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ever I heard him, and I intended to hear him as often as I could, for I believed him to be God's messenger; and if I did not seek to be born again, and experience that
spiritual birth, I could not enter into the kingdom of Heaven: which was the doctrine be preached.
A little after Michaelmas I had many trials again, and passion got advantage over me: then I thought it was to no purpose for me to strive any longer, for every one endeavoured to provoke me, and I could not bear it. About this time, I was going out of the park into Westminster, where was a soldier
with his arms about him, as he was coming from guard, who began to talk with some other soldiers and a company of Welch women;
I was but a few paces from him: the tenor of his discourse was as follows: “You know what manner of man I was some months
you pitied me then, tho' I was going headlong to the devil; for I was a drunkard and a swearer, I was a whoremonger and a fighter; a sabbath-breaker and a gamester ; nay, I know no sin but I was guilty of either in word or deed, so that it is a miracle that my neck was not brought to the gallows, and my soul to hell, long ago : at that time I durst not think of death; for I had no reason to think of ought but hell; therefore I was desperate in wickedness, and did not put a restraint on any lust or appetite : till one day, as I was coming out of the country by Kennington Common, Mr. John Wesley was going to preach, and I thought I would hear what he had to say ; for I had heard many learned and wise men say he was beside himself: but when he began to speak, his words made me tremble. I thought he spoke to no one but me, and I durst not look up, for I imagined all the people were looking at me, and was ashamed to shew my face, expecting God would make me a public example, either by letting the earth open and swallow me up, or by striking me dead; but before Mr. Wesley concluded his sermon he cried out, “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon.” I said, if that be true, I will turn
to God to-day. I immediately went home, and began to read and pray, keeping out of bad company for about a fortnight, and hearing Mr. Wesley as often as I could ; but my old companions missed me, and came to see what was the matter; when they found me reading the Bible, they cursed and swore, and dragged me away into an alehouse ; where I sat down, and began to reason with them. But, o how dangerous it is to encounter with Satan on his own ground! for as I talked I began to drink a little, which got into my head ; then I quarrelled with them, and fought; and as I was going to my quarters, a lewd woman met me, and I had no power to resist her, and was again taken captive by the devil. Nevertheless, when I had slept, I was so terrified, I thought I never durst pray more, or expect mercy. I was determined, however, to hear Mr. Charles Wesley that night, and by his preaching I had some hopes that my day of grace was not over. Then I began to pray again, and read the scriptures ; and one Sunday morning I called at Whitehall Chapel, where the sacrament was going to be administered. I went to the table with trembling limbs and a heavy heart ; but no sooner had I received, than I found power to believe that Jesus Christ had shed his blood for me, and that God for his sake had forgiven my offences. Then was my
heart filled with love to God and man; and since then sin hath not had dominion over me."
These sayings of the soldier were a blessing to me, for they sunk deep into my mind, and made me cry more earnestly, that God would work the same change in my heart. I found my soul much refreshed at the sacrament on the Sunday after, and mightily encouraged under Mr. Wesley's sermon in the afternoon. All the week after I felt an awful sense of God resting upon me; and I had a great watchfulness over my words, and several short visits of love, having great hope that I had got a complete victory over my besetting sin. But passion was yet too strong for me, for that night I fell again, and cried out immediately, “ I am undone, I have lost all hopes of mercy." All the night I was as if I had been given up to Satan. In
the morning, one prayed with me; but I found no answer, for my heart was as hard as a rock.
When I went back to my lodgings at noon, dinner was ready, and the gentlewoman said, “ Come, sit down, you have need of your dinner, for you have eaten nothing to-day.” But when I looked on the meat, I said, “ Shall such a wretch as I devour the good creatures of God, in the state I am now in? No, I deserve to be thrust into hell." I then went into my chamber, shut the door, and fell down on my knees, crying, “ Lord, save, or I perish.” When I had prayed till I could pray no more, I got up and walked to and fro, being resolved I would neither eat nor drink, till I had found the kingdom of God. I fell down to prayer again, but found ne relief ;-got up, and walked again ;-then tears began to flow from my eyes, like great drops of rain, and I fell on my knees a third time ; but now I was as dumb as ia beast, and could not put up one petition, if it would have saved my soul. I kneeled before the Lord some time, and saw myself a criminal before the Judge; then I said, " Lord, thy will be done, damn or save.
