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Pearce. We know much more than we did; but we do not understand every thing at once, even here. God's designs are gradually unfolded as events transpire.
Grant. How long, my dear Pearce, have you been here? We felt deeply for you, when we passed the spot where you lay confined by sickness;* and during the whole of our voyage, you were always uppermost in our thoughts. We often feared that you might be gone beyond the reach of prayer, and therefore our petitions were generally offered up, on the supposition of your being in the land of the living.
Pearce. I have been here but a little while. At the time you were beating about in the Bay of Bengal, I received my discharge. I was long detained a prisoner, and during that time, you and your companions were near my heart.
Grant. But why was my mind stirred up to leave my country, and devote my life to the service of my Lord; when after all, he had determined not to employ me as a missionary?
Pearce. I have often wondered too, why my heart was drawn out in the manner it was towards the same object, and yet disappointed: and your case seems still more mysterious.
Grant. Whom do we see yonder, 'walking in his uprightness?'
Pearce. It is the sweet Singer of Israel.'
Grant. May we hold converse with the spirits of just men made perfect?'
Pearce. Yes, with perfect freedom.
Grant. Let us go then, and converse with him upon the subject. It was in his heart to build a house for God; yet he was not permitted to do it. He will tell us something that we know not.
Plymouth, where Mr. Pearce remained for about two months, in the summer of 1799, in the hope of deriving benefit from his native air.
Pearce. Tell us, holy man: Hast thou seen the wisdom of God, in putting it into thy heart to build him a house, and yet preventing thee from fulfilling thy desire?
David. The house was built, though I did not build it. Pearce. And God may build himself a house in the East, though we have not been permitted to raise it.
David. And though I was not permitted to build the house, yet I 'prepared for it with all my might.'
Grant. I am sure my dear brother Pearce has done the
David. Perhaps, if it had not been in my heart to build a house for God, it might not have been in the heart of my son Solomon. .
Pearce. And was not the engagement of brother Grant the occasion of another engaging, who yet lives?
Grant. I believe it was.
Pearce. Who knows what good may arise from his labours.
David. Though I was not visibly present at the dedication of the house of my God, yet the fervent desire which I had put into my heart, constituted a part of the joy of that solemn day. In the psalm that was sung on that occasion, mention was made of David and all his afflictions.'*
Grant. And whenever the interest of our Lord shall be established in the East, and the history of it repeated, that which brother Pearce has wrought shall be spoken of as a memorial for him.
Pearce. And the story of a poor converted Infidel,† who left all to follow that dear Redeemer whom he had despised, shall not be forgotten.
* Psalm cxxxii. supposed to have been written by Solomon.
An English gentleman resident in India, who was partially reclaimed from infidelity by conversation with the Missionaries, and afterwards established in the truth, by reading Mr. Fuller's publications on Deism and Socinianism, which the brethren had recommended to his attention.
David. If I was hindered from doing good, I might also be prevented from doing evil. Had Solomon my son been cut off, just when he had procured materials for the sacred edifice, his death would have been deeply regretted; yet then he had left the world with an unspotted character. As it was, he dishonoured God.
Pearce. I remember reading of a poor man, who being turned from a profligate course of life to the knowledge and love of Christ, was reproached by his former associates, and told that he would certainly return to his former practices. On this, he fell upon his knees before them all, and prayed to God, that if it would be so, he might rather die upon the spot. . . . and he died immediately! Who, but he that knows what is in man, can tell what evils we may have escaped.
David. I never shall forget the sacred joy of that day, when the people offered willingly.'* Many, who are now in these blessed abodes, have acknowledged that the sacred flame of love was first kindled in their bosoms on that solemn day.
Pearce. I shall never forget the sacred pleasure of those days, in which we engaged in prayer and praise, and cheerful contributions for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom.
Grant. And might there not be souls converted to Christ by those opportunities? I am sure the disinterested conduct of dear Carey and his companions, operated not a little to convince me of the reality of religion.
Pearce. How was it with you and the brethren, during the voyage? Did you not begin your missionary labours among the poor ignorant sailors?
Grant. We did; and entertained considerable hopes that our labours were not in vain.
Pearce. If your voyage to the east were the means of rescuing but one poor sinner from destruction, it is more than adequate to all your labour.
* 1 Chron. xxix.
David. We knew of your undertakings, and partook of the joy.
Grant. And is it so, that the spirits of just men made perfect are acquainted with what is going on in the earth?
David. Can the angels of God be supposed to rejoice over a sinner that repenteth, and we be unacquainted with it, or uninterested in the event?
Pearce. I thought, even when in the body, that this would be the case, and told my brethren as much before my departure.*
Grant. I have sometimes thought the same. The subject of conversation between Moses, Elias, and our Lord, namely, 'his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,' has seemed to me to have been the topic which engaged the attention of the heavenly inhabitants, and that they were as full of it when they appeared on the holy mount, as the two disciples were when travelling to Emmaus.
Pearce. Blessed be his glorious name for ever and ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory! We will still watch the progress of this blessed work, and praise his name for every instance of success.
* In a letter dated May 2. 1799, while Mr. Pearce was in Devonshire for the recovery of his health, he addressed Mr. Ward and other missionaries, about to depart for India, in the following manner. "Oh be faithful, my dear brethren, my dear sisters, be faithful unto death, and all this joy is yours. Long as I live, my imagination will be hovering over you in Bengal; and should I die, if separate spirits be allowed a visit to the world they have left, methinks mine would soon be at Mudnabatty, watching your labours, your conflicts, and your success, whilst you are always abounding in the work of the Lord." Memoirs of Mr. Pearce, p. 221.
THE NATURE OF TRUE VIRTUE.
Mr. HALL, in his justly admired Sermon on modern Infidelity, has brought forward some very plausible objections to President Edwards's definition of virtue, but which appear to be founded in misapprehension. The definition itself is fairly stated, that "virtue consists in a passion for the general good, or love to being in general." Mr. Hall observes, that "the order of nature is, evermore, from particulars to generals: we advance from private to public affections: from the love of parents, brothers and sisters, to those more expanded regards which embrace the immense society of human kind." p. 51. And afterwards, in a Note, pp. 57, 58, he maintains that, on the President's principles, "virtue is an utter impossibility; because that the human mind is not capable of such different degrees of attachment as are due to the infinitely various objects of the intelligent system; also because that our views of the system being capable of perpetual enlargement, our attachments are liable to undue proportion, so that those regards, which appeared virtuous, may afterwards become vicious. And lastly, that if virtue consists in the love of being in general, or attachment to the general good, the particular affections are to every purpose of virtue useless, and even pernicious; for their necessary tendency is, to attract to their objects a proportion of attention, which far exceeds their comparative value in the general scale."
"The question is," as Mr. Hall observes, "what is virtue?" Answer, love. But love to whom, or what? To being, says Edwards; and as the supreme Being is the first and best of beings, it is to love Him supremely, and our fellow creatures in subordination to him. It is ob