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sickened, I gave them up, without care or thought about their immoral tendency.
Then, turning to a change of books, with eagerness I read Shakspeare's Plays, and other dramatic works; Addison's Spectator, the Guardian, etc.; the works of Johnson, and others; and the British Poets. Still, however, when a ray of gospel light came across my mind in any way, I turned from it as from a reptile.
When between fourteen and fifteen years of age, my dearest grandmother sent me to learn to be a dress-maker, which occupation I followed for myself the year after, and diligently devoted to it the time required; whilst all times of relaxation were still given to books for self-gratification alone, for I was in my sin, dead to God; and even my active industry in earning my living, right as it was, and my bounden duty before him, was polluted in its motive, because in all my thoughts he was out, and the idol, self, reigned.
The daily sight of the Bible in the hands of my beloved grandmother brought reproof and a sting, which I could not conquer. On one occasion she was reading aloud, and I left the room unable to bear it. In a happier period afterwards, when asking if she ever despaired of my salvation, she told me she did not, but was ever enabled to hope in God and pray. Two Bibles, which had been my dear mother's, I removed from their place and hid, that they might not even meet my view; studiously avoiding whatever might bring God to my thoughts, in the idea, that should the Bible, after all, prove to be true, the less I knew of it, the better it would be for me.
There lived in our neighbourhood an old gentleman and his wife: the affectionate regard of the latter to me from my childhood, was met on my part with attachment and respect; but by the former my own prejudice and hatred to Divine truths were much strengthened and confirmed. I frequently conversed with him, and borrowed his books. He was a man of no ordinary ability, and used to apply passages of the Holy Scriptures profanely, and read different translations of the Holy Bible, for the purpose of discovering what he called "contradictions," and whilst scorning the Bible, would adopt an opinion of Voltaire, Shaftesbury, or Bolingbroke, as a standard of decision on truth or error.
In my nineteenth year I heard a sermon preached, which powerfully met my attention, from, "We persuade men," 2 Cor. v. 11. It was then that the Spirit of God sent a ray of light upon my guilty soul, slave of Satan, "fast bound in misery and iron." Stranger as I was to my Divine Teacher, this first lesson was distinctly impressed, that the religion of the Bible was a grand reality, and that I had been wrong. It was a fine summer Sunday: I had walked to the next town, Great Yarmouth, for mere pleasure, and entered the place of worship, where I heard the sermon, from common curiosity. In my walk home, reflecting on what I had heard, my mind was expanded with a sense of the Divine Majesty, and I spoke to my poor friend, the old gentleman before mentioned, as well as to others, with astonishment and admiration of what I had heard. He said, the novelty pleased me
and would wear off; whilst the answer of my heart was, I hope not; be it novelty or delusion, it is so precious I cannot part with it. However, for as long as six months after, I did not go to hear the preacher again, nor seek the Lord, nor give up the world in any way whatever; for, with my judgment convinced in a measure, my heart was untouched. In the autumn of 1810, I was led by my most merciful God to examine the great subject in earnest ; and I became convinced, not only of the truth of Divine revelation, but also that my own crime in having rejected it, embodied guilt capable of every possible manifestation, when not held back by God himself. By the light of the Divine Majesty, and by his law, I saw myself condemned, and I felt the justice of my condemnation; for not only had I violated that righteous and holy law, but I had added to it contempt of the blessed gospel, and rejection of the Son of God. And yet such was the pity of my God, and such his tenderness to me, that in the immediate disclosure of these my circumstances, he showed to me, as in the same glance, the Mediator Jesus Christ, my Saviour, and forgiveness through him.
For twelve months after this, my satisfaction was incomplete, and my happiness was held back, not knowing the extent of the promise, "If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up," Job xxii. 23; therefore with strong confidence in my own imaginary power, and supposing all the while that God required it of.me, I sought to advance, less by receiving from the fulness of Jesus, than by providing something to bring.
To this end I sought to satisfy my thirst for religious knowledge, by reading theological works. The Bible was indeed read formally, a few chapters daily, but not honoured as the supreme source of Divine knowledge; whilst my first expectation of advance was from religious books, to the reading of which late and early hours were devoted; and of every sermon I heard, I wrote an outline afterwards.
LIFE OF SARAH MARTIN.
About the close of this year, I became increasingly bowed down in spirit with heavy disappointment, toiling hard and reaping no fruit ; for in full acknowledgment and wonder at God's power, in the change which he had wrought in my thoughts, principles, and habits, I had yet believed that it was required of me to take a distinct part in carrying forward the work of religion in my own life: nor was I made happy, until, in Divine compassion, the Almighty removed my error, by making it known to me, that to uphold and prosper Divine life in principle, and in its fruits, was his sovereign prerogative, as exclusively belonging to the Holy Spirit, as the first movement of the soul from spiritual death and that in the plan of the salvation of a sinner, according to his eternal wisdom and purpose, was comprehended all I needed for persevering advance in godliness, as to knowledge and obedience. These happy views were suddenly opened to me whilst reading the ninth and eleventh of Romans. There seeing salvation, not in its commencement only, but from first to last, to be entirely of grace, I was made free; and looking upon a once crucified, but now glorified Saviour,
with no more power of my own than the praying thief had upon the cross, I also found peace. The declaration of Jesus Christ, "It is finished," was enough, and I was graciously given to understand, that contrition, love, and holiness, are the fruits of the Spirit, produced in a believer when looking unto Jesus. I read the chapters referred to much. On one memorable day, the words, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," were as heavenly music to my heart; for whilst experience had shown my utter destitution before God, I rejoiced to see my eternal salvation secure on the ground of God's free and sovereign mercy, and realized the blessed promise, "Thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away," Job xi. 16. The high assurance, that Christ was mine, and with him "all things," has never been withdrawn ; but in all I have been called to resist, or conquer, or endure, or suffer, it has been a light from God not to be obscured, ocean of comfort from the rock of my strength.
It now became my delight, not to read only, but to search the Scriptures, which still con firmed my happiness, showing that the immense demands of Divine justice on me had been answered by my incarnate God, who became my Surety, and was still my Counsellor, my Shepherd, my Friend, my Saviour. And now, indeed, I read the Bible with different views and different effects; for the attainment of that peace, which I sought in vain by my own power. I found to be the gift of God.