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and death seems to be inevitable. We extract the account from his own narrative.
“ The 21st of March is a day much to be remembered by me, and I have never suffered it to pass wholly unnoticed since the year 1748. On that day the Lord sent from on high, and delivered me out of deep waters. I began to think of my former religious professions, the extraordinary turns in my life; the calls, warnings, and deliverances I had met with ; the licentious course of my conversation, particularly my unparalleled effrontery in making the gospel-history the constant subject of profane ridicule. I thought, allowing the scripture premises, there never was, nor could be such a sinner as myself; and then, comparing the advantages I had broken through, I concluded at first, that my sins were too great to be forgiven. The Scripture likewise seemed to say the same; for I had formerly been well acquainted with the Bible, and many passages upon this occasion returned upon my memory, particularly those awful passages, Prov. i. 24–31; Heb. vi. 4–6; and 2 Pet. ii. 20, which seemed so exactly to suit my case and character, as to bring with them a presumptive proof of a divine original. Thus, as I have said, I waited with fear and impatience to receive my inevitable doom. Yet, though I had thoughts of this kind, they were exceedingly faint and disproportionate; it was not till long after, (perhaps several years,) till I had gained some clear views of the infinite
righteousness and grace of Jesus Christ my Lord, that I had a deep and strong apprehension of my state by nature and practice: and, perhaps, till then I could not have borne the sight. When I saw, beyond all probability, there was still hope of respite, and heard about six in the evening that the ship was freed from water, there arose a gleam of hope; I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favour. I began to pray; I could not utter the prayer of faith ; I could not draw near to a reconciled God, and call him Father. My prayer was like the
of the ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear. I now began to think of that Jesus whom I had so often derided. I recollected the particulars of his life, and of his death : and death for sins not his own, but, as I remembered, for the sake of those who in their distress should put their trust in Him. And now I chiefly wanted evidence. The comfortless principles of infidelity were deeply rivetted, and I rather wished than believed these things were real facts. The great question now was, how to obtain faith? I speak not of an appropriating faith, (of which I then knew neither the nature nor necessity,) but how I should gain an assurance that the Scriptures were of divine inspiration, and a sufficient warrant for the exercise of trust and hope in God. One of the first helps I received (in consequence of a determination to examine the New Testament more carefully) was from Luke xi. 13. I had been sen
sible that to profess faith in Jesus Christ, when in reality I did not believe his history, was no better than a mockery of a heart-searching God: but here I found a Spirit spoken of, which was to be communicated to those who ask it. Upon this I reasoned thus. If this book is true, the promise in this passage
is true likewise. I have need of that very Spirit by which the whole was written, in order to understand it aright. He has engaged here to give that Spirit to those who ask. I must, therefore, pray for it; and if it is of God, he will make good his own word. My purposes were strengthened by John vii. 17. I concluded from thence, that though I could not say from my
heart that I believed the gospel, yet I would for the present take it for granted, and that by studying it in this light I should be more and more confirmed in it. If what I am writing could be perused by our modern infidels, they would say (for I too well know their manner) that I was very desirous to persuade myself into this opinion. I confess I was; and so would they be, if the Lord should show them, as he was pleased to show me at that time, the absolute necessity of some expedient to interpose between a righteous God and a sinful soul. Upon the gospel-scheme I saw at least a peradventure of hope, but on every other side I was surrounded with black unfathomable despair.” * Alluding to the means which he enjoyed at this * See “ Life of Newton,” prefixed to his works.
eventful period, for acquiring spiritual light and knowledge, he observes, “ As to books, I had a New Testament, Stanhope, and a volume of Bishop Beveridge's Sermons, one of which, upon our Lord's Passion, affected me much. In perusing the New Testament, I was struck with several passages, particularly that of the fig-tree, Luke xiii.; the case of St. Paul, 1 Tim. i.; but particularly the prodigal, Luke xv.-a
case I thought had never been so clearly exemplified as by myself. And then the goodness of the father in receiving, nay, in running to meet such a son, and this intended only to illustrate the Lord's goodness to returning sinners; this gained upon me.
I continued much in prayer; I saw that the Lord had interposed so far to save me; and I hoped he would do more. The outward circumstances helped in this place to make me still more serious and earnest in crying to Him who alone could relieve me; and sometimes I thought I could be content to die even for want of food, if I might but die a believer. Thus far I was answered, that before we arrived in Ireland I had a satisfactory evidence in my own mind of the truth of the gospel, as considered in itself, and its exact suitableness to answer all my needs. I saw that, by the way there pointed out, God might declare, not his mercy only, but his justice also, in the pardon of sin, on account of the obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ. I stood in need of an Almighty Sayiour, and such a one I found described in the New
Testament. Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvellous thing. I was no longer an infidel. I heartily renounced my former profaneness; I had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers. I was sorry for my past mispent life, and purposed an immediate reformation: I was quite freed from the habit of swearing, which seemed to have been deeply rooted in me as a second nature. Thus, to all appearance, I was a new man.
But though I cannot doubt that this change, so far as it prevailed, was wrought by the Spirit and power of God; yet still I was greatly deficient in many respects. I was, in some degree, affected with a sense of my more enormous sins, but I was little aware of the innate evils of my heart. I had no apprehension of the spirituality and extent of the law of God. The hidden life of a Christian, as it consists in communion with God by Jesus Christ, and a continual dependence on him for hourly supplies of wisdom, strength, and comfort, was mystery, of which I had as yet no knowledge. I acknowledged the Lord's mercy in pardoning what was past, but depended chiefly upon my own resolution to do better for the time to come. christian friend or faithful minister to advise me that my strength was no more than my righteousness; and though I soon began to inquire for serious
I had no