« PreviousContinue »
Very many verbal corrections, with a few retrenchments and additions, will be found in this edition. In improvements of this kind, the Author has bestowed considerable pains : but he has been scrupulously, and almost superstitiously, careful to admit no alteration, which can in the least degree change the meaning of any passage.
He feels thankful, that the leading desire of his heart, in publishing a work, which seems to relate almost exclusively to himself and his own little concerns, has not been wholly disappointed; but he would earnestly request the prayers of all, who favour the doctrines here inculcated, for a more abundant and extensive blessing on this, and all his other feeble endeavours, to “contend earnestly “ for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
Chapel-Street, Upper Grosvenor Place,
Oct. 16, 1798.
N. B. The above declaration was continued and renewed by the Author in every subsequent edition. In publishing the ninth edition, in 1812, he says, “At the close of the thirty-third year, “he is more fully than ever confirmed in his judgment respect“ing the doctrine contained in it."-J. S.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE STATE OF THE AUTHOR'S MIND AND
CONSCIENCE IN THE EARLY PART OF HIS LIFE ; ESPECIALLY SHEWING WHAT HIS SENTIMENTS AND CONDUCT WERE, AT THE BEGINNING OF THAT CHANGE OF WHICH HE PROPOSES TO GIVE THE HISTORY.
Though I was not educated in what is commonly considered as ignorance of God and religion ; yet, till the sixteenth year of my age, I do not remember that I ever was under any serious conviction of being a sinner, in danger of wrath, or in need of mercy; nor did I ever during this part of my life, that I recollect, offer one hearty prayer to God in
“ Being alienated from God through the “ignorance that was in me," I lived without him in the world; and as utterly neglected to pay him any voluntary service, as if I had been an atheist in principle. But about
sixteenth year I began to see that I was a sinner. I was indeed a leper in every part, there being 'no health in me:' but, out of many external indications of inward depravity, conscience discovered and reproached me with one especially; and I was, for the first time, disquieted with apprehensions of the wrath of an offended God. My attendance at the Lord's table was expected about the same time; and, though I was very ignorant of the meaning and end of that sacred ordinance, yet this circumstance, united with the accusations of my conscience, brought an awe upon my spirits, and interrupted my before undisturbed course of sin.
Being, however, an utter stranger to the depravity and helplessness of fallen nature, I had no doubt that I could amend my life whenever I pleased. Previously therefore to communicating, I set about an unwilling reformation ; and, procuring a form of prayer, I attempted to pay my secret addresses to the Majesty of heaven. Having in this manner silenced my conscience, I partook of the ordinance: I held my resolutions also, and continued my devotions, such as they were, for a short time: but they were a weariness and a task to me; and, temptations soon returning, I relapsed ; so that my prayer-book was thrown aside, and no more thought of, till my conscience was again alarmed by the next warning given for the celebration of the Lord's supper. Then the same ground was gone over again, and with the same issue. My “goodness was like the morning dew “ that passeth away;" and, loving sin and disrelishing religious duties as much as ever, I returned, as “the sow that is washed to her wallowing in “ the mire."
With little variation this was my course of life for nine years: but in that time I had such experience of my own weakness, and of the superior force of temptation, that I secretly concluded reformation in my case to be impracticable. “ Can “the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his
spots?” I was experimentally convinced that I was equally unable, with the feeble barrier of resolutions and endeavours, to stem the torrent of my impetuous inclinations, when swelled by welcome, suitable, and powerful temptations : and, being ignorant that God had reserved this to himself as his own work, and had engaged to do it for the poor sinner, who, feeling his own insufficiency, is heartily desirous to have it done by him; I stifled my convictions as well as I could, and put off my repentance to a more “ convenient season.”
But, being of a reflecting turn, and much alone, my mind was almost constantly employed. Aware of the uncertainty of life, I was disquieted with continual apprehensions, that this “more conve“ nient season" would never arrive; especially as, through an unconfirmed state of health, I had many warnings and near prospects of death and eternity. For a long time I entertained no doubt that impenitent sinners would be miserable for ever in hell: and at some seasons such amazing reflections upon this awful subject forced themselves into my mind, that I was overpowered by them, and my fears became intolerable. At such times my extemporary cries for mercy were so wrestling and persevering, that I was scarcely able to give over; though at others I lived without prayer of
Yet, in my darkest hours, though my conscience was awakened to discover more and more sinfulness in my whole behaviour, there remained a hope that I should one day repent and turn unto God. If this hope was from myself, it was a horrid presumption ; but the event makes me willing to acknowledge a persuasion that it was from the Lord : for, had it not been for this hope, I should probably have given way to temptations, which frequently assaulted me, to put an end to my own life, in proud discontent with my lot in this world, and mad despair about another.
A hymn of Dr. Watts’s, (in his admirable little book for children,) entitled “The all-seeing God,' at this time fell in my way: I was much affected with it, and, having committed it to memory, was frequently repeating it; and was thus continually led to reflect on my guilt and danger. Parents may from this inconsiderable circumstance be reminded, that it is of great importance to store their children's memories with useful matter, instead of suffering them to be furnished with such corrupting trash as is commonly taught them. They know not what use God may make of these early rudiments of instruction in future life.
At this period, though I was the slave of sin, yet, my conscience not being pacified, nor my principles greatly corrupted, there seemed some hopes concerning me; but at length Satan took a very effectual method of silencing my convictions, that I might sleep securely in my sins : and justly was I given over to “a strong delusion to believe a lie,” when I “ held the truth” that I did know “in un“ righteousness.” A Socinian comment on the scriptures came in my way, and I greedily drank the poison, because it quieted my fears, and flattered my abominable pride. The whole system coincided exactly with my inclinations and the state of my mind. In reading this exposition, sin seemed to lose its native ugliness, and to appear a very small and tolerable evil ; man's imperfect obedience seemed to shine with an excellency almost divine; and God appeared so entirely and necessarily merciful, that he could not make any of his