By Adam Clarke
IT is the will of God that Christians should be well instructed; that they should become wise and intelligent, and have their understandings well cultivated and improved. Sound learning is of great worth, even in religion; the wisest and best instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be the most useful. If a man be a child in knowledge, he is likely to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine; and often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men; the more knowledge he has, the more safe is his state. If our circumstances be such that we have few means of improvement, we should turn them to the best account. Partial knowledge is better than total ignorance. He who cannot get all he may wish must take heed to acquire all that he can. If total ignorance be a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge lessens both the evil and the danger. It must never be forgotten that the Holy Scriptures themselves are capable of making men wise unto salvation, if read and studied with faith in Christ.
Genuine wisdom is ever accompanied with meekness and gentleness. Those proud, overbearing, and disdainful men who pass for great scholars and eminent critics, may have learning, but they have not wisdom. That learning implies their correct knowledge of the structure of language, and of composition in general; but wisdom they have none, nor any self-government. They are like the blind man who carried a lantern in daylight to keep others from justling him in the street. That learning is not only of little worth, but despicable, that does not teach a man to govern his own spirit, and to be humble in his conduct toward others.
We must not suppose that eminent endowments necessarily imply gracious dispositions. A man may have much light and little love; he may be very wise in secular matters, and know but little of himself, and less of his God. There is as truly a learned ignorance as there is a refined and useful learning. One of our old writers said, "Knowledge that is not applying is like a candle which a man holds to light himself to hell." The Corinthians abounded in knowledge, and science, and eloquence, and various extraordinary gifts; but in many cases they were grossly ignorant of the genius and design of the gospel. Many since their time have put words and observances in place of the weightier matters of the law, and the spirit of the gospel. The apostle has taken great pains to correct these abuses among the Corinthians, and to insist on that great, unchangeable, and eternal truth,—that love to God and man, filling the heart, hallowing the passions, regulating the affections, and producing universal benevolence and beneficence, is the fulfilling of all law; and that all professions, knowledge, gifts, etc., without this, are absolutely useless.
Truth is so amiable and important in every department of knowledge, that no pains should be spared to acquire it. It is not only excellent in its source, but also in the last faint glimmerings of its farthest projected rays: to whatever distance these have shone forth, and however intermixed, they should, if possible, be analyzed, and traced back to their origin.
Truth is the contrary to falsity. Truth has been defined, "the conformity of notions to things; of words to thoughts." It declares the thing that is, and as it is; whereas falsity, in all its acceptations, is that which is not; what is pretended to be a fact, but either is no fact, or is not presented as it really is. The revelation of God to man, in reference to his salvation, is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It bears a strict conformity to the perfections of the divine nature. It inspires such notions as are conformable to the things of which they are the mental ectypes, and describes its subjects by such words as are conformable to the thoughts they represent.
Every Christian should study philosophy, as from it he will more evidently discover, 1. That he who is so fearfully and wonderfully made, so marvellously preserved, and so bountifully fed, should give up unreservedly his all to God, and devote the powers which he has received to the service of the Creator. 2. When atheistical notions would intrude, a few reflections on the manifold wisdom displayed in the creation may be the means of breaking the subtle snare of a designing foe. And, 3. By the study of nature, under grace, the soul becomes more enlarged, and is capable of bearing a more extensive, deeper, and better defined image of the divine perfections.
It is generally supposed that former times were full of barbaric ignorance; and that the system of philosophy which is at present in repute, and is established by experiments, is quite a modern discovery. But nothing can be more false than this, as the Bible plainly discovers to an attentive reader, that the doctrines of statics, the circulation of the blood, the rotundity of the earth, the motions of the celestial bodies, the process of generation, etc., were all known long before Pythagoras, Archimedes, Copernicus, or Newton was born.
It is very natural to suppose that God implanted the first principles of every science in the mind of his first creature; that Adam taught them to his posterity; and that tradition continued them for many generations with their proper improvements. But many of them were lost in consequence of wars, captivities, etc. Latter years have rediscovered many of them, principally by the direct or indirect aid of the Holy Scriptures; and others of them continue hidden, notwithstanding the accurate and persevering researches of the moderns.
Who taught Newton to ascertain the laws by which God governs the universe, through which discovery a new source of profit and pleasure has been opened to mankind through every part of the civilized world? No reading, no study, no example, formed his genius. God, who made him, gave him that compass and bent of mind by which he made those discoveries, and for which his name is celebrated in the earth. When I see Napier inventing the logarithms; Copernicus, Des Cartes, and Kepler, contributing to pull down the false systems of the universe, and Newton demonstrating the true one; and when I see the long list of patentees of useful inventions, by whose industry and skill long and tedious processes in the necessary arts of life have been shortened, labour greatly lessened, and much time and expense saved; I then see, with Moses, men who are wise-hearted, whom God has filled with the spirit of wisdom, for these very purposes, that he might help man by man, and that, as time rolls on, he might give to his intelligent creatures such proofs of his being, infinitely varied wisdom, and gracious providence, as should cause them to depend on him, and give him that glory which is due to his name.
The teaching of philosophy, among the ancients, became the means of the emolument of the teacher; and, while they boasted to be free, they themselves were the slaves of various evil tempers and passions; so that it was said, with great propriety, of philosophy, or wisdom, in its several stages, "Philosophy was impious under Diagoras; vicious under Epicurus; hypocritical under Zeno; impudent under Diogenes; covetous under Demochares; voluptuous under Metrodorus; fantastical under Crates; scurrilous under Menippus; licentious under Pyrrho; quarrelsome under Cleanthes; and, at last, intolerable to all men."
The Catholic writers say that St. John Damascenus was so zealous for the truth, that he resorted sometimes to pious fables to support it. Such conduct in any person leaves the difference very little between saint and sinner. The truth has no need of such support: and is always injured and rendered suspected when its votaries go to Egypt for help.
In the present age, humane and learned men have been endeavouring, so to speak, to find out a royal road to geometry: difficulties have been professedly lessened, till at last the foundations of science have been laid upon the sands. Profound literature is rarely to be met with. We have still, it is true, the splendour and brilliancy of gold: but on examination we frequently find a mass of inferior metal; and even the surface, though completely covered, yet not deeply gilt.
Our various conflicting and contradictory theories of the earth are full proofs of our ignorance, and strong evidences of our folly. The present dogmatical systems of geology itself are almost the ne plus ultras of brainsick visionaries and system-mad mortals. They talk as confidently of the structure of the globe, and the manner and time in which all was formed, as if they had examined every part from the centre to the circumference; though not a soul of man has ever penetrated two miles in perpendicular depth into the bowels of the earth. And with this scanty, almost no-knowledge, they pretend to build systems of the universe, and blaspheme the revelation of God! Poor souls! all these things are to them "a path which no fowl knoweth." The wisdom necessary to such investigations is out of their reach; and they have not simplicity of heart to seek it where it may be found.
If wisdom means a pursuit of the best end, by the most legitimate and appropriate means, the great mass of mankind appear to perish without it. But, if we consider the subject more closely, we shall find that all men die in a state of comparative ignorance. With all our boasted science and arts how little do we know! Do we know any thing to perfection that belongs either to the material or spiritual world? Do we understand even what matter is? What is its essence? Do we understand what spirit is? Then, what is its essence? Almost all the phenomena of nature, its grandest operations, and the laws of the heavenly bodies, have been explained on the principle of gravitation or attraction: but in what does this consist? Who can answer? We can traverse every part of the huge and trackless ocean by means of the compass: but who understands the nature of magnetism, on which all this depends? We eat and drink in order to sustain life: but what is nutrition? and how is it effected? This has never been explained. Life depends on respiration for its continuance: but by what kind of action is it, that in a moment the lungs separate the oxygen, which is friendly to life, from the nitrogen, which would destroy it; suddenly absorbing the one and expelling the other? Who, among the generation of hypothesis-framers, has guessed this out? Life is continued by the circulation of the blood: but by what power and law does it circulate? Have the systole and diastole of the heart, on which this circulation depends, been ever satisfactorily explained? Most certainly not. Alas! we die without wisdom; and must die to know these and ten thousand other matters equally unknown and equally important. To be safe, in reference to eternity, we must know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; whom to know is life eternal. This knowledge, obtained and retained, will entitle us to all the rest in the eternal world.
