« AnteriorContinuar »
Were examples wanting to show the efficacy of parental instruction on the tender mind, one more would be supplied in the memoirs before us. Miss C. E. Sınelt was the daughter of a woman who early devoted her to the Lord, and poured into her infant mind the lessons of pious instruction, which were not forgotten amidst the many temptations to which the young are always exposed. She was born in Augusta, (Geo.) Dec. 28th 1800; was the second child of respectable parents, whose property and station in society were those most perfectly adapted to gratily the strongest propensities of our natures, by affording the means of earthly enjoyment in whatever channel tlie possessor may choose to prosecute it. At eight years of age, the death of a little sister left her the only surviving child of the family. Her parents, as might be expected, were deeply solicitous for her welfare, and their highest earthly felicity was centered in that of their daughter. The early expansion of her mind gave promise of high intellectual attainments. Examples of the suavity of her temper, her compassion to the poor and unfortunate, her surprising docility, and dutiful affection to her parents, give a warm interest to the relation, and increase our desire to know more of a character, concerning which the fragments we here possess are so excellent.
Her mother did not deem it suflicient to give her daughter a few loose and general instructions on religious subjects, or leave her to the chance of hearing now and then a sermon, and to pick up a faith and practice as she might find them in the maxims and babits of fashionable life. She began in season; and, in most instances, as appears from the narrative, she supported her religious precepts by the author- , ity of example.
The limits we have prescribed to this article do not admit very copious extracts from the narrative, but we must confine them to a very few sentences.
“About this time (viz. the winter of 1815-16) Mrs. Smelt felt unusually exercised about the eternal welfare of her daughter, and frequently retired with her to hold secret prayer. She felt oppressed with apprehensions for the life of her child, and to many of her friends expressed a fear that she should lose her soon. To one she said, “I fear that the worm is already at the root of my gourd: I feel an awful presentiment that my Caroline will descend to an early tomb." To another she said, “O that my child were but right in the sight of the Lord, I should then feel more comfortable, and less reluctant to part with her.” To a pious friend she frequently mentioned her apprehensions, and intrcated him to lay her case before the Lord.' She saw that Caroline was serious, that she had very correct views of religion; was remarkably tender, and read the Scriptures. She had also good reason to believe that she was attentive to secret devotion. She listened attentively to pious instructions, while tears would flow down her cheeks; but she never could draw her out in conversation, so as to obtain a knowledge of her views as it respected herself, por could any of her pious friends succeed any better,
Sbe' was asked several times by her mother, why she observed so much reserve on this all-important subject, and could be so communicative on any other? She once replied, "My dear Mamma, I have no confidence in myself; i hope to do that which is right when I shall have more experience. I desire to belong to the little flock, but I am too unstable.” Pp. 44, 45,
To the two descriptions of persons, those who disapprove, and those who patronize and frequent, fashionable amusements, ibis litle book is
strongly recommended. Not that we suppose it can be equally acceptable to both, but that neither would be likely to peruse it without advantage.
"On the subject of worldly amusement, she was uncommonly earnest and forcible. In speaking on this subject to some friends, she said, "let no person, endowed with rational powers, call them innocent or harmless. How can that be innocent, which leads to a prodigal waste of precious time? How can that thing be called harmless, which leads to an unnecessary exposure of health: How can that amusement be innocent, which has not the glory of God for its object? How can that amusement be harmless, which has a direct tendency to unfit the mind for devotional exercises. We are such frail creatures that we constantly require some excitement to lead us to God, and not to estrange us from him. Will any venture to say, that they have been brought to love the Lord Jesus better, by having attended a theatre or a ball-room I presume not. I can say from my own experience, that I never derived solid improvement or real pleasure from either. From neither of them, have I ever derived any thing which could afford my mind the least satisfaction in bours devoted to self-examination, nor any thing to strengthen the soul against the terrors of death and judgment. I consider them worse than vanity—they are exceedingly sinful.” pp. 102, 103,
On the 28th of August, 1817, Caroline was attacked by a fever, which terminated her life. In the progress of this painful disease, she displayed the Christian submission of an eminent saint, gave those pathetic exhortations to her friends, and animating expressions of genuine faith, which are peculiarly consoling to the hearts of survivors; and the recital of which constitutes many of the most interesting passages of this little volume.
