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If my reader be of the sacred order, he will enter into a better apprehension of what my feelings were, by his own, on these interesting points, than by any words which I can adopt to convey an idea of them. You, who sustain the arduous office of a minister of Jesus! whose earnestness in labour and zeal in winning souls, is manifested both in the private and public department of duty. You! for whom a throne of grace can witness, with what awakened solicitude you have pleaded, when, like the great High Priest himself, you have continually brought all the spiritual concerns of your charge before the Lord, and spread their wants, and doubts, and fears, and temptations, and left them there for answers: do you say, for (you who enter with a warmth of love into the church's interests, and make the people's care you own) you only can determine, what kind of feeling of the heart that is, which ariseth from an apprehension, that much hath been neglected and much forgotten, in the discharge of the arduous task of the ministry.
Blessed Master! in that " book of remembrance,” which thy servant the prophet (speaking after the manner of men) tells us, "is written before thee," blot out the numerous errors of my poor ministry! And while thy condescending grace is manifested towards all thy faithful servants whom thou hast sent forth to the work, in marking down their labours of love with every tear they drop, and every prayer they plead, in the sweet employment of ministering to souls; Oh! may it be noted in the margin of thy book, that, notwithstanding all the weakness and unworthiness of my ministry, the earnest desire of my heart, and which thy grace hath given me, is to be the humble servant of Jesus, and the affectionate friend of his people.
TAKING LEAVE OF MY FAMILY.
I had finished the morning devotions of the closet, and of the household. After the example of the man of God, I had entreated the Lord, not " to carry us up hence, unless his presence went with us." (For part of my family was to accompany me.) Nothing therefore remained, but to bid them a farewell which were at home; and to step into the carriage then at the door.
But here a new source, to call forth the tender sympathy of the heart, was opened, in which the streams both of nature and grace were blended. I see no cause to blush, when in the hour of the separation of friends, the tearful eye bespeaks the feelings of the soul: for what is it but another mode of nature, and infinitely more expressive than the voice, to say, I love you. Call it not a weakness: for surely, that can be no weakness which at once distinguisheth and dignifieth humanity; unless indeed, insensibility be a virtue.
But what a precious relief is it to the mind of a true believer in Jesus to reflect, that, amidst the many separations of near and dear connexions, nothing can separate" from the love of Christ!" My God may, and if his wisdom see fit, (for wisdom as well as love is at the bottom of all his ordinations to his people) my God will, take from me every creature comfort: but never, never, will he take away his Christ. And while faith is in lively exercise, amid many changeable providences, to live upon an unchangeable God, will always afford an abiding security to the soul. I found sweet consolation from the thought, as I stepped into the chaise. And the mind receiving this bias of direction to ruminate; a variety of pleasing considerations sprung up of themselves to my ideas. I recollected that this separation, though from some of the dearest
images of natural affection, was not as the separation of many others. It was not an everlasting farewell which we were taking of each other. It was not the departure of the father a family in dying circumstances, neither was it so much as the absence induced from the removal to distant climes. But, an occasional, and (as the sequel hath since shewn) a short interruption to domestic enjoyment, and that only, that both they who went abroad and they who remained at home, might, in the very separation, find the better opportunities for proving the faithfulness of God,
Reader! have you ever carefully noticed, and as carefully marked down, in the memorandums of your own experience, the tokens of divine love in distinguishing mercies? If not, you have lost much happiness. They form the sweetest portions of life. I would not be without them for the universe. How often, in a cold and dark hour, when present enjoyments were wanting, hath the recollection of some special testimonies of the divine favour that were past, warmed and enlivened my heart!
It was this comparative statement in the mind, of the distinguishing mercies of God to my soul beyond thousands, that brought with it instant satisfaction. Perhaps (I said to myself) in the very moment that I and mine are mingling our tears together, in the prospect of a short separation; some are hanging in agonies over the bed of a dying parent, child, or bosom friend! Nay, is it not possible, there may be others, (and gracious minds too) now exercised with soul distresses of inexpressible misery, in being torn for ever from the embraces of objects endeared to them by nature, but whom the hand of justice, or the rash hand of their own daring impiety, hath consigned to destruction? The very thought makes the blood run cold as it enters my heart!
I was so lost in meditation on the subject which
had thus engaged my thoughts, on entering the carriage, that time had slid away insensibly, and we were got on many miles in the road before I was aware of it.
But the reader will I hope forgive me. I have undertaken to give Sketches of my Journey.' But this is not with the design of counting the mile-stones as we pass, but to mark down the memorandums of mercies which meet us in the way. I shall not think it necessary to detain the reader's attention, with an account of towns, or inns, or in short any thing but what hath an immediate tendency to lead the heart to God, or what may fairly be marked down as a mercy coming from God. And if the reader thinks as I do, that a blessing is doubly sweet, when both the giver and the gift are seen and enjoyed; he will not be offended, that I pass over a thousand circumstances which a traveller meets in his way, to dwell wholly upon such as carry in their bosoms tokens of divine favour.
THE MANSION HOUSE.
Our attention was pleasantly arrested with the view of an elegant mansion house which lay in our road, situated in the centre of an extensive lawn, beautifully ornamented with trees, here and there, in an irregular order, (according to the modern method of laying out ground) with a double cascade in front; and in short, where every thing, both in nature and art, corresponded to make the spot lovely and desirable.
Oh! what a sweet place, (exclaimed one of my children) how delightful must it be to live here! True, my dear, (I replied) if the bountiful giver of it dwells at the same time in the owner's heart: for this is essential to put sweetness into the possession, and give him a relish for the enjoyment of it. Creature-comforts
inherit nothing in themselves to impart happiness. A man may be very miserable in the possession of every earthly blessing: and, on the contrary, another may be very happy in the absence of every thing the world holds dear. And this explains the seeming paradox, that many an aching heart dwells in a fine house: while many a poor man, such as the apostle speaks of, "having nothing, yet possesses all things." Jesus, and a consciousness of an interest in his love, is the one thing needful" to crown all. And where he is not, all the surrounding circumstances signify nothing. If (I added) the owner of this beautiful mansion hath Jesus for his portion, and by a well-grounded interest in him, tastes the love of God in a covenant way, in all his mercies; then is he blessed indeed "in his basket and in his store :" but if his heart and affections, like his cascade, only run downwards; not all "the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, nor the precious things put forth by the moon," can give real and substantial joy to the heart.
Reader! I would caution you to exercise a holy jealousy over your own mind on this grand point. Be more careful in the examination of what you estimate your prosperous hours than in any other: when you are most happy, most satisfied with surrounding circumstances, when health and wealth, children, friends, and all things smile around; search diligently, is Jesus in the mercy? And, is it sweet on his account? Doth the Lord and master of the feast sit at the head of the table he hath spread, and bid you welcome? Doth he say, "Eat, O friend, and drink abundantly, O beloved!" Estimate the real value of the blessing by this standard.
THE SOLDIER AND HIS FAMILY.
We passed on the road during the several stages of our journey, a great variety of characters. Some riding