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SPIRIT OF THE FOREIGN THEOLOGICAL JOURNALS AND REVIEWS.
From the Spirit and Manners of the Age. A SABBATH IN THE COUNTRY.
THE Sabbath dawned-the morn of holy rest so wisely ordained for the repose of man and beast from the wearisome activities of this nether world, arose with all the freshness and beauty of spring-it was cloudless and serene. I awoke from the slumbers of a peaceful night, and entered into my closet, to present a morning sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to Him "who holdeth our souls in life," and surrounds the resting-place of his servants with a guard of holy angels-those "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who are the heirs of salvation." The scene which presented itself from the window of my oratory was eminently adapted to prepare mind for the duties of devotion, and warm the heart with emotions of gratitude and praise. It was an extensive view, beautifully varied with woodland scenery and sloping hills, studded with flocks of sheep and other animals grazing on their surface, or refreshing themselves by a morning draught
from a beautiful rivulet which meandered through the valley; while the feathered songsters warbled their matin song, and the flowery perfumes of the garden, taught, through the medium of the senses, the bounty and beneficence of the omnipotent Creator. How many inlets to gratification are connected with the structure of that frame, "which is fearfully and wonderfully made?" and does not this fact assure us that life and enjoyment are inseparably connected?-but man is not what he was "the gold is become dim, and the fine gold changed:" that which should have been for his wealth is become an occasion of falling. I surveyed in silent admiration the lovely scene before me, feeling, in all its force, the apostrophe of our great poet:"These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good, Almighty! Thine this universal frame Thus wondrous fair-thyself how wondrous Milton. The village clock struck eight, and instantly the early chime proclaimed to its inhabitants, a day devoted to the holy exercises of praise and prayer. A new scene now attracted my attention, and gave birth to feelings of high and holy interest; hitherto I had surveyed the world of matter with delight almost amounting to ecstasy, and now the world of mind Rel. Mag. —No. 1.
and spirit opens to my view, chastening every feeling, deepening every reflection, and awakening many tender sympathies and anxieties. The transition was natural; it was elevating and sublime; and I began to feel the great superiority of man "to the beasts which perish." A number of little children, of both sexes, neatly clad, and belonging to the village, were proceeding with all the buoyancy and liveli ness of youth along the pathway, which, crossing one of the meadows, led to the church; for there, at this early hour, they were wont to assemble, and receive that religious instruction which enlightened philanthropy and benevolence had provided for them. The youths and maidens of the village, under the direction and superintendance of the estimable Rector, cheerfully tendered their gratuitous services in this "labour of love," and were accustomed to spend the earlier hours of the Sabbath in this delightful and charitable occupation. "Father of mercies," I ejaculated, "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou wilt perfect praise!" How many parental and friendly anxieties are interwoven with this little flock, who need all the tenderness and assiduity of a shepherd's care? Wilt thou not deign to look with an approving smile on those humble efforts, which, if succeeded by thy paternal blessing, may perpetuate in this happy spot the genial influences of pure and undefiled religion, and produce a mighty moral transformation in the characters of its inhabitants. The patriarchs of the village shall ere long sleep with their fathers, and their immediate descendants will, at no distant period, bid farewell to all the activities of life, and rest beside them; but religion dies not in the death of its champions--the mantle of Elijah will rest upon Elisha; and although David's place be empty, "instead of the fathers shall be the children," successors both in time, place, and occupation; but doubly happy, if precur sors in excellence and piety. The best of our sires would willingly awaken such ambition; and if permitted for a moment to divert his attention from the joys of heaven, his eye would rest with ineffable delight on the head of that son who is a better man than his father. The hour of private devotion passed, which had been rendered doubly delightful by those emotions which this beautiful scene had inspired. I descended from my chamber to join the family circle, which consisted of my wife and daughter, a fine blooming girl about eightee A
years of age, the image, both in mind, temper, and disposition, of her excellent mother; an intelligent amiable youth of seventeen; and the worthy and inestimable curate of our village, who was an inmate in my family, and superintended the education of my children. His religion, which was the effect of Divine grace on a mind of superior order, and engrafted on a heart naturally cheerful, affectionate and kind, was peculiarly attractive, especially to our young folks, to whom he was much attached, and over whose minds he had gained an entire ascendancy, by the suavity of his manners and the loveliness of his disposition. With him, appearance and reality were the same; if the law of kindness was upon his lips, it was but the vocal utterance of internal emotion: while faithful admonition was the natural result of his high sense of religious duty, it was the stern language of principle; but love gave it utterance. But what of the lady who presided over this interesting circle? asks the gentle reader;-the truth is, my good friend, I am too much interested in the portrait to trust myself with the pencil: our union was the result of mutual preference; hands and hearts went together, while religion approved the vow. We have now been "heirs together of the grace of life" for many years. If "mind is the standard of the man," I see no reason why the same