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OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRECEDING NARRATIVE.
My design in writing this account of myself, and of my religious enquiries and change of sentiments, was this : I considered myself as a singular instance of a very unlikely person, in an uncommon manner, being led on from one thing to another, to embrace a system of doctrine which he once heartily despised. As I assuredly believed that this change had been effected under the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit; so I hoped, that a circumstantial relation of it might be an encouragement and comfort to those who know and love the Lord, and from them levy a tribute of gratitude and praise to our gracious God: and that it might also be instrumental, in the hands of the convincing Spirit, to awaken others to a serious review of their religious sentiments : to put them upon the same earnest enquiry after “ the truth as “it is in Jesus ;” and to influence them to the diligent use of the same blessed means, in which the Lord directed me to be found. I would therefore now offer a few observations on the preceding narrative: and may the Lord guide both the writer, and every reader, of these pages, to the saving knowledge of the truth, and into the ways of peace and righteousness !
1. It must be evident to every unprejudiced reader of this narrative, that, at the time this change commenced, I was, humanly speaking, a most unlikely person to embrace the system of doctrine above stated.—This will appear from the following considerations.
1. My religious opinions had been for many years directly contrary to it. Being always of a reflecting turn of mind, I entertained exceedingly high notions of the powers of human reason ; and I had, upon reasoning principles embraced a system of religion, which both soothed my conscience and flattered my self-conceit. After some trivial alterations I seemed to myself, upon mature deliberation, to have come to a 'settled determination, and had bestowed considerable pains in making myself acquainted with those arguments and interpretations of scripture, by which that system is usually defended : and I had collected together many of those plausible objections and high charges, which are commonly brought by reasoning men against the doctrines and characters of the Calvinists. But I was in great measure a stranger to what the Calvinists could say for themselves; because I thought the matter too plain to bear an argument, and therefore did not think their answers worth reading. In short, very few have been recovered from that abyss of error, (for so I must call it,) into which I had been permitted to sink. Full of confidence in my cause, and in the arguments with which I was prepared to support it, I was eager to engage in controversy with the Calvinists, and entertained the most sanguine hopes of victory. In this confidence I frequently harangued against them from the pulpit, and spared not to charge upon them consequences both absurd and shocking. Yet, after much, very much, anxious, diligent enquiry, I have embraced as the sacred truths of God's unerring word, every doctrine of this despised system !
2. My natural spirit and temper were very unfavourable to such a change. Few persons have ever been more self-sufficient, and positive in their opinions, than I was. Fond to excess of entering into argument, I never failed on these occasions to betray this peculiarity of my character. I seldom acknowledged or suspected myself to be mistaken ; and scarcely ever dropped an argument, till either my reasonings or obstinacy had silenced my opponent. A certain person once said of me that I was like a stone rolling down a hill, which could neither be stopped nor turned. This witness was true; but those things which are impossible with man, are easy with God. I am evidently both stopped and turned: man I am persuaded could not have done it; but “ this hath God wrought :” and I am not more a wonder to others than to myself. Indeed I carried the same obstinate positive temper into my religious enquiries : for I never gave up one tittle of my sentiments till I could defend it no longer ; nor ever submitted to conviction till I could no longer resist. The strong man, armed with my natural pride and obstinacy, with my vain imaginations and reasonings, and high thoughts, had built himself many strong holds, and kept his castle in my heart; and when One stronger than he came against him he stood a long siege : till, being by superior force driven from one to another, and “ all his armour in which
he trusted ” being at length “ taken from him," he was constrained to yield. So that the Lord
having made me willing in the day of his
power, I was forced to confess, “O Lord, thou art stronger “ than I, and hast prevailed."
3. My situation in life rendered such a change improbable. I had an increasing family, no private fortune, a narrow and precarious income, and no expectations, except from such friends as my conduct might procure or continue to me. I had unexpectedly contracted an acquaintance with some of those, whose favour goes a great way toward's a man's advancement in life; nor was I insensible to the advantages to be hoped for, from cultivating by a compliant behaviour their kind and friendly regard to me. At the same time I was no stranger to the opinion, which the world entertains of those who preach these disreputable doctrines ; and could not but conclude, that embracing them would probably deprive me of these prospects of preferment. But, as the result of diligent enquiry, I was assuredly convinced that it was my indispensable duty to profess and preach them, and that by so doing alone I could ensure to myself the favour of a better Friend than any here below : and thus, while fully aware all along how unfavourable, according to human probability, it would prove to my worldly interests, I at length deliberately embraced them.
4. My regard to character was no trifling security against such a change of sentiment. I was ambitiously and excessively fond of “ that honour which cometh from man ;” and I considered the desire of praise as allowable, nay, laudable. By this motive was I urged on to a very diligent prosecution of my studies, even beyond what natural
inclination led me to; and my whole conduct was influenced by this vain-glorious aim, my whole conversation tinctured with it. On the other hand, with approbation and self complacency, I had been accustomed to hear the most contemptuous and opprobrious epithets liberally bestowed on those persons, to whom I have now joined myself : and all along, as I verged nearer and nearer to methodism, I was painfully sensible that I was drawing upon myself the same mortifying distinctions. I have been a vain-glorious candidate for human applause: but I renounce such pretensions, and willingly submit to be considered by the world under the mortifying character of a half-witted, crack-brained enthusiast. These epithets I am sensible are now bestowed upon me behind my back, nay, very often to my face: I bless God, however, this doth not move me; but I can heartily thank him, that I am counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake. But when I saw the trial approaching, it appeared very formidable; and I can truly affirm, that nothing but the fullest conviction, that the cause in which I was embarking was the cause of God; nothing, but not daring to act contrary to the plain dictates of my conscience, could have influenced me to make this sacrifice of my character, and bring upon myself so much scorn and contempt.
5. To reason with our despisers upon their own principles : if I am now fallen into enthusiasm, mistake, and strong delusion; I certainly was, when I first set out in this enquiry, a very unlikely person so to do. My leading resolve was to search for the truth diligently, and to em