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George Burns, His Times and Friends
Chapter V. With Dr. Chalmers


On the 30th of March, 1815, the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, of Kilmany, preached his first sermon in Glasgow, a few months prior to his admission as Minister of the Tron Church. Among his hearers was George Burns, who fell at once under the potent spell of the great preacher.

One of Chalmers’ earliest sermons was from the words “lam not mad ; ” it was a vindication of his past, a pledge and a prophecy of his future, and it made a deep impression on the mind of George Burns. Commencing, as was his wont, in a low, monotonous key, neither attractive nor solemn, with a voice somewhat harsh but not strong, using occasional gestures which were rude and awkward, and speaking with “ a pronunciation not only broadly national but broadly provincial, distorting almost every word he uttered with some barbarous novelty,” there was nothing to indicate the power and the genius of the man. Nor did the pale, unemotional, plain face, with its broad and prominent cheek-bones, and large half-closed eyelids, betoken the magical influence the great champion of the Evangelical revival was to wield. But as he warmed into his subject, burst himself free from all conventional fetters, and threw himself out upon his theme, the face and figure of the man were transfigured ; his voice lost much of its harshness, and his gestures seemed the natural complement of his words as the glories of his eloquence poured forth—electrifying all who heard him.

Shortly after this he preached from the text, “Brethren, pray for us,” a sermon full of earnest Christian zeal, of tender and of passionate pathos, in startling contrast to those he had hitherto preached, using words of affection so softly that,

“Like flakes of feathered snow,
They melted as they fell.”

From that day forth the allegiance of George Burns was won: he had found in the minister a man after his own heart, whom he could admire and love, and under whose leadership he could work "with both hands, earnestly.” Soon there sprang up between the great preacher and the young man of business a close intimacy, and a love strong as death.

Dr. Chalmers lived in the closest friendship with men much younger than himself. Of James Anderson, who was ten years his junior, he wrote, “I have never encountered a more vigorous intellect than his;” Thomas Smith, the first-fruits spiritually of liis ministry in Glasgow, with whom he had formed such a singular attachment, was hut a youth ; while George Burns was fifteen years the junior of Chalmers, Burns being in his twentieth year and Chalmers in his thirty-fifth.

In the course of years some hundreds of letters passed between these two, but unfortunately they have been mislaid or destroyed, and we must content ourselves, therefore, by weaving together into as complete a narrative as may be, the fragmentary recollections of long-later years.

At the time of Dr. Chalmers’ settlement in Glasgow, it was the custom for the eight parish ministers to preach in rotation at the Tron Church on Thursday in each week. It had come to be a poor, lifeless affair; sometimes not more than ten or a dozen old people attending the service. But on Thursday, the 23rd of November, 1815, the “duty” devolved upon Dr. Chalmers, who delivered on that occasion the first of his famous series of “Astronomical Sermons." The church was crammed to excess, the interest was intense, the whole affair was utterly novel.

As George Burns came out of the church, on the day when the first sermon of the series was preached, he was able to give attention to the people who had composed the congregation, and he was struck to find that many of them were the most unlikely he would have expected to see—rich and poor, learned and illiterate, religious and profane, all had flocked together to the church that day.

As lie stood, he chanced to overhear a short conversation between two old women. “Hey,” said one, “but he was bonnie on the staurs (stars) the day.” “I daur say,” answered the other, “and it was a braw sermon, hut I didna understand what he meant, but I'se warrant he kent a’ aboot it himsel’!”

“The spectacle,” says Hr. Hanna, “which presented itself in the Trongate upon the day of the delivery of each new astronomical discourse, was a most singular one. Long ere the bell began to ring, a stream of people might be seen passing through the passage which led into the Tron Church. Across the street, and nearly opposite to this passage, was the old reading-room where all the Glasgow merchants met. So soon, however, as the gathering, quickening stream on the opposite side of the street gave the accustomed warning, out flowed the occupants of the coffee-room; the pages of the Herald or the Courier were for a while forsaken, and during two of the best business hours of the day the old reading-room wore a strange aspect of desolation.”

Many merchants not only left their desks in those days, hut allowed their clerks to do the same, and George Burns attended every lecture of the series extending from November, 18d, to December, 1811.

