It is said, no less correctly than beautifully, that mercy blesses twice; both him who bestows it, and him who receives it. The remark applies, in all its truth and force, to that species of compassion which has the salvation of the heathen for its object, and the cause of missions for its instrumentality. Our pity for the souls of those poor outcasts has had, in various ways, a reflex operation upon ourselves. Not only are our own graces strengthened by exercise, but we are actually raising up amidst those who were once the children of the desert, and whose minds were as barren and as hideous as the wilds they inhabit, examples of Christian virtue which we would do well to imitate. Instances of simple piety have come to us from "the dark places of the earth" and "the habitations of cruelty," which ought to redden with the blush of shame, the countenance of many a professing Christian in this land of refinement. Some of our converts have outstripped us in the spiritual life, and excelled us in the practical lessons of the school of our Divine Master. Let us not be too proud to learn from those whom we have assisted to teach. And if, from the ices of Greenland, the deserts of Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or the blood-stained shores of Madagascar, there come to us, either in the converts, or by the reports of our beloved missionaries, instances of passive or of active holiness, superior to our own—let us turn them to account, and make them tributary to our own growth in grace.
The short and simple story in the following pages is of this nature. It struck me, when I first heard it from the lips of the good missionary who related it, as a gem which would well bear setting, and having been applied to by the editor of an American Annual for a contribution to his work, I drew up the substance of the following tract (now somewhat enlarged), and sent it across the Atlantic. It was published in a periodical, entitled "The Episcopal Recorder," and has had the honor of being copied into almost every other religious periodical in the United States. Upon receiving this information, I determined upon committing it to the press in this country, with the hope that so beautiful an instance of Christian reproof may stir up and direct many here in the performance of that important, but difficult, and, therefore, much neglected duty.
Mr. Read, missionary in South Africa, related, when in England, the following fact.
It is the practice of some of the Christian Hottentots, at some of the stations, in order to enjoy the privilege of secret prayer, with greater privacy and freedom than they could do in their own confined and incommodious dwellings, to retire among the trees and bushes, in the vicinity of their village; and that they may carry on their devotions without being intruded on by others, and also derive all that tranquilizing influence which would be produced by a spot, with which no other occupations, thoughts, and feelings are associated, than such as are holy, each individual selects for his own use a particular bush, behind which, and concealed by it, he may commune with his heavenly Father in secret, as Nathaniel did under his fig tree. By the rest, this bush is considered as an oratory sacred to the brother or sister by whom it had been appropriated; and which, therefore, is never to be violated by the foot, or even by the gaze of another, during the season it is occupied by its proprietor. The constant tread of the worshipers, in their repeated visits to these hallowed spots, would, of necessity, wear a path in the grass which lay between their habitations and the sylvan scene of their communion with God.
On one occasion, a Christian Hottentot woman said to another female member of their little community, "Sister, I am afraid you are somewhat declining in piety." The words were accompanied with a look of affection, and were uttered with a tone that savored nothing of railing accusation, nor of reproachful severity, but was expressive of tender fidelity, and the meekness of wisdom. The individual thus addressed, asked her friend for the reason of her fears. "Because," replied this good and gentle spirit, "the grass has grown over your path to your bush." Nature carrying on its usual progress had disclosed the secret. The backslider could not deny the fact; there, in the springing herbage, was the indisputable evidence that the feet which had once trodden it down had ceased to frequent the spot. She did not attempt to excuse it, but fell under the sweet influence of this sisterly reproof, and confessed, with ingenuous shame and sorrow, that her heart had turned away from the Lord. The admonition had its desired effect; the sinner was converted from the error of her ways, and her watchful and faithful reprover had the satisfaction and reward of seeing the wanderer restored, not only to the path to the bush, but to the renewed favor of that God with whom she there again communed in secret.
Each party in this short and simple narrative is deserving, not only of our admiration, but of our imitation; the reprover for the fidelity, wisdom, and gentleness of love with which she exercised her sisterly vigilance; and the object of her solicitude, for the meekness and practical improvement with which she bowed to the voice of affectionate reproof.
