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Ghost doth not so operate as to be irresistibly effectual, but that a man's own conduct may frustrate the life-giving power. And lastly, the final perdition of the people of God is very possible, notwithstanding all that the everlasting love of the Father, and the infinite merits of the Redeemer, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, hath wrought, in order to prevent it.
The reader who hath accompanied me thus far in my pilgrimage, hath seen enough of my weakness not to know that such a train of doctrine was sufficient for a time to throw a damp upon all my confidence. I am like the sensitive plant in these things; the least touch makes me recoil. To hear, therefore, of the bare possibility of falling from grace, in the close of life, and apostatizing from 'him whom my soul iov"eth,' (and apostatize I certainly should, if the perseverance depended upon myself,) what a distressing apprehension !
Neither did my trials end here. There was yet another in reserve for this season of temptation. What David remarks of the natural world, is equally applicable to the spiritual; * Thou makest darkness,and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.' When the Lord withdraws his shining on the soul, the enemy, who knows the time of darkness to be the most favourable for his work, 'goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.' And never till the sun ariseth again, will he lay him down in his den*.'
It happened of an evening, while my mind was reeking under all these united attacks, I that walked forth into the way. My path lay through a field, in which there were two men; who, from the congeniality of their sentiments, more than from the tie of consanguinity, I considered to be brothers. They were so engaged in conversation, as they walked before me, that I escaped their notice; so that I had opportunity of hearing the whole of their discourse unperceived.
'Can you reconcile your mind to the doctrine of redemption,' said the one to the other, 'and place the least confidence in the merits of Christ? For my part,' continued he, ' I am quite a free thinker; I see no necessity upon which it is founded. The world, take it alto* Psalm civ. 20—22.
gether, according to my opinion, is good enough; and cannot need an expiation. And indeed, when I consider what modern discoveries have been made respecting the immensity of creation, and that the globe which we inhabit is but as a speck in it, the idea lessens the doctrine of revelation altogether in my esteem.'
'You are perfectly right,'answered the other; 'I have long thought as you do, and have made up my mind to reject it altogether. All the doctrines of Christianity, excepting the moral part of it, (and that the world had before,) are, in my esteem, only calculated for weak and vulgar minds. And indeed their authority is precarious: depending upon writings that, for aught we know, may or may not be true.'
The reader will at once conclude, that these observations tended not to dissipate my former gloom. And although, low as my spirits then were, I thought a mere child in grace might easily have refuted their false reasonings; yet my mind was too sore and too sorrowful in the moment to enter into controversy. Every application to a wound, if put on with roughness, acts like a caustic.
I had heard enough not to covet more; and therefore withdrew from the brothers as unperceived as I came. The words of Job struck my mind with great force as I left them: 'Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty, instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it*.'
It was a considerable time before I was enabled to shake off the ill effects induced in my mind, by reason of the conversation which I had overheard between the brothers. Not that my faith, (I bless the Great Author and Giver of it,) was in any danger of being overthrown thereby. For a faith like mine, founded in grace, will ultimately triumph over all the powers of nature. He that is born of an incorrut ibie seed, liveth and abideth for ever; and therefore nothing corruptible can destroy it. It may apparently be choked with weeds, and may at times languish, and seem ready to die; but die it cannot, for the seed is incorruptible. And, by the way, I would desire my reader to set this down in the memoranda of his mind, as an everlasting maxim, that what originates in God cannot be lost by man. Divine teachings baffle all the malice of human reasonings.
But my distress, induced by the conversation which I had heard, sprung from another source. There is in every man's heart, even * Job xl. 2.
when in a renewed state, a much stronger propensity to evil than good. Hence nothing is more easy than the introduction of a train of corrupt thoughts into the mind, which the greatest exertions, void of divine aid, cannot afterwards expel; while, on the contrary, the chaste and pure images of grace, tending as they do in every instance, to mortify and subdue the corrupt desires of our nature; nothing but an higher influence than what is human, can gain admission for them at the first, or cause them to be cherished when received. And this explains why it is that false impressions, from being more congenial to our nature, are more easy of access, and more permanent in their duration, than the true.
I know not, reader, what your feelings on this point are; but with me, I confess, this is quite the case. It is a work of much difficulty with me to keep alive in my mind the remembrance of some sweet portion of Scripture, or some delightful verse in a psalm or hymn, to help me on to the hour of meditation and prayer. Whereas the idle, corrupt jingle, of some unmeaning song, which was lodged in the memory of my boyish days, too frequently rises to my recollection, in spite of all my endeavours to suppress it; and I fear that, if encou