Изображения страниц

the champion of the external order and discipline of the church, and who willingly allow him the honour of being distinguished by the epithet judicious, that they would attentively read, and impartially consider, his doctrine. This would put an effectual stop to those declamations, that either ignorantly or maliciously, are made against the very doctrines as novel inventions, which have just now been explained and defended in Hooker's own words. For my part, though I acknowledge that he advances many things which I should be unwilling to subscribe, yet I heartily bless God that at this time I read him: the first material alteration, that took place in my views of the gospel, being in consequence of it.

One more quotation I shall make, and so take my leave of him. Addressing himself, in his second Sermon on part of St. Jude's Epistle, to the pastors who are appointed to feed the chosen in Israel, he says: (§ 32, 33.) If there be any feeling ' of Christ, any drop of heavenly dew, or any spark ' of God's good Spirit within you, stir it up; be 'careful to build and edify, first yourselves and 'then your flocks, in this most holy faith. I say, 'first yourselves; for he which will set the hearts ' of other men on fire with the love of Christ, must 'himself burn with love. It is want of faith in ' ourselves, my brethren, which makes us retchless [careless] in building others. We forsake the 'Lord's inheritance, and feed it not. What is the reason of this? Our own desires are settled 'where they should not be. We ourselves are 'like those women which have a longing to eat 'coals, and lime, and filth: we are fed, some with

'honour, some with ease, some with wealth: the 'gospel waxeth loathsome and unpleasant in our taste; how should we then have a care to feed ' others with that, which we cannot fancy our'selves? If faith wax cold and slender in the ' heart of the prophet, it will soon perish from the ears of the people.'---It is not needful to add any reflections upon this passage; every one will readily make them for himself: we are however reminded of Solomon's words, "There is no new

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

thing under the sun is there any thing whereof "it may be said, See this is new? It hath been 66 already of old time which was before us." "That "which hath been is now, and that which is to be "hath already been." (Eccles. i. 9, 10. iii. 15.)

To my shame be it spoken, though I had twice subscribed the Articles, which allow the book of Homilies to be sound and wholesome doctrine, I had never yet seen them, and understood not what that doctrine was. But now being engaged in a serious inquiry after truth, and Hooker's works having given me a more favourable opinion of these old authors, I was inclined to examine them; and I read part of the book with some degree of attention. And, though many things seemed hard sayings that I could not receive, yet others were made very useful to me, especially concerning justification. In short, I perceived that the very doctrine which I had hitherto despised as novel and methodistical, was indisputably the standard doctrine of the established church, when the homilies were composed and consequently that it is so still; for they have lost none of their authority, (however fallen into disrepute,) with those who subscribe

the thirty-nine articles. This weakened my prejudice, though it did not prove the doctrine true.

About this time a new and unexpected effect was produced by my preaching.---I had hitherto been satisfied to see people regularly frequent the church, listen attentively to what was discoursed, and lead decent moral lives. The way in which I had been led was so smooth, and the progress I had made so gradual: I had lately experienced so little distressing concern for my own soul, and had so little acquaintance with persons conversant in these matters : that, while I declared the strictness, spirituality, and sanction of the law of God in an alarming manner, it never occured to me, that my hearers might not proceed in the same easy gradual way. But I had scarcely begun this new method of preaching, when application was made to me by persons in great distress about their souls; for, their consciences being awakened to a sense of their lost condition by nature and practice, they were anxious in inquiring what they must do to be saved. I knew not well what to say to them, my views being greatly clouded, and my sentiments concerning justification very much perplexed: but, being willing to give them the best counsel I could, I exhorted them in a general way to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; though I was incapable of instructing them either concerning the true nature of faith, or in what manner they were to seek it. However, I better understood my own meaning, when I advised them to the study of the scriptures, accompanied with prayer to God to be enabled rightly to understand them; and when I inculcated amendment of life. In this manner the Lord slowly

brought them forwards; and though, for want of a better instructor, they were a considerable time before they arrived at establishment in the faith ; yet some of them having their minds less leavened with prejudice and the pride of reasoning, were more apt scholars in the school of Christ than I was, and got the start of me in the knowledge both of doctrine and duty; and in their turns became, without intending it, in some respects monitors to me, and I derived important advantage from them.

This singular circumstance, of being an instrument in bringing others earnestly and successfully to enquire after salvation, while I so little understood the true gospel of Jesus Christ, very much increased my perplexity. I became doubly earnest to know the truth, lest I should mislead those who confided their precious souls to me as their spiritual instructor. This added to my diligence in reading and meditating on the word of God; and made me more fervent in prayer to be guided to the knowledge of the truth. And, under every difficulty, I constantly had recourse unto the Lord, to preserve me from ignorance and error, and to enable me to distinguish between the doctrines of his word, and the inventions and traditions of men.

About this time I established a weekly lecture, for expounding the scriptures, in my other parish; by which I obtained further acquaintance with the various parts of the word of God. It was my general practice, in penning these lectures, to search out all the texts referred to in the margin of the Bible, with such as I could recollect upon the subject, and to make use of them in explaining each other. This method enabled me to store my me

mory with the language of scripture, and made way for a greater exactness in discussing doctrinal subjects, than I had hitherto been acquainted with. In the course of the winter,* 1777, I was engaged in deep meditation on Luke xi. 9.---13, concerning the Holy Spirit being given in answer to prayer. And at length having made a collection of all the scriptures I could meet with, which related to that important doctrine, diligently comparing them together, and meditating upon them, and earnestly beseeching the Lord to fulfil the promise to my soul, I wrote two sermons upon the subject; one from Luke xi. 13; "If ye then being evil know "how to give good gifts unto your children, how “much more shall your heavenly Father give the "Holy Spirit to them that ask him :" the other from James i. 16, 17; "Do not err, my beloved "brethren: every good gift, and every perfect gift " is from above, and cometh down from the Fa"ther of lights." By this my views of a Christian's privileges and duties in this respect were much enlarged, and my requests made known unto the Lord in a more full, exact, and believing manner than before. Though I still remained very ignorant in many important matters respecting the person, offices, and work of the Holy Spirit: yet I had discovered more of what was promised concerning him, and therefore knew better what to ask.

My obligations to Bishop Beveridge must here be acknowledged.---When I first began to peruse his sermons, I conceived a mean opinion of him;

That is, the early part of the year.-J. S.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »