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THESE Reflections, the one on the deepest, the other on the gayest, scenes of Nature, when they proceeded privately from the pen, were addressed to a Lady of the most valuable endowments, who crowned all her other endearing qualities by a fervent love of Christ, and an exemplary conformity to his divine pattern. She, alas! lives no longer on earth, unless it be in the honours of a distinguished character, and in the bleeding remembrance of her acquaintance.
It is impossible, Madam, to wish you a richer blessing, or a more substantial happiness, than that the same spirit of unfeigned faith, the same course of undefiled religion, which have enabled her to triumph over death, may both animate and adorn your life. And you will permit me to declare, that my chief inducement in requesting your acceptance of the following Meditations, now they make a public appearance from the press, is, that they are designed to cultivate the same sacred principle, and to promote the same excellent practice.
Long, Madam, may you bloom in all the vivacity and amiableness of youth, like the charming subject of one of these Contemplations. But at the same time remember, that with regard to such inferior accomplishments, you must one day fade (may it prove some very remote period !) like the mournful objects of the other. This consideration will prompt you to go on, as you have begun, in adding the meekness of wisdom, and all the beauties of holiness, to the graces
of an engaging person, and the refinements of a polite education.
And might-O! might the ensuing hints furnish you with the least assistance in prosecuting so desirable an end; might they contribute in any degree to establish your faith, or elevate your devotion; they Iwould then administer to the author such a satisfaction as applause cannot give, nor censure take away-a satisfaction which I should be able to enjoy, even in those awful moments when all that captivates the eye is sinking in darkness, and every glory of this lower world disappearing for ever.
These wishes, Madam, as they are a most agreeable employ of my thought, so they come attended with this additional circumstance of pleasure, that they are also the sincerest expressions of that very great esteem with which I am,
Your most obedient most humble servant,
Weston-Favel, near Northampton,
May 20. 1746.
THE first of these occasional Meditations begs leave to remind my readers of their latter end; and would invite them to set, not their houses only, but, which is inexpressibly more needful, their souls in order; that they may be able, through all the intermediate stages, to look forward upon their approaching exit without any anxious apprehensions; and when the great change commences, may bid adieu to terrestrial things, with all the calmness of a cheerful resignation, with all the comforts of a well-grounded faith.
The other attempts to sketch out some little traces of the all-sufficiency of our Redeemer for the grand and gracious purposes of everlasting salvation; that a sense of his unutterable dignity and infinite perfections may incite us to regard him with sentiments of the most profound veneration, to long for an assured interest in his merits with all the ardency of desire, and to trust in his powerful mediation with an affiance not to be shaken by any temptations, not to be shared with any performances of our own.
I flatter myself, that the thoughts conceived among the tombs may be welcome to the serious and humane mind; because, as there are few who have not consigned the remains of some dear relations, or honoured friends, to those silent repositories, so there are none but must be sensible, that this is the house appointed for all living, and that they themselves are shortly to remove into the same solemn mansions. And who would not turn aside for a while from the most favourite amusements, to view the place where his once loved companions lie? who would not sometimes survey those apartments, where he himself is to take up an abode till time shall be no more?
As to the other little essay, may I not humbly presume, that the very subject itself will recommend the remarks? For who is not delighted with the prospect of the blooming creation, and even charmed with the delicate attraction of flowers? Who does not covet to assemble them in the garden, or wear them in a nosegay? Since this is a passion so universal, who would not be willing to render it productive of the sublimest improvement? This piece of holy frugality I have ventured to suggest, and endeavoured to exemplify, in the second letter; that while the hand is cropping the transient beauties of a flower, the attentive mind may be enriching itself with solid and lasting good. And I cannot but entertain some pleasing hopes, that the nicest taste may receive and relish religious impressions when they are conveyed by such lovely monitors; when the instructive lessons are found, not on the leaves of some formidable folio, but stand legible on the fine sarcenet of a narcissus; when they savour not of the lamp and recluse, but come breathing from the fragrant bosom of a jonquil.
LETTER TO A LADY.
TRAVELLING lately into Cornwall I happened to alight at a considerable village in that country; where, finding myself under an unexpected necessity of staying a little, I took a walk to the church.* The doors, like the heaven to which they lead, were wide open, and readily admitted an unworthy stranger. Pleased with the opportunity, I resolved to spend a few minutes under the sacred roof.
In a situation so retired and awful, I could not avoid falling into a train of meditations, serious and mournfully pleasing, which I trust were in some degree profitable to me, while they possessed and warmed my thoughts; and if they may administer any satisfaction to you, Madam, now they are recollected and committed to writing, I shall receive a fresh pleasure from them.
It was an ancient pile, reared by hands that ages ago were mouldered into dust; situate in the centre
* I had named, in some former editions, a particular church, viz. Kilkhampton, where several of the monuments described in the following pages really exist; but, as I thought it convenient to mention some cases here, which are not, according to the best of my remembrance, referred to in any inscriptions there, I have now omitted the name, that imagination might operate more freely, and the improvement of the reader be consulted, without any thing that should look like a variation from truth and fact,