« PreviousContinue »
nature of Christian experience, to the circumstances in .which it occurred,--thereby countenancing visionary or imaginative minds in depending upon dreams and impressions, while, moreover, there is danger that the judicious and sincere may sometimes be tempted to rely on the providential circumstances, rather than upon the practical and continuous evidences, of the new birth. Religious experience at conversion, it is true, will generally partake of the natural temperament of the individual, and we cannot expect a manifestation of religious feeling inconsistent with the general habits of the mind. As the falling snow lies down upon the landscape, and takes the prominences of it for its own features, so divine grace in regeneration quietly assumes the natural characteristics of the individual mind, and thus, with infinite wisdom and beauty, preserves the distinguishing traits of individual character. We ought not, therefore, to complain, if particular cases of conversion do not present those evidences of remarkable power which leave no doubt of the reality of regeneratión.
But when we meet with a case of conversion, in which the rapid pio ess of thoughts and feelings, and sudden disclosures to the mind of spiritual truths, and the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep in the soul, give unequivocal proofs of the Spirit's power, there is nothing more intensely interesting to a religious mind, nothing of a more thrilling and affecting nature in the subsequent recollections of the convert.
Who can doubt that much of Paul's confidence, and zeal, and love, and of his religious enjoyment, was owing to the striking manner of his conversion ? His course through life was as though he had sailed out of a rapid river into the sea, and that river, with a strong current, ran with him across the deep. Some delight in the declaration that God was not in the earthquake, but in the still small voice. God was in the earthquake, at Philippi, Elijah needed the still small voice to reprove his want of confidence in the power of God; but the jailer's prison must be shaken to its foundation that he may be brought to Christ. We believe that one part of the instruction which angelic beings will derive from the work of human redemption will be in the relation, by individual souls, of their experience in regeneration. To us on earth it is a theme that never tires. To hear from indivi. duals of clear conceptions, and strong feelings, and evident
piety, what God has done for their souls, sometimes awakens as strong an interest as our natures can sustain.
We were thus interested in the religious experience of Miss Huntington. She had, for a long time, been the subject of much prayer and faithful Christian effort.
“ In returning one evening, however, from a prayer meeting, an intimate friend took occasion to speak to her, plainly, of her spiritual state. She then wept, and opened the feelings of her heart. This was on Tuesday evening. Wednesday passed without any thing special, except that at a sewing-circle, she chose the more serious part of the company; and, entering into conversation respecting the submission of the sinner to God, she advanced the sentiment that a clear understanding of the nature of submission would ensure the act. The next morning she awoke with a deep impression that it would be her last day of grace; that God would cut her off or harden her heart, or in some way put an end to her probation. In the evening she attended the regular Thursday conference, and before leaving home knelt down and earnestly prayed that it might be the evening of her submission to the Saviour. It was so. Before the meeting closed, while the assembly was at prayer, she gave up her heart to God. She did it in the full ex. ercise of her understanding, and felt then, and afterwards, that it was peculiarly a rational act. This was on the 10th of August, 1820.” p. 20. * On reaching home she threw herself upon her bed ; and then had such views of her heart as she never had before. She felt that she was a sinner against God, and loved to sin, and she abhorred herself for it. It was an hour of intense conviction of her sinfulness. Overwhelmed with it, she knelt by her bed, went again to her Saviour, and then found permanent relief." p. 21.
While multitudes know nothing of the time or manner of their conversion, yet give undoubted evidence of piety, it is interesting to meet with those who came into spiritual life almost with the vivid consciousness with which we may suppose angels wake into being.
The reader of the niemoir is struck with the entire consecration to Christ which marked Miss Huntington's early Christian character. It was so unreserved, and with such deep emotions, as to leave no doubt of its sincerity. She did not, like many others, relapse from that state of Christian feeling and from that Christian conduct, which attended and followed her conversion, into indifference and worldliness, or become one of that great class of whom, as Christians, you have some hope and much fear. Her path, from the first dawn of Christian hope in her soul, was like the morning-gradually, but perceptibly and beautifully, progressive.
She seems to have been an instance of uniform and rapid advancement towards Christian excellence, from her conversion, and like the star that
“Springs lively up in th' Orient,” she grew brighter and brighter till, with her, it was perfect day.
The early Christian experience of an interesting young female, of good understanding and of high moral accomplishments, who becomes eminently pious, is exceedingly beautiful. We would not perfer it, in our comparison, to the forcible and manly spirit of a youth, of equal religious decision. Each is beautiful in its season, but the female character shows us religious principles and sentiments with a suffusion of soft light, that charms the heart in coincidence with the power of woman over our best affections.
Soon after her conversion, Miss Huntington began to manifest strong affection for missionary labor. The refined and cultivated circles of Norwich gave her all the social enjoyment she desired, but she seemed at all times, by her feelings and expressions with regard to opportunities of greater usefulness, like a bird that belongs to another latitude.
