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And again, in February 1832:
"We seem as a nation to be arrived at that degree of wickedness and infidelity, as to require judicial inflictions from the Almighty Ruler, in order to lead men to thought and reflection. May God preserve us from this tremendous and afflictive disease (the cholera), and if it be his blessed will, stop its progress in our beloved, but apostatizing country. The latter epithet is a strong one, but I believe it is correct; although there are doubtless a large number of godly and devoted people among us. If our country is spared, it will be spared for their sakes, for they are the preservers of nations and the salt of the earth."
In the autumn of this year (1832) this dreadful malady appeared in Olney, and it produced an appalling sensation in the minds of the inhabitants. Their pastor recommended a parochial fast, and assembled the people for public humiliation and prayer. The burials for about three weeks were very frequent; and amid the stillness of midnight, and the additional gloom thrown around death and the grave, by the peculiarly awful nature of the visitation; solitude sometimes unbroken by the presence of a single mourner; and darkness unrelieved but by the glimmer of the lantern; my father committed to their long rest, the bodies of many of his congregation, in the stedfast hope of their glorious resurrection to eternal life. How wonderful in extent and combination, are that wisdom, power, and love, which from the ruins and corruption of the fall, can renew, purify and save; recal from the dark and silent chambers of the tomb, a countless multitude, who in radiant and immortal beauty, shall rise and for ever shine in that new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness!
In a letter of this year, to one of his sons, after noticing the anniversary of his birthday, he adds— "With respect to happy returns of one year after another, the hopes of the young are generally graduated too high on the scale of expectation of human felicity. The only way in which such a share of it may reasonably be hoped for, as we are warranted to expect in the present state of our existence, is from an experimental acquaintance with that religion, which influences us to serve God and our generation according to his will; and to live in the assured expectation of entering a state of perfect felicity, when we finish our chequered course here. * * • May God, my dear S., give us grace to fix our confidence and hope on the Rock of ages, which will remain immoveably secure, in the midst of all the storms and tempests with which it may be surrounded."
The following extract is from a letter written to one of his daughters, in reply to a question respecting the propriety of the form of absolution in the service for the Visitation of the Sick.
"My Dearest E.
"As your letter to me contains an inquiry on a subject which has often exercised the casuistical talents of theologians, clerical and lay, I am not surprised at your asking some questions respecting it. In giving you my opinion, I must premise that I have never used the form of absolution in the office for the ' Visitation of the Sick.' The fact is, that I seldom use any part of that service except when I administer the sacrament to the sick. My practice is to converse and offer up prayer extempore, according to circumstances. The form does not suit all cases; and although one has been provided, it was not intended to prevent a clergyman's using his discretion. I occasionally use the prayers, or parts of them, as circumstances may require, without confining myself to them. With respect to the Absolution, it has been defended by Comber, and other writers on the Liturgy; as it has been objected to by Dean Tucker, my late friend Sir James Stonhouse, and others. It is said, I believe on good authority, that Calvin did not object to it.
"It must be observed that the terms absolve and forgive, are not exactly synonimous. If you look in Johnson's Dictionary, you will see that he defines absolve in the ecclesiastical sense, 'to pronounce sin remitted.' The declaration, therefore, to the sick person in the form of the Absolution, if he truly repent and believe, amounts to this —' By Christ's authority, I pronounce all thy sins forgiven, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' You will remember that our Lord said to his apostles, 'Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose sins ye retain, they are retained.' But the apostles could not forgive sins absolutely, for this is the prerogative of God only; neither could they discover who were and who were not true penitents and believers. The general principle seems to be, that they had authority committed to them to pronounce sins forgiven or not forgiven, according to the method of God's grace in the gospel; and according to the character and experience of those on whom the forgiveness would or would not be conferred. While they thus acted in conformity to the command and direction of Christ, what they did on earth would be confirmed in heaven. But perhaps you may say, that any person may pronounce the sins of the penitent and believing forgiven. This is true; but the difference is, that the apostles (and I suppose all scriprurally authorized ministers who were to succeed them in the doctrine of Christ) were divinely commissioned to make this declaration of forgiveness or non-forgiveness, by a solemn, religious, and personal act, by virtue of the office and authority with which they are invested by Christ. Your remark, that the declaration of absolution as the 'word of reconciliation' committed to the minister as the ambassador of Christ, is quite correct.
"There arc many things in the scripture which will not bear the hair splitting reasonings of logic or metaphysics; but which we must take on trust, and receive by faith, and ' Thus saith the Lord,' must silence our objections."
The festivals and fasts of our church were observed by my father with peculiar devotion. He regarded them as important and interesting memorials, calculated to assist the faith of the christian, by cherishing vivid impressions of its great realities; and as representing to the devout mind a succession of beautiful pictures, wherein is figured by the pen of inspiration, the wondrous history of the Redeemer, from the cradle to the sepulchre, and thence to the right hand of the throne of God. As by faith the believer follows his divine Master along the path of humility, he learns from that noble example to bear his cross patiently, willingly, and cheerfully; and is increased with the increase of God, until in due time he is filled with His fulness. The congregation at these seasons was much augmented during the period of my father's ministry at Olney; and he made several attempts to introduce the occasional services on days when they had been long entirely omitted; particularly in the Passion week. But these efforts were not very successful; as few persons were able or willing to redeem time from their ordinary occupations, in order to attend divine worship on the morning of a week-day. When not performed at church, a domestic service supplied to his own family the place of a more public one. During the whole of Lent, he in the later years of his life, generally fasted one day in the week, and occasionally two. The last Ash-Wednesday (a fortnight only before his death) was passed in his usual manner. On account of the indifferent state of his health, breakfast had, contrary to the custom of his family, been brought into the parlour; but expressing some surprise at the deviation, he declined to take any. After the family prayers, he withdrew to his study; and excepting the hours allotted to public worship, he devoted the day to solitary meditation and prayer. Easter was always to him a season of exulting delight. His countenance beaming with joy, the first salutation to his family, in the morning of that day, was the primitive one—"The Lord is risen;" and he would expatiate on its especial blessedness as a "high day;" calling on them to rejoice and be glad in it. But before the return of that period of triumph to the church below, he joined the general assembly above, where the redeemed, present with their risen and glorified Saviour, "day without night, circle his throne rejoicing." On the Saints' days he invited the attention of his children and pupils to the characters of those holy men of old. It was long his custom after the morning prayers, to read with them the lesson for the day; himself in the Greek Testament, and they in whatever version they might prefer (excepting the English, which in this particular exercise was not allowed). He assisted them in difficulties, compared the translations, and made it a pleasing and instructive lecture in divinity. This scripture portion brought the holy days more immediately under review; and when falling on the Thursday, the character commemorated was made the subject of his evening lecture. Thus without confining himself to one pleasant enclosure, he followed the church in all her sacred walks through scripture; which