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raised; hence an habitual watchfulness against sin and opposition to it, and delight in the service of God; and all this infers a great and permanent change in the whole course of life and action; but practical writers have abundantly explained and described these things; to whom I refer my readers, and shall insist no further upon them here.
I therefore, conclude with this general remark, viz. that it is of vastly more importance and concernment to us, to inquire into the reality of a gracious change, as discovered by the alteration, and holy exercises which the regenerate experience; than spend our time and zeal in disputing about the principle of spiritual life, wherein it consists, or what it is antecedent to all exercises thereof. While we are warmly interested in deciding the speculative dispute, we are apt to forget the practical consideration of the important subject, and the application of it to ourselves; and those who attend to us are led to treat the matter in the same manner; by this means the interests of vital piety languish. While we justly lament the low state of experimental religion, to devote ourselves to these speculative refinements will not be found the way to revive it. Experience will always show, that to keep up a practical view of divine truths, and the solemn application of them in serious pungent addresses to the conscience, is the best calculated for that purpose. Besides, if we lay down, by way of hypothesis, a certain something, of which we can have no idea (as of a principle of life, antecedent to all exercises of life, we cannot; nor can we infer any conclusions about its nature from any exercises of the heart, if it include neither idea nor volition, but is something absolutely antecedent to both) then we shall be in danger of a superstructure, as unintelligible as the basis upon which we build. Thus some have wildly dreamed, that the principle of spiritual life may exist in the soul without any act or exercise of life, as a taste, which lies dormant until a proper object be applied to it; and if it may exist thus one moment, why not two? and if two, why not a minute? and so on, till they bring the supposition to hours, days, months, and years; and so a regenerate person may still continue an unbeliever, and of consequence, in an unjustified state: and I see not why it would not be as easy to continue the supposition till death, and to send him to hell, with his dormant principle along with him. Thus the cause of vital religion is greatly disserved.
But if we attend to the plain practical views the scriptures give us of this matter, consider the exercises of divine life, which discover the happy change produced in regeneration, and trace
these to their first principle, which, from the nature of these exercises, we conclude to be something of the same nature with them; to be a first act of the series of acts or exercises that follow after, which the holy spirit causes the soul to exert; (i. e. causes it to live) we are in no danger of any fatal mistake. In this way, the heart will be more likely to feel itself interested; and thus people become more solemn and exercised in examining and judging the state of their own souls; and that this may be more extensively the case among professors, may God of his infinite mercy grant for Christ's sake, Amen.
The following sentiments of the EARL of KINNOULL, on the atonement of Christ, are extracted from his character, volume 4th, of the Scotch Preacher, written and published by desire of the directors of the society in Scotland for propagating christian knowledge.
The approaches of death, long foreseen and familiar to the mind of this nobleman, he beheld with serenity and fortitude, for his confidence rested upon that foundation which he knew death itself could not shake. No words can do so much justice to his sentiments upon this subject as his own. They were exprest to the author of the preceding sermon, in course of a long and serious conversation upon the subject of it, a short while before his death. As the general theme was of his recommendation, so he specified some of the particular topics which he wished to be introduced in it, particularly the doctrine of the atonement.
"I have always considered the atonement of Christ," said he, "to be characteristical of the gospel as a system of religion. Strip it of that doctrine, and you reduce it to a scheme of morality, excellent indeed, and such as the world never saw, but to man, in the present state of his faculties, absolutely impracticable. The atonement of Christ, and the truths immediately connected with that fundamental principle, provide a remedy for all the wants and weaknesses of our nature. They who strive to remove these precious doctrines from the word of God, do an irreparable injury to the grand and beautiful system of religion which it contains, as well as to the comfort and hopes of man. For my own part, I am now an old man, and have experienced the infirmities of advanced years. Of late, in the course of severe and dangerous illness, I have been repeatedly brought to the gates of death. My time in this world cannot now be long. But with truth I can declare, that in the midst of all my past afflictions, my heart was
supported and comforted, by a firm reliance upon the merits and atonement of my Saviour; and now in the near prospect of entering upon an eternal world, this is the foundation, and the only foundation, of my confidence and hope."
In these sentiments he steadily persevered till the conclusion of the scene. His last illness continued but a few days, it was a wasting and decline of nature, unattended with pain. On the 27th December, 1787, without a struggle, or groan, or change of countenance, he expired.
"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
THE MEDITATIONS OF AN INTERESTING MOMENT. Extracted from the Evangelical Magazine.
December 31, 1805, shall I call it? or January 1, 1806? The clock strikes twelve; the bells, with sudden peal, ring out the old year and usher in the new. While the different periods of my life loudly resound, as they turn upon their hinges, I involuntarily exclaim, "Thus passes Time!-thus Eternity advances!" I feel myself at this moment as on the isthmus, where, standing between both, I contrast Eternity, on which I am entering, with Time, when it is decreed to last no longer. Time then appears as a glass, which has poured forth its rapid stream, and now stops exhausted; Eternity presents an ocean of infinite expanse, which knows no shore nor ebb.
