I am reminded, in these remarks, of a passage in the beautiful poem of the Cotter's Saturday Night:
"Then, kneeling down to heaven's eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays;
Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing,
That thus they all shall meet in future days:
There ever bask in uncreated rays,
"No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
There ever hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear,
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere."
Within a few days, and since commencing the writing of these remarks, an incident has come to my knowledge, which illustrates the subject. A young man not far distant, having arrived at an age when it seemed to be proper for him to do so, left his father's house to engage in some business in another place. He was soon exposed to unforeseen temptations, and fell into great sin. He not only sinned, but became hardened and desperate in sin. His friends followed him, reasoned with him, entreated him, but all in vain. The victory of the great adversary, who had entangled him in his toils, seemed to be complete. They then made one request; — that, fixed and desperate as he was in his vicious course, he would so far yield to the common claims of humanity as to visit once more his father's house, and permit his aged parents to look upon him before they died. It was with great reluctance that he consented. As he came back, the home of his youth rose before him. The fields, where he had wandered in the delightful days of childhood, expanded in his sight; — beautiful in themselves, but, alas, how changed to him, who had lost the mirror of beauty in his own darkened heart! All received him with those unaffected tokens of benevolent interest, which are the natural language of love. There were no reproofs, no remonstrances. They understood that he came back professedly a sinner, — and a sinner by choice. And having already exhausted their efforts for his recovery, they had no courage to do or say anything more.
Accordingly, the day of his return passed away without any visible signs of penitence and returning union. And yet he was a son and a brother. The bright sun went down over the hills; and the various members of the family, resting from their labors, shared in each other's society. At the usual hour in the evening, they gathered around the domestic hearth, as had ever been their custom, that they might pray together, and mingle their hearts in penitence and faith, in the presence of their Maker, before they slept. The father read the Bible, and prayed; and they sang their evening hymn. This affecting scene, that Bible which had warned and instructed his childhood, a parent's supplication, that sacred song in which brothers and sisters joined, the presence of so many beloved objects, the peace and purity of the dear and sacred heaven of home, presented in contrast with the wretchedness and sin of the scenes to which he had recently been accustomed, broke the barrier of his rebellious spirit; the tears of true penitence and love fell from his eyes; and he was rendered doubly happy by being restored, at the same time, to the center of affections in God, and the center of affections on earth.
— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 6.