Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

question as to the affection he had borne to the deceased it had even prevailed, as he readily allowed, to an eecentric and blameable degree; and indeed after her removal, he used to observe an annual seclusion, for a special recollection of her, whom through the year he had never forgotten, and from which proceeded a sort of little elegies or sonnets to her memory. But he clearly recognised the will of God in the removal of his idol, and reasoned as David did on the occasion; "While she was yet alive I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that she may live? But, now she is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring her back again? I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.'


Besides which, Mr. N. had a favourite sentiment, which I have heard him express in different ways, long before he had so special an occasion for illustrating it in practice. "God in his providence," he used to say, "is continually bringing about occasions to demonstrate characters." He used to instance the case of Achan and Judas among bad men; and that of St. Paul, Acts xxvii, among good ones. If any one," said he, "had asked the centurion, who Paul the prisoner was, that [sailed with them on board the ship-it is probable he would have thus replied, He is a troublesome enthusiast, who had lately joined himself to a certain sect. These people affirm, that a Jewish malefactor, who was crucified some years ago at Jerusalem, rose the third day from the dead; and this Paul is mad enough to assert, that Jesus, the leader of their sect, is not only now alive, but that he himself has seen him, and is resolved to live and die for him-Poor crazy creature!' But God made use of this occasion to discover the real character of Paul, and taught the centurion, from the circumstances which followed, to whom it was he owed his direction in the storm, and for whose sake he received his preservation through it."

In all trying occasions, therefore, Mr. N. was particularly impressed with the idea of a Christian, and especially of a Christian minister, being called to stand forward as an example to his flock-to feel himself placed in a post of honour-a post, in which he may not only glorify God, but also forcibly demonstrate the peculiar supports of the Gospel. More especially, when this could be done (as in his own case) from no doubtful mo

tive; then it may be expedient to leave the path of or dinary custom, for the greater reason of exhibiting both the doctrines of truth, and the experience of their power.

Though I professedly publish none of Mr. N.'s letters, for reasons hereafter assigned, yet I shall take the liberty to insert part of one, with which I am favoured by J. F, Esq., of Stanmore Hill, written to him while at Rome, and dated December 5th, 1796. It shows the interest which the writer took in the safety of his friend, and his address in attempting to break the enchantments with which men of taste are surrounded, when standing in the centre of the fine arts.

"The true Christian, in strict propriety of speech, has no home here; he is, and must be, a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth: his citizenship, treasure, and real home are in a better world; and every step he takes, whether to the east, or to the west, is a step nearer to his Father's house. On the other hand, when in the path of duty, he is always at home; for the whole earth is the Lord's: and as we see the same sun in England or Italy, in Europe or Asia, so wherever he is, he equally sets the Lord always before him; and finds himself equally near the throne of grace at all times, and in all places. God is everywhere, and, by faith in the Great Mediator, he dwells in God, and God in him; to him that line of Horace may be applied in the best sense,

Cœlum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.

"I trust, my dear Sir, that you will carry out and bring home with you, a determination similar to that of the patriarch Jacob; who vowed a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God!' May the Lord himself write it on your heart!


You are now at Rome, the centre of the fine arts; a place abounding with every thing to gratify a person of your taste. Athens had the pre-eminence in the apostle Paul's time; and I think it highly probable, from many passages in his writings, that he likewise had a taste capable of admiring and relishing the beauties of painting, sculpture, and architecture, which he could not but observe during his abode in that city: but then he had a

higher, a spiritual, a divine taste, which was greatly shocked and grieved by the ignorance, idolatry, and wickedness, which surrounded him, insomuch, that he could attend to nothing else. This taste, which cannot be acquired by any effort or study of ours, but is freely bestowed on all who sincerely ask it of the Lord, divests the vanities, which the world admire, of their glare; and enables us to judge of the most splendid and specious works of men, who know not God, according to the declaration of the prophet, They hatch cockatrice eggs, and weave the spider's web.' Much ingenuity is displayed in the weaving of cobweb, but when finished it is worthless and useless: incubation requires close diligence and attention; if the hen is too long from her nest, the egg is spoiled; but why should she sit at all upon the egg, and watch it, and warm it night and day, if it only produces a cockatrice at last? Thus vanity or mischief are the chief rulers of unsanctified genius; the artists spin webs, and the philosophers, by their learned speculations, hatch cockatrices, to poison themselves and their fellow-creatures: few of either sort have one serious thought of that awful eternity, upon the brink of which they stand for a while, and into the depth of which they sucessively fall.