When Dr. Chalmers settled in Glasgow, he was revolving vast schemes in his mind. At first he had determined “to establish it as a doctrine that the life of a town minister should be what the life of a country minister might be, that is, a life of intellectual leisure with the otiuni of literary pursuits, and his entire time disposable to the purposes to which the apostles gave themselves wholly, that is, the ministry of the word and prayer.” But when he found himself in times all out of joint, in a parish with a population of from eleven to twelve thousand souls ; in the midst of appalling ignorance and appalling poverty, with pauperism—which he hated—abounding everywhere, and charity recklessly and harmfully administered, he determined to make war against the existing state of things.

Chalmers was a firm believer in every member of a church taking part in church work, instead of throwing the whole burden upon the shoulders of the minister. Hitherto the chief duties of the elders had consisted In standing by a plate at the church door to receive contributions, distributing them to the poor, and occasionally visiting the sick. Henceforth not for elders only, but for every member of the church and congregation whom he could rouse to a sense of responsibility, he was ready to organize work and assign a position.

Foremost among his efforts was the establishment of a comprehensive system of Sabbath Evening Schools, to counteract in some degree the deplorable ignorance he had discovered among the young people of the wynds and alleys.

He invited a few picked members of his congregation to form themselves into a society for the purpose of establishing such schools in various districts of his parish, and on the 3rd of December, 1816, the first of these schools was opened in Chapbell Street with thirteen in attendance. Fresh schools soon followed, and within two years twelve hundred children were under religious instruction. Monthly meetings of the teachers were held, at which the Doctor was always present; and at one of the first it was arranged that there should be no set form of teaching, but that each teacher should, within certain necessary limits, have full liberty to work according to his own ways and methods.

George Bums was one of the first to enrol himself as a teacher, and for many years, and long after he was married, he continued his labours in the Sunday schools.

It was a different matter to be a Sunday-school teacher in those days than it is in these. 'Now, the institution is popular, but it was not so then. It was a “revolutionary innovation,” and was looked upon by some coldly and with suspicion; by others it was sneered at and ridiculed; by many it was violently opposed. Some professed to regard it as interfering with the proper domestic training of the young; others, that the whole thing was born of conceit and pride, and that laymen were usurping functions which should only be performed by the clergy; while many lifted up their hands in horror at the terrible amount of fanatical piety which was being fostered!

From the platform and the pulpit Dr. Chalmers vigorously defended the Sunday-school system and the Sunday-school teachers, who, through evil and good report, worked on zealously.

Dr. Chalmers, as we have said, chose for his intimate friends young men with highly intellectual endowments or special spiritual graces. No sooner had he commenced those mighty enterprises which were to create a moral revolution not only in Glasgow, hut, by the force of their influence, throughout Scotland and in some degree throughout the world, than he took into his innermost confidence, to aid him with their counsel and their prayer, young George Burns and, though considerably older, Peter Gilfillan, a writer (lawyer), and a man of good position, great ability and warm Christian zeal. These two Dr. Chalmers selected to meet with him every Saturday evening for conference, and to pray for success on the following Sunday in the church and in the schools. Dr. Chalmers proposed that the meeting-place should be in Mr. Gilfillan’s house, where they would he less liable to interruption than in his own, and that the fact of their meeting should not he made known, as he wished to confine it to that inner circle of three.

In all the movements of those eventful times, therefore, George Burns stood at the heart of things, and in the incidents which we shall now proceed to relate, we come into very close contact with the prime movers.

In January, 1817, the year when Dr. Chalmers' “Astronomical Sermons” were running a race with Sir Walter Scott’s “Tales of my Landlord,” and twenty thousand copies of the book were in circulation within a year—“the first volume of sermons which fairly broke the lines that had separated too long the literary from the religious public”—the great Scottish preacher appeared for the first time in a London pulpit.

Dr. Chalmers was asked to London to preach the anniversary sermon of the London Missionary Society. Mr. Gilfillan went along with him, and I (says George Burns) was very sad to be left behind; not only because I delighted to accompany Dr. Chalmers, but also because I had not at that time seen London, and could not afford either the time or the money. "When the Doctor was in London, every attention was paid to him, and he was invited to the houses of some of the greatest in the land, where there was generally a large number of the higher classes to meet him. On this particular occasion he was staying in the house of William Wilberforce, and while there he was invited to dine at the house of a nobleman, where, among the guests to meet him, was the late Bishop Philpotts,1 of Exeter, who was remarkable for his cordiality and politeness. Dr. Chalmers was led up to be introduced to him, a row of magnates being on either side, in the drawing-room. The Bishop said a number of complimentary things, and the Doctor, making a very low bow, said in reply, in the broadest provincial accent, ‘You’re very discreet, my lord.’

