
Other situations were procured for the unhappy youth, but in none of them would he remain. We find his father about this time expressing himself as follows, in a confidential letter to a friend. It opens a heart-rending chapter in domestick history.
"My heart is almost broken. Let nothing that I said grieve you; but make allowance for your afflicted and distressed friend. When I lie down, a load almost insupportable depresses me. Mine eyes are kept waking, or if I get a little sleep it is disturbed; and as soon as I awake, my load returns upon me. O Lord, I know not what to do; but mine eyes are up unto thee. Keep me, O my God, from sinful despondency. Thou hast
promised that all things shall work together for good to them that love thee; fulfil thy promise, on which thou hast caused thy servant to hope. O my God, this child which thou hast given me in charge is wicked before thee, and is disobedient to me, and is plunging himself into ruin. Have mercy upon him, O Lord, and preserve him from evil. Bring him home to me, and not to me only, but also to thyself.
"If I see the children of other people it aggravates my sorrow. Those who have had no instruction, no pious example, no warnings or counsels, are often seen to be steady and trusty; but my child, who has had all these advantages, is worthy of no trust to be placed in him. I am afraid he will go into the army, that sink of immorality; or if not, that being reduced to extremity he will be tempted to steal. And oh, if he should get such a habit, what may not these weeping eyes witness, or this broken heart be called to endure! O my God, whither will my fears lead me? Have mercy upon me, a poor unhappy parent: have mercy upon him, a poor ungodly child."
The former of these fears was realized: in 1798 he entered into the army; on which occasion his father thus writes to Dr. Ryland:"I have indeed had a sore trial in the affair you mention: but I do not recollect any trial of my life in which I had more of a spirit of prayer, and confidence in God. Many parts of Scripture were precious, particularly the following: O Lord, I know not what to do; but mine eyes are up unto thee.-O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me.-Commit thy way unto the Lord and he shall bring it to pass.-Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. All things work together for good,' &c. Even while I knew not where he was, I felt stayed
on the Lord, and some degree of cheerful satisfaction that things would end well. I know not what is before me; but hitherto the Lord hath helped me; and still I feel resolved to hope in his mercy."
His discharge from the army was obtained on the ground of his being an apprentice, but he subsequently enlisted in the marines; soon after which he appeared sensible of his folly. The influence of early religious education was felt. Shocked at the heathenism of his present situation, and calling to remembrance the peaceful sabbaths and pious instructions of home, he addressed his father, earnestly entreating him to use efforts for his liberation. This appeal to the piety and affection of a Christian parent was promptly responded to. His father's heart went forth to meet him, and he was once more restored to the bosom of his family. Notwithstanding the influence of his mother-in-law, to whom as well as to every other branch of the family he was fondly attached, a dislike to business, increased by habits recently contracted, once more induced his departure.
"The sorrows of my heart," says his father, "have been increased, at different times, to a degree almost insupportable: yet I have hoped in God, and do still hope that I shall see mercy for him in the end. The Lord knows that I have not sought great things for him, and that I have been more concerned for the wicked course he was following than on account of the meanness of his taste. O may the Lord bring me out of this horrible pit, and put a new song in my mouth!
"My heart is oppressed; but yet I am supported. Yesterday I fasted and prayed the day through. Many Scriptures were sweet to me; particularly Matt. xv. 25'Lord help me!'-a petition in which a parent was heard for a
child, after repeated repulses. And Psa. xxxiii. 22. I believe I shall live to see good, in some way, come out of it. My soul is at rest in God."
Finding that he was bent on a sea-faring life, his father procured him a comfortable situation on board a merchant ship, apparently much to his satisfaction. The hopes which this new arrangement raised in the minds of his friends were, however, suddenly destroyed, before he could join his ship, by the operation of what Fuller's biographer justly calls the "savage laws" of impressment. Thus, against his inclination, he found himself once more on board a man-of-war, in the capacity of a common sailor. In a few months, an account was received by his friends of his having been tried for desertion, and sentenced to a most severe punishment, after the infliction of which he immediately expired.
he say, 'Such things have befallen me.'"
