What Matters Most in This Life?
The following testimony was written by the wife of the Rev. Samuel Blair. It is dated October 8, 1763:—
My Dear Children–It is my concern for your souls’ welfare, as well after my decease as whilst I am present with you, that I seem to be irresistibly urged to leave you a few sentences to peruse; and if it should please a gracious God to bless them to you
My design at this time shall not be to give you a narrative of diary of what I have experienced, of as I trust, the Lord’s gracious dealings towards me, for that would be too great; and as I did not prosecute that begun work in my young days, I could not now recollect without adding or diminishing. What discourages me now, was that the same reason when I first attempted, is, that I believe the Lord did not give me such enlargement of judgment that I should be useful to any but such as I am nearly connected with, who, I hope, will make no bad use of any thing that may not appear with such embellishments as the public would require. However, that now is for my design in these few lines.
When I was about fifteen, or soon after, it pleased a gracious God to stop me in my career of youthful follies, and to make sweet religion to appear the most noble course a rational creature could pursue. And what first brought me to reflect was: that summer I was visited with one affliction after another; first, the measles, and then the intermitting fever, and then the whooping cough–all to no great purpose, until by my being brought so low I apprehended myself in a decay, which put me to think I should set about reformation, a work which I thought only consisted in growing serious, and praying often, with other duties. When having an opportunity of hearing Messrs. Gilbert and John Tennent, they engaged me more, and strengthened me in my resolution to devote myself to religion. But the bed was too strait for me. I was often allured into my former vain company to the wounding of conscience and the breach of resolutions; was like a hell upon earth, and put often to think that the day of grace was over, and I might as well give up with all. However, it pleased a gracious God again to strengthen and encourage me to wrestle and cry for free mercy, and that in myself I could do nothing, nor keep the least resolution I could make.
But soon after the way of salvation in and through Christ, was clearly and sweetly opened to me in such a point of light that it appeared to me I had not lived or breathed or known what pleasure was before then. I then got victory over sin and the devil. But oh! how soon Satan came with another hideous temptation, which was blasphemy. This, as I had never felt or heard of before, filled me with such horror, that I was near being overcome with an unnatural sin. But as the distress was great, the deliverance was greater, which made me loathe myself, and almost life, and say with Job: “I would not live always.” I was then persuaded by my dear minister, John Tennent to join in communion with the people of God in the precious ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Which, though I could scarcely be prevailed on to venture, and though with trembling, lest I should meet with a salutation of “Friend, how comest thou hither?” I know not whether ever I had a greater discovery of the dying love of a dear Redeemer. It appeared so clear to the eyes of my understanding that for a little while I saw nothing of the world besides. Then I went on my way rejoicing, singing in the Psalmist: “Return unto thy rest, O! my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” I thought then I should never sin more; never indulge sloth or inactivity, or wandering thoughts, for sin had got such a dash it would no more have any access to my spirit; but sad experience soon made me wiser, and I was left, not many days after, to go mourning without the sun. So my chariot wheels moved slowly for many days. Though, blessed be God, a sense of religion, and my deep obligations still remained with me, and I was assiduous for the good of poor sinners; taking such opportunities as fell in my way, and such of my acquaintance as I had access to. And in the way of my duty I suffered much reviling, but was not suffered to be moved thereby, though young, and religion at that time an uncustomary thing, and not much of morality only among the aged.
And now, my dear children, let me enjoin this duty on you, to make conscience of your conversation and words. You may be apt to excuse yourselves with, that you are young, and it does not become you to talk of religion, and that is the minister’s part. But if you have received the grace of God, have you received it in vain, or only for yourselves? Has not the Lord deposed a trust in your hands–His glory and honor–and should you not every way strive to advance it? At that time I was much perplexed with my own heart; spiritual pride seemed as if it would undo me, for I concluded at some times as if it was the spring of all my actions. This I groaned under; but sometimes was tempted to cast away all for my ignorance of divine life. And the depth of Satan made me conclude that there never was a child of God that had ever the least rising of such a horrid feeling, and so much akin to the devil. But conversing with a humble, honest woman, I found that she was wrestling under the same, and so I got new courage to fight this Apollyon, and so from time to time I was helped. As I let down my watch, and grew cold and formal, and to backsliding from Him, the Lord left me to such exercises as cost me broken bones before I was restored to a sense of His favor. As I informed you, I cannot recollect the particular exercises at such a distance; if I can but say:
“Here, on my heart, the impress lies,
The joys, the sorrows of the mind.”
What reason have I this day to praise my heavenly Father, who is a Father to the fatherless, in providing for me such a companion in life, when my fond fancy would sometimes have led me to choose one that had little or no religion! Oh! the goodness of God in preventing me then, and at other times, when I had formed schemes to ruining myself. This, my dear children, I would have you carefully to ponder and beg for direction in before proceeding in such an affair in which your happiness for this world, if not the next, depends. Let the words of the inspired apostle be the moving spring of all your actions: “the glory of God.”…
My care for your immortal part never left me in the midst of all my own perplexities and fears; and when I had freedom for myself, your happiness was next to my own. Before your entrance into the world, (or before you drew the vital breath of life) my concern for you came next, which prompted me at one time to spend some time more than common to implore heaven in your behalf. It pleased God by His gracious influence to smile upon me and encourage my faith and trust for you. Now let this be an excitement to you, to be earnest for the salvation of your own souls, and, as it were, to storm heaven–offer violence to your carnal selves. For though none can win heaven by all they can do, yet the command is, “Give all diligence.” He that sows sparingly, shall reap so. Otherwise it shall avail nothing that you have so many petitions put up for you….
Words to Live By:
There are many duties that we encounter in this life. What a wonderful exercise, to write your testimony for your children (and their children). Most likely such an exercise would first be a witness to you yourself. But what a blessing and comfort, to leave a testimony to future generations! And by that document, to be reminded to pray often for them, for their salvation, and for their place and role in God’s kingdom.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. – (2 Timothy 1:5)
Source: Sketches of Virginia, by Wm. Henry Foote (1856), pp. 81ff.