Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

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

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additional trouble of waiting on you, perhaps to the neg-
lect of the patient, without receiving any benefit; and
you had better stay away altogether than to make such a
visit. If you have any reason to believe you can do any
kindness to the sick, go and make the effort ; and if they
need nothing, still the interest you manifest will be grate-
ful to them ; and a good conscience will attend you on
leaving the place, especially if you aim to improve the
occasion to their spiritual edification. Do you object, "I
know not that my sick neighbor needs me?" Go and
ascertain the fact. If he has need, attend him; if not,
you will feel clear of the sin of omission. "But the
apostle saith, 'Is any sick among you? let him call for
the elders of the Church ;' and I have not been sent for."
That respects the sick man's duty, not yours. The duty
of visiting the sick is positive, and not on condition of
being sent for ; though this would increase the obligation
by affording evidence that your service is necessary.
"But I am so busy." Would this excuse from your
friend be satisfactory to yourself, if in a suffering or
dying condition? If not, dismiss it at once. "But it
is a cross to go." Then take it up, and expect a blessing
to follow.

The manner of performing this duty is important, and
calls for the exercise of much prudence and firmness.


Go to the sick-room in the name of the Lord, and in all
practicable cases, after specially asking his direction and
blessing in private. When there, be serious, but cheer-
ful ; kind, but not loquacious ; for it is distressing to most
patients, distracting to some, and injurious to all who are
very feeble, or very ill. Encourage, but do not natter or
deceive; be earnest, but not boisterous; it is wholly un-
suitable for the chamber of affliction. If you converse,
read, sing, or pray, be short, and to the point in hand;
and let all your efforts be in favor of directing the sufferer
to Christ, as a strong-hold in the day of trouble, and to
trust in Him alone for all he needs here, or expects here-
after. As to the time of performing this duty: go, if
possible, when you are most needed, and when there is
the least company. Those who attend the sick only on
the Sabbath, because they are at leisure, and have on
cheir best apparel, act an ungenerous part; they stand
*tloof when needed, and then throng the room as idle vis-
itors, doing much more harm than good. Too much
company about the sick is far worse than too little.

Let it not be supposed that this duty belongs exclu-
sively to ministers. All who have the ability to relieve,
serve, or comfort the afflicted, should engage therein. It
is true, ministers should abound therein as a part of their
jfficial duty; but so should Church members as one of
,heir Christian duties. Females are eminently qualified
'or this duty. Their refined sensibility, gentleness of
nanner, experience in nursing, readiness to alleviate, and
:heir untiring attention amidst scenes of woe, make them
the most valuable vigils of the sick-room. Yet their serv-
ices do not supersede those of our own sex. Each one
must render an account to God for himself respecting this
duty. And that we may do it with joy, we should go to
all whom we have any hope of benefiting, as far as prac-
ticable ; but especially to the poor, for they need our


services most. Christ has left them among us as his rep-
resentatives, and any kindness bestowed upon the pious,
afflicted poor, will be acknowledged by him as though
conferred on himself: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it
unto me." What stronger inducement could be offered ;
what greater reward could be given for the performance
of any duty, than such a sentence from the Judge of all
the earth ?


It is a question of some importance, whether the ob-
servance of this festive day does more good or harm, and
consequently whether or not it should be perpetuated,
under the sanction of Christian example. The origin of
this festival, in reference to time, is doubtful, as the sacred
Scriptures are silent on the subject. History, according
to some authors, places it in the second, but according to
others, in the third century. All seem to be agreed that
it was observed before the days of Constantine. That it
was well meant by those who first brought the usage into
the Church of celebrating the birth of Christ, there is no
good reason to doubt; but it might now, perhaps, be
placed among the traditions of the elders, which, in their
practical tendency, are calculated to make the command-
ments of God of none effect.