test may not be applied to the other sex; and if so, my wife would not be injured by comparison, either as to the endowments of intellect, or the graces of character. Perhaps my fond partiality might be pardoned, were I to say-"Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all." Benevolence of feeling, however, is her elementhere she lives, and moves, and has her being; and this, refined by ardent piety, has made her the benefactress of the village. The tale of misery, and the tear of sorrow, never fail of their effect with her; the blessings of those who were ready to perish come upon her, and she causes many a widowed heart to sing for joy. At home she is the centre of attraction and the source of influence; she reigns supreme, but her power is invisible; it is the supremacy of gentleness and love. But to return from this brief digression:-being assembled around the family altar, my reverend friend conducted the devotions of the morning by reading, with unaffected solemnity, the 42d and 43d Psalms, wherein the royal sufferer laments his unavoidable absence from the temple worship, and depicts in vivid and striking colours, the tendency of religious ordinances to calm the tumult of the mind, and shed abroad "that peace which passeth all understanding." We then knelt down, whilst he implored, in strains of devout and solemn supplication, the gracious influence of Heaven to consecrate and bless the ordinances of the Christian Sabbath to the instruction, admonition, and consolation of the sheep intrusted to his care. How impressive is the eloquence of the heart! The prayer was short; but solemn, overpowering, delightful; it corresponded with our necessities and wishes; and we arose with countenances which seemed to say, in silent eloquence-"It is good to be here. Some of my carliest and most pleasing recollections of the Sabbath are associated with
the sound of village bells chiming for service; and I am not ashamed to own, they still possess a powerful charm as the sound, softened by distance, floats on the wings of the morning, or is borne on the fragrant gale of a summer's evening. An admirable peal of eight bells, in sounds of sweetest harmony, announced to the villagers the approach of the hour of prayer; and the path which led to the church was soon filled with persons of all ranks and ages, repairing to the hallowed spot where the "rich and poor meet together." The concourse was unusually great, in expectation of a funeral sermon to improve the death of an amiable and exemplary young lady, whose "sun had gone down while it was yet day." Her death was severely felt by the whole village: philanthropy had lost an active and indefatigable agent; ignorance, a useful instructor; and poverty, a valuable friend. She had gone about doing good, but the night of death had paralysed her efforts, and closed her work. She was numbered with the blessed, and absent from the body was present with the Lord. We entered the church a few minutes before the commencement of the service; it was nearly full-a solemn silence pervaded the whole assembly: the sacred character of religious worship reigned around, and had proscribed every appearance of thoughtlessness and folly. My clerical friend read the prayers most impressively, distinguishing by his voice and manner, the varieties of this admirable service; a heart warmed with the spirit of devotion, an eye which beamed with benevolent solicitude on all around, added to a clear and melodious utterance, carried his whole auditory with him: it was the contagion of holy feeling-a combination of reverence and delight. The responses were duly sustained by the congregation in a subdued tone of voice; and the singing, led by a finetoned organ, was general and harmonious. When the communion service commenced, the effect was greatly increased by the mellow and deep enunciation of a venerable man, whose head many winters had silvered over; and in whose benign and dignified countenance, you would immediately recognise the beloved Rector of the village, who was emphatically styled -the father of his people. Age and infirmities had not entirely deprived us of his public labours; once, at least, on the Sabbath, he appeared in the pulpit; and when he came, it was always "in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of peace." His venerable and excellent character in private life-his long experience of the power and value of religious truth
his mild and compassionate disposition, added to his intimate acquaintance with the character and necessities of his parishioners, eminently qualified him to minister to their spiritual necessities. If you sought him during the week, you would find him occupied in his Master's work-soothing the sorrows which wretchedness had created-dissipating the clouds which ignorance had collected-visiting the abodes of disease and pain; or standing by the bed of death as the minister of life and immortality. These scenes furnished ample materials of thought; and he always considered them as most favourable to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and sympathy. He was an accurate
observer of human life; and his most beautiful | of them. I knew one, who entered life with and powerful illustrations of scriptural truth advantages such as few of her sex possesswere founded on the passing circumstances of young, very young; beautiful, accomplished, the day, which were thus laid under contribu- affluent; the idol of her family; the delight of tion to the general good. It might be said of every eye that saw her. She grew as fair and him with great propriety, that he was "instant fresh as the gourd over the head of Jonah; but in season and out of season-a workman that God had prepared a worm to smite the gourd, needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the and it withered. I saw her suffer-I saw her word of truth.” His prominent excellence, die. She lingered through two whole years of however, consisted in this:—wherever he went, torture, unexampled and unmitigated. I often or whatever he did in his ministerial character, saw her lip turn white with agony; I never he always carried the unutterable tenderness saw it quiver with a murmur. Her youth strugand gentle sympathies of