THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN FOR HIS DAUGHTER, AT HER REQUEST, AS A MEMORIAL OF HIMSELF.
Now, in the eve of a life but poorly spent, I write a few lines for you, that you may have a token to remember me by, after my decease. But why all this? A century from this time, there will not be a person on earth, that ever heard there was such a man as myself; nor am I anxious to perpetuate a name associated with so few virtues and so many defects. If my name is found in the Lamb’s Book of Life – if my robe is washed and made white by his blood – if he will say to me at the judgment day, “come, ye blessed of my father, receive the reward of a crown of life, and palm of victory,” it is – it ought to be – my greatest desire; nevertheless, while I am here in the body, living on the bounties of heaven, I have a feeble desire to serve my generation by the will of God, like David, knowing that shortly I must fall asleep.
Sin has introduced so much darkness and blindness into this world, that I have ever found it a hard task to find the real truth; and notwithstanding the true light has been shining ever since the Son of Righteousness arose, still blindness and inattention involve me in ignorance. Nor is this all; sin has so completely ruined men, that any scheme of restoration that creatures can comprehend, would be insufficient; a scheme founded in infinite wisdom, and executed in infinite love and omnipotent power, was necessary. This scheme the gospel reveals; but how incompetent are men, or angels, to understand it in all its parts. The wonders hidden in this plain, will be gradually unfolding to the saints eternally, but will never be exhausted. But,
Tho’ of exact perfection we despair,
Yet every step to virtue’s worth our care.
Some feeble conclusions that I have formed of God’s truth, here follow:
The excellencies of human life consist in justice, accommodation, mercy, truth and liberality.
JUSTICE has just weights, measures and balances, will never deceive or defraud any one, and will not extort or diminish his own or another’s, for the sake of advantage.
ACCOMODATION, by looking not on our own things, (exclusively,) but on the things of others, with but little or no expense, can greatly diminish the troubles, and increase the comforts of the world.
MERCY has a pitiful eye and a liberal hand, towards all the distressed. It feels another’s wo, and will not say to the needy, “be ye warmed, and be clothed,” without giving relief, if in its power.
TRUTH, without disguise, was so much esteemed among some of the heathen, that they had a goddess, called Truth, stark naked. If every one would speak truth with his neighbor, we might believe every word we hear, and grow wise. Many times men are brought into a dilemma, where a little lie will seem to help them out. Such was the case with Peter; but a good man, governed by goodness, will swear to his own hurt and not change, – that is, he will stick to the truth, if it injures himself.
LIBERALITY of heart, reduced to practice for the public good – useful institutions, and the relief of individuals, according to what a man hath, is approved among all nations.
All these excellencies, with their corresponding virtues, may be performed by a mere man of the world, who has never been anointed with the “holy unction,” or drank of the “water of life.” And if, in addition thereto, he has abstained from all overt acts, and “kept all from his youth up,” all together, can gain no hope beyond the grave, nor show one sin forgiven. One thing is still lacking.
A great part of the preceptive addresses given in the Old Testament, and some in the New, were given to men as citizens of state, or moralists in human society, and have no bearing on eternity: of course, the promises and penalties annexed thereto, are contingent.
That children do that, in their ancestors, long before they are born, for which they are applauded or punished, is noticed in the Bible: see Heb. vii., 9, 10. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, Luke xi., 50. That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. Without enlarging here, I may safely say, that all have sinned, and are by nature children of wrath, under guilt and in a state of pollution. Neither the human nature of heathens, the religious rituals of the pharisees, nor the smoking altars, and bleeding victims of the Mosaic institution, can take away the guilt of sin, or purge the conscience of dead works. The blood of Christ alone removes the guilt of sin, – his holy anointing frees us from its reigning dominion. Yes, the religion that saves the soul from sin, guilt, and condemnation, includes a mediator, who died for our sins, a change of heart, or being born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, (of his own will he begets us by the word of truth,) not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, he works in us, both to will and to do. This spirit of grace, shed abundantly on the soul, causes it to bring forth the fruits of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against which there is no law. This immortal seed, which abides with the saints, not only produces the internal fruits, just mentioned, but is a stronger stimulus to prompt to every good work, both religious and human, than the horrid fear of punishment, and the flattering hope of reward.
These are my views of religion; but as I lay no claim to infallible inspiration, or profundity of research, I cannot tell whether any, or how much error may be incorporated into my creed. I, therefore, advise every one to read, pray, and examine personally, with an unbiased mind, remembering that an honest, humble heart, is more acceptable to God than boasted wisdom.
Elder John Leland
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 659 – 661