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Holy Writ, were altogether unphilosophical, unreasonable, and unjust ! This was more than enough to determine my opinion of the work; and away I threw it out of my hands an act, which the metaphysical and philosophical student will probably consider as unpardonable. I could not, however, thus readily free my mind from a load of perplexity which burdened it. Not that the gilded trash and poison I had been reading had, in the smallest degree, discomposed or unsettled my former views of death in all its characters and consequences; but I was utterly confounded when I endeavoured to account for its owner putting such a book into my hands, with such a recommendation. 66 Can Treally believe these essays ? Is the doctrine of this book the creed of him who has signed and solemnly declared his belief in the Articles and Liturgy of the Church of England ? Can this man, who at his ordination declared his “unfeigned belief in all the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament,' believe in this book, which denies all the most fundamental doctrines of God's Word ?” Thus I reasoned with myself
I Again I said, “Has not T— declared himself inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon himself the office and administration of a christian pastor—and that he thinks himself truly called according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the office of the ministry, to serve God for the promoting of his glory, and the edification of his people ?* What then can I think of his thus approving and recommending such a work as this
* See the Church Ordination Service.
I have thrown out of my hands ? Is it possible that he can be an infidel at heart, while he is a minister of the Gospel by profession?" My whole soul revolted against coming to this conclusion, and yet I knew not what to think.
I had occasionally heard of the melancholy biblical ignorance of many of our mathematical, classical, and metaphysical students at Oxford and Cambridge; hence I tried to think it possible, that after all my friend had said in commendation of this book, he really was not aware of the principles of poison it contained, nor sufficiently versed in the Scriptures, to see the entire disagreement between the two. It was very difficult to bring my mind to this conclusion; but as I had no alternative between considering him an infidel wolf in ministerial clothing, or a professor of divinity very little acquainted with the Word of God, I clung to the latter as my resting-point. Then arose the no-easily decided question, “What step ought I to take ?" Whether I should civilly return his book without any comment whatever; or whether I should send it back, accompanied with my reasons for disapproving its contents. To do the first seemed disingenuous and unmanly, while the second would look like assuming the teacher towards one who, in literary attainments, was greatly my superior—a step that would expose me to the charge of vanity and presumption, and alienate a man whom I wished to respect and include among my
friends. At length, however, I determined on this step, and to point out, with as much delicacy and tenderness as I possibly could, consistent with truth and quotations from the
Bible, why I could not approve of a work he esteemed and recommended to my notice. My epistle was rather a long one, but I endeavoured to make it as acceptable as I could. During the few days we afterwards remained in the Tagus I waited with some interest for the arrival of an answer to my semi-theological communication ; but no such answer made its appearance. We then sailed for Cadiz, and, for several months, were on the coast of Spain, within the reach of correspondence, had T-felt disposed to write; this, however, he evidently did not, and I concluded, that I had displeased him; but whether he were the infidel I feared, or the scripturally ignorant clergyman I had tried to believe, I had no means of learning until a period when I least of all expected to be made acquainted with the fact. In short, I never heard any thing of him until I myself had been some considerable time in the ministry. It was then that I was privileged with this additional testimony, that “ bread cast upon the waters is found after many days.” Mr. T by some means, had found out my retreat, and he wrote to me such a letter as the christian reader will easily believe was of no common interest. This epistle briefly informed me of the outline of his history during the years that had passed since we separated at Lisbon to the time of his addressing me; in which it appeared, that many changes and trials had chequered his lot, and that not a few bitters had been mingled in his cup. He had, in the space of that time, quitted the navy—entered on ministerial labours in the spiritual charge of a parish-married a wife, and become the father of several children—and
death, the solemn subject of his once deistical and favourite book, had broken repeatedly into the circle of his family, and children and relatives had been followed to the grave. Thus he had often been called upon to contemplate its approach, and to witness its execution, not metaphysically and philosophically, but practically, so as to know and feel, that if his consolations were not derived from the doctrines of the Gospel, they would never be found from deistical philosophy and metaphysics.
All this interested my mind and called forth my sympathies not a little; but there was one more interesting detail behind, namely, that he was now become a preacher of, and theoretically and practically acquainted with, that Gospel of which he acknowledged in his letter he was extremely ignorant at the time we associated together; and lastly, that it was the letter I wrote to him when I returned the book of which he was now grieved that ever he should have recommended to my perusal, which, in the hands of God, was the beginning of that great change which he trusted had passed on his understanding and his heart. It appeared by his letter, that on receiving my communication, his pride was, indeed, hurt, that a naval officer should enter on the task, and succeed in it too, of exhibiting his ignorance of divinity. His conscience became alarmed that he should, not through infidelity, but ignorance of the Bible, have approved of a work which I had unanswerably proved to be in direct opposition to that Gospel of which he was the professed disciple and teacher. Thus did the Lord begin to open the eyes of his under
standing, and prepare him for those afflictions and duties to which, after a season, he was to be called; and in the midst of which he was engaged when he made known to me the above particulars. Here again we see how the mercies and grace of God do now, as well as in former ages, illustrate his holy word; that the most important results are frequently produced by very small, and apparently insignificant means.
There were times, both before and after I quitted the navy, when I recollected my former intercourse with this gentleman; but little did I think or know what the Author of all grace had begun to do, or was then doing in Mr. T—'s heart. I, indeed, felt thankful that I had delivered my own soul by the step I had taken; but I never indulged the most distant hope or expectation of such consequences following it.