This is the second part of the account that began here.
I shall now give a summary account of several particular cases.
The first is of a man about 30 years old; of a religious family, and of a good understanding. He was in the view of the world, a good man a praying man; and one who was not considered by any who were acquainted with him as inclined to be enthusiastic, or subject to any uncommon dejection, or gloominess of mind. As he had enjoyed special advantages by means of a religious education, to know himself, and be influenced to his duty, so he was called upon, and peculiarly tried by distressing and alarming providences—particularly by the very sudden death of his two only sons, within a few days of each other, in the fall of 1798. This distressing scene awakened him to some concern, and attention at first, but it very soon passed off, and he became as careless and inattentive as ever—living, however, as before, in the formal observance of family religion, and external morality. At length, in the month of February following, God was pleased by his almighty Spirit, to fix that conviction of sin, and sense of guilt on his mind which the most powerful means, and awakening calls of God’s providence and Word, had not been able to do. From this time, I shall give the exercises of his mind as I took them from his mouth.
“I was first awakened at a lecture in a neighboring society. I was in great distress under a sense of sin, and my distress continued and increased for two or three weeks, when I found a sermon by Dr. Doddridge upon the diversity of the operations of the Spirit. Before this I had no idea that I had experienced anything of true religion; but after reading that book, I began to feel more easy. For several days, I thought I loved to pray and to read the Scriptures. But the next Sabbath I heard a discourse which in some measure, confounded me. The design of it was, to describe the nature of true religion, and distinguish it from that which originates in selfishness. The observations appeared to be just and Scriptural, and yet to be against me. A few days after this, I began to have heart-risings against God, and was filled with pain and opposition, whenever I saw others appear to delight in God and religion. After this, I had a greater sense of the plague of my heart, than ever before. My mind had been more fixed before this, upon particular out-breakings of sin. But now I was led to a sight and sense of the fountain of wickedness within me, from which all had flowed—and I was convinced that I was an enemy to God. Before this, when I thought or spoke of my sins, I often shed tears; but now I was unable to weep. I considered this at that time, as the effect of a greater degree of hardness and stupidity. And it appeared to me to be occasioned by conversing with Christians and ministers. The more I conversed with them, the more hard and unfeeling I seemed to grow; and it was suggested to my mind that I had better wholly avoid them.
“About the first of April, my distress of mind was so great, that I had no appetite for food, and could get but little rest by night or day. For about two months I rarely slept more than half an hour or an hour in the night. In several instances, I spent the whole night without sleep, in great agony of mind, looking one way and another for relief. At one of these times, my mind turned upon the subject of the truth of the Scriptures. I queried whether there was not some ground to hope that the Bible would prove to be false. It appeared that if I could believe there was, it would give me relief; but I could not for a moment. I knew and felt it to be the truth and the word of God, though I had no love for it. I could therefore find no relief; but was filled with such an apprehension of the miseries of the damned, that I thought I should lose my reason. My health was now brought so low, by means of the anguish of my mind, and want of rest, that I was obliged entirely to desist from labor, and apply to a physician. And as I viewed myself one of the greatest sinners in the world, I thought it likely God was about to take me out of the world, and destroy me as an example and warning to others. Indeed my distress was so great that I did not wish to live, and I began to be under temptations to destroy myself.
“Being at this time unable to attend public worship, I did not regret it; for preaching, or religious conversation, or whatever brought up the character of God, was exceedingly painful to me. I was unwilling also that my wife or friends should attend meeting, and I tried to prevent them; for I could not endure to have them or any others enjoy any comfort and satisfaction in religion. The happiness of others in religion, and the service of God, was a source of torment to me. I found also, as I thought, that I did not love my friends; and that I had not that regard and tenderness for my wife and child which I used to have. And whenever I heard of any person being of a good disposition, it would cause my heart to boil with a kind of envy.
“After I had arrived at this pitch, I would willingly have given ten thousand worlds, if it had been in my power, to have been deprived of my reason. My conscience stung me so that I should have been willing to change circumstances with a toad, or the meanest and vilest creature that ever was. I would have given anything to be put out of existence. I thought if I knew that thousands of years would end the miseries of hell, it would give me some relief. I thought if I could justify myself, and cast the blame upon God, this would relieve my distress. But I felt this to be impossible; and I saw my heart so opposed to God, that I concluded I was left by his Spirit, and was in an unpardonable state. A great part of the time, I was in total despair, and thought I felt as miserable as the damned. No one who has not experienced it can have any idea of the distress which I endured. I don’t think but that I could have sat down and put both my feet into the fire, and held them there, and bore the pain more easily than to bear what I did in my mind.
“I continued in this state of mind from the forepart of August till the latter part of September, or beginning of October. About this time, I began to entertain some hope that I was reconciled to God. I thought I could take pleasure in meditating on the divine character, and those doctrines of the gospel, which had once been so painful. It appeared that all God’s ways were right, and all his requirements reasonable, and that it would be the greatest happiness to be able to serve him. Soon after, I heard a sermon from the words, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ It was a text and subject which came with great power and comfort to my mind; and it appeared now more than ever to be reasonable and desirable to submit myself into the hand of God, to be disposed of by him as he pleases.”
Upon being asked whether he could fix upon any particular time in which he was renewed and humbled, if ever—he replied, “I cannot; and I often have great fears that I never have been truly humbled. But, at times, if my heart does not deceive me, I feel a happiness in meditating on the character of God, and in the thought that I am in his hands, and that all things are at his wise disposal. And though for the most part, I indulge a hope in his mercy through Jesus Christ, yet I am sensible that in myself I am infinitely unworthy, and ill-deserving; and that it would be perfectly just and righteous in God to cast me off. And if this should be my portion, and it should finally appear that I had been left for my great wickedness, to deceive myself with a false hope, I could have nothing to say.”
Upon being asked what his present feelings were, towards careless, impenitent sinners, he replied, “I feel that they are to be pitied. It seems when I reflect upon it, as if I could not bear the thought of any one going on, and finally suffering such a hell as I have tasted. An eternity of such distress as I experienced for a time in my breast, by a view of the divine character, and the happiness of others in serving God, would be intolerably dreadful.”
This account will continue next week!