Part one is available here.
It gives me unspeakable pleasure to mention the general good conduct of those, particularly the youths, who have made a public profession of religion. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” is the maxim of Christ; and it is hoped that they will continue by exemplary lives to manifest to the world that they have been with Jesus, have imbibed his spirit, and are, like him, devoted to honor and glorify their Father in heaven.
I propose now to give some account of particular exercises of individuals.
I shall begin with the case of a young woman, a professor of religion, who had been induced to attend a place of amusement, which she afterwards became convinced was improper. The circumstances will be mentioned mostly in her own words, as communicated to me in a letter.
“In compliance with your request, I give you my opinion and experience of the impropriety of a professor’s attending balls. Permit me, however, to relate some particulars in an earlier part of my life. At the age of thirteen, I was admitted into company as an equal with those of twenty and twenty-five. At sixteen, the Lord was pleased to stop my career of folly, and to call my mind from the world, by a deep sense of the importance of religion, to the present and future happiness of my soul. After a painful conviction of the awful depravity of my heart, the amazing distance I was at from God by nature, my desert of everlasting punishment, and the total inability of helping myself by any works of righteousness which I could do, I was brought, as I believed, to throw down my weapons and submit to God. The beauty, excellency, and propriety of his character and government, produced a calm serenity of mind, to which I was before a stranger. The conversation and society of the serious, gave me more satisfaction in one hour, than all the vain amusements which I could call to mind from my cradle until that time.
“I met with many trials from the gay [happy] company with which I had always lived in harmony; but for the most part, was enabled to encounter them with less difficulty than I expected. Returning from school, I met with a gentleman who had been absent during the time of my serious impressions. He accosted me in the following manner. ‘How do you do, Miss? I hear you are serious, and have done dancing. Is it so?’ I replied, ‘that I had indeed refused to attend balls, for I believed I had already spent too much time in that folly; but feared I was not so serious as had been represented.’ ‘Well,’ returned the gentleman, ‘you have got a fit; but I am not much concerned; it will soon be over. I never knew an instance, but that in a short time those serious persons would be as gay as ever. I shall then remind you of what I now say; but you will tell me, I don’t feel now as I did then.’ He left me, for I was unable to answer. As soon as his face was turned, the tears flowed without control. I exclaimed to myself, ‘O, is it possible? Is it possible? Can it be that I shall be left to that miserable resort for happiness?’ I tried to believe that he prophesied falsely; but still I knew that it was not impossible.
For some time, I was much distressed lest I should be left to dishonor the cause of religion, and bring contempt upon its professors. About the age of nineteen, this over-anxious concern, as I then thought it, left my mind by degrees, and I lost much of the sense of my dependence. I heard too much of the applause of my fellow worms, which gave a spring to pride and self-conceit, till, alas! they gained an unhappy ascendency. I was now frequently in company with those who were indeed civil but not serious, and joined in their trifling amusements. Their attention and politeness concealed the danger, and led me to be more and more conversant with such scenes of folly. At the time of your ordination, when I was about twenty, I was solicited by a near relative, out of respect to some respectable acquaintance then present, to attend a ball. I knew he would not advise me to do anything which he judged at all inconsistent with my profession. After considerable conversation, and with much reluctance, I consented to go; and I assure you, sir, there was not a person in the company who did not see me. After the interesting services of the day, and the solemn consecration of a minister to feed my soul with the bread of life, and the water of life, here I was in the ballroom, amid the thoughtless and the gay. Nor was this the last time. I was again where there was music and dancing. My Christian friends were alarmed, and reproved me; but with little effect. I had listened to the voice of flattery, and God had left me to reap the reward of my folly. I had almost lost sight of God, and was gliding down the stream of spiritual declension. But in mercy, God was pleased to stop me, to open my eyes, and to bring me to consideration. O, the distress, anxiety, fears and doubts which now harrowed up my soul. Darkness without, and darkness within! I sincerely thought that if I could have recalled the last twelve months, and have removed into some distant land, where I could never behold a face which I ever saw before, I should have chosen it, rather than to have brought the disgrace which I then felt that I had brought upon the church of Christ. My distress was unknown to any but myself, and nothing short of experience can conceive it. All my former feelings, with the gentleman’s prediction, were brought fresh to mind, and every reflection tended to aggravate my crime and enhance my distress. A compassionate Saviour at length brought me to feel and say,
‘His strokes were fewer than my crimes,
And lighter than my guilt.’
“I think, sir, I can say from experience, that the amusements of the thoughtless are exceedingly detrimental to the Christian’s growth in grace, calculated to keep the soul in leanness, and to render a person unhappy in a religious profession, and discontented with the world. Conscience is continually smiting and reproving, and as the Christian has more light than an infidel, he is, of course, more unhappy in the neglect of duty. To undertake to serve God and mammon, is a sure way to render life miserable; for both Scripture and experience tell us we cannot do it.
“If you judge that what I have written will be of use as a warning to my young brethren and sisters in Christ, you may dispose of it for that purpose.”
To be continued next week…