Christianity about gled hard with death, and her friends clung to him. His very reproofs, while they abated no- hope, while there was a hope to cling to. While thing of fidelity, were delivered in tones of she could yet walk, she frequented the house affectionate concern; and if the heart were of God; when she could no longer do so, she already broken, and the spirit bowed down, to worshipped Him from her bed of suffering. pour in the oil and wine was ever most ac- Hope and faith were with her there, and her cordant to his feelings, and here he richly en- charity never failed; her last act was to press joyed the luxury of doing good. How many with her cold hand into mine her accustomed families in this retired and beautiful spot owe ample bounty to the poor. By her death-bed their happiness to the delicate suggestions stood her triumphant mother-yes, triumphant which dropped from his lips, in the season of friendly intercourse, and are indebted to his counsel for that decisive step which has formed a new era in existence, and become the prelude of prosperity and enjoyment. When he came to reside here, many years ago, the village was a moral desert in the midst of a Christian land: it could scarcely present a feature of the "form of godliness;" ignorance and vice characterized the poor, and listless indifference to the name or forms of religion prevailed amidst the higher class. The Bible was unknown, the Sabbath despised, and the church almost forsaken-youth had no instructor; sorrow no comforter; man no friend;-ominous indeed were the predictions of such a scene, when a vacancy occasioned by death, led to the appointment of the present incumbent, who forthwith came to reside at the rectory, and perform the duties of the church in his own person. Many years have passed since then; and one of the most beautiful scenes in nature, so long devoid of moral cultivation, is now the abode of industry, happiness, and peace. The establishment of a Sunday-school was highly conducive to this moral change; it recognised the value of religious instruction, and furnished an opportunity of directing the minds of parents to the important subject. This was but a preparatory measure however; and to the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ, we are principally indebted for our present advancement in the knowledge and power of godliness. May we long possess these noble institutions, and leave them as our best legacies to posterity when we are silent in the dust. On the present mournful occasion, our Rector preached an admirable sermon from the 10th chapter of St. Mark, and 14th verse:-"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." Having described the value and importance of a religious education in early life, he thus proceeded in a strain of touching and impressive eloquence:-"These considerations have been formed in my mind by an instance which, painful as it was, was also most powerful. Nor let me be thought to depart from the decorum of this place, if I mention it. What indeed should forbid me from this place
for grief, that conqueror of all things human, contends in vain with the power of the Gospel. What supported that mother in that hour? She had led her, when a little child, to Jesus, and now she resigned her to him; aye, and with a happier spirit than if she had stood at the altar, to give her daughter's hand to the first and fairest of the sons of men. What consolation could that mother have then derived from the sight of withered youth, faded beauty, and prostrate talents? None. Her consolation was from above. She saw her young pilgrim going to the promised land, and the view enabled her to watch her as she passed through the waves of Jordan. Parents, and all who hear me, you may one day be called to her trial. Would you not wish for her consolation? Worlds-worlds would you give for it then; purchase, oh purchase it now; the price is easy-is delightful; it is this, that you suffer your little children to come unto Christ, and forbid them not."
We had not proceeded far on our walk homewards, when we were joined by the Curate. "Well," said he, "religion has her crown as well as her cross, and death is not always a king of terrors." "No," I replied, "we have to-day had a fine illustration of its transforming power, and one, I hope, which will not soon be forgotten. They are greatly to be pitied whose early associations are hostile to religious truth; but I fear such instances are too numerous, even in this Christian country; it is the only preservative from evil and dangers incident to every age; the importance of early impressions is not duly estimated, either in reference to the character or happiness of our children; in the general admission of human depravity, parental fondness too frequently excludes our own sons and daughters; fears are lulled to rest in the lap of self-love, and the injury is inflicted before the apprehension of danger exists." "Yes, sir," he replied, "and in many cases, religious education assumes a repulsive form; the study of its truths is exacted as a task, rather than proposed as a beneficial and pleasing occupation. This will invariably disgust the mind, and furnish an additional obstacle to the admission of light. I am quite disposed to think, that whatever is efficacious
to speak of the dead? This is the place to speak,must be attractive. More converts will be
gained by smiles than frowns; and surely the Christian Scriptures abound with attractions. What interesting descriptions! what endearing promises! what splendid prospects, are contained in the Bible! in what a pleasing aspect does the very text of this morning present the Author of Christianity as the friend of youth! How gentle and dignified his mien! How persuasive and tender his invitation! If the influence of religion be allurement, the young heart is peculiarly susceptible of its attractions. I am quite convinced it is the true key of access, and accords most entirely with the language of him who says, 'My son, give me thine heart." I was about to assent to the opinion of my friend, when we arrived at home; and dinner being ready, we sat down to enjoy the bounty of a kind and indulgent benefactor, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy.
