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mercies in abundantly pardoning my complicated provocations!
I had considerable difficulties to surmount in obtaining admission into the ministry, arising from my peculiar circumstances; which rendered my conduct the more inexcusable: and my views as far as I can ascertain them, were these three:—a desire of a less laborious and more comfortable way of procuring a livelihood, than otherwise I had the prospect of:—the expectation of more leisure to employ in reading, of which I was inordinately fond:—and a proud conceit of my abilities, with a vain-glorious imagination that I should some time distinguish and advance myself in the literary world. These were my ruling motives in taking this bold step: motives as opposite to those which should influence men to enter this sacred office, as pride is opposite to humility, ambition to contentment in a low estate, and a willingness to be " the least of all and the servant of all;" as opposite as love of self, of the world, of filthy lucre, and of slothful ease, is to the love of God, of souls, and of the laborious work of the ministry. To me therefore be the shame of this heinous sin, and to God be all the glory of overruling it for good, I trust, both to unworthy me, and to his dear people, " the "church which he hath purchased with his own "blood."
My subsequent conduct was suitable to these motives. No sooner was I fixed in a curacy, than with close application I sat down to the study of the learned languages, and such other subjects as I considered most needful, in order to lay the foundation of mv future advancement. And, oh that I were now as diligent in serving God, as I was then in serving self and ambition! I spared no pains, I shunned as much as I well could, all acquaintance and diversions, and retrenched from my usual hours of sleep, that I might keep more closely to this business. As a minister, I attended just enough to the public duties of my station to support a decent character, which I deemed subservient to my main design; and, from the same principle, I aimed at morality in my outward deportment, and affected seriousness in my conversation. As to the rest, I still lived in the practice of what I knew to be sinful, and in the entire neglect of all secret religion. If ever inclined to pray, conscious guilt stopped my mouth, and I seldom went further than ' God be merciful unto me!'
Perceiving, however, that my Socinian principles were very disreputable, and being conscious from my own experience that they were unfavourable to morality, I concealed them in a great measure; both for my credit's sake, and from a sort of desire I entertained, (subservient to my main design) of successfully inculcating the practice of the moral duties upon those to whom I preached. My studies indeed lay very little in divinity; but this little all opposed that part of my scheme, which respected the punishment of the wicked in the other world: and therefore, (being now removed to a distance from those books whence I had imbibed my sentiments, and from the reasonings contained in them, by which I had learned to defend them,) I began gradually to be shaken in my former confidence, and once more to be under some apprehension of eternal misery. Being also statedly employed, with the appearance of solemnity, in the public worship of God, whilst I neglected and provoked him in secret, my conscience clamorously reproached me with base hypocrisy: and I began to conclude that, if eternal torments were reserved for any sinners, I certainly should be one of the number. Thus I was again filled with anxious fears and terrifying alarms: especially as I was continually meditating upon what might be the awful consequence, should I be called hence by sudden death. Even my close application to study could not soothe my conscience nor quiet my fears; and under the affected air of cheerfulness I was truly miserable.
Vol. i. c
This was my state of mind when the change I am about to relate began to take place. How it commenced; in what manner, and by what steps, it proceeded; and how it was completed, will be the subject of the second part. I shall conclude this by observing that, though staggered in my favourite sentiment before-mentioned, and though my views of the person of Christ were verging towards Arianism; yet, in my other Opinions I was more confirmed than ever. What those opinions were I have already briefly declared; and they will occur again, and be more fully explained, as I proceed to relate the manner in which I was constrained to renounce them, one after another, and to accede to those that were directly contrary to them. Let it suffice to say, that I was full of proud self-sufficiency, very positive, and very obstinate; and, being situated in the neigbourhood of some
of those whom the world calls Methodists,* I joined in the prevailing sentiment; held them in sovereign contempt; spoke of them with derision; declaimed against them from the pulpit, as persons full of bigotry, enthusiasm, and spiritual pride; laid heavy things to their charge; and endeavoured to prove the doctrines, which I supposed them to hold, (for I had never read their books,) to be dishonourable to God, and destructive to morality And, though in some companies I chose to conceal part of my sentiments, and in all affected to speak as a friend to universal toleration ; yet scarcely any person can be more proudly and violently prejudiced against both their persons and principles, than I then was.
* Methodist, as a stigma of reproach, was first applied to Mr. Wesley, Mr. Whitefield, and their followers; to those, who, professing an attachment to our established church, and disclaiming the name of dissenters, were not conformists in point of parochial order, but had separate seasons, places, and assemblies for worship. The term has since been extended by many to all persons, whether clergy or laity, who preach or profess the doctrines of the reformation, as expressed in the articles and liturgy of our church. For this fault they must all submit to bear the reproachful name, especially !the ministers; nor will the most regular and peaceable compliance with the injunctions of the rubric exempt them from it, if they avow the authorized, but in great measure exploded, doctrines to which they have subscribed. My acquaintance hitherto has been solely with Methodists of the latter description; and I have them alone in view when I use the term.
Ji. HISTORY OF THE CHANGE WHICH HAS TAKES PLACE IN" THE AUTHOR'S SENTIMENTS : WITH THE MANNER IX WHICH, AND THE MEANS BY WHICH, IT WAS AT LENGTH EFFECTED.
In January 1774, two of my parishioners, a man and his wife, lay at the point of death. I had heard of the circumstance, but, according to my general custom, not being sent for, I took no notice of it; till one evening, the woman being now dead and the man dying, I heard that my neighbour, the Rev. J. Newton, had been several times to visit them. Immediately my conscience reproached me with being shamefully negligent, in sitting at home within a few doors of dying persons, my general hearers, and never going to visit them. Directly it occurred to me, that, whatever contempt I might have for Mr. N.'s doctrines, I must acknowledge his practice to be more consistent with the ministerial character, than my own. He must have more zeal and love for souls than I had, or he would not have walked so far to visit, and supply my lack of care to, those who, as far as I was concerned, might have been left to perish in their sins.
This reflection affected me so much, that without delay, and very earnestly, yea with tears, I besought the Lord to forgive my past neglect; and resolved thenceforth to be more attentive to this duty: which resolution, though at first formed in ignorant dependence on my own strength, I