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They enter upon their summer's toil, and go forth to their daily task, in hope of a future though still distant harvest. In the morning, they sow their seed, and in the evening withhold not their hand, still willing to toil, though they know not what shall prosper, whether this or that. And when long delay might exhaust their spirits and weary out their patience, they wait quietly for their reward, until the seed sown, and the blade sprung up, shall receive the early and the latter rain.
Now all this beauty and promise of the Spring, and all this patient labour and waiting of the cultivators of the soil, speak to us a cheering and instructive lesson, while we cast our eyes with gladness and hope upon the beauties and promise of another Spring.— Instructed by the view of natural wonders, we can place a readier faith upon the prophecy—“ The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” We can believe, and we do believe, that the moral desolation of the world will soon pass away, and that this ruined earth will soon be overspread with a beauty and fertility and life, so cheering, so delightful, so heavenly, that even angels shall look upon it with admiration and joy. But we believe that its whole surface must be first covered with active cultivators; that
mighty population must first engross every effort, as when beneath the benign influences of Spring and Summer we make a thousand hills wave with plenty, and a thousand valleys echo with flocks and herds.
It is an interesting fact, that when the wonderful changes of Spring are cheering our spirits, confirming our faith, and urging us to exertion, then those who are engaged in the moral improvement of the world, meet together to interchange their greetings and to animate and encourage each other in their labours. So at this season it is with us ; and the gathering of our population to celebrate our joyful anniversaries, joined to the reflection, that on the other side of the Atlantic there are many thousands collected, to mingle their greetings and to unite their prayers and praises, cannot fail to animate all hearts, and encourage all to put forth their hourly, and daily, and constant exertions and prayers, as co-workers with God in a spiritual husbandry in assured expectation of a spiritual harvest.
Saturday, May 6, 1820.
THE DYING CONVERT. Narrative of some particulars attending the Conversion of Miss A.
M. who died lately, aged twenty-five years.
(Concluded from p. 745, of Vol. VI.)
As dew upon the tender herb,
Diffusing fragrance round,
And cheer the thirsty ground ;-
And yield a joyful peace;
It bids the darkness cease. There is always a feeling of suspicion which attaches itself to death-bed repentances ; nor can it be denied, that this suspicion is not altogether groundless.
In seasons of extreme distress, the proudest and the most thoughtless of mankind are often heard to make very humble acknowledgments of guilt, and in strong language to express both sorrow and contrition. Such conduct well becomes their situation whilst it is regarded by surrounding friends as a hopeful symptom of future amendment. Yet, alas! how generally does it happen. that when health returns, or when time has deadened the wounds inflicted by adversity, every appearance of repentance and reformation speedily vanishes away?
The melancholy frequency of such disappointments, excites the greater jealousy over other cases, where the impressions made are deeper and more permanent, and tends to steel the Christian's heart against the exercise of that spirit of pious charity " which hopeth all things.”
When God is pleased to grant length of days to those who are led by his grace to repent of their sins, and truly to believe in the name of Christ, there is ample opportunity afforded us of watching the conformity of their practice with the professions which they make, and of thus bringing them to the test which our Saviour himself has prescribed—"By their fruits ye shall know them.” But if death cuts off the sinner in the same affliction which was blessed as the means of his repentance, the evidences of his sincerity are detective. There is seldom time for the production, and frequently no opportunity for the exhibition, of those “ fruits of righteousness” which are to the praise and glory of God.
I am well aware, that after perusing the preceding parts of this narrative, the reader may consider the change effected in the mind of Miss M. so sudden and so simple, as to doubt of its reality: but in the following pages, I trust it will be in my power, by a short statement of her after experience, to make such doubts give way to the pleasing conviction, that ere she closed her eyes on this sinful world, God gave her "a meetness for inheriting with the saints in light."
In the book of inspiration it is written, “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” How exactly was this assertion verified in Miss M.'s previous conduct! She treated all serious subjects not only with indifference, but even with a profane levity. To her natural mind, they truly appeared to be foolishness; and when she began to acknowledge God, and to bewail her sinful neglect of divine things, still her notions of their importance were very vague, and she could not discern their spirtual meaning. But the veil was afterwards taken away, and then the truths of the Gospel shone into her mind with unclouded glory. She saw herself to be “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. This discovery produced a most becoming humility, which constrained her to implore the divine forgiveness, with heartfelt acknowledgments of her utter unworthiness to partake of God's mercy. She also learnt ihat Jesus was a Saviour every way suited to her own case. She wondered at his condescending grace, but rejoiced in his finished work, as the only ground of her acceptance with a just and holy God.
When grace to guilty man reveals
The virtues of a Saviour's blood,
Forsakes his sins, and walks with God.
They that are after the flesh,” says the apostle, “ do mind the things of the flesh: but they that are after the spirit, the things of the Spirit.” When Miss M. lived according to the fashion and pleasures of this world, her conduct proved that she knew not God. She lived to herself, minding only the things of the flesh; and nothing could more forcibly depict the pride and obduracy of
her heart, than the lengthened resistance she made to the first impulses of God's regenerating spirit. For nearly six weeks, she secretly endeavoured to stille convictions, and chose rather 10 endure a sad aggravation of distress, than confess her feelings, and make application for that instruction and comfort she so much needed. But when once she divulged the state of her mind, this very circumstance helped forward the mighty work of conversion; and when she afterwards so earnestly minded the things of the Spirit,” it was certainly an evidence that a change so much at variance with former practices, and so contrary to her own inclination, was not effected by herself, but by the irresistible operations of the Holy Ghost.
From the period of my first acquaintance with Miss. M. I visited her very frequently during a whole month, until the terminating stages of her disease prevented me from seeing her.
But I do not propose to give any regular account of the successive interviews which I had with this dying convert. I shall rather attempt to exhibit her progress in the divine life, by staling some of the leading features of her character which came under my own observation. These were humility, eagerness for instruction, delight in prayer, concern for the salvation of others, a watchful observance of Providence, and composure in the prospect of death.
I begin with her HUMILITY, because it was peculiarly eminent, as being so opposite to her previous dispositions. She was naturally of a very quick perception, which, combined with a finished education, gave her a conscious superiority to many of those around her. Comparing herself with the defective and delusive standard of worldly attainments in others, she found much to excite feelings of complacent satisfaction-she stood high in her own vain conceits and boasted acquirements; and pride was so predominant a principle, that her inward struggles lasted long, before she could yield to the dictates of a condemning conscience.-But, o how interesting were the first ebullitions of her subdued spirit! When I went to act, at her own request, as a spiritual instructor, she said to the person who informed her of my being in the house, “Well, it is hard to bear; but I submitI must be humble.” And to myself, her first words gave proof that she had unconsciously been learning humility in the school of Christ : “ I am ashamed of my iguorance, and I wish to be taught like a little child."
When the sinner is brought to try himself by the standard of God's law, he soon discovers his short-comings, and then his selfglorying is turned into self reproach. In this way Miss M. ceased to boast of her accomplishments, and humbly confessed that her ignorance was so great as to require instruction in the very first principles of the religion of Christ. And had this change in her views been merely occasioned by the temporary influence of
a desponding feeling, it would speedily again have given place to the n tural sway of human pride. But as she made advances in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, her mind became the more imbued with the adorning virtue of Christian humility. When she was aroused from the sleep of sinful security, and perceived the threatening danger which surrounded her, she said, like the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father ;” and in the same spirit of humble contrition which prompted him to confess, “I am unworthy to be called thy son: make me one of thy hired servants,” she even deemed herself as undeserving of any share whatever in the regard of a sin-pardoning God, and never ceased to exercise a watchful guard against a presumptuous enjoyment of that peace which reigned in her soul. Renouncing every self-righteous plea, she received with meekness the ingrafted word; and estimating aright the comparative insignificance and vanity of her mental superiorities, she imitated the great apostle in counting all things but dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus her Lord. Surely a humility like this, so deep and so uniform, could only be the offspring of
No less conspicuous was her EAGERNESS FOR INSTRUCTION. Much she had learnt; but still she felt and confessed that a poor Sunday school girl knew much more than she did of those truths which were chiefly valuable to immortal creatures. The knowJedge of God, and of her own heart, and of the way of salvation, had never formed branches of her education. But the conviction of her ignorance, and, at the same time, the discovery of the paramount importance of divine things, filled her with the most ardent desire to have this deficiency made up; and the earnestness of her solicitations to be instructed in the doctrines of the gospel, and the extreme attention with which she listened, while I endeavoured, from day to day, to expound the scriptures, testified that, as she now perceived where “the pearl of great price” was hid, it was her determination to search till she found it.
The best of her days had been wasted in folly; she deeply mourned over a loss so great and so irretrievable; but it now became her habitual aim, as much as circumstances permitted, to redeem the time that was past, by the more diligent improvement of what still remained; and, considering the extent of her natural and acquired talents, it was quite to be expected, that when grace removed darkness and prejudice from her mind, the light of God's word would find a ready entrance, and shine with peculiar lustre. This was indeed the case, to a degree which often surprised me, and, in part, accounts for her rapid progress in knowledge and in holiness.
She was very thoughtful, and “pondered in her heart” the wonderful truths which she now so gladly received; but she sel