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fearful apprehensions, this moment I dread to read, the next I am anxious to hear what the author can say. We will, therefore, lay this book before our God. There is, my love, a God who is not far from every one of us; we are directed to make our requests known unto him for all things, by supplication and prayer. God hath never yet said to any, seek ye my face in vain; we will, then, pray for his direction and counsel, and we may rest in the assurance of obtaining both." Accordingly, we entered our closet, and both of us, for we were both equally afflicted, prostrating ourselves before God, with prayers and tears besought him, the God of mercy, to look with pity on us; we were on the point of attending to doctrines of which we were not, we could not be judges, and we earnestly supplicated him to lead us into all truth. If the volume before us contained truth, we entreated him to show it unto us, and to increase our faith; if, on the other hand, it contained falsehood, we beseeched God to make it manifest, that we might not be deceived. No poor criminal ever prayed for life, when under sentence of death, with greater fervour of devotion, than did my labouring soul, upon this occasion, supplicate for the light of life to direct my erring steps. After thus weeping, and thus supplicating, we opened the Bible, and began to read this book, looking into the Bible for the passages to which the writer referred. We were astonished and delighted at the beauty of the scriptures, thus exhibited, it seemed, as if every sentence was an apple of gold in a picture of silver, and still, as we proceeded, the wonder was, that so much divine truth should be spoken by so heinous a transgressor; and this consideration was momently presented to my mind, as a reason why I should not continue reading. Can any thing good proceed from such a character? Would not truth have been revealed to men eminent for virtue? How is it possible discoveries so important should never have been made until now, and now only to this man? Yet, I considered, God's ways were in the great deep, he would send by whom he would send, choosing the weak and base things, to confound the mighty and the strong, that no flesh should glory in his presence. And, as my lovely wife justly observed, “I was not sure all I heard of Mr. Relly was true. That our Saviour had said to his disciples, they shall say all manner of evil of you falsely, and this may be the case in this instance. You have no personal acquaintance
with Mr. Relly, nor do you know that any of those, from whom you have received his character, are better informed than yourself. I think it doth not become us to speak or believe evil of any man without the strongest possible proof." All this was rational, I felt its full force, and blushed for my own credulity.
I proceeded to read; the Union introduced me to many passages of scripture, which had before escaped my observation. A student as I had been of the scriptures, from the first dawn of my reason, I could not but wonder at myself. I turned to Mr. Mason's book, and I discovered there a want of candour, and a kind of duplicity, which had not before met my view, and which perhaps would never have caught my attention, had I not read the Union. I saw the grand object untouched, and Relly had clearly pointed out the doctrines of the gospel. Yet there were many passages, that I could not understand, and I felt myself distressingly embarrassed. One moment I wished from my soul I had never seen the Union, and the next my heart was enlarged, and lifted up by considerations, which swelled my bosom to extacy. This was the situation of my mind during many succeeding months, and a large proportion my time was passed in reading, in studying the scriptures, and in prayer; my opening mind was pressing on to new attainments, and the prospect brightened before me. I was greatly attached to my minister, a Mr. Hitchins, he was eminent in his line, and a most pleasing preacher; Mrs. Murray was in the habit of taking down his sermons in short hand; we were delighted with the man, and exulted in considering him as a genuine gospel preacher. It happened that Mr. Hitchins took a journey into the county, and was absent on the Sabbath day. "Come, my dear," said I, "Our minister is out of town, let us avail ourselves of the opportunity, and hear the writer of the Union; this is a privilege, which few who read books can have, as authors are generally numbered with the dead, before their labours are submitted to the public eye." Her consent was always yielded to my solicitatious; but we were terrified as we passed along, in the fear of meeting some of our religious brethren; happily, however, we reached the meeting-house without encountering any one, to whom we were known.
Mr. Relly had changed his place of worship, and we were as◄ tonished to observe a striking proof of the falsehood of those reports, which had reached us; no coaches thronged the street, nor VOL. III.
