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RELIGION. If we are to believe the parish register, the infant Johnson became a member of the Church on the very day of his birth into the world. But it was not until the age of fourteen that he was moved to an intelligent concern about religion. Law's Serious Call, the book which had such a powerful effect upon the brothers Wesley, first turned his attention towards a holy life, and henceforth with child-like reverence, with much prayer, and with oft-repeated resolutions he endeavoured, however imperfectly, to walk humbly with his God. He was always strict in regard to truth. “Accustom your children,” said he, “constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.”
Ten years before he died, he began to read one hundred and sixty verses of the Greek Testament as a regular Sunday task. His tenderness of conscience was such that the sins of his early life haunted him in the time of old age, and filled him with penitential grief.
Witness his journey to Uttoxeter, and there standing, an old man, bareheaded in the rain, on the spot where his father's book-stall used to stand, that he might expiate by such a self-imposed penance, the disobedience of his youth, in refusing to accompany his father to the market at that place. Whatever we may say of the form it took, surely such contrition was sincere.
Those who heard him in heated conversation deemed him a bear, but Goldsmith, who knew him better, could say, "No man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin.” To one who supposed he had never known what it was to have a wife, the old man pathetically replied, “I have known what it was to lose a wife—I had almost broke my heart.” He was full of human sympathy. He educated his negro servant, and by his will left him a handsome annuity. He made himself uncomfortable by making his house the asylum for several peevish and indigent creatures who lived on his benevolence; and on one occasion finding an “unfortunate” lying half dead in the street, he took her on his shoulders, carried her to his home, caused her to be nursed back to health and strength, and tried to restore her to a better life.
All his life long Johnson had a strange dread of death. But in his last illness, as soon as he knew that recovery was hopeless, he grandly said, in the spirit of Him, who, on Calvary, refused the stupefying draught, and in whose merits and propitiation he trusted with the simplicity of a child. “I will take no more physic, not even my opiates ; for I have prayed that I may render up my soul to God unclouded.” Thus he died, and in a few days afterwards he was carried to his burial, to take his place among the illustrious dead in the venerable Abbey of Westminster.
“ Such was he: his work is done,
Absentees from the Lord's Supper :
A DOMESTIC SOLILOQUY. THE Rev. John Morton had just come home from the deacons' meeting. His chair was drawn up to the proper angle from the fire, and his slippers lay gently airing in the fender. He pulled off his boots, put on his slippers, and threw himself back in his chair, all in silence. But as he met the kind and cheerful eyes of his wife, the long face he had worn on coming in relaxed into a smile.
"Ah,” said he, “these home comforts are inviting. This is pleasant, Mary. Thank you, my dear, for thinking of a fire."
“I thought you would like it,” she replied. “I was reading, while you were away, a letter in the paper from a poor curate, saying that last winter he and his family sat in their rooms without fire. My heart ached for them, and made me think of you."
“ Thank God, Mary, we have never come to that,” said her husband.
Come, my dear,” said Mary gaily, “when you are ready we'll turn to the supper-table. Here's some of your favourite cocoa, and—various other laxuries.”
So they turned to their pleasant meal; and presently Mrs. Morton said, “Whatever have you been about so long this evening ?”
“Oh, woman,” cried her husband, “thy name is—cariosity.”.
“Indeed," she replied with a merry laugh; “I suppose if I'd been out all the evening at a committee meeting, you would not have liked to hear what we'd been doing and saying."
“Well, Mary, we've attended to several matters, but the main business has been going over the register of attendance at the Lord's Supper, and noting those who have been absent several months in succession. It has made me quite sad. I have the list in my pocket, and must go and see them.”
“But why should you allow it to grieve you ?” said his wife. “Is not the loss theirs, and is not the fault theirs ?”
