A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE AND EXPERIENCES OF A PASTOR
The pastor was born in the year 1750, of respectable parents in a county in Scotland. At eight years of age, he was put to Musleburgh School and at fourteen was sent to the University at Edinburgh, being destined by his parents for the work of the ministry.
About this period, he got acquainted with some pious young men, from whose conversation and example he reaped much benefit. He associated with them in a meeting for prayer and religious conference, and regularly attended upon all other means of grace.
From a letter of his, addressed to his grandmother in 1764, it would appear, that he had then a zeal for God, and a relish for divine things. About two years after this he began to keep a diary, in which there appears much fervor of spirit, and simplicity of heart. Upon the day on which he entered the Divinity-hall, he writes as follows: "This day I entered the Divinity-hall. O what serious considerations ought this to impress upon my mind, and with how much assiduity and care ought I now to be living, as I have enlisted myself to be one of God's pastors to feed his flock. God forbid that I enroll my name upon any other end or footing, but to the glory of God, and the good of his people's souls. I now vow before God, that, by his assistance, I shall devote my time and talents to his glory; and that for the future I will not triffle away my time, with any one thing that is not profitable to myself or others. I shall spend all of it (through grace) in reading the languages, divinity and devotion, or some other thing that may be of advantage to myself, or for God's glory. O Lord send a blessing upon my undertakings,"
His religious impressions seem to have continued in the year 1767, as appears by another letter of his of that date, in which he points out the true source of comfort under an afflictive dispensation, and the improvement a Christian ought to make of the death of friends. But soon after this, he got acquainted with some of his fellow-students, of a very different character from his first associates, who by degrees led him into their favorite amusements and vices. And though at first his conscience smote him severely for this new course of life, insomuch that he compared what he sometimes felt in his mind to a foretaste of hell; yet, by yielding repeatedly to temptation, his heart became hardened, and in the course of a few years, the very traces of his former serious impressions were so obliterated, that they seldom occurred to his remembrance; and, when at any time they did, he considered them as the effects of mere delusion, and congratulated himself upon having got rid of that fit of enthusiasm. In the year 1775, he wrote upon the diary , from whence the foregoing extract was taken: " This diary does not say much for my understanding, but it is a memorial of piety."
During the course of nine years, he continued an enemy of God, and sought with diligence the friendship of the world. In the year 1769, he went to London at the desire of a friend who recommended him to an Earl of Devon, as a proper person to go abroad with his eldest son. However, he did not find upon trial, that a situation of this sort was suitable to his temper and disposition. He left this family and got a clerk's place in the War-office where he continued till January 7, 1771. He then accepted an offer made to him of going with a family to Jamaica, where he stayed a year, living all that time in dissipation and riot; his amiable natural temper and address, gained him admittance into the joyous company of the place; and he might have settled advantageously in the island, had not an attachment to a young lady in England, and a secret abhorrence at the brutish and wretchedly wicked life of inhabitants of Jamaica, made him desirous of returning to Britain.
In April 1772, he embarked for New York, where, after a very dangerous voyage, he arrived. There he met with his cousin, a major in the army, who introduced him to the most considerable families of the place. He continued some time there, and at Philadelphia; and after visiting the Jerseys, and some places upon the coast, he returned to England in the Summer of 1772. Upon his arrival in London, he immediately sought out his lady friend, who appeared to him still the same amiable friend as when they parted. Mutually desirous of entering into a matrimonial connection, the question now was, How he should get the wherewithal to support a family? For though she had a genteel fortune for a young lady, it was not sufficient for both.
An opportunity now offered to him to go out to Turkey in the mercantile line, in a way by which he might probably make a considerable fortune in a very short time; but neither he nor his lady friend could think of a separation for years. It was therefore agreed upon, that he should return to Scotland, pursue his original plan of the ministry, get a living there (which he hoped soon to procure, through the interest of his friends in the church, who favored patronage) and return and marry his friend who was willing to retire with him to a country parish, rather then delay their marriage, till he should have acquired a fortune abroad. No time was lost in putting this plan into execution; he returned home immediately, passed trials, and was licensed by the presbytery in March 1773.
Soon after this, he began to perceive some alteration in the style of the letters he received from his lady friend; he could not but suspect what he was very unwilling to believe. He had now given up every prospect of making a figure in life, and embraced a profession little suited to the joyousness of his temper, and the company he had frequented, merely to accomplish his union with his fiancé, a few years sooner that he could otherwise have done. How distressing then the least appearance of a change in her sentiments towards him! He wrote to beg a full explanation, and had the mortification to find, by her answer, that he had a rival in her affections, who was so much the more formidable, as he possessed an independent fortune. Upon this a sovereign contempt for the character of this woman succeeded to that warm affection he had so long entertained for her. He wrote her a farewell letter, and sought to turn his thoughts upon some other object more worthy of his attention.
In order to dissipate the gloom which this disappointment had occasioned, he went into all sorts of company; gave way to the natural levity and carnality of his temper; went from place to place amusing himself with everything that occurred; sometimes preaching very unprofitable flowery sermons in the neighboring churches; sometimes dancing with the young ladies, and oftener playing at cards, and drinking with the gentlemen and clergy of his acquaintance, with whom he freely joined in laughing at serious godliness, calling all those who professed it, "enthusiasts, righteous over much, weak misled people...".
His friends in the church did what they could to get him a living; but failing in this, he accepted of the place of chaplain to one of the Scotch regiments in the Dutch service and was ordained in the year 1775. He joined the regiment immediately, and soon discovered (what he little expected) that many of the officers were men professing godliness, and that all of them had a thorough contempt of a clergyman who did not act in character; he found himself under the necessity of being outwardly decent, and circumspect in his walk and conversation, and generally preached moral discourses, recommending the practice of virtue as the road to happiness.
It was till the end of the year 1776, that he began to be convinced by the Spirit of God of his total ignorance of divine things, and that something more than outward reformation was necessary, in order to obtain peace of conscience.
An account of the change wrought upon his heart, and the consequences of it, is given by himself in the following narrative, which he wrote some months before his death; and afterwards revised upon his death-bed, lest anything should have escaped from his pen, in the hurry in which it was wrote, that was not justly represented.
The work of conversion is a mystery which the natural mind cannot comprehend. It is always attributed to natural causes. To call it supernatural, or a work brought about by the operations of the Spirit, is denominated enthusiasm, or melancholy madness. This aversion which men show to the operations of the Spirit, proceeds from the natural bias of the heart to self-dependence, and from a violent hatred against the sovereignty of God. Proud of their reason, they judge of all events by its standard; and whatever goes beyond it, they mark down as incomprehensible and absurd. They trace the causes of the revolutions of kingdoms, without any reference to the designs of providence; -- they decide the fate of battles, without acknowledging the arm of the Deity. They account for the happiness or misery of individuals, without considering the mercies or judgments of God. And in the same manner, they judge of the revolutions of the human mind in the work of conversion, without allowing the influence of supernatural power.
That there is such a work as conversion, occasioned by the immediate operation of the Spirit, the word of God plainly testifies, and the experience of Christians fully demonstrates. A natural incident is often the seeming cause. But the same incident has not always the same effect upon different minds. The loss of children may so affect one man as to beget a serious and lasting concern for his soul; the loss of children in another may only beget a temporary melancholy. What is the cause then of this difference? The scriptures show us, that it is neither animal feeling, nor a different temperament of body, but a peculiar energy of the divine Spirit. How the Spirit acts upon the human soul so as to produce this difference, or how its immediate impulse is known and felt, must remain a mystery; and perhaps, it would be as daring rashness to account for it upon rational principles, and attended with as great danger, as the looking into the ark of the Lord proved to be to the men of Bethshemesh. But that such a work is wrought upon the mind, by supernatural influence, is beyond all doubt; and if we are not satisfied till we know how, we may justly be left to fall into that temptation which proved fatal to our first parents, "Ye shall be as gods."
Many Christians might find it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the gradual progress of conversion on their minds; for a pious education, or early religious impressions beget, though imperceptibly, the same change with a more conspicuous and providential conversion. That a remarkable change has been wrought upon my mind, is evident to myself, and the testimony of Scripture tells me that such a change must have been produced by a supernatural cause. I can easily remember a period, and that not very distant , wherein all my actions proceeded from self, and wherein I had not the smallest apprehension of the glory of God. That heart which I now see to be a dungeon of iniquity, a cage of unclean birds, I then thought to have been good, and void of all enmity to perfect holiness. Though I knew I had sin, yet I did not think my sins were very bad; and whatever sins I committed, I did not think they proceeded from a bad heart, but from some other cause inseparable from humanity. I believed in a savior, but never had a thorough conviction of his Godhead, and of consequence never saw the absolute necessity of his atoning blood. My hopes of heaven therefore were not founded on his merit, or on the mercy of God derived from his mediation, but merely because God was merciful, and because my sins proceeded from no innate enmity, or were attended with no peculiar aggravations.
I now see, with the most evident demonstration, that had I died while I entertained these sentiments, I must not only have been excluded from heaven by the eternal justice of God, but the very bent of my own mind would have rendered the holiness of heaven a torment. I see, I hated God in his perfect holiness; I blasphemed Christ, because I denied his perfect righteousness, I knew not the damnable nature of sin, and had the daring impiety to propose a union between a holy God and a sinful creature, without seeing the necessity of being washed, purified and sanctified. -- Horror now seizes me when I reflect upon that awful danger to which I was exposed, and upon that impious and heaven-daring presumption of claiming the love of God, while I was in league with the Devil. How my eyes were opened to see my sin and danger, I know not; but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. Everything in creation and providence wears a different aspect; and that light, whatever way it has been made to arise in my mind, has made me see things in a different point of view, and has occasioned a total change in sentiment and in action. The sure ground upon which I trust that this light proceeds from the Spirit of God and from none other, is, that it returns to the same source from whence it came, by shedding a lustre on the glory of God, and on the riches of his sovereign grace. This I call the testimony of the Spirit; for, as it leads to God, so I conclude it came from God.
Though the change that has been wrought on me may be called sudden, yet I can observe many gradual steps through which I have been led, and these all tending to magnify the power of God, and the riches of his grace. -- Sometime in the month of April 1776, while in Flanders, I was meditating on the past part of my life, and was so struck with the oddity of some particular passages in it, that I formed a design of committing them to writing. Indulging that thought one night in bed, I was seized with an unaccountable shivering, and sudden fear, arising from I know not what, which so agitated both my body and mind, that the bed shook underneath me. I rose up in a most dreadful horror, and asked myself with agony and amazement, what was the matter. I felt no pain in my body, neither was I apprehensive of immediate dissolution. I endeavored to compose myself, but in vain. An uneasiness of mind increased, and trembling again seized me. Terror encompassed me about, and I thought I felt the blood freezing in my veins. Something suggested to me that this was the terrors of the Lord, and that the sword of his vengeance was ready to be bathed in my blood. Hell, I thought, was gaping to receive me; and a thousand horrid devils were solacing themselves with the hopes of my speedy destruction. Benumbed with horror, and deprived of recollection, my animal spirits failed me, and instead of roaring out in despair, I sunk into a state of childish insensibility. Sleep, or something like sleep, overpowered me, and when I awoke I remembered my fears, and was able, in some measure, to reason on their cause, I considered what hopes I had beyond the grave, and found I had none. The views I had of religion, or my notions of redemption, instead of affording me comfort, deprived me even of hope. Instigated by a sullen pride, and no longer able to endure these distracting thoughts, I cried out, "If my days are numbered let me be damned, for there is no remedy; or, if my days are lengthened out, I'll endeavor to prepare." After this impious outburst, I felt a sudden calm. I rose with some degree of composure, and betook myself to prayer; but the substance of my prayer f: entirely forgot. After breakfast I went to take a solitary walk upon the banks of a canal, with a design of enquiring more particularly into my last night's fears. The first question that occurred to me was, Is there a God? The sun was then shining upon the water with peculiar splendor, and I thought that every one of it's dazzling rays cried out against Atheism. I durst not harbor the thought one moment, for an irresistible conviction of the divinity totally overpowered me. I then asked, Is there a Trinity in this Godhead? Insurmountable objections I thought immediately appeared against the belief of it. The Socinian principles came into my mind, that Christ was not very God, but a great Prophet endued with extraordinary powers. But this opinion I hastily rejected, and saw through the absurdity of it. A finite being, however high in degree, can never approach nearer to an infinite Being, than a finite being of a lesser degree; so that if Christ was not really God, his death could never be meritorious, because nothing can merit from an infinite, but an infinite. This idea, trifling as it may seem, entirely satisfied me, and I felt a certain pleasure arise in my mind from the hopes of being confirmed in the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity; and by having some fixed principles to go upon, I conceived hopes of being delivered from all fears for the future. Solacing myself with the belief of a God, and the belief of the Godhead of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, which was at this time marvelously opened up to my soul's understanding; I bent my way homeward, and as I walked along, I appeared as a most insignificant thing, when conscious that I was under the immediate eye of the supreme God, or glorious Trinity. But this did not spring from any sense of my own unworthiness by sin, or from any particular conviction of its ugliness, as being immediately opposite to the holy nature of God, but rather from a consciousness of the low state I held in the scale of beings. So that owing to the unsubdued pride of my heart, and its natural enmity, I did not make the proper improvement of this discovery of the Godhead, but manifestly drew upon myself a greater load of guilt, Most justly might God have for ever delivered me over to a reprobate mind, for had I not had the most stubborn and accursed heart, I must have fallen down upon my face, and cried out, "Unclean, Unclean," before the Majesty of heaven, so conspicuously displayed, But his mercy in sparing me, more abundantly marks his patience, and his willingness to save.
When I got home to dinner, I dined with my usual cheerfulness; and notwithstanding the uncommon impressions I felt upon my mind an hour or two before, I was neither more reserved in conversation, nor more careful in guarding against certain indulgences, which I now call sinful. As far as I can recollect, I played a game at chess in the coffee-houser with the same composure and attention as formerly. In the evening I went on in my usual course of reading, i.e., some French philosophical essays, I do not remember that I looked into the Bible at all.