To the soul happiness belongs: of this, it alone is capable; and as it is a spiritual being, the happiness of which it is capable must be spiritual, and must be produced by the possession, not of an earthly, but of a spiritual good. A man may have as many houses as he can inhabit, as many clothes as he can wear, as many beds as he can lie on, and as much food as he can eat, and, with all, possess sound health and strength; and yet his soul be in misery, while his body has not one wish ungratified, nor a single want unsupplied. Like may cleave to and assimilate with like. The productions of the earth are suited to animal wants: but what relation have food, raiment, gold, silver, and earthly possessions to an immortal spirit? The abundance of them does not satisfy it; the want of them does not distress it. These are not made for soul or spirit; they have nothing in their nature suited to the nature of a spiritual substance. God constituted the body so as to receive gratification and support from natural things; and endowed these natural things with such properties as render them suitable to those bodies; but he made the soul of a different nature, and designed it a happiness which no sublunary things can communicate, affect, or remove. He gave it unbounded capacities and infinite desires. I mean by this, that its capacities are not limited by created things; and its wishes extend beyond all finite good and excellence. As, therefore, the capacities of the soul extend far beyond all created material good and excellence, God alone must be its portion: he alone can satisfy its infinite desires: he alone can make it happy.
It is well, ineffably well, to have a happiness that is not affected by the great and many changes to which external objects are incident: what a blessing to be able to sit calm on the wheel of fortune, and to prosper in the midst of adversity!
The soul was made for God; and nothing but God can fill it, and make it happy. Angels could not be happy in glory, when they had cast off their allegiance to their master. As soon as his heart had departed from God, Adam would needs go to the forbidden fruit, to satisfy a desire which was only an indication of his having been unfaithful to his God. Solomon in his glory, possessing every thing heart could wish, found all to be vanity and vexation of spirit; because his soul had not God for its portion. Ahab, on the throne of Israel, takes to his bed, and refuses to eat bread, not merely because he cannot get the vineyard of Naboth; but because he had not God in his heart, who could alone satisfy its desires. Haman, on the same ground, though the prime favourite of the king, is wretched, because he cannot have a bow from that man whom his heart even despised. O how distressing are the inquietudes of vanity! And how wretched is the man who has not the God of Jacob for his help, and in whose heart Christ dwells not by faith!
Religion is a commerce between God and man; and is intended to be the means of re-establishing him in that communion with his Maker, and the happiness consequent on it, which he has lost by the fall. All notions of religion, merely as a system of duties which we owe to God, fall, in my apprehension, infinitely short of its nature and intention. To the perfection, happiness, or gratification of the infinite mind, no creature can be necessary. Religion was not made for God, but for man. It is an institution of the divine benevolence for human happiness. Nor can God be pleased with any man’s religion or faith but as far as they lead him to happiness, that is, to the enjoyment of God; without which there can be no felicity: for God is the source of intellectual happiness, and from him alone it can be derived; and in union with him alone it can be enjoyed. Animal gratifications may be acquired by means of the various matters that are suited to the senses: but gratification and happiness are widely different; the former may exist where the latter is entirely unknown.
God is a spirit, the human soul is a spirit, and the happiness suitable to the nature and state of man must be spiritual. The soul has infinite desires and wishes; and what can satisfy these wishes must be infinite. God alone is that GOOD; and in him alone is this happiness to be found.
If it be his will that the happiness lost by sin should be restored to believers in Christ, then it is his will that they should be made holy. Misery was never known till sin entered into the world; and happiness can never be known by any man, till sin be expelled from his soul. No holiness, no happiness;—and no plenary and permanent happiness, without plenary and permanent holiness. I repeat it, that to give true and permanent happiness to believers is the design of that God whose name is Mercy, and whose nature is love.
True happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and in obedience to him. A man is not happy because he knows much; but because he receives much of the divine nature, and is, in all his conduct, conformed to the divine will.
The happiness of a genuine Christian lies far beyond the reach of earthly disturbances, and is not affected by the changes and chances to which mortal things are exposed. The martyrs were more happy in the flames than their persecutors could be on their beds of down.
God is the centre to which all immortal spirits tend, and in connection with which alone they can find rest. Every thing separated from its centre is in a state of violence; and, if intelligent, cannot be happy. All human souls, while separated from God by sin, are in a state of violence, agitation, and misery. From God all spirits come; to him all must return, in order to be finally happy.
I knew a man who is distinguished among many for his writings, and who is still living, who thought that the saying of Christ, "Love your enemies," and the practice upon that saying, was the greatest insult that could be offered to human nature. "What!" said he, "rob men of those high feelings which are so common to them? No!" And then he blasphemed, and I shall not repeat his words. We may see whereabouts that man was; and we may be sure that, if a man be a Christian, he cannot hate another without being miserable while he feels it. GOD IS BENEVOLENCE, and he forbids men to entertain any feelings of malice or ill will toward others; because if they do they cannot be happy. If I could hate the devil himself—if I could wish him more penal fire, or greater inflictions of God’s wrath—I could not at that moment love Jesus Christ.
A SERIOUS public profession of the religion of Christ has, in all ages of the church, been considered not only highly becoming, but indispensably necessary to salvation. He who consistently confesses Christ before men shall be confessed by him before God and his angels. A Jew wore his phylacteries on his forehead, on his hands, and around his garments, that he might have reverence in the sight of the heathen; he gloried in his law, and he exulted that Abraham was his father. Christian! with a zeal not less becoming, and more consistently supported, let the words of thy mouth, the acts of thy hands, and all thy goings show that thou belongest unto God; that thou hast taken his Spirit for the guide of thy heart, his Word for the rule of thy life, his people for thy companions, his heaven for thy inheritance, and himself for the portion of thy soul. And see that thou hold fast the truth, and that thou hold it in righteousness.
It is not merely sufficient to have the heart right before God; there must be a firm, manly, and public profession of Christ before men.
Be singular. Singularity, if in the right, can never be criminal. So completely disgraceful is the way of sin, that, if there were not a multitude walking in that way, who help to keep each other in countenance, every solitary sinner would be obliged to hide his head.
A religious profession, supported by a consistent walk, produces both reverence and respect even in the wicked. And even while they ridicule religion, they will put confidence in its professors, credit their words, and employ their services, in preference to all others. How forcible are right words! What a pity that all the professors of religion were not at all times faithful to their trust, and consistent in their conduct! How would infidelity and vice lose their glorying, and the faith and hope of the gospel everywhere triumph! But alas! how few are clear in this matter! O God, mend thy church and thy ministers.
The genuine Christian is holy;—and happy, because holy: he not only lives an innocent life, but he lives a useful life—he labours for the welfare of society; and the peace of God keeps and rules his heart. He lives to grow wiser and better, and he misses not his aim. In affliction he is patient and submissive; in adversity his confidence in God is unshaken; in death he has no fears, because Christ dwells in his heart by faith: he overcomes his last enemy, and finally triumphs, Satan himself being beat down under his feet; and having overcome, he sits down with Christ on his throne, as he, having overcome, is sat down with the Father upon the Father’s throne. Thus, then, his salvation on earth issues in an eternal weight of glory.
We may be said to give glory to God when we exhibit in the clearest light, and in the most impressive manner we can, the various excellences of our God and Father; and when we do this so that by our example others are led to esteem, adore, and put their trust in him, we glorify him by showing forth the glory of his various attributes—telling forth how effectually he teaches, how powerfully he upholds, how mercifully he saves, and how kindly he supplies all our wants, succours us in distress, stands by us in difficulties, defends us in dangers, guides us by his counsel, and promises at last to receive us into his endless glory.
"Confess your faults one to another." This is a good general direction to Christians who endeavour to maintain among themselves the communion of saints. This social confession tends much to humble the soul, and to make it watchful. We naturally wish that our friends in general, and our religious friends in particular, should think well of us; and when we confess to them offences which, without this confession, they could never have known, we feel humbled, are kept from self-applause, and induced to watch unto prayer, that we may not increase our offences before God, or be obliged any more to undergo the painful humiliation of acknowledging our weakness, fickleness, or infidelity to our religious brethren.
