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ples of more cautious minds, and to carry them all lengths with his own. And he was too successful. In after life, he has met more than one of these converts, who have laughed at all his affectionate and earnest attempts to pull down the fabric erected, too much, by his own hands.
Yet he was never wholly sincere in his infidelity. He has left a most impressive and encouraging testimony to the power of parental influence, in preserving his mind, under the grace of God, from entirely believing his own lie.* He gave me a farther instance of the power of conscience, in this respect:
“When I was sunk in the depths of infidelity, I was afraid to read any author who treated Christianity in a dispassionate, wise, and searching manner. He made me uneasy. Conscience would gather strength. I found it more difficult to stifle her remonstrances. He would recall early instructions and impressions, while my happiness could only consist with their obliteration."
Yet he appears to have taken no small pains to rid himself of his scruples :-"I have read," said he, 6 all the most acute and learned and serious infidel writers, and have been really surprised at their poverty. The
mind has been such on the subject of Revelation, that I have often thought Satan has done more for me than for the best of them; for I have had, and could have produced, arguments, that appeared to me far more weighty than any I ever found in them against Revelation."
He did not proceed in this career of sin, without occasional checks of conscience. Take the follow- . ing instance :
“My father had a religious servant. I frequently cursed and reviled him. He would only smile on me. That went to my heart. I felt that he looked on me as a deluded creature, I felt that he thought he had something which I knew not how to value, and that he was therefore greatly my superior. I felt there was a real dignity in his conduct. It made me appear little even in my own eyes. If he had condescended to argue with me, I could have cut some figure: at least by comparison, wretched as it would have been. He drew me once to hear Mr. Whitfield. I was seventeen or eighteen years old. It had no sort of religious effect on me, nor had the preaching of any man in my unconverted state. My religion began in contemplation. Yet I conceived a high reverence for Mr. Whitfield. I no longer thought of him as the Dr. Squintum we were accustomed to buffoon at school. I saw a commanding and irresistible effect, and he made me feel my own insignificance."
* See Remains; On the Influence of the Parental Character.
For this daring offender, however, God had mercy in reserve! He was the child of many tears, instructions, admonitions, and prayers; and, though now a prodigal, he was to be recovered from his wickedness!
Wbile under the control of bad principles, he gave in to every species of licentiousness--saving that, even then, the native nobleness of his mind made him despise whatever he thought mean and dishonourable. Into this state of slavery he was brought by his sin: but here the mercy of God taught him some most important lessons, which influenced bis views and governed his ministry through after life: and the same mercy then rescued him from the slavery to which he had submitted. The penetration and grandeur of his mind, with his natural superiority to sensual pleasures, made him feel the littleness of every object which engages the ambition and the desires of the carnal man: insomuch that God had given him, in this unusual way of bringing him to himself
, a thorough disgust of the world, before he had gained any hold of higher objects and better pleasures.
It was thus that God prepared him for further communications of mercy. And here he felt the advantage of having been connected with sincere Christians. He knew them to be holy, and he felt that they were happy. “It was one of the first things,” said he," which struck my mind, in a profligate state, that, in spite of all the folly and hypocrisy and fanaticism, which may be seen among religious professors, there was a mind after Christ, a holiness, a heavenliness, among real Christians." He added, on another occasion, “My first convictions on the subject of religion, were confirmed from observing, that really religious persons had some solid happiness among them, which I felt that the vanities of the world could not give. I shall never forget standing by the bed of my sick mother. Are not you afraid to die?" I asked her: "No! No! Why does the uncertainty of another state give you no concern ?' • Because God has said to me, “ Fear not: when thou passest through the waters I will be with thee: and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee."The remembrance of this scene has oftentimes since drawn an ardent prayer from me, that I might die the death of the righteous."
His mind opened very gradually to the truths of the Gospel : and the process through which he was led, is a striking evidence of the imminence of his past danger. “My feelings," he said, “when I was first beginning to recover from my infidelity, prove that I had been suffered to go great lengths ; and to a very awful degree, to believe my own lie. My mind revolted from Christianity. God did not bring me to himself, by any of the peculiar motives of the Gospel. When I was about twenty years old, I became utterly sick of the vanity, and disgusted with the folly, of the world. I had no thought of Jesus Christ, or of redemption. The very notion of Jesus Christ, or of redemption, repelled me. I could not endure a system so degrading. I thought there might possibly be a Supreme Being; and if there were such a Being, he might hear me when I prayed. To worship the Supreme Being seemed somewhat dignified. There was something grand and elevating in the idea. But the whole scheme and plan of redemption appeared mean, and degrading, and dishonourable to man.
The New Testament, in its sentiments and institutions repelled me; and seemed impossible to be believed, as a religion suitable to man."
The grace of God triumphed; however, over all opposition. The religion, which began in this disgust with the world and disaffection to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, made rapid advances in his mind. The seed, sown in tears, by his inestimable mother, though long buried, now burst into life, and shot forth with vigour: and he became a preacher of that truth, which once he laboured to destroy! Yet grace did not annihilate the natural character and qualities of the mind; though it regulated and directed them. The Christian's feelings and experience were modified by the constitution of the man. After a long course of spiritual watchfulness and warfare, he spoke thus of himself :
66 There is what Bacon calls á DRY LIGHT, in which subjects are viewed, without any predilection, or passion, or emotion, but simply as
they exist. This is very much my character as a Christian. I have great constitụtional resistance. Tell me such a thing is my DUTY-I know it is, but there I stop. Talk to me of well-my heart would rise with a sort of daring stubbornness. There is a constitutional desperation about me, which was the most conspicuous feature in my character when young, and which has risen up against the gracious measures which God has, all my life, taken to subdue and break it.
I feel I can do little in religion without ENCOURAGEMENT. I am persuaded and satisfied, tied and bound, by its truth and importance and value ; but I view the subject in a DRY LIGHT. A strong sense of diVINE FRIENDSHIP goes a vast way with me. When I fall, God will raise me. When I want, God will provide. When I am in perplexity, God will deliver. He cares for me-pities me-bears with memguides me-loves me."
But the energy of divine grace was most conspicuous, in the control and mastery of this resisting and high spirit of which our friend complained. Nay, if there were any one Christian virtue, in which he was more advanced than
other, it appears to me to have been HUMILITY--not that humility which debases itself that it may be exalted, and which is offended if its professions be believed ; but the humility which arose from abiding and growing conviction of his infinite distance from the standard of perfection, and the little comparative use which he had made of his many means and helps in approaching that standard--an humility that expressed itself, therefore, in a teachableness of mind,* a ready acknowledgment of excellence in others, and a candour in judging of other persons, which are seldom equalled; and which were rare endowments in a mind that could not but feel its own powers, and its superiority to that of most other
But God has a thousand unseen methods of forming and cherishing those graces in his servants, which seem most opposed to their constitution, and least to be expected in their circumstances.
** A friend, who knew him for thirty or forty years,'has informed me,” says Mr. Wilson, “that he was more ready to hear of his faults from persons whom he esteemed, than most men. When any failings were pointed out to him, he usually thanked the reprover, and anxiously inquired for further admonitions. I have observed myself, that when he gave advice, which he did with acuteness and decision, he was quite superior to th:t little vanity which is offended if the counsel be not followed.”