« AnteriorContinuar »
sitting down to wine parties, or mixing in the card-room, the assembly, or the ball. Twice I, as it were, stole away from them, and attended the morning service at a fashionable chapel of ease; but I neither understood nor felt what I heard. Little, indeed, did I then know of doctrines, but I was vexed to find nothing about Christ, nothing to rouse the mind, or warm the soul, in these well-trimmed, cold, and heartless discourses. The next Sabbath I rambled into the fields, and stumbled, as the world would say, by mere chance on Old Stoke church, just as the congregation were going in. I followed them, and saw, and heard, and felt, what I little expected. To hear a minister address his audience, not from the pages of a formal, cold, moral essay, but from a page of notes laid in his Bible, with that seriousness, which bespoke him really in earnest—and with that affection, which showed that he indeed felt for their eternal peace: to hear and witness all this in a Minister of the Established Church, was to me (pardon me, my clerical reader) as new as it was unexpected: nor was the subject matter less new than the manner in which it was delivered. I may truly say by this servant of Christ, as the Athenians did by the great Apostle, “He brought strange things to my ears,” while he continued to draw the picture of man as a helpless undone creature, possessing a nature totally corrupt and desperately wicked. I now began to discover the source of that evil which I so often had found breaking through all the restraints, the resolutions, and vows with which I had endeavoured to bind it. Hitherto I had esteemed myself capable of doing great things; nor had all my failures swept away
my vain conceits of a good heart and inherent strength. But now the Word was commissioned to lay the axe at the root of all such vain imaginations. I was told, and I felt, that I could neither think nor act for myself in any way pleasing to God, but that all my sufficiency must be derived from above. In short, a few more sermons tore away
from under me, and I saw myself “poor, and blind, and wretched, and miserable, and naked.” But I was not left here.
I was directed to the Lord Jesus as the great High Priest, whose fulness abounds to the supplying of all the wants of his church and people. What a display of those wants, and of the mercy and goodness of a covenant God to supply them, did I hear, in an enlargement on Psalm lv. 22. “ Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” No longer surprised at my having formerly broken through so many resolutions and vows of amendment, I stood amazed at the folly of having even made one in my own strength. I now understood, both doctrinally and experimentally, that “it is not our willing or running, but that it is of God, who showeth mercy, and who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Our ship, happily, continued for a while on the Channel service; and occasionally went into this port; and I as often embraced every opportunity of hearing the word of God at Stoke church. But I had been a great sinner, and the Lord kept me in a sorrowful path, especially while the vast and important truths of Scripture were pouring in on my soul. I saw more of the won
derful things out of God's law every week, and thereby I saw more of my own vileness. Many were my fears and doubts; my heart was full, and I longed to unburden it to some one who could enter into my feelings, and assist me in my difficulties. But whither could I look for such a person? Not in all the circle of my
friends and acquaintance: they cared for none of these things. At length, after many debates with myself, I determined on requesting an interview with the man whose ministry had been blessed to the bringing of me thus far. It is almost superfluous to say it was readily granted, or to add how much, under God, I was, and still am indebted for the instruction, advice, and comfort which I received from this christian minister. He endeared himself to me by every act of kindness; his heart and his house were always open to me. In the latter, I beheld all that contrast which exists between the manners of a christian family and those of an ungodly and ignorant world. At Stoke Rectory was all that my peculiar case seemed to demand-retreat from the noise and vanity of former companions, domestic peace, wise and christian counsel, and real friendship. These privileges soon disqualified me for the jovial board, and the idle chitchat of a fashionable world: they unfitted me for the pleasures of a card-room, the ball and the assembly. I bid them all adieu; no longer esteeming the smiles of their advocates as any thing worth valuing, and no longer deterred from seeking the Lord by their frowns or their jests.—On going to sea, I was enabled to pass through my public duties with much composure; and when in my cabin, I read the Scriptures like one who
had obtained a key, or index, to unfold, what was before unintelligible. Man was no longer a riddle, or his actions unaccountable. I saw him rise and fall, conquer or fly, in his conflicts with the world, himself, and Satan, just as grace was in exercise in his soul.
The awful inconsistencies of Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, and others, were reconcilable; and, though I trembled, I was not surprised. To enlarge, however, in this part of the Retrospect, would not become me. I shall only add, that from that time to the present, I have been learning, by little and little, more of those great truths which I first heard at Stoke church. The night I left my kind christian friend's house to proceed on board, and thence again to sea, was a time of trial.The sweets of christian society and domestic peace had been tasted, and these made the rugged scenes and disorders of a ship the' more harsh–I felt it difficult to part from the former, and again to unite with the latter. My mind weighed the blessings I was to leave, and the trials and privations I was soon to be exposed to; and it was very sorrowful. This my kind host observed, and said many affectionate things to inspire hope and allay despair; but there was something of the prophetic in his concluding sentence. " Who can tell but the Lord may make you serviceable in the ship?"-At that time I could not entertain the smallest hope of any such thing ever coming to pass; nay, I scarcely dared to think I should myself continue on the Lord's side; but subsequent events often brought his words to my remembrance.
It was on a Friday I returned on board; and on
Saturday we put to sea. The next day of course saw me far from the venerable walls of Stoke church-other sounds than those of its plaintive chiming bells filled my ears, and far different works from those which occupied the assemblies of God's worshipping people there and elsewhere demanded my attention. It was one of the most sorrowful Sabbaths I had ever experienced. Like David of old, I truly envied “the sparrow that had found her a nest about the walls of God's temple, and the swallow who could there attend her young."
For some time past it had been my custom, when agitated or distressed in mind, to retire to my cabin, and there (as I had no friend to whom I could lay open my sorrows, or from whom I could receive suitable advice and consolation) to snatch up the first paper and pen which fell in my way, and converse, as it were, with myself, and carry on my paper complainings, until my mind was somewhat tranquillized. These incoherent epistles rarely outlived the second day; but the one I that Sabbath scrawled was, I know not why, preserved. I have lately received a copy of it, with other memorandums, which I had long supposed were destroyed. I will therefore transcribe it without apologizing for its rude, abrupt, unconnected style, that the christian reader may see, as in a glass, the then state of
mind. “ I am cut off from the Lord's house, his ordinances and his people-I shall hear no more the glad tidings of salvation within the courts of the Most High-and my christian friends are left-perhaps to be seen no more, or at some very distant period—and oh what tem