It is not said, "Confess your faults to the elders that they may forgive them, or prescribe penance in order to forgive them." No; the members of the church were to confess their faults to each other; therefore auricular confession to a priest, such as is prescribed by the Romish Church, has no foundation in this passage. Indeed, had it any foundation here, it would prove more than they wish; for it would require the priest to confess his sins to the people, as well as the people to confess theirs to the priest.
"And pray one for another." There is no instance in auricular confession where the penitent and the priest pray together for pardon; but here the people are commanded to pray for each other, that they may be healed.
Without the communion of saints, who is likely to make a steady and consistent Christian, even though his conversion should have been the most sincere and the most remarkable?
He who frequents the company of bad or corrupt men will soon be as they are. He may be sound in the faith, and have the life and power of godliness, and at first frequent their company only for the sake of their pleasing conversation, or their literary accomplishments; and he may think his faith proof against their infidelity; but he will soon find, by means of their glozing speeches, his faith weakened; and when he once gets under the empire of doubt, unbelief will soon prevail; his bad company will corrupt his morals; and the two dry logs will soon burn up the green one.
IN all countries, and under all religions, fasting has not only been considered a duty, but also of extraordinary virtue to procure blessings, and to avert evils. Hence it has often been practised with extraordinary rigour, and abused to the most superstitious purposes.
Among the Hindoos there are twelve kinds of fasts.
Fasting is considered by the Mohammedans as an essential part of piety. Their orthodox divines term it "the gate of religion," With them it is of two kinds, voluntary and incumbent.
When a man fasts, suppose he do it through a religious motive, he should give the food of that day from which he abstains to the poor and hungry, who, in the course of Providence, are called to sustain many involuntary fasts, beside suffering general privations. Wo to him who saves a day’s victuals by his religious fast! He should either give them or their value in money to the poor.
CONSCIENCE is defined by some, "that judgment which the rational soul passes on her own actions;" and is a faculty of the soul itself, and consequently natural to it. Others say, "It is a ray of the divine light." Milton calls it "God’s umpire;" and Dr. Young seems to call it "a God in man." To me it appears to be no other than a faculty of the mind, capable of receiving light and information from the Spirit of God; and is the same to the soul in spiritual matters, as the eye is to the body in the things which concern vision. The eye is not light in itself, nor is it capable of discerning any object but by the instrumentality of natural or artificial light. But it has organs properly adapted to the reception of the rays of light, and the various images of the objects which they exhibit. When these are present to an eye, the structure of which is perfect, then there is discernment or perception of those objects which are within the sphere of vision: but when the light is absent there is no perception of the figure, dimensions, situation, or colour of any object, howsoever entire or perfect the optic nerves may be. In the same manner, comparing spiritual things with natural, the Spirit of God enlightens that eye of the soul which we call conscience; it penetrates it with its effulgence, and, speaking as human language will permit on the subject, it has organs properly adapted for the reception of the Spirit’s emanations, which when received into the conscience exhibit a real view of the situation, state, etc., of the soul as it stands in reference to God and eternity. Thus the Scripture says, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits:" that is, it shines into the conscience, and reflects, throughout the soul, a conviction proportioned to the degree of light communicated, of condemnation, pardon, or acquittance, according to the end of its coming.
Conscience is sometimes said to be good,—bad,—tender,—seared; good, if it acquit or approve; bad, if it condemn or disapprove; tender, if alarmed at the least approach of evil, and is severe in scrutinizing the various operations of the mind and passions, as well as the actions of the body; and seared, if it no longer act thus, the Spirit of God being grieved that its light is no longer dispensed, and conscience no longer passes judgment on the actions of the man. These epithets can scarcely belong to it, if the common definition be admitted; but, on the general definition already given, these terms are easily understood, and are exceedingly proper; for instance, a good conscience is that to which the Spirit of God has brought intelligence of the pardon of all the sins of the soul, and its reconciliation to God through the blood of the covenant; and this good conscience, retained, implies God’s continual approbation of such a person’s conduct. A bad or evil conscience is that which records a charge of guilt brought against the soul by the Holy Spirit, on account of the transgression of God’s holy law; the light of that Spirit showing the soul the nature of sin, and its own guilty conduct. A tender conscience is that which is fully irradiated by the light of the Holy Spirit, which enables the soul to view the good as good, the evil as evil, in every important respect; and, consequently, leads it to abominate the latter and cleave to the former; and, if at any time it act in the smallest measure opposite to those views, it is severe in self-reprehension, and bitter in its regrets. A darkened, seared, or hardened conscience is that which has little or none of this divine light; the soul having by repeated transgressions so grieved the Spirit of God, that it has withdrawn its light, in consequence of which, the man feels no remorse, but goes on in repeated acts of transgression, unaffected either by threatenings or promises; and careless about the destruction which awaits it; this is what the Scriptures mean by the "conscience being seared as with a hot iron;" that is, by repeated transgressions, and resisting of the Holy Ghost. The word conscience itself vindicates the above explanation: it is compounded of con, "together or with," and scio, "I know;" because it knows, or combines with, by or together with, the Spirit of God.
From the above, I think we may safely make the following inferences:—1. All men have what is commonly termed conscience, and conscience plainly supposes the influence of the divine Spirit in it, convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment. 2. The Spirit of God is given to enlighten, convince, strengthen, and bring men back to God, and fit them for glory by purifying their hearts. 3. Therefore all men may be saved who attend to and coincide with the convictions and light communicated; for the God of the Christians does not give men his Spirit to enlighten, that is, merely to leave them without excuse; but that it may direct, strengthen, lead them to himself, that they may be finally saved. 4. That this Spirit comes from the grace of God, is demonstrable from hence: it is a good and perfect gift; and St. James says, "All such come from the Father of lights." Besides, it is such a grace as cannot be merited; for, as it is God’s Spirit, it is of infinite value; yet it is given. That, then, which is not merited, and yet is given, must be of grace, not condemning or ineffectual grace, for no such principle comes from or resides in the Godhead.
Thus it appears that all men are partakers of the grace of God; for all acknowledge that conscience is common to all; and this implies, as I hope has been proved, the Spirit of grace given by Christ Jesus, not that the world might be hereby condemned, but that it might be saved. Nevertheless, multitudes who are partakers of this heavenly gift, sin against it, lose it, and perish everlastingly; not through any defect in the gift, but through the abuse of it.
It is dangerous to trifle with conscience, even when erroneous; it should be borne with and instructed; it must be won over, not taken by storm. Its feelings should be respected, because they ever refer to God, and have their foundation in his fear. He who sins against his conscience, in things which every one else knows to be indifferent, will soon do it in those things in which his salvation is most intimately concerned. It is a great blessing to have a well informed conscience; it is a blessing to have a tender conscience; and even a sore conscience is infinitely better than none.
Persons of an over tender and scrupulous conscience may be very troublesome in a Christian society; but as this excessive scrupulosity comes from want of more light, more experience; or more judgment, we should bear with them. Though such should often run into ridiculous extremes, yet we must take care that we do not attempt to cure them either with ridicule or wrath. Extremes generally beget extremes; and such persons require the most judicious treatment, else they will soon be stumbled and turned out of the way. We should be very careful lest, in using what is called Christian liberty, we occasion their fall; and for our own sake we must take heed that we do not denominate sinful indulgences "Christian liberties."
"We are verily guilty." How finely are the office and influence of conscience exemplified in these words (of Joseph’s brethren!) It was about twenty-two years since they had sold their brother, and probably their conscience had been lulled asleep to the present hour. God combines and brings about those favourable circumstances which produce attention and reflection, and give weight to the expostulations of conscience. How necessary to hear its voice in time! for here it may be the instrument of salvation; but if not heard in this world, it must be heard in the next; and there, in association with the unquenchable fire, it will be the never dying worm. Reader, has not thy sin as yet found thee out? Pray to God to take away the veil from thy heart, and to give thee that deep sense of guilt which shall oblige thee to flee for refuge to the hope which is set before thee in the gospel of Christ.