Many LESSONS may be learned from this touching narrative. I may, for instance, take occasion to set forth by it—
The efficacious power, and the holy, beautiful, and graceful results of missionary operations.These women were Hottentots, belonging to a race which, a few years before the event referred to occurred, were scarcely admitted, by some calumniators of the sable tribes, into the fellowship of rational creatures, and were thought worthy to be the companions of baboons, or at best only fit to be the slaves of men who happen to be clothed in a whiter skin. Where, I ask, can be found, in the annals of the Christian church in any part of the world, a more beautiful or graceful exemplification of some of the more difficult virtues and duties of Christianity, than in these two African females? Where shall we find among their more polished sisters in Europe, or in America, more tenderness, fidelity, and real refinement of soul, than in these two daughters of Ham? Here is indeed the image of God, delineated on the dark ground of a Hottentot skin, and shining forth in the meekness and gentleness of Christ, amidst the wilds of an African desert.
And what is it that has thus raised these subjects of barbarism and victims of oppression from the dust; from the captivity of Satan and his emissaries, and given them so high a place, not only among the civilized, but the sanctified portions of humanity? Not commerce, or civilization, or arts or sciences, nor free institutions, nor general education; no—but Christian religion.
O Christianity, you offspring of heaven, and regenerator of earth, these are your triumphs and your trophies! These are the conquests and the fruits which you have produced, in myriads of instances, and which you alone can produce! It is you that have gone forth into the deserts of Africa, not in the spirit of avarice and cruelty to enslave and to destroy, but with the mind of him who came to seek and to save that which was lost, to reclaim, to civilize, and to evangelize the most desolate wilds of humanity; and thus to add to the garden of the Lord portions of the human race, which science had abandoned as below its ambition, and commerce valued only as a means of gratifying its avarice! Over those tracts of dreariness and desolation, as they stretched out to the far distant horizon, did Christian mercy from the mount of Zion cast an eye of pity and of hope; and bearing precious seed, the Christian missionary went forth weeping to the high and holy enterprise of the spiritual husbandry, and already has he returned bearing his sheaves with him. The land that was trodden by the feet, and watered with the tears, and sanctified by the labors of Vanderkemp, but which yielded comparatively little fruit to reward his toil, has been tilled by a band of holy laborers since; and Moffat has come back to tell us by the magic of his tongue, and the details of his precious volume, what he suffered for Africa, and how God has blessed his sufferings.
Who then should not be prepared to say, and to act as he says, "Go on, Christianity, you benignant, and heavenly, and God-like system, with your blessed and glorious conquests! The deepest and holiest sympathies of my heart are engaged to your great purpose of saving a lost world, the most fervent prayers of my faith shall ascend for your success; and my luxuries, my comforts, and even what I have been accustomed to consider my necessaries, shall be taxed to furnish resources for your benevolent operations. Go forward in your evangelizing career—it is yours to accomplish the purposes of eternal love, and of redeeming mercy; yours to fulfill the predictions of ancient prophecy; yours to deliver this fallen and apostate world from the dominion of sin and Satan, and restore it to the dominion of the Prince of Peace; yours to consummate the mission, and adorn with his brightest honors the crown of Emmanuel! Hasten your universal reign! The groans of creation invite your approach, the shouts of a regenerated and happy world shall proclaim the universality and the blessings of your sway."
