There are some objects that all the world is agreed in admiring, or professing to admire. Those who have taste and feeling, experience exquisite delight in surveying such objects; and people who have neither, would not expose their deficiency by acknowledging that these things have no charm for them. Thus, an April sky, with its flitting clouds, and glancing sunbeams, and evanescent rainbow, is by common consent, most lovely. Some, to be sure, there are, who consider all the enjoyment derivable from the contemplation, to be' a very poor equivalent for the spoiling of a ribband, or the splashing of a gown ; but they rarely venture to proclaim their dissent from the general agreement. This being the case, all descriptive, all sentimental writers, and indeed all who handle any other than the driest matter-of-fact subjects, are to be found tendering their quota of admiration, in every variety of style and phrase. To elicit any thing new, on such a hackneyed topic, is, perhaps impossible : but as I do not aim at originality—merely wishing to indulge in the pursuit of a few thoughts that form the rainbow of my rather cloudy sky—I shall continue to think upon paper; unshackled by any apprehension of the censure that is, doubtless, often provoked by my lucubrations—'How very common-place !'
I sally forth into the garden, on a very unpromising morning. The whole concave is overcast with clouds : they hang low, portending a dark and cheerless day. I see not even a probability of rain, which might clear the expanse, and give us the desired prospect of an azure heaven beyond; but there is every sign of continued gloom—clouds that appear disposed neither to pass on nor to fall, maintaining a position of sullen quiescence, the most discouraging ; while the little flowers beneath, looked as grave and as cheerless as flowers can look, and the general effect on my mind is that of chilled and saddening feeling. Presently, there is a perceptible movement of the dull mass—a thinning of the cloud in some particular spot, as though it was drawn upwards, and comparative transparency ensues. I wratch, until an opening is effected, and a little,—a very little spec of clear blue sky becomes visible beyond the separating edges. A gladdening sight! for, then, I confidently anticipate, that, in another quarter, the same process will ere long, afford a farther glimpse of what I desire to see. Another does appear, and another; the whole company of congregated vapours is breaking up, not borne along in a body, leaving all bright behind their course, but dispersing gradually, here and there, until the several patches of soft blue seem to enlarge, and combine to establish the reign of light over darkness. And, lo ! the sun breaks forth, the shadows flee away, the flowers look up in laughing gladness, and every little bird contributes his individual chirp of gratulating joy.
What, on earth, have we to resemble this ! Something, whereof I consider it a most beautiful type. I have seen families as destitute of gospel light, as closely wrapped in spiritual gloom, ay, and as contentedly immoveable, in their darkness, as the discouraging morning that I have endeavoured to pourtray. I have gone forth and looked upon them, as Ezekiel upon the dry bones in the valley, obliged to confess indeed, that the Lord could work among them, but beholding no token that such was as yet his will. Then, shaming my unbelief, the light that shined upon a solitary individual, opening, as it were, one spec in the clouded sky; and then I have looked, and longed, and confidently trusted, that farther manifestations would appear. Another of the household has yielded to divine influence ; perchance a third : and these, with united supplication, walking together as children of light, have been enabled to wage a powerful, though comparatively silent war, upon the remaining darkness. The work goes on; reflected brightness shines upon the rest; and at last the Lord puts on his glorious apparel, takes unto himself his great power, breaks forth in the dazzling brilliancy of acknowledged glory, and reigns over a household of willing conquests.
How lovely is the sympathy displayed by the expanded world beneath, when this fair work is accomplished in the brightening atmosphere above ! Not a shrub, not a blossom, or a leaf, but seems to rejoice, when the liberated day-beam shines upon it; and gladness yet more intelligibly expressed, fills the animal creation. It is not long since, looking around for some particular flower, whereon to mark the vivifying effects of these outbursting rays, I was struck to perceive on the bank beside me, only one flower in bloom; and that was a single solitary child of my prolific family the Heart's-Ease. 'No,' thought I, as I turned reluctantly away, I no, I must not bring you a third time into my chapters.' But when I stole another glance, and saw the little cheerful blossom uplifting its modest face to rejoice in the sunshine, I could not forego the almost inexhaustible source of pure delight afforded me in the retrospection. "With such a train of thought awakened in my mind, it seemed that none could so meetly claim the notice I was prepared to bestow ; and that peculiar characteristic of D., which shewed him altogether identified, as it were, with those engaged in spiritual conflict, or crowned with spiritual victory, exactly answers to the picture that my imagination had drawn, of perfect sympathy with the effect produced by the day-beam on that cheerless sky—cheerless no longer.
It is, no doubt, a delicate and a difficult subject; the manner in which the Lord works in families. Some, who are not strongly opposed to divine truth, while their hearts remain untouched by converting grace, do unquestionably build a treacherous hope for themselves, founded on the religion of others. They regard their pious connexion in the light of mediators, calculating on their prayers to help them out in the last extremity ; and believing that, for the sake of such, his faithful servants, God will have mercy on them also. I am often afraid, by saying too much on the blessedness of beholding the good leaven even partially introduced, to foster this perilous error : but so enumerable are the cases where I witness the rapid extension of divine knowledge, in families where but one has been first enlightened, that I cannot refrain from trying to speak words of cheer to those who are praying and watching for the souls of their dearest connexions. Our views of God's mercy, his power, and willingness to save, are most wretchedly, most insultingly low; and where that awful doctrine which represents him as having fore-ordained the condemnation of some souls, creeps in, to paralyze the mighty arm of energetic faith, and to cripple the strong pinion of soaring hope, we are tempted to do bitter wrong to the souls of our brethren, no less than to the faithfulness of our unchangeable God. Many an earnest and solemn discourse have I had with D. upon these points; and I cannot forget the patient endurance, the affectionate anxiety, with which I have seen him for hours engaged in combatting the delusions of one who had imbibed such notions. It gave him pain, even to hear it urged, that an actual decree had gone forth, willing, from all eternity, the everlasting perdition of individuals hereafter to be born into the world. It grieved him, even to the suffusion of his eyes with tears, that, such a charge should be brought against his God, whose tender mercies he well knew to be over all his works; and whose own immutable word assured him that he willeth not the death of a sinner. He dearly loved, by bright displays of inviting mercy, to set forth the freeness of pardoning grace, for the encouragement of such as are labouring to bring souls to God; and more especially those of their own household. He believed what he spoke ; he acted on his belief: and never did I witness a more sustained, persevering series of efforts, than I saw in him, on behalf of a young and endeared relation. That man, of his own free will, could turn to God, and repent and believe, he spared not to denounce as most unscripturally false : that any mortal could achieve for another that mighty work, was equally far from his thought: but that God had barred the door of mercy against a single soul of all Adam's race, he knew to be irreconcilable with the distinct declarations of him who cannot lie. Hence he drew the sweetest encouragement for himself and others ; and hence would I gladly suggest a redoubling of prayerful exertion, on the part of those who may be faint, indeed, yet pursuing, in the cause of their unconverted friends.