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And while I thus pray, with all the fervency of a most longing and affectionate regard for you that you may never, never be brought under the power of those entanglements which would make the latter end worse than the beginning, it would be to me a high matter of gratitude to God that He speedily accomplished upon you the promise of all that peace, and all that pleasantness, and all that respect and acknowledgment even from those who at first were gainsayers, which are generally found to succeed the first victories of the aspiring Christian over the trials which thicken around him at the outset of his career.
My prayer extends from yourself to your relations, all of whom I love. May God prolong the life of your brother, and bear up the weight of your father's old age. May Miss Smith be a distinguished ornament to her family; and may all the graces of the Spirit form upon her into one lovely assemblage. In reference to the tenderness which I feel for you, and which it delights me to think is not without a kind return of good-will on your part, I pray that God would subordinate the whole of this unlooked-for intimacy to His own will and His own glory. May he root out all that is idolatrous-all that would occupy his own place in our heart-all that would offer to depose duty from its lawful demand on our time, on our attention, on our talent. May he enable me, in particular, to introduce a little more self-government into this affec tion, that it might not run away with me-that it might not distress me by vain and needless anxieties-that it might not make me too obtrusive of my own will, or my own way, or him who is the object of it-that I might be preserved from saying any thing which may make my brother to offendthat I may, at all times, be enabled to acquit myself with wisdom-and that, as you occupy by far the highest place in the scale of my earthly friendship, the union might be perfected in Heaven, and we be found faultless in the presence of God and before the throne of His glory. My dear sir, yours most affectionately, THOMAS CHALMERS.
No. XXIV.-MR. THOMAS SMITH TO DR. CHALMERS. GLASGOW, 31st January, 1816.
MY DEAR SIR-Your letter goes upon a wrong track when it supposes me to have said in mine, that, were the propriety of dancing assemblies doubtful, I would hesitate about relinquishing all thoughts of attending them. I merely meant you to understand that I might be so influenced by allurements to go to them, that their true hurtful effects upon the character might be obscured, and that thus misled I could go to the assemblies, though the effect might be dangerous. My intention in saying this was to put you in fair possession of the knowledge that those allurements did exist, and that you might be enabled to write more to the purpose, by guarding me against any influence of this kind. And I feel no hesitation in saying that I shall not go to these companies if I am persuaded there is any thing of even a doubtful appearance about their propriety.
At this moment I am neither more nor less decided on this subject than when it was first started. I am placed, in one respect, in a better situation than I was then. I have undertaken carefully to examine the different grounds of the reasons why I either should go or not, as they concern a Christian life, and by the result of this examination I am resolved to be guided.
The difficult matter appears to be how to judge of the merits of the case. Many go to these assemblies who possess the best characters, and rank among the most religious in town; and many do not go to them from reason of their hurtful influence upon the character, and this latter class are at least as far advanced in Christian attainments as the former. If we are to form an opinion of the propriety of these parties from the attendance or absence of the people accounted religious around us, I think it would just land us in the doubtful point. This is what I most anxiously wish to avoid; and for other reasons it would certainly be much better that this,
and any other question of the same kind, was decided on other principles than the example of the world. Its customs and morals vary with every generation; and if we consider that though we are blinded by the example of others to do good or evil, yet we shall be judged and receive our sentence according to the true nature of our actions; whether done in concert with our neighbors or not, we shall find no great reason to rest satisfied with our conduct merely because that of others is the same. Yours with much affection,
No. XXV. DR. CHALMERS TO MR. THOMAS SMITH.
