Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

been repeatedly deceived by those in whom she trusted; still she retained that love which “thinketh no evil,”—that “charity” which “ never faileth.” Any approach to dissimulation, equivocation, or even concealment, her soul abhorred; and a falsehood in her children was visited with the heaviest punishment her domestic discipline tolerated.

Another most prominent characteristic was her entire freedom from selfish feeling. Her own comfort, convenience, or even illness, never appeared a subject of consideration; for she thought no sacrifice too great which could promote the welfare of others. She lived not for herself : and how far the sacrifice of all personal consideration affected herself, and how far it benefited others, will be made known in that day, when“ secret things” shall be made manifest.

In every action of her life her intention appeared to be pure. She weighed her motives, even more scrupulously than her actions; and could confidently appeal to Him who searcheth the heart. But her reward is with God, and her “ record is on high.” I could say much, O how much more! of her excellences, and still those who knew her best would say, “ The half had not been told.” She might have faults, for it is the attribute of spiritual natures only to cast no shadow; but I could never discover them, unless virtues carried to excess might be termed such.

For some years she suffered extremely, at intervals, from great difficulty in breathing; and towards the close of the year 1833 the paroxysms became more frequent and intense. I believe she herself thought that her “days were numbered," and would have wished her children to know the worst; but it was a subject they could not endure to contemplate for a moment; and they fondly hoped that change of air would produce a favourable change in the disorder. She was wishful to accomplish the removal of herself and family to the house of her eldest daughter, Mrs. Alsop, in Derbyshire; a change which had been projected in the hope of benefiting her health, and which she anticipated with great pleasure. A few days previously to her departure from Sheffield, in a letter to Mrs. Alsop, the last she ever wrote, she remarked, “The Lord has laid me aside; and what are his designs respecting me for the future, perhaps a little time may clearly unfold. I want to say continually, 'Thy will be done.' His wisdom cannot err. His goodness cannot prove unkind. It is a dark and cloudy day with us, my dear Bessy : but God can chase the gathered cloud. Let us hope in his mercy."

She performed the journey without much fatigue ; but, on assisting her from the chaise, we read in her beloved countenance the impress of deeper disease and suffering than we had before apprehended. During the evening she exerted herself to talk, and appear cheerful; for she never met her children without a smile, even when the hand of death was on her heart. The next day she seemed worse ; and in the course of it observed, “I know not what the Lord is about to do with me; but if he take me, he will take me to himself; and if I live, I must live to his glory.” Neither herself nor her family apprehended any immediate danger. She said, “ I have no intimation of my death being near; and I think before the Lord takes me, he will make you all more willing to give me up; but I am in his hands, and whatever he does will be right.” To her medical attendant she said, “I can place no dependence on any works of my own. My trust is on the propitiation of Christ; and through that sacrifice, I believe, for me to die will be gain.” She frequently repeated those lines from our hymn-book :

“One only way the erring mind
Of man, short-sighted man, can find,

From inbred sin to fly :
Stronger than love, I fondly thought,
Death, only death, can cut the knot,

Which love cannot untie.
“ But thou, O Lord, art full of grace,
Thy love can find a thousand ways

To foolish man unknown :
My soul upon thy love I cast,
I rest me, till the storm be past,

Upon thy love alone.
“ Thy faithful, wise, almighty love,
Shall every stumbling-block remove,

And make an open way;
Thy love shall burst the shades of death,
And bear me from the gulf beneath,

To everlasting day.”
The three last lines were frequently on her lips.

For the last few days the complaint appeared considerably to affect her head; but her hallucinations were characterized by all that goodness and purity which seemed a part of herself; and the manner in which she consecutively repeated passages of Scripture, and verses from our hymn book, proved that her memory was unimpaired.

Her expressions of unbounded affection for her family, and gratitude to God for her children, are engraven on their hearts in characters which death alone can efface.

On the last night of my beloved mother's life, her two youngest daughters watched by her bed, though quite unconscious that the closing scene drew near. About five o'clock in the morning, perceiving a slight change, they called her daughter, Mrs. Alsop, who, with Mr. Alsop, immediately entered the room. On Mrs. Alsop saying, “Mother, are you worse?” she replied, “ As much relieved as it is possible to be." These were almost her last intelligible words. After reposing a few moments, with her head resting on her hand, in an attitude of perfect peace and beauty, her happy spirit, without a struggle, passed away from its earthly tabernacle into the presence of him who redeemed it, and has now clothed it with immortality. “She was not, for God took her.”

DIVINITY.

DIVINE PROVIDENCE:

A DISCOURSE :
BY THE REV. JONATHAN CROWTHER.

(Concluded from page 747.) Let us proceed to notice,

II. The general characteristics of that divine Providence which is demonstrated to exist.

On this head our way is plain before us, when we remember that a Providence which is divine, must bear the characteristics of the God to whom it is attributed.

