Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

blood for me, and fulfilled all righteousness in my stead, that through this great atonement and glorious obedience, he has purchased, even for my sinful soul, sanctifying grace, and all spiritual blessings.” H. To believe it was for me, just as if I had been mentioned by name; even just as my tenant believed me, when, in his last sickness, I sent a message, assuring him I had cancelled the hond, and forgiven his debt. And just as David believed the kingdom of Israel should be his own, on the express promise of Almighty God. And just as I believed my lands to be my own, by the deeds of conveyance. In a word, Aspasio would have me go to God, and say, “Pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine;" not because I am conscious of sanctifying operations in my own breast, but because I am conscious I am a sinner

- all these blessings being consigned over to me as such, in the everlasting gospel; with a clearness unquestionable as the truth, with a certainty inviolable as the oath of God. No clogging qualifications insisted on; only believe, and all is mine. I longed to know that Christ was mine.

“And could I see my title clear

To mansions in the skies,
I'd bid farewell to every tear,

And wipe my weeping eyes." But how can I see! how can I believe! O my unbelieving heart! what shall I do? “Cry to God for help,” says my Aspasio. “Seek the blessed Spirit, to testify that God has given me eternal life; and this life is in his Son; and to witness with my spirit, that I am a child of God.”

Thus, as I walked, I mused; my heart was full; I stopped, with eyes lift up to heaven, and said, “I believe; Lord, help my unbelief." I thought of Calvary. I heard the soundings of his bowels, and of his mercies towards me. “O thou of little faith! wherefore dost thou doubt?" Wherefore dost thou doubt of my love to thee, for whom I have shed my blood ?

I believed; I was ravished; I was full of love, joy, and gratitude; and with eyes again lift up to heaven, I said, “Glory be to the Holy Ghost for testifying of Christ in my heart, and appropriating this great salvation to my soul.” And thus I continued rejoicing for several days, and thought I should never doubt again.

But, 0, alas! the scene soon changed. I gradually lost a sense of my great danger, and great deliverance, as the Israelites, who sang God's praise, but soon forgat his works; or like the stony-ground hearers, who heard the word with joy, endured for a while, and fell away. Or rather like the thorny ground;

for, as about this time I removed into New England, the cares of the world came in upon me, and choked the word, and I brought forth no fruit; rather, I lost all disposition to pray or praise, and my devotions degenerated into mere formality.

And now unbelief, as I then called it, began to work. “Surely all is mere delusion,” thought I. But again I said, " This is my infirmity.” And those words of Scripture were some comfort to me “O thou of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt? Who against hope believed in hope. Who walk in darkness and see no light, let them trust in the Lord, and stay themselves on their God. Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? hope thou in God.” And I watched and prayed, and strove against my unbelieving thoughts.

From this time forward, having no clear marks or signs of grace for my comfort, nor any new manifestations of the love of God to my soul, I began, as you had directed in such a case, to live by faith. I used every day to go to God, and say, “Pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine." And thus, unconscious of any sanctifying operations in my own breast, I lived wholly by faith ; by faith, as I thought, on the promise and oath of the unchangeable Jehovah. And thus I continued many months, generally pretty easy ; although sometimes troubled with doubts and fears.

But above a year ago, as I was reading my Bible, in the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel I found the parable of the sower, which reached my case, and greatly gained the attention of my heart. Here I saw the various sorts of hearers, the different kinds of Christians described ; and perceived that none are esteemed good men by our blessed Savior, but those who, like the good ground, bring forth fruit. This startled me; this gave my faith a shock I never could get over.

However, not knowing but that I mistook the meaning of that parable, I resolved to search the Scriptures, to see if it were really the character of all true believers to bring forth fruit; that is, as I understood it, to be holy in heart and life. I began with the Gospel of St. Matthew, and read the New Testament through, and made a collection of many texts of Scripture, which I wrote down and commented upon. I will give you a specimen from my diary.

"November 20, 1757. I retired as usual to read the Holy Scriptures, by which I am to be judged at the last day. I began to read Christ's sermon on the mount Blessed are the poor in spirit; Blessed are they that mourn; Blessed are the meek; the pure of heart, etc. But, alas ! O my soul! I am not conscious of these good qualifications: are there not, nevertheless,

blessings laid up for me? I read on to chap. vii., ver. 19, 27. • Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. By their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' This, this, O my soul, reaches my very case ; this is my character; and this my doom! The following verses condemn me too. I am the man that has built his house upon the sand.” Thus far my diary.

But how discouraging soever all this appeared, yet still I maintained some secret thoughts, that I was only a backslider, and should see things clearer after a while. Besides, to give up my hopes, and look upon myself a poor, Christless sinner, after I had so long settled down in quiet, was like death to my spirits. It opened a most frightful prospect before me. If not converted now, most probably I never shall be. I had as good live on in pleasing delusion, as sink down into despair.

And besides, I remembered you had said, “This method of seeking peace and assurance,” by signs of grace, “I fear, will embarrass the simple-minded, and cherish rather than suppress the fluctuations of doubt; for let the marks be what you please, they are all a feeble and precarious evidence.” And I wished I could boldly say, as once I did, "Pardon is mine, grace is mine, Christ and all his spiritual blessings are mine," however unconscious of sanctifying operations in my own breast. H. But our blessed Savior's words struck terror through my soul “He that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, is like a foolish man, that built his house upon the sand.”

