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mission into the ministry, in a church whose doctrines are diametrically opposed to all the three; without once concerning myself about those barriers which the wisdom of our forefathers has placed around her, purposely to prevent the intrusion of such dangerous heretics as I then was.
While I was preparing for this solemn office, I lived as before in known sin, and in utter neglect of prayer; my whole preparation consisting of nothing else than an attention to those studies which were more immediately requisite for reputably passing through the previous examination.
Thus, with a heart full of pride and wickedness ; my life polluted with many unrepented unforsaken sins ; without one cry for mercy, one prayer for direction or assistance, or a blessing upon what I was about to do; after having concealed my real sentiments under the mask of general expressions ; after having subscribed articles directly contrary to what I believed ; and after having blasphemously declared, in the presence of God and of the congregation, in the most solemn manner, sealing it with the Lord's Supper, that I judged myself to be “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take that office upon' me:" (not knowing or believing that there was a Holy Ghost;) on Sept. the 20th, 1772, I was ordained a Deacon.
For ever blessed be the God of all long-suffering and mercy, who had patience with such a rebel and blasphemer; such an irreverent trifler with his Majesty ; and such a presumptuous intruder into his sacred ministry! I never think of this daring wickedness without being filled with amazement that I am out of hell ; without admiring that gracious God, who permitted such an atrocious sinner to live, yea, to serve him, and with acceptance, I trust, to call him Father; and as his minister to speak in his name. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits : who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies." May I love, and very humbly and devoutly serve that God, who hath multiplied his mercies in abundantly pardaning my complicated provocations.
I had considerable difficulties to surmount in obtaining admission into the ministry, arising from my peculiar circumstances; which likewise rendered my conduct the more inexcusable: and my views, as far as I can ascertain them, were these three :-A desire of a less laborious and more comfortable way of procuring a livelihood, than otherwise I had the prospect of:-the expectation of more leisure to employ in reading, of which I was inordinately fond :—and a proud conceit of my abilities, with a vain glorious imagination that I should some time distinguish and advance myself in the literary world. These were my ruling motives in taking this bold step: motives as opposite to those which should influence men to enter this sacred office, as pride is opposite to humility, ambition to contentment in a low estate, and a willingness to be the least of all and the servant of all; as opposite as love of self, of the world, of filthy lucre, and slothful ease, is to the love of God, of souls, and of the laborious work of the ministry. To me therefore be the shame of this heinous sin, and to God be all the glory of over-ruling it for good, I trust, both to unworthy me, and to his dear people, “ the church which he hath purchased with his own blood."
My subsequent conduct was suitable to these motives. No sooner was I fixed in a curacy, than with close application I sat down to the study of the learned languages, and such other subjects as I considered most needful, in
of the fall of man. They do not allow the total depravity of human nature, but for the wickedness of the world from bad examples, habits, and education. They suppose men to possess an ability, both natural and moral, of becoming pious and holy, without a new creation or regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit; and they contend for the freedom of the will, not only as constituting us voluntary agents, accountable for our conduct, but as it consists in exemption from the bondage of innate carnal propensities ; so that man has in himself sufficient resources for his recovery to holiness by his own ex. ertions. The Arminians deny the doctrines of gratuitous personal election to eternal life, and of the final perseverance of all true believers; and numbers of them hold the doctrine of justification by works in part at least ; and verge in some degree to the Pelagian system, in respect to the first moving cause in the conversion of sinners. (5th Ed.)
order to lay the foundation of my future advancement. And, O! that I were now as diligent in serving God, as I was then in serving self and ambition ! I spared no pains, I shunned, as much as I well could, all acquaintance and diversions, and retrenched from my usual hours of sleep, that I might keep more closely to this business. As a minister, I attended just enough to the public duties of my station to support a decent character, which I deemed subservient to my main design; and, from the same principle, I aimed at morality in my outward deportment, and affected seriousness in my conversation. As to the rest, I still lived in the practice of what I knew to be sinful, and in the entire neglect of all sacred religion : if ever inclined to pray, conscious guilt stopped my mouth, and I seldom went further than “ God be merciful unto me !"
