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my desire of an expositor to some person, I was told of a very large book, belonging to a gentleman, about five or six miles distant across the river, which explained all the New Testament. I resolved to get the reading of that book, if possible. By my living so long with Mr. Cannon, and the resort of gentlemen to his house, I had worn off some of my clownish rusticity, and had become less shy of persons in the upper ranks of life. I, therefore, determined on a visit to thegentleman, who owned the book, and in a short time went to his house. Here I found no less a treasure, than that most excellent exposition, called
Burkett on the New Testament. I asked 1 the loan of it, which was readily granted.
And, taking up the folio in my arms, I brought home the prize. I was wonderfully pleased with the book, not only for the light and instruction I gained by it, but also because I found the writer to have been a minister of the Church-hoping this circumstance would gain the attention of the family to such parts, as I should wish them to hear me read. But it was not so. As I had no candle, my custom was, in an evening, to sit down flat on the hearth, erect the volume on the end of a chest, which stood near, and, by the light of the fire, read till near midnight. It pleased God mightily to improve my understanding, by these means—and I soon became, what was called a good reader, and my relish for books and reading greatly increased.,
I acquired considerable views of the nature and plan of Salvation, through Jesus Christ: but I did not yet think I had at. tained a living faith in his blood. For some time, I had withdrawn myself from the company of the wicked; had quitted dancing, racing, cards, &c. and, in the course of the year, had, twice or thrice, heard the gospel preached in a lively manner, by a Presbyterian, which much affected me. By such helps, I was kept pretty steady in my religious pursuits, for eight or nine months of that year. But before the close, I met with a dreadful rebuff. This circumstance I will simply relate.
My annual income, as already said, had been very small, yet, by frugality, Í had saved enough to procure me a small poney and a saddle. I began also to get some credit in a store, and having prospect of getting 131. at the end of that year, ventured to go in debt for a tolerable suit of cloaths-my linen, on Sundays, was finer
than formerly, and I began, no doubt, to be a little too vain, and to think more highly of myself, than I ought. Thus furnished, I determined on a visit to my friends in New Kent. My brothers, whom I dearly loved, still lived there, whom I had not seen for a long time, and I believe I was equally beloved by them.
I made the visit, and was received with the utmost cordiality. My brothers and their wives, and all the black people on the plantation, seemed overjoyed at my coming. The pleasure of seeing each other was mutual, and our congratulations are not easily described. Nothing was thought too good for me, which their houses afforded, and they wished to entertain me, in the most agreeable manner. It was in the season of autumn, when the cellars, in that quarter, were generally stored with good, sound cider. These were set open with great liberality. But, by the bye, this was no great temptation, as you know I am not very fond of spirituous liquors. But they knew I had been very fond of company and merriment, and wished to enter: tain me with frolic and dance. This proposal I rejected, and told them my reason for so doing. This was a disappointment they did not expect, and they soon disco
yered there was a great alteration in me, and that my mind was turned to religion. This, I suppose, might put some damp on their spirits, though they allowed that all people ought to be better than they were but they thought I had overshot the mark, and carried matters quite too far. “We all ought to be good, say they, but sure there can be no harm in innocent mirth, such as dancing, drinking and making merry, &c.” I doubt not, but I told them the views I had of such things, and also what I had discovered of my own guilt and danger, and what my determinations were. I talked to them, as well as I knew how, for their profit--but to no good effect. I visited other relations also, and discoursed with them on religious concerns. In a word, I stood fast about five days. But through the influence of my brethren, and their stratagems to take me in, I was insensibly, and at unawares, drawn from my integrity, in the course of one week.
Being one day on a visit to my uncle Clopton, I was to return to my brother's that evening. I did so. But, in my absence, he had contrived to gather a considerable company of people, of different sexes and ages, for the purpose of drinking cider and dancing, as liked them best.
Clopton, li mo. I did sodi to gather different
I was surprised, when I rode up, to see such numbers, both within and without doors. Without, the tankard went briskly round, while the sound of music and dancing, was heard within. I was strongly solicited to join the company within--but I held back for some time. But too soon I found the Apostle's words realized, evil communications corrupt good manners, for here was I drawn in, once more, to join those vanities and follies, which, I thought, I had forever abandoned. At first I joined with reluctance-but I soon found myself shorn of all my strength, and, like Samson, was become weak like another man. And here I was tempted to fix my staff, and take up my rest. I thought it vain for me to attempt a religious life any more (at least, as yet) and therefore I might as well give a loose to my passions, and get what little happiness I could in sports and sensual gratifications. From this night I had no more to say about religion-my mouth was shut up on that subject.
For two or three months, from that time, I had but little relish for any thing of a religious nature, though I was not without some severe twinges of conscience, which I bore without much flinching. I endeavored to be as airy as I could, and as