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LESSON XXIV. The Conclusion, in a practical Reflection on the Whole.
AND now, my heart, with reverend awe
Eternal God! what shall I do?
Thy power in weakness is display'd:
LIFE AND CHARACTER
REV. THOMAS STEFFE,
TO A VOLUME OF SERMONS PUBLISHED AFTER HIS DECEASE.
Τελειωθεις εν ολιγω επληρωσε χρονες μακρες. Αφεση γαρ ην Κυρια η ψυχη αυθα: δια τείο εσπευσεν-- Sαp. iv. 13, 14.
If the de
REV. AND DEAR SIR,
ation of a book be any token of gratitude and respect, or the patronage of it any instance of generosity and favour, you have the justest title to this volume in one view, and I the greatest encouragement to address it to you in the other. I know, Sir, that to enlarge on these topics, would, to a gentleman of your character, be making a very disagreeable kind of return; But you will allow me to let the world know, that I am inscribing these posthumous sermons of Mr. Steffe to one of the best of his friends, as well as of mine, and to him, to whom, had he been engaged to publish them himself, he would surely have chosen to present the first fruits of bịs labours. And permit me, Sir, thus publicly to thank you for all the pleasure you gave me in an opportunity of cultivating the mind of so worthy a youth, and for the foundation which you laid for that excellent example he gave, as well as for the wise and pious instructions he delivered, in circumstances and relations of life, which, unsupported by your bounty and care, it is probable he had never known. You, Sir, discovered this promising plant in its tenderest state, and presented it to the garden of God; and though we must not arraign the wise hand that removed it, every one will own it reasonable, that these early, yet pleasant and wholesome fruits which dropped from it should be presented to you. And I persuade myself, Sir, that, though they are not ripened to all that height of beauty and of flavour which a maturer growth might have given them, you will receive them with candor; and indeed, I am not without some cheerful hope, that they may afford you both delight and nourishment.
When I intimate, that Mr. Barker may not only be entertained, but edified by the productions of our young friend, I might seem to speak with too little caution, and to raise an expectation which a prudent friendship will always avoid, when it would introduce persons or books into the world with advantage. But it is the happi. ness of great wisdom and goodness (I had almost said, it is a part of its reward) to be entertained, and edified, by the writings of those who are much its inferiors, and most readily to exercise an indulgence which itself least needs. In this view you, Sir, would hare read these sermons with pleasure, had they been the work of a stranger: But you cannot, and I think you ought not to forget, that you were, through the divine goodness, the instrument of giving them to the world. And you will be quickened to renew your bounties of this kind, and a more important kind is not easily to be named, when you so sensibly perceive, that, short as the date of our friend's life was, your labour, with regard to its present effects, hath not been in vain in the Lord.
They who know the relation in which I stood to Mr. Steffe will readily believe, that I have some peculiar share in your joys on such an occasion : But if there were not such a distinguishing tie as in the present case, I must be insepsible to a long train of personal obligations, if I did not affectionately take my part in all your satisfactions and joys. I bless God that they arise from such a variety of springs ; that they swell into so full a stream; and above all, that they are so faithfully, and so constantly returned back to him, from whom they originally proceed.
I do, Sir, in my conscience apprehend, that when addressing the ministers of the gospel, there is seldom reason to congratulate them on their distinguished circumstances in temporal life. When the more abundant gifts of the divine bounty seem to be received, as if, like those given to the Hebrew servants, they were a part of the ceremonial of their dismission from their Lord, they are indeed the calamity, rather than the happiness of the proprietors, be they ever so copious, or ever so splendid. That is really a poisonous draught, be it ever so luscious, which intoxicates the mind, and lulls it into a forgetfulness of the interest of Christ, and of immortal souls. Buç where affluent circumstances are considered as an engagement to serve God with greater cheerfulness and zeal in the abundance of all things; where the possessor considers himself as the steward of God in temporals as well as spirituals, and as the almoner who is to distribute the divine bounties to his indigent brethren, whether ministers or private Christians; and where all this is done in the easy, cheerful, en