DANCING was to me a perverting influence, an unmixed moral evil; for although, by the mercy of God, it led me not to depravity of manners, it greatly weakened the moral principle, drowned the voice of a well instructed conscience, and was the first cause of impelling me to seek my happiness in this life. Every thing yielded to the disposition it had produced, and every thing was absorbed by it. I have it justly in abhorrence for the moral injury it did me; and I can testify, (as far as my own observations have extended, and they have had a pretty wide range,) I have known it to produce the same evil in others that it produced in me. I consider it, therefore, as a branch of that worldly education which leads from heaven to earth, from things spiritual to things sensual, and from God to Satan. Let them plead for it who will; I know it to be evil and that only. They who bring up their children in this way, or send them to those schools where dancing is taught, are consecrating them to the service of Moloch, and cultivating the passions, so as to cause them to bring forth the weeds of a fallen nature, with an additional rankness, deep-rooted inveteracy, and inexhaustible fertility. Nemo sobrius saltat, "No man in his senses will dance," said Cicero, a heathen: shame on those Christians who advocate a cause by which many sons have become profligate, and many daughters have been ruined!
After so fatal an example of this, (the beheading of John the Baptist,) can we doubt whether balls are not snares for souls; destructive of chastity, modesty, and sometimes even of humanity itself; and a pernicious invention to excite the most criminal passions? How many on such occasions have sacrificed their chastity, and then, to hide their shame, have stifled the human being and the parent, and, by direct or indirect means, have put a period to the innocent offspring of their connections! "Unhappy mother who exposes her daughter to the same shipwreck herself has suffered, and makes her own child the instrument of her lust and revenge!" Behold here, ye professedly religious parents, the fruits of what was doubtless called in those times, "elegant breeding and accomplished dancing." "Fix your eyes on that vicious mother, that prostituted daughter, and especially on that murdered ambassador of God, and then send your children to genteel boarding schools, to learn the accomplishment of dancing."
If St. Paul saw the manner in which Christian women now dress, and appear in the ordinances of religion, what would he think? What would he say? How could he ever distinguish the Christian from the infidel? And if they who are in Christ are new creatures, and the persons who ordinarily appear in religious assemblies are really new creatures (as they profess in general to be) in Christ, he might reasonably inquire: "If these are new creatures, what must have been their appearance when they were old creatures?" Do we dress to be seen? And do we go to the house of God to exhibit ourselves? Wretched is that man or woman who goes to the house of God to be seen by any but by God himself.
When either women or men spend much time, cost, and attention on decorating their persons, it affords a painful proof that within there is little excellence, and that they are endeavouring to supply the want of mind and moral good by the feeble and silly aids of dress and ornament. Were religion out of the question, common sense would say in all these things, "Be decent; but be moderate and modest."
The wife of Phocion, a celebrated Athenian general, receiving a visit from a lady who was elegantly adorned with gold and jewels, and her hair with pearls, took occasion to call the attention of her guest to the elegance and costliness of her dress, remarking at the same time, "My ornament is my husband, now for the twentieth year general of the Athenians." How few Christian women act this part! Women are in general at as much pains and cost in their dress as if by it they were to be recommended both to God and man. It is, however, in every case, the argument either of a shallow mind, or of a vain and corrupted heart.
Simplicity reigned in primitive times; natural ornaments alone were then in use. Trade and commerce brought in luxuries; and luxury brought pride, and all the excessive nonsense of dress. No female head ever looks so well as when adorned with its own hair alone. This is the ornament appointed by God. To cut it off, or to cover it, is an unnatural practice; and to exchange the hair which God has given for hair of some other colour, is an insult to the Creator. How the delicacy of the female character can stoop to the use of false hair, and especially when it is considered that the chief part of this kind of hair was once the natural property of some ruffian soldier who fell in battle by many a ghastly wound, is more than I can possibly comprehend.
It will rarely be found that women who are fond of dress, and extravagant in it, have any subjection to their husbands but what comes from mere necessity. Indeed, their dress, which they intend as an attractive to the eyes of others, is a sufficient proof that they have neither love nor respect for their own husbands. Let them who are concerned refute the charge.
Should not the garments of all those who minister in holy things still be emblematical of the things in which they minister? Should they not be for glory and beauty, expressive of the dignity of the gospel ministry, and that beauty of holiness without which none can see the Lord? As the high priests’ vestments, under the law, were emblematical of what was to come, should not the vestments of the ministers of the gospel bear some resemblance of what is come? Is then the dismal black, now worn by almost all kinds of priests and ministers, for glory and for beauty? Is it emblematical of any thing that is good, glorious, or excellent? How unbecoming the glad tidings announced by Christian ministers, is a colour emblematical of nothing but mourning and wo, sin, desolation, and death! How inconsistent the habit and office of these men! Should it be said, "These are only shadows, and are useless because the substance is come:" I ask, "Why, then, is black almost universally worn? why is a particular colour preferred, if there be no signification in any? Is there not a danger that, in our zeal against shadows, we shall destroy or essentially change the substance itself?" Would not the same sort of argumentation exclude water in baptism, and bread and wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper? The white surplice in the service of the church is almost the only thing that remains of those ancient and becoming vestments which God commanded to be made for glory and beauty. Clothing, emblematical of office, is of more consequence than is generally imagined. Were the great officers of the crown, and the great officers of justice, to clothe themselves like the common people when they appear in their public capacity, both their persons and their decisions would be soon held in little estimation.
DREAMS have been on one hand superstitiously regarded, and on the other, skeptically disregarded. That some are prophetic, there can be no doubt; that others are idle, none can hesitate to believe. Dreams may be divided into the six following kinds:—1. Those which are the mere nightly result of the mind’s reflections and perplexities during the business of the day. 2. Those which spring from a diseased state of the body, occasioning startings, terrors, etc. 3. Those which spring from an impure state of the heart, mental repetitions of those acts or images of illicit pleasure, riot, and excess, which form the business of a profligate life. 4. Those which proceed from a diseased mind, occupied with schemes of pride, ambition, grandeur, etc. These, as forming a characteristic conduct of the life, are repeatedly reacted in the deep watches of the night, and strongly agitate the soul with illusive enjoyments and disappointments. 5. Those which come immediately from Satan, which instil thoughts and principles opposed to truth and righteousness, leaving strong impressions on the mind suited to its natural bent and turn, which, in the course of the day, by favouring circumstances, may be called into action. 6. Those which come from God, and which necessarily lead to him, whether prophetic of future good or evil, or impressing holy purposes and heavenly resolutions. Whatever leads away from God, truth, and righteousness, must be from the source of evil; whatever leads to obedience to God, and to acts of benevolence to man, must be from the Source of goodness and truth. Reader, there is often as much superstition in disregarding as in attending to dreams; and he who fears God will escape it in both.
THE story of the disturbances at the parsonage-house in Epworth is not unique. I myself, and others of my particular acquaintances, were eye and ear witnesses of transactions of a similar kind, which could never be traced to any source of trick or imposture; and appeared to be the forerunners of two very tragical events in the disturbed family; after which no noise or disturbance ever took place.
A philosopher should not be satisfied with reasons advanced by Dr. Priestley. He who will maintain his creed in opposition to his senses, and the most undisguised testimony of the most respectable witnesses, had better at once, for his own credit’s sake, throw the whole story in the region of doubt, where all such relations, no matter how authenticated,
"Upwhirl’d aloft, Fly over the backside of the world far off, Into a limbus large and broad."
And instead of its being called "the paradise of fools," it may be styled "the limbus of philosophic materialists;" into which they hurry whatever they cannot comprehend, choose not to believe, or please to call superstitious and absurd. And they treat such matters so, because they quadrate not with principles unfounded on the divine testimony, feebly supported by true philosophy, and contradictory to the plain unbiassed good common sense of nineteen-twentieths of all the inhabitants of the earth.
EVERY medical man knows well that the saliva which is so copiously drained off by the infamous quid and the scandalous pipe is the first and greatest agent which nature employs in digesting the food.
But is the elegant snuff box as dangerous as the pipe and the quid? Let us hear evidence. "The least evil," says Mr. D. Bomare, "which you can expect it to produce, is to dry up the brain, emaciate the body, enfeeble the memory, and destroy, if not entirely, yet in a large measure, the delicate sense of smelling." This has been noticed and deplored in the case of many eminent men who have addicted themselves to this destructive practice.
