« PreviousContinue »
truction, rather than their gold; therefore it is said, (verse 17) "Behold I will stir up the the Medes against them which shall not regard silver, and as for gold they shall not delight in it." I might fill a volume with the account of such absurd renderings, but every observing person do all but daily witness the false and crafty rendering, and the end ingenious men serve themselves by the scriptures.
When I considered all the inconsistencies among both people and priests, I was quite at a loss what to think, and what was worse with me, I had not been apprized of the traditions of men until I had been drawn by the multitude into the same path in which they were travelling. I had been baptized because others were in the practice of it; I had been to the communion as I was led by the established order of the churches. These and other customs I had conceded to, but now for myself I had experienced an emptiness in some things, and saw that there was a great inconsistency in others. As I was young in my experience, I was not quick to suspect the multitude altogether out of the way in such customs, though I saw that there were many improprieties among them. I saw and experienced that in myself of these things, that I was not able to account for.I had several times desisted the communion on account of my own feelings, which was a great cross and a trial too; as the use of the sacrament was generally received to signify
Doubts occasioned by the multiplicity of religious opinions, and the mind inadequate to find the truth from the Scriptures-Doubts with temptations to disbelieve in the existence of a God, overcome.-Doubts as to a Saviour decided by the vision of the night.-The notiou of the Millenium found to be unscriptura!, led to an investigation of the. Scriptures touching many other things.
THE many inconsistencies which I have described, and the difficulties with which I met, were to my mind like so many diseases without a physician-I was sensible of pain, but could not tell what was the cause. ing borne down under the galling yoke and burden of unsuspected tradition, my mind grew dark and discouraged. My mind so far lost the witness of the Spirit, that unless I could find some means whereby I might account for differences among professors of christianity, I must give up the idea of religion and believe it to be but a phantom of the mind. Thought I, religion, if there is any such thing, must be a revelation from God; consequently, as God is a consistent being, religion must be consistent, and so be but one thing. Surely, thought I, all cannot be right: and what method shall I adopt, thereby I may know that I am not deceived among the multitude? I thought in the first place, that I would have recourse to, the scriptures, and attain a perfect knowledge of them; for I understood little of them, as it
was but a short time since I had began to read them. Here a question arose in my. mind, is not the scriptures the very thing by which all denominations say to be governed? and is it not about the scriptures, that the world is now contending? then how can the scriptures answer me my important desires when older than I, with able and learned men, have made them the subject of dispute for many hundred years?
Some contended that the bible was a Spiritual book, and could not be understood but by the Spirit. This system of reasoning I discerned destroyed itself, for such as plead for the Spirit, plead also that the Spirit should be tried by the scriptures; for if it absolutely required the Spirit to understand the scriptures, it was necessary first to know the Spirit without the scriptures.. For a Spirit or knowledge to understand the scriptures could not be given in the scriptures seeing the Scriptures could not interpret themselves. ⚫ I could not see that if it required a teacher er to teach, how the pupil could teach the teacher. Or if it required a knowledge of the Spirit to understand the scriptures I could not see that it was possible that the scriptures could give me a knowledge of the Spirit.. This rule placed me as far from the possibility of knowing the truth as if there were no scriptures at all. I reasoned thus in my mind: Am I a christian? Answer, yes. Are there not christians
christian fellowship and union. But with this I now found other things equally or if possible more crossing than any thing else, I must now desist my practice of reading and putting out Hymns or feel condemned in my mind for the inconsiderate use which I caused others to make of my leadings. Again I was troubled on the account of prayer; this custom was as common as singing, and as much of a form. I was sensible that my mind was not always prepared for vocal supplication,. consequently I found myself sometimes charged with hypocrisy, and so far I was to God' and the People, what a Papist priest might be in his mass. Though I had seen the frequent abuse of the scriptures by taking texts, yet this did not amount to an argument that a text should not be used; for I was taught that the scriptures were given as it were for a note-book, and that all should take a text.Here I was not without another difficulty, for though I frequently felt the power of the Spirit resting upon me, yet I had no text. But as I thought that I must have one, I frequently had recourse to such a passage as my natural judgment was pleased to select, and by this the Spirit was quenched. At other times, when the Spirit bid me speak as well as to look up a text, according to the customs of the people and the rules of the ministry, there must be some considerable time spent in search of an appropriate Hymn or Psalm and in prayer. By this time I found that the Spir
it was gone, but notwithstanding, according to custom I was still bound to furnish the people with a discourse.
In consideration of the readings of my mind, I frequently preached without singing or vocal prayer, and sometimes preached without making any particular passage of scripture the foundation of my testimony; and sometimes I attended meetings but had nothing to say. All this was offensive and singular to such persons as were in the habit of hearing fine singing, and seeing other things conducted in the common order.
My manner of procedure was not only singular to others but it was singular to myself; for it was unaccountable to me why my mind should be led, so different from others. It was not only singular but crossing to my mind to leave the smooth path of custom, and so crossing that but in few instances did I comply with my leadings of mind, and suffered myself to follow the example of others, and with them I frequently found myself guilty of such false rendering of texts as all who preach from the letter are unavoidably subjected. But to avoid as much as possible such improprieties, I frequently made choice of such texts as appeared to be plain, and such texts as by the reading, expressed their proper sense. I also in some degree ridded myself of improprieties in singing, by selecting such psalms and hymns as were less expressive of deep profession than others.