« AnteriorContinuar »
are the great, the fair, the valiant, now? The matchless warrior? The puissant Monarch?
"An heap of dust is all remains of thee!
'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!"
Monday 10, I rode to Leigh in Essex, where I found a little company seeking God, and endeavoured to encourage them in provoking one another to love and good works.
Monday 17, I set upon cleansing Augeas's Stable; upon purging that huge Work, Mr. Fox's Acts and Monuments, from all the trash which that honest, injudicious Writer has heaped together, and mingled with those venerable records, which are worthy to be had in everlasting remembrance.
Sunday 23, I buried the body of Elizabeth Bamfield, a young woman of two and twenty, who, the Tuesday before, rose up from breakfast, dropped down, and spoke no more. But she was ready for the Bridegroom. Blessed are they whom, when He cometh, He shall find watching! Tuesday, January 1, 1751; About this time I received a remarkable letter; part of which ran as follows:
"When George Whitefield first preached on Kennington Common, curiosity drew me to hear him frequently. I admired his zeal in calling sinners to repentance; but did not see myself to be one of that number, having had a religious education, even in spiritual religion, such as was not to be found in other Societies. As soon as the Foundery was taken, I went thither constantly, morning as well as evening. But I had no desire of being acquainted with any of the Society, much less of joining therein, being strongly resolved, never to turn my back on the profession I was educated in. The next year I furnished myself with the books which John and Charles Wesley had printed. I compared them, with Robert Barclay's Apology, and with the Bible; and of many things I was convinced: But what they said of justification I could not comprehend; and I did not much concern myself about it, being but slightly convinced of sin.
"It was my custom to rise some hours before the family, and spend that time in reading. One Sunday morning I was just going to open my Bible, when a voice (whether inward or outward I cannot tell) seemed to say very loud, "God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven thee.' I started up, took the candle, and searched all about, to see if any one was near; but there was no one. I then sat down, with such peace and joy in my soul as cannot be described. While I was musing, what it could mean; I heard it again, saying, Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee.' trembled exceedingly, not with fear, but such an emotion as I cannot express. Yet I got up the second time, and opened the door, to see if it was any human voice. Soon after it was repeated the third time, still louder, which drove me on my knees to prayer, being overwhelmed with the love of God, and for the time utterly incapable of doubt or fear. I now saw the New Testament in a different light from what I had ever done before. All the day I was comforted with promises from it, either read or brought to my mind: yet the thought, May not all this be a delusion?' frequently darted into me. But it as often drove me to prayer: upon which all doubt presently vanished away.
"I was immediately changed in my dress, conversation, and whole deportment, which brought on me the ridicule of all my acquaintance: but nothing moved me. I wondered what the cross meant; for whatever appeared to be the will of God, I ran cheerfully to do, without a moment's hesitation. I felt no temptation to anger, pride, or any other evil though often provoked, I was not ruffled in the least. God seemed to reign in my heart alone; he was all my desire, all my hope: and this light lasted about three months, without any cloud at all.
"But after this, it pleased God to remove all at once the veil which till then covered my heart; though I do not remember, that any disobedience preceded: for I feared sin more than death or hell. Yet in a moment such a scene was opened to me, that if I had not felt the hand of God
underneath me, I should certainly have gone distracted. The infernal regions were represented to my view day and night at the same time I saw what I was by nature, and what I had deserved from God for all my sins. O how did Satan then strive to tear away my shield! and what a burden of sin did I feel! It is impossible to describe it. If I looked from God a moment, I was full of horror. I often feared I should lose my senses; but had no thought of death, nor fear concerning it: yet hell appeared to me without a covering, and I seemed surrounded with devils, sleeping and waking. But I still held this fast, "Thou hast forgiven me, O my God, and I will not let thee go.'
"All this time I constantly attended the preaching; and having a strong desire to know whether friends Wesleys lived the Gospel as well as preached it, I got acquainted with one who lived at the Foundery. I frequently sat and worked with her, and made all possible enquiries into the most minute circumstances of their behaviour. This afterwards proved a great blessing to me: for when I heard any idle report, (and I heard not a few) I could answer peremp torily, 'I know the contrary.'
