NOTE: This will be an ongoing project as I put in all the Diary, keep checking back for new ones to be added.
1831.--Sunday, April 17.--I have long wavered between two opinions as to the propriety of keeping a Diary, for I consider it so often proves an incentive to spiritual pride, and (if I may be allowed the expression) not infrequently to soul-dishonesty; but still, on the other hand, I think it beneficial. Possessing so depraved a nature, which ever runs parallel with the devil's darling temptation--that of unbelief--we ever need a something more than our common memory to bring to our recollection past mercies--mercies in the various changing circumstances of life--in darkness and light; in prosperity and adversity; in sickness and health; in temptation and deliverance: and experience teaches us that where God the Holy Ghost is pleased to bring these varied dispensations home with power to the mind, it often cheers and animates our drooping spirits, and gives a hope--yea, a humble confidence--that He who has delivered will yet deliver: that He who has been our God will yet be our Guide even to the end. It serves also to show us our growth in grace and knowledge; reveals to us the sweet work of the Spirit in our hearts; and gives us a hope that we shall realize the fulfillment of His promise, that "where He has begun a good work He will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." Again, in keeping a faithful record of the Lord's dealings with us, we perceive the delightful connection between prayer and praise; that where God has in mercy shown us our real necessities, and put a cry into our hearts after those things of which we stand in need, we are enabled, in His own good time, to record His divine faithfulness and love in the gifts of His providence and grace. And, above all, I think we have the authority of Scripture on the subject, for we read with respect to the Lord Himself, that "a book of remembrance was written before Him for them who feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name." As to order or connection in a diary, there is but little, for the Christian's life is one of apparent contradiction, and one that runs quite contrary to that which would have been chosen by flesh and blood; but it is no less one in which the sweet operations of a wonder-working God are ever, more or less, apparent. May this, my humble attempt, be to the glory of God, and in no wise to gratify sinful pride and vain glory. May the after-perusal of what may be herein written be the means of administering to my soul comfort in affliction--light in darkness--hope when ready to despair. If induced to continue it, and enabled faithfully and impartially to narrate the Lord's dealings with me, it will doubtless contain many proofs of His goodness and love; and may prove that Time has revealed to me what is now dark and obscure; and has convinced me that a kind God is ever watchful over His children, even amidst the darkest dispensations--that His eye is ever upon them for good--and that "what they know not now they shall know hereafter." Thus I leave the subject, and pray that God would give me a blessing in it--that His mercies may not
"Lie buried in forgetfulness,
And without praises die."
As for the day which is not past, I can say but little;--have experienced but little life, light, or love; very cold and barren under the word, although pleased with the remarks which Mr. Elmer made from, "I shall be satisfied when I awake up with Thy likeness." I have felt but little able to look above creatures in regard to an object which is ever dear to me, although I have cause to be grateful that God has been pleased to sanctify the disappointment I have experienced with respect to her. May I be enabled to repose this, and all my cares, on Him whose word saith, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." May I ever, through the Holy Spirit's gracious power, be enabled to do this, and ever delight to watch His hand, as a God of providence and grace. May I be led to look above appearances, and not listen to the suggestions of Satan--of unbelief--and of carnal reason. May I rest fully satisfied under a conviction, that God will bring about His purposes (which are all purposes of love towards His children) in His own appointed time and way; that He requires not my, nor any other creature's puny aid, but will "with His own arm get Himself the victory." And may my great concern be to know what the will of the Lord is concerning me, and to walk in accordance with that will; to bow with humble yet cheerful submission to every stroke of His hand, and simply rely on Him for the bestowment of every real and essential good. If I am thus led on under the Spirit's divine operations, the bitter cup of life will be sweetened, and I shall ever have cause to look back upon the way my God has led me with gratitude and love.
Wednesday, April 20th.--Rose this morning at about half-past five, and much enjoyed my walk round Rockstone-lane; the Spring opening so beautifully, and again clothing the fields with verdure; the lark pouring forth its morning notes, and the slowly-passing stream of Northam had a pleasing effect, and afforded ample material for reflection. The opposite shore reminded me of Dr. Watts, as he contemplated the same scene:
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dress'd in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan roll'd between."
This evening I heard Dr. Draper, from Heb. 9:24, on the intercession of Christ; felt little or no power under the word. Came home very low, finding it hard to bow to the Lord's will, though at the same time fully persuaded that ultimately it must and will be for my good and for His glory. Well may the poet say:
"The fondness of a creature's love
How strong it strikes the sense;
Thither the warm affections move,
Nor can we draw them thence."
May I, at such seasons as these and under such feelings, be kept from all evil, and wait with patience the will of the Lord, in accordance with the verse--
"Let those who sow in sadness wait
Till the bright harvest come;
They shall confess their sheaves are great,
And shout their blessings home."
