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M. Slapdash were just then paying some visits about the town. Mr. Sprightly therefore sent a note after them, informing them that a gentleman had arrived at his house, who appeared to him to be half crazy ; and wanted to see Mr. Brightman directly. They accordingly returned, and the conversation, after a short introduction, thus commenced.
Whim. O Sir ! finding that Sandover was not much out of my way, I thought I would call on my return, and tell you what a glorious work is carrying on in the north; for I perceived, when you were my curate, that you were but a babe in knowledge.
Bri. Sir, I love to hear of good news, if it be really good.
Whim. Good, Sir! what can be better? At one of the public prayer-meetings, there were eleven convinced of sin, eight set at liberty; and three were made perfect; and are now as free from sin as they will be in heaven.
Slapd. What state was the moon in when all this happened ?
Whim. O Sir! it was near the full: for I remember it was very light when we went home, and we did not break up till near twelve: “the Lord was
so much among us.”
Slapd. I thought it must have been about that time; for some sort of people are always worse about the full and change of the moon.
Whim. Why, I hope, Sir, you don't call all this great work of God madness; as the heathen Festus thought St. Paul was mad, when he told his experience.
Bri. No, Sir; I hope we shall never conceive that which deserves to be called a great work of God, to be the effect of madness; for that brings disorderly sinners to the possession of their sober senses, that they may
serve God with “ all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Whim. Why, Sir, it is wonderful how powerfully these people were convinced of sin, as in a moment, so that their screams and cries for mercy were heard all the chapel over, and quite out in the streets. “And don't we read how “ the Spirit convinces the world of sin;" and when three thousand people were pricked to the heart, how they all cried, “ Men and brethren, what must we do to be saved ?"
Bri. Does it in the least appear that they one and all cried out at the same time so as to interrupt the Apostle in his preaching? Is it not rather evident that they first heard Peter's sermon with very serious attention, and then waited, though with eager surprise, till a proper opportunity was given them to ask the important question, “ What must we do? or in other language, “ How shall we escape from the wrath to come? Or does it appear, though the occasion was so extraordinary, while their convictions were so powerful and strong, that there were any of those hysterical ravings and screamings that we have heard of in other places? With what calmness and deliberation the Apostle answers this solemn and important query: “ Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” And still addressing their reason' we are further told, how that, “ with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves, or be ye saved,* from this untoward generation, concluding evidently, that they were all capable of receiving his instructions with rational and attentive minds.
Acts ii. 38-40. The original espression is passive.
And now, Sir, allow me to ask if there be any, even the most distant similarity between such meetings as you have lately attended, and the assembly recorded in the Acts, where so many souls, in the full exercise of their understanding, were so effectually converted from sin to God ?
Whim. Why, to be sure : when Sally Jakes was convinced of sin, her screams were so loud, that they were heard quite across the street. And when John Anvil, the blacksmith, received conviction, for a while two men could scarcely hold him; but he has been a sad drunken sinner; and no wonder that his convictions were so strong: and as for Susan Simple, though she was more quiet, yet when she was convinced, she was so overpowered, that it was some time before she was brought into her senses.
Slapd. Perhaps the blacksmith might have had a drop too much, just before he came into the chapel; and as to the woman you speak of, I should really be apt to suspect the good that any persons are supposed to get, while they are out of their senses.
Whim. Why, I have known persons converted in the midst of their sins; and when persons are not altogether in their senses, why cannot God, even then, reach the heart?
Slapd. Sir, we are not about to limit the Holy One in his divine operations upon the hearts of men ; but still it becomes us to beware of those human mixtures wbich may lay us open to a variety of deceptions respecting the work itself. It was not above three Sundays ago when a miserable, drunken fellow came into my
church, and while there, in my address to sinners at the conclusion of the sermon, his convictions, for a while, almost overpowered his reason, and he cried out in such a manner that the congregation was somewhat disturbed; but this was an extreme of passion which we attempted immediately to correct. And afterwards when I had an interview with the poor creature, I was happy to find there was nothing irrational or improper in the account he gave of himself; but that such an overpowering sense of the evil of sin was just then more than he could sustain.
Spri. When our late dear minister preached his last sermon among us, and fainted away in the pulpit, and was carried out of the church like a corpse; while many of us apprehended that immediate dissolution might have been the result; no wonder that such overpowering effects were produced upon the congregation, that some were thrown into strong hysterics, whose constitutional feelings were too weak to bear the shock. There was a rational cause for all our sorrows, and we could not help ourselves, nor resist their excessive effects.
Bri. Nor shall I ever forget, though I was then but ten years of age, the pangs of grief my dear mother was thrown into, when my father, struck with apoplexy was brought home, all but breathless, and covered with blood, one of the temporal arteries having been cut, to preserve his life, if possible. No wonder at her ecstacies while she had four children, and one an infant at her breast, and almost all her expectations cut off by this sudden stroke.
Slapd. And if the things of eternity are of infinitely greater importance than those of time and sense, I apprehend we can never feel more than we should, on the discovery of our exceeding sinfulness before God.
Bri. As far as this goes, we shall all agree : for could we feel as much as we should, under a conviction of our sinfulness, it would be more than our human constitutions could sustain ; and especially, at the discovery of these evils in a more immediate, and unexpected man
I have oftentimes thought, what a strong exemplification we have of this almighty power, respecting some whom St. Paul mentions, who belonged to the Co
rinthian Church, and who came into their assemblies, though unbelievers, were convinced of all, and judged of all, and thus falling down on their faces, worshipped God, and reported that God was in them of a truth !"* the times were extraordinary, and the occasion was extraordinary; and no wonder at such extraordinary effects.
Whim. Well, and so it is in the present day, at times, in our meetings and chapels.
Bri. Is there no reason to suspect a false imitation of such times and seasons ? It shall however be most readily granted, that the same divine power is needed, in all ages of the Church, to lead the convinced sinner to the kuowledge of salvation. But I have before now observed to you, Sir, that these sorts of instantaneous impulses are at best, but very dubious evidences, if any evidences at all, of the reality, of this divine power.
Whim. Why, is it not evident, that the three thousand you have mentioned, under Peter's sermon, knew not only the place, but the very moment, in which they were convinced of sin; and did not those also feel the same, who “ fell down on their faces, and acknowledged that God was in them of a truth."
Spri. Though I was increasingly struck at the excellent things I heard from the lips of our late dear Minister, yet I must confess, I know nothing of such an impressive moment, as Mr. Whimsey seems to insist upon.
Bri. Though it may not be necessary to inquire about the moment of a sinner's conversion ; yet we are ready to admit the fact that there are thousands in the world, who can remember the time and place, in which divine mercy was first manifested to their hearts. How many
there are, who well recollect the first sermon they ever heard
* 1 Cor. xiv, 24, 25.