« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
is a swift and willing motion of the soul, which kindles every energy into quickness and diligence; and, consequently, they, who love Christ, will most chearfully do the things that he says. Their obedience will be from love, and very much according to the measure of it.
Next to this, the love to Christ's members will be a certain consequence of the love of his person. They will be loved for his sake and for their own. Our Lord taught us this love, when he taught us to pray. We are not directed to say, My Father, individually, though it be a truth; but, Our Father, in common with all his people: for each member, as a part of the whole, ought to pray for the whole body; as the whole body, in the same words, is enjoined to pray for every parti cular member. By this rule, a reciprocal affection is inculcated; and, by this practice, it is diffused and maintained. The great affection of the primitive disciples astonished their adversaries, and drew from them that honorable testimony; "See how these Christians love one another!" They called each other (following the scripture) by the endearing name of brethren and sisters; till, in short, their fellowship and brotherhood were titles, which stood for and signified the CHURCH itself. Amiable example! The bitter hatred and persecution of the world gave only a contrast of shade to that fair and blessed light, which it could not obscure or destroy.
Something of this kind not unfrequently occurs in the meeting of real Christians, who perhaps never heard of or saw each other before in their lives. An hint about Christ or his salvation, like a spark of fire, shall kindle
the flame of fellowship; and the discourse, drawn out into the detail of heart-felt experience, shall confirm a regard, to which the men of this world are strangers, and of which they are surprized to hear. An instance of this kind, I well remember, passed a few years since in a foreign land; which, though it hath been already published, I will take leave to insert in this place, as one proof among many of the remark, which I have been making.
Some years ago an English gentleman, by a particular providence, had occasion to be in North America, where, among other adventures, the following circumstance occurred to him, which is thus related in his own words.
"Every day's observation convinces me, that the children of God are made so by his own special grace and power, and that all means, whether more or less, are equally effectual with him, whenever he is pleased to employ them for conversion.
"In one of my excursions, while I was in the province of New York, I was walking by myself over a considerable plantation, amused with its husbandry, and comparing it with that of my own country, till I came within a little distance of a middle-aged negro, who was tilling the ground. I felt a strong inclination, unusual with me, to converse with him. After asking him some little questions about his work, which he answered very sensibly, I wished him to tell me, whether his state of slavery was not disagreeable to him, and whether he would not gladly exchange it for his liberty. "Massah, (said he, looking seriously upon me) I have wife and
children; my massah takes care of them, and I have no care to provide any thing; I have a good massah, who teach me to read; and I read good book, that makes me happy." I am glad, replied I, to hear you say so; and pray what is the good book you read? "The Bible, massah, God's own good book?" Do you understand, friend, as well as read this book? for many can read the words well, who cannot get hold of the true and good sense. "O massah, says he, I read the book much before I understand; but at last I felt pain in my heart; I found things in the book that cut me to pieces." Aye, says I, and what things were they? Why, massah, I found that I had bad heart; massah, a very bad heart indeed: I felt pain, that God would destroy me, because I was wicked, and done nothing as I should do. God was holy, and I was very vile and naughty; so I could have nothing from him but fire and brimstone in hell," In short, he entered into a full account of his convictions of sin, which were indeed as deep and piercing as almost any I had ever heard of; and what scriptures came to his mind, which he had read, that both probed him to the bottom of his sinful heart, and were made the means of light and comfort to his soul, I then enquired of him, what ministry or means he made use of, and found that his master was a Quaker, a plain sort of man, who had taught his slaves to read, but who had not, however, even conversed with this negro upon the state of his soul, I asked him likewise, how he got comfort under all this trial? « O massah, says he, it was Christ gave me comfort by his dear word. He bade me come unto him, and he would give me rest, for
I was very weary and heavy laden." And here he went through a line of the most precious texts in the bible, showing me, by his artless comment upon them as he went along, what great things God had done in the course of some years for his soul. Being rather more acquainted with doctrinal truths, and the analogy of the Bible, than he had been, or in his situation could easily be; I had a mind to try how far a simple, untutored experience, graciously given without the usual means, could carry a man from some speculative errors; and I therefore asked him several questions about the merit of works, the justification of a sinner, the power of grace, and the like. I own, I was as much astonished at, as I admired, the sweet spirit and simplicity of his answers, with the heavenly wisdom that God had put into the mind of this negro. His discourse, flowing merely from the richness of grace, with a tenderness and expression, far "beyond the reach of art," perfectly charmed me. On the other hand, my entering into all his feelings, together with an account to him, which he had never heard before, that thus and thus the Lord in his mercy dealt with all his children, and had dealt with me, drew streams of joyful tears down his black face, that we looked upon each other, and talked with that inexpres sible glow of Christian affection, that made me more than ever believe, what I have often too thoughtlessly professed to believe, the communion of saints. I shall never forget, how the poor excellent creature seemed to hang upon my lips, and to eat my very words, when I enlarged upon the love of Christ to poor sinners, the free bounty and tender mercy of God, the frequent and delightful
lightful sense he gives of his presence, the faith he bestows in his promises, the victories this faith is enabled to get over trials and temptations, the joy and peace in believing, the hope in life and death, and the glorious expectation of immortality. To have taken off his eager, delighted, animated, air and manner, would have been a masterpiece for a Reynolds. He had never heard such discourse, nor found the opportunity of hearing it, before. He seemed like a man who had been thrown into a new world, and at length had found company. Though my conversation lasted, at least, two or three hours, I scarce ever enjoyed the happy swiftness of time so sweetly in all my life. We knew not how to part. He would accompany me as far as he might; and I felt, on my side, such a delight in the artless, savory, solid, unaffected experience of this dear soul, that I could have been glad to see him often then, or to see his like at any time now. But my situation rendered this impossible. I therefore took an affectionate adieu, with an ardor equal to the warmest and the most antient friendship, telling him, that neither the colour of his body, nor the condition of his present life, could prevent him from being my dear brother in our dear Saviour; and that, though we must part now, never to see each other again any more in this world, I had no doubt of our having another joyful meeting in our Father's home, where we should live together, and love one another, throughout a long and a happy eternity. "Amen, Amen, my dear massah; God bless you, and poor me too for ever and ever." If I had been an angel from heaven, he could not have received me with more evident