Friday, April 22nd.--Thou hast indeed cause, Oh, my soul! to record the goodness, faithfulness, and love of God towards thee, for the renewed proof thou hast this day experienced of His unchangeable love--of His kind watchfulness and care over thee. He has confirmed His character--His love--His tenderness; He has proved to thee the stability of His covenant to all His blood-bought family, in that He will never leave them nor forsake them; and He has shown His omnipresence, in that He has been with thee, although thou couldst not, as in times that are past, feel and enjoy His comfortable presence. May it encourage thee, Oh, my soul! to ask for more faith, that thou mayest be assured He is ever watching over thy path, and is acquainted with thine every step. May it effectually rebuke unbelief and slavish fear, from a sweet conviction of His ever-constant care, for it is written, "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone."
Saturday, April 23rd.--Well might one of old say, from a consciousness of his own depravity, "If Thou, O Lord, wert just to mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3) It is nothing short of the love and mercy fo God in Christ Jesus, that could bear with the ungrateful and rebellious backslidings of heart and affection which the children of God are ever prone to, and which they ever feel and mourn over. Although God, in great mercy, has blessed them with a principle of love to Himself--to His character and ways, and although at times, by His gracious influence, they are enabled to walk in obedience to His will, and to rise a little above the vanities of this poor perishing world, and the vile pollutions of their carnal and sensual nature, still it is but for God to leave them only for a moment, and the first temptation which presents itself (if permitted) they yield to. They feel that the old man is still alive within them, and ever seeks to get the dominion; then their souls are brought into trouble and dismay: they become spiritually dark and bewildered, and are led to question their personal interest in the covenant blessings of God's dear people. Oh, for a tender conscience--for grace to keep near the throne, to plead for spiritual foresight, so that, seeing the evil at hand, and the sins and temptations to which we are ever exposed, we may be led to ask for strength to abide the fiery trial, and ever to say with the poet--not merely with the lips, but from the heart--
"If to the right or left I stray,
That moment, Lord, reprove;
And may I weep my life away,
For having grieved Thy love.
"Oh, may the least omission pain
My well-instructed soul:
And drive me to Christ's blood again,
Which makes the wounded whole."
Oh, Lord, do Thou give me such a sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and such a sense of the dreadful depravity of my nature, and deceitfulness of my heart, as shall ever lead me to distrust myself, and to tremble at the approach of evil. Let not any sin have dominion over me, small or trifling as it may appear; but cause me to hate everything that would be grievous or offensive in Thy sight. Enable me to abstain from all appearance of evil; and may I ever fear to be left to my own wisdom or strength. May I ever be led to a dear Redeemer, to plead the merits of His blood and righteousness, which alone can render me acceptable in Thy sight. Let no sin lie dormant in me; but let me ever see what is my true state and condition as in Thy sight; and let me never rest satisfied with anything short of an assured evidence of pardon. Remember not the sins of my youth; but wash me in that fountain which is opened for sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1) Apply the blood of sprinkling to my conscience, which "speaketh better things than the blood of Abel."
Saturday, May 21st.--It's nothing short of the love of a covenant God that could bear with the unbelief and rebellion of such a set of rebels as we are. We should not merely consider it an act of rebellion, but one which would call for punishment, were we to doubt the fulfillment of a promise made by an earthly king, though innumerable reasons might justify our secret apprehensions of it; but, when we think of a poor puny worm, who has received nothing but one continued course of proof upon proof of the love of the King of kings, daring even for a moment to cherish an unbelieving thought, and, although not in word yet in action, to say, "We doubt whether we shall ever receive those favors which He has promised--nay, which He has even sworn He will bestow," it is truly astonishing; and (when duly considered) gives us abundant cause, with the prophet of old, to cover our faces with our hands, and lie low in the dust, whilst we cry, "Unclean! unclean!" Whence springs our unbelief? Is it not from our looking too much at the trivial things of this mortal state? Were it our privilege to look above and beyond them all, and see that all things, even in relation to ourselves, must issue in the glory of God and in our eternal happiness, should we not then consider the denial or the withdrawal of something that we conceived to be good for us to possess, the mere prelude to something better--to something that would afford us more real and lasting benefit?--Oh, Lord, give submission to Thy will!
Friday, June 10th.--My way gets darker and darker. Nought but a little--and a very little--hope remains. Faith seems to have lost its hold upon me. I have found today the truth of the saying, that "it's one of the hardest things in the world to believe." O Lord, enable me, with Moses of old, to say, after he had in the greatest extremity and totally ignorant of a way of deliverance, committed himself and his charge to Thee, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." The work, dear Lord, is all Thine own; and, if victory is achieved, it must be by Thine own arm!