There are great numbers of human beings, who, so far as the substantial good of the universe is concerned, seem to live for no valuable purpose. Measuring the additions to the happiness of the world, made tlırough their exertions, by all we know of them, and the immediate or remote consequences of their actions by present appearances, we should conclude that they live and die almost in vain. There are others, some of whom are found in the silent shades of humble life, to whose actions God in his rich mercy has imparted an astonishing efficacy. If they speak, a divine energy seems to accompany every syllable which falls from their lips. If they suffer affliction, their calm submission, their fortitude, reposing on the promises of the God of truth, pronounce "a lecture silent, but of sovereign power." Undoubtedly some obscure individuals, whose names were scarcely ever heard beyond their native villages, will be found at the last day, to have accomplished more good, even in a single day, than many of the celebrated personages, that have filled the trumpet of fame, in all the years in which they have made the world to gaze and tremble. Nevertheless, those whose property or talents place them in the elevated circles of society, possess an influence of inestimable value. They regulate the taste, and give a strong bias to the morals, of the region around them. Happy the neighborhood, where such influence is directed to its legitimate object; singularly blessed is that family, to whom God has imparted so rich a gift as was enjoyed in the short but eventful life of Caroline.
For the Panoplist.
THE EFFECTS OF THE FEAR OF MAN ON THE CONDUCT OF
The fear of man is a fruitful source of danger and temptation. When it operates more powerfully than the fear of God, it brings a snare, and entangles many souls. Often in consequence of it, are they involved in difficulties and troubles. Facts show its power at this moment. That it has always excited a prodigious energy may be seen by turning to any of the sacred pages.
The perseverance of believers is secured by the immutable promises of God; yet, through the influence of the fear of man, they are often tempted to distrust these promises, to sin, and make work for bitter repentance. For the truth of this remark, an appeal may be made to facts. What induced Abraham, when going into the land of Egypt, to dissemble in regard to his wife? What tempted Isaac to commit the same fault? What excited Aaron in the absence of Moses to concur with the people in the detestable idolatry of the golden calf? What disposed David to distrust the express promises of God in relation to the kingdom, when he said in his heart, I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul? What overwhelmed the Christian courage and magnanimity of Elijah, at the time his life was threatened by Jezebel, when he fled from duty, and passionately wished for death? What shook the resolution of Peter, and surprised him into a denial of his Lord, when by the voice of a woman, he was challenged as a follower? It was the fear of man. These ancient saints generally reposed in the unchangeable truth and promises of God, with a lively and supporting hope, with a firm and unshaken confidence. But in those perilous situations in which they were placed, the vigor of their faith seemed for a season to be overpowered by slavish fear, which burried them onward to perpetrate crimes, to the reproach of religion and the dishonor of God. Yielding to this, Christians in every age and country, have been tempted, harassed, and driven from the post of duty. Faith, instead of being alike vigorous and efficacious, is often languid; then carnal fear gains the ascendency in the mind: and in seasons of peril, of alarm and trial, it proves a dangerous tempter. How many Christians, in perilous circumstances, whose wavering faith had not a firma hold on Christ, bave been tempted timidly to desert his cause. How many in past ages of religious persecution, have been terrified by perils from their fellow-creatures, into a cowardly recantation of truths, which should have been uttered and maintained with boldness and decision. Frar of suffering extinguished their courage, and disheartening them from standing forth in an intrepid and decided manner in their Savior's cause. Thousands of Christian martyrs indeed, relying on the divine power and truth, rose above the frowns of man, and nobly sealed their testimony with blood. Unawed by the threats of tyrants, they encountered the horrors of martyrdorn with a dignified compusure of mind. Rich in grace and reposing with a faith, that
around him, by example, liis disapprobation of the sinful customs aand 166 The effects of the fear of 'Man on the Conduct of Christians. April, could not be broken down, in the promises and veracity of God, they obtained a glorious victory, over all the fears of man, and every other temptation, and terminated with success and honor, their Christian warfare. But many had not faith so lively and powerful. The sight of the loathsome dungeon, the axe, and the flaming faggot, shook : their courage and filled them with terrifying apprehensions. They entered indeed into the combat, but fear tempted them to a criminal distrust of providence. It suggested to them the most excruciating sufferings, the confiscation of property, the loss of friends, the sacrifice of personal honor, emolument, and every thing dear in this life, as a consequence of persisting to follow the standard of the cross. It dissuaded them from their purposes, and suggested to them the opinion, that it would be more honorable to renounce their creed, than to suffer; to apostatize than to be imprisoned, tortured, or exiled; and they fainted and yielded to its clamorous solicitations.
But how do Christians behave now? Are they not too often controlled by the fear of man? What but this, makes them so backward in manifesting an attachment to Christ, and so little concerned for his glory? What but this, inakes them so unwilling to suffer and labor in his vineyard; or to unite their efforts for the suppression of iniquity, for the diffusion of Christian knowledge, and the extension of the Redeemer's lingdom? How many would be more prompt and faithful in the performance of every duty, more bold in defence of truth, and in projecting schemes of benevolence, were it not for fear of being pointed at and ridiculed. How many, through fear of losing the friendship of the world, and of being subjected to the painful mortification of reproach, will not take an active part in arresting the progress of intemperance, sabbath-breaking, and other kindred vices, which threaten to desolate the world, and awaken against our land the divine indignation. Dreading the sneers of the ignorant and profligate, they slumber in criminal supineness, at the moment when the cause of religion suffers for want of the well directed efforts of all its professed friends. They lament the evils which wear such an alarming aspect, and call for a speedy remedy. They would rejoice in reformation. But when their obligations to assist in those measures, which are adapted to effect it, are unfolded, they excuse themselves, and refuse to give any support. They cannot rise above the censure of mortals, and therefore rest satisfied with good wishes and fair speeches. A dread of reproach appears a formidable obstacle to the discharge of their duty, and they timidly yield to discouragement and despondency. This may not be the only obstacle, that prevents so great a portion of the moral strength of the community from being summoned to benevolent exertion, or from opposing the swelling torrent of licentiousness; but it is one of no small magnitude; and its influence is discernible, not only in the cases already alluded to, but in many others. It appears in the conduct of the Christian in his various relations. View bim in bis intercourse with the world, where he has an opportunity of exemplifying in his own life, the several virtues of Christianity. Here le may reduce to practice the rcligion he professes, and testify to all
practices of men. But how common is it for him to adopt these, as the role of his conduct, instead of the pure and self-denying commands of Jesus Christ. How frequently does he resist the light of a clear and convinced conscience, and live in the neglect of social and relative duties, to escape censure and reproach. If we follow him into the social cira cle, we find him backward to introduce religious conversation, lest le should excite uneasiness, and draw on bim the displeasure of the company. Here, he not only deliberately conceals the light of a Christian profession and example, from fear of offending or being thouglit singular; but adopts that worldly conversation, which is congenial to the feelings of the irreligious.
Does he stand at the head of a family? We find him often decliving to officiate as priest of his own house; and in excuse for such neglect, he pleads his exposedness to the derision of those about him. Is he separated to the labors of the gospel? Even in this character, he does not always execute that awful trust with a fearless fidelity. Whaterer be his religious opinions, if they differ materially from those of his hearers, instances have occurred, in which he exhibits them in general and loose terms, and thus he has voluntarily deceived, lest he should displease them. In all such cases, and ezery other in which we can trace the fear of man, the creature is more regarded than the Creator. The friendship of the world is cherished at the expense of religious obligations, and opportunity is given for the adversary to take the field without a competition.
The influence of the fear of man, is greatly to be deplored, and suggests to us the necessity of being guided in all our temporal and religious concerns, by the fear of God. Him we ought to fear more than man. Man is a worm of the dust, a creature of yesterday, and destined, however proud and splendid, rich and honorable, to fall before the stroke of sickness and death. He is deceitful, corrupt, and changeable. Ais friendsbip alloyed and treacherous, is often cancelled without cause, and succeeded by enmity and injuries. He defames the character, on which he once lavished extravagant praise. His vengeance, if executed in its most dreadful forms, can at most do
no more than kill the body. It cannot reach beyond the grave. It • is the extremity of folly to put the impotence of such an insect in com
petition with the power of the great Eternal, who will always exist to bless bis people, and punish his impenitent enemies. The immutability of his being perfections, and purposes, inspires confidence and hope in all holy, and terror and alarm in all wicked, beings. We are furnished with awful and decisive proof, not only from this immutabil. ity of his character, but from his word, and the exhibitions of his providence in the world, that he views sin with great displeasure, and is determined to punish it. His character forms the basis of godly fear; a fear which produces reverence of his name, and inclines us to respect and obey his commands.
In the exercise of this Christian grace, we shall in a good measure be obedient to God, shall enjoy peace and quietness of mind, be prepared to mingle with the inhabitants of heaven, and to join with unwearied delight and ardor in the praises of eternity. None can be ad. mitted to this company of exalted beings, but those who are assimilat