1815-28. June

DR. CHALMERS IN LONDON.

Although it was a great disappointment to George Burns not to he able to accompany Dr. Chalmers and Mr. Gilfillan to London, he had the gratification of hearing from them an account of all that took place— how the Surrey Chapel was crowded at seven o’clock in the morning, although the service did not commence till eleven; how thousands were turned away from the doors for want of room; how old Rowland Hill stood at the foot of the pulpit during the whole service— the sermon alone occupied an hour and a-half; and how good Dr. Burder—the founder of the Religious Tract Society—sat among the two or three hundred ministers for whom seats in the gallery had been reserved, mopping the perspiration from his brow!

On this visit Dr. Chalmers was also accompanied by Mr. John Smith, his publisher, of whom and his family George Burns says :—

I well remember old Mr. Smith, bookseller in Hutcheson Street, the father of John, who afterwards became publisher. He had a circulating library, and was the chief man in Glasgow as a book-seller. lie was a most gentlemanly person, and had a powdered head, as was customary in those days. He was a very orderly man, and went upstairs punctually at six o’clock every evening to take tea. One of my uncles Stevenson was intimate with him, and one afternoon went into his shop to have a ‘crack,’ and to show him a pair of handcuffs, a recent invention. Mr. Smith asked how they were used. ‘Hold out your hands,’ said my uncle, ‘and I will show you.’ Mr. Smith did so, and allowed himself to be shackled by the wrist. They continued talking for some time, but my uncle mischievously slipped out of the shop just before six o’clock. Poor Mr. Smith was sadly disconcerted lest any one should come into the shop to find him in such a ludicrous plight.

Mr. Smith had two sons. Thomas, the one to whom Dr. Chalmers was so devotedly attached, and who died early, was the younger, and with him I was not acquainted. The elder son, John, I knew very well. He continued his father’s business, and removed to St. Vincent Street, where he added to it the function of publisher. Dr. Chalmers was very intimate with him also, and he published some of Dr. Chalmers’ earliest works; but afterwards Dr. Chalmers’ brother Charles entered into partnership with William Collins as publisher, and issued the Doctor’s works. Collins was one of Dr. Chalmers’ Elders, and father of the present Sir William Collins, who received the honour of knighthood when Lord Provost of Glasgow.

It will when Dr. Chalmers was in London on this visit that he became acquainted with James Montgomery, the Moravian and poet. From him Chalmers heard of the struggles of the poor congregations of Moravians—that estimable body of Christians—to raise among themselves sufficient funds to maintain their missionary establishments, commenced and carried on with so much zeal and heroism, in Greenland, Labrador, North and South America,

South Africa, the Danish West Indian Islands, and elsewhere. In the course of his remarks, Montgomery happened to say that “in the good providence of God they received liberal help from the friends of other Evangelical denominations;” whereupon Chalmers said, C£ I mean to raise <£500 for the Brethren’s Mission this year.” Immediately upon his return to Glasgow he set to work, with the result that nearly £600 was raised. Early in the following year (February 5, 1818) the Glasgow Auxiliary to the Moravian Missions was formed, the chief burden of which fell to the lot of Mr. James Playfair, whose son still represents the work in Glasgow. James Playfair and his wife were the most intimate friends of George Burns, and it was at their house he lirst met James Montgomery. Dr. Balfour was the first president of the Auxiliary Society, and George Burns was one of a large committee of forty members, and a secretary. He never through life lost his interest in this Auxiliary Society, of which he became the treasurer, and the sole survivor of those who originally constituted the executive. He received and read the vdiole of the Society’s r Proceedings,” and had them carefully hound; he came in contact with James Montgomery and- the elder Latrobe, for both of whom he entertained the highest regard and esteem. Almost the first of the noble band of men who had to relinquish the position they had taken up in this excellent .cause was Dr. Balfour, the President, and one of the most eminent of the ministers of Glasgow. On the 13tli of October in the following year (1818) he was taken ill when walking, and in thirty-six hours died, in the seventy-first year of his age and the fortieth of his ministry, “a man greatly beloved.”