Said I not, my dear friend, that this was a most mournfully instructive tale? Well might the afflicted father call to mind David weeping over Absalom. As far as regarded natural affection, his tears were probably more bitter than those of David; for whatever were the sins and follies of this youth, his biographer attests of him that he by no means evinced "an inveterate propensity to vi cious and abandoned courses;" that "his disposition was amiable;" that "his wanderings arose from instability of character;" and that he does not appear " to have abandoned himself to any of those gross vices incident to a naval and military life." To his father he seems to have behaved with personal affection, amidst all his wanderings: he was a prodigal son, but not, like Absalom, a traitor and a murderer. There had been nothing, therefore, to alienate the affections of a parent, except, as every kind of vice is hateful to a Christian mind, though it does not, of necessity, diminish parental tenderness-nay, from feelings of commiseration, it may increase it. *And then there was the choking remembrance that his son had actually begun a new course, when an act of atrocious injustice-for such I scruple not to call the barbarous custom of impressmenttore him away from a peaceful and useful occupation, upon which he had entered, to plunge him into, what I have heard respectable seafaring men call, that " hell on the waters," a man-of-war. "My son," he might have thought, "would perhaps have been saved in body and soul, had it not been for that act of legalized atrocity. He had felt the evils of his past conduct, and I yet had hope; but nowAbsalom perished lifting up his hand against his father; but his death was what men call casual;
"Oh!" says his agonized parent, "this is heart trouble! In former cases, my sorrows found vent in tears: but now I can seldom weep. A kind of morbid heart-sickness preys upon me from day to day. Every object around me reminds me of him! Ah! *** he was wicked; and mine eyes were not over him to prevent it he was detected, and tried, and condemned; and I knew it not * * he cried under his agonies; but I heard him not *** *he expired, without an eye to pity or a hand to help him! O Absalom! my son! my son would God I had died for thee, my son!
"Yet, O my soul! let me rather think of Aaron than of David. He held his peace' in a more trying case than mine. His sons were both slain, and slain by the wrath of heaven; were probably intoxicated at the time: and all this suddenly, without any thing to prepare the mind for such a trial! Well did
it was not cruel, it was not disgraceful: but my poor boy died under the lash, perhaps for some offence which the strictness of military law accounts highly penal, but which does not involve high moral turpitude-he might have been overcome with slumber at his post after severe fatigue." Thus a parent's feelings might have gone on to trace new sources of grief, while it invented every possible mitigation of the young man's offences. Besides all which, Mr. Fuller seems to have believed that his son laboured under a sort of mental derangement," as his poor mother actually did for some weeks before her death; in which case his feelings must have been ten-fold harrowed up at the thought of his sufferings, while all that appeared wrong in him would call forth tenderness instead of displeasure.
Then there was, as doubtless in David's case, intense spiritual anxiety. The youth had been religiously educated; and though the father throws out a casual remark that he seemed to be labouring under a species of mental derangement, yet he did not so seriously adopt this opinion as to abate in the least his feeling of his son's moral responsibility. He greatly feared, and he' durst scarcely cherish a hope to the contrary, that the unhappy prodigal was lost forever; and this, with the accumulated guilt of having rejected all the restraints of a well-informed conscience, and a religious, and anxiously guarded education.
The suffering parent's affliction was not, I think, aggravated by feelings of self-reproach, except so far as every man of tender conscience is sensible of innumerable sins, negligences, and ignorances in his best observances; for he had been a peculiarly watchful parent, and had left nothing undone, that prayer, instruction, and Ch. Adv.-VOL. X.
example, could afford for his children's spiritual welfare. The above passages incidentally afford a most beautiful illustration of his feelings as a Christian parent. Scarcely a syllable does he record in his secret diary of his son's temporal prospects; his most anxious desire is, regarding his spiritual condition. He attests before God, in the simplicity of his soul, that "he had not sought great things for him;" and that he felt far more acutely because the course his son had taken was wicked, than because it was mean and degrading. This last remark exhibits the very touchstone of Christian feeling. Happy is that parent who can truly say that he has always thus made the Divine Law his standard, and has always felt the fear of God to be more promptly influential than any worldly bias; and would have preferred the "meanest" employment, if not "wicked," to all that wealth, and taste, and worldly honour could offer.
In all the annals of parental suffering, I know not that I could point out a more affecting passage than the closing part of that above quoted; or any thing more beautifully Christian, or more sublimely full of faith and holy resignation, than its conclusion: "Yet, O my soul, let me rather think of Aaron than of David." Truly, religion is worth something at such a moment. Nor is it uninteresting, or unedifying, to contemplate a man like Fuller, known chiefly to the world in far other aspects, and often involved in painful controversies, thus, in the midst of home endearments, and without one feeling jarring within, when all was jarring in the outer world.
I know not that I would have pained your feelings with this narrative, if I could not have added something to relieve them; for a few days brought the afflicted father the joyful intelligence that
the report of his son's death was unfounded-though I presume the account of his punishment and consequent illness and danger, was true. Mr. Fuller's recorded remark, upon hearing the reviving intelligence is characteristic: "I have received a letter from my poor boy. Well, he is yet alive, and within the reach of mercy.' The soul of his child was still the first object of his solicitude. Whether his conduct as a parent was always judicious, I know not. It is possible that his very anxiety for his children's spiritual welfare might cause him to render religious instruction burdensome to them; and many a child has been injured by the recoil from an overstrained tension, which the infant mind could not bear. I remember, many years ago, an elderly lady telling me that she could not think how it was that her son, when he grew up, had so little taste for religion; for that she had done all she could to impress him with a sense of its importance: so much so, that when he used to come home from school to his breakfast and dinner, she made him read the Bible till it was time to go back again, never allowing him to play about idly like other boys; and that his evenings and Sundays were wholly occupied in religious reading, and prayer, and serious conversation, and learning the Scripture and catechisms: and yet, added she, "He does not seem to love the Bible."
There is not, perhaps, much general danger of over-strictness in these matters in the present day; the tendency is usually to a lax, rather than a rigid system of family religious discipline; yet the fault may be occasionally witness ed: and if this were the case in Mr. Fuller's house (though I am not aware that it was), it is less remarkable that the young man, when he became first exposed to the vices of a London life
being also removed, perhaps, too early from home, before his character was formed-fell into the snare. It seems to me the great secret of religious domestick government is, to make both servants and children habitually feel, that, though they might be more wicked in other families, they could not be more happy. A really well ordered Christian household, neither lax nor morose, is the very gate of heaven.
As you have followed this unhappy young man thus far, perhaps you might wish to know the conclusion of this narrative, which bears directly upon the subject of my letter. Many painful vicissitudes befel him, brought on by his own evil conduct. His last station was among the marines, with whom he went on a voyage to Brazil. On his return, he addressed his father in the most pathetick terms, entreating one more written testimony of his forgiveness, urging that he was on the point of sailing for Lisbon, "whence," says he, "I may never return." This was answered by an affecting epistle, of which the following extracts are all that can be found:
"My dear Robert,-I received with pleasure your dutiful letter, and would fain consider it as a symptom of a returning mind. I cannot but consider you as having been long under a sort of mental derangement, piercing yourself through, as well as me, with many sorrows. My prayer for you continually is, that the God of all grace and mercy may have mercy upon you. You may be assured that I cherish no animosity against you. On the contrary, I do, from my heart, freely forgive you. But that which I long to see in you is repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, without which there is no forgiveness from above.
"My dear son! you had advantages in early life; but, being con