The first part of this account is here.
A man, about sixty years of age, of respectable character, and a regular attendant on public worship, soon after this powerful work of God began among us, was convinced that it was a divine work, and was excited to a diligent use of the means of grace. His mind was struck with a conviction that outward morality would not save him from the condemning sentence of a broken law, though it is the dependence of too many—that in his past morality he had been so far from yielding an acceptable obedience to the law of God, that he stood before God condemned for innumerable transgressions. He felt himself to be a miserable sinner in the hands of a holy God. His forebodings of eternal misery, awakened by the divine Spirit, took away all peace from his mind, and filled him with great distress. He was now bowed down under a deep sense of his great guilt, and felt that nothing but a change of heart by the Holy Ghost, could prepare him for the kingdom of heaven. “While thus deeply distressed,” he says, “one Sabbath morning, on my way to meeting, my heart appeared to undergo an instantaneous change, and I was suddenly overpowered with a most affecting sense of God’s holiness and justice, which before I could never satisfactorily comprehend—of his readiness to pardon the penitent sinner—and of the glorious sufficiency there is in Christ. My views of divine things were all changed in a moment. I now saw that I had never before had any just sense of the righteousness of God, nor of the way of salvation by Christ. And though I felt vile in my own eyes, my soul was filled with unspeakable joy in God, and in the blessed Redeemer. I had thought that I before knew what happiness was; but the happiness I then enjoyed was of a different nature, and not to be compared with what I now felt, from the soul-satisfying view I had of Christ. A sense of what Christ had done for sinners, while it laid me in the dust, filled my heart with joy and praise. I had, also, sometimes thought that I had a just sense of my littleness before God, when I compared myself with the smallest insect. But now I found my mistake, and said, that I had never before had any just apprehension of my nothingness and unworthiness before him. That was the happiest Sabbath and the happiest day of my life. My soul was filled with the sweetest joy and rejoicing in God, and Christ, and heavenly things.”
I shall conclude this narrative of individuals, with an account of the experiences of another man, of forty-five years of age. This man was greatly awakened several weeks before he let it be known, as he had an opportunity of hearing the private instruction given to his wife, who was also under conviction. When he made known the state of his mind, he was told how wicked and inexcusable sinners are in delaying repentance—the necessity of regeneration—the sovereignty of God in it; and the importance of improving the present time to make his peace with God. His convictions increased for many weeks; and while some, who had been awakened long after him, were now rejoicing in hope, his anxiety continued. This greatly discouraged him, making him envious at those who had obtained a hope, and exciting in his mind hard thoughts of God. He was tempted to think at one time, that all his convictions were a delusion; at another time, that God was hard and unjust, that he had not noticed his prayers, while others were regenerated after less conviction than he had experienced; and at another time, to believe that all his prayers and seekings were in vain, and to desist from all further seekings, since God was a sovereign and unchangeable being. But by this resolution he could not abide. The power of God was too great for him; for his convictions returned with double force upon his mind. They compelled him to an earnest attendance on secret prayer—reading the Scriptures, and hearing the gospel, which affected his mind with a deep sense of the danger of living in sin to advanced life. “I now,” said he, “saw the danger of abusing the calls of God in early life, lest we should be given over to hardness of heart in advanced age. I wished to warn all young people not to neglect the offers of mercy, as I had done, lest like me, when further advanced in life, they should cry and seek to God, and not be heard. For, it now seemed to me, that the reason why God had not heard me was, because I had lived so long in impenitence. I was particularly distressed in reflecting upon my past abuse of the Christian Sabbath, and neglect of the public worship of God, and wished to exhort both old and young, not to abuse these privileges as I had done. Instead of becoming better, or finding grace, as I had long expected, I now appeared to myself to grow more and more hardened in sin, and to be further than ever from the kingdom of God. O, my soul was filled with horror in reflecting upon my past abuse of divine mercies; and the danger of being left to be miserable forever, was so strongly impressed upon my mind, that it was almost insupportable.”
Having one day told him of the comforting hope of his wife, I asked him how he could live any longer in impenitence, when so many were brought home to God, and now his wife in particular; reminding him that he must be sensible he was to blame for living in impenitence—that it was wrong to cast the guilt of his sins upon God—and that the condemnation of the finally impenitent, after enjoying the privileges of the present day, would be peculiarly aggravated. He has since told me the effects of this conversation. “I never,” said he, “felt so envious as I did when you told me of my wife’s hope. I hated myself and everybody else. And when you told me of my inexcusableness after all my strivings, I hated such discourse, while my conscience convinced me that it was right; for my distress now increased, and seemed to be more than I could live under. I had before felt as though I should sink under my convictions; but now I felt as though they would kill me, such appeared to be the dreadful hardness and wickedness of my heart. I was strongly tempted to put an end to my life, that I might get out of my present misery; but I instantly thought that this temptation must be from the devil, who was now uniting with my wicked heart to destroy me, and I resisted it with abhorrence, while a sense of having for a moment indulged such a wicked thought, covered me with shame and confusion. I could no longer find ease. That was a sleepless night. By reason of the horrors of my mind, I arose the next morning two or three hours before day, pained with dreadfully wicked and tormenting thoughts—with hard thoughts of God, and distressing thoughts of my own wretchedness. Such horror and misery were before me, that it seemed as if the very thoughts of them would take my life away. Full of despairing agony, I arose from my chair and went through the room where my Bible lay, and turning my eyes upon it, with hatred and malice I took it up to put it out of my sight forever, resolving to pay no more attention to it, for a moment giving myself up to utter despair. But in this conflict, my heart failed me. I returned to my chair again, and in unspeakable agony of soul, was now convinced of the dreadful enmity of my heart against God. I felt my helpless condition as a sinner, and saw that God only was able to change my heart. For about an hour I continued in earnest cries to God for mercy. I felt guilty and condemned, and that God would be just in punishing me with everlasting destruction, even though he were to save all the rest of mankind ; being convinced that his mercies were his own, and that he had a right to bestow them on whom he pleased. My distress forced me to cry aloud, “O, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me now, or I perish forever. O, now I feel the need of Jesus.” My mind was immediately relieved. A sweet calm followed for about twenty-four hours, in which I felt a full resignation to the will of God, and a real abhorrence of all sin. And after this calm, the Christian Doxology was brought to mind with great power and sweetness. Hereupon my mind was filled with inexpressible joy and delight in the Trinity. I said to myself, ‘what have I been about, that I have not been praising God before.’ My joys continued to increase for about three weeks, while I felt a most lively sense of my own unworthiness in the sight of God, and of the all-sufficiency of his grace, through Jesus Christ, for pardon and salvation. I now seemed to feel sweetly resigned to the will of God in all things—in sickness, or in health, or in any other thing that God should see fit to bring upon me. I rejoiced that he was God, and just such a God as he is. This consideration, above all others, gave me inexpressible satisfaction in him. And I now found great delight in joining with my family in prayer, a duty which I had all my life neglected against the dictates of my conscience.”
In the preceding account of individuals, I have, for the sake of brevity, confined myself to the convictions which preceded their comforts, and the holy exercises which immediately followed.