In November, 1817, when Ur. Chalmers was taking a little well-earned rest at Ivilmany, the Princess Charlotte died, and one morning, when he was on his way to preach to his old parishioners, a letter was handed to him, announcing that the magistrates of Glasgow had intimated that the day of the royal funeral would be observed with all due solemnity and ceremony, and requesting him to return and occupy the pulpit of the Tron Church on the appointed day. This demand irritated Ur. Chalmers not a little, and in his reply lie said, “It is a shocking place — Glasgow, and I never knew what it was yet to have an excursion from it without something being sent after me.” However, the momentary irritation soon gave way to loyal and tender feeling, and in the little country inn where he was staying he wrote a powerful sermon from the text, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

On the day after its deliver}7, the Setitinel, a Padical paper under the editorship of Mr. Prentiss, distorted a passage, of broadest and most general application, as specifically directed against the supporters of the existing Government, and belauded Chalmers for coining over to the Badical side.

Immediately after tlie publication of the article (says George Hums) I went to Chalmers’ house, Kensington Place, Sauchiehall Street, to take tea with him ; I found him pacing up and down the room abstractedly, with his cuphn his hand. Mrs. Chalmers was there, looking on anxiously. He evidently had something weighing on his mind. Abruptly grasping a pair of candles, and calling me aside, he took me to his bedroom, where he put first one foot on one hob of the fire, and then one on the other, and burst out into a roar, ‘Oh—oh! oh! that I should be surrounded by the hosannas of the Whigs!’

Acting upon tlie advice of George Burns and another friend, the sermon, notwithstanding the fact that it had been hastily prepared, vras published verbatim, and it was a complete vindication of any intention to make a specific political allusion. But Dr. Chalmers was a long time before lie could recover from his annoyance “ that he should be thought capable of abusing so sacred an occasion by making the pulpit a vehicle of political invective.”

George Burns was at this time a very frequent visitor at the house of Dr. Chalmers, who was a capital companion, and whose ordinary table-talk was full of interest. He was very fond of bright and cheerful conversation enlivened with anecdotes. These he could tell well, and many that, on repetition, seem to lack point, do so because they want the heartiness and vehemence of manner in which he told them. For example, George Bums says:—

Dr. Chalmers once told me a story of a minister in Fife, lie preached in a country place where it was the custom for the farmers to he followed by their dogs, and the dogs went into the church. One Sunday there was a stout man sitting in the front loft (gallery); lie wore an obvious wig, and was accompanied by a dog which placed his paws on the gallery rail. The man had come in late, had been walking fast, and was extremely hot. He took off his wig to wipe away the perspiration, and in absence of mind put his wig on the head of the dog. The effect was so ludicrous that the minister was greatly discomfited.

There was great familiarity between the pulpit and the pew in my early days. Chalmers once told me a story of a minister who was preaching in a country parish church, when the beadle struck in, in the midst of his discourse, ‘There’s a lady’s nurse wanted at once; if there’s any one here, she’s to come out.’

A well-known man in Glasgow, who was also much in society, was Frederick Adamson, the son of a minister in Fife, and who, like myself, was a constant attendant at the Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Society of the Sons of Ministers at the Black Bull Inn. On one occasion Dr. Chalmers, Frederick Adamson, myself and others, were dining at the house of my brother, the doctor. Dr. Chalmers told many curious things connected in the old times with the ‘reading of the line’ in singing the Psalms. It was the custom to give out one line of the psalm at a time, thus—

‘That man hath perfect blessedness.’

The congregation then took it up, and sang it, generally unmusically. Many attempts were made by the ministers of the day to get the custom abolished, as, owing to the advanced state of education, it was no longer necessary. A minister in Fife, whose name I do not remember, proposed to do away with the obnoxious custom, and urged upon his congregation the arguments generally employed in such attempts. One day he announced that the precentor would go on with the singing without reading the line. The minister, as usual, read out the first two lines of the psalm, when the precentor began to do his duty; but a little rebellious feeling broke out in various parts of the church, some of the people repeating the line, and afterwards singing it themselves. On hearing this, Frederick Adamson struck in and said, ‘Mr. Chalmers’ (he had not then been made D.D.), ‘your friend did not find that the line.s had that day fallen unto him in pleasant places ! ’

Another story was told of Dr. Balfour, who, in an attempt to abolish the use of the line, met with considerable opposition from the old people of his congregation, one of whom came to him with her objections. He asked for her reasons, and she said that giving out the line and singing it afterwards ‘gusted her gab,’ i.e., gave a relish. Some time after that a music tune was used in singing the psalms, in which the last line of the verse was repeated three times. The same woman returned to Dr. Balfour with a remonstrance that this was even worse than taking away the reading of the line. Dr. Balfour said, ‘But it gusts my gab: do you remember that, my good woman?’