About this time, I was, by a religious person well acquainted with my case, directed to Mr. Shepherd on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Mr. Edwards on Religious Affections, Mr. Brainard's Life, and some other books of the same stamp; “which,” said he, "are esteemed by pious people in New England as the best of books on experimental religion.” I obtained the books, I read them; they condemned not only my present state, but all my notions of religion; and represented true religion to consist in something essentially different, of which I had never had the least experience; which, instead of affording comfort and hope to my dejected mind, did but confirm my

former doubts and fears. What now to do, I could not tell. Here, three thousand miles from my dear Aspasio, I cannot see his face, nor have his aid. I must find out another spiritual guide. I heard of one Paulinus, a clergyman, a noted friend to vital piety, a tender, faithful guide to be wildered souls; but not in my Aspasio's scheme. My conscience said, “Go

see the man, and act an honest part ; tell him all your case ; be willing to know the truth.” My heart replied, “I cannot go." But as a serious, solemn sense of the eternal world was now daily growing in my heart, I was soon brought to a better mind ; particularly in the evening of December 8, 1758. As I was alone for secret prayer, I had such a sense of eternity, a boundless eternity, and such a view of the dreadfulness of eternal damnation; the amazement and horror of self-deceived hypocrites, opening their eyes in eternal woe, who once refused to see, while there was hope, but now must see when all hope is forever gone; that I shuddered, and was ready even to cry out with anguish at the terrifying thought of this being at last my dreadful lot. Whereupon, resolving to be honest at all adventures, I determined on a visit the next Monday evening. I went; I went again and again ; and knowing my dear Aspasio would be glad to hear what passed, I wrote down the substance from time to time, which I now send enclosed, in the form of Three Dialogues ; which, when you have read, I am sure you will pity my case. And, O my Aspasio, cease not to pray for

Your disconsolate

THERON.

P. S. I expect no opportunity to write you again till early next spring; when you may look to hear further from your Theron, if on this side eternal burnings. God only knows how that will be. Adieu, my dear Aspasio.

DIALOGUE I.

On Monday evening, (December 11,) I had the happiness to find Paulinus at home, alone in his study. He received me with all the politeness of a gentleman, and with all the undissembled goodness of a Christian. After inquiring into the state of religion in Great Britain, when I came from thence, perceiving, by what was said, my acquaintance with Aspasio, he made some inquiries after him, and his sentiments of religion, and about a book he has lately so strongly recommended ; which

• Mr. Marshal's Gospel Mystery of Sanctification; "which I shall not,” says Mr. Hervey, “recommend in the style of a critic, or like a reader of taste, but with all the simplicity of the weakest Christian; I mean from my own experience. It has been made one of the most useful books to my own soul; I scarce ever fail to receive spiritual consolation and strength from the perusal of it. And was I to be banished into some desolate island, possessed only of two books besides my Bible, this should be one of the two, and perhaps the first that I would choose."

*

And if you

gave me an opportunity, without letting him into the state of my soul, - a thing I was loath to do, - to bring upon the board topics I designed. Wherefore I began.

Theron. Sir, may I know your sentiments relative to some points in these books?

Paulinus. I am willing you should know my sentiments on any of the doctrines of religion ; but should choose to say nothing of the sentiments of any particular author by name.

Ther. I am sensible this is not so desirable, nor should I ask it, but that I am not a little embarrassed between the scheme of religion, advanced in President Edwards's Treatise on Religious Affections, and this advanced in these books. And I want to know what may be said in answer to the particular arguments of these divines. And I shall consider all you say, how plain soever; for I desire to use the greatest freedom, not in a personal light, as designed to reflect at all on these authors, but only as designed to give instruction to me. could particularly answer several things I find in them, it would give me much more satisfaction, than to hear your opinion in general. Besides, you know what authors publish to the world they voluntarily submit to the examination of all. And if the good of mankind, which all authors profess to seek, calls for a particular examination of any of their writings, they cannot consistently be displeased, if they are used with candor. These authors themselves have taken the greatest freedom to speak of the sentiments of divines, ancient and modern. And I know my dear Aspasio would be perfectly pleased to hear you, with the utmost freedom, make all your remarks and observations on his piece; for he is one of the most candid, generous, goodnatured gentlemen I ever saw. Pray, sir, therefore, make no excuses, nor be at all

upon the reserve. Paul. What particular points, sir, do you refer to ? Ther. The nature of love to God, of justifying faith, and of

To begin with love to God: I desire to know what is the primary and chief motive, which ought to induce me to love God; a view of the ineffable glories of the Deity, as he has manifested himself in his word and in his works; or a belief of his love to me in particular.

Paul. Before we inquire into the original grounds of love to God, pray tell me, what in God are we to love; and how are we to love him.

Ther. « The Lord is not at all loved with that love that is due to him as Lord of all, if he be not loved with all our heart, and spirit, and might. And we are to love every thing in him; his justice, holiness, sovereign authority, all-seeing eye, and all his decrees, commands, judgments, and all his doings.” M.

assurance.

« VorigeDoorgaan »