"Their preaching now took deeper hold of me than ever, and searched every corner of my heart. I saw I had nothing to bring to God, and was indeed vile in my own eyes. When my friends sometimes told me, how good I had been, their words were as sharp swords. I found I had nothing to trust in, but the atoning blood. But this trust kept my soul in constant peace.
"Thus I went on a considerable time, before I admitted any serious reflections concerning the ordinances; which indeed I did not care to think of at all, till, one day, reading in the third chapter of St. John's Gospel, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God: the words struck me to the heart: I began to read over again, with all attention, what was written on both sides of the question. But this gave me no satisfaction; so I tried another way, giving myself up to earnest prayer, That God would guide me by his word and Spirit, into all
that he required of me.' However, these thoughts died away, and I was quite easy about it, till on Sunday, at Devonshire-square meeting, it was brought to my mind in such a manner, that I believe the seat shook under me. I then plainly saw it was my duty, and determined to delay no longer for that purpose, I went to Cowley, two or three days after. But all the night before it was to be done, I was in deep distress. I spent all the hours in weeping and prayer, and yet as the morning drew on, my trouble increased, with strong terror, as if I was just going to execution. But I remained fixed in my purpose: and as soon as I was baptized, all the clouds dispersed, and I rejoiced more than ever in God my Saviour."
Wednesday 16, I received another letter from a friend, on a subject of general concern:
66 VERY DEAR SIR,
"When I have deeply mused on ages past, and on the revival of primitive Christianity in the present age, I have often queried, whether ever before our time there arose in any one place, and in the same instant, a visible Christian Society, and a visible Antichristian one. No doubt God had wise ends in permitting the Antinomians to appear, just as the people of God began to unite together. But we cannot fathom his designs. Yet we know all shall work together for his people's good.
"Perhaps it required more grace to withstand this contagion, than would have enabled us to die for Christ; and very probably we should have been now a very different people from what we are, had we only our own countrymen to cope with we should then have only set the plain Gospel of Christ against what was palpably another Gospel, and the life of Christ in opposition to that of those who are vulgarly termed Christians. And I verily believe, we should have been far higher in Christianity, than most of us are at this day. But this subtle poison has more or less infected almost all, from the highest to the lowest among us. We would put Gospel heads on bodies ready to indulge every unholy temper. Although (glory be to God) as a Society,
we stand at least as clear of joining with the Beast as any other; yet we have not purged out all his leaven; the Antinomian spirit is not yet cast out.
“All our preaching at first was pointed at the heart, and almost all our private conyersation.-Do you feel the love of God in your heart? Does his Spirit reign there? Da you walk in the Spirit? Is that mind in you which was in Christ? were frequent questions among us. But while these Preachers to the heart were going on gloriously in the work of Christ, the false apostles stept in, laughed at all heartwork, and laughed many of us out of our spiritual senses: for, according to them, we were neither to see, hear, feel, nor taste the powers of the world to come; but to rest contented with what was done for us seventeen hundred years ago. The dear Lamb,' said they, has done all for us: we have nothing to do, but to believe.' Here was a stroke at the whole work of God in the heart! And ever since, this spirit hath wrought among us, and caused many to rest in a barren, notional faith, void of that inward power of God unto salvation."
Sunday 27, I preached a Charity Sermon at Spital-fields, for the use of our poor children. The Church was extremely crowded; but not many rich, not many EUYEVELS, well-born, were there. It was enough that there were many of the people of God, and their Lord in the midst of them.
Wednesday 30, Having received a pressing letter from Dr. Isham, then the Rector of our College, to give my vote at the election for a member of parliament, which was to be the next day, I set out early, in a severe frost, with the north-west wind full in my face. The roads were so slippery, that it was scarcely possible for our horses to keep their feet. Indeed one of them could not, but fell upon his head, and cut it terribly. Nevertheless, about seven in the evening, God brought us safe to Oxford. A congregation was waiting for me at Mr. Evans's, whom I immediately addressed in those awful words, What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Thursday 31, I went to the Schools, where the Convoca