James Burns used to say to his brother, “Don’t you think, George, it is somewhat disrespectful of you, seeing that our father is minister of the Barony Church, to go and hear Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Wardlaw, and others, and leave the church in which you should take the greatest interest?” “My father,” says George, “came to hear of this, and he said to James, ‘I am very well pleased for George to go anywhere, so long as he hears and receives the gospel.’”

Between Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Burns of the Barony there was the most cordial friendliness, and the following letter indicates the feeling of both with regard to the good work in which George was engaged:—

Glasgow, Kensington Place, Oct. 10, 1818.

Dear Dr. Perns,—It quite escaped me, yesterday, to remind yon of our Fast-day on Thursday, the 29th of October, being Thursday fortnight, and to request that, as usual, you would preach for me in the afternoon. If I had had an opportunity, I think I could have gladdened a father’s heart by testifying what I feel and know of the Christian worth of your son, Mr. George. He is of the greatest service to me in particular, and I am sure is doing much good for me in various departments of usefulness.

Believe me,

Yours very affectionately,

Thomas Chalmers.

A glimpse of George Burns in his “various departments of usefulness” is given in some extracts from the diary of Dr. Chalmers, published in his “Life” by Dr. Hanna:—

Thursday, 20th.— Walked a little with Professor 13.; then called on George Burns about some parish business; then ran to Mr. Smith's bath (and so on).

Saturday, August 22nd.—Hose about half-past six. Composed. Had Mr. George Burns, Mr. Ramsay, a Sabbath-school teacher, Mr. Gilfillan, and a younger brother from South America, to breakfast with me. Went after breakfast with Messrs. Burns and Ramsay to the parish, where I assigned to each a local district, and procured scholars for them. . . . Walked home between eight and nine, and on my arrival found a line from Lord Elgin at the Black Bull, who told me of the arrival of himself and family in Glasgow.

Sunday, August 23rd. When Lady Elgin heard of the Sabbath-school expedition, she countermanded an engagement to dine with Mr. McIntosh. . . . We adjourned to George Burns’ school in Charlotte Lane, when Lord and Lady Elgin both seemed to be very much gratified. I conducted part of the examination.

In his diary and in his letters, Dr. Chalmers frequently refers to the Monday morning breakfasts to which he used to invite the principal workers of his church, as well as preachers, students, and visitors who were staying over the Sunday in Glasgow. At these breakfasts George Burns was very frequently present, and they were the means of bringing him into contact with famous men of the time, with many of whom, as we shall see hereafter, he contracted life-long friendships.

The year 1818 was a very busy as well as a veiy critical one in his life. He was throwing himself heart and soul into every form of Christian and philanthropic work, and was thus moulding his character and his tastes into the shapes they were to take permanently, while at the same time he was revolving in his mind how best to employ those peculiar business talents which it was patent to every one he possessed.

A great impetus had also been given to his life from another quarter. Frequently as he had been visiting in the house of Dr. Chalmers, he had not less frequently been a welcome guest in the house of Dr. Cleland, whose daughter Jeanie had now grown to womanhood. She was young and accomplished, and she and George, who had been early companions, had now plighted their troth to love and cherish one another till death. “An engagement,” said George Burns on one occasion, “is, to my thinking, as binding and as solemn as any marriage vow or ceremony, and Jeanie Cleland was as much the wife of my heart when we were engaged as she ever was.”

In tastes, disposition, pursuits, and especially in all matters regarding the spiritual life—which is, after all, the life—they were in complete and perfect harmony.

A packet of the letters that passed between them in the early days of their plighted love, lies before the present writer. As they are so very different from the majority of letters written under similar circumstances — being full of high ideals, of a chivalrous sense of honour, and of lofty aspirations —one or two passages may-be quoted in this place.

October 31, 1818.

My deak Jane,—If once we were come into closer connection, I am sure it would be our mutual delight to have all things in common, to share with each other in all that was joyous or all that was grievous. I mean not merely that we should feel an identity of interests in the weightier concerns .of life, but that it should be carried down to those minuter and almost imperceptible niceties which are too often wrapt in mock mystery when all should be openness and frankness. It is by a simple, unsuspecting reliance on the possession of the affections of each other, shown by an unrestrained communication of all that we could risk to reveal, that we are to expect to find our enjoyment and attachment ever on the increase. ... I know that there must be some things which we could not with propriety tell to each other—but these form exceptions; for instance, the very next letter which I receive from my friend in Brazil, may contain something of his own private affairs told to me in the confidence of friendship, and consequently neither his letter nor my answer could I show to you without violating the trust of another reposed in me. We must often thwart our desire of self-gratification when the interests of a third person come to he implicated in our disclosures, hut in so far as we are individual!]/ concerned, we have at all times a right to unbosom ourselves. Let us avail ourselves of this privilege, since each has found in the other a person congenial in feeling and opinion.

