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That desire to depart, which surely should be the Christian's on every nearer view of death, I have not experienced. And why? From a want of that faith, which is the realization of things unseen; from a want of a surer confidence as to my own state; a want of faith-(even granting my own state)—that the gift of God is eternal life; a want of spiritual taste and heavenly relish, and of weanedness from the enjoyments of this world. Well, then, if longer life be given, for what better purpose than to confirm faith, to perfect heavenly taste, to work out our own salvation, and thus to become fitter to die, more meet for heaven? May the Holy Spirit do this in us!
LETTER XXVIII.- -TO ONE OF HIS NEPHEWS: ON SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.
Guestingthorpe, April 8th, 1823.
* You have, I suppose, resumed your post with the little boys,-a very useful one to them at present; but you must remember that it will not be long in your power to be useful to them, if you give up all your time to them now, and neglect your own mind:-in short, unless you adopt a more vigorous management of your own education, and a more diligent use of your own time than formerly. You must remember, that religion is not to make us idle, but even more diligent in our callings, inasmuch as it gives us higher motives, and teaches us, that
now, whatever we do in the commonest concerns of life, we may do all to God, and for his glory. Your calling, at present, is your own education; and this, at your age, must be in a great measure in your own hands; and on your improval of your time and talents now depends, humanly speaking, much of the usefulness of your future life. It is not only the knowledge you may gain; but if you are prosing and dozing away your time now, depend upon it, the mind is gaining bad habits, that you may in vain attempt to shake off by-and-by.
I should be very glad, also, to hear from yourself the state of your own mind as relates to spiritual things. My dear J-, there hath been a price put into your hands to get wisdom; I heartily pray that you may have a heart to it. A blessing and a curse has been set before you : I trust that you have chosen, and are beginning to enjoy the blessing. But, as I have more than once said to you, see that you make sure work of it; beware how you put up with a wound slightly healed. A sense of sin and sinfulness, a change of heart, perάvola, a turning from sin and the world to God, the making habitually heavenly things your choice and aim;-these are sure concomitants of true faith in Christ. But we had need to be very much on our guard, to search often, and deeply, and constantly, the state of our own hearts, with earnest prayer, that we may not be suffered to judge amiss; for it is not a vain thing, because it is our life. Oh make sure of that!
LETTER XXIX.-TO HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW.
The last sermon I preached was from To me to die is gain. I humbly trust, through those merits that are sufficient even for all, that I shall find it so. Yet I have not found that desire to depart which should follow such a trust. And the case, I presume, is common; yet not therefore to be acquiesced in. And it becomes an inquiry of great importance and interest, Why is this? I think, 1st, from a want of realizing faith in the eternal glories, that such things are, and are at this moment enjoyed by happy spirits around the throne: 2ndly, from a want of that full assurance, which we might have of our interest herein 3rdly, from a want of a spiritual taste, and relish for the enjoyments of heaven; and, 4thly, from an over-estimation of the enjoyments of the world. May you, my dear Madam, and I, and all whom we love, be daily growing in fitness for, and desire after, heaven!
LETTER XXX.-TO THE SAME.
Guestingthorpe, April 8th, 1823.
My cough has been better for two or three days; but a cough of any standing, I know, is not to be judged of in such a short time. And why should we so gladly hail the
symptoms of amendment? In thankfulness that we have a longer time given to be ripened for heaven, and a longer time to do God service on earth, in one's family, among one's friends, and in the church at large. These, surely, are reasons for wishing-(always with entire submission to a wiser will)-to live. May these (and these exclusively of any attachment to this life, and any distrustful fear of death) be my reasons.
your obliged and affectionate,
LETTER XXXI.-TO THE SAME.
Guestingthorpe, April 25th, 1823.
I trust I am able, on the whole, to leave myself in the hands of a gracious God, who hath spoken good concerning me, and hath always with peculiar tenderness done me good. But, alas! nothing is so variable as my feelings; and I am made every day deeply and humblingly to feel, that I am as yet, through fear of death, subject to bondage. Oh, when shall it be otherwise? When shall my faith grasp the rich promises of the Gospel, and with realizing affection gaze on the things not seen?-that, so far as relates to myself at least, I may even have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, knowing it, feeling it to be far better! Faith in unseen things; a comfortable assurance of an interest in all the
good things of heaven, through the blood of Christ; a spiritual taste for them; a deadness to this world; the belief that, as Christ is with us while in this tabernacle, so will He be with us in the putting it off; these are the things we want ere we can meet death with comfort: these are what I aim at, and daily pray for; but what, alas! I am so far from having attained to.