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but does real good to none; and is in fact a specious and unsuspected kind of Antinomianism.
About this time I foolishly engaged in a course of diversion and visiting, more than I had done since my ordination: this unfitted me for secret prayer and close meditation, and rendered the Scriptures, and other religious studies, insipid and irksome to me, (a never-failing consequence of every vain compliance with the world.) For a season, therefore, my ardour was damped, my anxiety banished, and my enquiries retarded. was not, however, permitted entirely to drop my religious pursuits: generally I made it a rule to read something in the Scriptures every day, and to perform a task of daily devotion; but in both I was very formal and lifeless.
Yet not long after, I was engaged in earnest meditation on our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus (John iii.) I felt an anxious desire to understand this interesting portion of Scripture; especially to know what it was to be " born again," or "born of the Spirit," which in five verses our Saviour hath three times declared absolutely necessary to salvation. I was convinced it was absurd to suppose that such strong expressions implied no more than baptism with water. Tillotson's controversial sermons on this subject afforded me no satisfaction. Some great and total change I supposed to be intended, not only in the behaviour, but also in the heart.
But not having
clearly experienced that change, I could not un
derstand in what it consisted.
offered some poor prayers for
undertook to preach upon it:
divine teaching, I but I talked very
darkly, employed a considerable part of my time in declaiming against visionaries and enthusiasts, and reaped very little benefit from it. Yet I was so well satisfied with my performance, that, in the course of my correspondence with Mr.
I sent him these sermons for his perusal: and he, in return, sent me some of his own upon the same subject. But, though sincerely desirous to understand our Lord's meaning in this important point, I was too proud to be taught by him; I cast my eye therefore carelessly over some of them, and returned the manuscript, without closely attending to any thing contained in it.
Nothing material occurred after this, till the next spring, 1776: when I was induced, by what I had learned from Bishop Burnet, to establish a lecture once a week in one of my parishes, for expounding the Scriptures. This brought many passages, which I had not before observed, under my attentive consideration; and afforded my reflecting mind abundance of employment, in attempting to reconcile them with each other, and with my scheme of doctrine.
Little progress however, had been made, when in May 1776 I heard a dignified clergyman in a visitation-sermon recommend Mr. Soame Jennings's
View of the internal evidence of the Christian Re'ligion.' In consequence of this recommendation I perused it, and not without profit. The truth and importance of the gospel-revelation appeared, with convincing evidence, to my understanding, and came with efficacy to my heart by reading this book. I received from it more distinct, heartaffecting views of the design of God in this revelation of himself than I had before; and I was put upon much serious reflection, and earnest prayer to be led to, or established in, the truth concerning the nature and reality of the atonement by the death of Christ: for hitherto I had been in this respect a Socinian, or very little better.
But to counterbalance this advantage, Dr. Clarke's Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity,' and the controversy which ensued upon its publication, became a favourite part of my study. The Arian scheme is so inconsistent with reason, that when reflecting men, in order to avoid those mysterious and, as they imagine, unreasonable, conclusions, which, according to the true meaning of words, the Scriptures contain, have become Arians, it is wonderful they do not, for the same cause, embrace the Socinian system. This is the natural progress of unhumbled reason: from Arianism to Socinianism; from Socinianism to Deism; and thence to Atheism. Many and awful have been the examples of reasoning and learned men, who, under the name of Philosophers, arrogating to
themselves the prerogative of superior discernment, have manifested the propriety with which they claimed this pre-eminence, by treading this downhill road, almost, if not quite, to the very bottom.
But when a man has fallen so low as Socinianism, not merely for want of information, or by blindly and implicitly adopting the sentiments of other men, but by leaning to his own understanding, and preferring the conclusions of his own reason to the infallible dictates of the Holy Ghost; it is not common for him to return gradually, by the retrogade path, first to Arianism, and then to the received doctrine of the Trinity. Yet this was my case.-Dr. Clarke appeared to me so undeniably to establish his argument by express scriptural evidences, and so plausibly to defend his system on both sides, and to back his cause with so many seeming authorities; that I found myself unable any longer to maintain my Socinian principles, and was constrained to relinquish them as untenable: at the same time I was not aware of the flaw in his reasoning, and the unavoidable consequence of his middle doctrine; namely, 'that the Son and Holy Ghost, however exalted, or dignified with names and titles, must either be mere creatures, or that otherwise there must be three Gods.' Not perceiving this, and my newly acquired reverence for Scripture and my old self. confidence and fondness for reasoning being, by this conciliating scheme, both humoured; I cor
dially acceded to his sentiments, and for a long time could not endure any other doctrine.
Nothing further of any consequence occurred till about December 1776, when, carelessly taking up Mr. Law's Serious Call,' a book I had hitherto treated with contempt, I had no sooner opened it, than I was struck with the originality of the work, and the spirit and force of argument with which it is written. I mean merely as to his management of the subjects he treats of: for there are many things in it, that I am very far from approving; and it certainly contains as little gospel as any religious work I am acquainted with. But, though a very uncomfortable book, to a person who is brought under a serious concern for his soul, and deep convictions of sin; it is very useful to prepare the way, to shew the need we have of a Saviour, and to enforce the practice of that holy diligence in the use of means, which the important interests of eternity reasonably demand. This was its use to me. By the perusal of it I was convinced that I was guilty of great remissness and negligence; that the duties of secret devotion called for far more of my time and attention, than had been hitherto allotted to them; and that, if I hoped to save my own soul, and the souls of those that heard me, I must in this respect greatly alter my conduct, and increase my diligence in seeking and serving the Lord. From that time I began to study in what manner my de