« VorigeDoorgaan »
My knowledge of downright believing was exceedingly scanty; my hopes were too easily raised or sunk in propor. tion to the fineness or agreeableness of my in ward feelings on the one hand, and their dulness or disagreeableness on the other. I was not fully instructed in the unchangeable. ness of the divine veracity and love. I mean no reflection against my teachers, but only against my own perception of the truths revealed and taught. I read the Bible; but my mind was not sufficientlyopened, simply to receive what it taught me, without intermixing fancied trash of myown. I knew some of my cotemporary brethren were in the same predicament, if language has an affixed meaning: They spoke like me; so I suppose they felt like me. But, waving this, the length I afterwards went, in secret depar. tures from the God of Abraham, was great! As a singu. Jar monument of the superabounding riches of saving, sovereign, redeeming mercy, I say what follows:
My falling away was gradual, like the declension from noon tonight. I think the decayof comfort in secret prayer was the first bad symptom which made its appearance. This ruffled me for a while, but it soon became famil. iar, as a companion, and caused little uneasiness. pleasure in attending the administration of the word, for a long time after this took place; and when this,in a great digree, abated, my profession dwindled into formality. All alung, I had a regard for the truly godly, associated with none else; these were the men of my counsels. For & considerable tine, I had little heart for attending private Bucieties of Christians, and was pleased when an apparently good escuse presented for non attendance; though, upon the whole, I was one of the most regular attendants on the meetings of which I was a member, I am relating facts,
50 must not accuse myself, except where guilty. At this time, I knew I was doing wrong, and lazily wished I had a heart to do better, but had no resolution to prosecute my desire.
In my worst situation, I had a keen desire to be useful to others; aod I cannot say it was wholly from selfish mo. tives. J bad often an opportunity of visiting the sick and the dying, but seldom possessed a proper spirit or frame for talking to them in a way consonant to their case. Though the poor creatures might seem on the frontiers of eternity, no sympathizing emotion would arise; dumbness would seize me; I could not speak; I could not pray. I lost much of my reverence for the Sahbath; found the commandment to sanctify it had no internal restraint upon my mind. I began to use freedoms with it; to talk about news, or some occurrence which my judgment told me was unsuitable conversation for such an occasion. This did me great injury; defacing all that the word had effect. ed, and throwing me open to a thousand temptations through the week.
I always had a value for real religion, judging those alone happy who possessed it, and would have given a world to be like minded with them; but the influences of the Spirit are not to bought with money.
For a long time I only considered myself a Christian under backsliding; indeed, I had partial recoveries. But I had a secret sin which easily beset me, and, in process of time, I became its humble servant. I often opposed it, but oftener complied with it. I pleaded in favor of it at the bar of my mind, endeavoring to silence every witness which appeared against it. Something would say, Will you commit this sin, and risk heaven? Another thought would start up, and say,Do it, pray do it; you know you cap rea, pent of it at a future periud; it is as easy to repent of many, as of one sin; do comply; so I complied! On this, satan would suggest, Now you have eaten the forbidden fruit, like Adam, you are a lost man; you
gone too far for repentance to have any weight. This affair would create a bustle for a while; but it was soon over. How ever, the remembrance of it in retirement was never ef. faced, but often filled me with uneasiness and anxious concern; but was long in reaching the conscience.
I uften omitted prayer, when from home, without much uneasiness and was always conscious I was unprepared for dying, and became afraid at the thoughts of death; but some glimmering hope continued for years. I thought I saw hypocrisy written upon all my actions, but had some hope I was not a hypocrite, and often desired self not to interfere with my actions; but he always had a large share in them. I often groaned, after performing a generous action. My naturaltem per led me to be serviceabletoevery, body; and I was universally esteemed and well spoken of, but was seldom commended without a gloom overspreading
I sometimes pitied man, who could be easily imposed on, who could only judge from the external appearance. Though my relish for spiritual converse was often so flat as to incapacitate me for promoting it, yet I mostly desired that it should be the chief topic of discourse among the Lord's people, and had most satisfaction when it was.
I was often tempted to lay a little stress upon my having a name to live, but was conscious that I was dead; and this stung me to the heart. Reflection upon my coo. duct through no day was pleasant. When I turned my eye to the offers of the gospel, my mind was always dark
and full of embarrassment. I confessed them all truths, but none of them pointed at me; consequently, the most explicit gospel offer, yielded me only a perhaps.
I think it was about the beginning of 1794, my con. science began to harass me. This, for a considerable space, happened only about bed time, or when I awoke during the night; bat, ordinarily, this passed unnoticed in the day time, and then I was cheerful, secretly hoping things would turn out, by and by, better than my fears. Ob!-deceitful and desperately wicked heart!
At this period, I was continually harassed by invitations to soppers.
At these I generally remained too long, the company being always agreeable. May the Lord ever deliver me from supping in strange houses! They had al. most ruined my soul. Family duty neglected at home; a bad example set to others; secret duty hurried over; and the mind totally dissipated!
About the beginning of November, 1794, upon a certain occasion, I oficially attended a company for three or sūür Dights to a late bour. Several serious young people made part of the company. This stared me in the face as a most destructive example to them; and this conduct was the first thing, so far as I recollect, that mightily roused my conscience; then all my guilt rushed into my mind, like a mighty torrent, so that I thought that I should have perished in my affliction! By night I could not sleep, for the horrible anguish which gnawed upon my goilty soul; the horrors of hell took hold of mr and I knew not what to do; my day of grace was gone; у
damnation just and sure. I was filled with a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery is dignation, to consume me as God's adversary. I looked into the Bible; but always stinging texts looked me
in the face. I often tried to find comfort from that precious word; Isa. i. 18. “Though your sins be as scarlet,” &c. but I could not reason myself into the reception of it. That word, “My Spirit shall not always strive with you,” pierced me to the quick; and that other, “What a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The flames of hell seemed beginning to take hold of me! I shrunk! I moaned! I cried! For all this, my heart was as hard as the nether millstone. A sight of the horrors into which sin hath plunged us, may terrify, but can never melt the sinner's heart. Indeed, indeed I was brought very low, as much so as satan could well bring a guilty soul on this side death. Glad would I have been to be metamorphosed, not like Nebuchadnezzar almost, but altogether into a beast, that I might avoid the awful, but righteous indignation of Jehovah. Day and night was I tortured. Nor had I freedom to repeal my case to any man.
Often was I on the eve of doing it; but the Lord had determined that flesh and blood were not to be the means of my rellef. During many sermons that I heard, I sat as a condemned crim. inal, believing that others were fed, while I was hungry; no food for me. Some people desire to have what is called a law work; but, had they an hour of what I have faintly described above, they would wish they had never been born.
The arrows of the Almighty stuck faster and deeper, as days and hours moved on. The comfortable testimo. nies of Jesus flew all past me, or rather, were all rejec!ed by me. Judas, Jalian, and such rejecters of the gospel, were viewed as the men who were to be my eternal asso. ciates; often wishing I had never known the gospel; envy. ing the situation of the most abandoned debauchee, who