« НазадПродовжити »
of youth has been spent apart from all inquiry, and all solicitude, on that solemn subject. “ The materials,” Dr. Johnson remarks, “ on wbich age builds its comforts, must be brought together in the morning of our days."
When Mr. Leifchild removed to the Metropolis, Divine grace, confirming his early habiis, preserved him, even in the place where “ Satan's seat is,” from every kind of youthful dissipation. The fair character which he brought with him, he carried back, after a lapse of years, unsullied. On one occasion, only, during his residence in London, he was induced to enter the theatre; but, so great was his dread while there, of being found by death upon such an unhallowed spot, thai no considerations (although some of a very powerful nature were employed) could prevail on him to repeat his visit. Often did he bitterly regret that he had attended this once. It was an act of his life on which memory never looked without putting him to grief. Why should any one be willing to live where he would dread to die?
A new era was now opening upon him. He married the daughter of an eminent artist, and commenced business for himself at a short distance from town. His prospects were not indeed very flattering, nor his means very abundant. But his habits were industrious, regular, and frugal; and, but for an ardent thirst after various kinds of knowledge, not immediately connected with his calling, he would, probably, have acquired considerable property. Many trials, however, awaited him in the rearing of à numerous family, and some of them too painful to think of, were it not that they proved the means of displaying, on the one hand, his exemplary faith and patience, and, on the other, the singular interpositions of Divine Providence on his behalf. They were the dark ground in his life, upon which the excellencies of his own character, and the evidences of the Divine favour, were exhibited, so as to form a striking and most delightful contrast.
Soon after his settlement, his religious views underwent a considerable alteration. As yet, though the Father of mercies had been endeared to him by a thousand proofs of kindness, he had little or no perception of the plan of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ. Upon a mind, however, like his, already warmed with a love of the truth, as far as it was known, familiarized with the Scripture, and hearkening to the voice of the Holy One, it could hardly be expected that an evangelical ministry could be exercised to no purpose. It was under the discourses of a preacher* in connexion with the Rev. John Wesley, that the Gospel shone upon his mind with unclouded lustre, like the sun upon some humble valley, which waited only for his beams to call forth, and bring to their maturity, the precious seeds with which it was stored. Shortly after, he joined the society, a connexion in
* Mr. Gathercole.
which he remained until the hour of his death. It was about this time that some remarkable manifestations of mercy impressed, in the most satisfactory manner, the conviction, that he was accepted of God, through the atonement of his Son Jesus Christ. This conviction, with scarcely any interval, he continued to enjoy during the whole of his pilgrimage upon earth.
A circumstance may be here introduced, which will probably not appear new to those who have watched over the incidents of a Christian's life in connexion with his devotional exercises. Under a deep family affliction, he retired to his chamber, to intreat the Almighty, that a favourable change might take place. No sooner had the petition ascended, than he felt such confidence, that he would not renew the request, lest it should appear to imply doubt or unbelief. The event did not disappoint his hope. How applicable to him were these words of the Psalmist: “ In the day that I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul?”
He now became a local preacher in the Methodist connexion; and, on one occasion, having spoken at a distance from home, on that passage, “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water," he found, upon his return, on a dark Sabbath evening, a considerable part of the road, which was usually marshy, completely overflowed, and the waters rising bigher and higher. At first he drew back; but, recollecting his text, chided himself for his unbelief; and boldly, perhaps not prudently, committed himself to the stream. He was borne along, in what manner he could never conceive, filled with Divine peace and satisfaction of mind; and, to his astonishment, after a considerable length of time, found himself safe on the opposite side. On his return to his home, the recollection of the scene was attended with such peculiar consolation of mind, as approached to rapture. He retained, even on the bed of death, an impression of the elevated feeling excited on this occasion; nor had time, by any means, diminished to him the singularity of his escape.
Many circumstances, of a similar nature, might be added, in which both his faith in Divine Providence, and the kindness of God towards him, were equally conspicuous.
There are minds, which, by their native energy, will distinguish themselves, and stand out from the inert and common mass. But this very distinction is calculated to draw upon them both the reproaches of adversaries, and the envy of associates. Such was precisely the case with him whose history we are tracing. Though circumspect and conscientious, he passed through evil report.” But he lived down the prejudice and censure which occasionally assailed him: his righteousness arose like the sun from behind those thick vapours which strove, in vain, to obscure
It was to be expected, that the people among whom he received his best discoveries of a religious nature, would secure his warmest attachment; and that the system of religion, embraced by him at an early period of his life, and mingling itself with all his strong and ardent feelings, would be held by him with a firm grasp. His heart, however, never became the seat of bigotry; he had too much of the spirit of the Gospel, to view with complacency those only who were of the same communion as himself. When one of his children was led to embrace, in some respects, a differeot view of the doctrines of grace, it produced no remonstrance on his part. And on the great subject of the depravity of the heart-of justification by faith alone in the all-prevalent merits of Christ--and of the necessity of sanctification by the energies of the Holy Ghost, both father and son continued to see to eye.”
How would all asperity be avoided between the two classes of Christians here adverted to, did they consider how nearly they approximate to each other in their devotional moments! It was impossible for any who listened to the prayers of the deceased, to judge from them whether he was a Caivinist or an Arminian.