A second lesson to be learned from "the path to the bush," is,the value of private prayer, and the connection between its regular and spiritual performance, and a healthy state of the soul. When the bush was neglected, and the path to it forsaken, then did the religion of this poor Hottentot woman begin to spiritually decline. And how could it be otherwise? Who ever kept up a vigorous piety when secret prayer was neglected? The privacy of prayer is the spirit of prayer; and the spirit of prayer is the spirit of true religion. It is in the closet that the soul feels religion to be a personal concern, and maintains the individuality of her piety. It is in the closet, when the Christian shuts himself in, from the gaze of all eyes but that of God, from all ears but those of conscience; when the flatteries of friends, and the accusations of foes, are alike unheard, and the spirit listens only to the voice which speaks from heaven; where confession of sin may be minutely made, and wants and weaknesses may be expressed, which could not be uttered in the hearing of a single human being, that the work of grace goes vigorously forward in the heart. It is in the closet where all restraint which the presence even of a child would impose, is thrown off, and the suppliant feels alone with God. It is in the closet where we muse in silence, until the fire burns too intensely for repression, and we pour out the ardor of our love in the sallies of impassioned aspiration. It is in the closet where we can review and scrutinize our actions, and sift our very motives, until the accumulating amount of our delinquency is ascertained by a rigid examination, that we exercise our penitence in tears, and groans, and smitings upon our bosom, and are prepared to offer to God the sacrifice of a broken heart, and a contrite spirit. It is in the closet that the bruised and burdened mind throws down its load, and pours out the bitterness which is known to none else, and also tastes the joy with which the stranger meddles not. It is in the closet, as in the cleft of the rock, that the wrestling spirit places herself, while God passes by, and proclaims his glorious names. It is in the closet that our cares are lightened, our sorrows mitigated, our corruptions mortified, and our graces strengthened. It is in the closet, that calm and holy retreat, that the believer is prepared to come forth to duty, to conflict, to honor, before men on earth; to rise into the fellowship of the saints in light, and to hold converse with angels in the presence of God.
In short, the closet of private devotion is the ante-chamber where the Christian shakes off the dust of the earth, and by the aid of Divine grace makes himself ready for an abundant entrance into the heavenly glory. Who then would forsake the path to the bush? Woe be to the man whose feet, turned into other courses, leave the grass to grow in the way that leads to the meeting-place with God. All goes wrong in religion, when private prayer is restrained, or is undevoutly and insincerely performed. Happy is it for the deserter from the closet, when, as in the case before us, he meets some faithful friend, who finds him in his truant course, and points him to the proofs of his departure from God; and blessed is he, who, in the spirit of judicious and faithful love, leads back the stray brother to the sacred, but deserted scene of communion with God.
This leads me to apply the narrative at greater length, and as the principal design of the tract, toillustrate the obligation of professing Christians to discharge the duty of reciprocal watchfulness, and to administer the warnings and reproofs of faithful love. Suppose a number of the inhabitants of some town were about to emigrate to a distant and unknown place; and, foreseeing they would be exposed to many dangers, as well as privations, were to bind themselves to each other in a covenant of affection and defense; promising, with great solemnity, to watch over each other's interests, and faithfully to admonish any one of the company who would be guilty of the least violation of the compact, whereby he would put himself in personal peril, or hazard the peace of his fellows; we can imagine how much vigilance would be exercised by each over the rest, especially in passing through tracts of country which abounded with dangerous precipices, were infested with wild beasts, or were the haunts of bandits. How anxiously would they look to one another; how kindly, yet how faithfully, would they warn any one of the company, who by indolence or incautiousness exposed himself to destruction; and how thankfully would they receive, when they needed them, these friendly warnings, even when accompanied, as they would be, with the language of rebuke! We cannot suppose that through a false delicacy, anyone would allow his brother to perish, or to sustain any serious mischief, rather than wound his feelings by the warning of love; or that the individual thus plucked from the jaws of death would feel himself aggrieved by the faithful affection which had saved him from destruction. He who, in a spirit of selfish ease and surly isolation, stood aloof from the rest, and who, to whatever perils he saw his companions expose themselves, never raised his voice of warning, would be considered as having broken his compact, violated his obligations, and cut himself off, by his conduct, from the party.
What, in reality, is a company of professing Christians, united in the fellowship of a church, but such a band of emigrants fleeing from a place devoted to destruction, to the heavenly city; and by virtue of their union and common object of pursuit, bound to watch over and warn each other in reference to the moral dangers to which they are exposed on the road. Must it not, however, be admitted, that this is one of the duties of the Christian life, which, as by common consent, are too generally neglected? What is the purpose for which we are brought within the bonds of church fellowship, but that we may be thus mutually helpful by watchfulness and warning? We are members one of the other; and as the organs and limbs of the "natural body" are each defensive of the whole, the eye guiding the hand, and the ear listening for the foot, and the foot and the hand guarding the eye, and the head presiding over all. So it is in the "spiritual body," we are united to keep watch and ward over each other in the spirit of love.