"A part of the sentence denounced against the city, which once stood upon seven hills, is so pointed and graphical, that I must transcribe it: And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee, and the light of a candle shall no more be seen in thee.' Now, I am informed, that, upon certain occasions, the whole cupola of St. Peter's is covered with lamps, and affords a very magnificent spectacle: if I saw it, it would remind me of that time when there will not be the shining of a single candle in the city; for the sentence must be executed, and the hour may be approaching :


Sic transit gloria mundi!

"You kindly inquire after my health: myself and family are through the Divine favour perfectly well; yet, healthy as I am, I labour under a growing disorder, for which there is no cure; I mean old age. I am not

sorry it is a mortal disease, from which no one recovers; for who would live always in such a world as this, who has a scriptural hope of an inheritance in the world of light? I am now in my seventy-second year, and seem to have lived long enough for myself; I have known something of the evil of life, and have had a large shar e of the good. I know what the world can do, and what it cannot do it can neither give nor take away that peace of God, which passeth all understanding; it cannot soothe a wounded conscience, nor enable us to meet death with comfort. That you, my dear Sir, may have an abiding and abounding experience that the Gospel is a catholicon, adapted to all our wants and all our feelings, and a suitable help when every other help fails, is the sincere and ardent prayer of

"Your affectionate friend,

But in proportion as Mr. N. felt the vanity of the pursuits he endeavoured to expose in the foregoing letter, he was as feelingly alive to whatever regarded eternal concerns. Take an instance of this, in a visit which he paid to another friend. This friend was a minister, who affected great accuracy in his discourses, and who, on that Sunday, had nearly occupied an hour in insisting on several laboured and nice distinctions made in his sub

ject. As he had a high estimation of Mr. N.'s judgment, he inquired of him, as they walked home, whether he thought the distinctions just now insisted on were full and judicious? Mr. N. said he thought them not full, as a very important one had been omitted "What can that be?" said the minister, "for I had taken more than ordinary care to enumerate them fully." "I think not," replied Mr. N., "for when many of your congregation had travelled several miles for a meal, I think you should not have forgotten the important distinction which must ever exist between meat and bones."

In the year 1790, Mr. N. had the honorary degree of D.D. conferred upon him by the university of New Jersey in America, and the diploma sent him. He also received a work in two volumes, dedicated to him with the above title annexed to his name. Mr. N. wrote the author a grateful acknowledgment for the work, but

begged to decline an honour which he never intended to accept. "I am," said he, "as one born out of due time. I have neither the pretension nor wish to honours of this kind. However, therefore, the university may over-rate my attainments, and thus show their respect, I must not forget myself; it would be both vain and improper were I to concur in it."

But Mr. N. had yet anothor storm to weather. While we were contemplating the long and rough voyage he had passed, and thought he had only now to rest in a quiet haven, and with a fine sunsetting at the close of the evening of his life; clouds began to gather again, and seemed to threaten a wreck at the very entry of the port*.

He used to make excursions in the summer to different friends in the country, endeavouring to make these visits profitable to them and their neighbours, by his continual prayers, and the expositions he gave of the scriptures read at their morning and evening worship. I have heard of some, who were first brought to the knowledge of themselves and of God by attending his exhortations on these occasions; for, indeed, besides what he undertook in a more stated way at the church, he seldom entered a room, but something both profitable and entertaining fell from his lips. After the death of Miss Cunningham and Mrs. N., his companion in these summer excursions was his other niece, Miss Elizabeth Catlett. This young lady had also been brought up by Mr. and Mrs. N. with Miss Cunningham, and on the

In a MS. note on a letter dated 15th Dec. 1797, he writes, "Though I am not so sensibly affected as I could wish, I hope I am truly affected by the frequent reviews I make of my past life. Perhaps the annals of thy church scarcely afford an instance in all respects so singular. Perhaps thy grace may have recovered some from an equal degree of apostasy, infidelity, and profligacy; but few of them have been redeemed from such a state of misery and depression as I was in, upon the coast of Africa, when thy unsought mercy wrought for my deliverance: but that such a wretch should not only be spared and pardoned, but reserved to the honour of preaching thy Gospel, which he had blasphemed and renounced, and at length be placed in a very public situation, and favoured with acceptance and usefulness, both from the pulpit and the press: so that my poor name is known in most parts of the world, where there are any who know thee-this is wonderful indeed! The more thou hast exalted me, the more I ought to abase myself."

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »