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lingered in my heart, cheering me with the belief that I should eventually obtain my sight, and so I returned home again.
About this time the money of the company, issued from the city loan, which I was bound to take in payment for my timber, depreciated one-half in value. There was at this time, too, probably two millions of dollars of it in circulation, so that it was difficult to pay a debt of one dollar with two. As continental times had come again throughout the country, my prospects for making money on that job received a fatal stab. My only hope now was, that the company would give me my retain percentage, which at that time was considerable. The man of whom I bought the land, refusing to take the railroad money, closed up his mortgage, and forced all to sheriff sale; and as there was no one who had current money to buy, the mills, land and all, brought only one thousand dollars. Here was a tremendous sacrifice. I now had nothing else to do but to pay off my men, gather up my family and goods, and return to Pennsylvania. I intended to spend the summer in search of a physician that would be able to restore to me my sight.
This was in the spring of 1842. I intended also to settle up my business in the three States as fast as possible. I had at this time probably unsettled business with various corporations and individuals, to the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars, and most of it in a perplexed and embarrassed situation. The railroad company unmercifully refused to give me my retain percentage, unless compelled by a course of law. This they very well knew I was unprepared to do. For an individual to contend in law with corporations, is like approaching a hornet's nest, and is generally vain, however just the claim may be. And I here give it as my opinion, that in general, at least, they are a curse to the country; that they are without character or responsibility. Taking this general view of my business, in connexion with my infirmity, I resolved to give to my creditors a schedule of all my debts and credits the world over, and let them make the best of them they could for themselves. My debts amounted to a little over eight thousand dollars, and the amount due me about eighteen thousand, leaving a balance in my favour, if all could be collected, of about ten thousand dollars. This is probably about the way I stand as to this world's affairs. The greater part of what is due me, being in the hands of rotten corporations, I fear there will not be half enough collected, even to pay up my debts.
“How vain are all things here below,
How false and yet how fair!
And every sweet a snare.” Dear reader, have you any treasure in heaven? Do you feel daily an earnest of that blood-bought inheritance? Have you the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit that you are adopted into the family of God! Pause one moment, and ask yourself this solemn and important question. If the answer is in the negative, I care not how many acres you call your own, or how many honours of this world you enjoy, unless you can read your title clear" to that heavenly inheritance, let me tell you that you are a poor man, blind and naked.
By this time I was totally eclipsed, having counselled with some of the most eminent physicians, without any encouragement or prospect of the recovery of my sight.
I think it was in the month of May that I spent a Sabbath in Martinsburg, and at the place where I attended meeting there was quite a revival of religion among the Methodists and Lutherans. The text in the morning was, “Awake, thou sleeper." Every word seemed to be directed to me, and awakened the sleeping energies of my soul. I returned to the hotel where before I had passed through that month of severe illness, entered the same chamber, and there in my solitude made a solemn covenant with Almighty God that I would, from that moment, set out to seek his face and favour; and that if I died without mercy or pardon, death should find me in the pursuit of it. I was
now in good earnest, and think that, for the first time in my life, I was fully resolved to get religion. I shall remember that vow in eternity. I felt as if it were almost presumptuous to seek the favour of that God whose mercies I had abused ever since I had reached the years of accountability. There was also to be a meeting in the evening, and an invitation was to be given for mourners to present themselves at the altar of prayer. Now I had gained the victory over the devil on the start, and he knew well that my mind was irrevocably made up to seek the Lord, and I heard no more suggestions to procrastinate the day of repentance, neither would I listen to any. I was now as fully bent, and in as good earnest to obtain a heavenly treasure, as I ever was before after earthly treasures. He therefore took a new device, which was, as I discovered after I was converted, to set me to earning heaven by my prayers and tears. He endeavoured to make me believe that I knew all about the plan of salvation, and that better than one-half the preachers could tell me, and that I had talent sufficient to make a first-rate prayer for a new beginner. When evening came, I went to the meeting, with the plan already made up in my mind how to proceed. I intended to go to work in great earnest, expecting, when I had prayed to a certain extent, to come out shouting and happy. Accordingly, when the preaching was over and mourners were invited forward, I was the first to lead the way, and several
others followed. I got down on my knees and began to pray with all my might. I felt that I was on dangerous ground. The avenger of blood seemed at my heels. I wept, mourned, and begged for life, eternal life. The minister came and spoke to me, but I did not listen to what he said, supposing I knew quite as much about the way of salvation as he did.
The meeting closed about ten o'clock, and an appointment was given out for a prayer-meeting at the same place, about sunrise the next morning. I returned home to my room, and prayed and wrestled much during the night. The next morning, like weeping Mary, I was among the first at the church. As meeting opened, I began to pray audibly and fervently, but returned to the hotel, feeling the load of my sins growing heavier.
My dear reader, whoever you are, let us pause here a moment, and consider the work you are reading. It is not a sermon; not a production clothed in the habiliments of literature, but it is the history and experience of a poor sinner, brought by the
mercy of God to see his danger and seek salvation. In the preface of this work, I exhorted you to eschew the evil and embrace the good, if per
should find any in such a life of errors. And in setting forth to my various readers both wisdom and folly, I am aware that I subject myself to the sneers and ridicule of the proud and scornful wisdomite of this world. And to the cold, dead