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CXCII. TO THE REV. JOSIAH HILL.
Stapleton, April 5, 1837. .... I do hope in the divine clemency that another visitation is not approaching you.
I remember a man of great piety and intelligence saying, “I think I could be willing to follow all my children to the grave, on the condition of having a satisfactory assurance of their happiness beyond it.” This was said in relation to the death of my son, concerning whom I felt this assurance. And I think I could cordially adopt his words with respect to my remaining children. There is something more pleasing than sad in the idea, if God willed it so, of seeing them happily gone before me; of not leaving them bebind, but seeing them safe out of an evil world before I quit it,-of seeing the end of their dangers, and being finally sure of them. Females I have said, especially ; for only think what a lot is that of a very large proportion of women!
Still I will hope you are not destined to be yet deprived of so beloved a daughter. But, whatever be the sovereign appointment, I trust in the divine mercy that her mind will be relieved from its painful apprehensions. Let it dwell much on the gracious and consolatory aspects of religion. This I am sure you will, without any suppression of faithfulness to truth, inculcate upon her. You will tell her to do justice to the Divine Mercy by believing its thousandfold declarations and promises. But it is not that she doubts the Divine willingness to bless and save, or the all-sufficient merit of our Lord and Saviour. It is that she fears her mind is not in the right state to receive, to appropriate, that supreme good. But is it in the right state to seek it ? That is the essential thing. Is she deeply in earnest to obtain it? Is she resolved to make humble persevering application to the throne of the heavenly grace for the right state of mind itself, and all the blessings which belong to it ? Then there is the strongest cause for hope and confidence. To doubt it would be to distrust the mercy, the declarations of God. This genuine earnestness itself is, so far, the very condition of soul that is desired. If faithfully maintained, it engages Him that created the soul to work
in it the whole happy fitness for its eternal salvation. But it is superfluous for me to be writing thus. It is what she is constantly hearing from you, and I trust, receiving with a consolatory influence. I shall be greatly interested to hear from you soon what are the appearances, as to the debilitated mortal part, and what the feelings of the spirit which so precariously dwells in it; and I pray the Father of mercies to lift up the light of his countenance both on her and yourself.
Stapleton, April 15, 1837. .. You are hardly unaware that there is something a little fallacious in your mood of thinking and feeling about activity in public affairs. If all well-principled and able men were to indulge that mood, the great interests of the community would go desperately to corruption and ruin. Just think, for want of the requisite number, activity, and co-operation of such men, what a condition those interests have been in, for a long succession of years, up to the commencement of the recent national rousing. A vast hell of wars; bad legislation; profligacy in all administration; all correction of old rotten institutions resisted; total indifference to the uneducated, barbarous condition of the people; every kind of corruption practised with impunity, under protection of a monopoly of power; hatred, almost or wholly to the length of persecution, of those who have dared to expose the iniquities and preach reform. Has it not struck you, over and over again, that every part of the system, on coming at last under resolute investigation, has turned out worse than all previous opinion or suspicion had surmised ? Now are good men to be told, that all this is no concern of theirs, and on the plea of not involving themselves in the turmoil of worldly and political affairs, quietly and piously to let it all go on, from bad to worse; to leave it all in the same profligate hands,—till Providence shall work a miracle for its reformation ? It is but slight rebuke that you will incur for one particular in your avowal, that
you care far more about my poor Catherine and John, than for either king or country, Church or State;" but when you say the same thing of what constitutes the collective community, with their immense collective interests, do you forget that there are unnumbered thousands of other Johns and Catherines, to be affected for good or evil, in numberless ways, by the beneficial or injurious operation of the national system? If all had acted on the principle of caring little about any but their own, we should have had no public spirited men; no patriots; no magnanimous vindicators of the rights of the oppressed; none who, while their own families were the first in their regard, yet felt indignant that myriads of other families were the worse, in various ways and degrees, for a corrupt and pernicious management of the concerns of the community. The crisis of the affairs of this country, balancing and wavering between the growing impulse toward improvements of incalculable value, and the powerful, obstinate resistance made by the old corrupt system—a crisis, including the perfectly tremendous state and possibilities of Ireland, and involving the interests of perhaps a million of families there, are not, methinks, matters which any of us should deem insignificant in comparison with our own domestic interests. Unless a vast number and combination of men, while maintaining all due regard for what they respectively have at home, will yet take a zealous and untiring concern in these public affairs, designs of immense utility will be frustrated, and there will inevitably be a long course of agitation, danger, and disaster.
