To Richard Morgan

Oxon, January 15, 1734.

SIR, -- Going yesterday into your son's room, I providen­tially cast my eyes upon a paper that lay upon the table, and, contrary to my custom, read a line or two of it, which soon determined me to read the rest. It was a copy of his last letter to you; whereby, by the signal blessing of God, I came to the knowledge of his real sentiments, both with regard to myself and to several other points of the highest importance.

In the account he gives of me and those friends who are as my own soul, and who watch over it that I may not be myself a castaway, are some things true: as, that we imagine it is our bounden duty to spend our whole lives in the service of Him that gave them, or, in other words, 'whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God'; that we endeavor, as we are able, to relieve the poor by buy­ing books and other necessaries for them; that some of us read prayers at the prison once a day; that I administer the sacrament once a month, and preach there as often as I am not engaged elsewhere; that we sit together five evenings in a week; and that we observe, in such manner as our health per­mits, the fasts of the Church. Some things are false, but taken up upon trust, so that I hope Mr. Morgan believed them true: as, that we almost starve ourselves; that one of us had like lately to have lost his life by too great abstinence; that we endeavor to reform notorious whores and to lay spirits in haunted houses; that we all rise every day at five o'clock; and that I am President of the Society. And some things are not only false, but I fear were known so to be when he related them as true (inasmuch as he had then had the repeated demonstration of both his eyes and ears to the contrary): such as that the Society consists of seven members (I know no more than four of them); that from five to eight in the morning they sing psalms and read some piece of divinity; and that they are emaciated to such a degree that they are a frightful sight. As to the circumstance of the brasier's wife (no intimate of mine) I am in doubt; though she positively denies she ever said so.

As strange as it may appear that one present upon the spot should so far vary from the truth in his relation, I can easily account, not only for his mistake, but for his designed misrepresentation too. The company he is almost daily with (from whom, indeed, I should soon have divided him, had not your letter's coming in the article of time tied my hands) abundantly accounts for the former; as his desire to lessen your regard for me, and thereby obviate the force of any future complaint, which he foresaw I might some time have occasion to make to you, does for the latter. And, indeed, I am not without apprehension that some such occasion may shortly come. I need not describe that apprehension to you. Be pleased to reflect what were the sentiments of your own heart when the ship that took your son from you loosed from shore; and such (allowing for the superior tenderness of a parent) are mine. Such were my father's before he parted from us; when, taking him by the hand, he said, 'Mr. Morgan between this and Easter is your trial for life: I even tremble when I consider the danger you are in; and the more because you do not yourself perceive it.' Impute not, sir, this fear either to the error of my youth or to the coldness of his age. Is there not a cause? Is he not surrounded, even in this recess, with those who are often more pernicious than open libertines? -- men who retain something of outward decency, and nothing else; who seriously idle away the whole day, and reputably revel till midnight, and ff not drunken themselves, yet encouraging and applauding those that are so; who have no more of the form than of the power of godliness, and though they do pretty often drop in at public prayers, coming after the most solemn part of them is over, yet expressly disown any obligation to attend them. 'Tis true they have not yet laughed your son out of all his dili­gence; but how long it will be before they have, God knows. They zealously endeavor it at all convenient opportunities; and temporal views are as unable to support him under such an attack as his slender notions of religion are; of which, he often says, he thinks he shall have enough if he constantly says his prayers at home and in the chapel. As to my advice on this or any other head, they had secured him pretty wall before; and your authority added to theirs has supplied him with armor of proof against it. I now beg to know what you would have me do. Shall I sit still, and let him swim down the stream? Or shall I plunge in, bound as I am hand and foot, and oppose myself to his company, his inclina­tions, and his father?

Why, you say I am to incite him to live a sober, virtuous, and religious life. Nay, but first let us agree what religion is. I take religion to be, not the bare saying over so many prayers, morning and evening, in public or in private; not anything superadded now and then to a careless or worldly life; but a constant ruling habit of soul, a renewal of our minds in the image of God, a recovery of the divine likeness, a still-increasing conformity of heart and life to the pattern of our most holy Redeemer. But if this be religion, if this be that way to life which our blessed Lord hath marked out for us, how can any one, while he keeps close to this way, be charged with running into extremes ? 'Tis true there is no going out of it, either to the right hand or to the left, without running into an extreme; and, to prevent this, the wisdom of the Church has in all ages appointed guides for the unexperienced, lest they should wander into by-paths and seek death in the error of their life. But while he is in the right way, what fear is there of your son's going too fast in it ? I appeal to your own experience. Have you observed any such disposition in him as gives you ground to suspect he will love God too well or keep himself too 'unspotted from the world'? Or has his past life been such as that you have just reason to apprehend the remainder of it should too much resemble that of our blessed Master? I will go farther. Have you re­marked, in the various scenes you have gone through, that youth in general is apt to run into the extreme of piety? Is it to this excess that the fervor of their blood and the impetu­osity of their passions hurry them? But we may not stop here. Is there any fear, is there any possibility, that any son of Adam, of whatever age or degree, should too faithfully do the will of his Creator or too exactly tread in the steps of his Redeemer? Suppose the time now come when you feel within yourself that the silver cord of life is loosed, that the dust is returning to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it. The snares of death overtake you. Nothing but pain is on the one hand, eternity on the other. The tears of the friends that surround your bed bear witness with the pangs of your own heart that it has few pulses more to beat before you launch out into the sea without a shore, before the soul shall part from your quivering lips and stand naked before the judgment-seat of God. Will you then be content with having served God according to the custom of the place you was in? Will you regret your having been, even from your youth, ' more pure and holy than the rest of mankind'? Will you complain to the ministering spirits who receive your new-born soul that you have been 'over-zealous in the love of your Master'? Ask not me, a poor, fallible, sinful mortal, never safe either from the snares of ill example or the treachery of my own heart; but ask them, ask Him who died to make you and me and your son zealous of good works, whether you may be excused for your solicitude, your too successful solicitude, to prevent his falling into this extreme! How needless has he made that solicitude already ! But I spare you. The good God be merciful to us both!

Think not, sir, that interest occasions the concern I show. I despise and abhor the thought. From the moment my brother told me, 'Mr. Morgan will be safer with you than me; I have desired he may be sent to you,' I determined (though I have never mentioned it to him) to restore to him whatsoever is paid me upon Mr. Morgan's account. It is, with regard to me, an accursed thing. There shall no such cleave unto me. I have sufficient motives without this to assist your son, so long as he will accept of my assistance. He is the brother of my dear friend, the son of one that was my friend till great names warped him from his purpose; and, what is infinitely more, the creature of my God, and the redeemed and fellow heir of my Savior. That neither the cares of the world, nor the fair speeches and venerable titles of any who set up their rest therein, may prevent our attaining our better inheritance, is the earnest prayer of, sir,

Your most obliged and most obedient servant.,

I beg, if you favor me with another letter, it may not be enclosed in Mr. Morgan's.

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