The most delicate females have their complexion entirely ruined by it. Strange! that the snuff box should be deemed too great a sacrifice for that for which most people are ready to sacrifice every thing beside! Many cases have been observed where the appetite has been almost destroyed, and a consumption brought on, by the immoderate use of this powder.
I heartily wish the corporation of surgeons, and anatomists in general, would procure as many bodies of habitual smokers and snuff-takers as possible, that, being dissected, we might know how far that ever to be dreaded evil prevails, which J. Borrhi says happened to the brain of an immoderate smoker, which, on dissection, was found dried and shrivelled up by his excessive use of the pipe.
A person of my acquaintance, who had been an immoderate snuff-taker for upward of forty years, was frequently afflicted with a sudden suppression of breathing, occasioned by a paralytic state of the muscles which serve for respiration. These affections grew more and more alarming, and seriously threatened her life. The only relief she got in such cases was from a cup of cold water poured down her throat. This became so necessary to her, that she could never venture to attend even a place of public worship without having a small vessel of water with her, and a friend at hand to administer it. At last she left off snuff: the muscles reacquired their proper tone; and, in a short time after, she was entirely cured of a disorder occasioned solely by her attachment to the snuff box, and to which she had nearly fallen a victim.
A single drop of the chemical oil of tobacco being put on the tongue of a cat, produced violent convulsions, and killed her in the space of one minute. A thread dipped in the same oil, and drawn through a wound made by a needle in an animal, killed it in the space of seven minutes. Indeed, the strong caustic oil and acrid salt which are contained in it, must produce evil effects beyond calculation.
That it is sinful to use it as most do, I have no doubt, if destroying the constitution, and vilely squandering away the time and money which God has given for other purposes, may be termed "sinful."
I have observed some whole families, and very poor ones too, who have used tobacco in all possible ways, and some of them for more than half a century. Now, supposing the whole family, consisting of four, five, or six, to have used but 1s. 6d. worth in a week, then, in the mere article of tobacco, nearly 200l. sterling is totally and irrecoverably lost in the course of fifty years. Were all the expenses attending this business enumerated, probably five times the sum in several cases would not be too large an estimate; especially if strong drink, its general concomitant, neglect of business, and appropriate utensils be taken into the account. Can any who profess to call themselves Christians vindicate their conduct in this respect?
But the loss of time in this shameful work is a serious evil. I have known some who, strange to tell, have smoked three or four hours in the day, by their own confession; and others who have spent six hours in the same employment. How can such persons answer for this at the bar of God? "But it is prescribed to me by a physician." No man who values his character as a physician will ever prescribe it in this way.
I grant that a person who is brought under the dominion of the pipe or the snuffbox, may feel great uneasiness in attempting to leave it off, and get some medical man, through a false pity, or for money, to prescribe the continued use of it: but this does not vindicate it; and the person who prescribes thus is not to be trusted. He is either without principle or without skill.
The impiety manifested by several in the use of this herb merits the most cutting reproof. When many of the tobacco consumers get into trouble, or under any cross or affliction, instead of looking to God for support, the pipe, the snuff box, or the twist, is applied to with quadruple earnestness; so that four times (I might say in some cases ten times) the usual quantity is consumed on such occasions. What a comfort is this weed in time of sorrow! what a support in time of trouble! In a word, what a god!
Again: the interruption occasioned in places of public worship by the use of the snuff box, is a matter of serious concern to all those who are not guilty. When the most solemn and important matters relative to God and man, eternal glory and eternal ruin, form the subject of a preacher’s discourse, whose very soul is in his work, it is no unusual thing to see the snuff box taken out, and officiously handed about to half a dozen of persons on the same seat.
To the great scandal of religious people, the abominable customs of snuff taking and chewing have made their way into many congregations, and are likely to be productive of great evil. Churches and chapels are most scandalously abused by the tobacco chewers who frequent them; and kneeling before the supreme Being, which is so becoming and necessary when sinners approach their Maker in prayer, is rendered in many seats impracticable, because of the large quantity of tobacco saliva which is ejected in all directions.
Some indeed have been so candid as to acknowledge that, "though they do not use it as such, yet they take it as a help to their devotions." O earth, earth, earth! "I cannot," says one, "hear to any advantage without it; it quickens my attention, and then I profit most by the sermon." I am inclined to think there is some truth in this; and such persons exactly resemble those who have habituated themselves to frequent doses of opium; who, from the well known effect of too free a use of this drug, are in a continual torpor, except for a short time after each dose. They are obliged to have constant recourse to a stimulant, which, in proportion to its use, increases the disease.
Such persons as these are unfit to appear in the house of God. This conduct sufficiently proves that they are wholly destitute of the spirit of piety, and of a sense of their spiritual wants, when they stand in need of such excitements to help their devotion. He can have no pity for the wretched who does not lift up his soul in prayer to God in behalf of such miserable people.
But are not many led into the practice of smoking by their pastors. I am sorry to have it to say, that this idle, disgraceful custom prevails much at present among ministers of most denominations. Can such persons preach against needless self-indulgence, destruction of time, or waste of money? These men greatly injure their own usefulness; they smoke away their ministerial importance in the families where they occasionally visit; the very children and maid servants pass their jokes on the piping parson; and should they unluckily succeed in bringing over the uninfected to their vile custom, the evil is doubled. I have known serious misunderstandings produced in certain families, where the example of the idle parson has influenced a husband or wife, against the consent of the other, to adopt the use of the pipe or the snuff box.
Some are brought so much under the power of this disgraceful habit, that they must have their pipe immediately before they enter the pulpit. What a preparation for announcing the righteousness of God, and preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus! Did St. Paul do any thing like this? "No," you say, "for he had the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Then you take it to supply the place of this inspiration! How can such persons smile at their own conduct? "Be ye followers of us as we are of Christ Jesus," can never proceed out of their mouths. On such characters as these pity would be misplaced; they deserve nothing but contempt.
Should all other arguments fail to produce a reformation in the conduct of tobacco consumers, there is one which is addressed to good breeding and benevolence, which, for the sake of politeness and humanity, should prevail. Consider how disagreeable your custom is to those who do not follow it. An atmosphere of tobacco effluvia surrounds you whithersoever you go. Every article about you smells of it; your apartments, your clothes, and even your very breath. Nor is there a smell in nature more disagreeable than that of stale tobacco, arising in warm exhalations from the human body, rendered still more offensive by passing through the pores, and becoming strongly impregnated with that noxious matter which was before insensibly perspired.
To those who are not yet incorporated with the fashionable company of tobacco consumers, I would say, "Never enter." To those who are entered, I would say, "Desist, first, for the sake of your health, which must be materially injured, if not destroyed, by it. Secondly. For the sake of your property, which, if you are a poor man, must be considerably impaired by it. But, supposing you can afford this extra expense; consider how acceptable the pence (to go no farther) which you spend in this idle, unnecessary employment would be to many, who are often destitute of bread, and to whom one penny would sometimes be as an angel of God! Thirdly. For the sake of your time, a large portion of which is irreparably lost, particularly in smoking. Have you any time to dispose of, to murder? Is there no need of prayer, reading, study? Fourthly. For the sake of your friends, who cannot fail to be pained in your company, for the reasons before assigned. Fifthly. For the sake of your voice, which a continuance in snuff-taking will infallibly ruin, as the nasal passages are almost entirely obliterated by it. Sixthly. For the sake of your memory, that it may be vigorous and retentive; and for the sake of your judgment, that it may be clear and correct to the end. Lastly. For the sake of your soul. Do you not think that God will visit you for your loss of time, waste of money, and needless self-indulgence? Have you not seen that the use of tobacco leads to drunkenness? Do you not know that habitual smokers have the drinking vessel often at hand, and frequently apply to it? Nor is it any wonder; for the great quantity of necessary moisture which is drawn off from the mouth, etc., by these means, must be supplied by some other way. You tremble at the thought. Well you may; for you are in great danger. May God look upon and save you before it be too late!"
