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Past and Present
An Early Classmate

The phrase at the head of this article would, in the minds of most persons, recall the remembrance of their school-going days. It is only to a Methodist that the sense in which the writer uses it would be perfectly intelligible. In the mind of such a one, it might awaken many pleasing associations. These are certainly awakened in my mind, by the remembrance of the individual of whom I am about to speak. The Wesleyan Church is a sort of imperium hi imperio; for, while there is a pleasing and profitable acquaintance among the members in general in any given locality, similar to that which subsists among the members of other communities, there is a still more intimate acquaintance between the members of the respective “ smaller companies called classes,” into which each “ society ” is divided. But in these smaller divisions of the Wesleyan Church, there are often found coteries still less, of kindred spirits, whom a similarity of sex, age, and disposition, render even more intimate. These disclose their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, and declare their faults to each other with a candour, minuteness, and fidelity, that they cannot exercise in the class-room. It was such a relationship and friendship that I now refer to. My class-mate, my best beloved and most profitable early religious friend, was a young Englishman, several years older than myself—for I was yet a lad, when for years he was a young man—the child of old, consistently pious Methodists, but only converted about three months before myself. Our acquaintance began with my attendance upon class-meeting. The first meeting of the kind attended by the writer will never be effaced from his memory while that faculty retains its vigor. The young man in question was not at that meeting ; he was gone with most of the society in the town, to a camp-meeting, a means of grace in those early days, much prized and owned of God in the conversion and sanctification of souls. But few were at the class-meeting, yet it was a delightful season; and I said involuntarily within my own heart, This people shall be my people, and their God shall be my God.” At the close of this meeting, I heard one commend to another the simple-hearted piety of John R-, and when the brethren returned from the camp-meeting, my attention was caught with the unusually meek and heavenly countenance of a certain young man; and my soul instantly clave to his, like the soul of Jonathan to David. A most endeared friendship sprung up between us, a friendship which never met with the slightest interruption, which was attended with nought but profit to me, and which rather increased than otherwise, up to the time of my “ goiog out to travel,”—na/, “Till he took liis last triumphant flight, From Calvary to Zion’s height.”

For, though he married and changed his place of residence and business, and we met not sometimes for years, yet I have reason to know, that an ardent friendship, of the purest and most heavenly character, subsisted between us mutually to the last. I shall never forget the heavenly glow with which he proposed, when we were walking together in a retired place, 5 one starlight night, that whichever should be called away from the toils and dangers of this life first into the world of spirits, should watch over the other, if permitted, as a “ ministering spirit;” a proposal to which, in the simplicity of my heart, I assented. And be it enthusiasm, or be it what it may, that promise, so solemnly made on his part, has been often a source of comfortable reminiscence to me, since his death, in my lonely nocturnal rides. Now that he has gone to his account, I may speak of him with freedom ; nor have I anything but what is good to say. I never met him and found him dull or indifferent to the interests of his soul. Our second question, after a mutual inquiry about our health—and sometimes it was the first—was, “ How do you prosper ? How are you getting on towards heaven? Are you happy?” or the like: and I never left his company without feeling that I was made better by it. Our meetings, though not formally so, were practically of the nature of a “ Band.” We told our faults—we admo^ nished each other—we encouraged each other—and we prayed with and for each other. We had not even the convenience of an in-door meeting place; but the fields and woods, under the broad canopy of heaven, were the places of our rapturous communings. Such was my early class-mate, the thought of meeting whom constitutes no small portion of the anticipated bliss of heaven.

“If death my friend and me divide,
Thou dost not, Lord, my sorrows chide,
Nor frown my tears to see;
Restrained from passionate excess,
Thou bid’st me mourn in calm distress,
For them that rest in Thee.

“I feel a strong, immortal hope,
Which bears my mournful spirit up,
Beneath its mountain load;
Redeemed from death, and grief, and pain,
I soon shall see my friend again,
Within the arras of God.

“Pass the few fleeting moments more,
And death the blessing shall restore,
Which death hath snatched away:
For me, Thou wilt the summons send,
And give me back my parted friend,
In that eternal day!”

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