A Pilgrim Past 70
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
I remember to have had natural convictions when very young, and was what is called very piously inclined; for, as I grew older, I frequently attended a prayer-meeting at seven o’clock, and three sermons on the Lord’s Day.
Before I was seventeen I joined the General Baptist Church my parents belonged to, but I knew not the Lord’s way of saving a sinner; I was rather looking to myself than to the Lord. I now see I was then nothing but a Pharisee.
I do not think I had ever heard a gospel sermon. I was told of a Mr. Bailey in Alie Street. I wished to hear him as I thought he held election, a doctrine I could not like, and I felt determined to pull to pieces all he said about it. How plain I now see my Pharisaical pride at that time!
As soon as I got into the chapel I saw a most majestic person, with a drawn sword stretched across the heavens, and he pronounced with a voice of majesty, that entered the inmost recesses of my heart, his eyes all the time being fixed on me, which pierced me through and through, “For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
I thought the Almighty had come near to judgment, and that I should be immediately cut off, and sent to hell; and I thought I saw the boards part under my feet, and devils trying to pull me in. The horror and terror that came over, me is better felt than described.
When I came out of the chapel I could not look at any one, but went home, inwardly groaning, “O that I had never been born! O that I had never made a profession of religion! Oh what a weight of sin and misery hangs over my head.”
The Arminian minister sent me word the deacons should visit me, but they never came, which I was very thankful for, as I was in such a trembling state of feeling I knew not how to speak to them, although all they could have said would not have had the weight of a feather on my mind, as the Lord kept following me up with these words, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
I kept constantly attending the place where I had felt the power, although I had nothing but reproof and condemnation, which occasioned floods of tears. A friend took me to hear Mr. Huntington, at Providence Chapel, who took his text out of Revelation 2:17.
“I will give him a white stone, and in the stone anew name written, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it.”
I saw this secret was with the righteous, and that it was a knowledge of pardon and absolution, and known only by those who received it. O how did my soul go out to the Lord for the manifestation of this rich blessing! The doctrine of election began to open to my astonished view. I saw a glory and beauty in it, that had I possessed a world I would have given it for a hope that I was amongst the happy number of God’s elect.
Some time afterwards I heard Mr. H. from these words (Isaiah 25): “A strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress.”
He described my poverty of soul, the deep sense of need I felt, and my great distress; and the Lord raised me to such a hope in his mercy, I shall never forget.
But it did not last. I soon began to call it all in question, and I sank very low in the horrible pit.
Indeed I had many fears that I had sinned the unpardonable sin. Added to this, I felt such reluctance to calling on the Lord, and in going to hear the word preached.
I said, “It is of no use, I shall certainly be lost.”
I had now been about four years and a-half in bondage.
One Lord’s day in April, 1815, I was taken by a friend to hear a Mr. S., St. George’s Road, who took his text from Romans 11. The words were, “Towards thee, goodness;” the sermon was quite lost, as I was wholly taken up with those words, “Towards thee, goodness.”
They flowed into my soul with a power and sweetness never before felt. I was swallowed up in the ocean of electing love.
Jesus, whom before I looked at as a terrible judge, now appeared my most loving friend. I thought Jesus and the holy angels were rejoicing over me. Many months was I favored to walk in this sweet enjoyment, holding daily converse with him, and having sweet familiarity and nearness to him, but a cloud gradually came over my mind.
The Lord withheld the communication of his grace; I could not see my signs and tokens for good; I began to call all his work in question; I sought the Lord, but could not find him; called him, but he gave me no answer.
The means of grace were dry breasts, and a throne of grace inaccessible; for when he hideth himself, who then can behold him?
In this troubled state of mind, I may say distressed state; I thought it was impossible I could live and bear it; I went to hear Mr. Gadsby, at Conway Street. He took his text from 2 Corinthians 1:9. “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth from the dead.”
As he was reading his text, the Lord broke in upon my soul with such light and power I am not able to describe.
Here I must leave off, though I have travelled forty years in the wilderness since, and the Lord has never failed nor forsaken me to the present moment.
A PILGRIM PAST SEVENTY