It is true that Christmas, considered apart from the
dissipation now associated with it, is calculated to call up
before the mind truths the most momentous, and mercies
the most stupendous ; and it might be rendered profitable
by appropriate religious exercise and suitable expressions
of gratitude to God, and love to each other as the subjects


of his grace ; but how strangely it is perverted by most
people to purposes of sin and folly ! It is an occasion on
which very many take even unusual liberties for self-indul-
gence and sinful associations.

Hence, not a few, who at other times appear to be
rational, sober, discreet, are known, during this festival, to
give or attend Christmas wine-parties, Christmas balls,
Christmas amusements, games at cards, Christmas horse-
races, or shooting-matches, where all spirits are sufficiently
enlivened by the presence of "King Alcohol." Boys are
induced by such examples to assemble for sport and mis-
chief, to the great annoyance of civil people; and while
they are flourishing about with their crackers, pistols, and
gunpowder plots, some who, at least, think themselves
men, are employed alternately in gambling, drunkenness,
blasphemy, vulgarity, personal insult, and "smiting with
the fist of wickedness." The inconsistency of such con-
duct is surpassed only by that of the apology which is
rendered for it; namely, it is Christmas — the anniversary
of the advent of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the
world. Indeed ! And is it suitable to celebrate such an
event by increased wickedness and rebellion in all their
forms? Awful will be the account which such enemies
of Christ must render, when he shall appear to judge the

This will be a high day in several respects. It will be
variously regarded by different classes of society, but in
all cases for the same reason. Those whose practices lead
to opposite extremes, will still refer to the same circum-
stance for an explanation of their conduct. Though it
is not Sabbath, congregations will appear in temples of
worship, ministers will preach on the birth of Christ, and
Christians will sing of his advent, and pray for the exten-
sion of his kingdom on earth, because it is Christmas.
Friends and relations will pay visits, feast, and send


portions — not to the suffering poor, but — to those alike
prosperous with themselves, because it is Christmas. Old
grandfathers and grandmothers will pass round the snuff-
box and the pipe, and talk over the scenes of olden times,
because it is Christmas. Little children will appear abroad
in their best apparel, oft repeating to their friends the ac-
customed salute, "A Christmas gift," to secure the repast
of nuts, fruits, and ginger-cakes, because it is Christmas.
Students, apprentices, and servants, will have holiday, and
"lots of fun," because it is Christmas. Rude boys will
fling their crackers as thick as lightning bugs on a sum-
mer's evening, and with many mischievous consequences;
they will collect in large groups, swear like sailors, scream
like drunken savages, and fight like dogs, because it is
Christmas. Young people will have their tea-parties,
dancing-parties, and much foolish hilarity, because it is
Christmas. Many statesmen will go from the halls of
legislation to their wine-parties, and engage in the folly
and dissipation of high life, because it is Christmas.
"While those of low life, in imitation of their pernicious
customs — though at other times sober men — will drink,
carouse, quarrel, and fight, because it is Christmas. Prod-
igals, sportsmen, drunkards, gamblers, pickpockets, and
libertines of all sorts, will have a high time of it, because
it is Christmas. After the day is past, the truly pious will
remember with pleasure their acts of devotion and works
of benevolence performed on Christmas. While all the
workers of iniquity, who set apart this day to the service
of the devil, and the destruction of their own souls, v> ill
wipe their mouths and say, "It was no harm, because it
was done on Christmas/" But if they die without repent-
ance, God will "rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and a
horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup,"
for the sins which they have committed on Christmas.
Such abuses render it very doubtful with some, whether

E S S A Y S . 115

Christians ought to encourage the perpetuation of a fes-
tive day, instituted only by human wisdom and authority ;
for they think it is very questionable whether it does not
afford more facilities to the enemies than to the friends of
Christ; whether it does not contribute more to the works
of darkness than those of righteousness. But if it must
be observed, at least, by professors of religion, let it be
done suitably. While the children of the world are col-
lecting their forces to extend the reign of darkness, the
children of God should record, with songs of gratitude,
his tender mercies, and pray for the universal spread of
that kingdom which is not of this world.


This is a suitable time to reflect a little on the past, the
future, and the present.

The past year, like all the preceding ones of our lives,
brought us a variety of pleasant and unpleasant things;
but upon the whole, a vast amount of obligation to be
thankful and obedient to our heavenly Father. While
foreign lands have been blighted by famine, or threatened
with blood and revolution, ours has been favored with
general peace, and great plenty; and while the night of
heathenism still covers its millions of our race, the light
of Christianity shines on us, though a guilty nation, ac-
companied with the blessings of civil and religious liberty.
Such are our national blessings; and those distributed
among us and our families, have been without number.
Amidst scenes of affliction, sorrow, and death, our lives
and health, as individuals, have been preserved. Many
strangers, some acquaintances, and a few friends, have


fallen around each of us ; but we still live, the witnesses
of grace, possessed of opportunities to do good and receive
good, preparatory to our final reckoning. All these bless-
ings are received from above, and flow to us unworthy-
creatures through the mediation, advocacy, and interces-
sion of our Lord Jesus Chiist.

The future is covered with awful uncertainty. "Boast
not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a
day may bring forth." Much less do we know what a
year will disclose. But what has been, will, substantially,
be again; and, judging of the future from the past, we
may safely conclude that the toils, cares, recreations,
pleasures, joys, griefs, gains, losses, revivals, and declen-
sions of this will be very similar to those of other years ;
but the subjects of them will be continually changing, as
fast as millions of births and deaths are recorded. One
serious thought is, we shall not all live to witness these
things. Nothing is more certain than that some of those
we know will die before next year, and nothing is more
uncertain than who they will be. The writer and reader
of this article may be among them ; yea, some now famil-
iar with these pages, doubtless, will be numbered with the
dead this year. Let each one, therefore, inquire, as the
disciples of Christ did in another case, "Lord, is it I?
Lord, is it I?" that must go so soon? It may be thou art
the man, the woman. What, then, is thy prospect beyond
the grave ? Suppose the summons should come for that
young man who is pursuing the road to worldly fame,
reckless of the future ; or that young lady whose heart is
alive only to the things which perish, and who never yet
prayed sincerely to God; suppose the messenger should
come for the middle-aged man, so cumbered with much
serving that God is not in all his thoughts ; the irreligious
one that has grown gray in the service of Satan ; or a
cold-hearted, backslidden professor of religion ; what would


be the consequence? Alas, all with them would be lost
forever !

But now change sides a moment, and suppose those
sent for to be the children of the Highest, called home
to their "house, not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens;" what ground of objection could they have to
such a speedy release from earth and all its miseries, such
promotion to glory, honor, and eternal life ! Is he that
has next to go a young convert? his early removal from
the ranks of Zion will excuse him from the dangers and
crosses of a long campaign. Is he an old pilgrim, who
has passed through fiery trials, and borne the burden and
heat of the day ? how welcome his deliverance ! Has he
a family to leave ? he can safely trust them in His hands
who says, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve
them alive ; and let thy widows trust in me." But is he
a minister — for among so many of us bearing this title,
some will doubtless have to give an account of their stew-
ardship this year? to him it can be no misfortune, as an
individual, if found faithful ; and as it regards those he is
related to, they can do very well without him. The Lord
can provide for our families by means unknown to us.
The world would scarcely observe the vacuum in society
caused by the death of a few ministers of this age. And
the Church will prosper without us after we are dead, as
she did before we were called to her altars. Let none
suppose that God is dependent on the best among us to
forward his work, or that wisdom will die with us of this
generation. When, where, or by what means we die, is
of little consequence ; all that is important to us in this
matter, is a thorough preparation to meet it. This implies
that God is now reconciled to us in Christ, and we to him ;
that we now love God supremely, and all men, for his
sake ; that we live, yet not we, but Christ liveth in us, the
hope of glory, and that the life we now live is of the faith


of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for
us. This is our privilege, and we need no more.