In the same house where I lodged, there was a Flemish young woman, who often distracted my thoughts from my studies by her singing. She frequently came into my room, and sung and chatted to me for hours together. She was abundantly beautiful, and therefore a snare. It occurred to me, if she should came up this evening, Should I admit her or not? I began to think that I was under the eye an all-seeing God, and endeavored to represent to my imagination the scene which I saw in the forenoon. But alas! the scene was gone, it appeared to me like a dream. I could not even think there was a God, far less a Trinity. All my arguments lost their force, and I was like one bewildered in mist and darkness. I felt some symptoms of fear, and the very apprehensions of it, deprived me of all that reason which I was so lately boasting of. In this distracted situation, the Flemish girl came in upon me. At first I scarcely spoke to her, but had not the courage to desire her to withdraw; for I thought she might be the means of dispelling my fears, or preventing any bad consequences from them. After she sat down, she began to chat as usual, and I felt my spirits gradually reviving, my fears were silenced by a forced merriment, and thus I became ten times more a child of the devil. O the adorable patience of God! O the transcendent riches of his grace! There must be an eternity to celebrate his praise!
As soon as I was left alone, I endeavored, by reading something that was happy, to stifle all disagreeable reflection. I so far succeeded, that I went to bed tolerably composed. To my best remembrance, I prayed, and the shame I felt in addressing an unknown God, particularly so soon after broken resolutions , I construed into an acceptable humility. Next morning, after breakfast, I renewed my walk; but instead of carrying on the same contemplations, I represented to myself how ridiculous I should appear in the eyes of the world, if I should become enthusiast, and renounce all the pleasures of youth, health and opportunity. This reflection was so agreeable to my depraved and corrupted heart, that a thousand arguments occurred against a strict religious life, and against the propriety of it in my present situation. I therefore laid aside all thoughts of it till a more convenient season, and I hoped that providence would preserve me, till I was placed in some country retirement more suitable to religious contemplation and mortified habits.
Thus I was again left to myself, and was filled with my own devices . When God called, I refused; when he stretched out his hand, I regarded it not. I set at nought all his counsel, and would none of his reproof. How desperately aggravated by sin! Why did not the Lord God 1augh at my calamity, and mock when his terrors were again upon me? It was that his grace might be glorified by my salvation. O what a monument of mercy must I appear, when all the aggravated circumstances of my sins are openly made known! And how gloriously must free grace shine, to the eternal exaltation of the great Emmanuel, when his blood can wash such a sinner clean! Shout, ye angels, and glorified spirits, for ye only can sing the victories of the Lamb.
I say, I was again left to myself; for I went on in my former way, preserving outward decency, and adding to my stock of deceitful learning. I made no alteration in my sermons, and was no more strict with respect to my clerical office. I generally observed prayer in the evening; and such was my blindness, that I attributed my passing over that duty slightly, to true Christian humility.
Our regiment received orders, in the following month, to march away from our present position. This gave me a secret joy, for I was heartily tired of the company of Papists; and, for what reason, I know not, I longed to be among Protestants. During our march, I had frequent meditations on divine things. These beget in me a gradual hatred at criminal indulgence, and I often took an opportunity of reasoning coolly with one of the officers concerning it. His arguments made me reflect with more keenness; and, I think, at that time, I began to see a certain beauty in moral rectitude. I therefore resolved in my mind to live, for the future, with a becoming gravity, and to deny myself to every pleasure, that had no higher end than animal gratification,
When I arrived at our new garrison, I was much more attentive to my outward walk and conversation. Though I had as little regard for God, and my soul, as ever, yet I was insensibly led to pray more regularly, and to read the Bible more frequently. I formed some connections among the inhabitants, which were rather unfavorable to devotion. I was frequently engaged in parties of pleasure, and often forgot my flimsy resolutions. Reflection now and then stung me, but repeated amusement deprived it of its force. In the month of August, I proposed to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. I was more than commonly concerned about the solemnity of the work; and, as it was the first time I had an opportunity of dispensing this ordinance since my ordination, I was particularly careful about the external part of it. Everything was carried on with the utmost decency, and my discourses and exhortations were somewhat evangelical. Some of the communicants afterwards told me, that they enjoyed much of the presence of God upon the occasion. It had this effect upon me, that it removed from my mind many doubts concerning God and divine revelation, and made me more attentive to private duties, and more conscientious in discharging the duties of my office. I likewise began, in some measure, to relish religious conversation, and spoke freely upon various subjects to one or two of the regiment, whom I knew to be God-fearing people. A particular officer, I often conversed with; but so far was I from having a broken heart, that I often was ashamed to be thought religious when others were present. However, I became strictly moral as to my outward life, and often reprehended fashionable vices very severely, in my public discourses. Though the officers observed this, yet they attended the church very punctually.
In the month of November, I went to a neighboring garrison to assist and dispensed the sacrament there. I came home the week following, more firmly resolved on a strict moral life than ever, and on a continuance of duties. In all this time, sin, and the plagues of my heart, gave me no uneasiness. I looked upon an outward reformation as all that was implied in conversion; and wherever I came short, Christ I thought was a sufficient surety. Thus I lived as a Pharisee; and had I continued there, I must have reaped a Pharisee's reward. But blessed be the Lord, that he did not allow me to remain long in that dreadful state; but chased me out of it with the thunders of Sinai.
About the beginning of the year 1777, my former fears and apprehensions began to attack me. I often called in question the solidity of the foundation upon which I built. I dared not to examine it minutely; for, whenever I entered upon it, doubts, dreadful doubts arose. These were sometimes so severe, that I could have wished to have changed my existence with the vilest of creatures. My mind revolted with horror, at the idea of any longer calling in question the existence of God; but the Trinity, which was once so clearly laid open to me, was enveloped in the thickest darkness. The divinity of Christ I could not disprove, but could derive no satisfaction from his incarnation and death. The Bible gave me no consolation, for I did not understand it; or what I did understand of it, spoke nothing but death. For several weeks I was agitated and harassed with these fears, doubts , and apprehensions. I had many intervals of ease; not so much arising from any clearer views of divine things, as from the natural bent of my animal spirits. But growing impatient at length under such frequent alarms , it came into my mind to observe a day of fasting (about the latter end of February ) for a particular enquiry into my state. Accordingly, I rose early the next morning, bolted my door, and began with prayer. In my prayer, I took notice of my intended work, and pleaded that God would assist me in carrying it on. I felt an uncommon degree of fervor and earnestness, and a great fluency of expression; so that I was encouraged to proceed whatever might be the consequence, First, I endeavored to recollect what state I was in when I professed to be religious at the college; but my heart being so long habituated to unbelief, I could remember nothing distinctly, and rather concluded I had been a deceiver. No help there fore arose from that quarter. I again prayed, but neither had the same liberty of expression, nor the same encouraging hopes. However, I proceeded to examine my life and conduct from my earliest remembrance; and though I saw many glaring deviations from the line of virtue, yet I would have fain rested on my honesty, goodness of heart and the favorable opinion which others formed of me. But this gave me no satisfaction; I therefore placed myself in opposition to the moral law, and examined strictly how far I had kept or broken each of the commandments. -- I could not but confess that in action I had broken many of them. ---- But it occurred to me, that this holy law extended to the thoughts of the heart, and that whosoever offends in one point, is guilty of the whole. This at first I could not readily believe and I made no application to the Bible (though it was lying before me) to confirm it; for the Bible, I thought, I did not understand. But, while meditating on the extent of the law, the sluices of my heart, as it were, were suddenly opened, and such a deluge of sin came pouring in upon me, that if the tender mercies of God had not upheld me, I must have been swallowed up. Sins came rushing in upon me from every quarter, floods upon floods, and each of the commands seemed charged with the thunderbolts of wrath. The original depravity of my nature was held forth as the woeful source of these pestilential streams; and I stood confessed a child of the devil. Then, and not till then, I felt the necessity of a Savior; then I saw the patience of God in sparing such a wretch; and then, in some measure, the glorious scheme of redemption was displayed. But I neither durst allow myself to hope for any share in it, nor did I know the means of applying for the benefits of it. Burdened to the ground with sin, and ashamed of my deformity, I again ventured to pray.