A short time after dinner, as we were conversing on some of those interesting topics which had occupied us during our walk from church, a messenger arrived who wished to speak with the Curate. "I am summoned," said he, as he re-entered the room, "to visit the chamber of death, and I anticipate a scene of peculiar interest; will you accompany me? it will present you with an opportunity of witnessing the power of religion in a cottage. You know I have often said that Christianity was especially the 'poor man's friend,' let us see how far this may be substantiated by fact. I asscnted with pleasure, and during our walk to the cottage, my friend thus prepared me for the interview.
trust in me,' and this applies to both parents." The poor man, whose heart seemed too full for utterance, led the way to the chamber of death, and having placed two chairs for us by the bedside, left the room. As my friend took his scat beside the poor invalid, she cast upon him a look of unutterable pleasure, clasped his hand in both hers, and said, (the hectic flush glowing on her otherwise pallid and emaciated cheek), "Oh, sir, I am so glad-so very glad to see you, that I may thank you before I die, and tell you what good you have done for a poor wicked careless creature, who but for you would have been lost for ever; you don't know what I was,-you don't know what I am-don't stop me, sir-let me tell you all while I can, for my breath is very short, and I was so afraid I should be gone before I could see you." Seeing her great anxiety, and afraid of wearying her, the Curate sat in silence, his hand grasped in hers, as she thus proceeded:
"During the early part of my life I was careless and thoughtless; I had no advantages when a child, and was never accustomed for several years to go to any place of worship; after I was married I used to go sometimes, but nothing I heard at church did me any good; my Sabbaths were generally spent in working for my family, and I thought I had no time to spare for any thing else; the thought of death or another world, seldom entered my mind. It is now about two years ago since I heard of your preaching, and I thought I would come and hear you; they told me you were a methodist. I did not know what it meant. At last I came, and I shall never forget that day; the text was about the tares and the wheat; you said the former were to be burned at last, and as you described them I thought I was so like them that I must be burned too; I could not get rid of the feeling, and night after night as I lay awake, this subject would come into my mind; I was exceedingly frightened and distressed; it followed me every where, and I was quite miserable; I had not a soul to speak to, and I could not read a word; I thought if I could read the Bible I should be better, and gain some relief, but I could not. A poor old woman, more than seventy years of age, who lives next door, used to come in now and then; I found that she could read, and I asked her to come and read to me, which she did; my mind was somewhat better; in about a fortnight or three weeks I heard you preach from these words, 'Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.' I cannot describe how I felt; my fears were removed, and I saw that there was mercy for poor sinners, even the worst. I would have given any thing to speak to you but I dare not; I thought it would be too great a liberty; I thought if I could only touch your gown it would be a pleasure to me. When I went home I wept bitterly; I tried to pray, but all I could say was Mercy! Mercy! I told my husband what I felt, but he laughed at me, and told me I was mad. I asked him to go and hear you, if only once, but he would not; after this I became much more composed, and by degrees, from going to church, and hearing this poor woman read the chapter in which the texts were, I became quite another being. I trembled to think how I had been living, and
"The object of my visit is a poor uneducated woman who has resided in this village for some time; during the last two years she has been a constant attendant in the house of God, until her present illness confined her to her bed about a month since. I was pleased to observe when I last conversed with her, that her mind was evidently under religious impressions; and though she said little, for she appeared very modest and retiring, I was satisfied that she had not attended the services of religion without much benefit. I have been since informed, that she is tranquil and happy. Her abode is on the border of the adjoining parish, just beyond the mill which you see before us."
We crossed a little rivulet and entered the garden; it was small, but neatly arranged. At the door of the cottage stood her husband, who seemed anxiously awaiting our arrival, and taking off his hat as we approached him, addressed my friend, "Oh, sir, I am so glad you are come; my poor wife is so very bad, and she says she shall die happy if she can but see you; pray, sir, walk in." "I have brought a friend," said the Curate, "who wishes to see what religion can do for the poor, and I hope he will see that it can make them happy in the hour of death; I have heard that your poor wife has a religion which can support her-is it so?" "Ah, blessed be God, and one that can support me too, sir, or I do not know what I should do now,-poor Betsy! she will soon be gone to heaven, but I hope God will take care of me and my poor children-I have six of 'em, sir." "Well, my good friend, you know He has said leave thy fatherless children and I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow