图书图片
PDF
ePub

fuence was then descending, so universal that scarcely one retired spot was left unwatered.

To view its powerful operations, its suddenly transforming erfects, was indeed wonderfully interesting and delightful. There was a change from barrenness to fertility, from coldness and death to warmth and life and beauty, so rapid and so transporting, that one, in the enthusiasm of the moment, might have exclaimed, “ This is not earth, but heaven!The pleasures and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments, the chagrin and the vanity, so frequently arising from worldly interest, secular pursuits, and selfish feeling, were then unknown and unfelt. What the world regards as great and honorable had lost its charm. Riches ceased to dazzle, and the enjoyment of life, without a constant reference to eternity, was considered not as a blessing, but a curse, as it really is. The native dignity of man seemed to be then known; and this knowledge influenced to dignified conduct, to a consideration of things more valuable than those of earth, and to an allegiance to a Sovereign whose kingdom is not of this world. The ingratitude and insensibility of the heart, the perverseness of the will, and the indistinctness of the understanding, toward the goodness, the sovereignty, and the justice of Omnipotence, were felt to exist, were heartily deplored; and a conviction seized the mind, that these could be resisted and overcome, only by the aids of the Divine Spirit. But their own condemnation, as sinners, by the law, the aggravation of their sins as having been committed amid the enjoyment of gospel privileges, and a sense of an entire destitution of every thing which is pleasing to an holy God, excited the deepest feeling, brought down pride and loftiness, and laid all in the dust. Unfeigned repentance was exercised; true contrition of heart, such as, David says, recommends itself to complacency and pardon.

Being brought to this condition, numbers obtained, or thought they obtained, an interest in Immanuel's love. Feeling in their hearts the efficacy of his atonement, and viewing him as the chiefest among ten thousand, they became his followers, vowed eternal allegiance to his authority, and resolved that the united efforts of the world and the prince of darkness, should never prevent them from obeying his commands, and from loving and serving him as their deliverer and their king.

Having witnessed the effects of this powerful and extensive revival of religion; having seen such numbers of all ranks and ages, firmly and unitedly determine to dissolve their fatal connections with objects of earth and sense, to become the faithful and active subjects of the eternal Sovereign, and thus to fit themselves to in habit a mansion prepared in his courts, I could not but exclaim “ Happy Christians! Happy fellow Pilgrims! Happy should I be to travel along with you through this dark and sinful world to the abodes of heaven!”

After a protracted visit, however, circumstances rendered it necessary that I should leave this place, and its lovely and interesting inhabitants. Still I determined, if possible, to renew my visit, err mans vears should elapse; thinking, as I then left them in so

harmonious, peaceful, and heavenly a state, that I should again find them, as formerly, active, faithful, humble, and prayerful.

After I had wandered in various sections of the country, during nearly four years; having noticed other events and other appearances, and having become acquainted with numerous characters, amid the diversity of which there was much to encourage and to please, and much also to sadden and disgust; I was permitted, agreeably to my earnest wish, and through the goodness and mercy of my heavenly Father, to visit again this beloved spot, the remembrance of which, during my absence, had often recurred to my mind. As I entered the town, my expectations were great, of seeing a lively exhibition of settled permanent religion, and the effects of its genuine principles, governing with resistless sway the hearts, the actions, and the business of men. I did not expect there would now be presented the teeming germs, the fragrant bloom, and the luxuriant foliage of spring; but I did expect, what is perhaps less enchanting, yet not less lovely, the rich harvests of summer, and mature fruits of autumn. Such were my hopes : but, alas! on looking around to realize them, they proved to be a delusion. In vain I searched, in vain I inquired for that lively interest in religion, that exalted piety, and that devotedness to the cause of Christ, which, I had reasonably hoped, would now be manifested, by those who had professed to be his followers. At first, I could hardly believe that I was now in the place where, four years before, I had beheld the power and influence of religion, contrition of heart for sin, renunciation of worldly pleasures and interests, earnest attachment to the scriptures of truth, entire dependence on the merits of the Saviour, and a serious determination to advance his cause. The externals of religion were indeed observed ; and on the Sabbath there would be an assembly, respectable in point of numbers, in the house of worship; and a cold assent would be given to the words of religious truth, as they fell from the lips of their spiritual teacher.Here and there might be found one, not wholly destitute of feeling, deploring the lukewarmness and indifference which prevailed in such an alarming degree; but his influence was too small, and his voice too feeble, to arouse to feeling and exertion those who were slumbering around him. Neither at the social party, nor in the family circle, was the subject of religion mentioned, and probably it was seldom thought of. Worldly pursuits and sensual pleasures seemed to engross the attention of almost all; and the card-table and the ball-room were frequented by those who once considered their probaticnary season as too precious to be wasted amid such trifles.