After groaning out my miserable case, and acknowledging the justice of God, though he should damn me that very moment, I was overpowered with a strong sense of his mercy in and through the sin-pardoning blood of his dearly beloved Son. I remained for some time astonished at the view, and an undescriable joy almost deprived me of speech. When I rose from my knees, I flew to the Bible with great earnestness; the first words that I read were in Lam, 3:57 "Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee. Thou saidst Fear Not." From these words, I preached to myself a sermon of love. I saw that the prophet was lamenting the miseries of Jerusalem, but I felt a higher one than the prophet, even the spirit of the living God, speaking to all the distressed ones of the earth. I read other passages of the same book , with a particular fervor, especially Lam, 5:21 "Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned." I saw the necessity of the Lord turning me; for instead of being able or willing to turn myself, I was only running farther from him. What a glorious privilege it appeared to be turned to the Lord; and what condescending mercy it discovered to be turned to him, even after the soul had so grievously revolted from him! Uncertain whether this knowledge of the Scripture was real, or only a delusion, I looked into the New Testament to see whether it spoke words of comfort, and whether it was equally intelligible. The first passage I read was in Rom. 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." I could form no distinct notion of. To be "in Christ" appeared incomprehensible; but if it was such a desirable thing to know Christ, how ravishing must it be to be found "in him"! The very idea of not being "in him", was more grievous to me than the condemnation threatened, but again, I knew not how to be found in him, or the evidence of it. However, I read on with an increasing delight, till I came to Rom. 8:26 "Likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Here, I thought, was a remedy for all my difficulties, a light to remove all darkness. None other but the ever-blessed Spirit could make intercession for such a one as me. He knew best all my sins, and the sin of my nature, and he only could teach me those things which I knew not, I thought I felt something of the power of such an intercessor, and the need of him. The glory of the Trinity--Jehovah Father, Son and Holy Spirit was in some measure revealed to me; and I thought I saw the blessed Three, rejoicing in the salvation of sinners. The Father's willingness to save, the efficacy of Christ's blood to save, and the power of the Spirit to draw sinners to be saved, were most sweetly held forth to my soul's understanding. I appeared as nothing in mine own eyes, and my vileness and unworthiness made me doubt if the power of the Godhead could ever make me fit for being "in Christ." I read over several other passages of Scripture, and great was my joy to find them all concurring to exalt the glory of free grace in the salvation of sinners. The Bible now appeared to me the richest treasure. I no longer found it dark and incomprehensible . I held it fast in my arms, calling it all my own, and expected to find wonders rising upon wonders in it. I therefore resolved to make it my principal study, to read it morning and evening and midday, to pray three times a day statedly, and to embrace other opportunities, and to allot a daily portion of time for serious meditation. I likewise proposed to have a fast-day every week, and to be denied to the world, however much the laugh of it might be raised against me. Having finished the day's work with prayer, (in which I experienced something of the spirit of prayer) I felt myself a good deal fatigued and exhausted, for I had neither eat nor drunk the whole day. With reluctance I ordered some tea, because I was afraid lest any creature intercourse should deprive me of my comfortable views. However, I ventured upon it, and soon afterwards went to bed. When I lay down, I never experienced so much joy and inward tranquility . I could have almost wished never to have seen the morning; and this not owing to an assured faith, (for in all this time I did not know what faith was) but to a secret fear of losing sight of such a glorious scheme of salvation.
Thus a fast-day turned out the happiest day of my life; and, I trust, it was the beginning of a life that shall never end. Next morning I rose with a double relish for spiritual exercises, and betook myself to very different studies from what had formerly occupied my attention. I read the Bible with infinite satisfaction, and the peculiar doctrines of Christianity were, by degrees, opened up to my view, A new world everywhere appeared, and a new spring of action influenced my conduct. In this state of uninterrupted felicity, I continued for two or three days, when something like my old doubts and fears began to attack me. The Lord had not yet perfected his work; and blessed, eternally blessed be his name, that he did not allow me to remain at the place of the breaking forth of children.
The week following, I appointed another day for fasting and prayer, but alas! it was very different from the former. I relied too much on the ordinance, as it had been already blessed to me, and came to seek God without a warrant and so was disappointed. I found that I had not given up my own strength and righteousness, but sought after something to rest upon instead of Christ. I continued my duties and other exercises for some time, but found a great coolness of affection creeping in apace.
About this time, I went to the Hague; and, owing to company, and some other occurrences, I became less watchful over my thoughts, and even neglected opportunities of prayer. I broke my vows to the Lord by engaging in much idle talk. And, in short, I felt a total indifference to the power of godliness. When I came home, I grew quite ashamed of my remissness and untender walk. I saw that God had most justly left me to myself, for I had willingly entered into the way of temptation without any special call; I had no essential business at the Hague. My journey was rather to gratify curiosity, and that too at an improper season. I had no view of doing good by it, and I left my congregation to themselves for a Lord' s Day without any warrant. It was therefore a temptation of Satan to ensnare me, and he knew that bait would allure my depraved heart. I was made to mourn for my sin, and was encouraged to greater watchfulness for the future. I renewed my duties, and found an increasing delight in them. Many passages in scripture administered fresh comfort. One morning a passage in Hosea, wherein God so compassionately calls upon Ephraim, melted my heart with love at his patience and tender mercies. While drowned in tears, a sergeant in my company (a man most eminently distinguished in the Christian life) came into my room. I knew his character for piety, but had never conversed with him upon religious subjects. He saw my situation, and the Bible lying before, and took occasion, with the utmost modesty, to speak of the love of Christ to sinners. He did not know particularly, that I was any wise concerned about these matters, and I did not open my case to him. But from some words that dropped from me, he fancied that I was in some measure concerned. -- And, being somewhat affected, he abruptly left the room, leaving upon my table a letter he had lately received from a certain officer, a chosen servant of Christ. I began to read the letter, but it was with difficulty I could go through with it. He relates a most wonderful experience of the love of God to his soul. It gave me inexpressible happiness to think that any of the sinful race of men felt this love, and could rejoice in it. -- I saw that I had not attained to his experience; he had closed with Christ, and lived on him by faith, and this I was totally ignorant of, This made me again doubt my case, and suspect that I was as far from the knowledge of the truth as ever. Doubts rose upon doubts and my uneasiness increased. I persevered however in duties, but seldom felt anything like the power of the Spirit in prayer. Soon after this a certain officer came to town. His strictness of life, and particular attention to religion, drew upon him the contempt of some of his fellow officers. I had not got so much above the opinion of others, as willingly to expose myself to their laugh. It was therefore not without shame, that I first went to call upon him. But I was soon made to see, that a concern for the soul ought to surmount every difficulty, and that shame and mockery ought to be totally overlooked. Accordingly I visited him, and found something so attractive in his conversation, and saw so much of the divine life about him, that I could not be a day without him. He opened up to me the scheme of redemption in a new manner, and gave me some faint idea of the mystery of the faith. He recommended to me Thomas Boston's Fourfold State which I immediately began to peruse. I read it with great keenness and, I trust, with much profit. The corruption of nature appeared more dreadful than I had ever apprehended, and I felt the corruption of my own heart correspond with the description. I loathed and abhorred myself on account of my nature, and I thought if every one had such a heart as me, it would require a divine power to make me believe that any of the human race could be saved.
