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Reverend Devereux Jarratt.
Virginia, October 24, 1794. REV. AND DEAR SIR,
THE present time being marked with peculiar traits of impiety, and such an almost universal inattention to the concerns of religion prevailing, that very few will attend, except on Sundays, to hear the word of God, I have, for a while, desisted from travelling, and making any appointments, on week days, for preaching, -except on funeral occasions. Conse. quently, I have more leisure and retirement now, than at any period since the commencement of my ministry in this place. I am indeed become a mere recluse. I have dismissed all my pupils,—my family consists only of my wife, her cousin, and my. self: and, what is unusual, we have had,
of late, but few visitors, except some of the poor neighbours, who apply to my wife for food, physic and direction, according to their complaints and necessities.
In this recess, I am not idle. I consider idleness as a crime of no small magnitude. But I have no inclination to idleness, and am so far from wishing for a licence to indulge myself in it, that I find it an insupportable drudgery to be confined to a state of inactivity, or absolute disengagement.
My age and infirmities might, with a shew of justice, plead for some relaxation. I do, in good truth, very sensibly experi. ence a number of those attendants on old age, which the wise king so elegantly paints in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes. I am just now entering on the grand Climacteric. At least, I shall enter on it, in less than two months. I know not that my intellectuals are in the least impaired. My judgment; memory, reason, and the powers of imagination are yet intire. I cannot, therefore, say, the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars are, as yet, darkened-but I too feelingly experience, that, the clouds return after rain :-I find one complaint treading on the heel of another. I can say also, with great propriety, the keepers of the house tremble, the strong men bow them
selves,--the grinders cease, because they are few, and those that look out of the window are darkened.—My hands tremble and shake,-my knees, legs and ancles support the body with feebleness and pain, my teeth are reduced to a small number, and the grinders cease to perform their office of mastication; and what remain are litterally few :--the sight of mine eyes has long since failed me. I have used spectacles for near twenty years.
But in the next sentence of his animated description, the royal preacher takes his leave of me. For, my hearing being now as quick, my ear, relish, and, perhaps, voice as good for music, as ever, I cannot say, the daughters of music are brought low. For the perfection of this sense of hearing, I hope I am thankful.- When I say I have still a good ear for music, and relish for harmonious sounds, I need not tell you I mean vocal music and such only as is em. ployed in the solemn worship of God. In my younger days, it is true, I learned to play on the violin : yet, after I came to serious reflection, and saw the pernicious use, to which the music of that instrument was generally applied, I conscientiously laid it aside, and to this day, I shut my ears against it. I think I have not heard a tune
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on the violin, more than once, for near 30 years.-But I am rambling from the point in view, and must correct myself.
I was telling you my present situation, immured, for the most part, within the walls of my own house that I consider imes I idleness as a great fault-an irreconcileable enemy to innocence--and how averse I am to a state of inactivity. I am therefore endeavouring, in my retirement, still to be doing something, which may be beneficial to myself and others. On this principle, I engaged, two years ago, in writing three volumes of sermons. Two of which, tem to you know have already come out, and the third is in the press. At this time, indeed, neither good books, nor good preaching seem to avail much, yet, I have my hopes, that my labour will not be in vain, and that those plain and pointed discourses will, one day, prove beneficial to some readers.-I have been urged to write more sermons ;but I think the number already written sufficient to answer the end I designed,* and, perhaps, do as much good, as a greater number. What I may do, should God prolong my life, I cannot now decide, but pered. at present, I have little thought of publish- pieare ing any more sermons.
* See the preface, Vol. I.
Few clergymen have, I believe, a better library than I have, either in the number or excellency of the books it contains. I spend, and have spent, during my recess, a good deal of my time in reading, sometimes Divinity, and sometimes the Spectator, history, philosophy, &c. The discourses I deliver at my three churches, and funerals, take up but a small portion of my time in preparing them—perhaps, not more than an hour in a month, and for the most part, not a moment. They are all extemporaneous, and I endeavor to accommodate them to my congregation, for the time being. Formerly, I was so confident of having the same hearers every Sunday, if they were well, that I could prepare a suitable discourse at homembut since these times of distraction, or division, I seldom have the same hearers two Sundays together, so that I cannot so well fix on any particular subject for premeditation : and when I have premeditated on a subject, it has often happened, when I have got to church, so unsuitable to the audience, that I have laid it aside, and spoke from the first text that offered, which I judged more proper for the hearers. These things considered, it will appear