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I suspected that my religious brethren saw she had the advantage of me, and I felt that her remarks were indeed unanswerable; my pride was hurt, and I determined to ascertain the exact sentiments of my associates respecting this interview. Poor soul, said I, she is far gone in error. True, said they, but she is notwithstanding a very sensible woman. Ay, ay, thought I, they have assuredly discovered, that she has proved too mighty for me. Yes, said I, she has a great deal of head knowledge, but yet she may be a lost, damned soul. I hope not, returned one of my friends, she is a very good young woman. I saw, and it was with extreme chagrin, that the event of this visit had depreciated me in the opinion of my companions; but I could do no more than censure and condemn, solemnly observing, it was better to avoid conversing with any of those apostates, and it would be judicious never to associate with them upon any occasion. From this period I, myself, carefully avoided every Universalist, and most cordially did I hate them. My ear was open to the pub. lic calumniator, to the secret whisperer, and I yielded credence to every scandalous report, however improbable. My informers were good people, I had no doubt of their veracity, and I believed it would be difficult to paint Relly and his connexions in colours too black; how severely has the law of retaliation been since exercised in the stabs, which have been aimed at my own reputation. Relly was described as a man black with crimes; an atro. cious offender both in principle and practice. He had, it was said, abused and deserted an amiable wife, and it was added, that he retained in his house an abandoned woman, and that he not only thus conducted himself, but that he publicly and most nefariously taught his hearers, thus to dare the laws of their country, and of their God. Hence, said my informers, the dissipated and unprincipled of every class flock to his church; his congregation is astonishingly large, the carriages of the great block up the street, in which his meeting-house stands, and he is the idol of the voluptuous of every description.
All this, and much more was said, industriously propagated and credited in every religious circle. Denominations at variance with each other, yet agreed most cordially, in thus thinking, and thus speaking of Relly, of his principles, of his preaching, and of his practice. I confess I felt a strong inclination to see and hear this monster once at least, but the risk was dreadful!
I could not gather courage to hazard the steadfastness of my faith; and for many years I persevered in my resolution, on no consideration to contaminate my ear by the sound of his voice. At length, however, I was prevailed upon to enter his Church, but I detested the sight of him, and my mind, prejudiced by the reports to which I had listened respecting him, was too completely filled with a recollection of his fancied atrocities, to permit a candid attention to his subject, or his mode of investigation. I wondered much at his impudence in daring to speak in the name of God, and I felt assured, that he was treasuring up unto himself, wrath against the day of wrath; I looked upon his deluded audience with alternate pity and contempt, and I thanked God that I was not one of them. I rejoiced when I escaped from the house, and as I passed home, I almost audibly exclaimed, Why, O my God, was I not left in this deplorable, damnable state, given up like these poor, unfortunate people to believe a lie to the utter perversion of my soul? But I was thus furnished with another proof of my election, in consequence of my not being deceived by this detestable deceiver, and my consolation was of course exceeding great.
About this time there was a religious society established in Cannon-street, in an independant meeting-house, for the purpose of elucidating difficult passages of scripture. This society chose for their President a Mr. Mason, who, although not a clerical gentleman, was nevertheless of high standing in the religious world: frequent application was made to him in the character of a physician to the sinking, sorrowing, sin-sick soul. His figure was commanding, and well calculated to fill the minds of young converts with religious awe. When this company of serious inquirers were assembled, the President addressed the throne of grace in a solemn and appropriate prayer, and the subject for the evening was next proposed. Every member of the society was indulged with the privilege of expressing his sentiments for the space of five minutes, a glass was upon the table, which run accurately the given term. The President held in his hand a small ivory hammer; when the speaker's time had expired, he had a right to give him notice by a stroke on the table, round which the assembled members were convened. But if he approved of what was delivered, it was optional with him to extend the limits of his term. When the question had
gone round the table, the President summed up the evidences, gave his own judgment, and having proposed the question for the next evening, concluded with a prayer.
At this society I was a constant attendant, and frequently was I gratified by the indulgence of the President, and the implied approbation of the society. It was on the close of one of these evenings, which were to me very precious opportunities, that the President took me by the hand, and requested me to accompany him into the vestry;-" Sit down, my good Sir, you cannot but have seen, that I have long distinguished you in this society, that I have been pleased with your observations, and I have given indisputable evidence, that both my reason, and my judgment approved your remarks." I bowed respectfully, and endeavoured to express my gratitude in a manner becoming an occasion so truly flattering.
"My object," said he, " in seeking to engage you in private, is to request you would take home with you a pamphlet I have written against Relly's Union; I have long wondered, that some able servant of our Master hath not taken up this subject. But as my superiors are silent, I have been urged by a sense of duty to make a stand, and I have done all in my power to prevent the pernicious tendency of this soul destroying book."
