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relations, that I received a more formidable assault from another quarter. While I was seeking consolation from retirement and reading, in the intervals of more important engagements, a circumstance arose in consequence of the latter, which very much affected me.
I Found an author, whose writings were particularly directed to the subject of Divine grace. The title first attracted my notice, and invited me to the perusal. But the trial it afterwards proved to me, will be (I hope) thus far useful, to caution me against curiosity in future. It is a good thing (the Apostle saith) that the heart be established with grace.* But it is dangerous in the unexperienced and the unestablished to be running about in quest of novelty. The leading doctrines of this writer's creed, founded on what hath been generally distinguished by the five points of the Dort assembly, from being originally formed there; were to this purpose: That grace is equally free, and equally offered to all; the acceptance or refusal of it depended upon ourselves. And hence, that the improvement or mis-improvement rests upon the will of man. That the regeneration of the Holy Ghost doth not so operate as to be irresistibly effectual, but that a man's own conduct may frustrate the lifegiving power. And lastly, the final perdition of the people of God is very possible, notwithstanding all that the everlasting love of the Father, and the infinite merits of the Redeemer, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, hath wrought, in order to prevent it.
* Heb. xiii. 9.
The reader who hath accompanied me thus far in my pilgrimage, hath seen enough of my weakness not to know, that such a train of doctrine was sufficient for the time to throw a damp upon all my confidence. I am like the sensitive plant in these things; the least touch makes me recoil. To hear, therefore, of the bare possibility of falling from grace, in the close of life, and apostatizing from Him whom my soul loveth (and apostatize I certainly should, if the perseverance depended upon myself) what a distressing apprehension!
Neither did my trials end here. There was yet another in reserve for this season of temptation. What David remarks of the natural world, is equally applicable to the spiritual: Thou makest darkness, and it is night; wherein all the leasts of the forest do creep forth. When the Lord withdraws His shining on the soul, the enemy, who knows the time of darkness to be the most favorable for his work, goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And never till the sun ariseth again, will he lay him down in his den.%
% Psalm civ. 20—22.
It happened of an evening, while my mind was reeking under all these united attacks, that I walked forth into the way. My path lay through a field, in which there were two men; who, from the congeniality of their sentiments, more than from the tye of consanguinity, I considered to be brothers. They were so engaged in conversation, as they walked before me, that I escaped their notice; so that I had the opportunity of hearing the whole of their discourse unperceived.
,Can you, reconcile your mind to the doctrine of redemption (said the one to the other) and place the least confidence in the merits of Chkist? For my part (continued he) I am quite a free-thinker. I see no necessity upon which it is founded. The world, take it altogether, according to my opinion, is good enough: and cannot need an expiation. And indeed, when I consider what modern discoveries have been made respecting the immensity of creation, and that the globe which we inhabit is but as a speck in it, the idea lessens the doctrine of revelation altogether in my esteem.
You are perfectly right (answered the other) I have long thought as you do, and have made up my mind to reject it altogether. All the doctrines of Christianity, excepting the moral part of it, (and that the world had before) are, e unmeaning song, which was lodged in the nory of my boyish days, too frequently rises iy recollection, in spite of all my endeavours Jippress it;' and I fear that, if encouraged, [lid repeat it with the greatest exactness.— ', to observe with me what a decisive proof F s of the remains of indwelling corruption! Iwas an ill effect of this kind, which the leal conversation of the brothers left upon Bind. By the ludicrous turn which they I to some portions of Scripture, and the pus and bold reasonings which they made )thers, they gave birth to a train of images Ihin me, which, like a spectre, arose conlally to my view. > .
stop the reader one moment again to remark, what (I humbly conceive) if closely adopted, il not prove an unprofitable remark; how tie they consult their own happiness, who mix idiscriminately with the world; and who are ot sensible of the dreadful consequences of eeing and hearing the corruptions which are going on in life. What from the lightness, and indifference to Divine things, with which some treat the truths of God; and what, from the open contempt poured upon them by others; it is really like running into the midst of pestilence, to come within the circle of their society. Our eyes are purveyors of the evil; and'our ears inlets of the corruption. And never was that aphorism of Solomon more necessary to be observed, than in the present moment: Enter not into the path of the tvicked, and go not in
the seed is incorruptible. And, by the way, I would desire my reader to set this down in the memoranda of his mind as an everlasting maxim, that what originates in God cannot be lost by man. Divine teachings baffle all the malice of human reasonings.
—But my distress induced by the conversation which I had heard, sprung from another source. There is in every man's heart, even when in a renewed state, a much stronger propensity to evil than good, tlence nothing is more easy, than the introduction of a train of corrupt thoughts into the mind; which the greatest exertions, void of Divine aid, cannot afterwards expel; while, on the contrary, the chaste and pure images of grace, tending as they do, in every instance, to mortify and subdue the corrupt desires of our nature; nothing but an higher influence than what is human, can gain admission for them at the first, or cause them to be cherished when received. And this explains why it is that false impressions, from being more congenial to our nature, are more easy of access, and more permanent in their duration, than the true.
I know not, reader, what your feelings on this point are; but with me, I confess, this is quite the case. It is a work of much difficulty with me to keep alive in my mind the remembrance of some sweet portion of Scripture, or some delightful verse in a psalm or hymn, to help me on to the hour of meditation and prayer. Whereas the idle, corrupt jingle of