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ternal indications of inward depravity, conscience discovered and reproached me with one especially; and I was for the first time, disquieted with apprehensions of the wrath of an offended God. My attendance at the Lord's table was expected about the same time: and though I was very ignorant of the meaning and end of that sacred ordinance; yet this circumstance, uniting with the accusations of my conscience, brought an awe upon my spirits, and interrupted my before undisturbed course of sin.
Being, however, an utter stranger to the depravity and helplessness of fallen nature, I had no doubt that I could amend my life whenever I pleased. Previously therefore to communicating, I set about an unwilling reformation; and, procuring a form of prayer, I attempted to pay my secret addresses to the Majesty of heaven. Having in this manner silenced my conscience, I partook of the ordinance: I held my resolutions also, and continued my devotions, such as they were, for a short time; but they were a weariness and a task to me, and, temptations soon returning, I relasped; so that my prayer-book was thrown aside, and no more thought of till my conscience was again alarmed by the next warning given for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Then the same ground was gone over again, and with the same issue. My “goodness was like the morning dew that passeth away;" and, loving sin and disrelishing religious duties as much as ever, I returned, as “the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
With little variation this was my course of life for rrine years: but in that time I had such experience of
my own weakness, and the superior force of tempta. tion, that I secretly concluded reformation in my case to be inpracticable. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?” I was experimentally convinced that I was equally unable, with the feeble barrier of resolutions and endeavours, to stem the torrent of my impetuous inclinations, when swelled by welcome, suitable, and powerful temptations: and being ignorant that God had reserved this to himself as his own work, and had engaged to do it for the poor sinner who, feeling his own insufficiency, is heartily desirous to have it done by him, I stifled my convictions as well as I could, and put off my repentance to a more convenient season.
But being of a reflecting turn, and much alone, my mind was almost constantly employed. Aware of the uncertainty of life, I was disquieted with continual apprehensions that this more convenient season would never arrive; especially as, through an unconfirmed state of health, I had many warnings and near prospects of death and eternity. For a long time I entertained no doubt that impenitent sinners would be miserable for ever in hell; and at some seasons such amazing reflections upon this awful subject forced themselves into my mind, that I was overpowered by them, and my fears became intolerable. At such times my extemporary cries for mercy were so earnest and persevering, that I was scarcely able to give over; though at others I lived without prayer of any sort! Yet in my darkest hours, though my conscience was awakened to discover more and more sinfulness in my whole behaviour, there remained a hope that I should one day repent and turn unto God. If this hope were from myself, it was a horrid presumption; but the event makes me willing to acknowledge a persuasion that it was from the Lord : for, had it not been for this hope, I should probably have given way to temptations, which frequently assaulted me, to put an end to my own life, in proud discontent with my lot in this world, and in mad de. spair about another.
A hymn of Dr. Watts, (in his admirable little book for children, entitled · The all-seeing God,' at this time fell in my way: I was much affected with it, and having committed it to memory was frequently repeating it, and thus continually led to reflect on my guilt and danger.- Parents may from this inconsiderable circumstance be reminded, that it is of great importance to store their children's memories with useful matter, instead of suffering them to be furnished with such corrupting trash as is commonly taught them. They know not what use God may make of these early rudiments of instruction in future life.
At this period, though I was the slave of sin, yet, my conscience, not being pacified, and my principles not greatly corrupted, there seemed some hope concerning me; but at length Satan took a very effectual method of silencing my convictions, that I might sleep securely in my sins : and justly was I given over to a strong delusion to believe a lie, when I held the truth that I did know in unrighteousness. I met with a Socinian comment on the Scriptures, and greedily drank the poison, because it quieted my fears and flattered my abominable pride. The whole system
coincided exactly with my inclinations and the state of my mind. In reading this exposition, sin seemed to lose its native ugliness, and to appear a very small and tolerable evil; man's imperfect obedience seemed to shine with an excellency almost divine; and God appeared so entirely and necessarily merciful, that he could not make any of his creatures miserable without contradicting his natural propensity. These things influenced my mind so powerfully, that I was enabled to consider myself, notwithstanding a few little blemishes, as upon the whole a very worthy being. At the same time, the mysteries of the gospel being explained away, or brought down to the level of man's comprehension, by such proud and corrupt, though specious, reasonings; by acceding to these sentiments, I was, in my own opinion, in point of understanding and discernment, exalted to a superiority above the generality of mankind; and I pleased myself in looking down with contempt upon such as were weak enough to believe the orthodox doctrines. Thus I generally soothed my conscience: and if at any time I was uneasy at the apprehension that I did not thosoughly deserve, eternal happiness, and was not entirely fit for heaven; the same book afforded me a soft pillow on which to lull myself to sleep: it argued, and I then thought proved, that there were no eternal torments; and it insinuated that there were no torments except for notorious sinners, and that such as should just fall short of heaven would sink into their original nothing. With this welcome scheme 1 silenced all my fears, and told my accusing conscience, that if I
fell short of heaven I should be annihilated, and never be sensible of my loss.
By experience I am well acquainted with Satan's intention, in employing so many of his servants to in. vent and propagate those pestilent errors, whether in speculation or practice, that have in all ages corrupted and enervated the pure and powerful doctrine of the gospel; for they lead to forgetfulness of God and security in sin, and are deadly poison to every soul that imbibes them, unless a miracle of grace prevent. Such on one hand are all the superstitious doctrines of po. pery: purgatory, penances, absolutions, indulgences, merits of good works, and the acceptableness of willworship and uncommanded observances; what are these but engines of the Devil to keep men quiet in their sins? Man, resolved to follow the dictates of his depraved inclination, and not to bound his pursuits and enjoyments by the limits of God's holy law, catches at any thing to soften the horrible thought of eternal misery. This is the awakening reflection, God's sword in the conscience, which it is Satan's business by all his diabolical artifices, to endeavour to sheath, blunt, or turn aside; knowing that while this alarming apprehension is present to the soul, he can never maintain possession of it in peace. By such inventions therefore as these, he takes care to furnish the sinner with that which he seeks, and to enable him to walk according to the course of this wicked world and the desires of depraved nature, without be. ing disturbed by such dreadful thoughts. The same on the other hand, is the tendency of all those speculations, of reasoning men, which set God's attributes