Some of the most disagreeable things relative to the practice against which I have been writing, are still behind the curtain; and designedly detained there; and it is THERE ALONE where I wish every persevering smoker to seek for a certain vessel, named the spitting dish, which, to the abuse of all good breeding, and the insult of all delicate feeling, is frequently introduced into public company. May they and their implements, while engaged in this abominable work, be ever kept OUT OF SIGHT!
ON the return of Mr. Wesley and his brother Charles from America, being both fervent in spirit, they powerfully proclaimed repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and strongly insisted on the necessity of being born again, and of having the witness of God’s Spirit with theirs, that they were thus born of God. At first, all the churches in London were open to them; and the people flocked together to see and hear two weather-beaten missionaries, whose skin appeared as if tanned by their continual exposure to the suns and winds of summer and winter on the continent of America. God attended their preaching with the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost. Multitudes were turned from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God; and many obtained that faith in Christ by which the guilt of sin was removed, and the fear of death taken away; and had the Spirit of God witnessing with theirs, that they were the sons and daughters of God Almighty. The crowds that attended the churches where they preached were so great, that the clergy thought it proper to refuse them any farther use of their pulpits; and hence, being turned out of these, they went to the highways and hedges to compel sinners to come to the marriage feast. For as they had sufficiently learned that nothing but the gospel could be the power of God unto salvation to them that believe, they boldly and zealously proclaimed Christ crucified wherever they found a crowd of sinners; using extempore prayer, and preaching without notes. This seemed a new thing in the earth; and while many were awakened and turned to God, several, who did not think that such extraordinary exertions were necessary, ridiculed their zeal; and others, who imagined God could not give his approbation to any kind of spiritual service that was not performed within the walls of a church, became greatly offended: and it is a fact that not a few opposed and blasphemed.
AN itinerant ministry established in these kingdoms for upward of fourscore years, teaching the pure unadulterated doctrines of the gospel, with the propriety and necessity of obedience to the laws, has been the principal means, in the hand of God, of preserving these lands from those convulsions and revolutions that have ruined and nearly dissolved the European continent. The itinerant ministry to which this refers, is that which was established in these lands by the late truly reverend, highly learned and cultivated, deeply pious, and loyal JOHN WESLEY, A.M., formerly a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford; whose followers are known by the name of METHODISTS; a people who are an honour to their country, and a blessing to the government of their most excellent and revered king, George 3.; who, through a long reign, has been the patron of religion and learning, and the father of his people.
The following declaration was inserted in an album, by Dr. Clarke, during the last conference which he attended, exactly one month before his death:—
I HAVE lived more than threescore years and ten; I have travelled a good deal, both by sea and land; I have conversed with and seen many people, in and from different countries; I have studied the principal religious systems in the world; I have read much, thought much, and reasoned much; and the result is, I am persuaded of the simple, unadulterated truth of no book but the Bible; and of the true excellence of no system of religion but that contained in the Holy Scriptures; and especially CHRISTIANITY, which is referred to in the Old Testament, and fully revealed in the New. And while I think well of, and wish well to, all religious sects and parties, and especially to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, yet, from a long and thorough knowledge of the subject, I am led, most conscientiously, to conclude that Christianity itself, as existing among those called Wesleyan Methodists, is the purest, the safest, that which is most to God’s glory and the benefit of man; and that, both as to the creed there professed, form of discipline there established, and the consequent moral practice there vindicated. And I believe that among them is to be found the best form and body of divinity that has ever existed in the church of Christ, from the promulgation of Christianity to the present day. To him who would say, "Doctor Clarke, are you not a bigot?" without hesitation I would answer, "No, I am not; for, by the grace of God, I am a Methodist!" Amen.
ADAM CLARKE. Liverpool, July 26th, 1832.
"London, May 15th, 1824.
"MY DEAR SAMMY, —Our friends here have all agreed to hold the ’centenary of Mr. Wesley’s ordination to the sacred ministry.’ He was ordained by Bishop Potter, Sept. 19, 1725; so the centenary will be on Sept. 19, 1825, when you will have returned from Shetland to the Bristol conference. Two services will be on that day; and two papers will be prepared for each preacher to read after his sermon: that in the forenoon shall contain an abstract of Mr. Wesley’s life, call to the ministry, and success in it: that in the evening, an epitome of our doctrines and discipline: after each service a collection to be made, in order to build what probably may be called, ’the Wesleyan Hall,’ for the purpose of holding all our public meetings, accommodating the missionary committee, having rooms for a museum of foreign curiosities or antiquities sent home by the missionaries, and one for a public library, besides offices for the enrolment of our chapel deeds, registers of baptisms, etc., etc. This building, which we calculate on holding six or eight thousand persons, is to be erected as near the centre of the city as we can; and to be paid for by the money collected through all our circuits and stations at home and abroad, and by a previous subscription. The project arose from Mr. Butterworth; was proposed, considered, agreed on, and methodized in the missionary committee; then a select number of friends were invited to breakfast together at the morning chapel, by a note signed by Mr. Butterworth and myself. About one hundred came: the project was received with enthusiasm, and 2,400l. were almost instantly subscribed! I send you this as the principal news we now have.
"Ever your affectionate brother,
QUESTIONS RELATIVE TO THE SHETLAND ISLANDS.
l. WHAT is their number? present names? original names, and the meaning of such in the Norse or Danish language?
2. What is the soil? clayey—gravelly—peat, etc. What its general depth?
3. What is the basis of each? Basalt rock—granite—clay, or marl?
4. Metals and minerals.—Any gold, silver, copper, or lead found in them? in what quantities? and how and where found? any quartz—fluor—chalcedony—arragonite—barytes—or any other? and which?
1. WHAT grain is cultivated? wheat, oats, barley, rye?
2. How do they cultivate their ground? What sort is their manure, and how applied to produce the different crops?
3. When do they sow their wheat, oats, rye, etc., and plant their potatoes?
4. Potatoes.—Of what kinds, colours, size, and quality? When do they plant, and when dig up? How much of each is sown or planted per acre, and what is the produce? that is, how many bushels per acre, to one sown or planted on the different soils?
5. Is there any flax or hemp sown? How are they prepared for the wheel and loom, and into what species of cloth are they manufactured?
1. GARDENS.—What pulse, beans, peas, the sorts, their time in the ground? carrots, parsnips, turnips? etc. What remarkable herbs and flowers?
2. Orchards.—What fruit? apples, pears, plums, gooseberries, currants? etc. What size and quality? What are their various kinds, and how used?
3. Plants.—What sorts? Are there any peculiar to the isles? meadow grass, of what sorts? clover, trefoil, lucerne, florin, etc.
4. Forest trees.—Fir, ash, elm, any plantations? Of what kinds, extent, and where?
5. What underwood, hazel, furs, or whins; juniper or other berries on the moors?
1. SHELL-FISH.—Oysters, muscles, razor-fish, pearl oysters, crabs, lobsters, limpets, cockles? etc.
2. Fish in the seas.—Porpoise, whale, shark, dog-fish, cod, ling, salmon, herring, haddock, gurnet, conger, mackerel, sparling?
3. How are the fish cured for winter there, such as salmon, cod, ling, herring?
4. Shoals of fish.—Of what kinds? when do they appear, whence do they come, and whither do they go? etc.
5. Pearls from the oysters, or muscles.—Of what shape, colour, and size? How used, vended, or manufactured?
1. WILD FOWL.—Geese, ducks, barnacles, gulls, grouse, pheasants, partridges, cuckoos, wrens, snipes, curlews, woodcocks, and birds of passage in general? Of what kinds? When do they usually appear and disappear?
2. Poultry.—Geese, ducks; hens, pigeons, turkeys? Of what size, and of what advantage to the inhabitants?
1. OF what sorts are the cattle?—Cows, what colour, size, what milk per diem, and how much butter from a given quantity of milk? Horses? size, colours, strength? etc. Shetland poney, describe.
2. Sheep.—What size; their wool, of what quality? Do they often bring forth twins? What is the time of shearing? How many pounds of wool off each?
3. Goats.—How used? Do they run at large, or are they tethered? Are they kept principally for breed or milk?
4. Dogs and cats.—Size, colour, propensities? any thing remarkable in their form or qualities?
5. Wild beasts.—Deer, foxes, badgers, pole cats, hares, rabbits, otters, weasels, squirrels? etc. 6. Winter provender for horses, cows, sheep, goats? etc.
