The following cases will exhibit a general view of the exercises of those who have been subjects of the work. I give the account nearly in their own words, that they may speak for themselves, and testify what God has done for their souls.
A man aged fifty-five, gave me the following account. “I had little or no religious instruction till about the age of twenty-one; and except a few seasons of conviction, which were soon gone, my youth, and indeed my life, has been spent in stupidity. I was persuaded that I must, and that I could do something of myself, but continually put it off for a more convenient season, and lived without hope and without God in the world. I was much opposed to the doctrine of grace, and I wanted to ask ministers and others, whether they were really Christians according to their scheme of justification by faith alone. I offered my children in baptism because it was fashionable, and supposed I had so far done my duty. After some thought upon the doctrines of religion, I concluded that if the doctrine of election was true, I was not to blame.
“Here I settled down at ease, and was in this situation when the religious attention began. I had a curiosity to hear and see, but felt no uncommon concern until I heard a sermon from these words, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ The word was set home with power, and my sins appeared as a thick cloud. I determined to submit myself to God, and thought I did ; yet I felt unaccountably distressed. I thought I had done enough, but found no relief from the agony of my mind. My sinfulness appeared greater than I could before have believed. It lay upon me as an insupportable burden, until the anguish of my mind impelled me to cry out for mercy. One day being alone in the fields, I could not restrain my feelings, but for some time on my bended knees, cried aloud, ‘Lord, have mercy on me I Lord, have mercy on me!’ I had hitherto neglected family prayer; but now I resolved to begin the next Sabbath morning. The time came, but I could not pray. My distress was soon increased by reflection on this text, ‘No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven.’ The word came with power; and I said, ‘Woe is me, for I don’t pray in my family.’ In the evening I attempted. I had many trials—some of them, perhaps, uncommon, and not profitable to relate. Still I was determined to be saved by the law. My heart rose against Gospel doctrines, especially the doctrine of election, which I hated. Yet I could find no rest in the law. That I had broken the law was manifest. This scripture was directly against me—‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.’ I could scarcely eat, drink, or sleep. I concluded there was no mercy for me, and that I was approaching the gates of despair. All this time, I was seeking salvation by works of the law. One morning I felt better, and enjoyed a serenity of mind for which I could not account. I was soon engaged in contemplation on this text—‘For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.’ My mind immediately explained it thus: whosoever will save his life by resting on his own works of law, shall lose it; but whosoever will renounce all dependence on himself, and trust alone to grace in Christ, shall find it. In a moment, the fabric which I had so long and so obstinately endeavored to rear, tumbled to pieces. I wondered at the ignorance and folly of all my former attempts, and that I should mistake essentially in so plain a case.
“The difficulty was soon removed by this text—‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ My mind dwelt upon these and other passages as upon a rich treasure newly found. I seemed really to come from darkness to light. The words I had often read; but there now appeared in them a heavenly beauty which I had never known before. I felt a desire to glorify God, who had contrived such an excellent scheme of salvation, and revealed it so plainly to man. I found that the Bible had been to me a sealed book, and that with all my gettings, I had never got a true understanding of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. The whole scheme of gospel doctrines, especially election and divine sovereignty, which before made my heart rise up in enmity against God, now appeared glorious and lovely doctrines. I saw that all which I had done to obtain salvation was wholly selfish; that I was totally depraved, and that unless the doctrine of election was true, there could be no hope in my case. I perceived that all my opposition to the doctrines of grace originated in pride, because I was not willing that God should work in me to will and to do of his good pleasure. I now rejoiced that he did do it, and yet I found myself in the unimpaired possession of moral freedom. I thought before that I was right, and that God was wrong; but now I felt that God was right, and that I was wrong; and that my former scheme of salvation by works of the law, if it could be true, was not desirable, because unspeakably less beautiful than that by sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. I felt no desire to hear preaching about works, unless a clear distinction was made between duty and merit. I thought little of myself, or of the danger of future punishment. God was all-glorious and the Savior the chiefest among ten thousand for his own sake. Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this time, a brand plucked out the fire. In myself, I am a poor, miserable, guilty creature; and if I am ever saved, it will manifestly be all of God. ‘Not unto me, but unto God, through Christ, be all the glory forever.’”
To be continued next week…