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THE HERMIT, No. IV.
ON THE PERFECTION AND EFFICACY OF THE
Arg. 1. Drawn from the comforts it brings to our last hours.
Whatever farce the boastful hero plays,
YOUNG'S NIGHT THOUGHTS.
my former letters, I have given some account of my life and temper of heart, and of those motives that induced my retreat from the vain and busy world. I have likewise delivered my thoughts concerning the duty of those who undertake to write for others, and hinted some considerations that should animate and actuate their conduct, in so benevolent a work.
These topics have not proved unacceptable to the public; but still they were only preliminary to the more solemn and interesting subjects, which I had always in view. It was, from the beginning, my purpose to communicate, by way of monthly sermon, for the benefit of my fellow-sojourners on earth, the sum of those reflections and conclusions, which, after long and close meditation upon the state of our mortality and suffering here, I have found most efficacious to quiet my own soul now, and fix its hopes forever.
· It would be needless to add, that the chief of these have been drawn from the blessed Gospel, that inex, haustible source of joy and consolation! For when we have tried every other expedient, it will be found at last that our only comfort is to be derived from the promises of the Gospel, an intimate conviction of its saving efficacy, and a sublime trust in the adorable goodness of its lovely Author. It shall, therefore, be my first endeavour to press home those points, in the most striking light in my power; in doing which, it is not my design to give a regular system of divinity, nor yet to bewilder the reader in those abstract discussions that tend more to puzzle the understanding, than to better the heart. truths of Christianity stand in no need of any arguments I can bring, to defend or establish them. This is sufficiently done in many unanswerable volumes, by abler pens. Points of theory and dispute neither answer my purpose, nor do they suit my temper of mind. I would humbly offer something for practice, that may infuence the life and manners. Nor, in this, shall I confine myself to any certain or express method. What I shall say will be chiefly occasional, containing such arguments for the superior excellence of our holy Christianity, or any of its detached parts, as may arise from particular incidents and occurrences.
And the first that I would offer is drawn from the power and efficacy of the Christian faith, to support its humble votaries in the hour of death. Nor is this, without reason, made the first. For what wise man could possibly live in quiet, till he had first satisfied
himself how he might die in quiet. This is in reality the chief and best lesson of life and a lesson which all the institutions in the world had endeavoured to teach in vain, before the Christian revelation; which, at length, has brought life and immortality to light, plucked the sting from Death, and disarmed the grave of victory!
But before I deliver any thing further of my own, on this subject, I shall insert the following letter, sent from a reverend divine in the remoter parts of this province, * and delivered to me by the proprietors of the magazine, in order to be incorporated in some proper place, among my monthly lucubrations. I intimated, at my first setting out, my earnest desire of obtaining the assistance of true Gospel-ministers, in carrying on this work for the service of our common Christianity; and shall never fail of making due use of every thing, they may be pleased to communicate for that good end. It is with pleasure, therefore, I insert the substance of this letter, as having such an affinity to the subject I proposed to treat of in this number.
· THERE is no one circumstance, which does more honour to your extensive and laudable undertaking, than your having set aside one part of it, as sacred to Christianity. If the following reflections might have a place therein, it might be an honourable testimony in favour of the blessed Gospel.
• This letter was in substance from the Rev. Dr. Finley, afterwards of Princeton college ; with a few additions and alterations by the author.
* It has always been my opinion that nothing so much displays the power of religion, endears it to our choice, and encourages us in the glorious course, as the holy language and joyful hopes of Christians, in their last moments. It is truly an affecting and instructive sight, to behold feeble and sinful mortals, in the most abasing and gloomy circumstances of human nature, surrounded with the dread solemnities of Death, yet relying on the merits of a Redeemer, delighting in their covenant-interest in God through him, and triumphing over all the terrors of this last scene; in the joyous prospect of a blessed inimortality. This is, indeed, a glorious lecture on the grace of the Gospel, the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood, the influences of the spirit, and the reality of religion! Beholders wonder and melt under the powerful conviction, and wish to be such saints themselves!
• Hence, in the hermit's moving history,* that passage is felt peculiarly striking and delightful, which represents the hopeful, easy and effectionate way the aged father resigned his life.”
" While he was bestowing his counsels upon me (says the venerable writer) as his last and most valuable legacy, repeating and enforcing them by every motive of duty and interest, he felt his spirits begin to fail, and nature gently warning him of his approaching dissolution. He feebly raised his head, gave his left hand to me, and his right he stretched out to his weeping wife. He fixed his eyes upon us, commended
• See the Hermit, Xo. I. p. 98.
us to the blessing of God, and himself to the mercies of his Redeemer. Immediately he sunķ back, yttered a gentle groan, and expired-as he had lived-a good Christian and an affectionate man!"
“This is to die indeed! or rather it is to depart from sorrow, and be for ever with the Lord! And who would not cry out-Oh! let me live such a life, and may my latter end be like his!
* Nor is the death of the lovely Amelia less instructive. When we behold the roses withered on her cheek, the living lustre fled from her eye, and are full of sympathetic distress for the amiable fair one, how pleasing the thought that, instead of the blasted joys of life, she inherits the regions of eternal day?
• This brought to my mind a very moving scene, at the separation of two endeared Christian lovers by death, in the bloom of youth and fullness of hopes, after a short enjoyment of wedded friendship. I was an eye witness of what happened, and took notes soon after; so that the relation is not feigned but real. From these notes I have transcribed the following passages.
* The lovely saint, being much wasted by a slow disorder, told us that she thought her dissolution drew near, and hoped for a happy change.
“I have, from my early days, said she, been deeply sensible of my fallen and degenerate state, and have been constantly looking to Jesus for redemption. Nor have I looked in vain. When I have been laid abased and ashamed at his feet, and scarce daring to hope for mercy, his word and spirit have assured
my heart of the sufficiency of his righteousness and grace,