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quire a greater share of knowledge, but it was only head knowledge I set out in pursuit of.—I read the experiences of christians, and tried to remember what I could of them, and I so far succeeded, that in a short time I could talk passing well on experimental religion, and had got to be pretty orthodox in my notions. Thus have I often (though not with a design to act the hypocrite, but through the deceitfulness of my own heart and the subtlety of Satan) offered things as my own experience, which I had only stolen from the experience of others, and was as ignorant of, as a man born blind is of colours. .How much easier is it, my dear friend, to talk like a christian than to be one, and I believe there is not a grace God bestows upon his children, but Satan has its counterfeit to pass upon poor deceived perishing souls, therefore, “ let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”'
“How common, yet how awful á mistake is it to think that a set of orthodox notions is not attainable without the power of divine grace, and that a bare speculative knowledge of scripture truths, together with an external performance of religious duties is all that is necessary to constitute us christians: but as Mr. Boston observes, it is much easier to come to Christ in duties, than to come out of duties to Christ:--but to proceed: I continued five years “having a form of godliness, but ignorant of the power of it-having a name to live whilst dead," and should have gone down to the pit with a lie in my right hand, had not the Lord of his mere grace and mercy, interposed-join with me, my dear Sir, to praise Him who “ hath chosen the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not to bring to nought things which are —who hath purposed to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.”—As my comforts depended solely on my
frames and feelings, I was often led to question my state: for when my corruptions would at any time break out, (which they would frequently do,) I could have no peace until I had pacified conscience with resolutions of amendment ; and one reason why my fears so easily subsided was, I thought it was a mark of grace to doubt; but now the time was come when it pleased the Lord to sweep away my false refuges, and shew me my true state and condition.
“On the Lord's day after having attended the public worship, I felt my mind uncommonly gloomy from a recollection of my past sins, insomuch that I could not conceal it from the family I lived with. I told some of them that I never had been led to question the truth of my religion so much as I then was. My fears increased, and I felt exceedingly uncomfortable all that evening. On the morrow I took up Edwards, (having often heard it recommended) and the first place I opened seemed to be exactly suited to my case. I read awhile with eagerness, until I found my character so exactly described, and the very things I had been building upon utterly rejected as marks of grace.—I could hold out no longer. I saw myself "weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
66 When the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” The first thing that struck me was, whether I had not committed the unpardonable sin, and I was much inclined to think I had; for those passages Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6, X. 26, and xii. 16, 17, came all into my mind, and seemed to confirm me in that belief. I now looked upon myself as such a great hypocrite that all I said and did was abominable in the sight of God. I was obliged immediately to leave off all the outward duties of religion, which I had been pretty frequent in. I thought I had nothing to look for but the wrath of an angry God. I could not ap
proach to God through Christ nor dare I to do it in
Thus I continued for some days without attempting to pray any other way than by sighs and groans; sometimes before I was aware, I would break out in such expressions as, “What shall I do!"_“ wretched man,' &c.-At length I procured Mr. Russel's sermon on the nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which gave me considerable relief; for, I saw that although I had often sinned wilfully, yet I never had, to my knowledge, sinned maliciously; I then attempted to pray in secret, but have often kneeled down without being able to utter a word. My mind was darkness itself; and the recollection of my former sins, and hypocrisy, would, as it were, shut me out from God. I lost all relish for company, and even for my necessary food, and spent my leisure hours for the most part, alone, bewailing my wretched condition. “I looked for comforters but I found none." The woods were my chief places of resort, where I could bemoan my miserable condition unseen by human eye. I have often remained in the fields till late in the evening, waiting, if haply the Lord would meet with me; but the words of Job were then applicable to me," I go “ forward but he is not there, and backward but “I cannot perceive him. He hideth himself on the “right hand that I cannot see him.”. I have often gone into secret places with a ray of hope that this might be the time that God would appear for me, and perhaps have found my heart harder than ever, so that I have often mourned my strange insensibility, and wished in vain to shed a tear.
You will, no doubt, my dear sir, readily imagine that I was anxiously concerned to get comfort; yet, I assure you, I was, if possible, more concerned lest I should lose my convictions, and take comfort in something short of Christ: and I have often been grieved to the heart when people who knew not the
nature of my disorder, would prescribe carnal physic for my sin-sick soul. Indeed many times professed christians have given me pain by telling me I laid the matter too much to heart; for a great part of my grief was, because I was so little concerned; and I have often wondered how I could eat and sleep as I did, when I was conscious the wrath of God was hanging over me. I have often thought when people were urging me to believe in Christ, and I have told them my inability to do it, that they really thought I was not in earnest. And here I cannot help mentioning to you the absurdity of asserting (as a certain class of people do) that faith is the gift of God, just as the bounties of his common providence are, and that we can as easily believe in Christ as we can satisfy our hunger when food is offered to our acceptance. I know I found it otherwise, and I believe but few were over more desirous of obtaining this precious grace than I. I could have cheerfully parted with every temporal good to obtain the smallest particle of it. Indeed I have often wished to be a beggar, and destitute of every earthly comfort, foolishly imagining I would then be a greater object of God's mercy. All this time I could receive nothing from the pulpit but what was addressed to sinners; whenever any thing was spoken to believers I could not touch it. I went once to Princeton (nine miles distant) to hear the Revd. John Smith; he preached from 2 Cor. v. 7,“ We walk by faith, not by sight.” Immediately upon hearing the text I concluded the sermon would not be for me, nor could I receive any of it but a few words of the application. Even although I had always been fond of singing, and frequent in the practice of it, I could now sing no more. My “laughter was turned into mourning and my joy to heaviness;" in this condition was I, when it pleased the Lord to give me an acquaint
you-to make you a witness of the effects of sin, and a mean of encouraging me when almost on the brink of despondency. And be assured, my dear sir, your sympathy with, and tender concern for me in my comfortless state, are written on my mind in indelible characters. I continued for some months afterwards under much the same exercises, spending my substance on physicians of no value, “and was nothing better, but rather grew worse,” for Satan was incessantly stirring up my corruptions, and I found myself in perpetual danger of being hurried into some notorious sin, and then I thought the door of mercy would be forever shut; and indeed in this he too far succeeded, for I think my greatest sins were those I committed during that time. Once I was reading Mr. Bunyan's Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, with considerable attention, and I felt as in an instant, a secret wish pass, through my mind, that I had been as great a sinner as he; this I have since thought to have been a dart thrown by Satan immediately from hell, though it was instantly charged against me as my own act, and I smarted severely for it afterwards. I often thought that the sharp temptations I felt were in consequence of that wish. I remember once being so sorely, beset with sinful thoughts and desires, that I earnestly besought the Lord either to deliver me from the power of sin or to cut me off, and often at such times I have been twitted with 6 have you got your wish now?” Thus was Satan permitted to buffet me.-Sometimes in reading the word of God, I have got encouragement to think it might yet be well with me, but unbelief would immediately reply, “your hopes are vain, for none of God's children were ever in your case. One morning finding myself much indisposed for spiritual exercises, I had recourse to the Bible, and resolved to read the epistle to the Romans through,