Page images


Farewell letter of a Brother, to a Sister, when the latter was in daily

expectation of being numbered with the dead.

July 23d, 1822. MY DEAR SISTER,

I embrace the earliest opportunity of fulfilling the promise I made when we parted, of writing to you on my return home. It pleased a kind providence to protect me on my journey, and to return me in safety to my family. You will rejoice to hear, that they were preserved in my absence, and that I am permitted to enjoy the dear delights of my own dwelling as formerly. Oh how manifold is the goodness of God, in which I share, and how great are my obligations of gratitude! I might dwell on the common mercies of life, and recite to you many incidents of our every day's experience, which, were you in health, would interest your feelings, and awaken your gratitude: but I will not intrude these upon your mind, now occupied with the approaching realities of the unseen world.

The remembrance, my dear Sister, of your situation, while de. clining under the power of disease, in certain prospect of its fatal termination, awakens my sympathy, and influences me to commend you to the care of our heavenly Father. Could I say any thing that would impart to you consolation, or strengthen your confidence in God, most cheerfully would I do it. You stand on the verge of eternity, anticipating the change, the great change, which terminates the probation of the soul, frees it from its clayey tenement, and translates it to the society of immortals. This change is alike new to all. No one has returned to tell us, mortals, how the soul exists in its disembodied state, nor what enlargement of powers and views it experiences; but, blessed be God for the gospel, which sheds light upon the darkness of the grave, and tenders to the dying believer a hope full of immortality! Thousands have died in the faith of the gospel, triumphing in view of their departure from this world. Death is disarmed of his terror, the grave has lost its dominion. The dying believer, whose trust is in Christ, puts off his mortal body, and leaves the world in hope of having it restored to him at the resurrection of the just, a glorious, imperishable, and immortal body! May I not conclude, my sister, that your fears are daily subsiding, and that you are more and more confirmed in your hope, as you draw nearer to the close of life? The world grows less and less in your estimation, and you feel more and more the vanity, and insufficiency, of all that men of the world strive for. What can you say of the honours, pleasures, and distinctions of this life? Do you perceive any thing in these worth living for--any thing that will be a portion for the immortal mind ? They whose chief good is sought in any or all these, must sooner or later behold their

mistake. They are nothing to the dying man; they fail in the moment when men most need a refuge.

I know, my dear sister, for it is your own declaration, that you

past; when

* see nothing in the world which prompts you to desire a continuance in life;"-at the same time you must not be impatient to be gone. Your protracted illness may be viewed as the trial of your faith and patience. Why you should be tried in a manner so peculiar and so distressing we know not. The wisdom of the appoint. ment is for the present concealed from our view. We may say

it is even so, O Father, because

it hath seemed good in thy sight that it should be so. The words of Christ to Peter may be applied in this case to you; What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Doubtless you will hereafter be able to trace the hand of mercy in all your trials : Even the bitterest cup of your sorrows may in the issue occasion your joy. It is your consolation to know that he who appoints your trials is the Being who sustains you, and that he has kind designs in all his chastisements. He will lay no more upon you than he will enable you to bear. As you have found him a present help in seasons that are past, so you may expect he will afford you all needful grace in the trying hour. Is not your confidence in him daily increasing, and is not your resolution that of Job, when he said, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him? Think of those seasons of communion with him which are


have felt a child-like submission; when you enjoyed a serene and tranquil frame; when, in humble confidence in your

Redeemer, you had some foretastes of glory. While you remember with grateful emotion past tokens of God's love, be enconraged to


unlimited confidence in him. Let no distrust disturb your peace be calm and quiet as a child. God never brings his people into trying circumstances, and then leaves them. You cannot endure one pain more than he shall appoint. Your sickness, in all its extent and variety of suffering, is the method of his choice to bring you unto himself. It may seem long and tedious, you may desire the period of release, and perhaps wonder that the chariot wheels are so long in coming; but hush any feeling of impatience: Remember that God's time is the best time--let his will be your will. Your present light afflictions are but for a moment, and are, it may be, working for you a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory.

Before this arrives at your dwelling, you may be gone, numbered among immortals: You will receive it, should you be permitted to read or to hear it on this side the grave, as the last tribute of affection from a brother, who will ever feel grateful for all the kindness you have shown him, and who, while he expects not to see you again in the flesh, hopes, through the merits of his Redeemer, to meet you in heaven. As we mingled our devotions before the throne of Grace at parting, it seemed reality to him, that it was for the last time. The thought of separation rushed upon his soul, and must have been overwhelming were it not for the hope that it would not be an eternal separation. No, my dear sister, death is not an eternal separation of friends who die in the Lord. They part in hope of meeting in a better world, and of being united in purer and higher friendship than that of earth. Is this hope our hope ? Goil grant that we may realize its fruition in his kingdom! O how desirable


the state, in which we shall be free from sin, and from all the ills of mortality occasioned by sin! And are you so soon to enter on that state! so soon to mingle with the spirits of the just made perfect! to bid farewell to sorrow, pain, and death! I cannot wish you back, to linger in the deserts of this world. No, my dear sister, I commend you to that Saviour in whom you have believed, praying that his grace may be sufficient for you when flesh and heart are failing you, and that, on leaving the body, you may be present with him in glory. There may you meet our dear parents and sisters who have gone before, and your brother and other friends who will soon follow, and all our pious relations, and the whole Israel of God, to be united in the purest friendship, and employed in holy service, for ever and ever. Adieu, my sister, adieu till we meet in eternity and converse in the language of immortals.

From your affectionate brother,



Traveller. I FIND that this life is one continued scene of trouble and disappointment; and even the few pleasures I enjoy are so soon blasted, they are hardly worth possessing: but I have this consolation, that all will be well hereafter.

