« AnteriorContinuar »
entirely lost and undone, had not the mere mercy of God prevented. “Sometime in the beginning of winter, 1738, it pleased God, one Sabbath morning, as I was walking out for prayer, to give me on a sudden such a sense of my danger, and the wrath of God, that I stood amazed, and my former good frames presently vanished. . From the view which I had of my sin and vileness, I was much distressed all that day, fearing that the vengeance of God would soon overtake me. ... I was much dejected; kept much alone; and sometimes envied the birds and beasts their happiness, because they were not exposed to eternal misery, as I evidently saw that I was. Thus I lived from day to day, being frequently in great distress: sometimes there appeared mountains before me to obstruct my hopes of mercy; and the work of conversion appeared so great, that I thought I should never be the subject of it. I used, however, to pray and cry to God, and perform other duties with great earnestness, and thus hoped by some means to make the case better. “Hundreds of times I renounced all pretences of any worth in my duties, as I thought, even while performing them, and often confesed to God that I deserved nothing for the very best of them, but eternal condemnation; yet still I had a secret hope of recommending myself to God by my religious duties. When I prayed affectionately, and my heart seemed in some measure to melt, I hoped that God would be thereby moved to pity me. My prayers then looked with some appearance of goodness in them, and I seemed to mourn for sin. Then I could in some measure venture on the mercy of God in Christ, as I thought; though the preponderating thought, the foundation of my hope, was some imagination of goodness in my meltings of heart, the warmth of my affections, and my extraordinary enlargements in prayer. Though at times the gate appeared so very strait, that it looked next to impossible to enter; yet, at other times, I flattered myself that it was not so very difficult, and hoped I should by diligence and watchfulness soon gain the point. Sometimes after enlargement in duty and considerable affection, I hoped I had made a good step towards heaven ; and imagined that God was affected as I was, and would hear such sincere cries, as I called them. And so sometimes, when I withdrew for secret prayer in great distress, I returned comfortable; and thus healed myself with my duties.
“In February 1739, I set apart a day for secret fasting and prayer, and spent the day in almost incessant cries to God for mercy, that he would open my eyes to see the evil of sin, and the way of life by Jesus Christ. God was pleased that day to make considerable discoveries of my heart to me. Still I trusted in all the duties I performed, though there was no manner of goodness in them ; there being in them no respect to the glory of God, nor any such principle in my heart. Yet God was pleased to make my endeavours, that day, a means
to show me my helplessness in some measure.
“Sometimes I was greatly encouraged, and imagined that God loved me, and was pleased with me, and thought I should soon be fully reconciled to God. But the whole was founded on mere presumption, arising from enlargement in duty, or warmth of affections, or some good resolutions, or the like. And when, at times, great distress began to arise, on a sight of my vileness, and inability to deliver myself from a sovereign God, I used to put off the discovery, as what I could not bear. Once, I remember, a terrible pang of distress seized me ; and the thought of renouncing myself, and standing naked before God, stripped of all goodness, was so dreadful to me, that I was ready to say to it, as Felix to Paul, “Go thy way for this time.” Thus, though I daily longed for greater conviction of sin; supposing that I must see more of my dreadful state in order to a remedy; yet, when the discoveries of my vile, wicked heart, were made to me, the sight was so dreadful, and showed me so plainly my exposedness to damnation, that I could not endure it. I constantly strove after whatever qualifications I imagined others obtained before the reception of Christ, in order to recommend me to his favour. Sometimes I felt the power of a hard heart, and supposed it must be softened before Christ would accept of me ; and when I felt any meltings of heart, I hoped now the work was almost done. Hence, when my distress still remained, I was wont to murmur at God's dealings with me ; and thought, when others felt their hearts softened, God showed them mercy; but my distress remained still.
“At times I grew remiss and sluggish, without any great convictions of sin, for a considerable time together; but after such a season, convictions seized me more violently. One night I remember in particular, when I was walking solitarily abroad, I had opened to me such a view of my sin, that I feared the ground would cleave asunder under my feet, and become my grave; and would send my soul quick into hell, before I could get home. Though I was forced to go to bed, lest my distress should be discovered by others, which I much feared ; yet I scarcely durst sleep at all, for I thought it would be a great wonder if I should be out of hell in the morning. And though my distress was sometimes thus great, yet I greatly dreaded the loss of convictions, and returning back to a state of carnal security, and to my former insensibility of impending wrath; which made me exceedingly exact in my behaviour, lest I should stifle the motions of God's Holy Spirit. When at any time I took a view of my convictions, and thought the degree of them to be considerable. I was wont to trust in them: but this confidence, and the hopes of soon making some notable advances towards deliverance, would ease my mind, and I soon became more senseless and remiss.-Again, when I discerned my convictions to grow languid, and thought them about to leave me, this immediately alarmed and distressed me.