To attend to this preparation, the present time is all we
have. The past will not return ; to-morrow we may never
see; the present alone is certain to us. "Behold, now is
the accepted time : behold, now is the day of salvation."
What we do must be done quickly. Yea, now or never.
The night of death cometh, and is near, when no man
can work. What are we now doing to please God, pro-
mote his cause on earth, obtain our own sanctification, and
prepare to live forever? Let conscience answer, truly
and understandingly.

Bishop Asbury once said to the preachers in conference,
"When the ordinary means fail, use the extraordinary."
(A good rule if always found in prudent hands.) Among
these unusual means might be numbered our meetings on
watch-nights, which are seldom held except on New-
Year's eve. A well-conducted meeting of this sort com-
mences at eight or nine o'clock in the evening, and con-
tinues till midnight. The exercises consist of preaching,
exhortation, prayer, and praise, and usually ends with a
renewal of the Christian's covenant to strive for "a closer
walk with God ;" which, after being distinctly stated and
proposed by one of the ministers present, is generally
entered into with great solemnity by spending five minutes
in silent prayer. Nothing appears more solemn than to
see a whole assembly kneeling in silent prayer at mid-
night, confessing the sins of the past year, returning
thanks to God for the blessings of life and grace perpetu-
ated to them, and en^aoino; with the Lord, each for him-

o o

EBB AYS. 110

self, to be for Him the ensuing year, whether called to
live and labor, or die and go to eternity.

It is certainly a feast worth more than a few hours rest,
to unite with the assembly of the saints, pleading with
God for themselves and their friends, while others are
asleep or at their revels. Very seldom do such worship-
ers fail to receive great blessings. Often revivals of relig-
ion are commenced at those meetings. Many in heaven
will have cause of rejoicing that God ever put into the
heart of Wesley to institute them in his societies.

If it be objected, that "such meetings are singular,
and, therefore, improper," we answer, all true religion,
when tried by the wisdom of this world, is singular.
God's people are "a peculiar people;" they are different
from others. And they who shun duty for fear of being
thought singular, can never be decidedly pious. It was
singular for Jacob to wrestle with the angel all night; for
the brethren and sisters to hold a special prayer meeting
at a late hour for Peter's deliverance from prison at the
house of Mary; for Paul to "continue his speech all
night," and for the Savior to go into a mountain and con-
tinue "a whole night in prayer to God;" but they all
obtained satisfactory answers. In company with the
prophets, Christ, and his apostles, let me be singular too,
and enjoy singular blessings.


That inquisitive disposition, or propensity for novel
things, called curiosity, holds a prominent place in the
heart of man. If the love of novelty be restrained within
proper bounds, it may contribute to improvement, by the
cultivation of useful knowledge; but if it be unrestrained,


and encouraged by gratification, its tendency is to mis-
chief; leading its votaries to interfere with the private
business of families, or individuals, while they neglect
their own. It often decoys them on to dangerous ground,
that they may discover something new under the sun.
Many a heedless youth could be made a strong witness in
this case.

The indulgence of vain curiosity, also, tends to idleness ;
and is, therefore, ruinous to our business, property, mor-
als, and peace of mind. Were this principle cultivated
in childhood and encouraged in manhood, habitually, it
would end in the abandonment of every useful employ-
ment, and reduce us to the degraded condition of the
Athenians in the days of St. Paul, as described, Acts
xvii, 21 : They "spent their time in nothing else, but
either to tell or to hear some new thing." The conse-
quence was, they degenerated into such ignorance and
superstition, that they erected an altar to an "unknown
god, whom they ignorantly worshiped."

That the love of novelty already exerts too much influ-
ence on the American family for their good, there can be
no doubt, from facts well authenticated. A Shaker at-
tracts more attention than a consistent, devoted Christian ;
because he has more claim to novelty and less to piety.
Joe Smith and Fanny Wright are successful proselyters ;
because one attracts notice by an unknown tongue, and
the other deals in impudence as a female declaimer, in
court-houses and theaters. It is owing to the same rage
for novelties, that more people can be collected at a high
pontifical Latin mass, for the repose of the soul of a
deceased right reverend Roman dignitary, than usually
assemble to worship God in the spirit.