Express injunctions to this duty are to be found in the word of God. How impressive is the language of even the more frigid dispensation of the law—"You shall not hate your brother in your heart. Be sure to correct your neighbor, so that he may be stopped from doing evil." This scripture allows of no middle state of mind between love and hatred in all our feelings towards God or man—if we do not love, we hate. Now, surely, it cannot be consistent with love to allow a person to go on sinning, and deliver to him no words of counsel, remonstrance, and warning. While maintaining such a silence, our Divine Lord will hold us accountable for the sin of hating our brother. How frequent are the admonitions to the exercise of brotherly warning in the New Testament! "Exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." "Warn those who are unruly." "If your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." "If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he that converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death," evidently implying it is our duty to try to convert him. These are only a few of the passages in which this obligation is enforced. What is our love to our neighbor, enjoined as the second great commandment; what is brotherly-kindness, what the love so beautifully personified and enjoined by the apostle, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, but a constant regard to the happiness of our fellow-creatures and fellow-Christians, and an endeavor to promote it? And can it comport with love to leave its objects to perish in sin?
Think what interests are at stake in the case of an erring brother. If his body were liable to mutilation, or to wasting disease; if his property were exposed to destruction; if his children were in danger of being lost, through any act of his misconduct or neglect, should we not feel emboldened, yes, compelled, to go and deliver the faithful warning? And is the duty less incumbent, the necessity for this remonstrance less urgent, because it is his soul that he is in danger of losing? In how many cases has the faithful and affectionate discharge of this duty been followed with the most blessed results! Backsliders have been reclaimed; sheep wandering from the fold and the pastures of the good Shepherd have been restored; souls that had set out in the road that led to the precipice have been turned into "the path to the bush;" sin that would soon have brought forth the fruits of death has been nipped in the bud; secret faults by timely warning have been prevented from growing into great transgressions; the church has been saved from wounds in its peace, and the world from having fresh stumbling-blocks thrown in its way; and all this by performing the office which the good Hottentot woman did for her sister in Christ.
Christians, I entreat you by the love you bear to souls, deal faithfully with those whom you know to be declining in piety, and advancing in sin. Who can tell but you may gain your brother? And oh to be the honored instrument of saving a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins! Blessed reward of fidelity! Conducted in a right spirit, and in a proper manner, no efforts are more hopeful to succeed, none more likely to be followed with the desired results, than those which I now recommend. Hard indeed must be the heart, obtuse and seared the conscience of the man that does not feel kindly and listen patiently to one who in the exercise of a self-denying friendship addresses him, not to accuse, to arraign, or to reproach—but to warn, to entreat, to restore him.
A momentary wound to the proud feelings of the heart may be felt, and irritation, for a short season, may follow, but still in the presence of that tender form of love which stands before it, pride sinks into humility, passion subsides into meekness, and the heart which at the first approach to it, closed like the petals of the flower to the coming storm, will open as that same flower does to the genial rays of the sun. Who of us has tried the experiment, and tried it in a proper method, of winning back a stray brother to Christ? Who of us has put all the vigilance and tenderness of love into operation for the benefit of those for whom Christ died?
I would not call upon Christians to slacken the hand of zeal in plucking sinners as brands from the burning—but I would have them more diligent in extending their holy benevolence to their erring brethren. It should be the object of our solicitude not only to enlarge the church—but also to improve it. The church was intended to present to this selfish world a community which should be the very home of love, where love should dwell, animating guiding and blessing all; where its busy assiduity and tender watchfulness, in preventing or excluding sin, as the intruder upon its sanctity and the violator of its peace, should be seen and admired by those who are without. Were all the members of our churches living in the exercise of this heaven-born, heaven descended grace; were we all seen in the attitude and act of watching over each other for good—sparing no pains to keep others from sin, or to recover them when they have fallen into it; laboring to stop the sins we could not prevent, and weeping over those we could not arrest; nothing, no not even the re-institution of the primitive community of goods, could invest Christ's redeemed people with a brighter display of the beauties of holiness.