Lord's Day Morning, June 19th--O Lord, do Thou still appear for me, and suffer me not, I pray Thee, to do anything rashly, but reveal Thy will; and may it be my happy privilege to walk in accordance therewith, and to have no will of my own. May Thine own Spirit guide and direct me, and give me ever to delight to watch Thy kind and gracious hand. Let no earthly objects wean my affections from Thee, but let me look through them up to Thee; and may I have cause to bless Thee for the bestowment of them, if it be Thy will so to bestow; and above all, dear Lord, in reviewing all Thy kind dealings with me, enable me to say--
"Forgive the song that falls so low
Beneath the gratitude I owe;
It means Thy praise, however poor;
An angel's song can do no more."
Monday, June 27th.--Never would I forget the mercies of the Lord towards me. My sorrow is turned into joy; my weeping into rejoicing; my night into day! This evening, and this day, have indeed been memorable!--Sometimes full of sweet humble confidence in a kind God, at other times full of unbelief.
Thursday, July 21st.--Whilst standing in the lobby of Above-Bar Chapel this evening, waiting for admission, the thought suddenly flashed across my mind--doubtless it was at the instigation of Satan--"How dare you presume to make Miss D--an offer, whilst you have no means of supporting her, and perhaps never may have?" The question cut me to heart, and the act seemed truly presumptuous; and I felt as if I could fain have retraced my steps, and from want of affection, but from fear of being able to support her at some future period. Under these trying feelings I entered the chapel most reluctantly. Mr. Bullar commented on the reply of Manoah's wife to her doubting husband, Judges 13, 22nd and 23rd verses, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands; neither would He have shown us all these things, nor would, as at this time, have told us such things as these." His remarks on it were sweet and scriptural, and exactly adapted to my case. It came home with a degree of freshness and power, insomuch that, from a recollection of the many deliverances I had experienced, I felt again able, in some little measure, to leave my case with the Lord, that He might do with me as seemeth good. My fears were subdued, my hopes revived, and I came away from the sanctuary with "my countenance no more sad."
Thursday, July 28th.--Last night I had a peculiar dream: it was that a serious accident had occurred, through the explosion of a magazine, by which St. Michael's Church was almost laid in ruins, the spire being completely demolished, as also that of Holy Rood. My dream was thus interpreted: Mr. Coldman, with whom I was conversing last evening, after service, in perfect health and spirits, was repairing a drain about three hours afterwards, and having made an opening at the bottom of an out-office, a sudden explosion of foul air took place, which struck him backward; two men ran to help him, who fell also; a fourth rescued them; and ultimately the two latter, by medical aid, were restored; but Mr. Coldman was no more! What a solemn Providence! What a lesson to the church of which he was clerk and deacon! What a warning to us all! It has deeply impressed my mind during this day; but MR. BULLAR preached a very comforting discourse this evening, from the 31st Psalm 5th verse, "My times are in Thy hand."--Lord, grant that I may so live that I may be able to meet death (whether the summons be sudden or otherwise) with fearlessness and confidence, relying wholly and solely upon the perfect and finished work of the dear Redeemer.
Tuesday, Sept. 13th.--This has been another of my gloomy days. Unbelief has prevailed much, questioning how and when and where a provision in life was to come; notwithstanding, these doubts and fears endear those seasons in which in humble confidence we can leave futurity, with all its anxieties and cares, in the hands of a kind covenant God. In Him is my help found; on Him would I rely, and would be coming unto Him for daily and hourly supply. Blessed Lord, be Thou with me through the journey of life; bless and provide for me, with the dear object of my affections; and let Thy faithfulness and love ever be richly manifested in our happy experience.
Friday, Sept. 23rd.--This has been another peculiar day. When I awoke this morning, my heart sickened at the thought of the day before me, and with great reluctance I arose to follow my calling. I have felt much my own ignorance and weakness, but found liberty at times in telling the Lord of it; and now and then I enjoyed a wrestling spirit with Him--could lay hold of His precious promises, and plead them before Him--could plead my weakness and His all-sufficiency--my ignorance and His infinite wisdom--my shortsightedness and His boundless and unfathomable foresight. I was much comforted at times under a sense of these things, and faith rested on the stability of His covenant. It believed that all the little difficulties and trials which now presented themselves would soon disappear; and that God, as an ever-faithful and ever-indulgent Father, would make these crooked things straight--these rough places plain. But, sweet as were these moments, and sweet as was the peace which they brought home to the soul, yet of what short duration were they. A trifling circumstance being named to me with regard to competition in trade, in a moment my path became beclouded; faith seemed immediately to take its flight; and I, who was resting but a few minutes before sweetly submissive, from a full belief that the Lord would provide for me and mine--not having even a fear to the contrary--began now to question in what way the promise could be fulfilled--how improbable, from the very nature of things. Oh, how cutting were such feelings! What a proof that true and living faith is of divine origin, and that the Author of it much nourish it, or it will linger, droop, and die! Tonight (to my soul's sorrow be it spoken) I have been most peevish and fretful, saying in my heart, with Jonah of old, "It is good for me to be angry." O Lord, forgive it, I beseech Thee. Wash me in that fountain which is open for sin and uncleanness. Heal the bones which Thou has broken; and again speak pardon and peace to my soul. Say unto it, "I am thy salvation."
