« السابقةمتابعة »
it was continued in the interchange of nine or ten letters, till December the same year. Throughout I held my purpose, and he his. I made use of every endeavour to draw him into controversy; and filled my letters with definitions, enquiries, arguments, objections, and consequences, requiring explicit answers. He, on the other hand, shunned every thing controversial as much as possible, and filled his letters with the most useful and least offensive instructions: except that now and then he dropped hints concerning the necessity, the true nature, and the efficacy of faith, and the manner in which it was to be sought and obtained; and concerning some other matters suited, as he judged, to help me forward in my enquiry after truth. But they much offended my prejudices, afforded me matter of disputation, and at that time were of little use to me.
This however, is certain, that through the whole of the correspondence, I disputed, with all the arguments I could devise, against almost every thing he advanced, and was very much nettled at many things he asserted. I read great part of his letters, and some books which he sent me, with much indifference and contempt. I construed his declining controversy into an acknowledgment of weakness, and triumphed in many companies as having confuted his arguments. And finally when I could not obtain my end, at my instance the correspondence was dropped,
His letters and my answers are now by me; and on a careful perusal of them, compared with all I can recollect concerning this matter, I give this as a faithful account of the correspondence. His letters will, I hope, shortly be made publick, being such as promise greater advantage to others, than, through my proud contentious spirit, I experienced from them. Mine deserve only to be forgotten, except as they are useful to me to remind me what I was, and to mortify my pride: as they illustrate my friend's patience and candour in so long bearing with my ignorance and arrogance; and notwithstanding my unteachable quarrelsome temper, continuing his benevolent labours for my good and especially as they remind me of the goodness of God, who, though he abominates and resists the proud, yet knows how to bring down the stout heart, not only by the iron rod of his wrath, but by the golden sceptre of his grace.
Thus our correspondence and acquaintance were for a season almost wholly broken off: for a long time we seldom met, and then only interchanged a few words on general topicks of conversation. Yet he all along persevered in telling me, to my no small offence, that I should accede one day to his religious principles, that he had stood on my ground, and that I should stand on his and he constantly informed his friends, that though slowly, I was surely, feeling my way to the knowledge of the truth. So clearly could he
discern the dawnings of grace in my soul, amidst all the darkness of depraved nature and my obstinate rebellion to the will of God.
This expectation was principally grounded on my conduct in the following circumstance. Immediately after the commencement of our correspondence, in May, 1775, whilst my thoughts were much engrossed by some hopes of preferment, one Sunday, during the time of divine service, when the psalm was named, I opened the prayerbook to turn to it: but, (accidentally shall I say, or providentially?) I opened upon the articles of religion; and the eighth, respecting the authority and warrant of the Athanasian creed, immediately engaged my attention. My disbelief of the doctrine of a Trinity of coequal persons in the unity of the Godhead, and my pretensions to candour, had both combined to excite my hatred to this creed; for which reasons I had been accustomed to speak of it with contempt, and to neglect reading it officially. No sooner therefore did I read the words, 'That it was to be thoroughly received, and believed; for that it might be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture, than my mind was greatly impressed and affected. The matter of subscription immediately occurred to my thoughts; and from that moment I conceived such scruples about it, that, till my view of the whole system of christianity was entirely changed, they remained insuperable.
It is wisely said by the son of Sirach, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation.' I had twice before subscribed these articles, with the same religious sentiments I now entertained. But conscience being asleep, and the service of the Lord no part of my concern, I considered subscription as a matter of course, a necessary form, and very little troubled myself about it. But now, though I was greatly influenced by pride, ambition, and the love of the world; yet my heart was sincerely towards the Lord, and I dared not to venture on a known sin, deliberately, for the sake of temporal interest. Subscription to articles which I did not believe, paid as a price for church-preferment, I began to look upon as an impious lie, a heinous guilt, that could never truly be repented of without throwing back the wages of iniquity. The more I pondered it, the more strenuously my conscience protested against it. At length, after a violent conflict between interest and conscience, I made known to my patron my scruples, and my determination not to subscribe: thus my views of preferment were deliberately given up, and with an increas ing family I was left, as far as mere human prudence could discern, with little other prospect than that of poverty and distress. My objections to the articles were, as I now see, groundless: much self-sufficiency, undue warmth of temper, and obstinacy were betrayed in the management
of this affair, for which I ought to be humbled: but my adherence to the dictates of my conscience, and holding fast my integrity in such trying circumstances, I never did, and I trust. never shall, repent.
No sooner was my determination known than I was severely censured by many of my friends. They all, I am sensible, did it from kindness, and they used arguments of various kinds, none of which were suited to produce conviction. But, though I was confirmed in my resolution by the reasonings used to induce me to alter it, they at length were made instrumental in bringing me to this important determination; not so to believe what any man said, as to take it upon his authority; but to search the word of God with this single intention, to discover whether the articles of the church of England in general, and this creed in particular, were, or were not, agreeable to the Scriptures. I had studied them in some measure before, for the sake of becoming acquainted with the original languages, and in order thence to bring detached texts to support my own system; and I had a tolerable acquaintance with the historical and preceptive parts of them: but I had not searched this precious repository of divine knowledge, with the express design of discovering the truth in controverted matters of doctrine. I had very rarely been troubled with suspicions that I was or might be mistaken: and I now rather