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I was now somewhat reformed in my outward conduct; but the renewing in the spirit of my mind if begun, was scarcely discernable. As my life was externally less wicked and ungodly, my heart grew more proud; the idol self was the object of my adoration and obeisance; my worldly advancement was more eagerly sought than ever; some flattering prospects seemed to open, and I resolved to improve my advantages to the uttermost. At the same time every thing tended to increase my good opinion of myself: I was treated with kindness and friendship by persons from whom I had no reason to expect it; my preaching was well received; my acquaintance seemed to be courted; and my foolish heart verily believed that all this and much more was due to my superior worth: while conscience, which, by its mortifying accusations, had been useful to preserve some sense of unworthiness in my mind, was now silenced, or seemed to authorize that pride which it had checked before. And, having the disadvantage of conversing in general with persons, who either favoured my sentiments, or who from good manners, or because they saw it would be in vain, did not contradict me; I concluded that my scheme of doctrine was the exact standard of truth, and that by my superior abilities I was capable of confuting or convincing all who were otherwise minded. In this view of the matter I felt an eager desire of entering into a religious
did not think any one, in the circle of my acquaintance, capable of giving me such information as I wanted. But being at length convinced that Mr. had been right, and that I had been mistaken, in the several particulars in which we had differed; it occurred to me, that having preached these doctrines so long, he must understand many things concerning them to which I was a stranger. Now therefore, though not without much remaining prejudice, and not less in the character of a judge than of a scholar, I condescended to be his hearer, and occasionally to attend his preaching, and that of some other ministers :and I soon perceived the benefit; for from time to time the secrets of my heart were discovered to me, far beyond what I had hitherto noticed; and I seldom returned from hearing a sermon, without having conceived a meaner opinion of myself; without having attained to a further acquaintance with my deficiencies, weaknesses, corruptions, and wants; or without being supplied with fresh matter for prayer, and directed to greater watchfulness. I likewise learned the use of experience in preaching; and was convinced, that the readiest way to reach the hearts and consciences of others, was to speak from my own. In short, I gradually saw more and more my need of instruction, and was at length brought to consider myself as a very novice in religious matters. Thus I began experimentally to perceive our Lord's
meaning, when he says, "Except ye receive the kingdom of God as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter therein." For, though my proud heart is continually rebelling, and would fain build up again the former Babel of self-conceit; yet I trust I have. from this time, in my settled judgment, aimed, and prayed to be enabled, to consider myself as a little child, who ought simply to sit at the Master's feet, to hear his words with profound submission, and wait his teaching with earnest desire and patient attention. From this time I have been enabled to consider those persons, in whom knowledge has been ripened by years, experience and observation, as fathers and instructors; to take pleasure in their company, to value their counsels, and with pleasure to attend their ministry.
Thus I trust the old building, I had purposed to repair, was pulled down to the ground, and the foundation of the new building of God laid aright; "Old things passed away, behold all "things were become new."-" What things
were gain to me, those I have counted loss for "Christ." My boasted reason I have discovered to be a blind guide, until humbled, enlightened, and sanctified, by the Spirit of God; my former wisdom foolishness; and that when I thought I knew much, I knew nothing as I ought to know. Since this period, every thing I have experienced, heard, or read; and every thing I observe around
controversy, especially with a Calvinist for many resided in the neighbourhood, and I heard various reports concerning their tenets.
It was at this time that my correspondence with Mr. commenced. At a visitation, May, 1775, we exchanged a few words on a controverted subject, in the room among the clergy, which I believe drew many eyes upon us. At that time he prudently declined the discourse; but a day or two after he sent me a short note with a little book for my perusal. This was the very thing I wanted: and I gladly embraced the opportunity which, according to my wishes, seemed now to offer; God knoweth, with no inconsiderable expectations that my arguments would prove irresistibly convincing, and that I should have the honour of rescuing a well meaning person from his enthusiastical delusions !
I had indeed by this time conceived a very favourable opinion of him, and a sort of respect for him, being acquainted with the character he sustained even among some persons, who expressed a disapprobation of his doctrines. They were forward to commend him as a benevolent, disinterested, inoffensive person, and a laborious minister. But on the other hand, I looked upon his religious sentiments as rank fanaticism; and entertained a very contemptible opinion of his abilities, natural and acquired. Once I had the curiosity to hear him preach; and not understanding his sermon, I
made a very great jest of it, where I could do it without giving offence. I had also read one of his publications; but for the same reason, I thought the greater part of it whimsical, paradoxical, and unintelligible.
Concealing therefore, the true motives of my conduct, under the offer of friendship, and a professed desire to know the truth, (which, amidst all my self-sufficiency and prejudice, I trust the Lord had even then given me ;) with the greatest affectation of candour, and of a mind open to conviction, I wrote him a long letter; purposing to draw from him such an avowal and explanation of his sentiments, as might introduce a controversial discussion of our religious differences.
The event by no means answered my expectation. He returned a very friendly and long answer to my letter; in which he carefully avoided the mention of those doctrines which he knew would offend me. He declared that he believed me to be one who feared God, and was under the teaching of his Holy Spirit; that he gladly accepted my offer of friendship, and was no ways inclined to dictate to me; but, that leaving me to the guidance of the Lord, he would be glad, as occasion served from time to time, to bear testimony to the truths of the gospel, and to communicate his sentiments to me on any subject, with all the confidence of friendship.
In this manner our correspondence began and