Tuesday, Sept. 27th.--Oh, for communion with God! Truly I can say, that my happiest moments are, when I can, by the sweet power of the Holy Spirit, hold intercourse with God--when I can approach Him with humble child-like fear and submission, and tell Him of my many infirmities, my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows; when I can plead His perfect strength and precious covenant engagements. O Lord, be Thou with me, I beseech Thee; forgive, O forgive, my numberless sins, both of omission and commission: they mark my every step; but bring me out of all hope or confidence in self, to rest upon an all-sufficient Jesus.
"No more, my God, I'll boast no more,
Of all the duties I have done:
I'll quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son."
Thursday, Sept. 29th.--With what regret and deep humility have I cause to reflect upon this day; and it is of rich and free grace alone that I am not at this moment lifting up mine eyes, being in torments. If ever there were a picture of Satan in human form, methinks that I have this day borne a great resemblance to it. Hearing of, or rather seeing, a stock of printing types, which has just been disposed of at an immense sacrifice, I felt all the rebellious and hard thoughts of God which ever characterizes our poor depraved nature, working within me. Although when I first heard of this stock being offered for sale, I was led to commit my way unto the Lord, and received, I well knew, a negative from Him, yet this appeared to be a lost opportunity, such an one as was never likely to present itself again. Therefore did my wicked heart rise in opposition to the will of God, and felt no inclination to await patiently His time, which ever must be the best time. Oh, I have cause to cover my face with my hands, and to lie low in the dust, when I think of this day. Lord, forgive it, forgive it; enter not into judgment with me, I beseech Thee, but remember me in mercy; and, if Thou hast designed me for life, and at some future period to place me in a humble way of business, O give me patience to wait for Thee, and do Thou open the way, and bring with it a conviction that it is Thy choice. My hope, my only hope, of temporal or spiritual provision is in Thee. Oh, put not my hope to shame; but display Thy power and Thy glory in my happy experience. I could not but be astonished at Thy goodness this night, and be ashamed of my base ingratitude, when I visited him whom my beloved Jane rejected--to see him comfortably situated, with apparently every domestic comfort, whilst she has accepted me with nothing but a hope in Thee! Oh, what cause have I for gratitude. Lord, forgive my ingratitude, I beseech Thee.
Friday, Sept. 30th.--This has been another memorable day indeed--one upon which I have ample reason to reflect with humility and love. Sorely was I chastened for my yesterday's rebellion, and richly did I deserve it; for I was so disgusted at a sight and sense of it, that I could fain have wished to have been cut off, and sent to hell immediately, as a just monument of God's avenging wrath. I could but have acknowledged the justice of the sentence pronounced upon me. Last night I neglected going to chapel, although my conscience rebuked me for it, when I first resolved to go elsewhere. The result was that where I did go I sat in a draught, and, through taking cold, I had such a violent tooth-and-ear-ache as to prevent my sleeping till four o'clock this morning. Oh, what agony was my soul in, in addition to my bodily pain and anguish; full of darkness and distress from a consciousness of having grieved my best, my only real Friend--that Being who has ever been my support and comfort even to the present moment. Oh, that I may never forget it to my dying day! This morning, agreeably to my resolution, I went and had the tooth extracted; and painful indeed was the operation. God was good to me, in answer to my poor cries; He strengthened me, or I never could have borne it, as it was but a youth who first attempted, with two or three different instruments, to extract it. I thought I never should be able to continue at the office during the whole of the day; but how kindly has the Lord appeared for me, and graciously and condescendingly brought me safely through. Lord, forgive my ingratitude--my impatience--my hard thoughts and forgetfulness of Thee. Wash me in the dear Redeemer's blood, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Lead me to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness:
"There would I wash my spotted soul
From sins of deepest dye."
Wednesday, Oct. 5th.--Whilst engaged this morning arranging the type to which I before alluded as arousing in me so much rebellion, I felt much exercised, and found that the old Adam nature was still alive, rising in opposition to the will and kind dispensations (however dark) of an ever-faithful God; and, under these feelings--these hard, stubborn, ungrateful feelings--the words of blessed Newton came powerfully to my mind:
"'Lord, why is this?' I, trembling, cried;
'Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?'
'Tis in this way,' the Lord replied,
'I answer prayer for grace and faith.