— Sometimes I expected to take a large step, and get very far towards conversion, by some particular opportunity or means I had in view. “The many disappointments, great distresses and perplexity which I experienced, put me into a most horrible frame of contesting with the Almighty; with an inward vehemence and virulence, finding fault with his ways of dealing with mankind. I found great fault with the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity: and my wicked heart often wished for some other way of salvation than by Jesus Christ. Being like the troubled sea, my thoughts confused, I used to contrive to escape the wrath of God by some other means. I had strange projects, full of atheism, contriving to disappoint God's designs and decrees concerning me, or to escape his notice, and hide myself from him. But when, upon reflection, I saw these projects were vain, and would not serve me, and that I could contrive nothing for my own relief; this would throw my mind into the most horrid frame, to wish there was no God, or to wish there were some other God that could control him. These thoughts and desires were the secret inclinations of my heart, frequently acting before I was aware; but, alas ! they were mine, although I was frightened when I came to reflect on them. When I considered, it distressed me to think, that my heart was so full of enmity against God; and it made me tremble, lest his vengeance should suddenly fall upon me. I used before to imagine, that my heart was not so bad as the scriptures and some other books represented it. Sometimes I used to take much pains to work it up into a good frame, a humble submissive disosition ; and hoped there was then some goodness in me. }. on a sudden, the thoughts of the strictness of the law, or the sovereignty of God, would so irritate the corruption of my heart, that I had so watched over, and hoped I had brought to a good frame, that it would break over all bounds, and burst forth on all sides, like floods of waters when they break down their dams. “Being sensible of the necessity of deep humiliation in order to a saving interest in Christ, I used to set myself to produce in my own heart the convictions requisite in such a humiliation : as, a conviction that God would be just, if he cast me off for ever; that if ever God should bestow mercy on me, it would be mere grace, though I should be in distress many years first, and be never so much engaged in duty; and that God was not in the least obliged to pity me the more for all past duties,
cries, and tears. I strove to my utmost to bring myself to a firm belief of these things and a hearty assent to them ; and hoped that now I was brought off from myself, truly humbled, and that I bowed to the divine sovereignty. I was wont to tell God in my prayers, that now I had those very dispositions of soul which he required, and on which he showed mercy to others, and thereupon to beg and plead for mercy to me. But when I found no relief, and was still oppressed with guilt, and fears of wrath, my soul was in tumult, and my heart rose against God, as dealing hardly with me. Yet then my conscience flew in my face, putting me in mind of my late confession to God of his justice in my condemnation. This, giving me a sight of the badness of my heart, threw me again into distress; and I wished that I had watched my heart more narrowly, to keep it from breaking out against God's dealings with me. I even wished that I had not pleaded for mercy on account of my humiliation ; because thereby I had lost all my seeming goodness.-Thus, scores of times, I vainly imagined myself humbled and prepared for saving mercy. While I was in this distressed, bewildered, and tumultuous state of mind, the corruption of my heart was especially irritated with the following things. l. “The strictness of the divine Law. For I found it was impossible for me, after my utmost pains, to answer its demands. I often made new resolutions, and as often broke them. I imputed the whole to carelessness, and the want of being more watchful, and used to call myself a fool for my negligence. But when, upon a stronger resolution, and greater endeavours, and close application to fasting and prayer, I found all attempts fail; then I quarrelled with the law of God, as unreasonably rigid. I thought, if it extended only to my outward actions and behaviours, that I could bear with it ; but I found that it condemned me for my evil thoughts, and sins of my heart, which I could not possibly prevent. I was extremely loth to own my utter helplessness in this matter : but after repeated disappointments, thought that, rather than perish, I could do a little more still ; especially if such and such circumstances might but attend my endeavours and strivings. I hoped, that I should strive more earnestly than ever, if the matter came to extremity, though I never could find the time to do my utmost, in the manner I intended. This hope of future more favourable circumstances, and of doing something great hereafter, kept me from utter despair in myself, and from seeing myself fallen into the hands of a sovereign God, and dependent on nothing but free and boundless grace. 2. That faith alone was the condition of salvation; that God would not come down to lower terms; and that he would not promise life and salvation upon my sincere and hearty prayers and endeavours. That word, Mark xvi. 16, “He that believeth not, shall be damned,” cut off all hope there.—I found that faith was the sovereign gift of God ; that I could not get it as of myself; and could not oblige God to bestow it upon me, by any of my performances. (Eph. ii. 1. 8.) This, I was ready to say, is a hard saying, who can hear it 2 I could not bear, that all I had done should stand for mere nothing : as I had been very conscientious in duty, had been exceeding religious a great while, and had, as I thought, done much more than many others who had obtained mercy. I confessed indeed the vileness of my duties; but then, what made them at that time seem vile, was my wandering thoughts in them; not because I was all over defiled like a devil, and the principle corrupt from whence they flowed, so that I could not possibly do any thing that was good. Hence I called what I did by the name of honest faithful endeavours; and could not bear it, that God had made no promises of salvation to them. 3. “That I could not find out what faith was ; or what it was to believe and come to Christ. I read the calls of Christ to the weary and heavy laden; but could find no way that he directed them to come in. I thought I would gladly come, if I knew how ; though the path of duty were never so difficult. I read Stoddard's Guide to Christ, (which I trust was, in the hand of God, the happy means of my conversion,) and my heart rose against the author ; for though he told me my very heart all along under convictions, and seemed to be very beneficial to me in his directions; yet here he failed ; he did not tell me any thing I could do that would bring me to Christ, but left me as it were with a great gulf between, without any direction to get through. For I was not yet effectually and experimentally taught, that there could be no way prescribed, whereby a natural man could, of his own strength, obtain that which is supernatural, and which the highest angel cannot give 4. “The sovereignty of God. I could not bear, that it should be wholly at God's pleasure, to save or damn me, just as he would. That passage, Rom. ix. 11—23. was a constant vexation to me, especially verse 21. Reading or meditating on this, always destroyed my seeming good frames; for when I thought I was almost humbled, and almost resigned, this pas. sage would make my enmity against the sovereignty of God appear. When I came to reflect on the inward enmity and blasphemy, which arose on this occasion, I was the more afraid of God, and driven furtherfrom any hopes of reconcilia