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with great simplicity and power, and where my esteemed friends, the Corries, usually attend; so that a kind Providence has made that provision for our spiritual necessities outside the pale of the Establishment, which we should have preferred within, but which is denied us unless we go to a considerable distance. We have attended this chapel regularly for some time, and are much delighted with the minister. He is an amiable, unobtrusive man—imbued, I trust, with the spirit of his Master—cheerful in his disposition, but rather reserved. Those who are admitted into more familiar intimacy, speak of him in the highest terms of affectionate respect; and he is much esteemed by his people. You know we are attached to the Church; but, after mature deliberation, we are satisfied that is our duty to hear the gospel; and as it is not preached by our Vicar, we feel it no less a duty than a privilege to go where the Lord has sent it. Our decision has offended some of the antievangelical high church families, who regard the Church of England with as much veneration as a Roman Catholic would a relic of St. Peter; but we must obey the dictates of conscience, which will no longer permit us to attend a ministry where the truths of the gospel are not preached. “From some of our new clergyman's discourses I have derived consolation, but he has not touched on any of the points of perplexity in which my mind is involved; and though at times I have thought of soliciting a personal interview, to make known to him all I feel, and all I fear, yet I cannot assume a sufficient degree of confidence to do it. Indeed, I cannot speak freely on such delicate subjects to any one but to you; and I hope, if you cannot spare time to pay us your long promised visit, that you will favour me with your advice, and I know you will not neglect to pray for me. “My sister Emma, I regret to say, continues to manifest a decided aversion to the things of the Spirit of God—they are foolishness to her; but Jane is becoming much more serious. I do not think that she is yet decided, but I hope the good work is begun. I often find her with her Bible, and sometimes she retires to her own room in the evening, where I hope she spends some portion of her time in praying to her Father in secret; and if so, He who seeth in secret will ultimately reward her openly.—Yours affectionately,
When a young Christian searches the Scriptures for correct information on the great questions of religion, and is favoured with the assistance of judicious and pious friends, he usually passes on from one degree of knowledge to another without meeting with the formidable obstructions and perplexing embarrassments to which he is exposed, by the conflicting opinions which are prevalent amongst us. The light which shines on the sacred page, when it comes directly from above, is clear and pure, and makes distinctly manifest, to the judgment and the conscience, the truth as it is in Jesus, in its simplicity and power. But when it passes through a human medium, it often shines in an oblique course, throwing into the shade some essential parts of the economy of Divine truth; and hence a defective theory is sometimes embraced, which always proves unsatisfactory, and sometimes fatal to our peace. It is therefore impossible to exercise too much caution, in the early periods of our experience, in the choice of our religious associates, and of the books which we read; as it is in the power of error, whether it comes from the lips of friendship or from the press, to do more essential injury than the truth may be able to repair, till after a lengthened period of extreme anxiety and disquietude. And as we are so liable to receive pernicious impressions from the numerous errors which are in perpetual circulation around us, we cannot depend with too much simplicity, or docility of disposition, on the Holy Ghost, whom the Saviour has promised to his disciples. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Hence it is indispensably necessary for the Christian, in every period of his life, but especially when entering on his religious course, to implore the gracious influence of the Divine Spirit, to guard him against every species of error– to lead him into all truth—and to invest the truth with that holy unction, which will render it no less a source of the highest intellectual improvement, than of the most exquisite mental enjoyment. Such a habit of dependence on Divine aid will be an effectual safeguard against the spirit of self-sufficiency, which proves so fatal to those who are enslaved by it; and while it will stimulate to mental diligence in searching the Scriptures, that we may ascertain what is the mind of the Spirit, it will keep us in a state of independence of human opinion.
But while I wish to point out to the attention of the young Christian, the dangers to which he is exposed from the society of his pious yet injudicious friends, and to bring him into immediate connection with the Spirit of truth, I would, at the same time, guard him against indulging any visionary expectations respecting the mode of His instruction, or the infallible certainty of the opinions He may permit us to form. He teaches through the medium of the Scriptures, even while the judgment is altogether unconscious of any supernatural assistance; but His communications are restricted to those points in the system of truth which are essential to salvation; leaving us to form our own judgment on questions of minor importance. Hence the agreement amongst the disciples of Christ, on what is essential, and their diversity on what is non-essential.
But even when we are taught by the Holy Spirit, and thus imbibe the truth in its most perfect state, it will not always retain its original power of impression, but will admit of a partial declension in moving the affections, even while its authority over the judgment and the conscience remain undiminished. Hence the lines of Cowper are often employed as expressive of the disconsolate state of the heart:—
“Where is the blessedness I knew, When first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view, Of Jesus and his Word? What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd : How sweet their mem'ry still But they have left an aching void, The world can never fill." And this cessation of a powerful excitement, which usually succeeds the first impressions of truth, is often regarded, by the Christian, as an indisputable evidence of the decay of his religious principles, when it may be nothing more than a necessary consequence of the more advanced progress of his personal experience, as the change of the leaf, from living green to the auburn hue, is a plain indication that the fruit is advancing in its ripening process. The above account presents an instance, which has many parallels, of the struggles, anxieties, and perplexities, which so often beset the mind of the believer on his first entering on his career of Christian experience. I shall return soon to the continuation of the history of Mr. Holmes' family; but, in the meantime, must beg the courteous reader to accompany me back, for a short space, to my own town, from which I have been led by this digression in my narrative.
-- requesting that I would call on her as soon as I could
make it convenient. From the tone of the letter, and some expres
sions contained in it, I judged she was in trouble, and accordingly
proceeded immediately towards her house. As I was passing along,
I remembered that, several years before, I had received a similar note, written by the same hand, and in a similar strain of grief. The writer was a widow, whose husband had been cut off in the flower of his days, leaving her to provide for their children, who were at that time all dependent on her. On the occasion I speak of, I found her bewailing the alarming illness of her only son, a youth of about fifteen years. She complained with bitterness that the Almighty, who had taken away her husband, was now about to take away her first-born also. I attempted to bring her mind into a state of acquiescence to the Divine will, by reminding her that no affliction came by chance—that he who works all things after his own counsel, often sends an early affliction, to prevent a more painful one—and that when he is pleased to take from us our choicest comforts, it is “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” She replied that the Almighty might tear her son from her, but she could not surrender him. When I expostulated with her, she did not attempt to justify her opposition to the will of God, but excused herself from the affection she bore her son; and earnestly requested me to pray for him, and pray that his life might be spared. We prayed together for the lad, and in due time he was restored to health. Having removed soon after this to a different quarter of the town, I had seen but little of him or his family for a considerable time.
Perhaps, thought I, as I drew near the house of sorrow, the life of this son is again in danger. He has been spared a few years, as the staff of his mother's strength, and now she is inured to her troubles, he is about to be taken from her. Indulgent, yet mysterious Providence! The lines of the poet recurred to my recollection with peculiar force—
“The ways of heaven are dark and intricate.