Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

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

. (page 8 of 30)
Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 8 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

esteemed, by many, a very zealous preacher; because he
has a strong voice, a fluency of words, much native ani-
mation as a speaker, gets his feelings enlisted, and drives
on like a raging storm that soon spends its fury, and is
followed by a great calm.

The same distinction is apparent among private Chris-
tians. One is punctual to every duty, whether in the
closet, family, class-room, or public worship. He is
active to promote the benevolent enterprises of the
Church by giving largely of his substance, and faithful
to his neighbors, striving to lead them to Christ by pious
example and holy conversation; yet he has no zeal, in
the opinion of some, because he can not sing and pray as
loud as others. But another member, who neglects all
these, to a great extent, is thought to be very zealous,
because he has a loud, shrill voice, and sings and prays
with all his bodily strength.

We must not be understood as objecting at all to every
man using his own proper gift, and adopting his own
peculiar manner of using it, whether vehement or moder-
ate ; but at the same time we think to judge of a man's
zeal, which is the thing under consideration, his whole
course, and the whole amount of his exertion, according
to his strength and ability, must be taken into the account.
These thoughts have been suggested by much observation
for many years on the movements of religious people ; and
though they are not intended to be applied to any partic-
ular individual, or individuals, we hope they may encour-
age some whose zeal is not sufficiently commended, and
assist some reader to form a charitable judgment in the


case. For a full and satisfactory explanation of the
whole subject, we would refer the reader to Mr. Wesley's
sermon on the nature and properties of true Christian
zeal, second volume of his standard works.

The social virtues often appear most lovely when viewed
in contrast with their opposite vices. Both have their living
examples. A man of misanthropic spirit may be strictly
moral in his general deportment, and scrupulously honest
in all his dealings ; but the principle of his action is not
benignity ; it is selfishness. Philanthropy has no place in
his heart. Like the snail in his contracted shell, he lives
to himself, caring nothing for the happiness of others.
But the benevolent man is influenced by a habitual feeling
of good-will to his fellows, one which is indicated by gen-
tleness of manner and tenderness of expression in all his
intercourse with society, as well as by the free bestowment
of charity where it is needed. It is not difficult to deter-
mine which of the two is more happy. A morose man
is miserable in himself, and renders all about him un-
happy, by his sullenness and selfishness ; while the truly-
benevolent individual enjoys felicity himself, and imparts
the same to those around him, by breathing a spirit of
cheerfulness and accommodation. One possesses so little
confidence in his fellow-creatures, that he regards every
man with suspicion till he proves himself worthy; the
other allows every one to be innocent till he is proved
guilty. And each of these opposite characters forms his
estimate of others by the confidence he has in himself.
Thus benevolence insures its own reward, and selfishness
its own punishment. The former draws around itself the


generous and good; the latter repels them, and seeks the
misery it deserves. One is the offspring of heaven, and
the other of sin.

Benevolence leads its possessor to imitate the Savior of
the world, who "went about doing good" to the souls and
bodies of men. It renders him more careful to learn the
wants and miseries of human beings, than to ascertain the
nation, sect, or party to which they pertain. He who is
blessed with a benevolent heart, delights to direct the
lonely stranger on his way, to supply the ignorant with
the means of enlightenment, to encourage the poor in
their honest endeavors to acquire a living, and the unfor-
tunate in the pursuit of happiness. How joyfully he
leads the unprotected orphan to the asylum of safety,
points the inquiring youth to the fountain of knowledge,
or administers a word of consolation to the broken-
hearted! When the incautious and the simple-hearted
are about to be insnared in the meshes of vice, or drawn
into the vortex of dissipation, how promptly he warns
them of their danger! Like Job, he can say, "Because
I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and
him that had none to help him, the blessing of him that
was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the wid-
ow's heart to sing for joy." Show him a fellow-mortal
suffering with hunger, and he is ready to divide with
him his last loaf of bread. When told of any that are
afflicted, and in need of aid, how he hastens to their
relief! Point out to him a human being borne down by
sickness and poverty, and he waits not to inquire whether
the suffering individual be Jew or Christian, Turk or
Pagan, much less whether he be orthodox or otherwise.
So far as the exercise of benevolence to the unfortunate is
concerned, he regards every man as his brother. While
some would seek excuse for withholding aid and comfort
on the score of demerit, he only needs to know that the

