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REMNANTS OF TIME
PROSE AND VERSE:
Short Essays and Composures on Various Subjects.
ADVERTISEMENT. Dr. Watts's Opinion about publishing these Papers, appears in the following
Advertisement prefixed to them by himself. THESE papers were writteo at several seasons and intervals of leisure, and on various occasions arising through the greatest part of my life. Many of them were designed to be published among the Reliquiæ Juveniles, but for some reason or other, not worth preseut notice, were laid by at that time. Whether I shall ever publish them I know not, though far the greatest part of them have long stood corrected among my manuscripts ; nor do I suppose many of them inferior to those Essays and remarks of this kind whieh have before appeared in the world with some acceptance. If they are not published in my life-time, my worthy friends, who have the care of my papers, may leave out what they please.
1.-Justice and Grace. NEVER was there any hour since the creation of all things, nor ever will be till the last conflagration, wherein the holy God so remarkably displayed his justice and his grace, as that hour that saw our Lord Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross, forsaken of bis Father and expiring. What a dreadful glory was given to vindictive justice when the great and terrible God made the soul of his owo Son a painful sacrifice for sin ! What an amazing instance of grace that he should redeem such worthless sinners as we are from the vengeance by exposing his beloved Son to it! When I view the severity or the compassion of that hour, my thoughts are lost in astonishment : It is not for me, it is not for Paul or Apollos, it is not for the tongue of men or angels to say which was greatest, the compassion or the severity. Humble adoration becomes us best, and a thankful acceptance of the pardun that was purchased at so dear a rate.
Next to this I know not a more eminent display of terror and mercy, than the dying hour of a pious but desponding christian under the tumultuous and disquieting temptations of the devil.
See within those curtains a person of faith and serious piety, but of a melancholy constitution and expecting death. Wbile bis flesh is tortured with sharp agonics and terribly convulsed, a
ghastly horror sits on his countenance, and he groans under extreme anguish. Behold the man a favourite of heaven, a child of light, assaulted with the darts of hell, and his soul surrounded with thick darkness : All his sins stand in dreadful array before him, and threaten bim with the execution of all the curses in the bible. Though he loves God with all his heart, he is in the dark, he knows it not, nor can he believe that God has any love for him; and though he cannot utterly let go his hold of bis Saviour and the gospel, yet in his own apprehension he is abandoned both of the Father and the Son. In every new pang that he feels bis owo fears persuade him that the gates of hell are now opeviog upon him : He bangs hovering over the burning pit, and at the last gasp of life, when he seems to be sinking into eternal death, be quits the body with all its sad circumstances, and feels himself safe in the arms of his Saviour, and in the presence of his God.
What amazing transport ! What agreeable surprise ! Not to be utterred by the words of our scanty mortal language, por conceived but by the person wbo feels it. The body indecd, which was the habitation of so pious a spirit, is demonstrated at once : Bebold the lifeless carcase; it makes haste to putrefaction. The released soul in extasy feels and surveys its own happiness, appears before the throne, is acknowledged there as one of the sons of God, and invested with the glories of the upper world. Sorrows and sins, guilt, fetters and darkness vanish for ever : It exults in liberty and light, and dwells for ever under the smiles of God.
What was it could provoke the wise and gracious God to permit the wicked spirit to vex one of his own children at this rate, and to deal so severely with the man whom he loves ? To expose that soul to exquisite anguish in the flesh, which he designed the same day to make a partner with blessed spirits ? To express in one hour so much terror and so much mercy?
St. Paul will give a short and plain answer to this enquiry; Rom. viii. 10. “ The body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness." Hence that anguish, those agonies and convulsions in the sinful flesh that must die, and these will be felt in some measure by the partner-spirit; though that spirit being vested with divige righteousness, or justified in the sight of God, shall survive these agonies in a peaceful immortality. Though the sufferings of the Son of God have redeemed it from an everlasting hell, yet it becomes the offended Majesty of beaven sometimes to give sensible instances what misery the pardoned sinner has deserved ; and the moment that he receives him into full blessedness, may, on some accounts, be the fittest to make a display of all his terror, that the soul may have the full taste of felicity, and pay the igher honours to recovering grace. The demolition of the earthly abernacle with all the
the groans that attend it, are a shadow of that vengeance which was due even to the best of saints : It is fit we should see the picture of vindictive justice, before we are taken into the arms of eternal mercy.
Besides, there may be another reason that renders the dying hour of this man more dreadful too : Perhaps be bad walked un. watchfully before God, and had given too much indulgence to some congenial iniquity, some vice that easily beset him ! now it becomes the great God to write his own hatred of sin in deep and piercing characters sometimes on his own children, that he may let the world know that he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity any where without resentment. The man had “built much hay and stubble upon the divine foundation Christ Jesus, and it was proper that he should be saved so as by fire." 1 Cor. iii. 15.