One evening taking a solitary walk, and meditating on the extreme corruption of my heart, I was led to reflect on the sin of my nature. I thought I traced something like a muddy stream to it's source, and saw this stream full of every impurity, rushing from an urn that contained all the filth and poison of the universe. My depraved heart was this urn, out of which proceeded every abomination. Was it possible, I cried, that Christ could take such a heart into union with himself! Could his blood make it clean, and fit it for a heavenly habitation? Yes, if you will only believe. I immediately returned home, saying to myself, saying to myself all the way, O for power to believe, O for power to believe. When I entered my room, I fell upon my knees, and pleaded with strong crying and tears, that Christ would give me this power to believe. Peter's weak faith when he walked upon the water occurred to me, and I prayed that the Lord would give me such a measure of faith. These words immediately came with power to my mind, "O Thou of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt?" This did not satisfy me; but I asked for something more certain, (an outward manifestation, as it were; for I was doubtful of the application of the words of the Spirit;) and these words were suggested to me, attended with a bitter reproof, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall be no sign given it..." Many other words were brought home to my soul; and I was constrained to cry out, "Lord, I believe, help mine unbelief..." and immediately these words were sweetly subjoined, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe." I rose from my knees with a holy wonder, and was lost some time in astonishment. The Bible was again greedily consulted, and I thought I saw a new light diffused over every part I read. After this I had much spiritual converse with some officers and we often took sweet counsel together. This was in the month of June 1777.
I now began to write my sermons in a very different style from what I had done before. The corruption of nature was a subject of the first importance. I therefore endeavored to prove and explain it to my audience by practical observations and arguments, drawn partly from experience. Many of the officers did not relish the subject, and most of them withdrew from the church, for two or three Lord's Days. I was no longer ashamed of a religious profession , but spoke with earnestness on the subject to all classes of people who visited me. They seemed at first surprised at my change; however, they did me the justice to acknowledge my sincerity. Most of them came back to the church; and there were very few in the regiment who understood any English, that did not afterwards regularly attend. I was aware of the importance of the charge I had over them, and consequently exhorted them with a peculiar concern. Some blessed fruits soon after appeared . Encouraged, as I thought, by promises, I erected a fellowship-meeting, and I have great reason to believe, that the Lord was often with us of a truth. During this time I was more attentive than ever to duties, I rose early in the morning, and allotted six periods of the day for stated prayer. I endeavored as often as possible to rise at midnight: but in this sleep for the most part overcame me. But for all this outward and inward fervor, I was frequently dissatisfied with my state, and perplexed with many grievous doubts. Some passages of Scripture did not suit my experience. Shepherd's Sincere Convert alarmed me, and many parts of it I did not understand. -- Andrew Gray's Sermons showed me, that I was only half a Christian, and that I had not unreservedly given up my heart to Christ. -- Something that was said regarding justification startled me; so that, upon the whole, I plainly saw that something further must be attained to.
At this time, the Life of Fraser of Brae fell into my hands. In the evening of Saturday, September 13, 1777, I was somewhat struck with a passage in it concerning faith. -- I had read the passage before, but never observed anything particularly applicable to myself in it, -- I asked at myself, whether I had that faith which is saving. I dared not say that I had; for though I had formerly (as I thought) closed with Christ, yet it was now suggested to me, that this was only in general closing with him as a Savior, without particularly closing with him as MY Savior. I therefore saw distinctly that I had not directly complied with that commandment, "believe on the Son." Unbelief immediately appeared to me as the most terrible sin; and it was strikingly represented to me, to be the great sin of the Israelites in the wilderness; and therefore, unless I believed, I could never enter into the promised rest. I instantly betook myself to prayer; and the mystery of faith was opened up to me quite in a new manner. On the Lord's Day morning this exercise continued and I was made to apprehend Christ as dying FOR ME. But it appeared strange that Christ should die for one so unworthy, so vile; no, it cannot be. Who then did he die for? For the elect. And have not the elect such a hard and polluted heart as I have? They have according to Scripture. ---- Why may not I then believe? I must, -- or I perish. Accordingly, I was drawn with power to Christ, and the immediate consequence of that, was freedom and enlargement in prayer, in claiming the promises, calling Christ my Lord and my God, and a resting on him for all. -- A new light was now cast on those passages of Scripture; and books that were formerly obscure, I now understood, and found them savory and full of comfort.
The effect of his conversion very soon appeared in his life and conversation. He no longer wasted precious time, in the amusements and unprofitable studies, to which he had formerly been addicted, but applied himself with diligence to search the Scriptures, and prepare discourses for his flock, which might, by the blessing of God, bring them to the saving knowledge of those truths, from which he had experienced so much comfort, He composed a course of sermons upon the most essential doctrines of Christianity, which he delivered with great plainness and simplicity of style, speaking from the fullness of his heart, the things which he knew and felt, and often exhorting his people with tears to come to that gracious Savior, who had shewn mercy to him, the chief of sinners, that they also might be saved. He set up a weekly meeting in the regiment, for private exhortation and prayer, which was of much use to many who attended it. It pleased God remarkably to bless his labors; several of the officers and private men were brought under serious impressions, as well as some others who occasionally heard him.
About this time he wrote a pious relation of his in Scotland, informing him of the change that had been wrought upon his heart by divine grace, and desiring him to acquaint his first companions at college of it, who had but too much reason to consider him as an apostate from the truth. They received, with great joy, the glad tidings that this their long lost brother was found, and he whom they had accounted spiritually dead, was now made alive. They soon renewed their correspondence with him, and earnestly entreated him to revisit his native country, in order to preach the gospel in that place, where he had so lately poured contempt upon it, and its professors.
