Page images
PDF
EPUB

and which they might have acquired in the morning of life, they have neglected to seek, and the time is much spent, and too far past to recover. Unless they receive it now by the aid of others, they never will know the fourth part of it.

I never myself felt inclined to obey the counsel which said, “Do not read the opinions of others in matters of Scripture,” for I never intended to take the views of others in any thing, unless they appeared to me as correct, and then I was resolved not to be persuaded away or frightened from them. The desire to gratify the pride of originality should never keep us from being in. structed, when that favour offers itself. After I had read Scott's Family Bible, I felt like reading it again. It is true that I was half driven from infidelity by the infidel authors. To find no aid, and no truth or loveli. ness where I had looked for it, inclined me to listen with more calmness and impartiality to the other side.

In Scott, I found no controversy tinctured with smutty, indecent filth. I found no self-complacent ridicule, no coxcomical jeerings, no truth twisted, or mixed up with nine-tenths of actual untruth. The difference between the two styles and the two modes, is only known to those who have felt the sudden transition from one to the other. The unbelieving writers seemed unwilling to allow that the slightest lovely or commen dable trait belonged to Moses, or Samuel, or Paul, or John, or any other good man. They seemed all more than ready to credit at once, and on any authority, any thing of such men. They seemed to have an appetite for attributing to them, things the most enormous and inexpressibly hateful. I had heard, when very young, that this indicated the condition of heart belonging to

the possessor, and invariably proved something to be
amiss in his own bosom ; but I did not see this so
distinctly, and feel so sensibly that it was true, until I
witnessed the way Scott wrote of his adversaries in de.
bate, and the haters of the system he loved. Although
an infidel, it appeared to me that he would have avoided
telling a lie about them. I could not detect a wilful
falsehood, (shall I say not one in a page? no,) not one in
the whole work! for my life I could not! This made
a strange impression upon me after the company I had
been keeping. It seemed from the way he wrote, as
though the salvation of infidels in heaven, (or their pre-
paration for it) would give him more exultation than
it would to have the world believe a thousand slanders
about them. This difference of temper between the
advocates and the opposers of Christianity, made me
more willing to read on; but it was what I afterwards
discovered, which settled me as on the rock of truth.
Whilst reading Scott, I found some passages which had
appeared darkness itself to me, were indeed full of in.
struction, of beauty, and of glory. I discovered that
my infidelity had been based upon my ignorance, en.
circled with the love of sin, whilst its practice had be.
clouded and deforned my soul. Different parts of the
sacred scriptures which had appeared to me as contra.
dictory, or without meaning, were incontrovertibly
shown to harmonize, and full of light, to strengthen and
support each other.
Let not the reader

suppose
that I could

say

undoubt. ingly, “I believe this book to be the Book of God," after it had been proved to me in different ways, an hundred times! Physicians say of the body of man, that it may be formed into habits. They say of some

intermittent fevers long continued, that the chill returns in accordance with the habits of the system. Many habits of the flush run on, even when opposed by our enlightened wishes. Habits of infidelity often exist when wishes militate; and after an instructed judgment tells us better! The feeling of my heart made it necessary that I should continue to read after I could say in truth, concerning the Bible, “ I have more evi. dence an hundred fold, that this is God's letter, than I have of any past occurrence which I did not see.” In connection with Scott, I read Bonnet's Inquiries, Paley, Watson, Chalmers, &c., and was pleased and astonished to see them all evince the meekness, and modesty, and benevolent forbearance, which struck me in the author first named. : They all instructed me. This investigation went on for many months. The considerations which agitated my mind, raising or sinking it, swaying me to the right or left, whilst this reading and this research went on, shall be commenced in the next chapter. For the present I wish to say to the Christian reader, (for the un. believer could not understand me,) I wish to say, in the language of another, that which no sinner ever deserved to have the privilege of saying; that which if any ever deserved to have no permission to pronounce, I have thus deserved; but with my face in the dust, whilst a joy inexpressible fills my soul, I can say, “ I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the lat. ter day upon the earth. And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see Gock whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another."

CHAPTER LVII.

RELIGIONS BELIEF AT DEATH.

It does not seem a matter of moment where I begin, in trying to present thoughts which passed through my mind, whilst asking whether or not the Scriptures were of God. At different times, and under various tempera. ments of soul, I meditated on many points which made on me a lasting impression. Sometimes they spurred me on to further thought, or to more industrious read. ing. Sometimes they seemed to declare that God had revealed his wishes to men. Whether or not these con. siderations will thus affect others, I cannot tell. In the narration it matters not, I repeat again, where I begin. I shall commence by repeating a few of my thoughts on death.

OBSERVATIONS ON MAN'S DEPARTURE,

Whilst attending medical lectures at Philadelphia, I heard from the lady with whom I boarded, an account of certain individuals who were dead to all appearance; during the prevalence of the yellow fever in that city, and yet recovered. The fact that they saw, or fancied they saw things in the world of spirits awakened my curiosity.

She told me of one with whom she was acquainted, who was so confident of his discoveries, that he had seemingly thought of little else afterwards, and it had

then been twenty-four years. These things appeared philosophically strange to me for the following reasons:

First, Those who from bleeding or from any other cause, reach a state of syncope, or the ordinary fainting condition, think not at all, or are unable to remember any mental action. When they recover, it appears either that the mind was suspended, or they were unable to recollect its operations. There are those who believe on either side of this question. Some contend for sus. pension; others deny it, but say we never can recall thoughts formed, whilst the mind is in that state, for reasons not yet understood.

Secondly, Those who in approaching death, reach the first state of insensibility, and recover from it, are unconscious of any mental activity, and have no thoughts which they can recall.

Thirdly, If this is so, why then should those who had travelled further into the land of death, and had sunk deeper into the condition of bodily inaction, when recovered, be conscious of mental action, and remember thoughts more vivid than ever had flashed across their souls in the health of boyhood, under a vernal sun, and on a plain of flowers ?

After this I felt somewhat inclined to watch, when it became my business, year after year, to stand by the bed of death. That which I saw was not calculated to protract and deepen the slumbers of infidelity, but rather to dispose toward a degree of restlessness ; er, at least, to further observation. I knew that the circle of stupor, or insensibility, drawn around life, and through which all either pass, or seem to pass, who go out of life, was urged by some to prove that the mind could not exist unless it be in connexion with organized matter. For the same

« PreviousContinue »