With this gloomy prospect before me, I could not but contrast what I now saw, with what I had seen four years before; and in doing this, I was forced to the exclamation, « Is religion indeed a dream? If not, how can I account for the change, which has taken place here, among those, whom I supposed grace would keep from falling into a state of such death-like coldness?” I confess I felt at the time, that the infidel and the sceptic had some reason for taughing at religion, and for doubting its reality. Such a defection is was here manifested by its professors, from the duties, the practices, and the spirit of religion, is indeed reproachful to the name of Christian; and, no doubt, is a greater obstacle to its advancement than all that infidels or sceptics can ever produce. When Christians, if such they can be called, become so unfaithful, so disobedient, and so occupied in secular concerns and pleasures, that scarcely a shade of difference can be discerned between their characters and those of mere men of the world; there is then cause to fear, to tremble, and to be ashamed. Relapses are sometimes noticed; yet in truth I must say, that I never witnessed one more appalling and discouraging than this among the people in But let me not be considered as destitute of charity. Let it not be thought as my opinion, that no good effects have resulted from this revival in — ; that, as a people and a church, they have made their last state worse than their first, that none have learned to lisp the new song of Immanuel's praise, nor sincerely and heartily repented of sin, nor tasted the sweetness of forgiving love. No doubt, amid all the coldness and indifference and worldly concern which existed, there were some fervent souls, some earnest prayers, and some steady and faithful, though silent, exertions for the enkindling of religious love, and the awakening of religious fear. Some Achan perhaps there was in the camp; some false professors, who never had escaped from the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. And these, as far as their numbers and their influence extended, must have had a most deadly effect on the interests of true religion, and the prosperity of the church. How many such there were, the Judge of all the earth alone can and will decide. There was, at the time of which I am speaking, a powerful reaction of worldly interest upupon the interests of religion; a reaction, which is often seen, but which is always an indication of neglect of duty in christians.

Did christians, while they have warmth of feeling, and are tremblingly alive to the obligations, the duties, the importance and the joys of religion, deeply reflect on the dangers of falling into a state of stupidity, and the fatal consequences resulting therefrom, not only to themselves, but to the church and the world, surely they would exercise that caution, and maintain that earnestness of praycr, and that attentive observance of every duty, which would prevent the destructive evil. I know there is an opinion prevalent in the world, and in the church too, perhaps in some degree justified from observation and experience, that the warm sunshine of a revival must be succeeded by the cold night of stupidity. This opinion ought not to be cherished, especially by professors of godliness, although some deplorable facts may seem to establish it. For it is not taught in the bible, nor mentioned by our Saviour to his followers, and is not consistent with the principles of christianity. Those wbo endure unto the end, and those only, shall be saved.

This instance of declension among the people in _ I have brought forward, not to make the laugh of the unbeliever more open, nor to dishearten the fearful and doubting, nor to deaden the slumbers of languid professors; but that it may serve as a warning to other christians, particularly to those who are now enjoying the blessings of a revival, that they beware of falling into a state of coldness, of becoming less frequent and less earnest in prayer, and of forgetting their duty, their bible, and their God. Y. S.

PEDESTRIAN EXCURSION.

THAT we are strangers and pilgrims in the world, is a truth which seldom comes home to the bosoms of men. Some signal dispensation of Providence, the sudden death of a friend the loss of property, or health, or both, is, in most cases, necessary to the full realization of it. But there are occasions, when, without such calamities, the contemplative mind is led, almost impreceptibly, to such a reflection. During a pedestrian excursion in the month of August, I met with various incidents, which, if they were not irrelevant to the object of your paper, I might describe for the entertainment of the curious reader.

