« PreviousContinue »
ant in duties. I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in religious talk with other boys ; and used to meet with them to pray together. I experienced I know not what kind of delight in religion. My mind was much engaged in it, and had much selfrighteous pleasure ; and it was my delight to abound in religious duties. I with some of my schoolmates joined together, and built a booth in a swamp, in a very retired spot, for a place of prayer. And besides, I had particular secret places of my own in the woods, where I used to retire by myself; and was from time to time much affected. My affections seemed to be lively and easily moved, and I seemed to be in my element when engaged in religious duties. And I am ready to think, many are deceived with such affections, and such a kind of delight as I then had in religion, and mistake it for grace.
But in process of time, my convictions and affections wore off ; and I entirely lost all those affections and delights and left off secret prayer, at least as to any constant performance of it ; and returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in the ways of sin. Indeed I was at times very uneasy, especially
towards the latter part of my time at college ; when it pleased "God, to seize me with a pleurisy ; in which he brought me
nigh to the grave, and shook me over the pit of hell. And yet, it was not long after my recovory, before I fell again into my old ways of sin. But God would not suffer me to go on with any quietness ; I had great and violent inward struggles, till, after many conflicts with wicked inclinations, repeated resolutions, and bonds that I laid myself under by a kind of vows to God, I was brought wholly to break off all former wicked ways, and all ways of known outward sin ; and to apply myself to seck salvation, and practise many religious duties ; but without that kind of affection and delight which I had formerly experienced. My concern now wrought more by inward struggles and conilicts, and selfreflections. I made seeking my salvation the main business of my life. But yet, it seems to me, I sought after a miserable manner ; which has made me sometimes since to question, whether ever it issued in that which was saving ; being ready to doubt, wheth
er such miserable seeking ever succeeded. I was indeed brought to seek salvation in a manner that I never was before ; I felt a spirit to part with all things in the world, for an interest in Christ. My concern continued and prevailed, with many exercising thoughts and inward struggles ; but yet it neva er seemed to be proper to express that concern by the name of terror.
From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased ; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God's Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reaso: apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it ; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this ; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God's shewing mercy to whom he will shew mercy, and hardening whom he will. God's absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes ; at least it is so at times. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God's sovereignty than I had then. I have of ten since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.
The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward's sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Tim. i. 17. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen. As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being ; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever! I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself ; and went to pray to God that I might enjoy him, and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do ; with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saving nature in this.
From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart ; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. ii. 1, used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the valleys. The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time ; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world ; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in
the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart ; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.
Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father's pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction ; majesty and meekness joined together ; it was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty ; and also a majestic meekness ; an awful sweetness ; a high, and greai, and holy gentleness.
After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars ; in the clouds, and blue sky ; in the grass, flowers, trees ; in the water, and all nature ; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance ; and in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to be. hold the sweet glory of God in these things ; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning ; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder storm rising ; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunder storm ; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural to me to sing, or chant for my meditations ; or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.
I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state ; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break ; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. cxix. 28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my hcart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year ; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, solilo. quy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had yent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy ; and what I then had no more notion of,
than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They * were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and lifegiving good there is in them.
My sense of divine things seemed gradually to increase, until I went to preach at Newyork, which was about a year and a half after they began ; and while I was there, I felt them, very sensibly, in a much higher degree than I had done