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HIS SICKNESS AND DEATH.
and failing health. My conversion, though but partial then, gave him the utmost delight.
At length his feeble frame gave way, and he sank into his bed to rise no more. He sent me word that he was very desirous to see me, and I visited him without delay. He was very ill. His voice was almost gone, and he spoke with great difficulty. He told me he wished me, when he was gone, to preach his funeral sermon, and write his epitaph, and take charge of a manuscript containing the story of his life. I told him I would do so. He then spoke of his trust in God, his love of Christ, and his hopes of a blessed immortality, while tears of joy stood glistening in his eyes. He then referred to some matters that had tried him sadly, but added: "I have cast my care on God." He tried to speak of his feelings towards me, but said: "Those papers (referring to the story of his life) will tell you all." At last he said: "Pray with me, Joseph." I had not prayed with any one for many years, but I said at once: "I will, Sammy;" and I fell on my knees, and prayed by his side. He then, weak as he was, prayed earnestly for me, and for my wife and family.
He died a few weeks after. I preached his funeral sermon on the following Sunday, in May, 1863, in a field near the house in which he had lived and died, from the text:
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." There was an immense congregation, consisting of people of all denominations, both infidel and Christian, from every part of the surrounding district. When speaking of his conduct in clinging to the religion of Christ, instead of following me into the regions of doubt and unbelief, I declared my conviction that he had done. right. "He had read little," said I, "and I had read much: yet he was the wiser man of the two. His good religious instincts and feelings kept him right, and kept him happy in the warmth and sunlight of the religion of Christ; while my vain reasonings carried me astray into the dark and chilling regions of eternal cold and utter desolation. There is a seeming wisdom that is foolishness; and there is a childlike, artless simplicity of faith, which, while it is regarded as foolishness by many, is in truth the perfection of wisdom. There are things which are hid
from the wise and prudent, that are revealed to babes. And Jesus was right, when, addressing the self-conceited skeptical critics of His day, He said: Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.' My dear departed friend, when trusting in God as his Father, and in Christ as his Saviour, and living a godly life, was right, while I, in distrusting the promptings of my religious instincts and affections, and committing myself to the reasonings of a cold and heartless logic, was wrong. The new-born babe, that rests untroubled in its mother's arms, and, without misgiving, sucks from her breast the milk so wonderfully provided for it, does the best and wisest thing conceivable. In obeying its instincts, it obeys the great good Author of its being, and lives. If to suppose what is happily an impossibility— if the child should discard its instincts, and refuse to trust its mother, till it had logical proof of her trustworthiness; and, distrusting its natural cravings, should refuse to take the nutriment provided for it, till it could ascertain by chemical analysis and physiological investigation, that it was just the kind of food which it required, it would die. My departed friend was the happy, confiding child, and saved his soul alive; while I was the analytical and logical doubter, and all but starved my miserable soul to death. Zhank God, I have lived to see my error. The loving, trusting Christian is right. The religion of Jesus is substantially true and divine; and, thus far, I declare myself a Christian."
It was a beautiful, summer-like day. The sun shone brightly, and the winds were low, and the vast congregation was orderly and attentive, and many were much affected. The report that I had declared myself a Christian, without any qualification annexed, got into the papers, and ran through the country. To many it gave the greatest satisfaction. Good, kind Christians came round me wherever I went, testifying their delight and gratitude. Some wept for joy. Unbelievers were greatly annoyed at the tidings of my conversion, and some of them came and entreated me to give the report a public contradiction. This I refused to do. True, the papers said somewhat more than I had said; but the statement they gave was
OTHER FRIENDS. 345
true in substance, so I let it pass, and the growing change for the better in my views and feelings soon made it true in form.
MY STORY CONTINUED.
PARTIES WHO CONTRIBUTED TOWARDS MY RETURN TO
After I fell into doubt and unbelief, the Church, and the ministry generally, appeared to look on me as irretrievably lost. The great mass of them made no attempt for my recovery. How much they cared for my soul I do not know; but for nearly twenty years they left me to wander as a sheep that had no shepherd. Many of them spoke against me, and wrote against me, and some of them even met me in public discussion; but they never approached me in the spirit of gentleness and love, to try to win me back to Christ, and bring me once more into His Church. Some of them treated me with grievous injustice. As I have said some pages back, one minister made himself most odious to me and my friends, and did something towards increasing our antipathy to the religion which he so grossly dishonored, by his unjust and hateful doings. It is bad for Christianity when men like these are put forward as its advocates. No open enemies can do it so much injury as such unworthy friends.