... So ends my sermon, and most likely with the same effect as too many
Stapleton, May 30, 1837. Many of my recollections of early life have faded, and they never had the captivation and complacency which some men seem to feel. But the sojourn in Dublin is often revived in my memory with peculiar distinctness, and pleas
ing though pensive interest. In the time and scene thus recalled, you, as in your early juvenility, are a conspicuous figure. I have a very marked image of your appearance and looks—of which I dare say you yourself have retained no image at all, no more than I have of mine, as at that or an earlier stage of life.-Can you shape any thing like a defined conception of what were your prevailing feelings, notions, tastes, aspirations, at that time?
What an immensity of things have passed over, and away from, every earthly scene in this interval of forty years ! You say that in Dublin I should "find much to revive old recollections." I almost doubt it. A few localities excepted, there must be so complete a sweep from the stage, that the things for recollection to hold by are gone. There cannot be the lingering remainders, to recall what was. As to the living world, it would be just wholly new, not connected with the preceding by retaining still some portion of it, to verify the relationship, to show it to be in continuity and succession. Why, there is not probably one single human being, besides yourself and your wife, that would be, or could be made, an object of my recollection. One other there would have been, it seems, very recently. My eye was very strongly arrested by the name of Mrs. Butler. How well I remember her! What, then, she has lived throughout this wide interval, approaching to half a century, and having not been a young person at its so remote commencement! She would have been one of the diminutive number of the vital threads of connection (if I may so express it) between the existing generation and that which has vanished. But the feeling at sight of her would have been something like what should say, “Why are you lingering here, belonging so plainly as you do to the great company that is departed ?"
The class of us the most advanced in age are for the most part so blended and implicated with the next in order, and the next after that, that it requires some thought to detach ourselves so as to see plainly where we stand. We are apt to be looking too much around us, and behind us, to observe how near we are to the brink. If even I, at the age of nearly sixty-seven, and much apart from society and worldly concerns, need continual admonitions about this, you, at a dozen or more years behind me, and so closely surrounded
by numerous and diversified family interests, with business in addition, will be very apt to need every monitory intimation how much of life is gone, and how fast the remainder is going
For myself, I have recently had some extra and ominous hints, or rather very direct warnings. A succession of colds and coughs, within the last year or two, added to a relaxation of the throat, which twenty or more years since disabled me for regular preaching, has had the effect of leaving me liable to an effusion of blood, from the rupture of some vessel adjacent to the throat. This has occurred several times within the last half year, the worst instance of it being within the last few days. I am not advised that this involves or indicates “immediate danger" (that is the phrase you know), but that it imperatively speaks the necessity of great caution, medical asistance, the avoidance " for the present” (another of the phrases) of all considerable exertion in the way of speaking, and a total final interdict on preaching.
You speak of“ grey hairs and some debility of action.” Quite in the natural course; and you will lay your account with an increase (perhaps in an increasing ratio) of these significant intimations. Yet I hope you will yet long (but in how modified sense of that word!) retain a competence of strength and health for much useful activity, combined with a considerable degree of the enjoyment of life ;-still with a constant recollection, that it is an introduction, and is verging continually and fast toward a solemn junction with that to which it is the introduction. And what will that be ? Oh, the mystery of that great Hereafter!
I congratulate you sincerely on the pleasure, and every other advantage, caused you by an excellent wife and eight descendants! You would show me, you say, six sons ; --but I should be frightened ;-nay, what is to insure me against actual danger? Six young Irishmen,--and Irishmen being such as you describe them, that is to say, of “ ferocious disposition,” needing strong coercion for the safety of those who have to do with them. Assuredly I should not dare to confront these redoubtable six one moment sooner or longer than you were present, and indeed Mrs. P. in addition, in order to secure the mitigating