Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him
that liveth forever and ever, . . . that there should be
time no longer." So soon as that solemn oath shall have
been administered, the heavenly bodies will cease to re-
volve, the planetary system w r ill be dissolved, day and
night, seed-time and harvest, will no longer succeed each
other, and time will be lost in the boundless ocean of

The portion of time allotted to each human being, in
this world, is extremely limited: "For what is your life?
It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and


then vanishcth away." And yet the events arising out

of this short existence are of infinite moment to us.
Their effects will remain forever. The Psalmist exclaimed,
''Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth,
and mine age is as nothing before thee." Yet in this par-
ticle of time, which, in comparison of eternity, "is as
nothing," and in this only, may we prepare for a state of
endless being. About one-third of the period of life is
spent in sleep and needful recreation for health and com-
fort. A man who lives sixty years, passes about twenty
years in* a state of insensibility, and in receiving the daily
refreshments requisite to sustain his feeble nature. Much
time is consumed in journeying and resting, and much
more in useless ceremony, and light, commonplace con-
versation. No small proportion of time is wasted in the
pursuit of novelties, and feasting our eyes on vain curios-
ities. But to designate all the means employed in the
consumption of time, would be at once tedious and diffi-
cult. Consequently, the remnant of time left for useful
pursuits is comparatively small. How appropriate, then,
is the admonition of Solomon: "Whatsoever thy hand
findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work,
nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave
whither thou goest."

Time, in anticipation of any desired event, seems long;
but viewed in the past, it appears very short. It also
appears differently to young and aged people. A week
appears to be as long to an individual when youthful, as a
month does when he is far advanced in life. This fact,
which has the sanction of general experience, speaks vol-
umes respecting the value of time, and the importance of
improving it while we may. Yet under the influence of
restless anxiety respecting some future event, or the wast-
ing influence of discontent in general, time hangs heavily
on hand. Many who are thus affected resort to various


means of killing time, when they should be studying how
to improve it to the best advantage. A lost day can never
be recalled. Each precious moment, as it transpires,
is irrecoverably gone, and bears to eternity some good
or evil report of the use we have made of it. Instead of
contriving new schemes for wasting time, we should by all
possible means strive to redeem it for useful purposes.
To this end, we should be systematic and punctual in all
the duties of life. "He who lives not by rule, lives not
at all," said Wesley; that is, he lives to no valuable pur-
pose. By saving time enough to read a few chapters of
the Bible each day, we may read the whole of it in a
year, which would be of more real value to us than the
self-indulgence of a lifetime. If one-half of the time
which is spent in idle and unprofitable conversation were
devoted to secret prayer, it would add vastly to our felic-
ity in this life, and to our preparation for the life to come.
No one ever regretted, in a dying hour, that he had em-
ployed too much time in getting ready for that solemn
scene, but thousands have lamented to the last that they
had devoted so little time to the accomplishment of that
all-important object. When a life that has been chiefly
spent in the pursuit of folly is nearly exhausted, how
precious does lost time then appear! If it could possibly
be redeemed, no consideration would be thought too great
for the ransom. He who once sought how to kill time by
the hour, now pleads for it by the minute, but pleads in
vain. The ungrateful mortal who has wasted a lifetime
in sinning against his Maker, deserves not to have his pro-
bation extended. How gladly would he then recall the
hours sacrificed on the altar of sensual gratification, and
convert them into seasons of prayer, if it were possible:
but time with him is closing up, and he is just going
"where hope never comes," to render an account of him-
self to the Judge of all the earth. If a lost spirit could

I SB A 1 s . 73

enjoy one Christian Sabbath, with the privil ge of hearing

the Gospel, and its overtures for repentance, faith, and
salvation, as he often did in this world, who can imagine
the estimate he would place upon it? How, then, should
we, who live in a "day of merciful visitation," and in "a
time accepted," appreciate our privileges, and improve the
golden moments as they pass, remembering that, with us,
"the end of all things is at hand."