100 M1SOELLA N V •

sufferer is now destitute and afflicted, and he is ever ready
to relieve him to the extent of his ability. Many worthy
persons have been left in a state of entire destitution, and
others may be. But suppose the sufferer to have brought
his misery upon himself, still, the voice of inspiration pro-
claims, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst,
give him drink." How much more should we regard the
cries of a suffering neighbor, or disconsolate stranger,
that never offended us in word or deed ! While 'the man
of wealth enjoys his comfortable habitation, his cheerful
fireside, and his well-furnished table, some of his worthy,
but unfortunate neighbors, may be exposed to the winter's
storm, howling round and driving through their frail ten-
ements, shivering with cold, pinched with hunger, and
wasting with despair. And why does he not fly as an
angel of mercy to their rescue? Because benevolence
and he are strangers to each other. Give him a heart
imbued with that spirit of love, and he sleeps not till they
are warmed and fed.

Inducements to the practice of benevolence are numer-
ous and potent. None of us are fully assured that we
shall never need the charity we now withhold from others ;
for no one knows to what extremities he may be reduced
by reverse of fortune. "Therefore, all things whatsoever
ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to
them; for this is the law and the prophets." No man is
independent of this golden rule. Should we desire relief,
if reduced to extreme poverty by adversity and protracted
indisposition? Then let us extend it to others. And let
no one suppose that he is loser by bestowing a portion of
his wealth upon the Lord's poor — the very purpose, in
part, for which it was placed in his hands. "He tha(
hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord ; and thai
which he hath given will he pay him again." Other in-
vestments may fail ; but all deposits made in the bank of


Leaven are both safe and productive; "for God is not
unrighteous, to forget your work and labor of love."
Another inducement to practice benevolence is, the happi-
ness derived therefrom. While the obliged beneficiary
enjoys pleasure, arising from the exercise of contentment
and gratitude, in having his wants supplied, let it be
remembered, that the giver has still higher enjoyment,
from a conscious discharge of duty, in relieving the dis-
tressed. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Who would deprive himself of such felicity, by holding
on, with a miser's grasp, to the gold that perishes ? and,
what is still worse, subject himself to the fearful judg-
ment, "Depart from me ; ... for I was an hungered,
and ye gave me no meat," etc.? Again: the exercise of
benevolence is encouraged by an offered mansion in
heaven. "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of
unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you
into everlasting habitations." When Washington, after
successfully leading an army of patriot soldiers to con-
quest and American independence, returned from the con-
flict, covered with honors, and appeared among his grate-
ful countrymen, with what enthusiastic delight they
received him ! But when the benevolent Christian, hav-
ing so used his wealth as to secure the love and gratitude
of the pious poor, dies and goes where they have gone,
with how much more delight will they hail him welcome
into mansions of heavenly bliss! The greetings of those
redeemed spirits on the shore of endless life will surely be
a full reward for feeding and clothing them on their jour-
ney thither




