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of immortality. But why do I thus address one who is as well acquainted with every subject of christian consolation as I can pretend to [be)? I am persuaded you will edify your friends as much by your patience in affliction, as you have enlivened them in better days by the exercise of your sprightlier powers. Virtue is always consistent; and, guided by its dictates, you will never fail to be an example. This scene of suffering will not always last; nor do we suffer “ as those without hope.” It is, indeed, the night of nature, a short night, and not utterly dark: it will soon pass away, and be succeeded by a bright and endless day. Æneas comforts his companions in the midst of distress, by telling them that the retrospect of their sufferings will hereafter be delightful to them. Whether we shall, in this world, be indulged with such a satisfaction, I know not; but surely it will be a source of the most pleasing reflection in a happier world.
Of Bishop Leighton, whose sermons I wish you to read, Bishop Burnet declares, that, during a strict intimacy of many years, he never saw him, for one moment, in any other temper than that in which he should wish to live and die: and if any human composition could form such a character, it must be his own. Full of the richest imagery, and breathing a spirit of the most sublime and unaffected devotion, the reading him is a truce to all human cares and human passions; and I can compare it to nothing but the beautiful representation in the twenty-third Psalm—it is like “ lying down in green pastures, and by the side of still waters."
ON THE DEATH OF HER SISTER, MRS. PARSONS.
My dear Friend, Cambridge, August 14, 1796.
Permit me to express the deep interest I take in your distress, from the loss of the best of friends, and the best of sisters, in the loss of dear Mrs. Parsons. How many losses are united! She has left a husband to lament the most lovely of wives, you the most endeared of sisters, the church of Christ one of its brightest ornaments, and the world one of its fairest examples : all, all have fallen a victim in this most excellent woman. I have not met with any event, for many years, that has affected me at all equally. Had I been permitted to draw aside the mysterious veil that hides futurity; could I have had any presentiments I saw her at — for the last time, how solemn would have been the moments, how awfully interesting my emotions! I pity her husband - I pity her sisters : this is a stroke which must be severely felt in the tenderest manner. I know the heart, when recently wounded, must be indulged in the luxury of grief; and, if there ever was an occasion which could justify the most poignant regret, it is the present, in which we lament the loss of so much excellence. But I hope you will, by degrees, inure your imagination to dwell less on your loss, and more on her happiness. What a glorious display of the power of christianity! what a triumphant departure! 0, that I may die the death of Mrs. Parsons, and that my last end may be like hers! Her life was an ornament to christianity—a pattern to her sex. Immortality dawned on her enraptured mind, even before it quitted its earthly abode; and her pure and elevated soul made an easy transit to the society of the blessed. Her career was short, but illustrious; and she crowded into her little sphere the virtues of a long life. Short as her continuance was upon earth, she was permitted to exemplify the duties of every character, and to imprint, in indelible characters, on the memories of all who were honoured with her acquaintance, the perfections of a friend, a sister, a mother, and a wife. It is true she has slept the sleep of death ; but she sleeps in Jesus: she has gone before you into the holy of holies: she will meet you at the great rendezvous of being, the assembly of the just; and, in the mean time, instead of being an object of your pity, probably looks down upon you with ineffable tenderness and compassion. I have seen, besides your letter, one from Mrs. Gutteridge;
and, I must say, I never heard, on the whole, of so calm, so triumphant a death : it seemed as if she had been permitted to step into heaven before her final departure, that she might thence address herself to her friends with more serenity, dignity, and effect.
What, my dear friend, besides christianity, can thus scatter the horrors of the soul? What else could enable a young lady, in the bloom of life, with a prosperous fortune, beloved by a husband, endeared to her friends, and esteemed by the whole world, to triumph in the thoughts of dissolution ? Divine christianity! it is thine only to comfort and support the languishing and dying.
I hope all Mrs. Parsons' numerous acquaintance will be properly impressed with this singular dispensation of Providence. Let them ask themselves whether the loose sceptical principles of the age are at all adapted to such a scene; whether they have any thing in them that will enable them to exert the calm heroism displayed in the most trying moment by this departed excellence. Let me hope some one, at least, will be impressed by this wonderful example of the power of religion.
Death has made frequent visits to your family ; the youngest is now snatched away. Mr. Beddome, poor Richard Beddome, and now Mrs. Parsons; in how short a time they have followed each other!
I find, your dear deceased sister expressed her anxiety at the progress of deism with her last breath. To a serious mind it affords a most
melancholy prospect : but you must observe it
does not seize the mind at once; it advances by r the progressive stages of socinianism and dissi
pation. Men first lose their relish for what is vital and distinguishing in christianity, before they dispute its evidences, or renounce its authority. Lax notions of the person of Christ, a forgetfulness of his mediation, place the mind in a deistical state, and prepare it for the most licentious opinions.
The consolations of your dear deceased sister did not result from a general belief of the doctrine í of immortality, in which the socinians place the
whole of revelation ; but in specific views of Christ as a Saviour, and the prospect of being for ever with him. My dear friend, let us hold fast this kind of christianity, without wavering, as the antidote of death.
Excuse this freedom, which results not from any suspicion of your own defection, but from a friendly concern for some for whom we both retain the sincerest regards. My paper forbids me to add more.
Present my most affectionate respects to Mr. Fysh, and accept the same yourself, from Your affectionate and sympathizing Friend,