But, alas! we are lacking in this part of our duty. We care not for our brother—we let him alone in his sins, and allow him to render himself more vile. We see the grass growing in the path to the bush, but do not inquire after the feet that formerly trod it, by their visits to the scene of devotion. We need that converted Hottentots should come and show us what brotherly love means, or that we should be stimulated to its exercise by the relation of their simple virtues which is borne to us by their honored teachers.
I have already conceded that the duty of rebuking a brother is a delicate and a difficult one—for such is the pride of our hearts, that we do not like to know our faults, much less to be reproved for them. Hence the indispensable necessity of paying peculiar attention to the spirit and manner in which we perform this too often unwelcome office of Christian love. The surgeon who is solicited to perform some painful operation does it with as gentle a hand, and as kind a look and voice as possible, and does not by a crude, rough manner inflict more anguish than is necessary. Much less should those who undertake without being asked, the healing of the soul, be careful not to offend by a lack of delicacy of touch, nor inflame the disease which they are anxious to cure. "There are three things," said the excellent Philip Henry, "requisite in the setting of a bone, an eagle's eye, a lion's heart, and a lady's hand; so also in reproving." There was a wisdom and a gentleness in the good Hottentot towards her negligent sister which are as much to be admired as her fidelity. There was no prying curiosity, no groundless suspicion; the path to the bush was overgrown; it was evident to the senses, that the feet that once trod it, had ceased to frequent it—she had visible proof of the fact of a neglect of prayer. And then how gentle was the inquiry, "Sister, has not your soul declined in religion?" There were no haughty airs, no angry tones, no railing accusation; but merely an affectionate inquiry. Here is our pattern. If we cannot do the thing in this manner, we had better not attempt to do it all. We must be quite sure of our motives, that they are pure and unselfish; that we love our brother, and are solicitous for his welfare; that we have no concealed feeling of exultation over his faults, or of readiness to appear superior to him by reproving him. If reproof does not come from love, it shows malice, however adroitly concealed, or under whatever pretense it is carried out.
In our manner we must be all gentleness, and kindness, and humility. It must be evident to the object of our solicitude that we have nothing in view but his good; that we have no inferior or less worthy end to accomplish. Nor should this delicate business be entered upon without sincere and earnest prayer, both for help and for success; that we may be assisted in administering reproof, and the brother whom we are anxious to reclaim be disposed to receive it. We may give reproof, but God only can give repentance. We should introduce all we say with professions of regard, that carry the evidence of their own sincerity with them. It may soften the mind of our brother if we acknowledge with unaffected candor our own infirmities, and mention, but without flattery, any good we know of him, in order that it may be obvious that we do not reprove him because we are alive only to his faults. If there be an appearance of relenting, and a disposition to confess—we must beware of aggravating the offence, and of investing it with the darkest shades of which it is susceptible. Indeed in all cases we must be careful, if we wish to produce conviction, not to make the matter really worse than it is, or to begin even with the worst features of the real fact. Nothing can be conceived of more likely to harden the heart of the offender, and to place him in the attitude of resistance and self-defense, than his perceiving in you a disposition to aggravate, than to palliate. If at any time we are not met in the first instance, with the spirit we desire or expect—but should discover the feelings, and hear the language, of irritation, where we hope to find concession, and to produce conviction—we must possess our souls in patience, and not allow ourselves either to be provoked or disheartened. If with unruffled serenity, or undisturbed meekness, we can allow the gust of petulance to expend itself, we may, by persevering but judicious assiduity succeed in our object, and win our brother.