Selfishness is generally understood to mean, the exclu-
sive regard of a person to his own interest or happiness.
It originates in the depravity of our fallen nature, is nur-
tured by mistaken views of our own personal importance,
and produces much evil in the world. When an individual
abandons himself to the full operation of this inhuman
principle, he reminds those around him of a surly mastiff
that gnaws his bone and growls, lest another should get a
taste. Selfishness is not a stranger, or new-comer among
us. It is an old acquaintance in every land, and a busy-
body in nearly all communities, and thus renders itself as
common as it is contemptible. This pest of society fre-
quently creeps into a public coach, and is always con-
tending for the best seat, to the annoyance of the com-
pany. It is often seen in the crowded steamboat, pushing
and clamoring for the choice berths, scrambling for a
prominent chair at the first table, and quarreling with the
steward, unless waited on to the neglect of all other pas-
sengers. In no place, however, does selfishness render
itself more prominent than on the highway, where an
observing traveler may read, with tolerable certainty, the
disposition and general character of all he meets. Every
liberal, high-minded gentleman, in all possible cases, will
give at least half of the road, while every selfish, unprin-
cipled man drives right in the middle of the track, and
compels you to turn off, without any regard to your con-
venience or safety. Having long observed the practical
working of this rule, I am persuaded it may, in general,
be relied on as correct.

Again : how common is selfishness among business men
in the various departments of mechanism and commerce 1


They too generally seem determined to promote self-
interest, whatever may become of their neighbors. The
maxim, "Every man for himself," governs the many;
while the maxim, "Live and let live," governs the few.
With the former class, the temporal prosperity of a fortu-
nate neighbor occasions envy and regret ; with the latter,
it occasions respect and gratulation. One class of traders,
who deal in intoxicating liquors, are so much under the
influence of selfishness, as to deal out poison to the vicious
for gain, without any concern for the health, morals, lives,
or families of their customers. Some deal it by the barrel
for bank notes, and others by the dram for coppers ; thus
inflicting human misery, wholesale and retail, for "filthy
lucre." And does not selfishness have something to do
with the principles and movements of professional men,
at least some of them ? Are there not lawyers that en-
courage strife and litigation among the people for the sake
of getting a fee ? Would not one school, or class of phy-
sicians, if in their power, monopolize the practice, and
drive all others out of the land ? But, unfortunately for
the accomplishment of their object, the people have a
right to make their own selection. Do politicians, in gen-
eral, legislate for the country at large, or for the advance-
ment of party interests? And when demagogues clamor
for office, is the design to serve the "dear people," or to
serve their own personal aggrandizement? That is the
question, and it is easily answered.

It is doubtful whether all Churches, even, are free from
the debasing principle of selfishness. It would seem that
some of them, not content with laboring to build up their
own cause by fair means, seek to do it foully, by endeav-
oring to pull down others. Ay, and some who are called
ministers of the Gospel of peace, unable or unwilling to
multiply hearers and converts by their own efforts, or the
Divine blessing upon them, endeavor to do it by secretly


proselyting those of their more successful neighbors. This
is ungenerous and inglorious. I have long believed that
deliberate, underhanded proselyting from one Church to
another, is very near akin to sheep-stealing. If it do not
fix upon a minister the charge of felony, it does, at least,
show him to be selfish. No such proceedings, on the part
of any Church, or its minister, will ever secure a healthy
tone of action, or a permanent state of religious prosper-
ity. We may not do evil that good may come. Paul
said, "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our con-
science, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with
fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our
conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-
ward," 2 Cor. i, 12. And it would be a fortunate circum-
stance for society in general, and the Church of Christ
especially, if we could all say the same thing.

The rules and regulations of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, if fully carried out, would go far toward coun-
teracting selfishness, both in the ministry and membership.
Methodist itinerancy, especially, is a self-sacrificing sys-
tem, bearing alike upon the pastors and their flocks. The
former engage not to choose their own fields of labor, and
the latter not to choose their own pastors; but all agree
to abide a regular interchange, according to the best judg-
ment of the appointing power, under the prescribed rules
and limitations enacted by the General conference. Every
traveling minister, previous to his admission into full con-
nection, consents to, and promises to keep the following,
commonly known as the twelfth rule: "Act in all things
not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel.
As such, it is your duty to employ your time in the man-
ner in which we direct; in preaching, and visiting from
house to house; in reading, meditation, and prayer.
Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord's vineyard, it
is needful you should do that part of the work which we


