« PreviousContinue »
high broke him down, as he expressed it,-and greatly aggravated his complaints and sufferings; and he had hoped to experience no more trouble from this quarter. But no sooner was it known, in New-York, that he was at the Springs, than fresh overtures were sent to him.-'I wonder,' said he,' that this people will thus pursue a dying man. I cannot help them or myself.'-I have no doubt, from various expressions of his, that the great efforts made to effect his translation to a new field of labor, proved too much for his weak frame, and hastened his dissolution."
But those, who were so perseveringly solicitous to secure his services, knew not how delicate and susceptible were his feelings; nor did they know how nearly exhausted in him were the springs of life. No harsh censure of their measures is intended to be insinuated. Doubtless their wishes had so far affected their judgment, as to create the confident expectation, that a removal to a new field of action, would be the means of restoring and establishing his health. But it was already gone past recovery.
That he was held in as high estimation by the great and good, as by Christians in the ordinary walks of life, is obvious from the fact, that he was, in 1821, requested by persons having some control in the appointment, to say whether he would accept a Professorship in the Theological Seminary at Andover, if elected to the office. But he refused "at once, and positively, on the score of not possessing the requisite qualifications. Had I been suitably qualified, I am not certain, that I should not have thought it my duty to go."
Letters to persons in various circumstances and states of mind.
THOUGH Mr. Payson was eminently felicitous in adapting his public discourses to the wants and characters of a promiscuous assembly; he was, if possible, still more so, in suiting his counsels, instructions, and appeals, to the cases of individuals. But these dictates of his sanctified understanding and ardently affectionate heart, are mostly lost; and their place can be supplied only by a selection from his letters, written to persons variously situated and affected,-which, though both interesting and instructive, are far inferior in imagery, appositeness, and effect, to his viva voce instructions.
To his Mother under affliction of spirit:
"MY DEAREST MOTHER,
"Never did I more ardently wish to impart consolation, and never did I feel so utterly powerless to do it. say yourself, that neither reason nor religion can restrain your tormenting imagination. What encouragement then have I to attempt to comfort you under the evils it occasions? I wish I could communicate to you the feelings which have rendered me happy, for some weeks past. I will mention the texts, which occasioned them; texts, on which I have preached lately. Perhaps the great Comforter may apply them to you. If so, you will little need any consolation which I can give. The first is Isaiah 26,
20. The time of our continuance on earth is but a moment; nay, it is but a little moment. Suppose, then, the worst. Suppose that all the evils, which imagination can paint, should come upon you. They will endure only for a little moment; and while this little moment is passing away, you may run and hide in the chambers of protection, which God has provided for his people, till the mansions preparing for them above are ready for their reception.
O, then, my dear Mother, glory in these afflictions, which endure but for a moment, a little moment. O, how near, how very near, is eternity. It is even at the door.
"New Year's Sabbath, I preached on this text, "As the Lord liveth, there is but a step between me and death." One inference was, there is but a step between Christians and heaven. So it has seemed to me almost ever since. Another text, which I have preached on lately, and which has been much blessed to me, is Rev. 21, 23.
"And the city had no need of the sun," &c. O, how unutterably glorious did heaven appear! It is glory: It is a weight of glory: An exceeding weight of glory; a far more exceeding weight of glory; a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. O, how shall we bear such a weight of glory as this? How shall we wait with patience till we arrive at it? O, it seems too much; too boundless, too overwhelming to think of. Come afflictions; come troubles; come trials, temptations, distresses of every kind and degree; make our path through life as painful, as wearisome, as you can; still, if heaven is at the end of it, we will smile at all you can do. My dear Mother, break away; O, that God would enable you to break away from all your cares and sorrows, and fly, rise, soar, up to the New Jerusalem. See its diamond walls, its golden streets, its pearly gates, its shining inhabitants, all in a blaze with reflected light and glory, the light of God, the glory of the Lamb! Say with David, toward this city I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. My Mother, what a righteousness is this? The righteousness of God! A righteousness as much better than that of Adam; nay, than that of angels as God is better than his creatures. Since then, my dear Mother, you have such a heaven before you; such a righteousness to entitle you to heaven; and such blessed chambers to hide in, during the little moment which separates you from heaven,-dry up your tears, banish your anxieties, leave sorrow and sighing to those, who have no such blessings, in store, or reversion, and sing, sing, as Noah sat secure in the ark and sang 'the grace that steered him through.'