The things which now employ our thoughts and excite
our feelings, will soon pass away, and the most of them
will sink down into that insignificance which justly be-
longs to them. Amidst all the business and bustle of the
world, the clamor of political strife, the heated fumes of
popular elections, and the recriminations of intemperate
religious controversy, men almost forget that they are
mortal. But, in the mean time, a period is fast approach-
ing, in the history of our existence, when all these excit-
ing matters will avail us but little ; we mean the hour of
death, which will exhibit the world in its true colors as
"vanity and vexation of spirit." How many that are
figuring on the stage of life, will never see the accomplish-
ment of the plans which now enlist all the energies of
their minds ! Before the frosts of autumn shall arrest
the march of disease, they will go the way of all the
earth. The particular individuals are not to be now
designated ; but none are certainly exempted. No order
of talents or pursuit in life forms any barrier against the
king of terrors. Providence is not dependent on any man
to carry on his wise and powerful plans in Church or
state. It would be equally difficult to name the disease


by which they will be removed. Nor is this of much
importance ; the consequence in reference to our future
destiny is the same, whether we sink under lingering afflic-
tion, or are

" Broke by sickness in a day."

The change itself, from time to eternity, is a solemn
thing, apart from the immediate circumstances attending
it; but this consideration alone seems to exert too little
influence on the mind of man, and a wise, just, and mer-
ciful Providence sends his judgments abroad that the peo-
ple may learn righteousness. The words of Christ, "be
ye also ready," though always appropriate to sinners born
to die, seem to gather additional strength from circum-
stances for the last few years, and now again by the scenes
of mortality in our country. Apoplexies have been fre-
quent ; the work of cholera is short but sad ; its victims
lie down at night, unconscious of any special danger, and
are awaked by the attack of the mortal foe, to sleep no
more, except the sleep of death. Others rise in the morn-
ing to resume their daily employments, but are seized by
fatal disease, and, after a few hours of agony, which we
have often witnessed but can not describe, sink under the
cold grasp of death, before the shades of night come on.

Such a state of things, if nothing else, should teach
men to "consider their latter end," and examine the
ground-works of their hope for a better world. A state
of preparation for death implies much ; which, however,
is soon told. It presupposes a thorough conviction and
hearty repentance of sin; he who does not understand
this experimentally has not taken the first step in prepar-
ing to meet God. A second indispensable part of the
preparation is, a clear sense of the Divine favor received
through faith in the blood of Christ, accompanied by the
direct witness of the Holy Spirit. Third, the present
enjoyrnent of this evidence, to the exclusion of unbelief,


the dominion of sin, of all angry or bitter feelings, the
willful neglect of any known duty, and, in a word, what-
ever is contrary to the love of God and man. In such a
state of mind as this there is solid peace, which is not
broken by outward fightings or inward fears. The subject
of it is attended by the Divine presence wherever he goes.
When he retires at night to rest, it is with the testimony
of a good conscience; and when he rises in the morning,
he can say, "Thou art still with me." With him, "to
live is Christ, and to die is gain." But what peace ha\e
they who neglect these things? All they have for time
and eternity is in jeopardy every hour. They know not
at night that they will ever see another day, or in the
morning that they will see another night but the night of
death. Are they content to live as they list, die without
hope, and take a leap in the dark? We trust not. There
is mercy for them. Christ is ready to receive them, and
do it now: "This is the accepted time; behold, now is
the day of salvation!" To-morrow may be too late for-


" A man's pride shall bring him low," Proverbs xxrx, 23.

