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the sure mercies of Abraham and David. The Lord give us grace to bring up our dear family in the knowledge and fear of the true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
From the time of his settlement in London, in 1782, to 1806, he had occasionally suffered severely from a gouty affection of his stomach, accompanied with a weakness of frame, sometimes so decided as to assume the features of dropsy. During the whole of this period he had found it necessary to take, almost every year, relaxation from his public labours, by making a summer excursion to Scotland or the sea-coast of England. At the close of the year 1805, so great was the debility of his constitution, that he was obliged, most reluctantly, to discontinue his pulpit labours, as well as all his other public services; and was for a number of months confined chiefly to his bed.
On the first Sabbath of the year 1806, the officiating minister read, at his request, the following address to the congregation :
“My dear friends; your affectionate pastor, by the holy arrangements of Providence disabled from ministering in his place this day, deems it his duty to call your devout attention to a few thoughts which forcibly impress themselves upon his own mind. Years revolve: what a mass of sins, the days, and weeks, and months of the past year have gathered together against us! Humbled in the dust, in the presence of Infinite Purity, let us, with deepest sorrow, implore remission through the blood of the Lamb, — blood which cleanseth from all sin. Let us tremble at the thought of
bringing forward the guilt of last year to the account of this new division of time. On the other hand, with how many mercies as to our persons, our families, our friends, and the church, hath the closing year been distinguished, - mercies to our health, our character, our substance, our peace of mind! Truly, at the close of every day it would have become us to have raised the stone of help, lifting up our hearts with our eyes to heaven, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.
“ We look forward. To our feeble powers of vision, limited is the range at the utmost, and dark at the clearest, to which our penetration reaches. It is almost indubitably certain, that in regard to some one or other of this congregation, the decree of Heaven has gone forth,—. This year thou shalt die.' Let every man, laying his hand on his heart, and lifting his eyes to heaven, say, “ Lord, is it I? Am I in a prepared state for appearing at the tribunal of the Son of God ? Have I scriptural evidence of being in a state of reconciliation with God, and of having passed from death to life?' : “ The year on which we are entered is a talent of inestimable worth, which our Divine Master is intrusting to us, saying, ' Occupy till I come.' Let us address ourselves, therefore, to a diligent and faithful discharge of the sacred trust. Strength is provided in the covenant, and held out in the promises. Examples of fidelity are exhibited to our eyes in the lives of God's saints, every one of whom, looking down from his seat in glory, seems to unite with his brother in saying to us, 'Be followers of us, who through faith
and patience are now inheriting the promises.' O to feel the power of such examples, which, like torches, guide and enkindle!
“ There is one additional hint to which your pastor craves your serious ear. It is contained in the apostle's admonition, from which it was his intention to address you himself at this hour: “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.' This is the suitable way for Christians to enter on the exercises of the new year.
“ In regard to the monthly exercise for prayer, on the evening of the coming Tuesday he hopes the members of the church will endeavour to make it convenient to attend, and that the gracious presence of the Son of God will warm their hearts with intimations of his love and grace.
“The members of the congregation who are confined by the afflictive visitations of God on themselves or their children, will send notice of their place of abode to any of the elders or deacons, who will favour them with a religious visit, for the consolation of their minds, and the increase of the graces of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
“ Finally, your minister earnestly solicits an interest in the prayers of his dear people, that the ends of this chastisement may be gained, his soul in the furnace purified, and himself restored (as he is encouraged to hope, very soon) to the exercise of his ministry, which, except as to the very imperfect manner of its management, is the joy and delight of his heart.”
The subjoined extract from his diary will
afford our readers a view of the state of his mind under this painful visitation :
“ March 1, 1806. Now two tedious months have revolved in which I have been confined, the prisoner of Divine holiness and justice. During all this space, how little have I done or said for God and the glorious Gospel of his Son. The light of this returning year has never beheld me employed in my beloved work of preaching Christ crucified to my dear congregation. Alas! how little exercised in a spiritual and profitable manner has my mind been under this severe visitation of my heavenly Father! What feeble advances in patience and submission to the Divine will and hope in God has my mind made at a season so favourable to the progress of those holy dispositions!
“ But let me record also, with gratitude, the loving-kindness of the Lord. The views of his wisdom, sanctity, and love, which are given in the Scriptures, have been comforting to my heart. My mind hath been graciously preserved from infidel doubts, and hath enjoyed the most placid conviction of the truth of our Saviour's mission, of the matchless excellence of his character, the perfection of his atoning sacrifice, and of the free, sincere, and most affectionate offers of salvation in the Gospel to sinners. My heart, I trust, hath accepted the free gift of God, and, as a poor guilty sinner, reposed its entire confidence in the blood and obedience of the Son of God. His good Spirit, I hope, enabled me to devolve, at the darkest hour of my affliction, my dear and
numerous family, any dear people, and all my concerns, on the guardian arm and faithfulness of my covenant God. For these reasons, I would rear the altar, and inscribe upon it, · Hitherto hath God helped me.' . “ Nor let me ever forget the affectionate solicitude and liberality of my kind people, at the beginning and through the whole course of my illness. With the foresight and love of a brother, they anticipated my wants and needs, and made provision for their supply. The kind attention of individuals, according to their ability and sense of duty, shall not be overlooked, but be long, long remembered with unfeigned gratitude. The gracious Lord reward them sevenfold into their own bosoms.
“How shall I express my obligations to my own dear family, and that most affectionate of friends, the wife of my youth ? Never, never can I recompense her fatiguing, ceaseless, and unwearied care of me, by day and by night, which love and sense of duty strong as her’s alone could incline and enable her to take and persevere in. The concern and unfeigned anxiety of my dear children about their suffering parent, afforded also much sacred consolation to my soul. O may the ends of this visitation be gained as to my own improvement, and the benefit of my congregation and family! May renovated health, lengthened days, and additional opportunities of usefulness, be all, all employed in the service and to the honour of my God and Father, and for the solid benefit of his people."