He was invited to the supply the chapel in Edinburgh for some months, in the views of being settled there, if he proved acceptable to the congregation . ---- This he at first declined, having a very great attachment to the people among whom his labors had been blessed, and it grieved him to think of leaving them as a flock without a shepherd. But, upon his health beginning to decline, and the doctor of the regiment advising him to try his native air for a few months, he consented to come to Edinburgh; and accordingly arrived there the latter end of September 1777, and took up residence, where he continued till June 12 following, when it pleased God to remove him to a house not made with hands ---- eternal in the heavens.
Soon after his arrival, he was seized with a cough, and other symptoms of an approaching consumption. Notwithstanding which, he continued for some time performing ministerial duties, both in public and private, with much fervor and zeal to promote the glory of God, and the welfare of the souls under his care. His very exemplary life in private, gave much weight to what he delivered from the pulpit; every one being persuaded that he advanced nothing there, that he did not feel the power of himself. It might be said of him, that his daily walk and conversation was a living comment upon the apostle's exhortation in Rom. 12:1-2 for he was transformed by the renewing of his mind, and he sought continually to prove what was the good, acceptable and perfect will of God - he was no longer conformed to the world, in their vain amusements of idle conversation, but retaining a deep sense of the mercies of God, he offered up soul and body a living sacrifice to him, and accounted this a reasonable service. Thus convincing all who knew him, that God had wrought a thorough and an abiding change in his sentiments, temper and conduct, and from thence they concluded that he was intended by the Head of the church for an instrument of extensive usefulness in the congregation, to which he was now by divine providence called. -- But God's thoughts are not as our thoughts.
The few sermons he preached in Edinburgh were attended with remarkable success; and his private exhortations to those who came for examination to his apartment (after he was confined from public labors) were blessed by God to many. He was very desirous of seeing his congregation brought into church order, and the ordinances regularly dispensed to them. -- To effectuate this, he devoted several weeks together to the examination of his f'lock -- and often said, "If I can but have the satisfaction of seeing the ordinance of the Lord's Supper administered, to a body of serious Christians in the Chapel, I shall willingly take to my bed next day, and never rise more." -- This indeed proved in the event to be nearly the will of God concerning him; for, upon March 15, he was enabled to go to church, and dispense the ordinance to 400 of his flock, to whom he gave a very animated exhortation; and a day or two after, he was seized with a complaint in his bowels, which. though it did not immediately confine him to bed, yet very soon appeared to be the last stage of the disorder, which, about, twelve weeks after, put a period to his life.
During the first part of his illness, he enjoyed much spiritual comfort in his soul, particularly in the night season, when his cough did not permit him to sleep -- he was then favored with such manifestations of the love of God, and had such joy and peace in believing, that he used to call them good nights. At those seasons he rejoiced in the view of death, and longed much to depart, that he might be with Christ. But when he was first seized with the complaint in his bowels, those spiritual joys greatly abated; from the nature of the disease, his animal spirits sunk, -- his strength began to decay, -- and for some weeks it was painful to him to receive visits, or to speak to anybody; -- but though he spoke little, yet it was easy to perceive that his mind was continually employed on spiritual things; and that he had no doubts concerning his interest in Christ, and the promises of the gospel. He knew in whom he had believed; and having committed his soul and all his concerns to his Lord and Savior, he possessed that peace which passeth all understanding. It was not till April 23, that he apprehended himself to be in a dying way. A variety of remedies had been presented to him, from which he was made to expect benefit. -- The Summer season coming on (he was told) would remove some of his complaints; -- and the disease itself being of a flattering nature, he remained in ignorance of his real situation, till that day when he was seized with some symptoms of immediate death. -- He then said to a friend, "I am now evidently dying; I do not think I can live two days; but, blessed be God, death does not appear terrible to me; though I did not think it so near, yet for some months past I have lived in a daily preparation for it." He then expressed the strongest confidence and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and his willingness to depart and be with him. He said, "If I had a wish to live, it was to be instrumental in carrying on the work in the Chapel, and in assisting those who are concerned in it. But I can commit all to God, who will raise up some other person in my place, more fit to undertake that important charge than I am. " -- That evening he sent for his papers, put them in order, revised the narrative of his conversion, made his will, and gave particular directions with regard to his funeral. He then took a solemn leave of the friend who stayed with him; and afterwards said, "I hope to be in heaven before the morning, but go you to bed, I shall send for you in time to close my eyes. Do not mourn for me, you have more cause to rejoice; my mind is in perfect peace." Next day his complaints abated, which he seemed to regret. " I wish ( said he "this may not be a temptation to me; last night I gave up everything to God -- my friends, the Chapel, and all that is dear to me on earth. I now wish to depart -- I have nothing more to do here."
Some of his relations coming to see him, he spoke to them with much earnestness, entreating them with tears to be mindful of the salvation of their souls. -- At night while sitting at supper, he suddenly fell very low, and thought himself going; and taking a glass of wine and water, he turned about to his friend, and said (in allusion to Matt. 26:29). "Henceforth, I shall drink no more with you of the fruit of the vine, but we shall drink it together new in our Father's kingdom." He then, with great composure and sweet serenity of mind, laid him down in his bed, in the view of rising up no more in this world. But in this he was mistaken; he had yet to exercise much faith and patience during seven weeks of very great weakness and distress ; but while the outward man decayed, the inward man seemed to be gaining fresh vigor from day to day. He continued for some weeks in a heavenly frame of mind, longing much to depart; frequently crying out, "O when shall I behold his blessed face! why are his chariot-wheels so long of coming! O time, time, fly on they swiftest wings, and hasten the happy period when I shall be admitted into the presence of my God, even my God and Savior; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done, thy time is best."
One evening when talking of the affairs of the Chapel, he said, "O what pride have I discovered in my heart of late -- how could I undertake so great a charge -- I was not fit for it; and the Lord in lovingkindness to me, and the congregation, is taking me away. I believe assuredly that he will now give them one better qualified for the office than I am; and the gospel will be preached in that place for many generations yet to come." -- Another time he said, "I see myself to be so great a sinner, that if God was now to condemn me, and bid me depart from him forever, I must acknowledge the justice of the sentence, and say amen to it. Yet I have a firm unshaken hope of eternal life, purchased for me by the merits of Christ, and conferred upon me as a free gift. Hitherto nothing has been able to raise a doubt in my mind concerning my state; I feel that I love holiness, and hate sin, which is an undoubted evidence that I belong to Christ; and supposing there was no heaven, my soul could not go to hell, for I have no communion with its inhabitants. I hate the works of darkness, and this appears to me to be the surest test of a soul being born again."
To some friends who came to see him he said, "I have no extraordinary joys, nor bright manifestations like what I have read and heard that others enjoyed when in my situation; but my mind is kept in perfect peace, resting upon the word and promise of God. I have little pain of body, and no uneasiness of mind -- I do not feel one murmuring thought -- the Lord gives me perfect submission to his will -- I desire no alteration in my situation -- and shall never be able while in the body, to express my gratitude for the mercies I enjoy." He gave many excellent advises to a young minister who came to see him, about preaching Christ without the fear, or seeking the favor of men, -- exhorting him to employ health and strength while he had them, in the service of his blessed Master.