Inordinate self-esteem, haughtiness of spirit, and inso-
lent manners, constitute pride, and are sad proofs of the
fall of man. Of all the features of the carnal mind, pride
is one of the most prominent and unseemly. How con-
temptible all its subjects appear in the estimation of sober,
rational minds! And yet how generally this principle
exists in the, hearts of men, whether in high life, low
life, or the middle ranks of society. The ruler and sub-
ject, master and servant, rich and poor, scholar and


savage, nominal Christian and open infidel, all betray the
symptoms of this moral disease. Formal confession is
needless. The evidence appears in the look of self-
importance, the affected air, tone of voice, wag of the
head, and general movements of the individual who is
thus depraved. The case of such an individual excites
more pity than indignation, in the mind of a humble

But what has man to be proud of in his best estate?
Is it wealth? This is but trash for the fire to burn, the
moth to eat, the thief to steal, or the swindler to riot on.
Is it office? This was given to him, perhaps, by design-
ing men, who only wish to use him as a tool to accomplish
their own unrighteous designs, and which, at most, he can
enjoy but a short time. May be it is knowledge. If so, it
only argues that he is still ignorant of himself, of his own
weakness. If it be apparel, it is only borrowed. It was
worn before, by the stalk, silk-worm, or sheep. Should it
be his person, let him remember he is an animal, who
subsists here only for a short time on vegetables and the
flesh of other animals, by the humiliating process of diges-
tion ; that he is a mortal, liable to disease and death, des-
tined to the putrefaction of the grave. Or if he be proud
of his character in the world, the principle is the same;
while he feeds the flame of inordinate self-love, by fuel
gathered from the good opinion of his fellows ; yet, being
a proud man, he is but a criminal, already sentenced to
eternal infamy, and is on his way to execution: for "pride
goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a
fall." In proof of this, there are fearful examples in the
sacred records. King Nebuchadnezzar walked in his pal-
ace with a proud heart, and said, "Is not this great Bab-
ylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by
the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?
While the word was in the King's mouth, there fell a


voice from heaven saying, . . . The kingdom is departed
from thee. . . . The same hour was the thing fulfilled
upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and
did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew
of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers,
and his nails like birds' claws." His pride brought him

We will add one more example: "And upon a set day
Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and
made an oration unto them. And the people gave a
shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
And immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because
he gave not God the glory : and he was eaten of worms,
and gave up the ghost."

Surely these expressions of Divine indignation against
the proud of the earth, should induce men to humble
themselves under the mighty hand of God, while Jesus
pleads their cause, and the Holy Spirit strives with them,
lest, by persisting in their haughtiness, they fall to rise no
more forever.


Humility is freedom from pride ; modesty ; abasement.
It is of gracious origin; belongs not to our fallen nature,
but to "the new man," and is one of the fairest ornaments
in the Christian character. The children of God are
exhorted to put on "humbleness of mind," that it may
cover them as a garment. He who does this, will be ena-
bled not to "think of himself more highly than he ought
to think, but to think soberly."

He will not estimate himself below what he knows to
be the truth, much less abuse himself before his friends


beyond what he deserves; for this is voluntary humility,
and is mostly used by such as wish to give others an occa-
sion to speak in their praise ; whereas genuine humility is
modest, unassuming, not disposed to intrude its subject
into public notice unnecessarily.

Yet it does not supersede real, moral courage, or stand
in the way of duty. If a man possess knowledge, humil-
ity does not require him to profess ignorance, but to avoid
making pretensions that are uncalled for, or mere display.
If he be saved from sin, through faith in Christ, it does
not require him to profess present guilt, but to acknowledge
his dependence ; nor does it allow him to bury his talent
and destroy his usefulness, lest he be thought forward.

But all this is reconcilable to great self-abasement —
another part of humility — on account of our innate de-
pravity and consequent weakness — a sense of past unfaith-
fulness and present un worthiness. He who recollects his
sins with pleasure, though committed " ignorantly in
unbelief," before he professed conversion, has just cause
to doubt his change of heart; and he who can think
of his sins committed after such profession, and not
abhor himself and repent, as in dust and ashes, has good
reason to doubt his present safety. Even the joys of
religion do not remove a man's sense of his dependence
and unworthiness ; but they save him from despair, both
in reference to present acceptance and future felicity.