Perceiving, however, that my Socinian principles were very disreputable, and being conscious from my own experience that they were unfavourable to morality, I concealed them in a great measure, both for my credit's sake, and from a sort of desire I entertained, (subservient to my main design) of successfully inculcating the practice of the moral duties upon those to whom I preached. My studies indeed lay very little in divinity, but this little all opposed that part of my scheme which respected the punishment of the wicked in the other world : and therefore (being now removed to a distance from those books whence I had imbibed my sentiments, and from the reasonings contained in them, by which I had learned to defend them,) I began gradually to be shaken in my former confidence, and once more to be under some apprehension of eternal misery. Being also statedly employed, with the appearance of solemnity, in the public worship of God, whilst I neglected and provoked him in secret, my conscience clamorously reproached me with base hypocrisy: and I began to conclude that, if eternal torments were reserved for any sinners, I certainly should be one of the number. Thus I was again filled with anxious fears and terrifying alarms: especially as I was continually meditating upon what might be the awful consequence, should I be called hence by sudden death. Even my close application to study could not soothe my conscience nor quiet my fears; and, under the affected air of cheerfulness, I was truly miserable.
This was the state of mind when the change I am about to relate began to take place. How it commenced ; in what manner, and by what steps it proceeded; and how it was completed, will be the subject of the Second Part. I shall conclude this by observing, that though staggered in my favourite sentiment before mentioned, and though my views of the person of Christ were verging towards Arianism ; yet, in my other opinions I was more confirmed than ever. What those opinions were, I have already briefly declared : and they will occur again, and be more fully explained, as I proceed to relate the manner in which I was constrained to renounce them, one after another, and to accede to those that were directly contrary to them. Let it suffice to say, that I was full of proud self-sufficiency, very positive, and very obstinate ; and, being situated in the neighbourhood of those whom the world calls Methodists, I joined in the prevailing sentiment; held them in sovereign contempt; spoke of them with derision; declaimed against them from the pulpit, as persons full of bigotry, enthusiasm, and spiritual pride ; laid heavy things to their charge ; and endeavoured to prove the doctrines which I supposed them to hold, (for I had never read their books) to be dishone ourable to God, and destructive to morality. And, though in some com
• Methodist, as a stigma of reproach, was first applied to Mr Wesley, Mr Whitefield, and their followers: and to those who, professing an attachment to our established Church, and disclaiming the naine of Dissenters, were not conformists in point of parochial order, but had separate seasons, places, and assemblies for worship. The terın has since been extended by many to all persons, whether clergy or laity, who preach or profess the doctrines of the reformation, as expressed in the articles and liturgy of our Church. For this fault they must all submit to bear the reproachful name, especially the ministers ; nor will the most regular and peaceable compliance with the injunctions of the Rubric exempt them from it, if they avow the authorized, but in a great measure exploded, doctrines to which they have sub scrioed. My acquaintance hitherto has been solely with Methodists of the latter description, and I have them alone in view when I use the term.
panies I chose to conceal part of my sentiments, and in all affected to speak as a friend to universal toleration; yet, scarcely any person can be more proudly and violently prejudiced against both their persons and principles, than I then was.
A History of the change which has taken place in the Author's sentiments; with the
manner in which, and the means by which it was at length effected.
In January, 1774, two of my parishioners, a man and his wife, lay at the point of death. I had heard of the circumstance, but, according to my general custom, not being sent for, I took no notice of it; till one evening, the woman being now dead, and the man dying, I heard that my neighbour Mr Newton had been several times to visit them. Immediately my conscience reproached me with being shamefully negligent, in sitting at home within a few doors of dying persons, my general hearers, and never going to visit them. Directly it occurred to me, that, whatever contempt I might have for Mr N's doctrines, I must acknowledge his practice to be more consistent with the ministerial character, than my own. He must have more zeal and love for souls than I had, or he would not have walked so far to visit, and supply my lack of care to those, who, as far as I was concerned, might have been left to perish in their sins.