Wednesday, Oct. 12th.--Every day adds countless favors from a kind God. Sometimes when I rise in the morning, I think, "Well, if the Lord is pleased to bring me safely through this day, I am sure I shall, at its close, feel grateful. I am brought through, but where, O where is the gratitude that is due from me? Lord, Thou Thyself must give it, or it never will be found in such a hard, ungrateful heart as mine. O Lord, be Thou my Guide, and daily and hourly reveal to me the way in which Thou wouldst have me to walk. Give me to remember that the darkest beginnings generally precede the greatest light and richest blessings; whilst a flood of light immediately breaking in upon any new undertaking, is often the prelude to very much evil. Choose Thou, therefore, the way; and, wherever I stay, or wherever I go, may "the Lord be there," as my Guide, Comforter, Friend, and Portion.
Thursday, Oct. 13th.--Oh, how dark were my feelings, when I awoke this morning. My heart sank within me; and it seemed I should never get through the day. But, through mercy, my fears have not been realized, as I have been strengthened in, and safely brought through the day. Oh, that Thou wouldst ever give me a sweet sense of Thy mercies, O Lord, and make me grateful for all Thy unnumbered favors. Oh, for faith that I may, under an increasingly-deep conviction of my own weakness and depravity, be enabled to come unto Thee, in the all-prevailing name of Jesus, and to cast myself upon Thee, as upon a kind covenant God, believing that Thou wilt bestow upon me everything of a temporal and spiritual nature which Thou seest I stand in need of. Grant me this request, dear Lord; and to Thy name shall be all the glory. Amen.
Saturday, Oct. 15th.--During some part of the morning of this day, I enjoyed a little confidence in God--had nearness of access to Him, and felt enabled to take my case to Him--to plead His promises and covenant engagements--and for a season found I could leave myself in His blessed hands, feeling assured that He would make a way for me. But, alas! how transient are such seasons! How soon is one assailed by the great enemy of souls in some way or other, so that all enjoyment at once subsides. Such was my case this afternoon, for, being burdened by an overplus of news, the issue of the Paper was delayed; and, consequently (to my sorrow) I became fretful and impatient: thus was my peace destroyed, and my soul brought into trouble. Lord, forgive! and give me grace to live upon Thee--that I may feel as it were out of my element when, in the least degree, trusting to myself, or to an arm of flesh.
Sunday eve generally finds me in rather a gloomy frame. A conviction of my short-coming in every spiritual exercise ought ever to fill me with the deepest humility. Today I have got but little under the Word. After the morning service I quite casually went into the lobby of Above-Bar Chapel, and listened whilst that sweet hymn of Cowper's--"God moves in a mysterious way"--was sung to a favorite tune (Missionary). It seemed to speak volumes to me: it filled my soul with self-abasement, and a cry for forgiveness for ever doubting for a moment the love and faithfulness of God towards me; and it was accompanied with such a sweet remembrance of the way by which the Lord had led me--how graciously He had appeared for me respecting my dear Jane, and made known His will in His own time and way. The season was indeed sweet to my soul, and gladly would I have retired to some secluded spot, in order to pour out my soul before the Lord. I felt an assurance that He was my God, and that He would be my Guide even unto death; that He would still make the crooked things straight, and the rough places plain; that He would appear for me in every strait and difficulty, and provide for me through all the wilderness.
Tuesday, Oct. 18th.--A more bitter day than this I think I never passed. It seems, if ever I recover my wonted spirits, that I shall never forget the conflict which I have this day endured. Satan has indeed "come in like a flood," and I thought must have completely overwhelmed me. Oh, what anguish has my soul been in, and no way of deliverance appears before me. It seems impossible that my spirits will ever revive. I have been ready to give up all for lost; and Satan has been tempting me to self-destruction. The heavens appear like brass--only a little hope left! My way is completely hedged in, and I look forward to the coming day with dread, lest I should have a continuance of these trying exercises. Life has seemed this day a burden, and I could fain have wished, under the dreadful attacks of the enemy, that I had never been born. Oh, the rebellion of my heart!--the hard thoughts of God! If I am saved, it must indeed be by rich, free, sovereign, and unmerited grace.--O God, be merciful unto me, and reward me not according to what I deserve; but, in the midst of deserved judgment, oh, remember mercy. Dispel the darkness which overshadows my path; revive my drooping spirits; invigorate my dying faith; and give me to find that sweetness--that holy delight--in Thy ways, which I have experienced in days that are past. Look upon me, dear Jesus; and, when the enemy comes in like a flood, let Thy Spirit lift up a standard against him. Leave me not to his furious attacks. Fight Thou the battle for me. Take me beneath The shadow of Thy wing, and protect me from the enemy, lest he should overpower me. Speak pardon and peace to my soul, and bid the tempter flee. Let no sin lie dormant within me; but show me more and more the hidden evils of my heart. Let me have no false hope--no false refuge. Let my hope--my only hope--be in Thy precious blood and spotless righteousness. Wash me in it, and I shall be clean; clothe me in it, and I shall appear before Thee without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
Friday, Oct. 21st.--Oh, what a sweetness did I enjoy in the earlier part of this ever-memorable day. How sweet and comforting to my soul was a review of the way by which the Lord had led me; how profitable to my soul the afflictions and disappointments with which He had been pleased to exercise me. And what sweet views I had also of His faithfulness to His children, in whatever trials or difficulties they might be called to pass through--of His kind deliverances ministered to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--to Joseph, David, Daniel, the three Hebrews, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Paul, Peter: how sweet was the remembrance of what they experienced. And, in a retrospect of these things, and of the past lovingkindness of the Lord towards me, not one fear did I possess of His future appearance for me; nor yet one thing at the present time would I have had different; for I felt and enjoyed a sweet satisfaction that all was wisely and graciously ordered of Him.--Lord, I would bless Thee for Thy goodness, and pray Thee to forgive my base ingratitude and unbelief, in even for a single moment doubting Thy love and mercy. Grant me ever to look unto Thee, and let faith ever repose upon Thee--looking beyond mere appearances, and fixing a steadfast eye upon that covenant which is "ordered in all things and sure."
[Not knowing into whose hands these pages may fall, when I am no more, and being most anxious that they should contain words of encouragement to the reader, rather than otherwise, I feel that it behoves me to make a few comments upon the foregoing extracts: I would, therefore say--
1. Whatever may be suggested to the contrary, by an ever-vigilant foe, to go down into the same depths of trial and temptation as those into which some of the Lord's people--more especially those which are designed for active service--are called to pass, is by no means necessary. All positively essential knowledge is that of the illiterate, half-witted, much-and-well-spoken-of Poor Tom:
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But JESUS CHRIST is my All in all."
Those two lines contain the sum and substance--yea, the very quintessence--of the Gospel; and any poor sinner being taught by the Holy Ghost in like manner to see and feel them, can never--no never--be lost!
2. Doubtless the reader will have seen from the quotations how very much the writer has been under the influence of ever-variable feelings, rather than that of faith--a simple child-like hope and trust. None can have had greater cause than I to give heed to the kindly counsel of the blessed KENT:
"Here let the weary rest,
Who love the Saviour's name,
Though with no sweet enjoyment blest,
The Covenant stands the same."
But the reader must bear in mind that this privileged estate can only be attained to in God's time and in God's order; and this time and order are laid down by the Apostle Peter in these terms: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, STABLISH, STRENGTHEN, SETTLE you. There is no 'jumping at conclusions' in divine things. The little that is known--and it is but very, very little, after all the teaching and all the discipline--is learnt but slowly indeed. Hasty learning, or fancied learning, subjects the student to the painful ordeal of unlearning--he has to be put back--yea, not unfrequently to be sent down to the very lowest form in the school of Christ. Aye, reader, and here, in this humbled and humbling position, he learns best. The Lord's plan of teaching is by "precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little."
3. A vein of sadness and depression runs through the diary; but this, in great part, may be accounted for upon merely physical grounds. That all has been over-ruled for good, there is no question, for, under God, counteracting influences have served to keep in check an over-buoyant disposition and most sanguine temperament. In a former page I spoke of mismanagement with respect to early training, my inherent nervousness being so wrought upon. When I was about seventeen, a madman, mistaking me for someone else, made an attempt upon my life, by thrusting a table-knife at me. My escape was almost miraculous, inasmuch as the point of the knife came within a few inches of my chest. This was followed by intense headaches, for which I was periodically bled! This, I believe, did me immense harm. In after years, I fell from a horse, producing slight concussion of the brain. But I think nothing tended more to produce that deep depression than a habit I fell into of very early rising. I commonly left my bed at four and half-past four o'clock of a morning, in order to take a long walk before I went to the office at seven; the consequence was, that during the fore-noon, as I stood at the "frame," with the "composing-stick" in my hand, my drowsiness was so intense, that I had to keep a wet sponge by my side, so as to wet my face, in order that I might not fall asleep. I had the same difficulty on the Sunday morning, in trying to keep awake, in the house of God. At that time I used to walk twelve miles on the Lord's day--three miles to and from the morning and evening service. I allude now to when I lived at Holloway, and used to attend Mr. FOWLER's ministry, at Gower-street chapel.
