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It appears, however, that as soon as he felt the transforming power of religious truth, he manifested a decided disposition to active benevolence, and readily engaged in such labors of love as a young man in his situation could perform. His letters also show a great concern for his younger brothers and sisters at home. Writing to a sister in the year 1815, he says: Tell the dear little brothers and sisters the state of their hearts; give them all the instruction you can as to their future welfare; and O may the Lord draw them by the cords of his everlasting love, and let his Spirit and blessing rest on them.” In another letter written to the same relative, he gives this solemn exhortation : “M-, as you are the oldest child of our dear parents, now at home, do instruct our dear little brothers and sisters, and urge them to seek the salvation of their soulsfor it is your duty.”
It appears, indeed, that afterwards he had a very low opinion of his religious attainments at this time. Yet his correspondence was almost entirely on the subject of religion, frequently indicating a deep sense of obligation; and, though he was obliged during the whole week to perform the laborious services of a merchant's clerk in a place of great commercial activity, he engaged with great alacrity as a teacher in the Sabbath school ;
and his letters breathe a deep solicitude in behalf of the children committed to his care.
The compiler of this little work gladly takes this opportunity of recording the very, valuable services rendered to the community by many young men in similar situations. And they deserve the higher approbation on account of the peculiarly disadvantageous circumstances in which they are placed. Little do parents think to what danger they expose their sons when they send them to a merchant's counting-house in a large city. Removed from all the sacred influences of domestic life, and surrounded by ten thousand temptations, they usually have no society but that of lads in their own situation. With but little previous education, and of course few mental resources, it is not so much wondered at, as deplored, that when the busi ness of the day is over, they should seek relaxation and amusement in those places near which the destroyer is always lurking; and that often, before their time of service is expired, they should have acquired habits of dissipation, and a love of pleasure, too strong for their principles of honor and morality. Nor is it surprising that, in many cases, the interests of the employer should greatly suffer from the profligateness of his clerks.
Surely the value of religion cannot be too highly appreciated, when it is sufficient to preserve the young, amidst all other temptations, from debasing pleasures and extravagant amusements. Of the strength of this principle of action there is very strong evidence afforded by the Sabbath schools of our cities. While thousands, on the Lord's day, are pouring out through every avenue, under the pretence that their health requires a ride or a walk into the country; and while every tavern and tipling shop in the vicinity is swarming with numbers, high in revelry and riot, there are hundreds of young people, of hoth sexes, who need amusement and relaxation as much as any others, and who seek and find it in the delightful exercise of a most benefi cial charity. They meet the children of the poor; they even go among the outcasts of society, and take up he shall say,
the neglected, and speak words of kindness to them, and teach them to read the precepts of the purest morality, and cause them to hear the lessons of heavenly wisdom. Thus, with every right feeling of the human heart greatly strengthened and refreshed by the consciousness of voluntary efforts to do good, they rereturn to the labors of the week, more happy in themselves, and more deserving of the confidence of others than ever. If the gratitude of the community has no civic crown to reward such services, there is One, who will hereafter bestow the meed of approbation, when
“Well done, good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of your
Lord." In employments of this beneficial character James B. Taylor took great delight; and the peculiar kindness of his disposition induced him to engage in teaching the people of color, of whom there are very considerable numbers in New-York, and who have been greatly neglected in all the efforts to do good which had preceded the establishment of Sabbath schools. "I am engaged," said he, in a letter to one of his sisters, dated April 5, 1818, “in a Sunday school-a pleasing task indeed! I have in my class eight, between the
of 19 and 40. Some of them learn, during the week, to recite, on Sunday, one, two and three chapters in the Bible. We have in our school about seventy regular attendants, between 16 and 72 years of
age. O how that race has been neglected ! But I trust that the time has come for them to know more of their Creator. There have been many converts, and some, both teachers and scholars, have connected themselves with the church, who ascribe their convictions to the influence of Sunday schools. We expect a great day at the anniversary. We shall probably meet in the Park, with all the children, about five thousand. These children, or most of them, were once, I may say, vagabonds, wandering about the streets, and committing the worst of crimes." Such were the first openings of a christian character, which afterwards rose to great eminence, and shone out with exceeding lustre. In the present day, opportunities of doing good are so brought home to every individual, that if any one is contented with the determination to go to heaven by himself, and let others alone, he probably needs no other evidence to prove that he is not a Christian at all.
In letters to his friends, James B. Taylor, by stating facts showing the great usefulness of Sabbath schools, and by earnest exhortations, urged them to set up similar institutions in their neighborhoods. In every way he endeavored, when a youth of only sixteen, to be the cause of good to others.
When young men are sent from the country to a large city, and become engaged in its business and pleasures, they generally are weaned from home; and its simple pleasures are regarded with contempt. This is one of the truest signs of corruption; and is an omen too sure, of the ruin which is soon to follow. If religion is not the only, it is certainly the best preservative from evils of this kind. Under its influence, James B. Taylor maintained all the simplicity of his character, and retained all his love of home, his filial and fraternal affection, in full vigor. Under date of Nov. 15, 1818, he writes :
“It would give me great pleasure to receive a letter from my kind mother. I can never repay your goodness to me in my younger days. But I hope that He who alone can give happiness, will reward you a hundred fold. I never can, and I never would erase from my memory the kind admonitions which I have received from your lips. I never can sufficiently thank the Lord that my parents have been so good to me. And it is impossible for me to express how much I love and esteem you. For this also I desire to be thankful. I esteem it a great blessing."
In many other letters addressed to his parents, similar sentiments are expressed in similar language. And the same strong natural affection was ever shown towards his brothers and sisters. But religion is the great subject of every letter; and the most intense desire that the whole family might become disciples of Jesus Christ, and partakers of his salvation, is manifested in every page.
In his correspondence, as carried on from year to year, there are clear indications of a growth of religious feeling, and increased consistency of religious character; giving promise that one so devoted in early life would be employed by the Head of the church in some remarkable way for the advancement of his cause.
He was now pleasantly situated as a merchant's clerk, with a kind-hearted, pious man, whom he great.y loved. His prospects were entirely favorable. But before the close of 1819, he determined to abandon his pursuits, renounce his hopes of becoming rich, and devote himself to the ministry of the Gospel. The providence of God was plainly in this whole affair.
A physician in New York, in full practice, and with a rising reputation, had determined to "leave all," and