advise, at those times and places which we judge most
for his glory." This rule being read or referred to, the
candidate is asked if he has considered it, and whether he
will keep it for conscience' sake; and an affirmative answer
is one condition of his being received into full connection
and elected to orders. This solemn pledge is given in
presence of the conference about to receive him as a fel-
low-laborer. Most of the brethren throughout the con-
nection, or union of conferences, sacredly keep this prom-
ise, and find it not grievous, but joyous. And if there be
no selfishness at work among us to blind the mind, vail
the heart, and impair the memory, how could any breth-
ren, in view of this pledge, and their own professed creed,
reconcile it to their conscience to maneuver for popular
appointments? And a response, as if echoed from the
tombs of our fathers, asks, How? On the other hand,
the members of the Church, by assenting to the rules and
promising to keep them, as one condition of being received
into full membership, engage to receive and support the
ministers regularly appointed to serve them as pastors
from year to year. Consequently, when the brethren of
any circuit or station reject the regular appointee from
conference, they inflict an injury upon the rejected minis-
ter, violate their own rules, evince a revolutionary spirit,
and seriously injure themselves in the estimation of their
brethren, both of the ministry and membership. I am
fully persuaded, however, that the people, as such, seldom
or never do reject their ministers; but it is occasionally
done by a few would-be-thought leading spirits, that not
only do their own thinking, but modestly assume to think
for all the rest. Those few brethren, in their own estima-
tion, are the Church, the people, and two or three such
ofien claim to speak for three, five, or seven hundred
Church members and their friends that worship with them.
In some cases they do this wholly unauthorized by any


part of the Church ; in other cases they profess to act as
a committee appointed by the stewards, or trustees, or
both jointly. Well, suppose they are appointed thus,
where do stewards and trustees obtain any authority to
think, feel, and act for three, five, or seven hundred
Church members respecting their choice of a pastor?
The membership, generally, wish to have ministers qual-
ified to build up the Church, and get their neighbors con-
verted, while stewards and trustees do not object to this,
it is true; but often feel most concerned about the money;
they want a minister that can raise the money, or, in other
words, do his own work and theirs too. Thus the few
that interfere with the difficult and responsible duties of
the appointing power, more frequently mistake, and, there-
fore, misrepresent, the real wishes of the people generally,
than otherwise. And it sometimes happens, that the few,
failing to get their, man, and disappointed in regard to
their own purposes, raise a cry in opposition to the regular
appointee from conference, get a few others to join with
them, drive off the minister, and then make ' scape-goats
of the people to carry their sins away, saying the people
would not receive him. It is a mistake. The people
know their own wants and preferences, but are generally
well satisfied with our system of supplying them, untram-
meled by committees ; and, if left to their own course, the
people would give little or no trouble on the subject.
Moreover, I have good reason to believe that the people
are very tired, in many places, of having their pastors
nominated by committees, whether self-appointed, or ap-
pointed by a minority to act for the majority. It is an
innovation on Methodist rules and regulations, one that
originated in, and tends to selfishness, and in its effects
decidedly hurtful to the common cause of Methodism.
So I believe, and, therefore, have written.



How cold-hearted is the charity of the world compared
with that of the Gospel! He that confers a favor with
the expectation of its being returned, or loves his friend
because he is amiable and obliging, only acts on the prin-
ciple of the ancient publicans, who were viewed as being
among the greatest of sinners. Hence, Christ said to his
disciples, "If ye love them which love you, what reward
have you? do not even the publicans so?" Yes, verily,
and so do the most irreligious of the present day. If we
love a friend and hate an enemy, we come up to the
standard of morals erected by the wisdom of the world,
but afford demonstrative proof that we are not true disci-
ples of Jesus Christ. He said, "Ye have heard that it
hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate
thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies,
bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and perse-
cute you." This precept of the Savior shames all the
boasted but meager systems of morality invented by man,
and forms as great a contrast with the wisdom of the
world, as noon does with night. It is worthy of its
divine Author, "who loved us, and gave himself for us,"
not as affectionate children, faithful friends, loyal subjects,
or profitable servants, but as enemies, as rebels ; for " God
commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us."