“Most decidedly,” he replied ; "and of course they must bear their own burden. At the same time their fault is my burden, and I feel as Keble says:
Lord, in Thy field I work all day,
Within Thy fold I cannot koop.' It distresses me to see professing Christians so careless about the simplest obligations of church membership. I find many who have so low a sense of the value of the Lord's Supper that it seems as if they had never heard the Lord's command, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.' If they were Quakers, who deny that the Lord's Supper was intended to be permanent, I could understand them. But their present inconsistency I really cannot understand. I wonder how they expect me to make outsiders feel the value and the joy of church ordinances while those inside the church treat them so lightly. There are now several young people who I think ought to join the church ; but I feel discouraged from urging the duty upon them because so many in the
ABSENTEES FROM THE LORD'S SUPPER.
church seem as if they wished they were not in. And besides, if the Lord's Sapper be a matter of indifference, how about the kindred ordinance of Baptism? In my view they stand together. And yet there are members who have accepted one, and turn carelessly from the other."
“I greatly sympathize with you, John," said his wife ; "at the same time I must put in a plea for poor mothers with five or six children. Let us judge them kindly. They are always wanting to come, but they can come only very seldom. You know, dear, I have sometimes been compelled to stay away from the Lord's Supper several months together, and I have done it very unwillingly.”.
“Very true, Mary,” said Mr. Morton, " and it's like your kind heart to remind me of it. But the worst cases are not struggling mothers, but hale and hearty men. This is what makes me somewhat indignant. Now there's James W. who joined the church about two years ago, and almost ever since I've done nothing but wonder what induced him to profess himself a disciple and lover of the Lord Jesus. He sat down to the Lord's Supper four or five times, and since then has invariably stayed away. But I must go and see these friends, and then I shall know more about it."
Sapper being ended, the conversation was turned by Mrs. Morton saying, "Well, dear, you'd better forget all about your work till tomorrow; so come and read to me for half-an-hour.”
A fortnight passed away, and one evening the conversation about the Lord's Supper was resumed.
How do you get on with your list ?” said Mrs. Morton. "Do you find your judgment much modified by the explanations the people give ?"
“Yes, and No," replied her husband. “Some of the reasons given have rather astonished me; but in many cases there was no reason to give—nothing, indeed, but the most paltry and disingenuous excuses. I often muttered to myself, 'Who excuses accuses.'
And what about the poor mothers ?” asked Mrs. Morton.
Ah! they are different,” replied her husband. “I found some of them more pained even than myself. Every month their cry was, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord.' Borne down with the care of little ones, a house to keep right without help of any kind, and a husband who neither knows nor cares how they drag on, how can they come to chapel ? I pity such poor Christian women from my very heart. Their cases call for no censure, but for honour and for sympathy."
Mrs. Morton nodded in agreement, and her husband went on: “But now, Mary, what shall you say if I tell you that one gentleman makes you the scapegoat of his faults ?”
Mrs. Morton looked up quickly, and said, “Well, I never ! what now, I wonder ?”
• It's a fact," said her husband, "incredulous though you may be. You know Mr. B-, the grocer. I called on him, but no sooner had I broached the subject than he pursed up his mouth, and put on a look of injured innocence, as if he could say much if he wished. For some time he would not speak, but at last he said, 'I'll tell you what it is,
ABSENTEES FROM THE LORD'S SUPPER.
sir ; I don't consider as your wife has used me well. She takes all her money out of the town, and I don't think it's right. You know we are to do good, especially to them that are of the household of faith.'”
Mrs. Morton's face at first looked bewildered, and then indignant, antil she caught the contagion of her husband's smile, and broke into a merry langh. “Dear me," she cried ; " that is a curious application of Scripture. But you know, dear, we tried his groceries, and they would not suit us. His rice was dirty, his tea was dear, and his sugar always damp. Of course I go where I can get good groceries ; but still, if it will do him any good, I'll look out an order for him.”
“Yes, do, my dear,” said her husband. “We must be patient with such men. They need educating in the divine life. The Master says, • Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.' It is better to suffer a little than to offend a weak conscience."
Mrs. Morton still looked dubious, as if wondering how her groceries would turn out; but she said nothing, and her husband went on:
“One case I must tell you of interested me very much. It was old Henry S- the shoemaker. I found him, as a cobbler should be, sticking to his last.