To sum all up in a few words, a humble man is neither
haughty nor mean, but modest and yet manly. He does
not blow the trumpet of his own fame or disgrace, but
fearlessly performs his duty with a proper sense of his
unworthiness and entire dependence on God. Such a
character will always secure respect from such as know
him. He may take the lower seat at the feast, but his
brethren will lead him to the highest one ; the less dis-
tinction he seeks, the more will be conferred upon him.


But, better than all this, the Lord of all pronounces him
blessed: "lie that humbleth himself shall be exalted,"
for "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the


The right of private property is not incompatible with
the sacred Scriptures, nor is there any wrong in efforts to
acquire wealth on proper principles, and from proper mo-
tives ; yet, unless he keep a single eye, there is much dan-
ger to the Christian, both in the pursuit and use of wealth.
While "the hand of the diligent maketh rich," let him
remember "riches profit not in the day of wrath." There-
fore, "if riches increase, set not your heart upon them."
Christ says, "A rich man shall hardly enter into the
kingdom of heaven" — meaning, it is with difficulty he
can be saved. But no one who does his duty as a Chris-
tian, will be cumbered with much Avealth. Whatever he
has more than sufficient to render himself, his family, and
those immediately dependent on him comfortable, together
with what he needs to keep up their support by carrying
on a reasonable share of business, he is bound to give for
the support of piety and benevolence. Those who feel
any interest in this subject, as it is connected with their
soul's salvation, are referred to Mr. Wesley's sermon on
the right use of money, in which he reduces all to these
simple rules : Gain all you can, save all you can, and give
all you can. If these rules were observed by all, none
would suffer for the substantiate of life. It is probable
our heavenly Father has provided just enough of tempo-
ral blessings to meet the real wants of his creatures,
laking the world at large. To say he has provided less,


would impeach his mercy; to say he had provided more,
would be a poor compliment on his wisdom. And the
general distribution of these blessings by his providence,
among the nations of the earth, when every thing is taken
into the account, will be found nearly equal. But there
is a more special distribution of these things committed to
us, who. as stewards of our Lord's goods, will have to
give an account of the use or abuse of them. JSTow, a
failure to use the blessings of heaven, as required by
Gospel rules, is what produces the extremes of intemper-
ate feasting on one hand, and starvation on the other.
Some have not enough, because others have too much.
Some have nothing, because others have a superabund-
ance. If the rich man, who was clothed in purple and
fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, had divided
his income liberally with the beggar which lay at his gate
among the dogs of his flock, half clothed with rags, and
desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from his
table, would there not have been enough to relieve the
reasonable wants of both ? Let those among us who roll
in affluence and revel in luxury, think of the hungry
orphan who cries for bread, the discouraged widow who
has no income, no employment, and sits weeping over the
forlorn prospects of her helpless children; let them re-
member the afflicted poor, destitute of medicine, nourish-
ment, and fuel, without a cent of money, or a kind friend
to whom they dare make known their wants. He that
giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord, with whom the
principal is safe, and the interest certain.



All men are, in some degree, capable of happiness.
All desire and pursue it in some form or other. None
obtain it unmixed in this life ; and but few enjoy it to any-
great extent. Yet some enjoy it more than others. These
propositions are so obviously true, that it would be lost
labor to attempt any proof of them. But the admission
of the last, that some men enjoy more felicity than others,
would seem to justify an inquiry as to those circumstances
in life which are the most favorable to that desirable
object. On this subject I will venture a few thoughts in
reference to the following points : Property, residence,
intellect, employment, and future prospects.

As regards property, he enjoys most contentment, who,
like Agur, has "neither poverty nor riches." Extreme
indigence renders a man too dependent, and much wealth
brings too many cares ; while a medium condition is meas-
urably relieved from both.