In Time I see the abode of Ephemera, the passing creatures of a moment. There all things are born but to die; appear only to vanish. Brass corrodes, marble crumbles, and the whole scene passes as the figures of a magic lantern: but Eternity I confess the residence of durability, the dwelling-place of Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, the "I.AM." Around his throne, or crushed beneath his feet, are myriads of beings, who know no change; but feel their doom for ever sealed.
Through all the shifting scenes of Time, I contemplate crowds of probationers, some wishing, others dreading, and all expecting to change their fortunes. I see the colour of unknown ages, depending upon the moment which is now upon the wing. In one spot, I observe a few who feel the awful ground on which they stand, and anticipating the infinite consequences of this truth, bear on their countenances the serious impression: but on every other side, nothing is seen but a drunken oblivion, which swallows
in the immediate draught, all thoughts of the impending future. ---How different Eternity! There nothing hangs in suspense,each knows his doom. Religion no longer trembles with anxious fears, nor guilt tastes any more delusive hopes! All are occupied in gathering what they have sowed. In Heaven they recall their former faith and hope, joys and sorrows, prayers and hymns, and now faste the sweet fruits of grace exercised in long past ages! In Hell they feel again stings which they thought blunted, and are haunted with recollections for which they hoped to have found Lethean draughts. Time, though such an evanescent drop, has dashed with gall of bitterness the cup which eternity shall not exhaust.
Time, as he flies, seems to recall the pleasure he brings; and says to the righteous, "Ye must only taste of the brook by the way; I am bearing you on my wings to that fountain whence you may drink immortal draughts!" With equal force he says to the holy sufferer, "Each pang diminishes the tale, and every throb becomes more tolerable as it announces the approach of case.” It is Eternity which makes pleasure pleasure indeed; for no bitter expectation of reverse harrasses the mind; but the thought that an unalterable futurity of bliss is all my own, gives the exquisite taste of Eternity to every sensation of delight. But in the stagnant lake of endless woe an unknown aggravation is thrown into each pang, from the consideration, "This must last for ever."— An eternal tooth-ache only would be a Hell!
Will Time thus deeply affect Eternity, and should not Eternity influence Time? Let me "now in the accepted time," believe in him who will freely bestow on me eternal life. Let me begin this year with the resolution of Edwards, so worthy of his exalted and pious mind:-" Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good profit and pleasure, without any consideration of the time,-whether now, or ever so many millions of ages to come."
OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY.
From the life of him, by Dr. Cook and Mr. Moore.
MR. WESLEY, when he was about six years of age was remarkably delivered from fire.
"By accident, as all that have written concerning it have supposed, but, according to his own account, by the wickedness of
some of his father's parishioners, who could not bear the plain dealing of so resolute and faithful a pastor, the parsonage-house was set on fire."
The following letter from Mrs. Susannah Wesley to a neighbouring clergyman with Mr. John Wesley's additions, affords full information on the subject.
"On Wednesday night, February 9th, between the hours of eleven and twelve, some sparks fell from the roof of our house on one of the children's feet. She immediately ran to our chamber and called us. Mr. Wesley, hearing the cry of fire in the street, started up: (as I was very ill, he lay in a room separate from me) and opening his door, found the fire was in his own house. He immediately came to my room, and bade me and my two eldest daughters rise quickly and shift for ourselves. Then he ran and burst open the nursery door, and called to the maid to bring out the children. The two little ones lay in the bed with her. The three others in another bed. She snatched up the youngest, and bid the rest follow, which the three eldest did. When we were gotten into the hall; and were surrounded with flames, Mr. Wesley found he had left the keys of the door above stairs; he ran up and recovered them a minute before the stair-case took fire. When we opened the street door, the strong N. E. wind drove the flames in with such violence that none could stand against them. But some of our children got out through the windows, the rest through a little door into the garden. I was not in a condition to climb up to the windows, neither could I get to the garden door. I endeavoured three times to force my passage to the street door, but was as often beaten back by the fury of the flames. In this distress I besought our blessed Saviour for help, and then waded through the fire; naked as I was it did me no farther harm than a little scorching my hands and my face."
When Mr. Wesley had seen the other children safe, he heard the child in the nursersy cry. He attempted to go up the stairs, but they were all on fire, and would not bear his weight. Finding it impossible to give any help he kneeled down in the hall, and recommended the soul of the child to God."
Mr. John Wesley adds.
"I believe it was just at that time I waked, for I did not cry, as they imagined, unless it was afterwards. Iremember all the circumstances as distinctly as though it were but yesterday. Seeing the room was very light, I called to the maid to take me up; but none answering, I put my head out of the curtains, and saw streaks of fire on the top of the room. I got up and ran to