Although I had, at this period, never seen Relly's Union, yet my heart rejoiced, that Mason, this great and good man, had undertaken to write against it, and from the abundance of my heart, my mouth overflowed with thankfulness.
"All that I request of you," said Mr. Mason, " is to take this manuscript home with you, and keep it until our next meeting. Meet me in this vestry, a little before the usual time. Read it, I entreat you, carefully, and favour me with your unbiassed sentiments." I was elated by the honour done me, and I evinced much astonishment at the confidence reposed in me. But he was pleased to express a high opinion of my judgment, abilities, and goodness of heart, and he begged leave to avail himself of those qualities, with which his fancy had invested me.
I took the manuscript home, perused it carefully, and with much pleasure, until I came to a passage at which I was constrained to pause, painfully to pause. Mr. Relly had said, speaking of the record which God gave of his Son, This life is in his Son, and he that believeth not this record, maketh God a
liar; from whence, inferred Mr. Relly, it is plain that God hath given this eternal life in the Son, to unbelievers as fully as to believers, else the unbeliever could not, by his unbelief, make God a liar. This, said Mr. Mason, punning upon the author's name, is just as clear as that this writer is an Irish bishop. I was grieved to observe, that Mr. Mason could say no more upon this momentous subject, nor could I forbear allowing more than I wished to allow, to the reasoning of Mr. Relly. Most devoutly did I wish, that the advantage in argument had rested with my admired friend Mason, and I was especially desirous, that this last argument should have been completely confuted. I was positive, that God never gave eternal life to any unbeliever, and yet I was perplexed to decide how, if God had not given life to unbelievers, they could possibly make God a liar by believing that he had not. My mind was incessantly exercised, and greatly embarrassed upon this question. What is it to make any one a liar, but to deny the truth of what he hath said? But if God had no where said, that he had given life to unbelievers, how could the unbeliever make God a liar? The stronger this argument seemed in favour of the grace and love of God, the more distressed and unhappy I became, and most earnestly did I wish, that Mr. Mason's pamphlet might contain something that was more rational, more scriptural than a mere pun, that he might be able to adduce proof positive, that the gift of God, which is everlasting life, was never given to any but believers. I was indisputably assured, that I myself was a believer, and right precious did I hold my exclusive property in the Son of God.
At the appointed time I met Mr. Mason in the vestry. "Well, Sir, you have read my manuscript, I presume?" I have, Sir, and I have read it repeatedly. "Well, Sir, speak freely, is there any thing in the manuscsript which you dislike?" Why, Sir, as you are so good as to indulge me with the liberty of speaking, I will venture to point out one passage, which appears to me not sufficiently clear. Pardon me, Sir, but surely argument, especially upon religious subjects, is preferable to ridicule, to punning upon the name of an author. "And where, pray, is the objectionable paragraph to which you advert?" I pointed it out, but on looking in his face, I observed his countenance fallen, it was no longer toward me. Mr. Mason questioned my judgment,
and never afterwards honoured me with his attention. However, I still believed Mason right, and Relly wrong; for if Relly were right, the conclusion was unavoidable, all men must finally be saved. But this was out of the question, utterly impossible; all religious denominations agreed to condemn this heresy, to consider it as a damnable doctrine, and what every religious denomination united to condemn, must be false.
Thus, although I lost the favour of Mr. Mason, and he published his pamphlet precisely as it stood when he submitted it to my perusal, yet my reverential regard for him was not diminished; I wished, most cordially wished success to his book, and destruction to the author against whom it was written.
In this manner some months rolled over my head, when, accompanying my wife on a visit to her aunt, after the usual ceremonies, I repaired, according to custom, to the bookcase, and turning over many books and pamphlets, I at length opened one that had been robbed of its title page, but in running it over, I came to the very argument which had excited in my bosom so much anxiety. It was the first moment I had ever seen a line of Mr. Relly's writing, except in Mr. Mason's pamphlet; I was much astonished, and turning to Mrs. Murray, I informed her, I held Mr. Relly's Union in my hand-I asked her uncle if I might put it in my pocket? "Surely," said he, "and keep it there if you please, I never read books of divinity; I know not what the pamphlet is, nor do I wish to know." As I put it into my pocket, my mind became alarmed and perturbed. It was dangerous, it was tampering with poison, it was like taking fire into my bosom-I had better throw it into the flames, or restore it to the bookcase; such was the conflict in my bosom. However, in the full assurance that the elect were safe, and that although they took up any deadly thing, it should not hurt them. I at length decided, to read the Union; and having thus made up my mind, I experienced a degree of impatience, until I reached home, when addressing the dear companion of my youth, I said, "I have, my dear, judged and condemned before I have reard; but I have now an opportunity given me for deliberate investigation." But, returned Mrs. M, are we sufficient of ourselves? "No, my love, certainly we are not; but God allgracious hath said, If any lack wisdom let them ask of him who giveth liberally, and upbraideth not. My heart is exercised by