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I had a secret sin which easily beset me, and, in process of time, I became its humble servant. I often opposed it, but oftener complied with it---I pleaded in favour of it at the bar of my mind, endeavouring to silence every witness which appeared against it. Something would say, Will you commit this sin and risk heaven? another thought would start up, and say, Do it, pray do it, you know you can repent of it at a future period; it is as easy to repent of many as of one sin; do comply;--.50 I complied ! On this, Satan would suggest, Now you have eaten the forbidden fruit like Adam---you are 'a lost man---you have golle too far for repentance to have any weight. This affair would create a bustle for a while ; but it was soon over. However the remembrance of it in retirement was never effaced, but often filled me with uneasiness and anxious concern ; but was long in reaching the conscience.
I often omitted prayer when from home, without much uneasiness, and was always conscious I was unprepared for dying, and became afraid at the thoughts of death ; but some glimmering - hope continued for years. I thought I saw hypocrisy written upon all ny actions, but had some hope I was not a hypocrite, and often desired self not to interfere with my actions; but he always had a large share in them. I often groaned after performing a generous action. My natural temper led me to be serviceable to everybody, and I was universally esteemed and spoken well of, but was seldom commended without a gloom overspreading my mind. I sometimes pitied man, who could be easily imposed on, who could only judge from the external appearance. Though my relish for spiritual converse was often so flat as to incapacitate me for promoting it, yet I mostly desired that it should be the chief topic of discourse among the Lord's people, and had most satisfaction when it was. I was often tempted to lay a little stress upon my having a name to live, but was conscious that I was dead; and this stung me to the heart. Relection upon my conduct through no day was pleasant. When I turned my eye to. the offers of the Gospel, my mind was always dark and full of embarrassment. I confessed them all truths, but none of them pointed at me ; consequently the most explicit Gospeloffer yielded me only a perhaps.
I think it was about the beginning of 1794 my conscience began to harass me. This, for a considerable space, happened only about bed-time, or when I awoke during the night; .but ordinarily this passed unnoticed in the day-time, and then VOL. IV.
I was cheerful, secretly hoping things would turn out, by and by, better than my fears. Oh! deceitful and desperately wicked heart !
At this period I was continually harassed by invitations to suppers.
At these I generally remained too long; the company being always agreeable. May the Lord ever deliver me from supping in strange houses ! they had almost ruined my soul. Family duty neglected at home---a bad example set to others.--secret duty burried over, and the mind totally dissipated !
About the beginning of November, 1794, upon a certain occasion I officially attended a company for three or four nights to a late hour. Several serious young people made part of the company : This stared me in the face as a most destructive example to them; and this conduct was the rst thing, so faras I recollect, that mightily roused my conscience; then all my guilt rushed into my mind like a mighty torrent, so that I thought that I should have perished in my affliction ! By night I could not sleep for the horrible anguish which gnawed upon my guilty soul; the horrors of hell took hold of me, and I knew not what to do ; my, day of grace was gone ; my damnation just and sure. I was filled with a fearful looking-for of judgment, and fiery indignation to consume me as God's adversary. I looked into the Bible, but always stinging texts looked me in the face. I often tried to find comfort from that precious word Isa. i. 18.
Though your sins be as scarlet, &c.” but I could not reason myself into the reception of it. That word " My spirit shall not always strive with you," pierced me to the quick. And that other “ What a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The flames of hell seemed beginning to take hold on me! I shrunk! I moaned ! I cried ! For all this my heart was hard as the nether millstone. A sight of the horrors, into which sin hath plunged us, may terrify, but can never melt the sinner's heart. In-' deed, indeed I was brought very low, as much so as Satan could well bring a guilty soul on this side death. Glad would I have been to be metamorphosed, not like Nebuchadnezzar almost, but altogether into a beast, that I might avoid the awful, but righteous, indignation of Jehovah. Day and night was I tortured. Nor had I freedom to reveal my case to any man : Often was I on the eve of doing it ; but the Lord had determined that flesh and blood were not to be the means of my relief. During many sermons that I heard, I sat as a condemned criminal, believe ing that others were fed, while I was hungry---no food for. me. Some people desire to have what is called a law work;, but had they an hour of what I have faintly described above, they would wish they had never been born.
The arrows of the Almighty stuck faster and deeper, as days and hours-moved on. The, comfortable testimonies of Jesus flew all past me, or rather were all rejected by me.. Judas, Julian, and such rejecters of the Gospel were viewed as the men who were to be my eternal associates ; often, wishing I had never known the Gospel---envying the situation of the most abandoned debauchee who remained unawakened, untormented before the time: And though I'am now relieved," I feel horror in the committing it to paper. But I have this reason among others for doing it, that it may prove a mean to humble and stir me up in a day of pride or unwatchfulness, and that I may never forget gratitude to my great Deliverer, who shatched me from the gaping mouth of such an horrible pit. My dear Saviour ! let me never forget this hour and power of darkness! and never think of mine, without wondering at thine! Mine was but a drop; tbide an ocean's Mine I deserved ; thine vas for me!
