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CHAPTER V.

It is impossible for me to follow minutely my recollections of this memorable winter. They would fill a large volume, instead of the few sheets which my trembling hand is able to write. It must suffice to say, that the new scenes into which I was thrown, continued to be occasions of severest perplexity and anxiety for many weeks. I had been bred religiously, I had been scrupulously conscientious, I had thought myself a lover of God and man, and had rejoiced in the hope of heaven. But my religion had been noiseless and secret. I had seldom conversed respecting it, except at particular moments with my father. I had never been excited by crowds assembled, nor had I ever been conscious of any extraordinary change in my dispositions, or feelings, or life. I had gone on quietly from childhood to youth, conscientiously, but calmly, and with no display of zeal. I had seen in my father precisely the same operation of religion which I had witnessed in myself, except that it was far more perfect. I had thought this the true Christian character; and although often I had sighed over my imperfections, yet I never had suspected that I was wrong in principle.

But if what I now saw and heard were the genuine exhibition of religion, then I had been entirely and wofully deceived. If I must believe what was perpetually urged in my ears, then I was only a hypocrite, without Christ, and without hope. Nothing can exceed the distress with which this thought was attended. Many nights did I pass sleepless and weeping with uncontrollable anguish of spirit. I became almost unfit for any duty. My thoughts preyed on my health, till my robust body wasted under the torture of the mind, and my cheek was pale and sunken.

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For why, thought I, should I not believe all that I see and hear? I cannot deny the existence of the sincerest, heartiest religion here. Earth cannot contain a purer and meeker spirit than my hostess possesses; and where is there more real and actuating piety than in Deacon Lumbard, though he be a little narrow? and where a nobler benevolence, and more solemn concern for Christianity, than in Mr. Reynolds, though he be a little rough? and then how general and deep is the religious impression that prevails- how serious, how anxious, how devout is the whole village-how indefatigable in teaching and learning what a sense of the evil of sin, and dread of the divine displeasure! - and not my own father could discover more anxiety for my good than my friends do here.

Yet, while I thus looked with reverence upon the zeal and piety I witnessed, I could not listen to the representations of gospel doctrine, which were perpetually made, without a certain horror. This, I was told, was an infallible sign of an unrenewed heart; and this served to aggravate my distress. I never had studied controversy, nor heard it preached; but my father had always implied something very different from what I now heard, and I could not reconcile the representations I now met with the impressions I had received from the Bible. My blood chilled when I heard the arbitrary decree of election announced, and connected with it the joy of the righteous in the sufferings of the wicked. I was most distressingly bewildered in the contradictions about depravity and accountability, irresistible grace, involuntary faith, and changes, rung, without end, on justification, adoption, sanctification, and imputation. It was a wilderness to me; I turned on every side, and could find no relief. If I had only seen these things in books, I should have passed them by as wild speculations. But I found

them filling the minds and thoughts of men, whose religious zeal was more imposing to my mind than any thing I had ever met with; men whom I honored and loved, who treated me with assiduous kindness, and who assured me, with the earnestness of the most solemn asseveration, that they built all their religion and all their hope on these doctrines, and that they could conceive of no salvation on any other ground. Thus beset, what could I do? Who would wonder if I had yielded?

I at length told those who had interested themselves most warmly in my behalf, that there was but one course for me to take, namely, to examine the Scriptures anew with fresh care, and abide by the result. To this proposal they warmly assented, not doubting, as they said, that the Holy Ghost would teach me; and they left me, with solemn prayer, to pursue this design.

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I look back to the execution of this purpose with highest gratitude and satisfaction. Every leisure minute found me at my Bible, and the morning often broke while I was yet studying. Earnest were my prayers for light, and sincere my wish to be instructed; and He who heareth prayer me, enlightened me, and gave me a happy confidence in the result of my labor. My opinions became fixed and grounded on the sure testimony of God; and I no longer felt embarrassment at the very opposite representations of gospel truth which were prevailing around me. They could still sometimes blind my eyes, for a moment, with the dust of metaphysical subtlety; but the breath of the divine word soon blew it away, and I saw clearly.

I now became tranquil and happy. My cheerfulness of spirit returned, and with it health. My anxieties ended in a serene and settled peace, no more to be disturbed by the tumult round about me. I came out of the trial in every

respect the better for having passed through it. My opinions. were more clearly defined and more solidly grounded. My devout feelings were become deeper and more ardent ; while, at the same time, my intimacy with the sentiments and characters of those who differed from me gave me a juster view of them, and a more real regard for them, than under any other circumstances I could have attained. This has been of incalculable benefit to me through life. I have been preserved by it from a great deal of false and censorious judging, and enabled to discriminate between the merits and weakness of my more orthodox brethren, so as to maintain for them a sincere respect and unchanging charity. And I have always found that those are least bigoted, who are best acquainted with those whom they oppose. Nothing destroys uncharitableness and censoriousness so certainly as an intimacy with the habitual feelings and characters of men of other sects. Bigotry is the offspring of ignorance.

Such was the end, and such, in few words, have been the consequences of the scenes which I have described. But my trials were not yet over. My own mind was satisfied, but others were dissatisfied; and I was doomed to endure coldness, reproach, suspicion, and alienation from many who had been forward to instruct me, and who had professed the warmest and most disinterested friendship. I was made the subject of village gossip and scandal; a thousand false and calumnious reports were spread abroad; and I became little better than a heathen and a publican to the zealots, who, a few weeks before, seemed ready to sacrifice even their lives for me. But of these things I must speak in another

chapter.

CHAPTER VI.

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THE trials to which I alluded in my last chapter, as coming upon me in consequence of my decision in regard to religion, were of several sorts. I can name them but in few words. I had supposed that all who professed a friendship for me, and had so zealously interested themselves in my half, would rejoice with me in the relief of mind I had gained, even though they might have wished that my conclusions had been nearer to their own. But in this I was disappointed. From the moment it became known in what manner my concern of mind had terminated, and that I was not to be brought out as a convert, after their fashion, there was a manifest change in the manners of many toward me. Instead of cordiality, I found coldness; instead of a welcome, I met a repulse. And I soon found that all their zeal for my soul's welfare was little more, at bottom, than a desire to have the éclat of the schoolmaster's conversion; that there was a grievous disappointment, not at the danger in which my soul was placed, but in this frustration of a party object. I had too much proof of this to fear that I charge them wrongfully.

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But this was not the case with all. benevolently afflicted for my own sake. my excellent hostess, Mrs. Hilson. I had all along held the most free communication with her; she knew the whole state of my mind, and acted toward me the part of a mother. She was too gentle and meek to be bigoted; but, as all her own rich treasures of religious comfort and hope were built on the doctrines she had been taught, and as they were dearly associated with every pious and benevolent sentiment of her soul, she, very naturally, could conceive of no real religious

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