This reflection affected me so much, that without delay, and very earnestly, yea, with tears, I besought the Lord to forgive my past neglect: and I resolved thenceforth to be more attentive to this duty; which resolution, though at first formed in ignorant dependance on my own strength, I have, by divine grace, been enabled hitherto to keep. I went immediately to visit the survivor : and the affecting sight of one person already dead, and another expiring, in the same chamber, served more deeply to impress my serious convictions : so that from that time I have constantly visited the sick of my parishes as far as I have had opportunity; and have endeavoured, to the best of my knowledge, to perform that essential part of a parish-minister's duty
Some time after this, a friend recommended to my perusal the conclusion of Bishop Burnet's “ History of his own Time," especially that part which respects the clergy. It had the intended effect: I was considerably instructed and impressed by it; I was convinced that my entrance into the ministry, had been the result of very wrong motives, was preceded by a very unsuitable preparation, and accompanied with very improper conduct. Some uneasiness was also excited in my mind concerning my neglect of the important duties of that high calling: and, though I was enslaved by sin, and too much engaged in other studies, and in love with this present world, to relinquish my flattering pursuit of reputation and preferment, and change the course of my life, studies, and employments; yet, by intervals, I experienced desires and purposes, at some future period, of devoting myself wholly to the work of the ministry, in the manner to which he exhorts the clergy.
All these things increased the clamorous remonstrances of my conscience; and at this time I lived without any secret religion, because without some reformation in my conduct, as a man and a minister, I did not dare to pray. My convictions would no longer be silenced or appeased ; and they became so intolerably troublesome, that I resolved to make one more effort towards amendment. In good earnest, and not totally without seeking the assistance of the Lord by prayer, I now attempted to break the chains with which Satan had hitherto held my soul in bondage ; and it pleased the Lord that I should obtain some considerable advantages. Part of my grosser defilements I was enabled to relinquish, and to enter upon a form of devotion. Formal enough indeed it was in some respects; for I neither knew that Mediator through whom, nor that Spirit by whom, prayers are offered with acceptance unto the Father: yet, though utterly in the dark as to the true and living Way to the throne of grace, I am persuaded there were even then seasons when I was enabled to rise above a mere form, and to offer petitions so far spiritual, as to be accepted and answered.
I was now somewhat reformed in my outward conduct: “ but the renewing in the spirit of my mind,” if begun, was scarcely discernible. As my life was externally less wicked and ungodly, my heart grew more proud; the idol self was the object of my adoration and obeisance; my worldly advancement was more eagerly sought than ever; some flattering prospects seemed to open, and I'resolved to improve my advantages to the uttermost. At the same time every thing tended to increase my good opinion of myself; I was treated with kindness and friendship by persons, from whom I had no reason to expect it; my preaching was well received, my acquaintance seemed to be courted, and my foolish heart verily believed that all this and much more was due to my superior worth: while conscience, which, by its mortifying accusations, had been useful to preserve some sense of unworthiness in my mind, was now silenced, or seemed to authorize that pride which it had checked before. And having the disadvantage of conversing in general with persons who either favoured my sentiments, or who from good manners, or because they saw it would be in vain, did not contradict me; I concluded that my scheme of doctrine was the exact standard of truth, and that by my superior abilities I was capable of confuting or convincing all who were otherwise minded. In this view of the matter, I felt an eager desire of entering into a religious controversy, especially with a Calvinist : for many resided in the neighbourhood, and I heard various reports concerning their tenets.
It was at this time that my correspondence with Mr Newton commenced. At a visitation, May 1775, we exchanged a few words on a controverted subject, in the room among the clergy, which I believe drew many eyes upon
At that time he prudently declined the discourse ; but a day or two after he sent me a short note with a little book for my perusal. T'his was the very thing I wanted : and I gladly embraced the opportunity which, according to my wishes, seemed now to offer ; God knoweth, with no inconsiderable expectations that my arguments would prove irresistibly convincing, and that I should have the honour of rescuing a well-meaning person from his enthusiastical delusions.
I had indeed by this time conceived a very favourable opinion of him, and a sort of respect for him ; being acquainted with the character he sustained even among some persons, who expressed a disapprobation of his doctrines. They were forward to commend him as a benevolent, disinterested, inoffensive person, and a laborious minister. But, on the other hand, I looked upon his religious sentiments as rank fanaticism ; and entertained a very contemptible opinion of his abilities, natural and acquired. Once I had had the curiosity to hear him preach; and, not understanding his sermon, I made a very great jest of it, where I could do it without giving offence. I had also read one of his publications ; but, for the same reason, I thought the greater part of it whimsical, paradoxical, and unintelligible.
Concealing, therefore, the true motives of my conduct under the offer of friendship, and a professed desire to know the truth, (which, amidst all my self-sufficiency and prejudice, I trust the Lord had even then given me ;) with the greatest affectation of candour, and of a mind open to conviction, I wrote him a long letter; purposing to draw from him such an avowal and explanation of his sentiments, as might introduce a controversial discussion of our religious differences.
The event by no means answered my expectation. He returned a very friendly and long answer to my letter; in which he carefully avoided the
mention of those doctrines which he knew would offend me. He declared that he believed me to be one who feared God, and was under the teaching of his Holy Spirit ; that he gladly accepted my offer of friendship, and was no ways inclined to dictate to me; but that, leaving me to the guidance of the Lord, he would be glad, as occasion served, from time to time, to bear testimony to the truths of the gospel, and to communicate his sentiments to me on any subject, with all the confidence of friendship.
In this manner our correspondence began; and it was continued, in the interchange of nine or ten letters, till December the same year. Throughout I held my purpose, and he his. I made use of every endeavour to draw him into controversy, and filled my letters with definitions, inquiries, arguments, objections, and consequences, requiring explicit answers. He, on the other hand, shunned every thing controversial as much as possible, and filled his letters with the most useful and least offensive instructions; except that now and then he dropped hints concerning the necessity, the true nature, and the efficacy of faith, and the manner in which it was to be sought and obtained; and concerning some other matters, suited, as he judged, to help me forward in my inquiry after truth. But they much offended my prejudices, afforded me matter of disputation, and at that time were of little use to me.
This, however, is certain, that through the whole of the correspondence, I disputed, with all the arguments I could devise, against almost every thing which he advanced, and was very much nettled at many things that he asserted. I read a great part of his letters, and some books which he sent me, with much indifference and contempt. I construed his declining controversy into an acknowledgement of weakness, and triumphed in many companies as having confuted his arguments. And, finally, when I could not obtain my end, at my instance the correspondence was dropped.
His letters and my answers are now by me; and on a careful perusal of them, compared with all I can recollect concerning this matter, I give this as a faithful account of the correspondence. His letters will, I hope, shortly be made public, being such as promise greater advantage to others, than, through my proud contentious spirit, I experienced from them. Mine de serve only to be forgotten, except as they are useful to me to remind me what I was, and to mortify my pride; as they illustrate my friend's patience and candour in so long bearing with my ignorance and arrogance; and notwithstanding my unteachable quarrelsome temper, continuing his benevolent labours for my good ; and especially as they remind me of the goodness of God, who, though he abominates and resists the proud, yet knows how to bring down the stout heart, not only by the iron rod of his wrath, but by the golden sceptre of his grace.
Thus our correspondence and acquaintance, for the present, were almost wholly broken off; for a long time we seldom met, and then only interchanged a few words on general topics of conversation. Yet he all along persevered in telling me, to my no small offence, that I should accede one day to his religious principles; that he had stood on my ground, and that I should stand on his : and he constantly informed his friends, that, though slowly, I was surely feeling my way to the knowledge of the truth. So clearly could he discern the dawnings of grace in my soul, amidst all the darkness of depraved nature and my obstinate rebellion to the will of God !
This expectation was principally grounded on my conduct in the following circumstances :— Immediately after the commencement of our correspondence, in May 1775, whilst my thoughts were much engrossed by some hopes of preferment; on Sunday, during the time of divine service, when the Psalm was named, I opened the Prayer-Book to turn to it; but (accidentally shall I say, or providentially ?) I opened upon the articles of religion ; and the eighth, respecting the authority and warrant of the Athanasian creed, immediately engaged my attention. My disbelief of the doctrine of a Trinity of co-equal persons in the unity of the Godhead, and my pretensions to candour,