One morning he told a friend, that during the night he had been much distressed with a dark cloud that came over his mind, and made him unable to pray and meditate upon spiritual subjects (which was his usual exercises in the night season) but towards the morning it was removed, and he had a sweet time -- the Lord had drawn near to his soul, and renewed his promise to him in Isa. 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God..." which words had been sent home with uncommon power upon his mind the evening before he left Holland, when wrestling in prayer for the Lord' s presence to accompany him to his native land; and they frequently afforded him support and comfort during the course of his ministry.
When distressed in the night with the cough, he remarked that the Lord kept him from murmuring, and gave him such patience and peace of mind as greatly alleviated his sufferings.
One evening when employed in meditation, he broke out into many sweet outpourings, and repeated some portions of Scripture, which seemed to afford him peculiar delight; such as, Psa, 73:24-26 "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. "Because I live, ye shall live also. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever." He then said, "I have till lately been in an error, and have entertained wrong apprehensions of God. I viewed him as angry with man, and had some confused ideas of the danger of approaching him out of Christ, but now I see that God is love. The Father himself loveth you. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.' Glory be to the Father, whose love prompted him to send the Son; glory be to the son, who gave himself a voluntary ransom for sinners; and glory be to the Holy Spirit, who applies this salvation, and brings it home to their souls."
A few days after this, upon being asked how he had passed the night; he answered, "My mind has not been in so spiritual a frame as I could have wished, yet I have generally prayed, and slept by turns. This morning I have got a wonderful sight of the desperate wickedness, and deceitfulness of the human heart; and of the free grace of God, in keeping the believer in the faith from first to last. I see in myself such a tendency to depart from God by unbelief, that if he did not uphold my faith to the last moment of my life, I should, in the full view of eternity, upon the threshold of heaven, forsake God, and turn back again to sin, and to the world. But blessed be his name, he keeps me by his almighty power; and nothing less than divine power can cause a sinner to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation." He spoke much of the necessity of humility, "We can never (said he) see enough of our own nothingness, and of our dependence upon God for all. I feel pride a continual plague to me. I have been very self-confident and proud, where I had no reason to be so. The Lord has taught me much of my own heart since I lay upon a sick bed." All that day he continued in a lowly humble frame of mind, saying many sweet things in praise of free sovereign grace.
In the evening he had much comfort in secret prayer, and said afterwards, that the Lord had shewn him that all was well . The morning following he found himself somewhat better, which was rather a disappointment to him, as he longed exceedingly to be released from the prison of the body. He observed,that the Lord must surely have wise ends in prolonging his life; and said, "Within these three last days I have learned much of the evil of sin; I can now say, that I hate it with a perfect hatred. I would rather undergo any suffering than commit it. I see it to be the vilest and most horrible thing imaginable. I still labor under a body of sin, but, blessed be God, I can now say that I do not allow it to have dominion over me. I repel the first suggestions of sin in my heart." He then mentioned some temptations, that had assaulted him in prayer, evidently from Satan, tending to distract and distress his mind; and that he had bid them defiance in the name of Jesus, to whom he cried out for help, and he was soon delivered from them. This had taught him, that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us.
In the afternoon, addressing himself to a relation, he said, "How opposite is the Christian religion to this world; there can be no union between them. The principles of action in a Christian, and a man of the world, are totally different. The latter does every thing from self; the former to please his God. The worldling eats or drinks, because he is hungry or thirsty, or because he likes what is before him; the Christian to strengthen his body, that he may be the better able to serve his God; and so it is in every thing else, in the disposal of time, in all temporal affairs; all they do is from opposite motives." In the evening he had so much comfort in his soul, when engaged in prayer, that his weak body was almost overpowered by it. He now longed more than ever to depart, that he might get free from sin, which he hated more and more. When talking with a friend upon the hatefulness of sin, he gave it as his opinion, that the best way of mortifying it, was to set apart some time for secret fasting and prayer, whenever any particular sin seemed to predominate; and to continue wrestling for strength to overcome it, till hatred to that sin was felt, which was an indication of its being mortified. He said, Pride had now got a deadly wound in his heart, thought it had not yet expired; and he hoped this was the case with other sins also. From this time forward, he appeared to have lost relish for everything in this world, the Bible excepted; he was uneasy if any other book was read to him, or anything said that had not some reference to the word of God, upon which his mind dwelt with peculiar delight.
Upon offering one day to read to him a passage in one of Hill's Sermons, he said, "O no, read the Bible; all other writings are insipid to me. They are the works of men, and some of them are good; but the words of God are my delight, one promise gives me more comfort than all the writings of men. I have no relish for any book or conversation, that does not bring them to my remembrance." He would often say to those about him, "Well, have you got any sweet promise to tell me of?" And upon one being mentioned, he would generally say, "O that is sweet and comfortable to my soul." on Tuesday, May 3, he said, "O how I linger here! When shall I get home! I must now pray day and night for submission and patience, to wait the Lord's time without murmuring. He has hitherto given me the grace of patience; glory be to his name for it."
He was now so emaciated, that he could not without much pain turn himself in bed. He frequently observed what a sad situation his would be, were it not for a glorious prospect of life and immortality beyond the grave; adding, "What would have become of me, had I lain in this condition before I knew the grace of God in truth! How impatient should I have been! How miserable in the approach of death and judgment! O what a mercy is it, that I did not take this disease two years ago!"
For some days after this he was very low, spake little; what he did say, was generally expressive of a strong desire to depart, if it was the Lord's will; often crying out, "Why tarry his chariot wheels! When will his blessed time come! When shall I behold my dear Redeemer's face! O when shall I get free from this body of sin -- these wandering thoughts. But all is well, he is gracious; his will, not mine, be done." Upon one observing to him the goodness of the Lord in not permitting him to murmur; he started at the word with horror, saying, "Murmur! -- a creature, a vile creature, murmur at any of the ways of GOD! O no, I abhor the thought -- dreadful indeed would it be, were I dissatisfied with anything he is pleased to do with me." Another time (appearing in great distress and agitation) one asked him, if anything was the matter with him; he answered, "I am exceedingly grieved and ashamed of the wandering thoughts that pass through my mind; to sin against so good, so gracious a God and Savior, is matter of deep affliction to me. I could weep bitterly for the sin of my nature; I know am assured that Christ has atoned for all my sins past, present, and to come; but this does not alleviate, it increases my grief. I cannot bear the thoughts of sinning against so good a God -- these wandering thoughts are very sinful in one upon the brink of eternity -- I am not able to keep my heart with Christ."
He continued for some days mourning over wandering thoughts; said they were his chief distress, and that they made him desire more earnestly to get out of the body.
One day, upon a friend's observing that the weather was fine, and that it was a pity he could not enjoy it; he cried out, "O speak not to me of such enjoyments; I desire to hear of nothing but Christ, to speak or think of nothing but Christ; to enjoy nothing but precious Christ. I have done with everything else here.
A person telling him one day of the death of an acquaintance of his, who he had reason to believe died in an unconverted state; he took occasion from thence to speak of the awful consequences of such a death, and expressed himself somewhat too positively, respecting the state of the deceased. This was matter of much grief to him for several days after , He said that God had withdrawn from him upon this account; he had grieved the Holy Spirit by rash judging; he mourned and grieved for his sin, and would not be comforted. At length the Lord was pleased to speak peace to his soul, and once more to lift up the light of his countenance upon him.