There were others, however, who took a more Christian course, and if they did not succeed in at once reclaiming me from my melancholy delusions, they produced a happy effect on my mind, which helped to bring about, in the end, my return to the Christian faith.
1. There was one man, a minister, who, though he wrote against some of my views, always treated me with respect. He never gave me offensive names, nor charged me with unworthy motives, nor treated me with affected contempt. He regarded me simply as an erring brother, and strove, with genuine Christian affection, to bring me back to what he regarded as the truth. He died before my restoration
to the Church, but his labors on my behalf were not in vain.
2. A kind-hearted layman once sent me a book-" The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation,”—accompanied with a short, but affectionate letter. The book did not convert me, but the kindness of the friend that sent it had a happy effect. Though beyond the reach of logic, I was within the reach of love.
3. The Author of " The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation" was Mr. Walker, a minister of Mansfield, Ohio. While in America I gave a course of lectures in that town on the Bible. The friend at whose house I was staying took me to see Mr. Walker, who received me with great kindness, invited me to dine with him, and conversed with me in a truly Christian manner. He even came to one of my lectures, in hopes of helping me over the difficulties which blocked my way to the faith of Christ. I did not, however, treat him with the kind and considerate tenderness with which he had treated me. I was under unhappy influences, and I spoke on the Bible in such a manner as to try him past endurance, and he left me that night with very painful feelings, regarding me, probably, as lost past hope. Should he read this work, it may give him satisfaction to know, that his kindness, and his work on Christ as a revelation of the Eternal Father, had a part in helping me back to the religion of Christ.
4. Five years ago last December, Mr. John Mawson, Sheriff of Newcastle-on-Tyne, was killed on the Town Moor by a terrible explosion of nitro-glycerine. I had been acquainted with him more than five-and-twenty years. He joined the church at Newcastle, of which I was a minister, and remained my friend to the last. He had his doubts on certain points of theology, but he never lost his faith in the great principles of Christianity. When I was over from America once, I spent some time in his company, and we had frequent conversations on religion. "It seems to me," said he," that we ought to put some trust in our hearts. My head has often tempted me to doubt; but my heart has always clung to God and immortality. It does so still; and I believe it is right. Indeed, I have no doubt of it." I remembered his words. They led me to study
the moral and spiritual instincts of my nature more thoroughly than I had done before. They led me to study the subject of instinct and natural affection generally. My instincts, like the instincts of my friend, had always clung to God and a future life, and to the principles of religion and virtue, even when reason hesitated and doubted most. I had never given up my belief in any of the great doctrines of Christianity without a painful struggle. But I had been led to think it my duty, when there was a conflict between my head and my heart, to take part with my head. My heart, for instance, would say, "Pray;" but reason, or something in the garb of reason, would say, "Don't. If what you desire is good, God will give it you, whether you pray for it or not; and if it be evil, He will withhold it, pray as you may, Prayer may move a man like yourself; but it cannot move God." And I hearkened to the seeming reason, and gave up prayer. My heart said, "There is a personal, conscious, all-perfect God." My head, or my infidel philosophy said, "There cannot be such a God. A God all-powerful could prevent evil. A God all-good would prevent it. God cannot therefore be a conscious, personal, all-perfect being. He must be a blind, unconscious power; the sum total of natural tendencies, working according to the eternal properties of things, without the possibility of change; and hence the existence of evil, and the prevalence of eternal, unalterable law." And here again my head was permitted to prevail, and my heart, in spite of all its remonstrances, was compelled to give way. And with a personal, conscious, all-perfect God, went the richest treasures of the human heart,-trust in a Fatherly Providence; the hope of a blessed immortality, and faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and justice, and all assurance of human progress and a good time coming.
Yet I was obliged, in spite of the false philosophical principle I had adopted, to accept the oracles of my heart on many points, and to reject the logic of my head. My heart said, "Speak the truth; to lie is wrong." But now that it had got rid of a personal God, logic said, "There can be nothing wrong in a lie that hurts no one. is something commendable in a useful, serviceable lie. To lie to save a person from danger or destruction is a virtue.
MR. JOHN MAWSON OF NEWCASTLE.