How completely and unreservedly lie was able to open up his heart to her on all matters of religions difficulty and experience, is shown in the following letter, written while the influences of the engagements of the Sabbath were fresh upon him:—

Monday Forenoon, Nov. 8, 1819.

My dear Jane,— Every sincere Christian feels in his experience that these words of the apostle apply most emphatically to his own case—‘the things that I would do I cannot.’ The redeeming love of God, when manifested to the heart by the Holy Spirit, engages all the affections most powerfully on the side of duty, and begets an earnest breathing after the possession of a complete heavenly mindedness; the heart is enlarged, and it is our willing choice to follow' out in practice all that is pure and peaceable and praiseworthy, and also to submit, without constraint, to all that is self-denying, when for the glory of Him who hath translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son; and, as long as our affections continue to he actually interested in the behalf of the performance of that which is required of us, it is evident that we will make a corresponding and advancing progress in its attainment; but it lamentably agrees with our experience that there are periods in our existence, and these also not of infrequent recurrence, when, instead of advancing, we are actually retrograding from all that is spiritualising in the wisdom that is from above. At such times we may retain the sense and judgement of what is right, but we have lost the affection for what is right, and it is in consequence of this that we let slip the practice of what is right. Now from whence arises this perversion and decay of affection, but from excluding from our minds the realising thought of God’s redeeming love. It is true that no power short of the omnipotent power of the Holy Ghost can originate in the heart such a perception of this love as will gain over the affections to the side of holiness, and it is equally true that no inferior power to His can perpetuate and keep in force the perception at any subsequent period after its introduction. The whole, then, belongs to the Holy Ghost of keeping alive, that perception which puts our affections in the right condition for making us to render in our lives a thorough and devoted obedience to the will and authority of God, who has alone the entire right of calling forth the service of all our faculties of body and of mind. The whole of this belongs to the Holy Ghost to accomplish; but this forms no excuse for our losing the maintained accomplishment of the necessary perception. Why? Because although to Him belongs the necessity of keeping alive the perception—to us belongs the necessity of having the wish to have it kept alive. He must word the work, but He has promised to do it, if we desire to have it done.

‘Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.’ The question respecting the freedom of the will is a most intricate and difficult one, but it is of much practical utility for us to know that, somehow or other, there does exist a connection between our calling to have the Holy Spirit to abide in us, and work in us, and His actually doing so. ‘Quench not the Spirit,’ ‘grieve not the Spirit.’ This implies that we may grieve and quench the Spirit; we have a power to oppose Him, but that power consists of nothing else than a want of will to go along with His suggestions. I have but a minute or two left me, and have therefore no time to follow out this subject, further than to remark the vast importance it is for us to court the influences of the Spirit by meeting all His suggestions by I ready compliance. We have no power, it is true, of ourselves to do anything to meet His wishes; but power, as well as the Spirit Himself, is promised to them who ask it. Now I have just one thing to say in respect of not being able to do the things that we would, and I have to say it in my own person, and from the circumstance which gave rise to the writing of the whole of this letter. Yesterday I felt much. I thought, and I trust I was not wrong when I thought, that I felt the comforting influences and manifestations of this Spirit when engaged at the Communion Table ; but I had not long retired, when, willingly enough, I consented to the withdrawing of the perception of the love of God from my mind, which produced the loss both of peace and of spiritual prosperity. Now, what I have to say is this, that, if properly improved, even this may be turned to advantage. Our spiritual falls ought to teach us humility, watchfulness, a constant crying unto the Spirit to keep ever present to our mind that perception of the love of Christ which alone will have the power of subduing all our enmity towards God and His holy law, and correcting all our perversity and preventing us from backsliding. My prayer, my dear Jane, is, that you and I may be by the Spirit led to profit much by all our past experiences both of His goodness and of our own unworthiness, and may the God of all grace grant that our connection may prove a sweetness and comfort in spiritual as well as in temporal respects. Through all your difficulties may the Lord lead you, and grant you health of body and health of soul, and may we yet praise Him more and more, whilst in the land of the living, for all His goodness.

1815-23.]

My dear Jane,

Believe that I am yours affectionately,

G. Burns.

Although agreeing with one who long since said that he regarded “faith and prayers Among the privatest of men’s affairs."


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