I would urge
I thought it would do any good, but it will not. The nearer he gets to his sun, his centre, the end of his course, the faster he will fly and you cannot stop him. Catch hold of him, and fly with him, and I will come panting af ter as fast as I can."
To a kinsman, in an important crisis of his religious experience :
"In your present situation, and for some time to come, your greatest difficulty will be, to maintain the daily performance of closet duties. On your maintaining that part, the fate of the whole battle will turn. This your great adversary well knows. He knows that if he can beat you out of the closet, he shall have you in his own power. You will be in the situation of an army cut off from supplies and reinforcements, and will be obliged either to capitulate, or to surrender at discretion. He will, therefore, leave no means untried to drive or draw you from the closet. And it will be hard work to maintain that post against him and your own heart. Sometimes he will, probably, assail you with more violence, when you attempt to read or pray, than at any other time; and thus try to persuade you that prayer is rather injurious than beneficial. At other times he will withdraw and lie quiet, lest, if he should distress you with his temptation, you might be driven to the throne of grace for help. If he can prevail upon us to be careless and stupid, he will rarely distress us. He will not disturb a false peace, because it is a peace of which he is the author. But if he cannot succeed in lulling us asleep, he will do all in his power to distress us. And when he is permitted to do this, and the Holy Spirit withdraws his sensible aid and consolations; when, though we cry and shout, God seems to shut out our prayers, it is by no means easy to be constant in secret duties. Indeed, it is always most difficult to attend to them when they are most necessary. But never mind. Your Lord and Master is looking on. notices, he accepts, and he will reward every struggle. Besides, in the Christian warfare, to maintain the conflict, is to gain the victory. The promise is made to him that endures to the end. The object of our spiritual ad
versaries, then, is to prevent us from enduring to the end. If they fail of effecting this object, they are defeated. Every day, in which you are preserved from going back, they sustain a defeat. And if by praying, yesterday, you gained strength enough to pray, to-day; and if by praying to-day, you gain strength enough to pray again, tomorrow, you have cause for thankfulness. If the food which you take every day nourishes you for one day, you are satisfied. You do not expect that the food you ate, yesterday, will nourish you to-day. Do not complain, then, if you find it necessary to ask every day for fresh supplies of spiritual nourishment; and do not think your prayers are unanswered so long as you are enabled to struggle on, even though it should be with pain and difficulty. Every day I see more clearly how great a mercy it is, to be kept from open sin and from complete apostacy. If you are thus kept be thankful for it."
To a distant lady, in whose piety he had full confidence, but who was much discouraged respecting herself.
"MY DEAR MRS.
"What a task you have imposed on me! You require me to write you a letter, which shall make you feel. And yet you tell me that the Bible, the letter which God himself has sent to you from heaven, does not make you feel. If I believed this to be the case, could I write with any hope of success! could I hope to affect a heart, which a message from heaven does not affect! But I do not, cannot believe that this message has failed to affect you. Your letter to Mrs. P. contains proof that it has not. In that letter you say, "I hate myself while I write." But hatred of one's self, or self abhorrence, is one of the constituent parts of true repentance. No one, but the real penitent, no one, who is not a Christian, hates himself. He, who abhors himself, sees and feels it to be right, that God should abhor him. He can, accordingly, take part with God against himself; justify God, while he reproaches and condemns himself. And he, who can do this, is prepared to embrace the gospel, to receive it, as glad tidings of great joy. Are you not then, my dear madam, proved to be a Christian, out of your own mouth? If you do not