This commandment also affords one of the best rules
by which to prove the genuineness of our claim to the
Christian character; which may be applied thus: Hast
thou an enemy? Then, as a disciple of Jesus, thou
shouldst love, bless, and pray for him. "But he is a bad


man." So much the more does he need thy sympathy
and prayers, lest a soul perish for whom Jesus died.
" But he has done me wrong." If so, thou art bound to
forgive him, so soon as he repents. "But I can not for-
give him ; he has acted so cruelly toward me." Then thou
canst not be forgiven of thy heavenly Father ; for Christ
said, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will
your Father forgive your trespasses." These are hard
savings to an unregenerate mind; but to an individual
whose heart is full of love to God, from a sense of pardon
and adoption, they are not grievous. He can forgive, as
he has been forgiven. The difference between the natural
and the renewed man is this: The former hates his
enemy, and seeks his injury ; the latter loves his enemy,
and prays for him. In performing this duty, he promotes
his own felicity. Speaking against an enemy injures him,
and inflames the worst passions of our hearts. Praying
for him may do him good, and will certainly help us, by
cultivating kindness, forbearance, and an ardent desire for
his salvation, with which our own happiness, as Christians,
is closely identified. Speaking evil of men, even when
we confine ourselves to the truth, is wrong, and seldom
fails to do mischief; but praying for them is always right,
and never fails to do good either to them or to us, and
generally to both.

This doctrine, however, does not require us to approve
the conduct of bad men, which would place virtue and
vice on a level; but it does require us to bear with them.
While God bears with men, why should not we ? Should
we desire to take the rod out of his hand? No: "Ven-
geance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." We may
hate sin, but we must love and pray for the sinner still,
not forgetting that we too have sinned, and that Jesus
"died for all." The Gospel allows us to esteem some
men more highly than others, because they are better,


and to select these for our associates and helpers in a life
of piety; but not to hate or injure any. Though God
exercises the love of complacency to none but good men,
he extends his love of pity to all. In this we should imi-
tate him. Is there a human being, however vile, wicked,
or degraded, or malicious toward me, against whom I
entertain a malignant feeling, or to whom I wish any evil?
Then all is not right. "He that saith he is in the li^ht,
and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now."
Religion is love, and "love worketh no ill to his nei^h-
bor," but seeks to glorify God in the salvation of all men,
and can not be indifferent to the wants of the poor or
cries of the distressed.


This is one of the plain duties of practical religion,
which no Christian can entirely dispense with and remain
guiltless, unless he be prevented by disability in himself.
It belongs to that class of charitable works which are
inseparable from true piety. "Pure religion, and unde-
fined before God and our Father, is this" — or it discovers
itself in this — "To visit the fatherless and widows in their
affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
This duty is also classed with the fruits of faith, and is
one of the evidences by which the genuineness of it will
be determined at the last day, when the Judge shall say,
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world : for I
was . . . sick, and ye visited me;" or, "Depart from me,
ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and
his angels: for I was . . . sick, and in prison, and ye
visited me not."



The object of visiting the sick is to afford relief to the
bodies, and administer comfort to the souls of the afflicted.
Keeping these points in view, on hearing that } T our neigh-
bor is ill, go immediately and inquire if he needs any-
thing you can obtain for him, or any service you can
render. And recollect your business is not to pay him
a compliment, but to do him good. Therefore, decline
no necessary service, or office of kindness, calculated to
relieve or soothe the sufferer. If you only make a formal
call, without affording any aid, it puts the family to the

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 8 of 30)