1. In the first place, then, this Providence is universal ; “ for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” By a universal Providence we mean a Providence which is at the same time general and particular,—a general Providence, as comprehending in one view the interests of all mankind, collectively considered, and a particular Providence, as exercising a superintending care over the various subdivisions of our race, and watching over the minutest circumstances of individual character and history. Indeed, a Providence which is divine must necessarily bear both these characteristics. No argument can be adduced in favour of the one, which is not equally applicable in favour of the other; and we cannot exclude either of them from our notion of that Providence by which the world is governed, without admitting into our notion of the Deity, by whom that providence is exercised, an imperfection of which he is incapable. For, in excluding either a general or a particular Providence, we necessarily suppose some portion of our world, of greater or less extent, from which the divine presence and care are totally excluded. It is true, that we are utterly confounded in every attempt we make to estimate the wisdom, and power, and condescension, which are required to be in constant exercise, in order to the maintenance of an inspection so vast in its extent, and yet so minute in its details. But from this feeling of astonishment no objection would arise against the doctrine either of a general or a particular Providence, were it not for those monstrously absurd comparisons which we are wont to institute between the Almighty and ourselves, together with our strange forgetfulness of the important truth, that God is every where present, at one and the same time, and that to One whose knowledge and power are subject to no bound or imperfection, it must be quite as easy to attend to many things, however numerous or complicated they may be, as to attend to only one. To whom will ye liken me, or shall I be equal ? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number, he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known ? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary ? there is no searching of his understanding.” You cannot but frequently have noticed and admired the terms in which the Psalmist treats this lofty and interesting subject, and the devout and humble spirit in which, in the midst of an overwhelming astonishment, he goes on to acknowledge what yet he cannot comprehend. O Lord,” says he, “thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thoughts afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou koowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.” Having pro. ceeded thus far in the contemplation of the providence of God, as extending to every circumstance in his own character and history, and recollecting, at the same time, that this same providence was universal, he pauses for a moment to give vent to the overpowering feeling which the contemplation has inspired. “Such knowledge,” says he, “is too wonderful for me : it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” But what then? Does he begin forthwith to question the possibility of such a Providence as that which he has been contemplating ? Nay, the sacred poet stays but to rest his wings a moment, after the flight he has been taking, and then prepares himself for a still loftier flight, in celebration of the Omnipresent and Almighty Providence which he adored. “Whither,” he adds, “shall I go from thy Spirit ? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

2. A second characteristic of the providence of God is its beneficence. In all its operations, it regards, as its final object, the welfare of mankind in general; and, as far as may be found consistent with that object, the welfare of individuals, in particular. This general purpose of beneficence is, to a great degree, apparent in the general provision which is made for human sustenance and comfort. It is impossible to view the astonishing arrangements which every where display themselves, for the supply of food convenient for us, and for the general preservation of our race, without being prompted to exclaim, “ Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness.” And the moral ends contemplated by a Providence, which is thus mindful of our bodily necessities, and of our humblest natural infirmities, must be, in even more than an equal degree, characterized by a pure and infinite beneficence. So that, with regard to this higher and main object of its operations, it may, with a peculiar emphasis, be laid down as the rule of the divine procedure, that, though the Lord cause grief, yet will he also have compassion, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. There may, at first, indeed, appear to be something almost incompatible with such a doctrine, in the affliction and misery which desolate the earth ; and it might seem to be rather a perplexing task, to reconcile the natural evils which are permitted to exist and operate to so fearful an extent, with a Providence universally and unchangingly beneficent. But the difficulty arising on that ground is easily resolved, by such considerations as the following :

(1.) In the first place, much of the natural evil which exists is rendered, in some sort, necessary by the depravity of man. It constitutes, in fact, a part of that salutary chastening, by which, not unmindful even of the prodigal who has wandered from his household, and wasted his substance in riotous living, our heavenly Father seeks to recover the children of disobedience to the wisdom of the just; or, if they are already recovered, opens to their faith the means of apprehending “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” As it respects the gracious purpose of Almighty God in those afflictions which he permits to come upon his people, there is no question ; and there ought to be no question as to his purpose, in the affliction of those who are yet aliens from the commonwealth of his Israel, and strangers from his covenants of promise. Io vain, perhaps, have been the attempts of his providence, by the dispensations of its bounty, to win the thoughtless wanderer to reflection and repentance ; but, “in the day of his affliction,” says Jehovah, “he will seek me early.” In mercy, therefore, to the sinner, rather than in anger, and not with any thing like a vindictive purpose, he lays his chastening hand upon him. Or, without the positive infliction of any stroke of chastisement, he so leaves the sinner to the course of his own heart, and to the fruit of his own doings, as that his own wickedness corrects him, and his backslidings reprove him ; until, humbled and recovered by the only means which could have been availing for that purpose, he returns to God in the day of visitation, singing of mercy as well as of judgment, and saying, fron a heart rendered not more contrite than grateful by afliction, “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted ; for, before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept thy word.”

(2.) Even in those cases, where individuals, or collective communities of men, themselves derive no moral benefits from the evils which they suffer, yet very frequently there results a moral benefit to others; and tbus, under all the circumstances of such cases, the infliction of those evils is vindicated, as being consistent with the goodness and mercy of God, not less than with his justice. Take, as examples, the general deluge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am not prepared to argue so strenuously as some have done, that from the calamities inflicted, in each of these instances respectively, any moral benefit

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »