« PreviousContinue »
But, although my strength of body enabled me to ride, my mind still remained weak and dejected. A settled melancholy hung over me, and my thoughts wandered, without the guidance of reason. The ways of Providence appeared to me dark and mysterious ;and the Tempter took this occasion to intrude upon my mind sceptical doubts and conjectures, to which I had hitherto been a stranger. With astonishment I now reflect on the sentiments which then found shelter in my breast; that I could for once distrust the sacred word of God, and doubt my soul's immortality! At that time, indeed, when this broad conclusion was presented to my mind, I rejected it with horror, as too monstrous and unnatural to be entertained for one moment. Yet I distrusted, I doubted, I feared, and sometimes prayed, but not with necessary faith. Most unfortunately for me, I was frequently associated in my lonely wanderings, with one whose delight was to oppose virtue. Assuming the smooth garb of anxious inquiry, he feigned a sympathy in my sorrows and a participation in my fears. He in some measure gained my confidence, and while he professed to be an earnest inquirer after truth, and an implicit believer in the doctrine of the bible, he was continually starting objections, insinuating falsehoods, and suggesting doubts, which almost undermined the then tottering fabric of my belief. Encouraged by the evident impression he had made on my mind, at that time so weak, he was emboldened to drop the mask, and boldly to support the doctrine of the soul's annihilation! Then the full danger, the absurdity, the horror of his system burst on my view. The film fell from my eyes, I saw that he had deceived, distressed, and nearly ruined me. In an agony of sorrow, I rushed from him and hastened to my home. There, in the retirement of my closet, and on my bended knees, I humbled myself before my Creator. I supplicated his boundless mercy, his enlightening directing spirit; I implored in tears the assistance of his heavenly grace, to extricate me from the woful labyrinths in which I had been wandering. My feelings became more composed as my animal strength was exhausted, and with a strong reliance on the mercy of God, I retired to rest. I fell into a profound sleep, and what succeeded-whether a dreaming fancy or real vision, I am unable to avouch-had upon me all the effect of reality, and made an impression which I am confident time can never eradicate. A sweet melodious voice, from some invisible personage in the room, seemed to address me nearly in the following terms :-"You was much fatigued and wearied when you last retired, and have slept unusually sound and quiet.” “It is true,"' I replied, “I was very much fatigued and have slept soundly.” “ You have often heard, the voice continued, “ that sleep resembles death. The resemblance is striking; the functions of nature are, by sleep, in a great measure suspended, the members are motionless and dormant, the will no longer directs the thoughts or actions, and the sleeping body scarcely differs from the lifeless clay.” The voice paused, and I rejoined, * The resemblance is indeed striking, very striking.” After a considerable pause, the voice continued in the same mild tone : “ Your sleep during the night past, has been to you very refreshing.
You recollect distinctly, that you dreamed.” “I do, perfectly well;" was my reply, and the outlines of the dream recurred to my mind. “ It seems then,” the voice continued, “that while your body was in the arms of sleep, which so closely resembles death, your mind, your immortal part, was active and in motion.” To this I assented. “How rational then, is it to believe," said the voice, raised to a tone which sunk deep into my breast,' “ that the immortal soul will continue to exist and act, when the body reposes in the everlasting sleep of death !”
Whatever was my former state, I was then entirely awake, and the words seemed to sound in my ears! I raised myself on my elbow, and the bright moon-beams played on the wall opposite my window ; all was still and calm. Where then were my doubts? They no longer had a place in my breast. Mistrust, anxiety, and despair ceased to agitate me, and I felt that serenity, that assurance of hope, which is the christian's foretaste of heaven. With the sincerest gratitude, I returned thanks to the throne of grace, for the relief and assistance I had so opportunely received. And since that night, in whatever tempest of life I may have been tost, never for a moment have those doubts, which before harassed me, found a welcome in my breast.
FOR THE PILGRIM.
THERE is no duty more important, or more obligatory, than that of parents to teach their children the fear of the Lord, and the principles of religious truth. Yet solemn and binding as this duty is, it is too often neglected, even by those who have pledged themselves to observe all the requirements of the gospel. It would be natural to suppose that parental affection alone would prompt to every exertion and duty, calculated to render the character of a child worthy that of a rational and accountable being; and that no other motive would be necessary, to induce at least every Christian parent “to train up his children in the way they should go.” And the opinion can hardly be considered as correct, that one, who neg. lects this most sacred of duties, ought to be reckoned among the household of faith. Surely, if any parent, in view of the fatal consequences which so often result from this neglect, in view of that eternity of happiness or misery to which his children, along with himself, are hastening, even while the urgent commands of the bible are sounding in his ears ; if any parent surrounded with all these motives, can suffer his offspring to grow up before him, without earnestly, continually, and prayerfully enforcing upon their minds the principles of gospel truth, without solemnly warning them of the fatal effects of sin, and checking with the kindest concern its first rising propensity in their bosoms, and without endeavouring to render their conduct conformable to the precepts of religion ; surely, whatever be his professions, he acts inconsistently with that of the Christian, and deserves not that the broadest mantle of charity should be thrown over his guilt.
It is an established principle, that character is formed by education and circumstance. And these, as far as their influence is exerted on the minds of children, are generally under the control of parents. Hence it is in their power to render their children virtuous, amiable and lovely, and by the promised blessing on their instructions, to make them heirs to an heavenly inheritance. Or if they neglect their duty and become inattentive and unfaithful, their own souls will be rent with anguish by seeing in their offspring only the germinating buds of depravity, maturing as they advance in years, and forming a character on which even parental fondness cannot look with complacency,—a character which can yield no comfort to declining age, and which will render its possessor useless, if not dangerous to society, and fit him at last to lie down in eternal sorrow. Such, then, being the effects of their instruction, and of their negligence, parents must consider themselves as accountable for the conduct of their children ; and sad and awful will be their account at the final judgment, who have been unfaithful and negligent.
I have been led to these reflections, from the recollection of an event, which occurred some years since, and which will never lose its interest, so long as friendship has power to regale my feelings, or sorrow can find an entrance into my bosom. S w as the only son of respectable and affluent parents. He was a child of promise. On him his parents fixed their hopes, and with delight bordering on transport, counted over the pleasures which his obedience, affection, and virtues would afford them in their declining years. His mother watched the cradle of his infancy with all the solicitude and tenderness which maternal affection can awaken; and his father beheld the playfulness of his childhood with sensations that a parent's heart only knows, while his love readily forgave the little abberrations incident to youth.
They had the pleasure of finding in him a disposition amiable and affectionate, and a mind frank and ingenuous. His heart was not veiled in deceit, nor its feelings undiscovered in his actions; and no other than its own sentiments were uttered by his lips. With these excellencies were united many exterior graces and accomplishments. The smiles of beauty and innocence played on his countenance; and to the eye of parental love, such charms and graces seemed indeed irresistible, and if he was nearly idolized, there are perhaps few who would blame the fondness of his parents, or deprive them of the pleasure which that fondness would give.
The childhood of S- was passed under the paternal roof, amid the caresses and indulgence of affection and kindness. His parents, however, had determined on giving him a liberal education; and at the age of twelve, in order to prosecute his studies, he was forced to relinquish home, with all its pleasures, and go to a distance, where a father's kindness could not indulge his inclinations, nor a mother's love supply his every want. This was painful in the ex
treme, to his parents as well as to himself. Who that has ever been called to bid adieu to home, “ that sweetest, dearest spot” on the earth's surface; that has left a place endeared to him by a thousand tender recollections, has not had similar felings? Who does not well remeinber the painful moment when he tore himself from the embraces of maternal fondness, and received the last benediction of a father's love, to go to a land of strangers, or to enter upon the wi. der stage of life? With much reluctance and many tears,
S b id adieu to his parents and went to a grammar school about sixty miles distant, where he entered upon his studies preparatory to his admission into college. It was at this interesting period of his life, that I became acquainted with him; and by our mutual attachment and frequent intercourse, a flame of friendship was enkindled, which, in the ardor of youthful feeling, we fondly thought would be extinguished only with the lamp of life. At this school he prosecuted his studies with reputation, while his amiable deportment and unexceptionable conduct procured him many friends, and endeared him to all his acquaintance. Here he remained four years, and during all this period, the breath of slander never sullied the purity of his character, and the attacks of envy disturbed not his peace. There was something so mild and engaging in young s— that malevolence dared not censure him, and the tougue of calumny before it could hiss forth its venom was palsied and silent.
At the age of sixteen, S- left this school to join college. Hitherto his morals had been uncorrupted by his intercourse with the world, and he had not learned to practice those base arts of dissimulation so prevalent among all ranks of men. He still possessed that noble frankness, and that feeling sincerity which had always marked his conduct, and he thought that others were equally ingenuous and sincere. Innocence is ever unsuspecting, and truth knows not the fear of guile. At college
S e ntered upon a scene entirely new. Before, he had been unacquainted with the vices of the world, and had supposed that men lived only in the exercise of the social affections, and that hatred and malevolence were to them unknown. He had regarded them as a band of brothers, anxious advance each other's good, and ready to sacrifice individual, that general interest might be promoted. Soon however he was forced to regard them in a different light. He found that disinterested benevolence has no place in man's polluted heart, that selfishness is the most prominent frait in his character, and that to profit himself, he is willing to sacrifice every virtuous principle, and often-times erects the temple of his own faine on the ruin of that of others. But though he discovered this, he was still incautious, thinking that his own virtue would afford sufficient security, and that he should pass life, uncontaminated by its vices, and aloof froin those contests through ambition in which all so eagerly engage.
At college the circle of his associates became extensive. But in such an institution there is often found every variety of character, from the most virtuous down to the most profligate and abandoned. Vice, in all its hideous fornis is sometimes there seen, and often too it appears in the garb of truth and virtue. S h ad no art to detect the sophistry that would beguile, or the flattery that would deceive. To all he was equally open and ingenuous : all could read the feelings of his heart, and the vicious and unprincipled found him defenceless and unguarded. It was his misfortune to become associated with a band of sensual and dissolute companions, who gradually instilled into his mind their own poisonous sentiments, and at length rendered him, once so amiable, virtuous and lovely, their equal in vice and immorality. His character had never been decidedly formed, and he had no religious principles to guide him in safety through his dangerous path. Thus defenceless and exposed, he was easily beguiled, corrupted and undone.
After this transformation of character, he no longer acquired reputation as a scholar; his studies were neglected, counsel and instruction despised, and reproof unavailing. The company of the profane was sought, and scenes of dissipation afforded him his highest pleasures. Having loitered away three years in the indulgence of all that is vile and sensual, he left college in disgrace without the knowledge of his parents; and with a few of his companions in vice, he went to a neighbouring city, where he might enter upon a wider field of dissipation. How long he continued there is unknown; for, after his departure from college, little was ever heard of him. It was only ascertained that he died in a common hospital, friendless and and abandoned. Thus miserable was the end of one to whom nature had been lavish of her gifts, and who, at the commencement of his career, promised all that is amiable and virtuous in youth, or that is esteemed and admired in manhood. But what language can describe, or imagination paint the distress and anguish which this event brought upon the parents of S- ? Parents, only, in similar circumstances, can conceive of their wretchedness. The son on whom they doated with so much fondness, the centre of their affections and hopes, thus torn from them, loaded with infamy, and dying in disgrace, was indeed too much for parental tenderness to sustain. The anguish of the mother threw her into a state of delirium, from which she will probably never be entirely recovered; and the grief of the father spread a gloom over his hopes and prospects which time can never dispel.
It may be natural to inquire into the cause of the misfortunes and ruin of S- It may be easily discovered. His parents, though virtuous and amiable, had given him no religious instruction. They had never instilled into his mind the principles of gospel truth. He never had been taught to lisp a prayer to his heavenly Benefactor, or to kneel at the altar of devotion. A father's supplications had never been offered for a blessing on his beloved son, nor a mother's piety awakened in his bosom one serious thought. Had he received a religious education, he would not have been so easily beguiled from the path of virtue, nor followed so readily the allurements of vice. Had religious principle been his guide, an expression of profaneness would never have been uttered, and the intoxicating bowl would have been dashed from his lips. Had religious princi