« הקודםהמשך »
“ do I see! What joys, beyond thought or expression " am I sensible of! 'I am assured of God's mercy to “ me through Jesus CHRIST! Oh! how I long to die, "and to be with my SAVIOUR !"
For the admonition of others, and to undo as much as was in his power, the mischief of his former conduct, he subscribed the following Recantation, and ordered it to be published after his death :
- For the benefit of all those whom I may have drawn into sin, by my example and encouragement, I leave to the world this my last declaration, which I deliver in the presence of the great God, who knows the secrets of all hearts, and before whom I am now appearing to be judged; That from the bottom of my soul I detest and abhor the whole course of my former wicked life ; that I think I can never sufficiently admire the goodness of God, who has given me a true sense of my pernicious opinions and vile practices, by which I have hitherto lived without hope, and without God in the world ; have been an open enemy to JESUS CHRIST, doing the utmost despite to the HOLY SPIRIT of grace: and that the greatest testimony of my charity to such, is, to warn them, in the name of God, as they regard the welfare of their immortal souls, no more to deny his being or his providence, or despise his goodness; no more to make a mock of sin, or contemn the pure and excellent religion of my ever-blessed REDEEMER, through •whosè, merits alone, I, one of the greatest of sinners, do yet hope for merey and forgiveness. Amen*.
* The case of Sir DUNCOMB COLCHESTER, a magistrate in the county of Gloutester, towards the close of the last century was somewhat like this of RochESTER. He was a gentleman of excellent parts, a generous spirit, and undaunted courage. Having, however, spent many years in sundry extravagancies, he was at length, by a long and painful sickness, brought to a very serious sense of the excellency of Religion, and of his own great sin and foliy in the neglect and contempt of it. He accordingly, by way of making some small reparation for the mischief he had done by his wickedness, drew up an address to his friends and the public, somewhat like to the above of Rochestee, signed by divers witnesses, and caused it to be read in two neighbouring churches, and spread abroad among all his friends and neighbours through the county, as extensively as he was able,
20. We have an account of the conversion of another determined Deist to the faith of CHRIST, in six letters, from a Minister of the Reformed Church abroad, to JOHN NEWTON, Rector of St. Mary Woolnorth, London. He was born of religious parents, was brought up at school and university for the ministry, became eminent for his literary attainments, but lost all his religion, and commenced Deist. Proud of his abilities and attainments, and trusting solely to his reasoning powers, he disdained to think with the vulgar, and was too wise in his own esteem to be instructed by Divine Revelation. But while he was unacquainted with God, he was guilty of secret impurities, and a stranger to peace. Like a ship in a storm, without rudder or pilot, he was hurried along by tumultuous passions, till he grew weary of life. In such a state of soul, and at such a crisis, the light of heavenly truth broke in upon his mind. The LORD spake and it was done. The storm was hushed. The man was powerfully and unexpectedly changed. The servant of sin became the servant of CHRIST ; and he now preaches, with energy and success, the faith he before laboured to destroy*.
21. Captain JOHN LEE, who was executed for forgery, March 4, 1784, became an Infidel, through reading the elegant, but sophistical writings of David HUME. Deeply, however, did he repent his folly, when he came to be in distressed circumstances. “I leave to the world,” said he, in a letter to a friend the night before his execution, “ this mournful memento, that however much a man
may be favoured by personal qualifications, or distin
guished by mental endowments, genius will be useless, sand abilities avail but little, unless accompanied by a
* Similar to this instance, in some respects, is the case of the Revo THOMAS Scott, Chaplain to the Lock Hospital, in London. « I feel “ myself impelled to declare,” says he, “that I once was not much more “ disposed to credit the Scriptures than Mr. PAINE: and having got “ rid of the shackles of education, was much flattered by my emancipa. « tion and superior discernment. But twenty years, employed in dili. “ gently investigating the evidences and contents of the Bible, have, " produced in me an unshaken assurance that it is the Word of God."
Answer to PAINE's Age of Reason, p. 23.
sense of religion, and attended by the practice of "virtue."
22. Another GENTLEMAN, whose name is concealed out of delicacy to his connections, was descended of a noble and religious family. His life was extremely irregular and dissolute, but his natural parts and endowments of mind so extraordinary, that they rendered his conversation agreeable to persons of the highest rank and quality. Being taken ill, he believed he should die at the very beginning of his sickness. His friend, with whom he had frequently disputed against the existence of God and the truths of revealed religion, came to visit him on the second day after he was seized. He asked him how he did, and what made him so dejected?
