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remove these feelings. The superficial argument will then drop of itself, having nothing to hold it up.
If we begin by refuting this argument, we shall effect little or nothing. For even if it be given up, another will at once be adopted in its place and will serve the same purpose. Neither will a severe tone and reproachful language do. They only strengthen and madden the very feelings we wish to remove..
Kind appeals, sympathising expostulations, simple, though strong reasonings must be applied to the heart. The feelings of aversion will melt away under their application, and from that unexhausted soil which still remains at the bottom of every man's heart, a generous trust and lofty convictions will spring up.
I am not speculating about this matter, but generaliz-. ing the truth from past and existing facts. Several strong cases are now in my mind in which I read these doctrines as though they were graven in marble,-especially the doctrine that love and gentleness are more powerful than harsh reproof upon the sceptical mind. I have now only to remark that the Ministry at large supplies this very action upon the mind and heart, which I have described as needful. I will give two or three very recent cases. And if there were room I might give many others in which this action has produced the happiest effects.
The first is that of a man whose wife was religiously disposed, and strongly desirous of attending the Chapel service. But he would not suffer her to go often. He was not a mere intellectual disbeliever. He had an aversion of feeling. At length a person in the house fell sick. The Minister at large was called in. The head of the family thus became somewhat acquainted with him and his influence,-and soon after became ill himself. Of his own accord he desired that the Minister at large should come in again. He did visit him, -and soothed his feelings of hostility, and called forth his better affections. He became more and more interested. His spirit could not live without religion, nor calmly await the body's death without preparation for another world. He died with the hope of those who die in the faith of Jesus, and we doubt not has received their welcome. In his last
moments his friends said to him, --we trust you have looked unto God and found help. His reply was, “I pray constantly.' May it be that the prayer of earth's last moments was answered in Heaven!
It is a matter of most serious interest in what moral circumstances the Poor leave their children in the last hour. I will state the fact in the case I have been describing. As death drew nigh, the thought of his sons, who were very near to him, was working strongly in his mind. A few months before, he would have scoffed at the idea of placing any interest of his in the hands of a clergyman. He now spoke to his wife-and solemnly committed his children to the care of the Minister at large.
The second case is that of a woman-though it is, comparatively, a very rare thing for a woman to be an unbeliever. Though hostile to the Clergy, in hor distress she sent for the Minister at large. She asks what she shall do. He answers, – Pray!' And the voice from the soul did go up to heaven for help,--and the help she implored came to her troubled mind.
On the night of her death, as the dark shadows closed around her, she exclaimed, 'Oh, do let me see my dear Mr once more.' But he arrived too late. It was about 11 o'clock. The neighbors came together, and he exhorted and prayed with them until near midnight.
She had one only son, for whom she had a strong affection,,and whose mind she had before her sickness fed, or poisoned, with Infidel books. On her death-bed she committed the child to him who had given her spiritual consolation. Ever since he has attended at the Chapel.
I will give one other case, -that of a man whose face was so firmly set against all Christian ordinances and worship, that his friends who were religiously disposed, could never persuade him to go near a church.
At length one of his children died. The Minister at large was sent for to attend the funeral. He performed the services in that deep sympathy which the circumstances naturally inspired. The father was moved. He could not repress the evidence that unbelief was not suit
ed to his nature, could not supply his greatest wants, or give consolation in his sorest troubles. The hard seals burst off from the deeper fountains in his soul, and it appeared God had indeed given to him as well as to other men a living soul,-longings which nothing could satisfy but a Faith in the Infinite and a Hope full of Immortality. The true spirit of Chris,ianity being exhibited towards him, he could no more refuse to love it than a man can refuse to see the light pouring upon his eyeballs. * He first attended at the Chapel in the evening, and the discourse delivered wrought powerfully within his heart. He was interested in the services, and became a new man, old things having passed away.
... At the time of its publication this language was taken up in a very kind communication by a Trinitarian reader, and doubts expresse ed as to its consistency with Christianity and truth. Other minds may need the · Explanation freely given to him. The portion of it which bears directly on the point is, therefore, here inserted.