Upon Friday, May 15, he called for the friend to whom he always opened his mind upon spiritual subjects, and said, "I have had a blessed time this morning. Sweet Jesus! I have had free access to him; he has assured me that I am his; he permitted me to hold him fast, and not let him go. I thought he said to me, "Thou shalt be with me in paradise." But I know not when. O that the time were come. He has shown me how great a sin it was to judge rashly concerning the state of any one. What am I, a vile worthless creature, that I should limit the Lord's free grace! Cannot: he give saving faith in the last moment of one's life? Eternal life is a free gift to one, as well as to another, and he can confer it any time. Why then should I have judged the state of any one? I have also been secretly boasting in my own mind of what God has done for me -- and therefore, in mercy, he withdrew from me to shew me my sins.
The day after this, the fever increased, and sometimes he was rather confused and indistinct in his ideas; but, at all times, his thoughts seemed to dwell upon spiritual subjects, and his incoherences seemed to proceed more from loss of memory than of judgment. Two days before his death he said, "What a grievous thing it is, that I cannot get right words to express my meaning. I wish to glorify God, by speaking to his praise, and by telling what passes in my mind; but when I attempt it, I cannot recollect proper words, therefore I do not speak so much as I would."
On Thursday, June 11, having passed the whole night in. great distress of body, quite speechless, and to all appearance just a dying -- his hands and eyes being almost constantly lifted up as if in prayer -- he broke out about ten o'clock with these words, "O what a glorious prospect there is before me. Eternal glory! All is love, all is love. O He is a gracious God -- the Father of mercies." Then, lifting up his eyes to heaven, repeated with uncommon sweetness -- Father! Father!" He then looked round to one near him, and said, "When he who is my life shall appear, I shall appear with him in glory, and shall be ever with the Lord. Because he liveth, I shall live also."
After lying quiet for a few minutes, he began again to speak in a low voice. One could only for some time distinguish the words, "Eternity! Glory! Gracious -- Blessed be his name!" But again, raising his voice, he said, "The Lord is waiting to be gracious. Tell everybody that he waits to be gracious. Call upon all to praise him. O seek him while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. He is found of them who seek him. Seek him diligently night and day."
He continued for a considerable time exhorting all around him, and praising God in so fervent and affecting a manner, that some of those who were present could not refrain from weeping. Upon seeing this, and thinking it proceeded from sorrow, he said, "What! cannot you bear a gospel whipping? You are not fit to be the disciples of Christ, if you cannot give up all for him. He knows when to use the whip; he lays it on for our good. Were there not formerly times, when you bore with patience many difficulties, disappointments, and trials for his sake? These were times of love." Then turning to his mother, he said, "What the blood of bulls and of goats could not do, the blood of Christ has done; it has made reconciliation with God. O believe it, and receive him; tell my father to receive him." Then addressing himself to another person, he said, "What a blessed thing is it to be employed in the Lord's work. Blessed indeed are they who live to him. O go on, go on, rejoice in Christ, bless his name -- rejoice evermore."
After speaking for more than an hour in this strain, he lay quiet and tried to sleep -- but his heart was so full of the love of Christ, that he could not continue long silent; he soon began again to speak to the praise of glorious grace, extolling the Lord Jesus for what he had done for his soul; and for the mercy now freely held out to sinners in the gospel. He continued in this strain of praise and thanksgiving, till near ten o'clock at night -- often exhorting those who were present, and also those absent friends, with whom he had been intimately connected, as though they had been present, according to their different situations; some to come to Christ, and believe on him for salvation; others, who had already believed, to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart; to follow him fully, and not be ashamed of his cause. He in a very particular and affectionate manner, addressed himself to some of the officers of the regiment to which he had belonged, exhorting them to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, not to be ashamed of his gospel, but to go on in the good ways of the Lord, and to be faithful unto death. He seemed to mourn over one of them, who had once made a profession of religion, but was gone back into the world -- he besought him to return to Christ, who was yet willing to receive him, and would heal his backslidings; he assured him that Christ waited to be gracious, and he entreated him to be reconciled unto God.
After having, in very strong terms, expressed his assurance of eternal glory, he was suddenly tempted to doubt that he might be under a delusion -- he cried out in an agony, "O what if I should yet be deceived. O my past life stares me in the face -- I am afraid -- I am afraid all is wrong -- I never felt anything like this -- what will become of me, if I should be deceived at last?" He wept bitterly, and seemed in great fear and horror of mind. A person who was present said, Surely you have long ago renounced all dependence upon your own righteousness and strength -- why then should you be afraid? Is he not able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him? Have you not again and again committed your soul unto him for salvation; and he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yes, yes, (he cried out) he is the same yesterday, today and forever. O why did I doubt his love. How dreadful is the sin of unbelief. I never felt anything like this before; it was a fiery dart, but the Lord has delivered me from it." Upon this he was reminded of having said some months ago, that he had no experience of Satan's fiery darts, and that he sometimes felt uneasiness at not having had this evidence of being a child of God. He answered, "It is true, but now I know what they are. It is a dreadful thing to listen to the suggestions of the enemy, and to doubt of Christ's love. O pardon me, Lord! Indeed it was a fit of jealousy." After this conflict was over, he seemed more full of faith and love than ever, He could not find words to express the joy and triumph of his soul. Jesus was his continual theme. Often did he call upon all to believe his goodness, his compassion, his willingness to save; saying, "Now he stands crying out to all, Behold me, behold me; and will ye not look unto him, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved? O what has he not done for me, a poor wretched sinner. I went into all sin -- yet he had mercy upon me -- a vile worm. O I cannot express what he has done for my soul! Forgive me, Lord, for doubting one moment of thy love! O the sin of doubting! O the compassion of Jesus."
Some hours after this, he was again assaulted by the enemy, and cried out, "I am undone, undone -- where am I going -- the Lord has withdrawn himself." But, upon being reminded what had happened before, and that the Lord who had delivered once, would again deliver -- for he was mighty to save. He gave a sudden spring up in bed, and getting hold of the person who spoke, said, "Yes, yes, my dear friend, he has saved me, and he will also save you."
Soon after this he took leave of those about him, saying, "Farewell, I shall meet with you in glory. I shall speak no more to you here." But some time after, seeing one in tears, he held out his hand, and said, "Submit, submit; it is the Lord's doing. We shall meet again, and live together with him in glory." He then turned up his eyes, and moved his lips as if in prayer, but was unable to speak aloud -- his countenance expressed a sweet serenity, and holy fervor of soul, until he was seized with a pang of death, which affecting his looks, a person asked him, if all was well with his soul; he answered, "Yes, yes," After another short struggle, the same question was repeated, to which he replied with difficulty, yet so as to be understood, All is well -- well -- well -- breathing his last, with these words upon his lips, and this so gently, that one may with propriety say, he fell asleep in Jesus, at nine o'clock June 12, 1778 at age 28.
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