After many a weary mile, I reached the summit of one of the loftiest hills of New-Jersey. The prospect which such a commanding elevation afforded, was grand. With difficulty I had worried up the steepest ascent, and on gaining the top, I involuntarily sat myself down to enjoy the refreshing breeze, which disdained the humility of the vale below. As far distant as the eye could reach, was the ocean: It was scarcely distinguishable from the soft silvery clouds, which, like a crescent, seemed to embrace it. The intervening landscape was greatly diversified; now rising and falling in gentle undulations, and anon swelling into a ridge of lofty mountains, whose dusky summit peered in proud defiance above the little hills below. Here and there were scattered country seats, which, from their insulated situation, as well as their comparative grandeur, were easily distinguished from the village houses, socially clustered around a neatly steepled church. The serpentine road, winding its way until lost beneath the over-arching forest trees, and the still more irregular rivulet which sluggishly crept towards the ocean ;-the rising smoke of the distant hamlet--the sheep which seemed like specks beneath the shady trees-the flashing of the sun-beam as reflected from the scythe or sickle, all went to heighten a picture, the contemplation of which soothed my mind, and introduced a train of profitable reflections. Here, thought I, one can sit, and drink in the beauties of the landscape. All is hushed save the lowing of the distant cattle, or the chiming of insects, which only serve, by contrast, to show the stillness of solitude. Amid the grandeur of this scene, I felt my own insignificance. What a niche in creation, said I, do I fill! and how little should I be missed if my life were to terminate on the spot where I ain sitting! The landscape would still smile for others. The busy bustling world would move on, each in his own pursuit, nor dream that one link of the vast chain had dropped. "Tis true, in the little circle of home, the voice of an affectionate mother would be heard, like Rachel weeping for the loss of her child, and tender-hearted sisters would bear a part in the melancholy dirge: but with regard to the multitude, the language of a late lamented bard might be appropriated to me, and with much inore probability of its proving a true prediction:

“I should sink,
As sinks a stranger in the crowded streets
Of busy London.-Some short bustle's caused,
A few enquiries, and the crowds close in,
And all's forgotten.”

Every man, thought I, is eager in the pursuit of some darling object; and though one mortal after another, hastening to the grave, crosses his path, he cannot believe that he also is a stranger and a pilgrim in the world. I could not but reflect too, on the ten thousand pursuits in which my fellow beings were at that moment engaged. Some were rolling in splendor through the streets of the metropolis, the gaze and admiration of the rabble; while others were rioting in voluptuousness and debauchery. Some perhaps were involved in the smoke and dust and din of battle, earning the warrior's crown amid the shrieks of the dying and the carcases of the dead. Soipe were devising acts of cruelty, or fraud, or oppression; and some, it might be, were terminating with their own hands a life which might have been devoted to the cause of humanity, but which, through crimes and sins, had become a burden to its possessor. But the greater part, I had no doubt, were eagerly and perhaps honestly striving after wealth. This I could not indeed class with the catalogue of crimes, but I could lament that it was carried to so great an excess. Situated as I was, I felt how vain was all the wealth and grandeur which obtain in the world, which, like the variegated spangles of the morning dew, vanish ere the sun has gained his meridian; and yet, to amass property, how many rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness. "Not content with a decent competency, they would grasp in their wishes the mines of Peru. They would substitute, as their happiness, gold for religion, and covet more the name of an opulent than of a good man. Vain mortal! Soon must you be stripped of the little you possess, and your bosom, which has so often beat with the hope of gain, be cold in the grave. I could not but think, as I sat ruminating, how much more I would give for the assurance of God's favour, than all the honours and riches which flesh is heir to. I could then lay my head on the stone where I was sitting, and die.

I could not but reflect also, and it was with pleasure, that amid all the misery and crime and worldly anxiety which then existed, there was abroad in the earth a redeeming influence. I could fancy that I saw the zealous missionary seated by the side of some heathen idolater, and pointing him from the bloody rites of Paganism to the cross of Christ-or some Howard embarked in the cause of Philanthropy, “diving into the infections of dungeons, and taking the guage and dimensions of misery," that he might soothe the sorrows of the heart with the balm of Gilead, or administer to suffering humanity the necessaries of life. I delighted to trace in my imagination the stream of christian benevolence, rolling through the moral

« 上一页继续 »