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ADVANTAGES OF VISITING SOCIETIES.
339 May his rejoicing in his ministry, be the pattern and ground of our joy in our ministry! (6)
May his moderation, in the execution of his office, keep us within proper bounds!(c)
May his humility in his ministry, influence our whole walk and conversation ! (d)
And may his giving an account of his ministry remain inforgotten by us, and induce us to look forward to the solema account we also must give of our watchfnlness over the interests of immortal souls! (0)
(6) Luke x. 21. Neh. viii. 10. Thes. ii. 19, 20. () Luke xii. 14. John viri. 6, 11.
Mark ix. 40.
(1) John xiii. 12-15, a Cor. iv. s.
(e) John xvii. 12. Heb. xiii. 17.
ADVANTAGES OF VISITING SOCIETIES.
To the Editor. SIR,
Kettering, June 22, 1803. AMONG the many laudable methods of promoting the salvation of our fellow-sinners, which, of late years, have been pursued, there are few, if any, which have appeared to me more deserving of encouragement than that of forming Societies for visiting and relieving the afflicted Poor. It is said of the wild ass, used to the wilderness, “ That in her month they shall find her.” There is a time, in almost every man's life, in which lais spirit is brought down; and in which he will give ear, at least, to those things that in the season of health and prosperity he despises. Affliction is the month in which every man is to be found; and, therefore, is a time of which we ought to avail ourselves. It is then, if ever, that the want of a solid ground of hope is sensibly felt. It is then that worldly supports fail: like vicious companions, they withdraw from the bed of affliction, and leave men to die alone. This, therefore, is the time for Religion to obtain, at least, a hearing. And when, in subserviency to the good of mens' souls, we relieve their temporal wants, they cannot but perceive the sincerity of our counsels; and must ordinarily be induced to regard them with candid attention. Such was the conduct of our Lord himself: he went about continually doing good to mensa bodies, as the means of gaining access to their
minds. When in London, about a month ago, I was requested to preach a Sermon in favour of one of those Societies, at Maze Pond Meeting-house; and this I cheerfully complied with. Just as I was coming away, a paper was put into iny hands, by one of the members; of which the following is the subgtance :
· About the middle of the year 1798, a few individuals in Southwark, united for the purpose of visiting and relieving the aillicted poor. By the beginning of 1199, being forned into regular order, and encouraged by the subscriptions of other Christian friends, they begun their visits.
On the 4th of January, J.C-d and J.W-were appointed by the Society to visit a Mr. S---, Brandon-street, New Road, Bermondsey. They found him in a deplorable state of inind,
-a poor hard. ened sinner. Extreme ignorance, carelessness, and profaneness, even under the most dangerous atfiction, were manifest in the whole of his best haviour. The day before he was visited, a kit friend had intimated to him, that his dissolution was apparently at land. He answered, “I know not that there is a God, a Heaven, or a Hell; but if there be, a day, or even a few hours, are snifícient for that!” In the first interview, attempts were made to convince him of the evil of sin, and of his lost condition as a sinner; and certain instances of his evil conduct, of which the visitants had been intorined, were alleged as proofs of it. This arrested his attention. They proceeded in holding up before him the accumulated wickedness of his whole life; feeling and expressing at the saine time, their tender concern for his inimortal soul, now about to appear before its God. At the close of the interview, one of the visitors, according to the directions of the Society, went to prayer; and implored mercy from the God of all grace, to be manifested through Jesus Christ, to this poor perishing singer. His mind seemed to be affected by what he had heard. He thanked them repeatedly for their kind attention to his best interests; and intreated them to come again.
In future visits, they dweli upon the great truths of revelation; and, according to the ability given them, insisted particularly on the excellency, the suitableness, and preciousness of Christ,-on the great grace of God towards miserable sinners, – and the rich provision made for the securing his own honour, in the eternal salvation of all that believe. They also recommended him to read the Scriptures, and to pray; and it appeared that their instructions and counsels were not in vain. They after. wards frequently found him reading the Bible; and he would express to them the satisfaction he enjoyed in it, and in prayer, and spiritual con versation. Freely and repeatedly he confessed his aggravated guilt, acknowledging that he deserved the displeasure of God in the greatest degree ; yet hoped to obtain forgiveness, from the grace of God, through Jesus Cluist. On this alone he professed to rely, as encouraged by the declarations and promises of the gospel.
When certain favourable symptoms induced a hope of recovery, his desires of life appeared to be, that he might have opportunity of proving the sincerity of his professions, and live to the glory of God in Christian society, as he had heretofore lived to his dishonour in the society of the wicked. He would often express his gratitude to the visitors, and to the Society who sent them ; – blessing God for thein as the instru. ments by which he was rescued from eternal misery: and when relief was attorded him, under his temporal wants, he discovered the same grateful spirit. As the disorder increased (a consumption) and dissolution drew near, he discovered increasing composure and spirituality of mind. His hopes of eternal life, as the free gitt of God to sinners of mankind, thro' his well-beloved Son, scemed more vigorous, and his soul more lively than before. Expecting every night, as it arrived, to be his last, he would take leave withow any appearance of terror ; and express his hope of being soon in glory. On April 9, 1799, in this state of mind he died.
In addition to the above, the visitors are not without hope in behalf of his widow, who appeared from the first to be impressed by the things that were spoken. She observed, at one of their visits, “ What you have addressed to my husband, equally concerns me;" and, on all occasions, paid a serious attention to what was said. It was from her they learned, ihat her husband had been extremely wicked aforetime; and that, even
THE SERVANT OF ALL-WORK.
341 during his a Miction, he had often been guilty of profane swearing, and uftered the most passionate language; but, from the tinie that he was viited, she said, he swore no more ; and no more fell into any of those violent passions to which he had been so greatly addicted. She also in. formed thein, that he warned his wicked coinpanions; one of whom espes cially, who came to see him in his affliction, appeared to feel very for. cibly the poignancy of his reproof. She farther assured them, that he was resigned to the will of God, not only when they were present with him, but uniformly so; and that they enjoyed more happiness together, during the few last weeks of his life, than in all their married state before."
N. B. The paper makes mention of 157 cases being admitted the first year; and upwards of 60 1. expended,
On this interesting story, the reader is left to make his own reflections. Those who have been immediately concerned in it must surely say, and it may be presumed others will say also, “ What hath God wrought!"
THE SERVANT OF ALL-WORK.
In a late periodical publication, there was an advertisement for a steady servant of all-work. This struck ma as a singular requisition; and that the advertiser will find some difficulty in finding a servant who would be willing and able to fulfil the duties of such an arduous post. However this may be, I think I know one Master who has a right to demand such servants; persons
of all-work. “One is our Master, even Christ.” He attaches us to his person ; - he inclines us to prefer his service to that of every other master. Hence, when we have received the earnest of his Spirit, we join bis family willingly, and take that part in it which his wisdom assigns.
From this time, we reckon it a pleasure to serve him, and obey his orders; and he expects that, from the moment we are receired into his household, we should conform to his rules, and submit to his authority: Knowing, therefore, that we serve the Lord Christ, we say, with the Israelites, “ All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” And should a Joshua suspect our sincerity and zeal, we eagerly reply," The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice will we obey.” Now, our adorable Master has given us his written commands, viz.“ That we should serve in newness of spirit,
that henceforth we should not serve Sin, -- that we should be careful to maintain good works; to be zealous of them, to be rich in them, to provoke others to them, to be perfect in them, to glorify God by them. All this is very proper'; nor do we doubt of the reasonableness of these commands, when we first enter the service of Christ : but as he is always the same, his service is the saine ; and he
expects, nay demands, that we be servants of all-work; or, in the apostle's emphatic language, “ready to every good work.”
This work consists in looking to Christ for direction and assistance; in watchfulness, in diligence, in activity. We must work while it is day; and, like him, finish the work we have to do ; for“ the night cometh, when no man can work.”
