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Extraordinary trials, and apprehensions of having fallen irrecoverably away-Fears of having committed the unpardonable sin-Glorious deliverance, &c. &c.
An interesting era in my experience now drew.nigh. As I have before observed, I was indefatigable in my labours in the ministry, that I might meet God in peace. The shock which my constitution had received, and my extreme nervous weakness kept me constantly looking into eternity, and the spasms which I was still subject to, often caused apprehension that death was at the doors. continued to preach as long as I could until I sunk under the weight of my infirmity, about the first of November. I was seized with the spasms and expected probably to die suddenly. I felt unprepared to go. I believe I now tried my past faithfulness by the rule which I have been insisting upon in the foregoing reflections-although in my speculative notions and arguments on the subject, I entertained quite different views of the law, or rather I had no consistent, but quite confused views; yet, now, when considering myself on the brink of eternity, the Spirit of God set home the law or commandment in its true requirements. I viewed myself in the true glass, was frightened at my own visage and filled with horror. There is no doubt, but what all men will be obliged, sooner or later, to view themselves in this mirror, and judge themselves by this rule; for whatever men may say in order to abrogate the law, or soften down its requirements, in order to ease their consciences for a while; yet, when God shows them their true characters, it is by contrasting them with his holiness, or the requirements of his law. Thus when I looked into eternity, and up to a holy God, and then looked at my faithfulness, O, what horrible sensa
tions seized my trembling soul. Although I did not doubt but what I had experienced religion at the time I supposed I did, and had enjoyed some religion since that time; yet my system taught me that my final salvation depended on my faithfulness in improving the grace I had received; and this, I then saw plainly I had not done, as it had been my duty. I was perfectly consistent in looking for salvation in this way, and thus acted up to my principles; and I am persuaded that if all who believe in the final apostacy of the saints would do the same, the consequences would be the same as with me; viz: to see that if the doctrine of falling from grace be true, no soul will ever get to heaven.
No person, perhaps ever tried the system more thoroughly than myself; and yet when I came to review my faithfulness as in the presence of God, O how full of holes was my self-righteous garment. I could but abhor myself in dust and ashes and as I had fallen short of sinless, perfection in my religious course I verily thought I must be damned. This, I would observe again, was perfectly consistent with my Arminianism. It was a fair inference from the premises which my views of doctrine established; for instead of looking for evidences (by being conscious of holy exercises of heart) that I was interested in the covenant of grace, which by the promises of God insured to me the final forgiveness of all my sins, and consequently eternal life, I was examining myself to see if I had not fallen away. I found indeed that I had fallen far short of my duty, and of course had fallen away; for what could it be to fall away, but to come short of my duty; so there I was, without hope, notwithstanding all my past strivings. Now this is the way that every person who believes in falling from grace must deal with himself, if he will be honest, consistent, and stick to his principles. And where is the one, on reviewing his past life, and trying himself or his past faithfulness, by the rule that God tries our faithfulness by, but what will have to acknowledge that he has been unfaithful
and consequently has fallen away, and so; of course is without hope. This was my case. As I before ob served, I was filled with horror, and felt unprepared to meet God. I cried to God to spare my life-with Vows that I would live better. My life was preserved, and as I recovered my health, I strove more and more to keep the law. I fasted much, and was so full of fear of doing wrong, that I scarcely dared do any thing at all. But my faithfulness looked worse and worse. O how much spiritual pride, and pharisaical self-conceitedness, I could see mixed with my past labours. I found in many instances my heart had deceived me. I continued in this state a short time, until I was overtaken with a trouble of mind that exceeded all which I had hitherto experienced. I think it was on Saturday before the third Sunday in November; as I was walking across a pasture to one of my neighbours, that I was suddenly overwhelmed with a horror and darkness of mind that was dreadful beyond description, and which seems to have been almost equal for the time it lasted, to the despair which damned souls experience in hell. I am ready to tremble when I think of it. The thoughts that produced this dreadful darkness were that I had sealed my condemnation, and that God had cast me off forever!! I fell down and tried to pray, but all seemed shut up, and I conceived that mercy was clean gone; the day of grace with me had closed; and that I must lie down in eternal despair. O my God, what sensations of soul were these! how far beyond what men or angels can describe. I returned to the house, but I was a terror to my companion and children. The paleness of death was on my cheek, and trembling seized my whole system. I knew not what to do, nor where to flee. I had an appointment to attend a church meeting in Providence that evening, and as I knew not how to contain myself or sit still at home, I proceeded thither. But the horror of mind which attended me seemed almost ready to take away animal life, and indeed I know
not that I could long have lived under such thick clouds of terrible darkness, if there had not been now and then momentary beams of light breaking through; that possibly it might not be that my damnation was sealed. These transient visitations of hope, were, comparatively speaking, like a single spark of fire glimmering a moment in total darkness and then disappearing. I attended the church meeting in Providence, but was undoubtedly a wonder to my brethren. They were young in experience
and knew not how to offer me a word of consolation. I begged their prayers, but felt as if "He had hedged me about that I could not get out, and had made my chain heavy." Lam. iii. 7. This was a night never to be forgotten. The next day being the Sabbath, I had an appointment to preach in Providence. I repaired to the place appointed and attempted to speak, but after saying a few words I sunk to my seat, utterly unable to proceed, and completely overwhelmed in the horrors of despair. At intermission, I baptized two candidates, and in the afternoon a large congregation assembled to hear me. I did not attempt to speak, but in silence mourned my wretched, and, as I thought, hopeless case. There appeared to be universal astonishment excited in the minds of all the people. They gazed at me and wondered. "The terrors of hell got hold on me." I strove sometimes to pray, but the heavens seemed shut; with the dreadful idea continually rushing into my mind, that I had committed the unpardonable sin. Although this seemed rooted in my mind, yet I could not conceive what particular sin I had committed, that put the seal of final reprobation upon me. At length I concluded it must be for publishing to the world, the conduct of the Six Principle Baptists towards the Cranston Church and Elder T-m. I knew I had published the truth, but conceived that by making their conduct more publick, I had done the dreadful deed. Thus did the devil make havoc
with me. I told the people that I thought this was
the case, in hopes, (if I had any hopes) that by speaking of it I should feel better. But I was not at all relieved; my mind went from one thing to another, by doing which I had committed the sin unto death, and that there was no forgiveness.
My imagining that the day of grace was over, was perfectly consistent with my Arminian sentiments; for I would ask any Christian who believes this doctrine, and who does not this moment have an assurance that he is in the favour of God, how he knows that the day of grace is not forever gone. Does he not believe that there are many who were never converted, whom God has left to their own ways, and from whom mercy is clean gone forever? And if he believes that a sheep of Christ may perish, a Christian be lost, how does he know that the Spirit has not now taken its everlasting flight, and that God says of him as he did of Ephraim, he is joined to his idols, let him alone! But my ideas that I had committed the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, or that particular sin which we generally term the sin against the Holy Ghost, were indeed inconsistent, or not supported by any system of religion whatever; for 1 might have known that the sin referred to was of a description and attended with circumstances, which I could not impute to myself. It is a sin of the tongue, blaspheming with malice in the heart, that which we know to be of God; or declaring that the operations of the Holy Ghost are the work of the devil, when we know better; and this under the influence of malice or hatred. This seems to have been the case with the Pharisees unto whom Christ referred, when he speaks of the dreadful state of those who blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. I might have known therefore, that this was not my state, and thousands who are at times thrown into despair, from the apprehension that they have placed themselves beyond the reach of mercy by committing this sin, might know better, if they would only attend to the scripture account of it. Yet as I before observed, I was consistent with my principles,