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duct: but the renewing in the spirit of my mind if be. gun, was scarcely discernable. As my life was externally less wicked and ungodly, my heart grew more proud; the idol self was the object of my adoration and obeisance; my worldly advancement more eagerly sought than ever; some flattering pros. pects seemed to open, and I resolved to improve my advantages to the uttermost. At the same time every thing tended to increase my good opinion of myself : I was treated with kindness and friendship by persons from whom I had no reason to expect it; my preaching was well received; my acquaintance seemed to be courted; and my foolish heart verily believed that all this and much more was due to my superior worth: while conscience, which, by its mortifying accusations, had been useful to preserve some sense of unworthiness in my mind, was now silenced, or seemeů to authorize that pride which it had checked before. And, having the disadvantage of conversing in general with persons, who either favoured my sentiments, or who from good manners, or because they saw it would be in vain, did not contradict me; I concluded that my scheme of doctrine was the exact standard of truth, and that by my superior abilities I was capable of confuting or convincing all who were otherwise minded, In this view of the matter I felt an eager desire of entering into a religious controversy, especially with a Calvinist: for many resided in the neighbourhood, and I heard various reports concerning their tenets.
It was at this time that my correspondence with: Mr. --commenced. At a visitation, May, 1775, we exchanged a few words on a controverted subject,
in the room among the clergy, which I believe drew many eyes upon us. At that time he prudently declined the discourse; but a day or two after he sent me a short note with a little book for my perusal. This was the very thing I wanted: and I gladly embraced the opportunity which, according to my wishes, seemed now to offer; God knoweth, with no inconsiderable expectations that my arguments would prove irresistibly convincing, and that I should have the honour of rescuing, a well meaning person from his enthusiastical delusions!
I had indeed by this time conceived a very favourable opinion of him, and a sort of respect for him, being acquainted with the character he sustained even among some persons, who expressed a disapprobation of his doctrines. They were forward to commend him as a benevolent, disinterested, inoffensive person, and a laborious minister. But on the other hand, I looked upon his religious sentiments as rank fanaticism; and entertained a very contemptible opinion of his abilities, natural and acquired. Once I had the curiosity to hear him preach; and not understanding his sermon, I made a very great jest of it, where I could do it without giving offence. I had also read one of his publications; but for the same reason, I thought the greater part of it whimsical, paradoxical, and unintelligible.
Concealing therefore, the truc motives of my conduct, under the offer of friendship, and a professed desire to know the truth, (which, amidst all my selfsufficiency and prejudice, I trust the Lord had even then given me;) with the greatest aifectation of can
dour, and of a mind open to conviction, I wrote him a long letter; purposing to draw from him such an avowal and explanation of his sentiments, as might introduce a controversial discussion of our religious differences.
The event by no means answered my expectation. He returned a very friendly and long answer to my letter ; in which he carefully avoided the mention of those doctrines which he knew would offend me. He declared that he believed me to be one who feared God, and was under the teaching of his Holy Spirit; that he gladly accepted my offer of friendship, and was no ways inclined to dictate to me; but, that leaving me to the guidance of the Lord, he would be glad, as occasion served from time to time, to bear testimony to the truths of the gospel, and to communicate his sentiments to me on any subject, with all the confidence of friendship.
In this manner our correspondence began: and it was continued in the interchange of nine or ten letters, till December the same year. Throughout I held my purpose, and he his. I made use of every endeavour to draw him into controversy; and filled my let. ters with definitions, enquiries, arguments, objections, and consequences, requiring explicit answers. He, on the other hand, shunned every thing controversial as much as possible, and filled his letters with the most useful and least offensive instructions: except that now and then he dropped hints concerning the necessity, the true nature, and the efficacy of faith, and the manner in which it was to be sought and obtained; and concerning some other matters suited, as he judged, to help me forward in my enquiry after truth But they much offended my prejudices, afforded me matter of disputation, and at that time were of little
use to me.
This however, is certain, that through the whole of the correspondence, I disputed, with all the arguments I could devise, against almost every thing he advanced, and was very much nettled at many things he asserted. I read great part of his letters, and some books which he sent me, with much indifference and contempt. I coristrued his declining controversy into an acknowledgment of weakness, and triumphed in many companies as having confuted his arguments. And finally when I could not obtain my end, at my instance the correspondence was dropped.
His letters and my answers are now by me; and on a careful perusal of them, compared with all I can re. collect concerning this matter, I give this as a faithful account of the correspondence. His letters will, I hope, shortly be made publick, being such as promise greater advantage to others, than, through my proud contentious spirit, I experienced from them. Mine deserve only to be forgotten, except as they are useful to me to remind me what I was, and to mortify my pride : as they illustrate my friend's patience and candour in so long bearing with my ignorance and arrogance; and notwithstanding my unteachable quarrel. some temper, continuing his benevolent labours for my good: and especially as they remind me of the goodness of God, who, though he abominates and re. sists the proud, yet knows how to bring down the stout heart, not only by the iron rod of his wrath, but by the golden septre of his grace.
Thus our correspondence and acquaintance were for a season almost wholly broken off: for a long time we seldom met, and then only interchanged a few words on general topicks of conversation. Yet he all along persevered in telling me, to my no small offence, that I should accede one day to his religious principles, that he had stood on my ground, and that I should stand on his: and he constantly informed his friends, that though slowly, I was surely, feeling my way to the knowledge of the truth. So clearly could he discern the dawnings of grace in my soul, amidst all the darkness of depraved nature and my obstinate rebellion to the will of God.
This expectation was principally grounded on my conduct in the following circumstance. Immediately after the commencement of our correspondence, in May, 1775, whilst my thoughts were much engrossed by some hopes of preferment, one Sunday, during the time of divine service, when the psalm was named, I opened the prayer-book to turn to it: but, (accidentally shall I say, or providentially?) I opened upon the articles of religion; and the eighth, respecting the authority and warrant of the Athanasian creed, immediately engaged my attention. My disbelief of the doctrine of a Trinity of coequal persons in the unity of the Godhead, and my pretensions to candour, had both combined to excite my hatred to this crecd; for which reasons I had been accustomed to speak of it with contempt, and to neglect reading it officially. No sooner therefore did I read the words, “That it • was to be thoroughly received, and believed; for " that it might be proved by most certain warrants of