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votions might be rendered more fervent and pertinent; transcribed, and committed to memory, scriptural petitions; I employed some time in reading manuals of devotion, made attempts to compose prayers myself, and became more frequent and earnest, and, I trust, more spiritual, than heretofore, in my secret addresses to the Majesty of heaven.
About this time, after many delays, I complied with the admonitions of my conscience, and disengaged myself from all other employments, with a solemn resolution to leave all my temporal concerns in the hands of the Lord, and entirely to devote myself to the work of the ministry. Being thus become master of all my time, I dropped every other study, and turned the whole current of my reflections and enquiries into another channel; and for several years I scarcely opened a book which treated of any thing besides religion.
The first step I took, after this disengagement, was to keep common-place books: one I had for noting down remarkable passages out of other authors; and another for collecting into one view every text I could meet with in Scripture, respecting the most important and controverted doctrines of the gospel. Though I held this but a short time, (for when my engagements multiplied I dropt it;) yet I found it very useful, in bringing me acquainted with many passages of the word of -God, to which I had not hitherto much attended;
and it prepared the way for penning my sermons, on doctrinal subjects, with the scriptural testimonies concerning the point in hand, in one view before me.
In January, 1777, I met with a very high commendation of Mr. Hooker's writings, in which the honourable appellation of Judicious was bestowed upon him. This excited my curiosity to read his works; which accordingly I did with great profit. In his Discourse of Justification,' (Edit. 1682, page 496,) I met with the following remarkable passage, which, as well for its excellency, as for the effect it had upon my religious views, I shall, though rather long, transcribe.'If our hands did never offer violence to our 'brethren, a bloody thought doth prove us mur'derers before him [God.] If we had never opened our mouth to utter any scandalous, of'fensive, or hurtful word, the cry of our secret cogitations is heard in the ears of God. If we 'did not commit the sins, which daily and hourly, in deed, word, or thoughts, we do commit; yet in the good things which we do, how many 'defects are there intermingled! God, in that 'which is done, respecteth the mind and intention ' of the doer. Cut off then all those things 'wherein we have regarded our own glory, those things which men do to please men, and to sa'tisfy our own liking; those things which we do by any respect, not sincerely, and purely for the
'love of God; and a small score will serve for 'the number of our righteous deeds. Let the 'holiest and best thing we do be considered:-we ' are never better affected unto God than when we pray ;—yet, when we pray, how are our af'fections many times distracted! how little reve'rence do we show unto the grand Majesty of 'God unto whom we speak! how little remorse 'of our own miseries! how little taste of the 'sweet influence of his tender mercies do we feel! 'Are we not as unwilling many times to begin, 'and as glad to make an end, as if in saying, "Call upon me," he had set us a very burthen'some task? It may seem somewhat extreme 'which I will speak; therefore let every one judge ' of it, even as his own heart shall tell him, and 'no otherwise. I will but only make a demand: 'if God should yield unto us, not, as unto Abra'ham, if fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea or if ten, good persons could be found in a city, for their
sakes the city should not be destroyed; but, and ' if he should make us an offer thus large:-Search 'all the generations of men, since the fall of our 'father Adam; find one man, that hath done one action, which hath passed from him pure, with' out any stain or blemish at all; and, for that
one only man's action, neither men nor angels 'shall feel the torments which are prepared for 'both do you think that this ransom, to deliver
men and angels, could be found to be among
'the sons of men? The best things, which we do have somewhat in them to be pardoned; how 'then can we do any thing meritorious, or worthy to be rewarded? Indeed God doth liberally promise whatsoever appertaineth to a blessed life to as many as sincerely keep his law, though they be not exactly able to keep it. Wherefore we acknowledge a dutiful necessity of doing 'well, but the meritorious dignity of doing well we utterly renounce. We see how far we are from the perfect righteousness of the law: the 'little fruit which we have in holiness, it is, God knoweth, corrupt and unsound: we put no confidence at all in it; we challenge nothing in the world for it; we dare not call God to reckoning, " as if we had him in our debt-books. Our conti'nual suit to him is, and must be, to bear with ' our infirmities, and pardon our offences.'
I had no sooner read this passage, than I acquired such an insight into the strictness and spirituality of the divine law, and the perfection which a just and holy God, according to that law, cannot but require in all the services of his reasonable creatures; that I clearly perceived my very best duties, on which my main dependance had hitherto been placed, to be merely specious sins; and my whole life appeared to be one continued series of transgression. I now understood the apostle's meaning, when he affirms, that "By "the works of the law can no flesh be justified
"before God." All my difficulties in this mat ter vanished; all my distinctions, and reasonings, about the meaning of the words law and justification, with all my borrowed criticisms upon them, failed me at once. I could no longer be thus amused; for I was convinced, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that all men were so notoriously transgressors of every law of God, that no man could possibly be justified in his sight by his obedience to any of the divine commandments. I was sensible that if God should call me into judgment before him, according to the strictness of his perfect law, for the best duty I ever performed, and for nothing else, I must be condemned as a transgressor: for when weighed in these exact balances, it would be found wanting. Thus I was effectually convinced, that, if ever I were saved, it must be in some way of unmerited mercy and grace, though I did not clearly understand in what way till long after. Immediately, therefore, I took for my text, Gal. iii. 22. "But the Scripture "hath concluded all under sin, that the promise,
by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them "that believe." And I preached from it according to Hooker's doctrine; expressing, as strongly as I could, the defilements of our best actions, and our need of mercy in every thing we do; in order the more evidently to shew that "salvation is of
grace, through faith;-not of works, lest any man should boast."