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plain and “true sayings of God!" Often had I to read it again and again, in the page of genuine in
, spiration, before I could realize the conviction that I had been speciously deceived by a thousand testimonies of a counterfeit inspiration! So great was my jealousy of influence from all Anti-Quaker instructors, that I received the books of their wisdom with dread, and laid them aside unperused, that I might “search the scriptures” alone. Providence had placed me, more than a year before that crisismemorable to me, in a village (Newark, N. Jersey) where the Society had not one nominal member, with the exception of myself. There I often encountered those who differed from me, and with whom I was always prompt to argue in favor of the tenets in which I had been educated. That I argued uniformly, and with high conviction at least, many living witnesses can attest; and what sorely worsted me in the argument, generally, was—the apt and frequent quotation of texts, of whose scriptural existence I was ignorant! One female disputant, who, though not ineloquent, was fluent, and pointed, “ and mighty in the scriptures;" the venerable, and now, I trust, glorified ? Mrs. Douglass, (wife of I
2 the excellent, and also, I trust, glorified person with whom I then boarded,) a lady to whom, under God, I am happy in the opportunity of recording my deep obligations; she ever succeeded in disputation, by that celestial weaponry with which I was unprovided, and which she used, with skill and courage, against the light within and all its arrogant manifestations. I attribute my conversion to christianity very much instrumentally to her wisdom, benevolence, and valor, for the truth! If I constructed a syllogism that appeared to me invincible, and confidently propounded the premises for her admission, that I might force her to admit the conclusion also, she would exclaim, “You are all wrong, my child, in premise and conclusion both; your soul is as blind as the inward light can make it ; you are dead in trespasses and sins, destitute of every spark of godliness, and must be born again, thoroughly changed in your thoughts, affections, and reasonings, or you will be certainly lost.” She would then aptly quote some passages from the Bible, which, often like javelins projected by the force of the warrior, pierced my bosom and left me neither peace nor hope. But still I neglected the Bible, and ruminated, more than I was willing should be known by others, on the possibility that inspiration itself, as connected with the Quakers, might be wrong! My father had carefully educated me in the principles of Friends; and I may be permitted to say of him, though he lived but four days in the present century, that all his influence was, so far as I can recollect, (being only in my eighth year when he died,) very different from that of the generality of Friends ; and this, particularly, in the grand items of reverence for “the holy scriptures ;" a practical and conscientious regard for “ the Lord's day;" and boldness for the truth of religion among its adversaries ; uniform decision in the cause of virtue ; a nice sense of honor; an un
; feigned charitableness toward all serious christians ; and an inflexible consistency of deportment. He was an example of universal temperance; tenderly humane and self-denying in his offices of beneficence, and distinguished as the friend of the black-man in all his degradations. In these respects his eldest son may be allowed to pay a tearful, solemn, and most affectionate tribute to his memory! I will add, that he was often pained with the scepticism, or, at least, the looseness of principle which he observed among his people, and even their preachers, in regard to the truths of religion, the sanctity of the scriptures, and the obligation of the christian Sabbath! My venerable and sincerely honored mother had always, and with tears, followed the same course of inculcation; only that she was, more than others of the society with whom I have been acquainted, distinguished, at least, for some decision of faith in the article of Christ's vicarious death-not that he dies, and rises, and ascends, and intercedes, within us, (as they often say,) but that he died “ without the gate” of Jerusalem, and there made an atonement for the sins of men. This I ascribe much to the fact, that her earlier education was purely Presbyterian. She was baptized by the excellent Dr. Sproat' of (Arch-street) Philadelphia ; and often listened to his instructions and exhortations with great interest-remembering many of his expressions, especially at the communion table, and venerating his devotional piety, sometimes not without tears, to the present day!
When, therefore, I found Mrs. Douglasso so tenacious of the scripture, so disdainful of every pretender to superiority or even equality with these
“ lively oracles;" when others also, with whom I less frequently conversed, appeared to me possessed of thorough knowledge in religion, and really to believe the eternal truth of scripture very much as I believed the facts of geography or the matters of daily life ; when, also, I had frequent opportunities of hearing the gospel preached, and that by different ambassadors of God, and of witnessing the administration of the Lord's Supper as well as christian baptism ; neither of which I had ever before witnessed! I became uneasy and troubled in spirit. I knew not the cause, nor even the nature of my unhappiness. Sinners under the special influence of the Spirit of God, a revival of religion, I had never seen. I knew not that any creature had ever felt as I felt, or that there was any excellence of nature or promise in such agitation. So pungent was the misery, so undefined and unappreciated the influence, that I was not even aware of its connection with religion. Consequently I tried every means in my power to dissipate it. I went into company, frequented parties, invented sports, commenced the study of the French language with an accomplished French gentleman, whose manners and society pleased me, but whose principles of fatalism, and whose habits of profligacy, shocked me; for, to these things I had not been habituated. Finding, at last, that every effort was vain, and every resource insipid, I resolved to study more diligently, to try to excel in my profession, and to pursue this, to the exclusion of every thing else, as my supreme good, being then occupied in the office of a respectable counsellor, as a student of law. Hence I studied laboriously, and with a kind of phrensied determination. I separated from associates, and tried to wear the vizor of misanthropy, that I might keep all intruders at a distance. Here a new misery disturbed me.
I could not keep my mind, as formerly, on the topics and paragraphs of the law book! Not even the style of Blackstone, of which I had always been enamoured, could retain my strangely discursive thoughts. I felt a kind of romantic curiosity to study the scriptures, and made it a virtue to deny myself the pleasure. It appeared a random, unprofitable longing of the mind, that required, as it received, a resolute coercion. I will study, was my half angry motto. And so I did, laboriously, and to no purpose. I went over a page, perhaps ten times, and could not retain one line or thought of it. The book appeared like “vanity, and the study like “ vexation of spirit.” Still I persevered; grew daily more wretched; and felt that I had no friend in the world to whom I could unbosom my sorrows and disburden my soul!
soul! Alas! that “ friend that sticketh closer than a brother," that “ laid down his life for his friends,” and who invites us all to “ come unto him," especially when
weary and heavy laden,” and promises that we « shall find rest to our souls ;" who invites us to “ cast all our care upon him, knowing that he careth for us ;" that unequaled friend I little knew, and had never proved! One day, while vacantly meditating over a law book, not on its contents, but on the atheism of Diderot and other authors, officiously