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CASE OF AN INFIDEL WHO BEGAN TO READ.
THERE was a merchant of East Tennessee, who belonged to that class of men calling themselves deists, who increased much in number, immediately after our revolutionary struggle. All of them advocated morality of deportment, and few of them practised it; but this one of whom we are writing did, and his walk was exemplary. Truth he advocated and practised. Any defect in this virtue, seen in an acquaintance, was enough to forfeit his esteem ever after. Dishonesty, or any de. ceptive dealing, had his unmitigated scorn. He had, in short, taken many of the Bible precepts, without knowing where they came from, and practised them with unceasing vigilance. He would not believe that the favourite principles of his practice came originally from the Bible, for he who scorned the very name of Bible, acted on these rules, whilst many church members (professed lovers of the Bible) violated them shamefully. So long as the conduct of many professors near him would by no means compare with his own, he was not likely either to give credit to the Bible for what principle his mother, or others for her, had taught him from it; or to become uneasy at his condition, or convicted of sin. His honour, hospitality, patriotism, benev, olence and other excellencies made him a favourite with the world. But if the world praised or admired him, how much of an idol must he have been in the eyes, of his children as they grew up. On their education, he
spared no pains. For their happiness in life, he advanced all that good example, advice, money, vigilance, or unceasing parental kindness could do. His children loved him, as they might be expected to love such a father, who possessed both amiableness and ardor of affections. They grew up, hearing as early as they were capable of hearing, and knowing ever after, that he smiled with scorn at the very name of Christ. Part of the result may be anticipated. His eldest son was an infidel. He would not condemn Christianity, with that vehement confidence which belonged to older men, for he professed more modesty than many young persons, who are reared as he was. He would even confess that many amiable men, who had read more than ever he had, did reverence the Bible, but he did not believe. He would even confess that investigation would not be amiss for him, on this subject; but enjoying the amusements of life as he did, there was no likelihood that he ever would go through the toil of a faithful research. His father had succeeded in teaching him excellent moral principles, to the extent which he himself practised, and he was crying peace to his conscience with but little cessation, if any. It was at length observed, that when professors of religion acted amiss, and he spoke in disapprobation of their conduct, there was more detestation of countenance, and more bitterness thrown into the tone of his voice than usual. He began to notice their ill deserts more frequently and more readily than those belonging to other men. The hill down which he was sliding, was plain enough to the eye of those who know something of the human heart, and of the different avenues by which men can reach
ruin. The Lord, we believe, had it in view that he should not descend that declivity.*
He had a young wife, called away from him by a slow and lingering disease. She had time and mind to think over forever and its endless concomitants. Before she bade him farewell, she exacted from him a promise that he would read the Bible through, with the notes of Scott. (Scott's Family Bible.) One of the choice rules in which he had been educated, and upon which his whole system was built, was never to forfeit his word. After her de parture, nothing short of impracticability could have prevented the fulfilment of his promise, should the task be agreeable or disagreeable. He began and read a por. tion every day. As he proceeded, his difficulties and his objections were such as are commonly made under like circumstances. Strong minds, or vivid intellects, strange to tell, in this research will stumble over cavils, ridiculous for their imbecility,† such as in after days they can scarcely believe, and did they not know it to be so, never would believe, could ever have engaged their thoughts. He had not finished the work before he
* Some members of the church who lived near there, believed that the reason why his life was altered is as follows: He had a mother who often consecrated an hour in prayer, when none were present but herself and her Creator. They believe that the Man of Calvary can do whatever he pleases, and that if any one loves him, he frequently does choose that they shall have almost any thing for which they ask None but his obedient children, however, know this fact by experience.
+ One of the mountains in the path of this young unbeliever, was, that we are not told in the narrative how Jacob found out that the purposes of his brother Esau, were evil towards him! Jacob, we are told, fled from him, but we are not told how he know his brother intended to kill him.
had made up his mind, slowly and deliberately, but entirely. He said, in the hearing of a circle of friends, "I believe the scriptures to be the work of inspiration." His father asked him with surprise, and with a smile somewhat sarcastic, "And so you believe that book the word of God?" "I do father," said he, "I do indeed, believe it sincerely." (Reader, one item of this case points out a truth which is important. They do well who note and forget it not.) There was a friend near, who heard this declaration, and who rejoiced on the following account. He had long felt concern for the immortal welfare of the young infidel. Whilst conversing together on the subject of religion, the latter had often said, "If I believed the Bible, as Christians say they do, I would certainly obey it. I would scarcely think, or care for any thing else, save that eternity which they expect, and that judgment which they wait for." If his friend humbly replied to him, that so we might all suppose, but we were besotted by sin and debased by the fall, and that the Bible teaches of a state of soul belonging to us all, which will lead us to slumber on the edge of death, &c., adding, "Perhaps, if you did believe, you would move on much as you do now-"he was answered, “Do you think I would risk unending darkness and misery, whilst my Creator was offering me unending peace and splendour, for the bare acceptance? No,-I never would be such a fool; if every other man on earth was negligent, I do assure you I would not be, with such a prize as that at stake."
Some months after he had made up his mind concern. ing the verity of the holy book, he was called on by his friend, and the following conversation (or substance of it) took place between them. Friend.-You say that
you read some in your Bible every day, how does it appear to you now? Answer.-I find something new and interesting almost every time I open it. It is a singu. larly instructive book. Friend.-I rejoice that you read, and I rejoice that it is not to you what it once was, a book of tiresome insipidity, awakening your aversion. Answer. The fault was in me, not in the book. I was too ignorant to enjoy it. Friend,-Yours is only a kind of literary enjoyment in reading that book, for I do not see your life changed since your belief in it. You once thought that you would not risk an endless hell half an hour, that you would not be contented a moment without a title to heaven, if you believed God had order. ed the writing of that volume. Answer.-That is another proof of the truth of the Bible. I am going on stupidly, day after day. I never would have believed, no matter who informed me of it, that I should have acted as I am now acting, and I know that we are not thus infatuated in other things. We do not act with this mad imprudence in any thing else. It must be that sin has some strange effect upon the soul.
For the sake of those who expect to reach heaven, we add one sentence here, which others need not read unless inclined. It will be pleasing to some, and it does not take us long to state, that this young man after a time, did obtain the Christian's hope. He hopes to see the author of a certain commentary on the right hand side of a throne that is high and white! We should love to see them meet! but it will not be the only joyful interview.