He was very glad to see me, and we chatted cheerfully for some time. At last I asked him why he did not stay to the Lord's Supper the other Sunday night, and why he had been absent so often this year. His only answer was to seize a piece of leather and begin thumping it most vigorously. I waited for a time, and at length he said, 'Well, I have a reason.'
“ I'm glad to hear it,' I answered, 'for many people haven't a reason. But is it to be a secret from me? Come now, tell me frankly, if you can.
"A vigorous thumping succeeded. At length he lifted his head and jerked out the words, "To tell the truth, Mr. Morton, I can't afford it. Trade is very bad, and my son has been ill, and I've had to help him, and I've nothing to put in the plate, and so—I stay away:
“But,' said I, who expects you to put something in the plate ? You are not bound by anything save your own conscience. I fear, Henry, you are cherishing a bit of pride. Look deeper into your own heart, and confess if that is not so. He said he thought perhaps it was; and soon after I took
leave. My next visit was to George N- Almost as soon as I entered he burst out into violent abuse of his own brother Joseph. It seems they have had some dispute about the terms of their father's will, and they have allowed their animosity to grow, and have brought it with them to chapel. George has altered his seat so that he cannot see his brother, and neither of them will stay at the Lord's Supper because the other is a member of the same church. He greatly wanted me to take sides with him in the dispute, but I said to him, as our Lord once said in a similar case, 'Man, who made me a judge and a divider over you ?' I told him they had better submit their differences to two impartial friends, and abide by their decision. Meanwhile they should cease from bitterness, and give each other credit for honest intentions. Whether they will do so remains to be seen. They were not the only persons who were neglecting the Lord's Supper because of unfriendliness with a fellow member. Indeed there were no fewer than three such cases."
LED UP BY THE SPIRIT.
“And what,” said Mrs. Morton,“ do you propose to do to remedy these evils ?”
“Well, first of all,” said her husband, “I must preach better, and work more thoughtfully and kindly amongst the people, and try to heal these differences, and remove these roots of bitterness. I often fear I am more to blame than the people.”
Mrs. Morton here shook her head, as if she could not agree. Her husband went on : “But I have suggested to the deacons that we should prepare an address to be distributed amongst the church members, setting forth the obligations as well as the privileges of church fellowship. We must remind them of their own first love and early
We can set forth the claims of Christ's will and love, and can urge them, for the sake of their own families and the
younger members of the church, not to be remiss in this sacred duty. I cannot rest with things as they are; but I pray God for wisdom to speak the right words, as well as patience to continue unwearied in watching for souls, as one that must give account.”
That night, at family prayer, Mr. Morton prayed earnestly for all tempted souls, especially those who were turned aside from duty by custom, or prejudice, or weakness of the will. Mrs. Morton knew what he meant, and her gentle heart responded with a fervent " Amen."
Led up by the Spirit.
“ He was lod up by the Spirit,”
When morning woke the day, To Moab's lonely wilderness,
And mountains far away :
To brush the early dew,
'Mid nature fresh and new. Nor went ho as a challenger,
With the war-light in his eye, To seek the powers of darkness,
And Satan's self defy : “He was led up_by the Spirit!”
By God's command he went, In grave and solomn confidence,
On heavenward thoughts intent. And so-earth-brother!--you and I,
Like pilgrims side by side, Aro “led up by the Spirit,”
To bo tempted, sifted, triod. This holy summons calls us
To give life's answer now, And choose, between two altars,
At which our souls shall bow.
We moet that ovil power,
To souls who him adore
Wo, too, must lift our upward oyo,
And answer calm and free,
We cannot bow to thee."
That brings us face to face
And strengthener of our race:
That souls in strife should grow,
Our best friend be a foo.
He leads us towards the light;
And know the wrong from right;
And by the world's highway;
Nor clouds the fiery ray.
The Spirit leads us on;
Till battle-days are done ;
To Spirit-homes on high,