We must also remember, that much discretion is requisite for selecting the right time, as well as for adopting the right manner of rebuke. It should be as soon after the sin has been committed as possible, before the conscience has had time to reconcile itself to the transgression, or has acquired an indifference in the contemplation of it. Sin is of a hardening nature, and it cannot lie long upon the conscience unrepented of, without a process of induration. When Peter denied Christ his injured Master instantly turned and looked upon him; and that look, which no artist's pencil could portray, melted his heart into genuine repentance. He had no time to become carelessly familiar with his crime. This of course does not apply to the cases in which the indulgence of the irascible feelings constitutes a part of the offence. In a time of anger, reason is out of the way; and in the absence of reason, success is hopeless; we should always wait for its return, and endeavor to bring it back. Passion has no ears; and is not a fit state of mind for either the reprover or the reproved. Wait until you are cool before you give rebuke, and until your brother is cool before you expect him to receive it.
It is never in season to reprove another, just after he has been reproving us; for that will have all the appearance of a refined species of revenge. There are favorable times, which a sagacious eye will discern, when the mind, softened by events, pensive and serious by affliction, is like ground mellowed by frost for the reception of the seed. And especially must we be mindful of our Lord's direction, to cast out the beam from our own eye before we attempt to take the mote from our brother's—and also to go to our brother alone, when there is none whose presence shall check the progress of conviction, and prevent the disposition to confess. Public reproofs wound, mortify, and irritate, and call up a false shame—instead of producing the ingenuous emotions of that holy affection which has no tinge of anger's fiery red in its blush. It is in privacy, where none but God and conscience are present with ourselves and our brother, that we are likely to bring him to repentance. He can then have no suspicion that our object is to expose, rather than to reclaim him; or to display our own excellence, instead of removing his imperfections. Pride and vanity have frequently assumed the censor's chair, but no ambition of this kind can be suspected in him who chooses to have no witnesses of his holy and graceful reproofs.
But now let us turn from him who gives the reproof of holy and affectionate vigilance—to him who receives the reproof. Something profitable for instruction in reference to the latter may he found in "the path to the bush." How meekly did the child of the desert fall under the remonstrance of her friend; instead of resenting, as impertinently officious, this intrusion on her habits of secret fellowship with heaven; how promptly, and how wisely did she apply herself to profit by it! What a beautiful exemplification did she present by her conduct, of the words of the psalmist, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness—and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head."
It is not for me to determine which of the two is more easy, to administer reproof with wisdom affection and dignity; or to receive it with meekness gratitude and benefit—great grace is necessary for both. When delivered in a right spirit, and for proper ends, it is one of the most salutary and at the same time most self-denying acts of friendship, and demands to be considered and acknowledged as the very refinement of kindness. Through the deceitfulness of sin, aided by the treachery of the human heart, we are all in imminent danger of committing transgressions, the evil of which we may not see, and the guilt of which we may not feel—until they are disclosed to us by the voice of a friend. What a striking instance of this have we in the case of David, who, until the faithful voice of the prophet plainly said, "You are the man!" remained for months insensible of the guilt of murder and adultery! When the conscience is not tender, it allows us to do many things without rebuke, and needs to be awakened and instructed by the warnings of those around us—and if we have any concern, certainly if we have any deep concern respecting it, about our own spiritual welfare, we shall feel truly thankful to those who will so far concern themselves about us as to reprove us for our faults. The greatest favor anyone can do us, is to point out to us wherein we are doing wrong, or are neglecting to do what is right. And if there be one kindness which beyond all others ought to be received and acknowledged with ardent gratitude, it is this. Could we know the painful struggles which our reprover carried on in his own bosom with his amiable fears, before he brought up his courage to the purpose and the act of telling us our failings; could we have seen the palpitating heart and the hesitating step with which he came upon his errand of love; instead of receiving him with a frown, or allowing our pride to be wounded, our temper to be ruffled, and our lips to give utterance to the language of resentment, we should instantly convince him, by every demonstration which a friendly hand, a beaming eye, and a thankful tongue could give, that his generous kindness was not bestowed on one who was insensible of its value—and we should send him away with his richest reward, in the acknowledgment of our fault, and the promise of amendment. How great and good is that man, who in love and dignity can give rebuke; how much greater and better is he that can receive it in gratitude, and follow it with improvement! Our fallen, sunken nature rarely rises to a higher pitch of moral beauty than in such cases as these.