That moment Jesus Christ was as evidently set before the eye
of as crucified for my sins, as if I had seen him with my
bodily eyes ; and in that instant my heart was set at liberty from guilt and tormenting fear, and filled with a calm and serene peace.
I could then say, without any dread or fear, “ Thou art my Lord and my God.” Now did I begin to sing that part of the 12th chapter of Isaiah, “ O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with
anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me. Behold, God is my salvation ; I will trust, and not be afraid : for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation.” My heart was filled with love to God, and every
; next to
wife and children, my mother, brethren, and sisters, my greatest enemies had an interest in my prayers, and I cried, “ O Lord, give me to see my desire on them : let them expe. rience thy redeeming love." In the afternoon I opened the book where it is said,
« Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood ;" with which I was so affected, that I could not read for weeping. That evening, under Mr. Wesley's sermon, I could do nothing but weep and love, and praise God, for sending his servant into the fields to shew me the way of salvation. All that day I neither ate
any thing : for before I found peace, the hand of God was so heavy upon me, that I refused to eat ; and after I had found peace, I was so filled with the manna of redeeming love, that I had no need of the bread that perisheth for that season.
At night when I came home, the gentlewoman of the house, where I had lodged a long time, told me to provide a lodging, for I must stay there no longer than that one night, for her husband was afraid some mischief would come either on them or me, with so much praying and fuss as I had made about religion. I told them I would come on Wednesday night, and pay what I owed them, and fetch my clothes away, praying that God might reward them for the kindness they had shewed me ; for 1 had had a fever in the house, and no one could shew more compassion to a stranger, than they did to me at that time.
On Wednesday night, according to my promise, I went to my old lodging, and paid what I owed there, and got my clothes ready to bring away. But having forgot something, I stept back into the room. to look for it. In the mean time the man said to his wife, “ Suppose John should be right and we wrong, it will be a sad thing to turn him out of doors.” When I came down, the woman stood at the door, and said, “ You shall not go out of this house to-night.” I said, “What, will you neither let me go nor stay?” She replied, “ My husband is not willing you
for he saith, if God had done any thing more for you than for
us, he would have you shew us how we may find the same mercy.”. So I sat down with them, and told them of God's dealings with my soul, and prayed with them. Suon after, they both went to hear Mr. Wesley, when the woman was made a partaker of the same grace, and I hope to meet them both in Heaven.
should go ;
On the Saturday following, the dragon stood ready to devour my new-born soul ; for my master's chief foreman came to me, saying, “ John Nelson, you must look after such and such men to-morrow : there is a piece of work to be done with all speed, for the Lord of the Exchequer will be here on a particular day, by which time it must be completed.” « Sir," I replied, “ you have forgot yourself, to-morrow is the Sabbath.” He said, he knew that as well as me: but the king's business required haste, and it was common to work on the Sunday for his majesty, when any thing was upon the finish. I told him I would not work upon the Sabbath for any man in England, except it was to quench fire, or something that required the same immediate help. He said, “ Religion has made you a rebel against the king." J answered, “ No, Sir, it has made me a better subject than ever I was." I added, “ The greatest enemies the king has are the Sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, and whoremongers; for these pull down God's judgments upon both king and country." Then he said, If I would not obey him, I should lose my business. I replied, “ I cannot help it ; tho' it may be ten pounds out of my way to be turned out of my work at this time of the year, I will not wilfully offend God; for I had much ra. ther want bread, nay, I would rather see my wife and chil. dren beg their bread barefooted to heaven, than ride in a coach to hell.” He swore, if I went on a while, I should be' as mad as Whitfield; and added, " What hast thou done, that thou needest make so much ado about salva. tion? I always took thee to be as honest a man as any I have in the work, and could have trusted thee with five hundred pounds," I answered, “ So you might, and not have lost one penny by me.” He said, “ What, hast thou killed somebody, or committed adultery, that thou art so much afraid of being damned ?" I replied, “ God takes the will for the deed, and tho' clear from those acts, I de. serve to be damned ten-fold for other crimes ; for if I sin wilfully against God after he hath shewed me so much mercy,
I may expect to have the hottest hell.” He said, " I have ( worse opinion of thee now than ever." I replied,