Will the papist therefore attempt to support the structure of his purgatory upon such a text as this ? An useless structure, and vain atteinpt! That place was erected by the superstitious fancy of men to purge out the sins of a dead man by his own sufferings, and to make bim fit for heaven in times hereafter ; as though the atoning blood of Christ were not sufficient for complete pardon, or the sanctifying work of the Spirit were imperfect even after death. Whereas the design of God in some such instances of terror, is chiefly to give now and then an' example to survivors in this life how bigbly he is displeased with sin, and to discourage his own people from an indulgence of the works of the flesh. Now this end could not be attained by all the pains of their preteoded purgatory, even though it were a real place of torment, because it is so invisible and unknown.
But whatsoever sorrows the dying christians sustains in the wise administrations of providence, it is by no means to make compensation to God. for sin; the atoning work of Christ is complete still, and the sanctifying work of the spirit perfect as 800n as the soul is dismissed from earth; therefore it has an entrance into full blessedness, such as becomes a God infinite in mercy to bestow on a penitent sinner, presented before the throne in the name and righteousness of his own Son.
“ We are complete in bim;" Col. ii. 10. By bim made perfectly acceptable to God at our death, we are filled with all grace and introduced into complete glory.
II.—The death of a young Son.- In a Letter to a friend.
MADAM, it bas been the delight and practice of the pious in all ages, to talk in the words of scripture and in the language of their God : The images of that book are bright and beautiful; and where they happily correspond with any present providence, there is a certain divipe pleasure in the parallel. The Jews have ever used it as a fashionable style, and it has always been
the custom of christians in the most religous times, till inquity and profaneness called it cant and fanaticism. The evangelists and the apostles have justified the practice ; those latter inspired authors have often indulged it even where the prophet or first writer of the text had quite another subject in view ; and though an allusion to the words of scripture will by no means stand in the place of a proper exposition, yet it carries something divine and affecting in it, and by this means it may shine in a serinon
a familiar epistle, and make a pleasing similitude. Accept then a few hints of consolation from a part of scripture, which by an easy turn of thought may be applied to your case.
Rev. xii. 1. “A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under ber feet. ver. 2. Being with child, travailed in birth. ver. 5. And she brought forth a man-child, and it was caught up to God and his throne. verse 6. And the woman had a place prepared of God in the wilderness. ver. 14. To be nourished for a time and times. ver. 9. But the great dragon that was cast out of heaven, the old serpent called the devil and satan. ver. 13. Persecuted the woman. ver. 15. And cast out of his mouth water as a flood. ver. 17. And went to make war with the remnant of her seed."--Thus far the words of scripture.
Now, madam, if you have put on Christ, and are clothed by faith with the Sun of righteousness, if you are drest in the shining graces of heaven, and have the pale and changing glories of this world under your feet, then you may be assured the child you bave brought forth is not-lost, but is caught up to God, and his throne, by virtue of that extensive covenant that includes sincere christians and their offspring together. Mourn not therefore for your son who is with God, but rather for yourself who are yet in the wilderness of this world, where the old serpent has so much power ; where he will persecute you with the flood of his temptations, if possible, to carry you away with them; but I trust God has prepared a place for your safety, even bis church, his gospel, his owu everlasting arms.
Yet shall the serpent make war with the remnant of your seed; your little daughter that remains in the wilderness must go through this war, and be exposed to these temptations. O turn your tears for your son into pity and prayer for yourself and your daughter, that ye may never be carried away by these foods : but when the times are past wbich God has appointed for your
abode and nourishment in the wilderness, you may rejoice to find yourself with all your offspring, in everlasting safety before the throne of God. Amen.
So prays your affectionate, &c.
III.-Heathen Poesy Christianised. 1738. IT is a piece of ancient and sacred history which Moses informs us of, that when the tribes of Israel departed from the land of Egypt, they borrowed of their neighbours gold and jewels by the appointment of God, for the decoration of their sacrifices and solemn worship when they should arrive at the appointed place in the wilderness, God himself taught bis people how the richest of metals wbich bad ever been abused to the worship of idols, might be purified by the fire, and being melted up into a new form might be consecrated to the service of tbe living God, and add to the magnificence and grandeur of his tabernacle and temple. Such are some of the poetical writings of the ancient heathens; they have a great deal of native beauty and lustre in them, and through some happy turn given them by the pen of a christian poet may be transformed into divine meditations, and may assist the devout and pious soul in several parts of the christian life and worship.
Amongst all the rest of the Pagan wtiters, I know none so fit for this service as the odes of Horace as vile a sioner as be
Their manner of composure comes nearer the spirit and force of the psalms of David than any other; and as we take the devotions of the Jewish king, and bring them into our christian chorches, by changing the scene and the chronology and superadding some of the glories of the gospel, so may the representation of some of the heathen virtues, by a little more labour, be changed into christian graces, or at least into the image of them so far as human power can reach. One day musing on this subject, I made an experiment on the two last stanzas of Ode 29. Book III.