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A JOURNEY TO LONDON,
IN THE SPRING OF THE YEAR 1803 :
A JOURNEY TO LONDON.
A man on earth, devoted to the skies,
TAKING LEAVE OF THE CHURCH.
I Did not know until in the evening service, preceding my proposed journey on the morrow, when I came to take leave of my church, to what extent the affection reacheth which subsists between a minister and his people. I thought indeed, if I knew any thing of my own heart, that I loved them; and had conceived, that I was not altogether unacquainted with those feelings which the apostle experienced, when he told the church of Corinth, that he would very "gladly spend and be spent for them.” But it was reserved for the moment of separation from the people of my charge, to be made sensible how very closely both their persons and their everlasting interests had wrapped themselves about my heart. Five and twenty years of a feeble but affectionate ministry among them, and which never had before been interrupted by an absence equal to the one now intended, (excepting only by sickness, and once on a similar errand) called up a variety of interesting images before me, and awakened every anxious concern.
What the will of God, in this dispensation of his providence, as concerning my departure, might be: what event either in my own circumstances, or in the circumstances of the church and people during my absence, might take place: whether vacancies by death might not be made among those I left behind, ere my return; or whether the same common period of nature in myself, might not for ever prevent that return:--these, and the like affecting ideas, crowded upon my mind, when in the close of my evening lecture I came to say farewell: so that I could only tell them, what at that time I thought to be little, and no fear, was presuming to say too much; that, like Paul, “ I greatly longed after them all in the bowels of Jesus Christ."
It was true, indeed, I had been led to hope, and the partiality of some around me tended but the more to the cherishing of that hope, that, during the many years in which I had gone in and out among the people, I had entered with a warmth and earnestness of affection into all their spiritual concerns; and that in labouring in the word and doctrine, I had “ kept back nothing that was profitable.” But now, when in the prospect of leaving them, and when the thought crossed my mind, that those “ among whom I had gone preaching the kingdom of God, might see my face no more:” a thousand fears and misgivings arose within, lest, through ignorance, inattention, or the want of earnestness in my duty, I had at any time lost sight of the sweet spirit of the Lord Jesus, and thereby offended any of those « little ones for whom Christ died.”