1. INHABITANTS.—Size, colour, features, hair? Any thing peculiar in the formation of the head, mouth, nose, feet, and legs? Describe the general make both of the men and women.
2. Dispositions.—Phlegmatic or choleric, close or ingenuous?
3. Are there thefts? Of what kinds?
4. In their manners.—Are they cruel, morose, kind to strangers, litigious, apt to quarrel?
1. FOOD for the different seasons of the year.—What sorts, and how dressed? any thing peculiar in their mode of cooking? the usual time of their meals, and what the proportion of time allotted for sleep?
2. Beverage.—Ale, spirits, metheglin, or mead? Is there a great consumption of tea, ardent spirits, and tobacco?
3. Clothing.—Of what kinds? names and forms of their habits?
4. Fuel.—Coal, peat, or turf, dry sea-weed, wood, bog, fir? etc.
1. AGRICULTURAL.—What sort of ploughs, harrows, spades, scythes, sickles? What the harness of the horses?
2. Carts or cars.—What sort of wheels? For what uses? Construction.—Is it good, light, or clumsy?
3. Domestic utensils.—Their names, figure, etc., of wood, tin, iron, brass, clay?
4. Houses.—How constructed? Of what materials, cabins, windows, chimneys, offices; or outhouses, stables, bouveries, or byars; sheep and pig cotes; separate or together?
1. WOMEN.—How are they treated? how employed? good housewives; cleanly? Do they often produce twins?
2. Children.—How are they nursed and educated? Does bastardy prevail?
1. TRADES, manufactures, and commerce.—What imported and exported, and with whom?
2. Domestic economy.—Spinning, knitting, sewing, weaving?
3. Day labourers.—What is their pay? How many hours do they work? servants, male and female? What their yearly wages?Are they active, slothful, faithful, cleanly? etc.
1. WHAT vices are most prevalent among them?
2. Sports and pastimes.—What? when practised; their names, and how performed?
3. Traditions—Relative to their own origin, the exploits of their forefathers? tales; legends; what sorts? any of the tales of Ossian, Oscar, Ullin, Fin M’Cuol Odo, or any of the Scandinavian chiefs?
4. Weapons of defence.—Guns, swords, dirks, bows, targets; any old armour, or coins found in the isles?
1. RELIGION.—Generally prevalent? creed or notions, form of public worship?
2. Religious ordinances.—When, and how conducted? Lord’s day well observed? family worship any, or general?
3. Ministers.—How supported? by tithes, stipends, free-will offerings? etc.
4. Schools.—Classical, commercial, or merely English; or the language of the place?
5. Are they naturally fond of learning? Can most of them read?
6. Are the families you visit well supplied with Bibles?
7. What are the books used in education generally? Of what sort of reading do they appear to be most fond?
1. WHAT is the prevalent language? What was the original tongue? Do any words of it still remain mixed with their present speech?
2. As the people were originally Scandinavians, or Norwegians, how came they to lose their native language? Where and how did the English language enter, and generally supplant the original tongue?
3. How are the winter evenings spent? While some work, do others tell tales, repeat legends? etc.
4. Are the people fond of poetry, music, dancing? etc.
5. What are their musical instruments?
1. HOLIDAYS.—Religious customs, or rites on midsummer, All Saints, or All Hallows even? Christmas, Candlemas, Easter?
2. Superstitions.—Charms, incantations, observations of the clouds, flight of birds, crowing of cocks at unusual times? about demons, fairies, brownies, wraiths, or appearances portending death; second sight; death watch; knockings? etc.
1. LONGEVITY.—Do they live in general to a good old age? its general duration?
2. Proportion of males to females?
3. Diseases.—Of children; adults? What kinds prevail most? popular methods of cure? deaths, wakes, burials? etc., and attendant circumstances?
1. ANY thing peculiar in their civil customs, laws, courts of justice, and punishments?
2. Lawyers, physicians, quack doctors? Are there many such in the islands?
1. THE aurora borealis, or "northern lights."—When do they appear? in winter only? what time of the evening do they commence? Describe their appearance, and how long they last. Do they compensate for the shortness of the days?
2. What is the common opinion of their origin?
3. Tides.—Any thing remarkable in them? when greatest?
4. Seasons.—Winter, summer, autumn, spring? When do they begin, and how long continue?
5. Weather.—What are the signs of approaching good or bad? snow, rain, frost, winds, any remarkable sign in the heavens? and from what do the country people draw their prognostications?
6. Does the magnetic needle suffer agitations, singular variations in its traversing, or in its dip, during the prevalence of the aurora borealis? Or does the atmosphere then show any peculiar signs of electricity?
1. How are lands let? What sort of tenures prevail? Have any of the farmers freeholds, copyholds, leases for a term of years, or for lives, or of a mixed nature?
2. How do they pay their rents? in money, in kind, by service? Are there any feudal services, or boons to the landlords?
1. WHAT are the principal taxes and customs?
2. Are the people generally contented with their form of government? attached to the house of Brunswick or Stuart?
3. Does clanship prevail among them? Of what character are their chiefs? proud, haughty, kind, benevolent?
4. Marriages.—Dowries, wedding feasts, bringing home the bride, or in-fare? what the customs or ceremonies?
5. Christenings and weanings.—Any peculiar ceremonies or festivals on the occasion?
1. ANY accounts of marine monsters, mermen, mermaids, craken, or kraken, sea snake?
2. Are there any remarkable ruins, temples, druidical monuments, churches, ancient fortresses? and in what form?
3. Any inscriptions, Runic, Oghams, Celtic? etc.
N.B. Answers of a certain kind to many of the preceding questions may be obtained from travellers, historians, etc. But these generally copy each other, and are not to be much regarded. I wish you therefore to see with your own eyes, and hear with your own ears; and to answer from knowledge and fact. Look at nature and practice as they lie before you: but when obliged to relate any thing from the testimony of others, see that the testimony be credible; and generally give the reasons upon which your own conviction is built?
Poor Shetland, I have worked hard for thee; many a quire, many a ream of paper have I written to describe thy wants, and to beg for supplies; and several thousands of miles have I travelled in order to raise those supplies which by letters I had solicited for thee. It is now "almost done, and almost over." May God raise thee up another friend, that will be, if possible, more earnest and faithful, and at the same time more successful! And now I may say, May the HOLY TRINITY be the incessant Friend, O my poor Shetland! Amen.
THE amazing success of Sunday schools has nearly annihilated the proverb, "A young saint, an old devil;" as we find in all directions both men and women, whether wives and husbands, or masters and servants, walking in all the ordinances and commandments of God unblamably, who were brought to an acquaintance with God, when little children, at such schools; whose piety never forsook them, but has carried them on through most of the troublesome and trying relations of life; till, now past their meridian, their sun is growing brighter and broader toward its setting, having before shone more and more to its perfect day. Nor do I know a Sunday school in the nation, under the direction of godly teachers, that has not been crowned with instances of this kind, and that has not had the satisfaction of registering the true Scriptural conversion and happy deaths of several of its pupils. When these results have been so numerous, and satisfactorily witnessed, we need not wonder that pious parents have been encouraged to cultivate their children’s minds with more assiduity than formerly; looking to God to bless their endeavours, by pouring light upon the minds of their little ones, and peace and love into their hearts. Everywhere the most blessed fruits of such labour are seen; and we safely aver, that infant salvation is as frequent now as that of adults was a century ago; while the latter are in a tenfold ratio to what they have been, within the memory, at least, of the present generation. And it is not unfrequent that what formerly began at the greatest, and went down to the least, (at the parents, descending from them to their children,) now, in many cases, takes a contrary direction; as I have myself known many instances where little children at a pious Sunday school, having been brought to the true knowledge of salvation by faith, have become instruments in the hand of God of converting their parents. Some years ago the spirit of infidelity laboured hard to prevent all religious instruction to children. "Leave them to themselves," said this spirit of error; "do not prepossess their minds with religious notions and religious creeds! Bias them not; and when they come to age let them choose for themselves; and then we shall have religion without superstition." This has been tried, alas! in numerous cases; and the neglected child has found it more rational—that is, more according to the unfettered sinful bias of his own mind—to be a skeptic or an infidel than to believe with the orthodox; or, to perform an easy set of moral duties, with the careless and the unawakened, being at ease in Zion, and trusting in the mountains of their Samaria.