It is a most mournful proof of the dead hardness of the impenitent heart of man, when he can smile while deliverance from wrath remains an uncertainty. It is no less wonderful to think that the redeemed of the Lord are not always filled with rapturous triumph, while on earth. O the patience, the kindness, the love, and the forbearance of the Almighty ! What plagues bath sin introduced into the world! What glorious grace hath God manifested! I have to praise the Lord this day, that life and reason were both preserved.
I just now recollect that, in the midst of my anguish of soul, I thought I should be under the necessity of applying to spirituous liquors for relief from my tormented mind: But this I was preserved from putting in execution, excepting one time about midnight, being so tormented, that I feared my bowels would rend with the burning and boiling of the fired conscience. I rose and took one glass of spirits ; but ah! this was but a poor relief. It had no effect, but, rather sharpened my anguish. I then lighted a candle, and pored, with extreme horror, upon Psalm 1xxxviii. from ver. 14. I perceived my case worded there; but my bour, not being yet come, it afforded no allevation, This to me was indeed the hour and power of darkness. All the invention of Popish tormenters could not have caused such agony as I then felt.
I thought I should be looked for in heaven by many of my friends, and not found: This thought also stung me to the quick. I believed God would make me the butt of his vengeance. When I felt the smallest impediment in a single breath, I trembled, as if a harbinger of death had appeared. The fidelity of God in the execution of his threatning was a tremendous truth. This moment my flesh shrinks, on identifying to my mind my then amazing horror.
I had as strong impressions of the felicity of heaven in the midst of this distress as ever I bad: This deepened and enlarged my wound. I beheld the glories of heaven as Dives may be supposed to have viewed the happiness ef Lazarus from the centre of hell.
The state of infants, and such as had not lived long enough to reject the Gospel, appeared happiness : There was a pos. sibility of their being recovered and pardoned, but all this was over with me.
I thought that I believed the Bible a true revelation from God, but I soberly believed it the highest presumption for me to receive any comfort from the truths recorded in it; because, having tasted of the powers of the world to come, and afterwards fed upon sin in a way as if preferring it to the chief good, I called this atrocious, and so it was ---But, ah! that I should have admitted the thought that it overtopt the merit of the Mediator's righteousness; but I was led. daptive by, and bound under the sin of unbelief.
I believed Christ was once very friendly to me in months past, but his friendship I had disregarded and neglected--that now he would make me an example of his vengeance, and vindicate his injured goodness, by making me, in the judgment-day, a spectacle of horror, shame, and dismay. To express the inward gnawing anguish which uniformly succeeded these dismal apprehensions, is beyond the power of a human pen. I rejoice I now relate it as a past event.
Fierce as my chastisement was, it was short and slight, compared with what I justly merited. Three months was about the length of its sbarpest continuance, and even during that period I had often intervals of quiet throngh the day; bat in general i trembled when darkness overspread the heavens : The return of the evening, sweet to the husbandman, was like the shock of an enrthquake to me. A person who never waded these deep waters, can have no more conception of them, than of the glory of the third heavens, No wonder that the multitude of the heavenly hosts made the air resound with their songs at the incarnation of the great Deliverer of sinners from all this wrath. They felt for man! But the natural man pities not himself. saints are mourning for him, when he is laughing at them. May I lever recoil at the thought of offending such a God, such Saviour! May I ever possess a deep sense of the magnitude of divine mercy !
Let us now turn the leaf, and contemplate the dawning of a glorious day--the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, with healing under his wings !
Upon the evening of the twenty-sixth day of January, 1795, the Lord appeared as my deliverer. He commanded, and darkness was turned into light. The cloud which covered the mercy-seat fled away! Jesus appeared as he is ! My eyes were not turned inward but outward! The Gospel was the glass in which I beheld him. When our Lord first visited Saul upon the high-way, he knew in a moment that it was the Lord---so did I! Such a change of views, feelings, and desires suddenly took place in my mind, as none but the hand of an infinite Operator could produce. Formerly I had a secret fear that it was presumption in me to receive the great truths of the Gospel---now there appeared no im. pediment---] beheld Jesus as the speaker in his word, and speaking to me. When he said “Come," I found no difficulty in replying, “ Yes, Lord !. thy pardoned rebel comes.” If not the grace of God, what else could effect such a marvellous change? I chiefly viewed the atonement of Jesus as of infinite value, as a price paid for my redemption, and cheerfully accepted by the Father. I saw love in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all harmonizing in pardoning and justifying me. The sight humbled and melted my soul. Looking to what I felt, was no belp to my comfort; it came directly from God, through his word.
The following evening about nine o'clock, while sitting before the fire, writing to a reverend friend, I had such a charming, surprizing view of sovereign, pardoning, redeeming, unmerited mercy, that I was hardly able to bear it. “ The great doctrines of redemption, as stated in the Bible, opened to my view in a way I never experienced before. 1 beheid a crucified Jesus nigh me in the word---threw away the pen, and turned about to see this great sight! I looked stedfastly to the Lamb suffering for me! So much was I overpowered with the magnitude of this discovery of eternal, boundless love and grace in Christ, that I felt a difficulty in breathing."