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“ standing : in all thy ways acknowledge him, and “ he shall direct thy paths.” I could not but know that I had not hitherto “ trusted in the Lord with “ all my heart,” nor“ acknowledged him in all
my ways,” nor depended on his directions in all my paths : but that, in my religious speculations, I had leaned wholly to my own understanding.
But, though these and some other passages made for the present a great impression upon me, and influenced me to make it a part of my daily prayers, that I might be directed to a right understanding of the word of God: yet, my pride and propensity to controversy had, as some desperate disease, infected my whole soul, and was not to be cured all at once.
I was very far indeed from being a little child,” sitting humbly and simply at the Lord's feet, to learn from him the very first rudiments of divine knowledge. I had yet no abiding suspicion, that all which I had heretofore accounted wisdom was foolishness, and must be unlearned and “ counted loss,” before I could attain to the excellency of the true knowledge of Jesus Christ : for, though I began to allow it probable that in some few matters I might have been in an error, yet I still was confident that in the main my scheme of doctrine was true. When I was pressed with objections and arguments against any of my sentiments, and when doubts began to arise in my mind; to put off the uneasiness occasioned by them, my constant practice was, to recollect, as far as I could, all the reasonings and interpretations of scripture, on the other side of the question : and when this failed of affording satisfaction, I had recourse to controversial writings. This drew me
aside from the pure word of God, rendered me more remiss and formal in prayer, and furnished me with defensive armour against my convictions, with fuel for my passions, and food for and self-sufficiency.
At this time Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity,' with his · Vindications' of it, became my favourite pieces of divinity. I studied this, and many
other of Mr. Locke's works, with great attention, and a sort of bigoted fondness; taking him almost implicitly for my master, adopting his conclusions, borrowing many of his arguments, and imbibing a dislike to such persons as would not agree with me in my partiality for him. This was of great disservice to me; as, instead of getting forward in my enquiry after truth, I thence collected more ingenious and specious arguments, with which to defend my mistakes.*
But one book which I read at this time, because mentioned with approbation by Mr. Locke, was of singular use to me: this was Bishop Burnet’s ‘Pas'toral Care.' I found little in it that offended my prejudices, and many things which came home to my conscience respecting my ministerial obligations. A few short extracts I shall lay before the
After having spoken so freely of Mr. Locke's divinity, which I once so highly esteemed: it seems but just to acknowledge the vast obligation, which the whole religious world is under to that great man for his · Letters concerning Toleration,' and his answer to those who wrote against them. The grounds of relis gious liberty, and the reasons why every one should be left to his own choice, to worship God according to his conscience, were, perhaps, never generally understood since the foundation of the world ; till by these publications Mr. Locke unanswerably made them manifest,
reader, of such passages as were most affecting to my own mind. Having mentioned the question proposed to those who are about to be ordained Deacons, “Do you trust that you are inwardly ‘moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this
office and ministry, to serve God for the promot‘ing of his glory, and the edifying of his people?' he adds, (page 111,) 'Certainly the answer that is 'made to this ought to be well considered: for if any one says, I trust so, that yet knows nothing of any such motion, and can give no account of it, * he lies to the Holy Ghost, and makes his first approach to the altar with a lie in his mouth, and
that not to men but to God. And again, (page 112,) “Shall not he (God) reckon with those who • dare to run without his mission, pretending that
they trust they have it, when perhaps they under• stand not the importance of it; nay, and perhaps ' some laugh at it, as an enthusiastical question,
who yet will go through with the office! They 'come to Christ for the loaves; they hope to live
by the altar and the gospel, how little soever they 'serve at the one, or preach the other; therefore they will say any thing that is necessary for qualifying them to this, whether true or false.'
Again, (page 122,) having interwoven a great part of the excellent office of the ordination of priests into his argument, concerning the importance and weight of the work of the ministry, he adds : Upon the whole matter, either this is all a piece of gross and impudent pageantry, dressed
up in grave and lofty expressions, to strike upon ' the weaker part of mankind, and to furnish the ‘rest with matter to their profane and impious
scorn; or it must be confessed that priests come « under the most formal and express engagements 'to constant and diligent labour, that can be
possibly contrived or set forth in words.' He concludes this subject of the ordination-offices, by exhorting all candidates for orders to read them frequently and attentively, during the time of their preparation, that they may be aware before-hand of the obligation which they are about so solemnly to enter into; and to peruse them at least four times in a year, ever after their ordination, to keep in their minds a continual remembrance of their important engagements. How necessary this counsel is, every minister, or candidate for the ministry, must determine for himself. For my part, I had never once read the office through when I was ordained, and was in a great measure a stranger to the obligations under which I was about to enter, till the very period; nor did I ever afterwards attend to it till this advice put me upon it. The shameful negligence, and extreme absurdity, of my conduct in this respect are too glaring, not to be perceived with self-application by every one who has been guilty of a similar omission. I would therefore only just mention, that hearty earnest prayer to God, for his guidance, help, and blessing, may be suitably recommended, as a proper attendant on such a perusal of our obligations.
Again, (page 147,) he thus speaks of a wicked clergyman: ‘his whole life has been a course of hypocrisy, in the strictest sense of the word, which is the acting of a part, and the counterfeiting another person. His sins have in them
all possible aggravations: they are against know• ledge, and against ws, and contrary to his ' character; they carry in them a deliberate con
tempt of all the truths and obligations of reli‘gion; and if he perishes, he does not perish alone, but carries a shoal down with him, either of • those who have perished in ignorance through his neglect, or of those who have been hardened ' in their sins through his ill-example.'—Again, (page 183,) having copiously discoursed on the studies befitting ministers, especially the study of the scriptures, he adds, “ But to give all these their ' full effect, a priest that is much in his study,
ought to employ a great part of his time in secret ' and fervent prayer, for the direction and blessing ' of God in his labours, for the constant assistance ‘ of his Holy Spirit, and for a lively sense of di'vine matters : that so he may feel the impres •sions of them grow deep and strong upon his
thoughts: this, and this only, will make him go 'on with his work without wearying, and be always rejoicing in it.
But the chief benefit which accrued to me from the perusal of the book was this: I was excited by it to an attentive consideration of those scriptures that state the obligations and duties of a minister, which hitherto I had not observed, or to which I had very loosely attended. In particular, (it is yet fresh in my memory,) I was greatly affected with considering the charge of precious souls committed to me, and the awful account one day to be rendered of them, in meditating on Ezekiel xxxiii. 7–9: “ So thou, O son of man, I have “set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: