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The family being left without an earthly father, were distressed, but they were in the good providence of God provided for. The greater part moved about thirty miles farther up the country, where they procured small plantations, on which they raised numerous families. Four or five of them became serious professors of religion, and were succeeded in their religious professions by a considerable number of their children.
His father, David Rice, was a plain farmer, who hav ing food and raiment by his daily labour, was therewith content. The spirit of speculation had not in those happy days possessed the American people. He never had any slaves, as he considered them more plague than profit. His wife was averse to it from principle; as being a traffic in human flesh, and an unjust infringement on the rights of our fellow creatures. They were both members of the established church, and taught their children the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the ten Commandments.
Mr. Rice was early the subject of religious impressions. "When I was," says he, "only six or seven years old, I often prayed in secret, and ardently desired to escape punishment atid obtain happiness after death. My prayers were frequently accompanied with many tears. After having gone on in this way for perhap two years, I began to inquire what was necessary in or der to escape punishment and obtain happiness, and found that it was necessary to repent and believe. But took my prayers and my tears to have been repentance, and believing in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, according the creed which my parents and
schoolmasters had taught me. I thought that this was faith, and consequently I was happy. This persuasion filled me with much delight, yea, I may say, with joy unspeakable. Nor were my wishes and my prayers confined to myself. I felt a deep concern for my friends and fellow creatures. For these I frequently wrestled with God, and sometimes even to an agony."
Religious instructions were not wholly neglected in the neighbourhood where Mr. Rice was raised. Yet there was little or nothing of the power of religion elther seen or felt. Parents required their children on Sabbath morning to clean themselves, and read a chap ter or two in the holy scriptures, and after this, instead of spending the day as the Sabbath of the Lord, they met promiscuously and spent the remainder of the day in idle amusements, such as fishing, hunting, &c. &c.-Those exercises were extremely agreeable to the carnal mind; but the Sabbath thus being a day of idleness or dissipation, more sin was committed on that day, and more was done to corrupt the morals of both old and young on that day than was committed or donc in all the week besides.
This state of things was a great grief of mind to young Rice, and was a matter of much secret mourning. "Truly," says he, "I had a great zeal for God, but it was not according to knowledge." There was a John Whitehead, a boy in whose welfare Mr. Rice felt deeply interested. This boy he visited early one Sabbath morning, and having stated to him, in the best manner be could, the necessity for secret prayer, meditation, and reading the Bible, he invited him to go along with
day, he would go Thinking the end consented, though
him to a solitary place, and spend the day together in religious exercises. Whitehead laughed at the proposal, but proposed in his turn that if Rice would go and play at ball with him half the and read with him the other half. might justify the means, Rice with considerable reluctance. The tasteless playtime having been spent, Rice renewed his suit with additional earnestness, and urged upon Whitehead his promise, but in vain. Whitehead laughed, Rice wept, caught him in his arms, and still urged his claim. The sinner became more hardened and more insulting; the tender conscience went home with a sobbing heart and eyes bathed in tears. (What became of Whitehead?) When these two men again meet at the resurrection of, the just we will hear something more of this Sabbath day's work.
When he was about thirteen years of age, his father having one day broken his plough in the field, sent him to the house for a handsaw. While he was returning with the saw in his hand. he happened to stop a few minutes by the side of a stump, and without any particular design, began to saw a notch in a splinter of the stump. While thus engaged this text of scripture came with particular force on his mind, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."This convinced him that something was wanting which he had not yet experienced. What this being born again was he knew not, but supposed that it must be a change of heart from the love and practice of sin to the love and practice of holinesss
"I then drew the
conclusion," says he, "that I was a lost and condemned sinner, and under this conviction continued about four years without entertaining any other thought during this whole period, but dying in that state I should be undone forever. This turned my play into prayer, which I practised from one to seven times a day, yet all this prayer and all this seriousness, I afterwards found proceeded from no higher principle than self-love. The avoiding of misery and the obtaining of happiness were the sum of my motives."
To obtain the desired relief he read the promises, particularly, "Ask and ye shall receive," "seek and ye shall find." But here a formidable objection presented itself. "I cannot," said he to himself, "ask without pure motives, my seeking must have something morally good in it, as humility, love to God, love to holiness, faith in Christ, &c. &c.; but my heart is carnal, is enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Therefore my prayers cannot be acceptable, but must be an abomination to the Lord." These and similar discoveries convinced him that the sinful manner of his religious performances was of itself a sufficient ground for his eternal condemnation. This conviction so discouraged him that he was almost ready to give up all, and risk the consequences. Still, however, the thought occurred to him, "Our God is a consuming fire,-who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" And thus alarmed, he could not rest without continuing in the use of the means of grace.
Under these agitations he became more and more convinced that such obedience as his could not be ac
ceptable to God, that he could not do any thing to re commend himself to the divine favour, and that salvation must be a sovereign act of divine power.
The necessity of his having a new heart and a new nature, before he could ever come to God in the name of Christ, was also strongly impressed upon his mind. For this he sought and most earnestly prayed, but instead of becoming better prepared for coming to Christ, he appeared to himself to be more and more unprepared. "I found," says he, "the longer sin remained in my heart the deeper root it took, and the more deeply affected all the mental powers." He appears, in fact, to have been in that state described by the apostle, Rom. vii. 8
Still, however, he thought he could not come to Christ without some price in his hand. Of coming to Christ without money and without price he had no conception. Having become depraved and sinful before he was condemned, he supposed that something of spiritual life and moral rectitude, though it should be bestowed by another, must be possessed before he could come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life. Thus he laboured in the fire, seeking after some preparatory qualification, till he had nearly sunk into a state of despair. At length, either by some instructions received, or by the reflections of his own mind, he was brought to a full conviction, that he must come to Christ just as he was, empty and condemned, without any thing to recommend him to the divine favour arising from any thing wrought in him or done by him.