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It must be confessed that, shortly after the appearance of my first volume, I became more remiss than usual in committing my sermon-notes to the flames; not indeed with any view to their future publication, but rather for the less creditable purpose of making some further use of them in my public addresses. Such were my intentions, when it pleased the allwise God to disqualify me for all my official duties, by the sudden infliction of a dangerous and distressing disease.
In the progress of my complaint, and after I had suffered several months under its debilitating influence, my thoughts were accidentally directed to certain little manuscript sketches which lay confusedly scattered about the drawer of
desk. My first impression on the sight of them, was this; that, while I still retained the power of disposing of them, it would be prudent to destroy them without hesitation : this, however, was presently succeeded by a desire previously to acquaint myself with their contents. This therefore I immediately essayed to do: but before my review had extended to the amount of twenty lines, I found myself under the necessity of abandoning the task as altogether insuperable. After an interval of several weeks, I repeated the trial, but with no better success : when I contented myself with giving a strict and solemn order for the annihilation of all these papers, on my decease.
decease. At the distance, perhaps, of two months from this period, my
desire to look over these small MSS. was so ardently rekindled, as to engage me in a third attempt for that purpose, which succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. I was now enabled, not only to peruse these little packets, but even to fill up those numerous chasms in them, which had been originally left with the design of affording more scope to my feelings at the time of their delivery.
The labour, incurred by this inconsiderable undertaking, was abundantly overpaid by the sacred satisfaction which attended it, and which at length determined me to consecrate the following discourses to my brethren and companions in the tribulation and patience of Jesus Christ. There was, indeed, another motive that very powerfully influenced me to this determination, and that was, honoured madam, a strong desire to present you with some public acknowledgment of the numerous obligations conferred upon me by your bounty and kindness, through a protracted season of confinement and suffering. From all my neighbours, both near and remote, I received on that occasion many endearing testimonies of sympathy and goodwill, which can never be forgotten—but your attentions were so marked and consolatory, so superabundant and unceasing, as to excite my
admiration and gratitude to a pitch not easy to be described. May you, honoured madam, obtain mercy of the Lord in every time of need;
he give his angels charge concerning you and your house, to guide and guard you all your happy days!
I now consider myself as entering upon a state of convalescence. How long this state may continue, or to what degree it may proceed, cannot at present be ascertained : nor do I feel any solicitude about the issue, convinced, by late experience, that the Father of mercies hath peculiar comforts in store for his suffering children.
I have not only looked into the valley of the shadow of death, but have been so far led down into its secret depths, and hurried through so many of its formidable passes, as appeared to render a return altogether impossible. Yet the same good hand that directed
downward course, hath at length reconducted me, by slow and imperceptible degrees, to the ground which I this day occupy. And as travellers who return from distant countries, are generally disposed to publish the discoveries they have made, so I will beg permission to mention here, what I have lately seen and felt in my near approach to the eternal world. Of the vale of death many
representations have been made: but, in opposition to them all, I will venture to assert, that its gloom is not so great, nor its privations so distressing, nor its incommodities so grievous, as common report would make them. The Divine presence is manifested even there, and frequently to a degree rarely witnessed elsewhere—at least, unworthy as I am, it was assuredly so with me, during the long season of my tarrying in it. Amid its dreariest scenes I heard the voice of God, and felt his all-supporting power : his candle shone upon my head, and his abounding grace sustained my feeble spirit. Through all the lengthening way, I seemed to walk close by my Father's side, and leaning on my
Father's arm; who ever and anon renewed his gracious promises, and cheered