CHARLOTTE STREET, 6th February, 1816. MY VERY DEAR SIR-You may think it strange that previous to discussing the effects of dancing assemblies on your own mind, I should resort, as my first argument against them, to the pernicious effect of your example on the minds of others. I do it for a reason which will afterward evolve itself; and I come direct to the assertion, that within the limits of such a room the ears of the young are exposed to improper conversation; opportunities are afforded them of beginning and of perfecting improper intimacies; occasions of sin are multiplied; actual parties may be formed for the commission of wickedness; and whether the young, in whose behalf I am anxious to perpetuate the preventive system, be actually drawn into such parties or not, at all events their delicate abhorrence of evil is blunted, and the safeguard of that natural and instinctive repugnance which forms the defense of youth, and which, to my eye, constitutes its finest and its loveliest ornament, is enfeebled by the rudeness of such an exposure. Now, my dear sir, it is possible for a family party to keep all its members together; but why go to a place were a vigilant and fearful anxiety of this kind is necessary? But, in point of fact, this vigilance is not kept. Young men of decent families are at liberty to expatiate over the whole surface of the room that contains them, and I aver it, on what I have learn
ed both from yourself and others, that this liberty can not be taken without such exposures as serve to harden and familiarize them with what is gross; or, in other words, they are in a far more direct way, by being at an assembly, to corruption, both of principle and of practice, than if at home they were surrounded with the salutary influence of affectionate parents, and delicate sisters, and sober family habits, and religious converse, mixed up with the judicious tempering of cheerful society, by intercourse among congenial neighbors, a varied and improving reading, or the vigorous prosecution of some great acquirement in knowledge, or any thing else that can make home agreeable, and harmonizes with the virtue and the sober-mindedness of a character still untainted by the profligacies of a world lying in wickedness.
Now, it is not enough that you say I would never leave my party-I would never go among the half-intoxicated acquaintances I have at the other end of the room; or, even if I did, I would not be influenced by any example of theirs. What you would not suffer from all this others would, and you, by your presence, have sanctioned an avenue of intercourse between the corrupt and the untainted-have leveled one barrier of defense between the purity of domestic and the danger of general society-have multiplied the points of contact between the younger and the older in wickedness—and have contributed your share to the general amount of that mischief which results from the letting in of a worldly influence on minds not yet trained to the darkness and deceitfulness of the world's ways. More of this in my next. Yours most affectionately, THOMAS CHALMERS.
No. XXVI.-MR. THOMAS SMITH TO DR. CHALMERS. STOCKWELL STREET, 8th February, 1816. MY DEAR SIR-Your note has afforded me great satisfaction. I think it has begun a revolution in my sentiments of the consequences which arise from attending assemblies. All along I have considered the propriety of my attending
them almost exclusively as it was calculated to affect myself, and I have paid very little attention to the effect my attendance might have upon others. Your note has opened a new field of objections, arising from this quarter, and I see that they are to have more effect upon my ultimate decision upon this subject than any thing which has yet been brought forward. I do not mean to say that what produces a baneful effect upon the minds of others will not also produce the same upon mine; but I do not recollect of being thus affected at any amusement of the kind which I have engaged in, nor do I see their impropriety in so strong a light as you have done. I know that such improprieties, and great exposures to depart from every delicate feeling, do exist in an assembly, and which, if not strictly guarded against, may produce the worst consequences to those who expose themselves to its influence. These, I trust, I should be enabled to overcome, but they are such as I would be afraid to expose any person for whom I had a regard to the danger of encountering.
This, I think, ought to decide the question (whether there is ground to believe that these assemblies would have a bad effect upon myself or not), that I perceive there lies danger in them to others who might be influenced to go from my example. Knowing this, were I to go, it would surely evince the most direct disobedience to one of the most generous feelings of the heart-love to our neighbor. Were I to appear at an assembly with the feeling that I myself was safe from its poisonous influence, and knew how to guard myself, and therefore had nothing to do with those around me, it would then be time to fear that all Christian influence had departed from me. I should then have reason to believe that my avidity to gratify a taste for worldly amusements had so blinded me to all perception of the dangers resulting from them, that I was gradually indulging myself to an extent from which I could not recover. I would not at any time have gone to any place had such a prospect of its consequences been set before me; and it is only from considering deliberately any