" To make and receive visits, exchange friendly salutations, attend to one's wardrobe, cultivate a garden, read good and entertaining books, and even attend religious meetings for one's own enjoyment ; all this does not satisfy me. I want to be where every arrangement will have unreserved and coastant reference to eternity. On missionary ground I expect to find new and unlooked for trials and hindrances; stiil it is my choice to be there. And so far from looking upon it as a difficult task to sacrifice my home and country, I feel as if I should • flee as a bird to her mountain.'
In her correspondence about this time, and for several years following, Miss Huntington appears to be under the influence of deep spiritual feeling, and wherever she is, and whatever subject engages her pen, the importance of living for heaven, and of being supremely devoted to Christ, seems to give character to her actions and words. One thing is noticeable in this connection ;-the apparent purity of her religious feelings, the absence of cant, and of affecied sentiment. Her feelings had no need of frequent interjections for their exponents; there was nothing of the conventicle in her religious expressions, nor of that ardor which is merely animal, and which often passes as religious emotion, for more than the standard value. In her letters, written under intense excitement, there are fewer things exceptionable to severe critical taste than are commonly found in such effusions. Propriety scemed to be so natural to her in the expression of her feelings, that in her freest communications she was correct and not cold, and sufficiently precise, yet natural and easy. Throughout the volume, we were struck with her remarkable talent in expressing her thoughts. It is not so much the curiosa felicitas' of feminine expression, as a native chasteness of thought, which seems to characterize her style.
Her religious character, as a sister, is worthy of commendation and love.
“ Miss Huntington had three brothers, whom she loved with most ex. emplary tenderness; and in whose temporal, but especially spiritual good, she felt a habitual and intense interest. How they would prosper in the things of this life, but much more, how they should live here so as to glorify God, and arrive at heaven, were subjects on which she frequently disclosed her anxiety, to them and to her Christian relatives.” p. 33.
We shall illustrate this by a few quotations from her letters, in which, moreover, will be seen the sincerity and strength of her religious feelings.
“ I wrote to him on new year's day, upon the subject of religion, and told him that I should every day offer a prayer for bim in his own chamber. He received it kindly, but made no reply.” p. 33.
“ Your mind is naturally inclined a little to romantic sentiment ; and the leisure which you have had for reading and reflection, have carried you rather above the common level. From these causes, I can easily appreciate all the feelings which you manifest. These intellectual features, my dear E., while they show themselves in the midst of the rou. tine of sober duty, render a character more interesting ; but if permitted to assume the control, and to lead one from rational and necessary employments to a roniantic and visionary course, they destroy all harmony of character, and generally bring their victim to unlooked for misfortunes." p. 35.
“ I would recommend to you, my dear brother, to say nothing more to any one upon the subject of your feelings, but go to God, who alone can help you; and read nothing at all but the Bible. Mr. Temple, who addressed us this P. M. says, the Spirit may be talked away.' It does relieve us to converse ; yet we should seek no relief in this case but at the cross. You are still in .slippery places.' Haste away, my brother; oh haste! You gain nothing while you delay; you lose ground. Do not prescribe any particular course to God, or expect any precise method. Scarcely two cases agree precisely. Go in earnest prayer to God; • look on him whom you have pierced, and mourn,' and when we next hear, tell us that you will join our happy company," p. 37.
An interesting part of this volume is the judicious selection and arrangement, by the compiler, of extracts from Miss Huntington's epistolary, and other writings, upon practical religious subjects. In reading them, we are impressed with the thought, that religion, with her, was the atmosphere in which she lived. Her incidental remarks upon questions of casuistry and expediency, show good judgmeni and well disciplined habits of reflection.
In the year 1831, she became interested in the remnant of the tribe of Mohegan Indians, near Norwich. She visited them for some time on the Sabbath, walking six miles for this purpose, and instructed their children.
“It is astonishing what effect is produced upon my social interests by an absence from our church every Sabbath. I scarcely know who are in town, or how the congregation look. Yet it is a self-denial which ought to be practised for the good of others. The missionaries give up every thing." p. 109.
Through her instrumentality, a grant of $900 was made by the General Government, for the benefit of the Mohegans. A meeting-house was built for them wholly by contributions obtained in Norwich by herself and another lady, her first companion in these benevolent labors.
These efforts quickened her latent desire to be engaged in the foreign missionary service:
« Our annual (1831) meeting of the Foreign Missionary Society was very interesting. I then made the resolution, that whenever my dear parents want me no longer, if unfettered as I am now, I shall devote myself personally to a mission among the heathen. So you may consider me henceforth a missionary in heart; and when circumstances fayor, must be ready to resigu me, unless God should put insurmountable obstacles in my way." p. 110.
In 1833 she became the wife of Mr. Smith. Her letter to her father informing him of the proposal of marriage, and detailing the history of her missionary feelings, is given in the volume. It is, both for its subject and in its manner, above praise.