4. I dwell for a moment upon these simple facts, with a view of giving a word of affectionate caution to any into whose hands these pages may fall. Health is a precious boon--a loan for which we cannot be too grateful, and of which we cannot take too much care, as far as the avoidance of needless risk or exposure is concerned. When early brought to realize my adoption, I used to long and to pray to be taken home. The world had but little hold upon my heart then--not nearly so much, alas! as kindred ties and relations have now. One abuse was, too much indifference about becoming precautions as to the preservation of health. At the time of which I speak I would frequently reach the City by six o'clock of a winter's morning, after walking three miles. The weather for the season of year had been very variable. From being extremely cold, it became quite warm; but again during the night had undergone a complete change. Until I had gone out and closed the door after me, at five o'clock one morning, leaving all in the house asleep, I was not aware that it was many degrees colder. It so happened that upon that very morning I had put on much thinner clothes because of the extreme mildness of the previous few days. The consequence was, that I took so severe a cold, that others as well as myself thought my days were numbered; nor have I from that day to this--now more than forty years ago--entirely lost the effects of that illness. Certain physical consequences I shall, I doubt not, carry with me to the grave! But I was taught then--and have been taught even more fully since--this important fact that, whatever past indulgences may have been, or however sweet the assurance, "it is well," there is no ground any the more for our taking for granted we shall have peace and joy in a dying hour, especially should we have hastened that hour by our willfulness, indifference, or neglect. This would be a species of presumption which the Lord will never countenance. No, death is a solemn reality, the which no child of God can trifle with, or contemplate meeting with willingness and satisfaction upon any other ground than that expressed by the psalmist, when he said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;" why? "for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
5. Before proceeding with the extracts, I would here express my hope that this little labor of love in which I am thus engaged has the Lord's approval. I speak of it as a "labor of love," because I am so intensely anxious that it should prove a means of counsel, caution, or comfort, as the Lord may see fit, with regard to any who may read what is here recorded. My hope that this humble endeavor has the Lord's approval is based very much upon the fact that I have been so strengthened, whilst engaged upon it, time after time, up to the midnight hour.
6. I would not, however, neglect to state, that I have again and again retired from this work to my bed, with the very deepest shame-facedness and humility. On the one hand I have admired His wisdom, in that the Lord adopted His own course, and did not yield to my poor, ignorant, shortsighted dictation, with respect to the past; I have been amazed, too, at His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering. On the other hand, I have been humbled--deeply humbled--at my want of faith and at my inability to trust myself and all appertaining to me in the hands of One whom I personally, for so many years, have proved to be so wise, so gracious, and so all-sufficient.
I now return to the Diary.]
Thursday, Nov. 3rd.--Little did I think, when last writing, what had even then happened. I arose on Sunday morning with my spirits so much revived, that, after breakfast, I sat for nearly an hour playing the organ, and singing to the sweet tunes which are set thereon. Whilst afterwards, however, preparing for service, Miss W--called. From her countenance I at once saw that there was something the matter. In kind and affectionate terms she spoke of the illness of my dear sister Mary, and soon afterwards produced a letter which apprized her and me of her death! She almost immediately accompanied me home. It seemed to me almost impossible that my dear afflicted parents, at their age, could recover such a painful shock as the loss of their youngest child. I felt quite stunned, and could not shed a tear. I felt as though my heart would burst. At length we reached home, and our appearance seemed to open a fresh wound. We mingled with the weeping ones, but all hearts were too full to break the solemn silence that prevailed: nothing but sighs and sobs were to be heard. Methinks I shall never forget that scene. It is too painful to reflect on, not to say describe. But this was not all: my dear father and mother, who had retired to their own chamber, in order to avoid a sight of the coffin which was about to receive the lifeless remains of one they so much loved, now joined us. A sight of them--just bereaved as they had been of one so dear--seemed as though it would break my heart; and yet the sight of them caused me to burst into a flood of tears, which gave me immense relief, for the suddenness of the intelligence so stunned and astounded me, that I could not shed a tear. My dear sister died of English cholera; her pain, as she expressed it, was "excruciating." She had gone to bed apparently in better health and spirits than usual, and yet, soon after break of day, was no more! Decomposition set in so rapidly, that, although I reached home within some thirty hours of her death, the coffin had been closed, and I was not allowed even a momentary glimpse of her. But God has kindly supported and brought me through; and I am now returned from the house of mourning, after following dear Mary's remains to the silent grave.--And now, Lord, I desire to bless Thee for the goodness and mercy Thou hast vouchsafed in bringing me thus far through this trial. I see much mercy and love connected with it. Thou didst see fit to bring her home to the bosom of her own family, after her late visit, ere Thou didst call her away; and Thou hast, we trust, given us reason to hope that Thou didst give her a true sight and sense of her condition as a sinner before a just and holy God; and that her own righteousness could never justify her in Thy sight, nor her own obedience recommend her to Thy notice. She appeared, Lord, to have no hope in self, but desired to be washed in the dear Redeemer's blood, and to stand justified in His righteousness. May we not hope and trust, O our God, that Thou didst hear her prayer, and that Thou didst give her a good hope of an interest in Jesus? The work, Lord, we know is all Thine own. We know that none can see themselves as lost and perishing sinners, unless it is given them from above. Oh, may this have been from above; and oh, that her departed spirit may have taken up its abode with Thee. Lord, we hope to behold her, when Thou shalt see fit to call us hence, amidst the glorious ranks of the redeemed; and we hope with her to unite in the triumphant and blissful song of Moses and the Lamb. Oh, put not our hope to shame; but give us, if it be Thy will, some sweet and comforting assurance that this shall be the case. She died with that sweet petition upon her lips, "Lord, have mercy!" and expressed a hope that "on the marrow she should be in Zion!" Lord, may we not hope that this petition was from Thee, and that this hope was of Thee also? Oh, that it may be so, and then all must be well; for where Thou hast implanted a desire, there Thou ever wilt fulfill it. And, O Lord, grant that this so solemn Providence may be received as a lesson--a never-to-be-forgotten lesson--to us who are left. May we each inquire what is the ground of our hope;--whether it is anything in self, or whether it rests alone in Jesus! We know not who may next be called away--perhaps he who is now writing. Thou alone, O Lord, canst tell. Oh, sanctify this bereavement, I pray Thee, and may it have a powerful influence on each, leading us to seek each others welfare, during the few short years or months we may tarry on earth.
