« PreviousContinue »
always consider me as being, above all others, your most intimate friend, to whom, upon all occasions, you are to speak without reserve, for that is a thing I hate, and you will be sure of my assistance in every thing in which I can contribute to your happiness. If I was to see any thing in your conduct which I thought wrong, I would tell you of it; but, God be thanked, you give me no occasion.”
“ I wish, on all material occasions, to have your opinion, and I hope you will at all times give it without any reserve. I have no secrets that I wish to conceal from you; I have a thorough confidence in you; and shall never take it amiss if we happen to differ in opinion, and therefore hope you will always be open and free with me; for when I suspect any body to be on the reserve with me, it lessens them in my esteem, I being myself naturally open and free with those I have a liking to; and though I have often suffered for it, I still have the same disposition in me, which makes me dislike reserve in whoever I find it. I remember your Sister once made an observation to me which I have often thought of, and which I believe to be a very just one, and that is, that every body thinks others reserved; but though this be true, yet all are not equally so.— Perhaps there are very few who are quite free from reserve to any one body, yet this I think I am to you, and I wish you to be as much so as you can to me- -As to your brother, I rejoice to find you speaking of him as you do, for I believe he is capable of being a most valuable and agreeable friend ; and I pray God you and he may always continue to be brothers indeed, and that nothing may ever breed any, even the least discord between you. The partiality of a father may blind me, but it is with great satisfaction I say, that I do not believe there are in the world two young men more to my mind than you two are. I have many blessings to be thankful for, and I am particularly so to Almighty God for having given me two such sons as I think no other man has."
Nor were the letters of this excellent man only effusions of parental kindness; they contained many solid and judicious observations, and much useful advice.
“ Your last letter found me a prisoner with the gout, a disorder I little expected ever to have been troubled with, not having heard that any one either of my father's or my mother's family ever had it. But so it is; this is my second fit; for if you remember, I had one last autumn, which was the beginning of my sorrows of that kind. I hope you will never have it, yet if you should, you must say as I do, after St. Augustine, in all afflictions that befal me, Domine, hic ure, hic seca, ibi parce. I am sure I suffer less, and enjoy more than I deserve, and better men than I am may say the same. ... I think France is under a cloud, and has long been so; was that the reason you could not distinguish it from one? ... Mr. A., Mr. M., and you, are three ancient gentlewomen, and this is more polite than to say in plain English, you are all old women, for the truth is not always to be spoken; but, assuredly, nothing but age and its infirmities could induce you to say that a man uses a nostrum for his gout, when he only adds another covering to his foot. I hope Mr. M. is not in much pain, but if he is, tell him with my love, that I wish he would send for Dr. Pringle, who, for a guinea or two, will order him the same thing that I put on at free cost, it being a prescription of his.”
“ As next Monday is your birth-day, this letter is to : bring you my good wishes on that occasion, and may you live to see many happy ones ; may God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and may he preserve you from every deadly sin, that so you may be happy during your pilgrimage in this world, and after that when time shall be no more, to all eternity! You are now come, my dear Jack, to that which is reckoned the most dangerous time of a man's life; for our passions are at their full strength, sooner than our reason which should govern them is; and besides this, you are soon to go out into a debauched wicked world, where fools make a mock of sin; where you will be tempted to every thing that is wicked; and will be laughed at for every thing that is good. In these circumstances, your only security will be to set God always before you ; under every temptation pause for a moment, and think that God sees you: do this, and I trust you will be safe. May he give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways, and to his good Providence I do with all submission commend you."
Another letter alludes with great tenderness to a subject which has been already mentioned.
“ Ashley, February 29th, 1764. 6 Indeed, my dear Jack, my head and heart are so full that I can hardly write to you ; neither are my hands empty, for I have as much to write from day to day as I can dispatch; yet as it would not look kind, to give no answer to your last kind letter, something I will say. I thank you for sending me a true state of your dear brother's case; however melancholy it be, I wish to know the worst. It goes very near me to part from him, so it did to part
from my dear little girl, your sister*, but I most humbly thank God for the great mercy bestowed on both of them, by removing them from this bad world, before wickedness had corrupted them. Concerning their state, I am quite easy, and I love them so well, that I do not wish to have them restored to me again ; God grant I may go to them. My sorrow then is quite selfish, and I hope God will in mercy spare the lives of the rest of my children, and will give them grace to be comforts to me; but I had rather see you all die before me, than have you live to the loss of your own precious souls. For your health, I am now, if possible, more anxious than ever, though I know not whether you are obliged to me for it, for I think you will live in worse times than I have, as I think I have in worse than my father did. Whoever considers the accounts given in Scripture of the last times, and compares them with the present state of the world, must see that they draw on apace, and wickedness will abound more and more; but God will, I hope, give you grace to suffer cheerfully as a good soldier of Christ's, whatever trials he shall call you to. Whenever you are under a temptation to vice of any sort, make a pause, and reflect that it is as hard to stop in a way of vice, as in running down a precipice. Could a man foresee the consequences of the first wrong step, I do believe that not even the united forces of those three strong enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil could drag him into it; yet they are very powerful, and must subdue every man who does not fly to God for his assistance, and grace to resist them. My father and his uncle who brought him up were excellent men, Christians indeed ; may you exceed them in every
* Elizabeth Julia, a fine lively girl, who died in 1754, when she was just ten years old.
thing that is good, and may you never be a disgrace to either of the families you are descended from, and worthy men they have been on both sides; may you live to a good age, and when the infirmities of years come on, may they be attended by no stings of conscience for the sins of your youth, but, on the contrary, may you be supported under them, by a well grounded hope of a happy immortality through his merits who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification! Such, dear Jack, are my wishes and prayers for you, and I am very solicitous for your happiness : as to your dear brother, all fears and cares for him are at an end, he will soon be out of danger, and may God's will be done on him, and me and you, and all of us.”
Some extracts from other letters may perhaps be acceptable, as they show the sound sense and correct judgment of the writer no less than his excellent principles.
“ I some how or other contrive to make myself now and then uneasy at thinking my life useless; and yet on the other hand I am often employed in business of some sort or other for one body or other; and I am always glad when I am so, for I often have in my mind that good man Mr. Bowyer's saying, which he so frequently repeated to his children, • Do all the good you can.' * It is but uncomfortable, when one recollects at night the passages of the
* This was often repeated by this good man on his death. bed, and the last which could be distinguished. Mr. Bowyer was vicar of Martock, a sound and well-read divine, an excellent parish priest, and author of an admirable book on the Lord's Supper.