« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Mansfield. Well, madam, I do conceive that there may be much consolation in this : religion does appear to be a real support in the days of calamity and affliction ; but what amends does it make to a prosperous man for depriving him of all the indulgences which a plentiful fortune puts within his power? I mean, what equivalent will it bestow upon him during his abode in this world, for so great a sacrifice ?
Lady. When a true love of God has taken possession of the heart of any man, it is lifted far above what are called the enjoyments of life. Vanity and luxury seem contemptible in his eyes. Instead of envying, he will pity those possessors of wealth, who know no better use of it than to indulge in selfish gratifications, and a mean desire of appearing superior in rank and riches, to those who perhaps excel them in every useful and valuable quality.
True religion, by planting the love of God in our hearts, lifts them far above « the pride of life.” Nothing but virtue appears lovely and dignified in the eyes of a truly pious man, and he respects that equally, whether he finds it in the palace of the noble, or the cottage of the peasant. And as the pomp and glare of the world do not dazzle, neither can its pleasures seduce him. He knows that time is the most va. luable article which he possesses, and sensible that he shall hereafter be called to a strict account for the use which he has made of it, he dreads to waste any part in the idle amusements which swallow up so large a share of it among the rich and gay. This conduct you will perhaps call strictness, and gloomy self-denial; but view the real christian, carrying comfort to the house of mourning, cheering the pallid face of poverty, opening the gate of instruction to the young, and soothing the latter days of the aged ! See the true follower of Christ, thas like a ministering angel brightening every countenance, and gladdening every heart that he approaches, and then
tell me whether the good man is not the happy man? See him too in his peaceful dwelling, amidst the small circle of his chosen friends, those who like himself are devoted to the glory of God, and the good of their fellow creatures ; see him at his frugal but hospitable board, with such guests, and a grateful and affectionate family surrounding it ; see the kindness, the intelligence which beams in every eye, and speaks in every sentence,-and then tell me whether a splendid saloon, a train of servants, or a variety of rich dishes and costly wines, could add to the enjoyment, or increase the real dignity of such a man?
Mr. Mansfield. You paint from the heart, dear madam, and dip your pencil in glowing colours !
Lady. Ah sir-I draw my picture from a dear originai, wio at this moment seems to stand before my eyes. It is my beloved husband whom I have thus endeavoured to sketch out ; and I had from my own experience, while I shared this blessed life with him, a full proof that religion hath the power of bestowing much happiness in this world : but the largest and dearest part of the present enjoyment of a pious man, consists in looking forward to the glories and felicities of another state, which the clear and steady eye of faith opens to his view.
Mr. Mansfield. Tell me more plainly what you mean by faith, and what you call a saving faith.
Lady. The first and grand article of faith, is a belief in the being and perfections of God. Upon this hang all the rest : and as we may almost say that nature has implanted it in every heart, so it is confirmed and strengthened by every object that she presents to our view. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard."
That the Maker of the world is all-powerful and
good, is manifest to every rational creature ; but to know the particulars of his goodness, and to gain a knowledge of his will, we must examine the precious volume in which he is more fully revealed to mankind. Here we have most convincing evidence of his gracious interference, to rescue his creatures from the state of idolatry and wickedness, into which they had plunged themselves in the early ages of the world. All the particulars of the Jewish history are so striking, and at the same time so artless and consistent, as to leave no impression on the mind of the reader, but one favourable to their certainty and truth.The miracles performed by Moses carry with them such clear evidence in the attestation of a cloud of witnesses,amongst whom, while the facts were recent, they were committed to writing, and with the other books of the old Testament delivered down from father to son for many ages, even to the present day : and in the dispersed and forlorn state in which this people, as a punishment for their obstinate rejection of the Messiah, have been suffered to remain for nearly eighteen hundred years, they still hold them as sacred as their forefathers, who received these 66 lively oracles" from eye witnesses of their truth.
It is impossible for us to have clearer evidence of “ things not seen,” than the Jewish scriptures afford; and upon this foundation our christian faith is built. To Abraham, the father of the Jews, was a promise given, that from him should descend one, w in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed ;” and a most remarkable prophecy of Christ was uttered by Moses in these words : “ A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me; bim shall ye hear.” Many predictions are to be found in the Old Testament, describing him as one who would be « despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” That he should be “ led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so should he
his mouth." Yet he should be " the Prince of Peace, the Father of the Age;" the government should be upon his shoulders,” and “ the spirit of the Lord God be upon him."
In the New Testament we have a history of the ministry of Jesus Christ, of the doctrines that he taught, and the miracles that he wrought; and a firm belief that he was the personage thus promised to the world, is the true christian faith. What our Lord himself required, was an acknowledgment that he was the Messiah, the Christ, the son of the living God." To this faith the Apostles added the great article of God's having sealed the truth of his commission, by raising him from the dead. He who believes these articles, receives, of course, all that Jesus taught, as true. And to make this a saving fuith, it must be accompanied by a sincere and habitual endeavour after holiness of heart and life.
Mr. Mansfield reflected for some time in silence, and then replied : “ Your religion, my dear niece, is consistent ; my mind assents to what you say ;
but ) am not prepared to act upon it. I see that you are happier than I, though you want many things that I deem necessary to common ease and comfort. Your happiness too is of a better kind, than that which I have all my life been aiming at: for supposing my large fortune could really bring me all the enjoyments which I once expected from it, still bad health, and the approach of age with its cureless infirmities, must come, and deprive me of all, while to you none of these things are evils. An illness is only a trial of your faith and patience, an opportunity of approv‘ing both before God; and what I call the miseries of advanced years, will be to you only an assurance that the great and glorious change for which your whole life has been constant preparation, cannot be long delayed. O madam, you have indeed, « chosen that better part,” which I trust you will never suffer to be taken from you.
Lady. Then spoke the uncle of my beloved husband! O sir, let these tears witness with what earnestness I wish, that to a conviction of the truth as it is in Jesus,” you would add that necessary part, a truly christian life. If any thing that I have been able to say should contribute towards it, you know not the delight, the happiness that it would give me.
Mr. Mansfield. Al madam, there is often a wide gulph between the knowledge of what is right, and the practice of it. I can promise nothing to you or to myself. The world, and the things of the world have for more than sixty years been winding themselves about my heart, and it is no easy task to get released from such a bondage. Habits of luxury and indolence have long had full possession of me, and to tear myself from their grasp seems little less than dividing soul and body. What you have said has made me wish it had been otherwise, but to do more is perhaps beyond my power: I will neither deceive you nor myself by saying otherwise.
Lady. Will you sometimes allow me to renew the subject? believe me, sir, it will every time be more interesting, and at length become delightful.
Mr. Mansfield. Not much of that at present, my dear niece. If it was only to talk about religion, I might perhaps get over my habitual aversion to it, but I am well aware that you would carry me much further. I have not made up my mind to give away half the fortune wbich I have spent my best days in toiling for; nor is my state of health such at present, as to make it pradent thus to agitate my mind even with thinking of it.
The good widow again shed tears, but of a different kind from those which had fallen from her eyes when she believed that she had succeeded in touching the heart of her uncle, and convincing him of the unprofitable manner in which a large part of his time and fortune were now bestowed. Those were tears of benevolent hope, but these of bitter disap