But the evil is not peculiar to characters and transac-
tions professedly religious. A philosopher conceives a
notion that the earth is concave, and immediately embarks


on search of a creep-hole at the poles, that he may enter
and explore the interior; but after exhausting his fortune,
time, and mental energies, dies in despair of accomplish-
ing the object.

Now, if such things happen among the learned, what
may be expected of the vulgar? "There was no mistake
in Sam Patch," he said; and an idle, dissipated crowd of
followers confirmed his vanity, as they witnessed his fear-
ful leaps, which they hired him to make ; but the next sad
leap he landed in eternity. Recently an overgrown Ken-
tuckian had his picture posted up with an advertisement
to exhibit himself in sundry museums, east and west, and,
in one instance, received more than twenty thousand visit-
ors. Had his soul been large, in proportion to his body —
which weighed five hundred and twenty-six pounds — he
would have found better employment ; and if the people
had possessed more sound discretion, and less curiosity,
they would have kept their cash, or applied it to some
better purpose than paying to see his corporality.

Our love of novelty is becoming notorious among for-
eign nations, it would seem, from recent circumstances;
and they are profiting by their knowledge of our weak-
ness. This may account for some singular importations
and extra arrivals, announced from time to time. Those
children of misfortune, the Siam twins, should never have
left the precincts of their mother's residence ; but the
love of gold, the root of all evil, caused their habitual
exposure among strangers. Shame on those who made
gain of their natural deformity ! But even female delicacy
vanishes before the love of revenue arising from the grati-
fication of vain curiosity. A young lady, whose artificial
deformity is a humiliating monument of the caprice of
fashion and a nation's folly, has been imported from
China, is now exhibiting herself in New York, and thou-
sands run on a fool's errand to see her crippled feet.



It is time for every man of influence, especially Chris-
tians, ministers and editors, to set their faces, like flint,
against every idle foolery, intended to collect large crowds
of people, and feast their eyes with empty display, with-
out any prospect of mental or moral improvement. And
though I have not the vanity to suppose that I can
turn the tide of popular feeling any more than I could
arrest the torrent rushing over the cataract, yet I can
and will keep out of the current — and advise others to do
the same — by recording my vote in opposition to everv
species of dissipation, and thus throwing the responsibility
where it belongs. I speak as unto wise men : judge ye
what I say.
Jaxlahy, 1S35.


(WRITTEN IN 1835.)

The spirit of improvement is good if well directed. To
make it prolitable, it must be brought to bear on proper
objects, and regulated by sound principles. When rules
of human action are just, well developed, and firmly
established, they may be safely carried out and applied to
an increased variety of purposes, but should not be aban-
doned through rage for improvement; for this would be
giving up the benefit of all the labor, research, and expe-
rience of past ages, and throwing ourselves back entirely
on our own resources. Among other rules of this sort,
the following should be kept in view: 1. No discovery is
valuable which can not be applied successfully to some
good, practical purpose. 2. No important object can be
accomplished by human agency without care and exertion.
The first rule sets aside aerial voyages, phrenology, conju-
ration, the circus, and all that sort of things, which are of
no important use tc society, and seriously injure many


people. They engender idle curiosity, and lead to the
neglect of business and solid improvement. The second
rule sweeps aside all those modern new-fangled schemes
for improvement without study and labor. When we
hear of boats to navigate the air without oars, sail, or
machinery; of stoves that cook without fuel; corn that
grows without culture; doctors that can cure without
medicine; instructors that teach the sciences without
requiring the learner to study; blacking which shines on
our boots without applying the brush; religious reformers
who convert people by the agency of water, or what is
still more convenient, put people in the way to "born
themselves again," by an act of volition; the application
of the second rule may be of some service in forming a
judgment in the case.

There appears to be, more or less, in almost every class
of society, a sort of feverish excitement, urging them on
to the accomplishment of something which is generally
not well defined by its projectors, nor understood by their
adherents, and, consequently, of doubtful utility in its

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 9 of 30)