From the period of what may be considered his conversion to the truth, he devoted himself, in addition to the cares of business, to the education of five children, cherishing in them a love of reading, and a thirst after useful knowledge, both of which every one of them inherited from him. It was his practice to adduce, from time to time, a variety of historical facts, with which, having treasured them up in a most tenacious memory, he was remarkably conversant. Above all, he inculcated upon them the fear of God, and the performance of moral and religious duties, enforcing all he said upon these topics by the eloquence of his own living example—that “ lecture, silent, but of sovereign power."
Although the ministry of the Established Church in the parish where he resided, was not strictly evangelical, he continued with his family to attend there, on the mornings of the Sabbath days, being warmly attached to her services. Whatever benefit could be derived from these services, he embraced with grateful ardour. He was honoured with the esteem and friendship of the clergyman, and often surprised as well as delighted his children, by repeating the most instructive parts of the discourses which they had heard. With what fondness do children recollect the form of a departed parent, endeared to them by so many virtues! His eye still geems to beam affection upon them. The sounds of instruction still seem to issue from his lips, and the bright image of his living worth stands before them in all its loveliness and dignity. “ The monitions of wisdom, when they return on us with this melan. choly charm, have a more pathetic cogency than when they wero
first uttered by the voice of that living friend, who is now silent. It will be an interesting occupation of the pensive hour, to recount the advantages which we have received from beings who have left the world, and to reinforce our virtues from the dust of those who taught them."
The preservation of the piety of the deceased, in the place where he resided for upwards of thirty years, in undiminished vigoar, amidst all the blasts of persecution and adversity with which it was assailed, will appear extraordinary when it is remarked, that during the greater part of this time, the interest of religion in the neighbourhood was so low, that scarcely was there an individual in the town in whom he could find a religious companion. “ How can one be warm alone ?" The fire, however, communicated to him from above, and secretly fed from thence, burnt on the altar of his heart with inextinguishable fervour. It continued thus to burn amidst the damps of death; and now mingles with the joy, and zeal, and gratitude, which glow in the spirits of the just, near its immortal source.
At length he retired from business, and followed the greater part of bis family to London, where he resided for the last two years of his life. In the abundance of religious privileges which he enjoyed in this highly favoured city, amends were made him for their former scarcity; and as the soil was improved in which he grew, his fruitfulness continued and abounded. Seldom was that promise more strikingly fulfilled than in his case, “ Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing: to show that the Lord is upright, and that there is no unrighteousness in him.”
For some weeks previous to his death, he felt a depression of spirits, and a loss of appetite. On returning from the country, whither he had been for the purpose of addressing some friends on the subject of religion, without having been able to accomplish his errand, his wife and daughters first perceived the melancholy alteration. Dim was that eye which had so often beamed upon them with delight; and languid were those arms, which, on every former return, had been stretched out to them with all the promptitude and vigour that affection could give. He had looked on the spires of his birth-place, as they rose to his view, on his retiring from them, with the melancholy presage, that he should see them no more. He soon afterwards repaired, for change of air, to the house of his eldest son, at Kensington, contriving to go thither on the evening of a public service, which be attended with considerable feeling and pleasure. But, alas ! while present, and most devoutly engaged in the service, several, who knew him, could not help remarking, that “ death seemed to be upon him." After a short interval,
he returned to London, to settle some little business, which, finding himself unable to perform, he speedily quitted it again for his son's house, from which he was to go out no more. The best medical advice was obtained for him; but to no purpose. A disease in the passage from the throat to the stomach prevented him from receiving the least sustenance for the space of three days. But while his flesh gave way, his heart did not fail. He referred, in the most agreeable manner, to the former scenes of his life, delighting to call them up to his remembrance, and wishing his son to preserve some memorial of them. His life was now all retouched, and the variety of events which had composed it, crowded upon the view. But there were no dark recollections to daunt him-no sins beyond those of infirmity, as he frequently declared afterwards, in the most solemn moments, to hang their terrific gloom over his mind. If with reference to the sufferings, or to the dubious state, of any of his children, he was constrained to say, with David, “ Although my house be not so with God," he had not, like him, to charge them upon his own temporary apostasy. With perfect composure he was heard, about this time, to say, “ Well, if I can neither eat nor drink, my career must be short.” In this state, he went twice on the Sabbath-day to the house of God, and expressed himself refreshed in mind, though fast decaying in body. Of the morning service, the subject afforded him so much pleasure, that he declared, if ever he should recover, the text-" If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink”-should be the theme of his own meditation, and requested the heads of the discourse to be written down for him in large hand. During the following part of the day, he walked out, leaning on his son's arm, still talking of God, and telling of secret, but sacred hours, spent in communion with him. On the discourse of the evening, which was founded on the interesting narrative at the close of the fourth chapter of St. John, he made some pertinent remarks. He appeared much to enjoy the religious services of the family. On one occasion, he gave out a hymn of his own selecting, from the Supplement to Dr. Watts, with great energy, dwelling particularly on the following verse:
Fear not that he will e'er forsake,
Or leave his work undone;
And faithful to his Son.
He was visited on the Monday by Dr. Baillie, who advised, if the difficulty of swallowing continued, a painful operation, but gave little or no hopes of his recovery. With this he was made acquainted, and it disturbed not, in the least, the holy serenity of his soul. He even inquired into the nature of the operation rather as a subject of science than of painful appre