Page images

creed, and regarding with sovereign contempt those who believed them. As far as I understood such controversies, I was nearly a Socinian and Pelagian, and wholly an* Arminian: yet, to my shame be it spoken, I sought to obtain admission into the ministry, in a church whose doctrines are diametrically opposed to all the three; without once concerning myself about those barriers which the wisdom of our forefathers have placed

* Possibly some readers may not fully understand the import of these terms: and for their benefit I would observe, that the Socinians consider Christ as a mere man, and his death merely as an example of patience and a confirmation of his doctrine, and not as a real atonement, satisfactory to divine justice for man's sins. They deny the Deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and do not admit that all Christians experience his renewing, sanctifying, and comforting influences; and they generally reject the doctrine of eternal punishments.-The Pelagians deny original sin, and explain away the scriptural history of the fall of man. They do not allow the total depravity of human nature, but account for the wickedness of the world from bad examples, habits, and education. They suppose men to possess an ability, both natural and moral, of becoming pious and holy, without a new creation or regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit: and they contend for the freedom of the will, not only as constituting us voluntary agents, accountable for our conduct, but as it consists in exemption from the bondage of innate carnal propensities; so that man has in himself sufficient resources for his recovery to holiness by his own exertions. The Arminians deny the doctrines of gratuitous personal election to eternal life, and of the final perseverance of all true believers and numbers of them hold the doctrine of justifi cation by works in part at least; and verge in some degree to the Pelagian system, in respect of the first moving cause in the conver sion of sinners. (5th Ed.)

around her, purposely to prevent the intrusion of such dangerous hereticks as I then was.

While I was preparing for this solemn office, I lived as before, in known sin, and in utter neglect of prayer: my whole preparation consisting of nothing else than an attention to those studies, which were more immediately requisite for reputably passing through the previous examination.

Thus, with a heart full of pride and wickedness; my life polluted with many unrepented unforsaken sins; without one cry for mercy, one prayer for direction or assistance, or a blessing upon what I was about to do; after having concealed my real sentiments under the mask of general expressions; after having subscribed articles directly contrary to what I believed; and after having blasphemously declared, in the presence of God and of the congregation, in the most solemn manner, sealing it with the Lord's supper, that I judged myself to be inwardly moved by the

Holy Ghost to take that office upon me,' (not knowing or believing that there was a Holy Ghost;) on September the 20th, 1772, I was ordained a Deacon.

For ever blessed be the God of all long-suffering and mercy, who had patience with such a rebel and blasphemer; such an irreverent trifler with his Majesty; and such a presumptuous intruder into his sacred ministry! I never think of this daring wickedness without being filled with

[ocr errors]

amazement that I am out of hell; without adoring that gracious God who permitteth such an atrocious sinner to live, yea, to serve him, and with acceptance I trust to call him Father, and as his minister to speak in his name. "Bless "the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within Ime, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all "thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from de"struction, who crowneth thee with loving"kindness and tender mercies." May I fervently love, and very humbly and devotedly serve, that God, who hath multiplied his mercies, in abundantly pardoning my complicated provocations!

[ocr errors]

I had considerable difficulties to surmount in obtaining admission into the ministry, arising from my peculiar circumstances, which likewise rendered my conduct the more inexcusable: and my views, as far as I can ascertain them, were these three.-A desire of a less laborious and more comfortable way of procuring a maintenance, than otherwise I had the prospect of:-the expectation of more leisure to employ in reading, of which I was inordinately fond:--and a proud conceit of my abilities, with a vain-glorious imagination that, I should some time distinguish and advance myself in the literary world. These were my ruling motives in taking this bold step: motives as opposite to those which should influence men to enter

on this sacred office, as pride is opposite to humility, ambition to contentment in a low estate and a willingness to be the least of all and the servant of all; as opposite as love of self, of the world, of filthy lucre, and slothful ease, is to the love of God, of souls, and of the laborious work of the ministry. To me therefore be the shame of this heinous sin, and to God be all the glory of over-ruling it for good, I trust, both to unworthy me, and to his dear people," the church "which he hath purchased with his own blood."

My subsequent conduct was suitable to these motives. No sooner was I fixed in a curacy, than with close application I sat down to the study of the learned languages, and such other subjects as I considered most needful, in order to lay the foundation of my future advancement. And, O that I were now as diligent in serving God, as I was then in serving self and ambition! I spared no pains, I shunned, as much as I well could, all acquaintance and diversions, and retrenched from my usual hours of sleep, that I might keep more closely to this business. As a minister, I attended just enough to the publick duties of my station, to support a decent character, which I deemed subservient to my main design; and from the same principle I aimed at morality in my outward deportment, and affected seriousness in my conversation, As to the rest, I still

lived in the practice of what I knew to be sinful, and in the entire neglect of all secret religion: if ever inclined to pray, conscious guilt stopped my mouth and I seldom went further than God be 'merciful unto me.'

Perceiving however, that my Socinian principles were very disreputable, and being conscious from my own experience that they were unfavourable to morality, 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 wicked 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 publick 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


« PreviousContinue »