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holy Scripture,' than my mind was greatly impressed and affected. The matter of subscription imme. diately occurred to my thoughts; and from that moment I conceived such scruples about it, that, till my view of the whole system of christianity was entirely changed, they remained insuperable.
It is wisely said by the son of Sirach, “My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for ' temptation.' I had twice before subscribed these articles, with the same religious sentiments I now entertained. But conscience being asleep, and the service of the Lord no part of my concern, I consider- . ed subscription as a matter of course, a necessary form, and very little troubled myself about it. But now, though I was greatly influenced by pride, ambition, and the love of the world; yet my hcart was sincerely towards the Lord, and I dared not to venture on a known sin, deliberately, for the sake of temporal interest. Subscription to articles which I did not believe, paid as a price for church-preferment, I began to look upon as an impious lie, a heinous guilt, that could never truly be repented of without throwing back the wages of iniquity. The more I pondered it, the more strenuously my conscience protested against it. At length, after a violent conflict between interest and conscience, I made known to my patron my scruples, and my determination not to subscribe : thus
my views of preferment were deliberately given up, and with an increasing family I was left, as far as mere human prudence could discern, with little other prospect than that of poverty and distress. My objections to the articles were, as I now see, groundless:
much self-sufficiency, undue warmth of temper, and obstinacy were betrayed in the management of this affair, for which I ought to be humbled: but my adherence to the dictates of my conscience, and holding fast my integrity in such trying circumstances, I never did, and I trust never shall, repent.
No sooner was my determination known than I was severely censured by many of my friends. They all, I am sensible, did it from kindness, and they used arguments of various kinds, none of which were suited to produce conviction. But, though I was confirmed in my resolution by the reasonings used to induce me to alter it, they at length were made instrumental in bringing me to this important determination; not so to believe what any man said, as to take it upon his authority ; but to search the word of God with this single intention, to discover whether the articles of the church of England in general, and this creed in particular, were, or were not, agreeable to the Scriptures. I had studied them in some measure before, for the sake of becoming acquainted with the original languages, and in order thence to bring detached texts to support my own system ; and I had a tolerable acquaintance with the historical and preceptive parts of them: but I had not searched this precious repository of divine knowledge, with the express design of aiscovering the truth in controverted matters of doctrine. I had very rarely been troubled with suspicions that I was or might be mistaken: and I now rather thought of becoming better qualified upon scriptural grounds to defend my determination, than of being led to any change of sentiments,
However, I set about the enquiry: and the first passage, as I remember, which made me suspect that I might be wrong, was James i. 5. “ If any of you “ lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be “ given him.” On considering these words with some attention, I became conscious that, though I had thought myself wise, yet assuredly I had obtained none of my wisdom in this manner; for I had never
; offered one prayer to that effect during the whole course of my life. I also perceived that this text contained a suitable direction, and an encouraging promise, in my present enquiry: and from this time, in my poor manner, I began to ask God to give me this promised wisdom.
Shortly after I meditated on, and preached from John vii. 16, 17.“ My doctrine is not mine, but his " that sent me; if any man will do his will, he shall " know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whe“ther I speak of myself.” I was surprised that I had not before attended to such remarkable words. I discovered that they contained a direction and a promise, calculated to serve as a clue, in extricating the sincere enquirer after truth from that labyrinth of controversy in which, at his first setting out, he is likely to be bewildered. And, though my mind was too much leavened with the pride of reasoning, to reap that benefit from this precious text, which it is capable of affording to the soul that is humbly willing to be taught of God: yet, being conscious that I was disposed to risk every thing in doing what I thought his will, I
was encouraged with the assurance that, if I were under a mistake, I should some time discover it.
I was further led to suspect that I might possibly be wrong, because I had not hitherto sought the truth in the proper manner, by attending to Proverbs iii. 5, 6: “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and “ lean not to thine own understanding : in all thy way's “ acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. I could not but know, that I had not hitherto trusted in the Lord with all my heart, nor acknowledged him in all my ways, nor depended on his directions in all my paths; but that in my religious speculations I had leaned wholly to mine own understanding.
But, though these and some other passages made for the present a great impression upon me, and induenced me to make it a part of my daily prayers, that I might be directed to a right understanding of the word
a of God: yet my pride and disposition to controversy had, as some desperate disease, infected my whole soul, and was not to be cured all at once. - I was very far indeed from being a little child, sitting humbly and simple at the Lord's feet, to learn from him the very first rudiments of divine knowledge. I had yet no abiding suspicion that all which I had heretofore accounted wisdom was foolishness, and must be unlearned and counted loss, before I could attain to the excellency of the true knowledge of Jesus Christ: for, though I began to allow it probable that in some fevy matters ! might have been in an error, yet I still was confident that in the main my scheme of doctrine was true. When I was pressed with objections and arguments against any of my sentiments, and when doubts began
to arise in my mind; to put off the uneasiness occasioned by them, my constant practice was to recollect, as far as I could, all the reasonings and interpretations of Scripture, on the other side of the question: and when this failed of affording satisfaction, I had recourse to controversial writings. This drew me aside from the pure word of God, rendered me more remiss and formal in prayer, and furnished me with defensive armour against my convictions, with fuel for my passions, and food for my pride and self-sufficiency.
At this time Locke's · Reasonableness of Christianity,' with his · Vindications' of it, became my favourite pieces of divinity. I studied this, and many other of Mr. Locke's works, with great attention, and a sort of bigotted fondness; taking him almost implicitly for my master, adopting his conclusions, borrow- . ing many of his arguments, and imbibing a dislike to such persons as would not agree with me in par. tiality for hin. This was of great disservice to me; as, instead of getting forward in my enquiry after truth, I thence collected more ingenious and specious arguments with which to defend
* After having spoken so freely of Mr. Locke's divinity, which I once so highly esteemed, it seems but just to acknowledge the vast obligation, which the whole religious world is under to that great man, for his · Letters concerning Toleration, and his answers to those who wrote against them. The grounds of religious liberty, and the reasons why every one should be left to his own choice, to worship God according to his conscience, were, perhaps, never generally understood since the formation of the world ; till by these publications Mr.
rably made them manifest.