« AnteriorContinua »
rality, 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 wick. ed 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 miscrable.
This was my state of mind when the change I am about to relate began to take place. How it comienced ; in what manner, and by what steps, it proceeded; and how it was completed, will be the sub
ject 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 Ariunism; 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 some 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
Methodist, as a stigma of reproach, was first applied to Mr. Wesley, Mr. Whitfield, and their followers; to those, who professing an attachment to our established Church, and dis. skaiming the name of Dissenters, were not conformists in point of parochial order, but had separate seasons, places, and assemblies, for worship. The term 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 Rubrick exempt them from it, if they avow the authorized, but in great measure exploded, doctrines to which they have subscribed. My acquaintance hitherto has been solely with Methodists of the latter description ; and I have them alone in view when I use the term.
from the pulpit, as persons full of bigotry, enthusiasny, 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 dishonourable to God, and destructive to morality. And, though in some companies 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
A history of the change which took place in the Aut
thor's sentiments; with the manner in which, and
the means whereby, it was at length affected. 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 dead and the man dying, I heard that my neighbour Mr. -- 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.
-'s doctrines, 1
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 for 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 dependence 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 unsuit. able preparation, and accompanied with very improper conduct. Some uneasiness was also excited in my mind concerning my neglect of the important dudies 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, at intervals, I experienced desires and purposes, of devoting myself at some future period, 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 con