Farther: This expression all-work, has many other appendant duties. For instance, Are we private Christians? Here is work in the closet, and work in the family; which all diligent servants attend to every day. Besides, there is much work to do in the church, of which our Master is the head ;- social prayer and conversation, punctual attendance on public ordinances, &c. : and such kind of work as this, very much strengthens the hands of the upper servants, who, for want of such friendly attentions, often go to rest very weary, and greatly discouraged. Again : Here is much work to do in procuring more servants for our Lord's service : for what between the death of many who go to enjoy their reward, and the failure of others, who run away through dislike of family-order, we are authorized to say, and yet there is room; our Lord's House is not full,
Hence different spheres of usefulness open before us. Here is work in our families and neighbourhoods ; Missionary work, in which counsel, and prayer, and money, are much wanted! Here is work to do in the nation, and out of it: in country villages, in every direction; or, by our representatives, to the yery ends of the earth.
Iay, the advertisement be applied to ministers? How much does it behove them to be men of all-work! Ought they not to be like their Master, “who came not to be ininistered unto, but to minister ?". Ye honoured servants of an infinitely honourable Master! see what various and laborious duties the apostle describes in 2 Cor. vi: 3-7. May these things be in you and abound, with the exception of certain trials, which, I trust, your Master will never suffer you to experience!
But the advertisement, which occasioned these reflections, requires a strady servant too ; and, indeed, wbat is a servant without steadiness? Yet, on this point, the servants of Christ have to lament the want of this principle. Alas! we soon grow weary in well-doing." And why? Because we fail in looking to our blessed Master for those encouragements which would effectually banish indolence and relaxation. Hence it is, that the service begins secretly to be disrelished; and those servants, who are in such a case, will surely be disposed to find fault with one another, when the quarrel ought to be with themselves. Some of the upper servants begin at this time to be treated with inattention and neglect, with misrepresentation and contempt. If they, ever so prudently, remind them
THE SERVANT OF ALL-WORK.
845 of their duty, they do not like that legal phrase Duty, when applied to the Lord's free-men ; especially, if the young upper servants dare to open their mouths upon it, they are ready to wish them turned out of doors. Instead of“ receiving them, in the Lord, with all gladness, and holding them in reputation,” they translate the passage, “ Receive them with all sadness, and hold such in reprobation !" They conceive, that if their Master would but put these youngsters down, and set them up, they could do a vast deal better. - A neighbour of mine has been trying, for several years, to be regularly fixed in an upper department; and though, poor man! he has had the vanity to think himself superior to all our Lord's upper servants in two large counties; yet, unfortunately, there are only about half a dozen elderly females who can discern his superiority!
But to return. Why do we see these ebullitions of vanity, and this fearful spirit of insubordination? Are the commands of our Master changed ? his authority lessened? his upper servants altered ? Ah, no! not in a single iota ; but a love of reading erroneous books, and unseasonable conversations with their fellow-servants, when they should be at closet or familywork; this it is that makes them high-minded and indolent. Hence, though they do not, in so many words, find fault with their Master, they fritter away, or very slovenly perform those duties in which their whole souls were once engaged. A steady attachment, therefore, to the person, the house, the upper servants, the whole service of our honoured Master, is requisite ; but where Duty calls, privilege, and honour, and happiness is secured. In these things, we are superior to the servants of Sin; we are immediately paid, well paid, honours ably paid, for all our services ! Such is the liberality of our divine Master to all his unprofitable servants! Permit me, then, to recommend this sentiment for daily use : “ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, inmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch, as ye know that your
labour is not in vain in the Lord !" Many of my readers are, perhaps, enquiring after the service of Christ, but still hesitate about entering into his family, though they have often been told, he will receive them freely. Let me beg such persons seriously to weigh the apostle's language: “ Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey,
his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness ? For the wages of sin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” How infinitely preferable is it to be made “ free from sin, and become servants to God, that
your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life!"