SCHISM in religion is a dangerous thing, and should be carefully avoided by all who fear God. But this word should be well understood. In theology, it is generally allowed to signify "a rent in, or departure from the doctrine and practice of the apostles; especially among those who had been previously united in that doctrine and practice." A departure from human institutions in religion is no schism; for this reason, that the word of God alone is the sufficient rule of the faith and practice of Christians; and as to human institutions, forms, modes, etc., those of one party may be as good as those of another.
WHAT a truly diabolic thing is the lust of power! It destroys all the charities of life, and renders those who are under its influence the truest resemblants of the arch fiend.
PARTY spirit, especially in political matters, is the great disgrace and curse of England. This spirit knows no friend; feels no obligation; is unacquainted with all dictates of honesty, charity and mercy; and leaves no stone unturned to ruin the object of its hate. We have elections by law no more than once in seven years; and the mischief that is then done to the moral character of the nation is scarcely repaired in the succeeding seven. All the charities of life are outraged and trampled under foot by it; common honesty is not heard, and lies and defamation go abroad by wholesale. The rascal many catch the evil reports which the opposed candidates and their committees spread of each other, and the characters of the best men in the land are wounded, and lie bleeding till slow-paced oblivion cancels the remembrance of the transactions which gave them birth.
POOR friendship! it has been so kicked about in the world, that it has now become a complete cripple, and will go halting usque ad Graecas Calendas. However, in all its wanderings, it is always sure of a night’s lodging with us; and seems quite at home under our roof; and declares, and I suppose with sincerity, that our house is one of the very few out of which it has never been turned, and where it can always confidently expect entertainment. It and myself have never had any misunderstanding; and having grown old together, we are resolved to keep on good terms. It has often interested itself on my behalf; and though it has frequently been unsuccessful, yet, knowing its sincerity, I have taken the good will for the successful deed, and have still kindly taken it in, with all those whom it has recommended. Some of these look well, and speak comfortably, and are full of good resolutions and professions; but a disposition to take offence so universally prevails, that several of them take themselves off without any previous warning; and others, after going out, linger a little at the door, and talk and look as usual: but every day I find them progressively farther off, till at last the distance is such that I cannot hear them, though they seem still to speak; and in time they get entirely out of sight! Nothing remains of them in our house but the name, with a scroll, in my own handwriting, under each: "Whenever thou art disposed to return, thou wilt find here the same welcome as formerly."
I can say I never formed a friendship which I broke. My list of friends has not a blot in it; some of them, it is true, have slunk away; some seem to have hurried off, and others stand at a great distance; but I have made no erasure in my list, and when they choose to return, it can never appear, by reinsertion that they have proved false to their friend, or have been careless about him.
Multitudes complain of the treachery of friends, betraying their secrets, etc., never considering that they themselves have been their first betrayers, in confiding to others what they pretend to wish should be a secret to the whole world! If a man never let his secret out of his own bosom, it is impossible that he should ever be betrayed.
MEN who praise you to your face are ever to be suspected. The Italians have a very expressive proverb on this subject: "He who caresses thee more than he was wont to do, has either deceived thee, or is about to do it." I have never known the sentiment in this proverb to fail.
A MAN is to be suspected when he recommends those good works most from which he receives most advantage. Self-interest is a most decisive casuist, and removes abundance of scruples in a moment. It is always the first consulted, and the most readily obeyed. It is not sinful to hearken to it, but it must not govern nor determine by itself.
"DEBATE thy cause with thy neighbour." Take the advice of friends. Let both sides attend to their counsels: but do not tell the secret of thy business to any. After quandering your money away upon lawyers, both they and the judge will at last leave it to be settled by twelve of your fellow citizens! O the folly of going to law! O the blindness of men and the rapacity of lawyers!
One Christian sues another at law! This is almost as great a scandal as can exist in a Christian society. Those in a religious community who will not submit to a proper arbitration, made by persons among themselves, should be expelled from the church of God.
IF thou pledge thyself in behalf of another, thou takest the burden off him, and placest it on thy own shoulders. And when he knows that he has got one to stand betwixt him and the demands of law and justice, he will feel little responsibility; his spirit of exertion will become crippled, and listlessness as to the event will take place. His own character will suffer little; his property nothing,—for his friend bears all the burden: and perhaps the very person for whom he bore this burden treats him with neglect; and, lest the restoration of the pledge should be required, will avoid both the sight and presence of his friend. Give what thou canst; but, except in extreme cases, be surety for no man.
"HE that by usury increaseth his substance."—By taking unlawful interest for his money; lending to a man in great distress money, for the use of which he requires an exorbitant sum. O that the names of all those unfeeling, hard-hearted, consummate villains in the nation, who thus take advantage of their neighbour’s necessities to enrich themselves, were published at every market-cross; and then the delinquents all sent to their brother savages in New Zealand! It would be a happy riddance to the country.
"MEN stealers."—Slave dealers; whether those who carry on the traffic in human flesh and blood; or those who steal a person in order to sell him into bondage; or those who buy such stolen men or women, no matter of what colour or what country; or those who sow dissensions among barbarous tribes in order that they who are taken in war may be sold into slavery; or the nations who legalize or connive at such traffic: all these are men stealers, and God classes them with the most flagitious of mortals.
I here register my testimony against the unprincipled, inhuman, Antichristian, and diabolical slave trade, with all its authors, promoters, abettors, and sacrilegious gains; as well as against the great devil, the father of it and them.
A PARABLE is a comparison or similitude, in which one thing is compared with another, especially spiritual things with natural, by which means these spiritual things are better understood, and make a deeper impression on an attentive mind.
I MEAN, by miracle, something produced or known, that no power is capable of but that which is omnipotent, and no knowledge adequate to but that which is omniscient. The conversion of one rebellious soul is a greater miracle, and more to be admired, than all that can be wrought on inanimate creatures.
WHAT disappointment and confusion have been brought into the minds of many, by calculations relative to the termination of certain empires, Papal and Turkish; the beast and the false prophet; Christ’s second coming to establish a universal empire, the laws of which are to be administered by his presence; corporeally manifested on earth; and also concerning the time of the final judgment, and the end of the world! When a fancy is pursued, the line of pursuit is only directed by a sort of telegraphic phantoms, unreal landmarks to unreal objects; and when the last ignis fatuus has terminated its uncertain dance by absorption in some other vapour by which it has been neutralized, we are left in sudden darkness, in the quagmire where all such mental aberrations must necessarily end; and thus prophecy is prostituted; faith and hope (improperly employed) are disappointed; and religion itself discredited.
It is truly an astonishing thing that men will prefer hope to enjoyment; and rather content themselves with blessings in prospect than in possession!
Thousands, in their affections, conversation, and conduct, are wandering after an undefined and indefinable period, commonly called a millennial glory, while expectation is paralyzed, and prayer and faith restrained in reference to present salvation: and yet none of these can tell what even a day may bring forth; for we now stand on the verge of eternity, and, because it is so, "now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation."
BUY up those moments which others seem to throw away; steadily improve every present moment, that ye may, in some measure, regain the time ye have lost. Let time be your chief commodity; deal in that alone; buy it all up, and use every portion of it yourselves. Time is that on which eternity depends; in time ye are to get a preparation for the kingdom of God; if you get not this in time, your ruin is inevitable; therefore buy up the time.
 For many interesting particulars relative to the disturbances at Epworth, I must refer the reader to Dr. Clarke's "Memoirs of the Wesley Family."—S.D.
 As the above project was not carried into execution, it is hoped that the year 1839, the centenary of the establishment of the Wesleyan Methodist Society, will not pass without services somewhat similar to those mentioned by the doctor. The collections, and the objects to which the moneys shall be applied, are but secondary considerations.—S.D.
 What answers were given to these questions it is not necessary for the reader to know. The letter is inserted as a curiosity; and as likely to be of use to other missionaries in different parts of the world. The success of the mission to the islands may be learned from the letters and journals published in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine since 1832.—S.D.