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Lucy Barns

Lucy Barns

from The Female Christian (1813)

"Exhortation"

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: Let us therefore live in love and unity one with another; for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. God is love, and be that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him." When we behold the infinite love of God so clearly set forth in the scriptures, and so evidently displayed in all the works of his hands, shall we presume to set bounds to the same? shall we "limit the holy one of Israel," and circumscribe infinity itself? To whom shall we presume to say his love doth not extend, or that his mercy doth not reach? For lo! "He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." Although he pursueth the ungodly with vengeance and causeth his severe judgments to overtake the wicked, yet "he retaineth not his anger forever because he delighteth in mercy;" "neither will he be always wroth, for the spirit should fail before him, and the souls which he hath made:" and though he visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquities with stripes, yet he chasteneth us "for our profit that we may be partakers of his holiness." Seeing the love and goodness of our heavenly parent is so great towards us, O may we not be so ungrateful for those blessings as to neglect the duties we owe him and our fellow mortals; May we "be diligent in well doing;" and "let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Let us endeavor to love and to pray for our enemies, remembering that whilst we were yet enemies, in due time Christ died for us. Behold the sufferings and distresses our Saviour hath endured for our sakes: Behold him groaning, bleeding, dying upon the cross, to purchase for us everlasting peace and salvation. Behold him friendless and alone in the midst of his vile enemies: and O! hear him, in the height of his extreme agony in tender mercy and pitying love, imploring pardon for his enemies, saying, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Let us therefore endeavor as far as we are able to imitate this glorious example of pardoning mercy, and boundless charity. For although we have all faith so that we could remove mountains, and though we bestow all our goods to feed the poor, and give our bodies to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth us nothing. But O, let not this be our charity, to judge, censure and condemn every one to eternal perdition, whose religious tenets are not perfectly congenial to our own; and whose articles of faith and modes of worship do not exactly correspond with ours; for thus saith our glorious pattern of mercy and charity, "If any man hear my words and believe not. I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

May we be enabled to worship our heavenly father "in spirit and in truth:" for pure and undefiled religion consists not in idle forms and vain ceremonies. Neither does it consist in afflicting our souls, and spreading sackcloth and ashes under us, bowing the head like a bulrush, lengthened and disfigured faces, solemn countenances, praying often before men, and trumpeting forth our goodness in all our places of public worship. These traits belong not to the Christian religion, they are the habiliments of the hypocrite and the Pharisee: and the same which Jesus Christ used so frequently to reprove in them. And shall we who pretend to be called by his name assume the detestable and filthy garb? May God forbid. But wholly let us lay aside these nauseous and tattered garments of self-righteousness: banish prejudice, superstition and bigotry, and pursue these things only which make for peace. Let us do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. But be not this our humility, to "thank God we are not as other men are; extortioners, unjust, &c.;" nor to say to our neighbor "stand by thyself for I am holier than thou." Nor above all, to imagine in our hearts, that we have power to "frustrate heaven's high design!" and overthrow the eternal will and purpose of the HIGH AND LOFTY ONE, who inhabiteth ETERNITY!!!

For O! is not this the summit of human pride; and presumption in the superlative degree!! May this then be our humility, to acknowledge (not in word only, but in our hearts) that we are sinners; and to believe also, that "we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God."

I must now address a few words to my young friends and companions: Let us listen attentively to the voice of wisdom, and cheerfully obey her instructions. Let us attend carefully to those good works, which are "good and profitable unto men." May we remember our Creator, in the days of our youth; and earnestly seek for that pure and undefiled religion, that knowledge of the love and goodness of God, and that faith in the final fulfillment of all his gracious promises, which alone can secure to us that peace and consolation which the world can neither give nor take away. But let us not deceive ourselves, and think we have found religion, merely because we have learned a few forms and ceremonies of those who profess religion, and can say over a few words often repeated by them. But let us diligently search our own hearts, and see if we can find the witness there: and if we can there discover the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, it will afford us sufficient evidence that we are in influenced by the spirit of God. Thus we need not apply to the experiences of others, to know if we possess the "one thing needful." For hereby know we that we dwell in God and he in us, because he hath given us of his spirit. We know also that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. And should we be so blest as to find that we possess a measure of the spirit of God, which leadeth us to the exercise of religion, we need not proclaim it abroad by the sound of the trumpet; our works will soon make it manifest: for by our works we shall be known. But if some do not believe that we possess religion, because we do not make a public profession, it cannot diminish the joy we experience in it; for pure religion seeks not for the praise and glory of men. But whatever blessings we enjoy, let us not vaunt ourselves over others, but humbly acknowledge with grateful hearts the unbounded goodness of him who hath so mercifully bestowed them on us. Surely we have no occasion of boasting over any one, seeing that we possess nothing that we did not receive from him who is the giver of all good.

Let us therefore be humble and endeavor to pursue the paths of peace, and to walk in the straight and narrow way. And whenever we discover any going on in vice and wickedness, and walking in the broad road, in search of happiness, let us pity their weakness and folly, and mistaken ideas of bliss, and endeavor if possible, to restore them in the spirit of meekness; "considering ourselves lest we also be tempted." For if we had their temptations, we might perhaps do equally as bad, or even worse than they.

"Mercy to other's failings show,
"As you would be forgiven;
"The best man's lot, alas, were woe,
"Was mercy not in heaven."

May every blessing attend you, which can contribute in the least, both to your temporal and spiritual welfare. May the God of peace be with you always. May you be patient in tribulation, remembering that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and that these afflictions which are sent for our profit, are but short, but the joys which will soon upon dawn upon us, are of an endless duration.

I cannot expect to enjoy your society but a little longer in this world, but trust we shall meet again in those blest mansions of bliss, where pain and sorrow durst not invade, and where parting is no more.*

* This address she finished the day before her death.