"This is a hard saying, who can bear it?" will be the reply of many. Various are the excuses which are alleged by different people for the difficulty they find in complying with this part of Christian duty, and for the uncourteous manner in which they have resisted it. "I could have borne it," says one, "but it was an inferior who inflicted it; and who likes to be humbled by one below him?" Is not reproof a kindness, and do we reject other favors at the hand of inferiors? "It was a person whose own failings rendered him unworthy and unfit to assume a superiority over me." Whatever may be his conduct in other things, admit his excellence in this one; and leaving his imperfections to himself, accept his attempts to do you good. "He has no good will towards me." You may have mistaken his intentions, and formed an erroneous opinion of his disposition. At any rate, in that act he has manifested a benevolence which you should not be backward to feel and to acknowledge. "He did not manage the reproof wisely." Perhaps not; but will it not be a still greater lack of wisdom in you, to refuse on this account the benefit of his vigilance? "He was too sharp and severe." Probably you are not the best judge of that—and if he were, do not lose the advantage of the medicine, because it was made unnecessarily nauseous, or was not administered with a tender hand. "His motives were not good." As you cannot search the heart, you may have mistaken his intentions, and imputed that to him which he would disclaim. Besides, you should never refuse good, even when it comes with an evil design, but should convert a malicious purpose into a beneficial result. It is both our wisdom and our duty to be so convinced of our imperfection, and at the same time to be so concerned for improvement, as to feel indebted to any and to everyone who will give himself the trouble of attempting to do us good.
If in the management of our health, or of our business, we were committing some great error, and a neighbor came to us unsolicited, to point out the error, and to warn us of its consequences; instead of being offended, and repelling him as an impertinent intruder, we would justly feel, and frankly express, our sense of deep obligation for his friendly warning. And are our souls of less value than our health or our property, that we should refuse the aid of Christian vigilance in promoting their welfare? Shall we allow the pride of our nature to operate to the prejudice and danger of our salvation? Shall we thank the man who would warn us of the danger of taking, or neglecting, an article of food; or giving, or withholding, our confidence in the transactions of business; and resent the still more friendly and important offices of him who interposes between us and the perils of our souls?
Why is it that, in the fellowship and fellowship of Christians, united as they are by the tie of the holiest bond in existence, the reproof of brotherly vigilance is so rarely given—but simply because in general it is so ill received? We are afraid to attempt it, even when prompted by the strongest affection, and conscious of the greatest delicacy and experience, lest we should excite animosity where we wish to produce improvement. What a reflection is it on the Christian church, and what a proof of the low state of its piety, that it should be so lacking in humility, as to deprive itself of the full benefit of mutual vigilance, and rather go on in evil, than be willing to have it removed by the voice of brotherly reproof.
Must we then go to converted Hottentots, Negroes, and South Sea Islanders—to witness the performance, and see the beauty of this Christian duty? And is it only in the countries where they live, that the grass growing in the path to the bush shall be noticed, and the fear which it excites shall be expressed in the language of affectionate inquiry and faithful warning? Shall there be more brotherly love, and more of its blessed fruits, among those who so lately were savages of the woods, and children of the desert; whose hearts have been the homes of such malignant passions, that their hands have been stained with each other's blood—than among us? Is theirs the soil where love, that heavenly exotic on earth, shall flourish in greatest vigor, beauty, and fragrance? Shall the Hottentot woman watch over her backsliding sister in Christ, with a more faithful and tender affection, than the polished matron of Europe or America? Shame upon us!
May the virtues of these tribes be invigorated in ourselves by observing the manner in which they are cultivated among them. By such facts as that which has given occasion for these reflections, may the effect referred to in the preface be realized, and a reflex power upon our own hearts be produced by our zeal for the salvation of the heathen. And among the fruits and the rewards of our liberality to them, may it be one that through the knowledge of their simple piety, a stimulus has been given to our own. May many of the readers of this tract be roused from a neglect of private prayer and brotherly kindness, by this interesting anecdote of "the path to the bush;" and be led to the great and only Saviour. "My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)