[Although so many years have since passed away, the remembrance of the circumstances named in the last extract is so vivid, that there is one fact in connection which I cannot forbear mentioning. There resided beneath my father's roof at the time of the death of my loved sister, my dear nephew and early companion, JOHN DOUDNEY LANE. We stood in this relation, inasmuch as he was the son--the first-born--of my step-sister. Indeed, dear JOHN and I were born under the same roof, his mother being confined whilst on a visit at my father's. His father belonged to the navy; and, at her death--which occurred after giving birth to her third child--JOHN and his little brother and the babe came to live with us. My dear mother--always the quintessence of affection and pure disinterestedness--weaned her own babe, in order that she might nurse the little motherless one. After a short time, however, the two younger children died, and were buried together in the same grave. This bereavement tended to knit dear JOHN and myself together in the very closest of bonds. No two brothers could have been more devoted to each other. He entered the ministry years before I did; indeed, the same newspapers that contained the list of those ordained at the time I was, announced dear JOHN'S death, as the then Rector of the parishes of St. Mary and St. Peter, Forncett, Norfolk. But the circumstance of which I was about to speak was this: at the time of my return home, upon the mournful occasion just now named, his distress of mind, upon our retiring to our room at night, about his own state spiritually, was such as I have never forgotten. "Oh!" said he, in agony of soul, "suppose that I had died, instead of dear MARY, where should I be now?" Ah, I know not what mere Moralists or Pharisees would say to such a question, the more especially had they known as much of the character of him who put the question as I did. A more devoted or exemplary young man could not be found. In proof of his early spiritual mindedness, when yet quite a youth, my dear mother had been praying with us, as was her constant practice. On one occasion, in the course of her prayer, she said, "Make us, Lord, the monuments of Thy sparing mercy." At the close of her prayer, and when all had risen from their knees, dear JOHN said, "Grandma, you asked that we might be made monuments of God's sparing mercy. We are that. Should you not rather have asked that we might be made the subjects of His redeeming grace?" When I have heard him speak about the sermons to which he had been listening, from time to time, oh, how earnestly have I wished that I could understand and feel interested in them as he did; but I felt so ignorant, and so utterly at a loss to comprehend the things in which he took such delight. And yet one sees the sovereignty of God, even in this matter. As may be gathered from the fact just now mentioned, with respect to his anguish of mind, dear JOHN had not then "made his calling and election sure," whereas I--far less likely, according to all human appearance--had had a good hope in covenant love and mercy for some five years.
Upon another occasion I remember that my loved companion was in a similar state of mind to that already described. He had been with my dear father to the house of God. Upon retiring to our room afterwards, he was greatly cast down, and in a most anxious state. Upon inquiring the reason, he said, that his dear grandpa had been so affected, in the service, when the congregation were singing the verse--
"Soon shall I pass the gloomy vale;
Soon all my mortal powers must fall;
Oh, may my last expiring breath
His lovingkindness sing in death."
He added, "If his dear grandpa felt so, how ought he to feel?"
But what a remarkable contrast there was between dear JOHN and myself, in regard to nerve, firmness, and decision of character. Our temperaments were as unlike as possible. Among my very earliest recollections was my waking up in a state of great terror, because it was a dark room in which we were sleeping. When the light of heaven was taxed, windows were less numerous than they are now. An uncle of mine--a dear old Christian--was lying dead in a back parlor. We were taken in to see the corpse. JOHN, holding his aunt's hand, walked deliberately up to the bed or couch upon which he was lying, and looked calmly on whilst the face was uncovered. On the contrary, I, who had entered the room with very great hesitation, and only ventured to stand at the feet of the departed one, dashed out of the house in a state of the greatest terror, the moment I saw my uncle's face as sleeping in death. Although, as I have shown, he could not as yet
"Read his title clear
To mansions in the skies,"
yet his calmness and self-possession astounded me. Take another instance, in proof. Whilst my precious sister lay a corpse, dear JOHN, of his own accord, went down to her room alone, two or three times in the course of the night, and wiped the foam from her mouth.