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been so; was that the reason you could not distinguish it from one? . . . Mr. A., Mr. M., and you, are three ancient gentlewomen, and this is more polite than to say in plain English, you are old women, for the truth is not always to be spoken; but, assuredly, nothing but age and its infirmities could induce you to say that a man uses a nostrum for his gout, when he only adds another covering to his foot. I hope Mr. M. is not in much pain, but if he is, tell him with my love, that I wish he would send for Dr. Pringle, who, for a guinea or two, will order him the same thing that I put on at free cost, it being a prescription of his."
"As next Monday is your birth-day, this letter is to bring you my good wishes on that occasion, and may you live to see many happy ones; may God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and may he preserve you from every deadly sin, that so you may be happy during your pilgrimage in this world, and after that when time shall be no more, to all eternity! You are now come, my dear Jack, to that which is reckoned the most dangerous time of a man's life; for our passions are at their full strength, sooner than our reason which should govern them is; and besides this, you are soon to go out into a debauched wicked world, where fools make a mock of sin; where you will be tempted to every thing that is wicked; and will be laughed at for every thing that is good. In these circumstances, your only security will be to set God always before you; under every temptation pause for a moment, and think that God sees you: do this, and I trust you will be safe. May he give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways, and to his good Providence I do with all submission commend you."
Another letter alludes with great tenderness to a subject which has been already mentioned.
"Ashley, February 29th, 1764. "Indeed, my dear Jack, my head and heart are so full that I can hardly write to you; neither are my hands empty, for I have as much to write from day to day as I can dispatch; yet as it would not look kind, to give no answer to your last kind letter, something I will say. I thank you for sending me a true state of your dear brother's case; however melancholy it be, I wish to know the worst. It goes very near me to part from him, so it did to part from my dear little girl, your sister*, but I most humbly thank God for the great mercy bestowed on both of them, by removing them from this bad world, before wickedness had corrupted them. Concerning their state, I am quite easy, and I love them so well, that I do not wish to have them restored to me again; God grant I may go to them. My sorrow then is quite selfish, and I hope God will in mercy spare the lives of the rest of my children, and will give them grace to be comforts to me; but I had rather see you all die before me, than have you live to the loss of your own precious souls. For your health, I am now, if possible, more anxious than ever, though I know not whether you are obliged to me for it, for I think you will live in worse times than I have, as I think I have in worse than my fathersdid. Whoever considers the accounts given in Scripture of the last times, and compares them with the present state of the world, must see that they draw on apace, and wickedness will abound more and more; but God will, I hope, give you grace to suffer cheerfully as a good soldier
* Elizabeth Julia, a fine lively girl, who died in 1754, when she was just ten years old.
of Christ's, whatever trials he shall call you to. Whenever you are under a temptation to vice of any sort, make a pause, and reflect that it is as hard to stop in a way of vice, as in running down a precipice. Could a man foresee the consequences of the first wrong step, I do believe that not even the united forces of those three strong enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil could drag him into it; yet they are very powerful, and must subdue every man who does not fly to God for his assistance, and grace to resist them. My father and his uncle who brought him up were excellent men, Christians indeed; may you exceed them in every thing that is good, and may you never be a disgrace to either of the families you are descended from, and worthy men they have been on both sides; may you live to a good age, and when the infirmities of years come on, may they be attended by no stings of conscience for the sins of your youth, but, on the contrary, may you be supported under them, by a well grounded hope of a happy immortality through his merits who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification! Such, dear Jack, are my wishes and prayers for you, and I am very solicitous for your happiness: as to your dear brother, all fears and cares for him are at an end, he will soon be out of danger, and may God's will be done on him, and me, and you, and all of us."
Some extracts from other letters may perhaps be acceptable, as they show the sound sense and correct judgment of the writer no less than his excellent principles.
"I some how or other contrive to make myself now and then uneasy at thinking my life useless; and yet on the other hand I am often employed in business of some sort or other for one body or other; and I am always glad when I am so, for I often have in my mind that good man Mr. Bowyer's saying, which he so frequently repeated to his children, 'Do all the good you can.' * It is but uncomfortable, when one recollects at night the passages of the day, to think one has been of no use either to one's self or any body else."
"When I was of your age, and even long before, I thought as you do, that, as a Christian, one ought to keep out of the busy, bustling part of the world. Possibly I carried this notion further than my friends, who made compliances I could not, have thought right; for I believe I have been blamed for not pushing myself forwards, by which it was thought I might have mended my own fortune and have served others; articles which have at times had weight with me, and have now and then made me ambitious. Perhaps I am at present more so for you than ever I was for myself, for I do own I should have joy in seeing you worth 100,000/., doing- good, serving your friends, and making many happy; but as you are never like to be so rich, my wish is, that, like me, you may learn to be content with a little honestly come by. It used to be one of my sayings, he is the richest man who has the most command of his time; consequently, when I so thought, I had no wish to be in a very high station; yet if a certain event had happened, I should have busied myself about some projects which my imagination had formed, and which I thought
* This was often repeated by this good man on his deathbed, and the last which could be distinguished. Mr. B. was vicar of Martock, a sound and well-read divine, an excellent parish priest, and author of an admirable book on the Lord's Supper.
would have been for the good of the nation, and nemo sibi nascitur was a favourite saying with me. These projects, however, were the consequence of the way of life I was thrown into; a way not of my own choice, for had my inclination been consulted, I had been nothing more or less than a clergyman, which I had early a great desire to be. The videri potest, fyc. * is certainly true of a good man, and what a divine religion must that be, which, if observed, will make a man happy both in this world and the next?"
This subject is renewed in the following letter.
"The passage you mention in Dr.Young is a charming one. I don't know if there has been a better book than his published for these hundred years past. Yet the notion of retirement from the world may be carried too far. On the one hand, there are great risks in the conversation of the world, but there are also many opportunities of being useful. In retirement, a man keeps out of many temptations, but he also falls into some of a different kind, and he becomes of little use to his friends. The post of honour is that of danger; and this post I take to be that of being in the world; the danger is that of being thereby corrupted. Let it be your part to keep the post, and manfully avoid the danger, or stem the torrent. God bless you."
"The longer you live, dear Jack, the more you will be convinced that man is a very inconsistent creature; therefore put your trust in Him in whom is no variableness, and may he for ever bless you."
"The providential escapes you meet with are very many,
* Christianus videri potest miser, non potest esse. A saying often quoted by the writer of this letter.