“Alas!" said he,“ are you so void of understanding, as to imagine I am afraid to die? Far be such thoughts from me. I could meet death with as much courage as I have encountered an enemy in the field of battle, and embrace it as freely as I ever did any friend whom I entirely loved : for I see nothing in this world that is worth the pains of keeping. I have made trial of most states and conditions of life. I have continued at home for a considerable time, and travelled abroad in foreign parts, I have been rich and poor. I have been raised to honour and reversed in a high degree. I have also been exposed to scorn and contempt. I have been wise and foolish. I have experienced the difference between virtue and vice, and every thing that was possible for a man in my station; so that I am capable of distinguishing what is really good and praise-worthy, and what is not. Now I see with a clearer sight than ever, and discern a vast difference between the rain licentious discourse of a Libertine, and the sound arguments of a true Believer : for though the former may express himself more fincly than the latter, so as to puzzle him with hard questions and intricate notions, yet all amount to ro more than the fallacy of a few airy repartees which are never affected by sober Christians, nor capable of cluding the force of solid reason. But now I know how to make a distinction between them ; and I wish from the bottoni of my heart I had been so
sensible of my error in the time of my health ; then I had never had those dreadful foretastes of hell I now have. Oh! what a sad account have I to give of a long life spent in sin and folly! I look beyond the fears of a temporal death. All the dread that you perceive in me arises from the near approach I make to an eternul death; for I must die to live to all eternity.
This unhappy Gentleman continued in this manner to bewail his past folly, atheism and infidelity, for forty days, and then expired. His friend, however, took large pains with him to encourage his repentance, faith, and return to a proper state of mind; the particulars of which would be too tedious to record in this place. At last, however, he was brought to entertain some hope, that the REDEEMER of mankind would take pity on his deplorable condition, pardon his sins, and rescue him from that everlasting destruction which awaits all such characters. He told his friend, therefore, that if he departed with a smile, he might hope for the best concerning him ; but if he should be seen giving up the ghost with a frown, there would be reason to fear the worst.
This was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and he lived till four the next morning. A little before he expired he was heard to speak these words softly to himself-Oh! that I had possession of the meanest place in heaven, and could but creep into one corner of it. Afterwards he cried out four several times together-O dear! dear! dear! dear!--and near a minute before he expired, his friend perceiving him to look full in his face, with a smiling countenance.
There we leave him till the resurrection-morn*.
23. When Count STRUENSEE, Prime Minister of the kingdom of Denmark, had been disgraced and imprison
* It is impossible for any man to say with certainty whether the change, which seeins to pass upon the human mind, upon these melancholy occasions, is real and saving, or only apparent and delusive. We have known various instances, where every symptom of genuine repentance has been exhibited upon a sick bed, but no sooner has health returned, than they have returned to folly with accelerated speed ; fulfilling the old popish distich:
When the Devil was sick, the Devil a Monk would be: " When the Devil got well, the devil a Monk was he !"
ed by his Sovereign for certain misdemeanors of which ho had been guilty, he was brought from a state of Infidelity to a serious sense of his situation. He then declared, “The more I learn Christianity from Scripture, the more I grow convinced how unjust those objections are which it is charged with. I find, for instance, that all which VOLTAIRE says of the intolerance of Christians, and of blood-shedding caused by Christianity, is a very unjust charge laid upon religion. It is easy to be seen, that those cruelties, said to be caused by religion, if properly considered, were the production of human passions, selfishness and ambition, and that religion served in such cases only for a cloak.-I am fully convinced of the truth of the Christian religion, and I feel its power in quieting my conscience, and reforming my sentiments. I have examined it during a good state of health, and with all the reason I am master of. I tried every argument, I felt no fear, I have taken my own time, and I have not been in haste. , I own with joy I find Christianity the more amiable the more I get acquainted with it. I never knew it before. I believed it contradicted reason, and the nature of man, whose religion it was designed to be. I thought it an artfully contrived and ambiguous doctrine, full of incomprehensibilities. Whenever I formerly thought on religion in some serious moments, I had always an idea in my mind how it ought to be, which was, it should be simple, and accommodated to the abilities of men in every condition. I now find Christianity to be exactly so ; it answers entirely that idea which I had formed of true religion. Had I but formerly known it was such, I should not have delayed turning Christian till this time of my imprisonment. But I had the misfortune to be prejudiced against religion, first through my own passions, but afterwards likewise by so many human inventions, foisted into it, of which I could see plainly that they had no foundation, though they were styled essential parts of Christianity. I was offended when God was always represented to me as an angry, jealous judge, who is much pleased when he has an opportunity of shewing his revenge, though I knew he was love itself; and am now convinced, that though he must punish, yet he takes no kind of delight