Residence. An extreme frontier, with all its hardships
and privations, is not a comfortable home to most people.
A crowded city, with its plagues, its confusion, and moral
pollution, is equally uncomfortable. They are both ex-
tremes not to be desired. A good country neighborhood,
or neat village, while it is free from the objections above
named, affords all necessary comforts and conveniences,
and is the more desirable place to those whose circumstan-
ces and business allow them to make a choice.

Intellect. If one whose intellectual powers are very
limited, enjoys but little rational pleasure, he has, at least,
this consolation : he cares for but little, and has but little
to answer for. A master spirit, or mind, of the very first
order, need not be envied by those less distinguished.


His responsibility, in exact proportion to his strength, is
sufficiently fearful to mar his peace. But being always
overrated, it is impossible to meet the expectation of all ;
and he suffers mortification because of the disappointment
of friends and clamor of enemies. A man whose ability
is just sufficient for practical usefulness in his profession,
or calling, without any attractive brilliancy, suffers less
mortification and enjoys more real satisfaction, than one
much distinguished by the splendor of his talents. For
though the latter may occasionally receive great applause,
this only prepares him for greater chagrin when he makes
the next failure in an attempt at popular display.

Employment. Men do not receive any increase of hap-
piness from being placed on prominent ground and ex-
posed to public scrutiny : on the contrary, if they possess
due sensibility, it greatly disturbs their repose. You may
pity the slave of the planter, and envy the man put in
high authority, but they are both slaves, with this differ-
ence : one is subject to the caprice of a single master,
while the other has to please, or incur the censure of
many masters, of various opinions and conflicting interest.
Nothing but a sense of duty, or a desire of doing good,
can reconcile any sensible man of experience to accept
any office, either in Church or state, if he consult his own
personal enjoyment. If any seek promotion at the ex-
pense of domestic happiness, for the "loaves and fishes,"
they pay dearly for them. So far as employment is con-
cerned, those men are the most happy who live privately on
the fruit of their own labor. Farmers and mechanics need
not envy cardinals or demagogues, kings or conquerors.

Future prospects. — Much of our present enjoyment
depends on our future prospects. Present possessions,
held in uncertainty, or with the expectation of losing them
in a short time, afford but little satisfaction. Hence,
though a man may have wealth, a comfortable home,


popular talents, and honorable employment, yet, if these
be held in unrighteousness, without a reasonable expect-
ation of future bliss, they suffice him not. One thought
of eternity destroys all his comfort. Whatever a man
may be otherwise, if he is a sinner against God, he carries
a hell in his own heart, and shudders at the thought of a
general judgment, when he allows himself to think at all.
But if a man possess heart-felt religion, it not only sweet-
ens all the pleasures of this life, but assures him of future
bliss. With the love of God shed abroad in his heart, he
has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that
which is to come." Without this, nothing can make him
truly happy; with it, nothing can make him really


Contentment is a virtue, the value of which may be
inferred, both from the felicity it affords, and the misery
that ensues from the want of it.

Happiness does not consist so much in outward things,
as in the state of the mind. To be contented is to be
happy. "A contented mind is a continual feast." And
this may be enjoyed under every variety of outward cir-
cumstances, provided the heart is right.

But restless discontent is characteristic of our fallen
nature. Most of the human family are dissatisfied with
their earthly allotment, with their location, their calling,
and their respective circumstances. Every relation in
life, every position in society, has its own peculiar diffi-
culties. Each individual seems to imagine that his is the
hardest case. All that can be truly inferred from this,
however, is that he knows more of his own, and less of


his neighbor's difficulties. Hence, the world is full of
complaints. They come from high places and low places,
from public life and from private life — all indicating a
destitution of contentment.

But from this extreme of restlessness, some are re-
moved to the other — of stoical indifference. They mani-
fest a listless indifference to all the events of life, right or
wrong, pleasant or unpleasant. Evils are coming, dangers
are threatening, poverty and real suffering are staring

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 6 of 30)