surrounded the door of this meeting-house, there was no vestige of grandeur, either within or without. The house had formerly been occupied by Quakers; there were no seats, save a few benches, and the pulpit was framed of a few rough boards, over which no plane had ever passed. The audience corresponded with the house; they did not appear very religious, that is, they were not melancholy, and I therefore suspected they had not much piety. I attended to every thing, the hymn was good, the prayer excellent, and I was much astonished to witness, in so bad a man, so much apparent devotion, for still, I must confess, the prejudices I had received from my religious friends, were prevalent in my mind. Mr. Relly gave out his text, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for every tree is known by its fruit, a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." I was immeasurably surprised; what, thought I, has this man to do with a passage so calculated to condemn himself? But as he proceeded, every faculty of my soul was powerfully seized and captivated, and I was perfectly amazed while he explained who we were to understand by the good, and who by the bad trees. He proved beyond contradiction,that a good tree could not bring forth any corrupt fruit, but there was no man, who lived and sinned not; all mankind had corrupted themselves, there were none therefore good, no, not one. No mere man since the fall, has been able to keep the commandments of God, but daily doth break them in thought, in word, and in deed. There was however one good tree, JESUS, he indeed stands as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, he is that good tree, which cannot bring forth corrupt fruit. Under his shadow the believer reposeth, the fruit of this tree is sweet to his taste, and the matter of his theme constantly is, " Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon .earth, that I desire beside thee." I was constrained to believe, that I never until this moment heard the Redeemer preached, and, as I said, I attended with my whole soul. I was humbled, I was confounded, I saw clearly, that I had been all my life expecting good fruit from corrupt trees, grapes on thorns, and figs on thistles, I suspected myself, I had lost my standing, I was unsettled, perturbed and wretched; a few individuals whom I had known at Mr. Whitfield's tabernacle, were among Mr. Relly's audience, and I heard them say, as they passed out of the aisle of the church, I wonder
how the Pharisees would like our preacher. I conceived this observation was aimed at me, and it increased my confusion. I wished to hear Mrs. Murray speak upon the subject, but we passed on, wrapped in contemplation, at length I broke silence—well, my dear, what are your sentiments? "Nay, my dear, she returned, what is your opinion?" I never heard truth, unadulterated truth before, as sure as there is a God in heaven, if the scriptures be the word of God, the testimony this day delivered is the truth of God. It is the first consistent sermon, I have ever heard. I reached home full of this sermon, took up the Union, read it with new pleasure, attended again and again upon Mr. Relly, and was more and more astonished. Mr. Hitchins returned home, but, as I conceived, very much changed, more inconsistent than ever. "No, my dear," said my wife, "it is you who are changed, he preaches, as I can prove by my notes, precisely the same, yet it is truly surprising, that his multiplied contradictions have until now passed without our observation."
Well, said I, what are we to do? Can we in future bear such inconsistencies, now that we are better informed? Suppose we keep our seats as usual, attending however one half of every Sabbath to the preacher of Christ Jesus? On this we immediately determined, and by this expedient, we imagined we might obtain the gratification of hearing the truth, without running the risk of losing our reputation, for well did we know, that as professed adherents of Mr. Relly, we could no longer preserve that spotless fame we delighted to cherish.
I now commenced the reading of the scriptures, with augmented diligence. The Bible was indeed a new book to me, the veil was taken from my heart, and the word of my God became right precious to my soul. Many scriptures, that I had not before known, pressed forcibly upon my observation; and many, that until now, I had not suffered myself to believe. Still the doctrine of election distressed me; unfortunately I had connected this doctrine of election with the doctrine of final reprobation, not consid cring, that although the first was indubitably a scripture doctrine, the last was not to be found in, nor could be supported by revelation. I determined to call upon, and converse with Mr. Hitchins, on this important subject. I found him in his study, encompassed about with the writings of great men. I wait upon you, Sir, for the purpose of obtaining help. The Armenians show me many
scriptures which proclaim the universality of the atonement-I cannot answer them. What, my dear Sir, shall I do?" Why, Sir, the doctrines of election and of reprobation, are doctrines we are bound to believe, as articles of our faith, but I can say, with the Rev. Mr. Hervey, I never wish to think of them, except upon my knees. Never did I hear any one undertake to explain them, but he still further embarrassed the subject; one observation, however, is conclusive, and it never fails effectually to silence the Armenian. That if, as they affirm, Christ Jesus died for all men, then assuredly all must be saved, for no one can be eternally lost, for whom the Redeemer shed his precious blood: such an event is impossible. Now, as the Armenian will not admit a possibility that all will finally be saved, they are thus easily confounded."
This I thought was very good; it was clear as any testimony in divine revelation, that Christ Jesus died for all, for the sins of the whole world, for every man, &c. &c. and, even Mr. Hitchins had declared, that every one for whom Christ died must finally be saved. This I took home with me to my wife, she saw the truth that we were so well prepared to embrace, manifested even by the testimony of its enemies, and we were inexpressibly anxious to hear, and to understand.
We now attended public worship, not only as a duty, conceiving that we thereby increased a fund of righteousness, upon which we were to draw in every exigence, but it became our pleasure, our consolation, and our highest enjoyment. We began to feed upon the truth as it is in Jesus, and every discovery we made filled us with unutterable transport. I regarded my friends with increasing affection, and I conceived, if I had an opportunity of conversing with the whole world, the whole world would be convinced. It might truly have been said, that we had a taste of heaven below.
It was soon whispered in the tabernacle, that I had frequently been scen going to, and coming from Relly's meeting! This alarmed many, and one very dear friend conversed with me in private upon the subject, heard, what from the abundance of my heart, my mouth was constrained to utter, smiled, pitied me, and begged I would not be too communicative, lest the business should be brought before the society, and excommunication might follow. I thanked him for his kind caution, but as I had conversed only with him, I had hazarded nothing.