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The profits arising from the sale of this edition will
be equally divided between "the Society for the support of poor widows with small children,” and "the Orphan Asylum Society."
IN writing the volumes of biography, so frequently presented to the world, the motives of their authors have been various, and the subjects diversified.
Mankind take an interest in the history of those, who, like themselves, have encountered the trials, and discharged the duties, of life. Too often, however, publicity is given to the lives of men, splendid in acts of mighty mischief, in whom the secret exercises of the heart would not bear a scrutiny. The memoirs are comparatively few, of those engaged in the humble and useful walks of active benevolence, where the breathings of the soul would display a character, much to be admired, and more to be imitated.
As the celebrated Dr. Buchanan has observed, that if you were to ask certain persons, in christian coun-. tries, if they had any acquaintance with the religious world, they would say, "they had never heard there was such a world." So, whilst the external conduct of individuals is made the subject of much critical remark, the religion of the heart, the secret source of action, too frequently escapes unnoticed and unexplored.
It is only when the career of life is closed, that the character is completely established. On this account, memoirs of the living are in few instances read with much interest by others; or contemplated without the danger of self-deception, and too much complacency, by the living subjects themselves.
But when the soul has departed, and the body sleeps in dust, it may prove useful to survivors, to examine the principles which led their departed friend to a life of honourable benevolence, and to a peaceful end.
On this account, and at the urgent request of many respectable characters, it has been deemed advisable to publish some of the writings of Mrs. ISABELLA GRAHAM, recently called away from us; whose character was so esteemed, and whose memory is so venerated in the city where she dwelt.
Self was so totally absent from all her motives of activity in deeds of benevolence, that she at once commanded love and respect; and, in her case peculiarly, unalloyed with any risings of jealousy, envy, or distrust.
Blessed with a spirit of philanthropy, with an ardent and generous mind, a sound judgment, and an excess of that sensibility which moulds the soul for friendship;— of a cultivated mind, and rich experience, her company was eagerly sought, and highly valued by old and young. Though happily qualified to shine in the drawing-room, her time was seldom wasted there; for such a disposition of it would have been comparative waste, contrasted with her usual employments. Her steps were never seen ascending the hill of ambition, nor tracing the mazes of popular applause. Where the widow and the orphan wept, where the sick and the dying moaned, thither her footsteps hastened: and there, seen only by her Heavenly Father, she administered to their temporal wants, breathed the voice of consolation on their ear, shed the tears of sympathy, exhibited the truths of the gospel from the sacred volume, and poured out her soul for them in prayer to her Saviour and her God.
In a few such deeds she rested not; the knowledge
of them was not obtruded upon others, nor recorded by herself. The recollection of past exertions, was lost in her zeal to accomplish greater purposes and greater good; her heart expanded with her experience, and her means were too limited, her activity almost inaction, in the abounding desires of her soul to alleviate the miseries, and to increase the comforts of the poor, the destitute, and afflicted.
Let no one think this picture the painting of fancy, or the colouring of partial affection. It is sober truth; a real character.
To know the latent springs of such external excellence, is worthy of research; they may be all summed up in this, the Religion of the Heart.
The extracts from Mrs. Graham's letters, and from her devotional exercises, will form the best developement of her principles; and may, with the blessing of God, prove useful to those who read them. In all her writings will be manifested the power of faith, the efficiency of grace; and in them, as in her own uniform confession, Jesus will be magnified, and self will be humbled.
In connexion with such a publication, it is thought that a short sketch of her life will prove acceptable; a life chiefly distinguished by her continual dependence on God, and his unceasing faithfulness and mercy towards her.
Isabella Marshall, (afterwards Mrs. Graham,) was born on the 29th of July, 1742, in the Shire of Lanark in Scotland. Her grandfather was one of the elders who quitted the established church with the Rev. Messrs. Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine. She was educated in the principles of the church of Scotland. Her father and mother were both pious: indeed her mother,