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among all denominations ? Yes, and they all read the scriptures, and undoubtedly they are mostly deceived, and if I read the scriptures why shall I say I am more sincere than they ? Or that I am not as liable to be deceived as they ?
I saw plainly that the different denominations which pretended to be governed by the scripture were evidently built upon the sand. They were daily casting it in each others teeth, that they partially rendered the scripture, or if any were inclined to be more charitable, like myself they were much puzzled to account for the disagreement among christians and often, groaned with fear lest they were deceived themselves.
Here my mind was brought to despair of all possible means of knowing the truth; or of knowing who was right, or who wrong. I had always supposed that the scriptures were the only rule of faith and practice, as I had been taught by others. I could not feel to condemn all others as wilfully wrong in these interpretations of the letter; nay, nor could I rashly say my judgment on the scriptures was more correct than all who had read besides me. When I considered the subject of religion, I felt desirous, if there was any such thing as right, to know it, as a matter of the most importance. I felt my own human judgment to be fallible like others, and when I had fathomed all that came before me, I was inclined, equally to distrust all.
While my mind was looking outward to find some way whereby I might reconcile or account for the differences among christians, the more confusion and darkness I saw among them; insomuch that the enemy found means to tempt me to disbelieve all religion in toto. But the question was with me, what shall I do with my past experience ? Can I possibly believe that there is no such thing as religion ? Yes, just as soon as I can believe that all these different denominations are led by the Spirit of God; and if the thousands about me are deceived, why may I noti be deceived too?
For several months I was called to pass some of the most severe temptations I had: ever as yet met with. My mind was daily. harrassed by the enemy to doubt all that I had ever experienced or known of the things: of God. Much of my time was spent in secret, praying to the Lord that he would drive the tempter from my mind, and appear
in the behalf of my soul. Some times when I attended in secret I had so little faith that I did not dare to open my mouth in supplication. At other times I would lay on the ground in silence, or at most groan with the burthen that lay heavy on my heartNone but such as know the power of the enemy, and the manner in which he tempts the weak mind, can imagine what was the bitterness of my soul. I was not only tempted to disbelieve my own experience and to discredit the
loving kindness which I had known, but I was tempted to disbelieve the existence of a God and Saviour. Though I was not fully brought down by these temptations, yet, my mind was so overcome, that my faith and confidence was completely shaken. It seemed that my prayers and supplications wasted upon the ground, and that my heart was mostly given over to temptation. One may think it strange perhaps, that I should hare so yielded to atheistic notions, or that there should be a deist in the world; but when I consider the conduct of professors, and the contentions they have in consequence of their ceremonial religion, I more wonder that there is not ten where there is now but one. Who can imagine the feelings of my mind when I attempted to appear in public and preach, which I was obliged to do, or feel no peace at all
. Sometimes during my meetings in some degree I was able to overcome my temptation, and it was only in speaking that I found any comfort, for as soon as I had done speaking the enemy would spoil my peace. I had once been speaking in public as I thought with much freedom, but as soon as I had done speaking, (as at other times) the enemy returned, but with double power. All the corroding doubts which had passed my mind for months that had past and gone, came powerfully into my mind all at once, and to hide my emotions of soul from the assembly, who had not as yet all withdrawn, I
pray thee, I
hastened out of the door, and then to the wood. Here I fell on the ground, and cried as a child that had been whipped, though in the bitterness of my soul I could not exercise the least degree of faith, and for that reason I put up a petition to God in a manner expressive of my feelings. O God! if there be any God, hear now Ì hear now, and deliver thou me from my afflictions, for why should I be thus distressed and tempted ? If there be a God have mercy upon my poor soul. Said I, Lord what have I done? What can be done ? What shall I do?-I felt as if every thing was wrong about me and within me. Thought I, O that I never had been born, for then I had not known the affliction of my soul! and why should a creature live, thought I, so miserable as I am ? I laid my hand upon my breast, which ached almost insupportably, and the language of my heart was like one anciently, “My bowels, my bowels, I am pained at my very heart'; my heart inaketh à noise in me!." I felt it duty to speak to my fellow men, but when my mind was so tempted thought I, how can I speak! I was as sensible of the pain of my soul as I ever was, of the most excruciating pain of my body.
One day when in retirement I seated myself upon a log where my mind anxiously waited for consolation in spirit. While waitting in this place my eyes caught sight of a dead mullen-stalk, and from this simple in
strument I was convinced of the existence of a God. Here I saw the express image of God's power, wisdom and goodness-with this my mind pursued other objects, and all seemed big with the praise of God. My doubts filed and like Nebuchadnezzar, “I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth forever."
Surely," the fuol hath said in his heart, there is no God!" [ador'd
From that time until now, I have been able to contend with the enemy (if tempted to doubt the existence of a God) with a single spear of grass. I was enabled to say with the Psalmist, “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy works”—and with the Apostle Paul, to say,
“ The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."
I have before observed that my mind alSo doubted as to a Saviour. Of this my mind was relieved by the vision of the night.
I thought in my dream, that I was confer