This language is used, not to express a general opinion, but to state a matter of fact. In all cases precisely like the one described, I do indeed believe the same course would end in the same result. This is but an axiom, self-evident, undeniable. Still the particular thing I conceive myself called on by. A Trinitarian Reader to do, is, not to enter into a general theological argument, but to state, it possible, more exactly the truth about the individual, of whom I could speak but briefly before,-though I can do it only by amplifying what was then actually said.
I do speak of a man whose face was · firmly set against all Christian ordinances and worship. But I do not say, or mean to imply, that his heart was entirely corrupt or entirely destitute of religious sentiment. He had an aversion of feeling to Christian institutions and forms. Nor did he like Christian professors : for one of them, in laboring to convert him, had treated him in an unchristian manner, while his infidel friends embraced him with a real affection. This affection he naturally prized more highly than unkindness. But when a true Christian affection was proffered him, he felt its superiority; and, Christianity itself being displayed to him in its true proportions through the medium of this personal friendliness, he loved Christianity. There is no particular mystery about it. It is strictly true, thats the true spirit of Christianity being exhibited towards him, he could no more refuse to love it than a man can refuse to see the light pouring upon bis eye-balls.' That there are Infidels upon whom even a true Christian affection would fail to exert at once so strong an influence, I by no means doubt. But the great error about Infidelity, on the part of believers, has always been that of regarding it as one unvarying, and perfectly malignant thing.
"You do not know (cried his friends to the Minister at large) what you have accomplished. We have tried to work upon him, but in vain.'
One Sunday he stopped at the Chapel after service, and mentioned a circumstance showing how such a conversion operates beyond its immediate subject. As he was going to the Chapel, two men called to him and requested that he would take a walk with them. He declined, told them where he was going, and added that he thought they would get more good by going with him than by rambling about. They accepted his proposal, were interested in the services, and a strong religious impression was made on them.
Not long after, in one of the visits to this man's house, the Minister was requested by both husband and wife to baptize their children into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
He who once doubted and denied, now wept abundant tears as the ceremony was performed, and remained to unburden his soul's emotion. He was among the last that left the Chapel that afternoon. He is now a regular worshipper.
I shall now speak of the influence of this ministry in the rescue of Children from moral ruin. There is no spectacle in the world more painful than that of a child surrounded by influences tending constantly to excite the lower passions of its nature. To such influences what can the child itself oppose? The moral will is not yet distinctly developed. There is no power of making that moral resistance which in mature life so often changes temptation into spiritual strength and glory. That holy prudence and patience cannot have been gained, which feed the 'calm and beautiful and silent fire' of virtue even from out the incumbrances of mortal life.'
The child, as by an outward necessity, grows up depraved, -becomes a bad man or bad woman,--almost without any serious voluntary wrong-doing in its own soul. Now there are many children in this so mournful, so dreadful situation. And it would seem no effort can show a more authentic seal of heavenly truth and charity than that which takes the children thus breathing in death as from the all-surrounding air, and places them in a pure moral atmosphere.
This effort the Ministry at large is continually and successfully making. I will, as usual, describe some cases of actual occurrence.
The Minister at large was called to visit a woman, who, though married, had been dissolute, but now lay on her bed dying of consumption. She had one son,
her only child. Under the moral treatment he had received, he naturally became very bad, a truant from school, and in all ways disobedeint; so much so that he had to be tied to his inother's sick bed!
She was at first careless about her own moral condition. But at length, after much pains taken, she was aroused to a sense of her danger, -and with gratitude opened her heart to religious influence.
At times the Minister joined with her in the music of devotion,-of which she became very fond. On one occasion at the close of the afternoon service in the chapel, he took several little girls to her room to aid in bearing up her spirit to heaven on the wings of holy song. She sat up in bed as far as her weakness would allow, and with moist eye and kindled cheek testified the depth of her emotion. She was especially affected by the hymns commencing, · There is a land of pure delight,' and I would not live alway. This was about three weeks before she died.
The appearance of that wasted form filled with rapture, and agitated as with the power of inspiration, by that purest and most unearthly language of prayer,-Sacred Music.--coming from the lips of blooming youth, wrought most powerfully on the hearts of the children themselves. The opportunity was improved to impress them with those religious sentiments which would give support in their time of need, taking the sting from death, gaining victory over the grave.