Associate. It seems then that you have the hope of the christian, that faith which works by love, purifies the heart, and enables you to overcome the world.

T. Hope of the christian! I don't know what you mean by that expression. My hope is that all will be happy in another world.

A. Permit me to ask you if you believe that all scripture is given by inspiration of God ?),

T. Perhaps the greater part of it is.

A. Who then shall make the selection, and say what parts were given by inspiration, and what parts were not? How must we understand such passages of the scriptures as these ?—“Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”*. All scripture is given by inspiration of God.”+ Now if you reject a part of the scriptures as not given by inspiration, may you not by the same authority reject the whole ? My object in asking you this question is, that I may know whether you believe in the character of God as described in the bible, or whether, like the heathen, you select a God and mode of worship which is most agreeable to your own fancy.

T. I am ready to support my sentiments by the scriptures, and, if you please, would be happy to hold an argument with you.

°A. If I comply with your request, I wish to make this agreement with you, viz. that our object be not to dispute for the pride of victory, but simply to ascertain the truth ;—that we admit what ap * 2 Peter i. 21.

+ 2 Tim. ii. 16.

pears to be true ;-and that we take the bible for the only foundation of sentiments. If you will consent to this, perhaps our conversation may be profitable,-otherwise, it will be of no use.

T. Well, I am willing to abide by this agreement. I wish a candid discussion. I have no other object than our mutual good.

A. Please to tell me then how you establish your hope of universal salvation from the scriptures

T. I must first relate the particulars of my sentiments ;-then I can bring the scriptures to bear so that you can understand them. I believe that mankind receive all the punishment which is due or threatened against their sins in the present life;—and that all the threatenings of God in the scriptures must be understood in this light ;-that the day of judgment means nothing more than the conviction of every man's conscience in regard to his actions ;-and that all men will be saved in virtue of being united to Christ.

A. Before we proceed in this discussion, please to inform me how you embraced these sentiments ? Did you study the word of God, humbly praying that the Holy Spirit might lead you to understand it correctly ? Or did you pursue the opposite course, viz. first form your sentiments, and then wrest the scriptures for their support ? Did you choose this doctrine because it was most agreeable to your natural heart, and that you might live quietly in sin, neglect repentance and the duties of a holy life?

7. Sir, I did not expect to be catechised by you when I requested this discussion, I am ready, as I said before, to converse on the subject which was proposed.

A. Had you asked me the same question which you seem so reluctant to answer, I should have considered it as perfectly proper. I regard this as the only way of safety. A deceitful heart, the alluring world, and the great adversary of souls, are sure to enslave those in ignorance and error, who neglect to call upon God for direction.

As you seem to be urgent, I can tell you that I have not been careful to pursue this course, in establishing my religious sentiments, nor do I think it of much importance, so long as I am confident that I am right.

A. You are not the only individual who is confident of salvation without the change of heart and character which the bible requires, for it seenis that “Many will say to Christ on that day,the day of judgment, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity."** I hope you do not suppose that either your confidence or sincerity in the articles of your belief is proof that they are correct

. For there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.+ Paul said," I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”+ The bible every where holds out the idea, that many are deceived and deceive others on the subject of their salvation.

* Matth. vii. 22, 23. † Prov. xvi. 25. # Acts xxvi. 9.

T. You know I don't believe in any other day of judgment than the conviction of every man's conscience, in this life, in regard to his actions.

A. Now if this sentiment which you have advanced be correct, then God is very unjust in the distribution of his punishments ; for the remorse of conscience, arising from a sense of guilt, constantly diminishes as the person advances in his crimes, till at length, according to the scriptures, his “conscience is seared as with a hot iron." Now, according to your hypothesis, the person who is least guilty receives the greatest punishment, and the most abandoned ruffian the least; and the same person is considered less and less guilty as he increases his crimes, and is punished accordingly. The man who for the first time steals, is severely punished by this friendly monitor; but when he becomes a pirate, and adds murder to theft, his mind is comparatively tranquil,

and even happy in boasting of his valiant exploits. Besides, you annihilate all remorse of conscience when you renounce the belief of a judgment day and of future punishments. Now, sir, that you should pretend to support your opinion from the bible, while it embraces such a complication of abŝurdities, is a mystery to common sense. It is difficult to see how you can renounce the belief of a particular day of judgment, and credit such passages as these; “ In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ."* " He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness." "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

T. True, the bible represents a review of the characters of men something like a day of judgment; still, I am disposed to think there is no punishment of sin in the world to come. It would make God a respecter of persons, and he can pardon as well as punish.

A. If you admit the reality of a particular day of judgment, you make it a mere mock ceremony, if no judgment or sentence is to be passed, and you contradict the whole tenor of scripture. You say, “It would make God a respecter of persons.” But the scriptures consider this a proof that God is not a respecter of persons. Observe these passages. “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons.” “And if ye call on the Father, who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."! By your supposition, that all sin is punished excl sively in this life, you impeach the moral Governor of the universe as a cruel and unjust respecter of persons. For example; in the old world, Noah, only, was found righteous before God. But all the wicked world, whom Noah had warned to repent, and escape the wrath to come, were mercifully wafted into heaven for their wickedness, by a flood of waters, while righteous Noah was compelled to linger his passage thither, through the toils of a long and troublesome life. Again, when the wickedness of Sodom, and the cities of the plain, had risen up to heaven and called down the vengeance of an angry God,-Lot, who was found righteous in the sight of the * Rom. ü. 16. † Acts xvii. 31. Rom. xiv. 12. $ Col. ü. 25. | 1 Pet. i. 17.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »