Another person, rising of 20 years of age, gave me a narrative, of which the following is an abstract.
“My advantages have been great from a child; and I have often had some concern of mind respecting religion; but nothing very special, till the time of the religious attention in this society four or five years ago. I was then considerably impressed, but my concern soon left me in a great measure, and I lived in a state of carelessness and stupidity, till the beginning of the fall of 1793. About this time, a solemn providence was made the means of alarming me, and awakening my attention to my spiritual condition and prospects. My anxiety for a time was great; but it was not long before I began to entertain a hope that I was in a safe state, and was much relieved. But soon I became convinced that I was in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity; and that my hope had been without any just foundation. My anxiety, therefore, returned, and continued more or less till the winter following. In February, before any appearance of uncommon attention in the society, my conviction and distress of mind greatly increased.
I had a clear sense of my sin, and experienced sensible opposition of heart to God, and to the doctrines of the gospel which I heard preached. I was convinced of their truth, and yet hated them. Often when I have heard them held up with plainness, in the house of God, on the Sabbath, I have wished that I could be absent. To be obliged to sit and hear things so disgusting, and which I knew to be the truth, was exceedingly painful. The Bible also, was to me a most odious book. I could not endure to read it. Every page appeared to be against me. While in this situation, I looked on every side for relief. I fled to everything for refuge, but to God. For a time I strove hard to disbelieve the doctrines of the gospel. I searched diligently to find arguments against them—particularly the doctrine of the endless future punishment of the wicked. I listened to the arguments of the Universalists—I endeavored to persuade myself that God was such a merciful being that he never would punish any of mankind, or at least, not with endless punishment whatever might be their treatment of him, and of his Son in this life. But all was in vain the Scriptures were decisive—and I was obliged to acknowledge the necessity of religion, and of an interest in Christ, in order to any true peace in this, or another world. Accordingly I set myself very earnestly as I thought, to obtain it—labored hard to make my heart better, and to recommend myself to the Savior. But finding all attempts of this kind fail, and finding that the opposition of my heart increased, I fled for refuge to antinomianism [Christians have no law they are to obey]. I thought it must be impossible for a sinner to love God, as long as he supposed his sins were unforgiven, and that God was his enemy. I, therefore, endeavored to think that Christ had died for me, in particular, and that my sins were all pardoned;—hoping that if I could persuade myself of this, it would give me peace, and be unto me according to my faith, or as I now view it, my vain self-flattering. But I was not permitted to wrap myself up in this delusion. I next attempted to persuade myself that there was no such thing as free moral agency, or accountability, nor any distinction between virtue and vice—but that mankind were mere machines, actuated by a blind and fatal necessity. But I was unable to reason myself into a belief of this. I had a consciousness of sin and guilt which I could not throw off. I felt my desert of misery, and of the perfect reasonableness of my being required to give my heart to God. My heart, however, was still opposed,—his character and conduct I did not love—especially his leaving me in this situation when he was able to deliver me, and did deliver others, and give them hope and comfort. And whenever I heard of any particular instance of this, it caused the opposition of my heart to rise very high. I was told that I must submit. I attempted to do it, and to flatter myself that I did submit—But my submission would last no longer than till the character of God came clearly into view again. After these things, I had a lively sense of the hypocrisy I had been guilty of in everything I had been doing—that in all my strivings, I had had no sincerity or regard to God ; but had been actuated in everything by perfect selfishness—that all my cries to God, had been mere mockery—flowing from a heart totally opposed to him—that in every prayer I had made for the Holy Spirit, God had seen that it was not from the heart; but that my heart and words were at perfect variance. Never before, had I such an idea of the plague of my heart, or of the sensible enmity against God, which an awakened sinner may be the subject of. My distress was now such that 1 thought I could not endure it. I slept but little; and whenever I awoke from sleep, my distress and anguish came upon me in a moment. I used to think that if I could be relieved for a few moments, it would be more tolerable. But I had no relief—and what added exceedingly to my distress, was the thought that it would probably not only be constant, but forever.
“But notwithstanding all my distress, I greatly dreaded the thought of falling back into my former stupidity—being convinced that if I was given up to carelessness, I should perish, and that the light and conviction I had resisted would greatly aggravate my condemnation.
“After continuing a while in this state, doubts began to rise in my mind, respecting the divinity of the Scriptures. I questioned whether the Bible was the word of God, and I even sometimes harbored the thought that there was no God. This, when I came to reflect upon it, increased, if possible, my distress. I viewed it as an evidence that I was left of God—and that I was about to be given up to delusion to believe a lie. I now began to despair of ever being brought to repentance. And for a considerable time, except at intervals, I chose death rather than to continue in life. I thought there was no happiness for me in this world, nor in the next—and that the longer I lived, the more intolerable would be my future misery. In these dreadful moments of despair, the most shocking temptations would rush upon me, urging me to destroy myself. But through the mercy of God, I was preserved from a compliance with them.
“While under these temptations, and during all the time of my greatest distress, I was very careful to conceal my feelings and exercises. For this purpose, I kept much alone, and endeavored to avoid conversation as much as possible. I felt ashamed, and afraid to let the state of my mind be known—judging from my own former views and feelings respecting such things, that were I to relate what I had experienced, no person would credit me ; and that I should be considered either as delirious, or disposed to deceive. I am now fully convinced that my conduct, in this respect, was unwise and injurious. Had I freely opened my mind to some person acquainted with the exercises of sinners under conviction, and the devices of Satan to destroy them, I might have been much relieved under the despair and temptations I experienced, and perhaps wholly prevented from falling into them. But God is wise in all he has permitted to take place. And he is infinitely merciful; or when I was thus guilty of the heinous sin of despairing of his mercy, I should have been immediately destroyed.
“It was several months after I began to be delivered from that despair and peculiar distress which I have mentioned, before I entertained a hope that the enmity of my heart was subdued. I fix not on any particular time when this took place, if ever. I am far from being confident respecting myself. I know the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Yet, for the most part, I entertain a hope, grounded upon the submission and peace which, if I am not deceived, I sometimes find in contemplating the character of God, and the Savior, and the truths and precious promises of his Word, and in a desire to be conformed to his holy will.”