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Restoration with all my might, and sometimes preachched publicly against it with all the force I could musGieter. Yet there was something in its favor that gained gradually upon my mind, and sometimes brought me to be almost willing to embrace it I plainly saw that it would reconcile almost, if not quite, all diffi culties of other systems; and I thought if I should ever receive it, I should be able to preach much ea sier, and more freely than ever, and with far greater satisfaction, which by experience, I have since found to be true. The ideas were sometimes so transporting to me, even while I professed to oppose the sen timent, that I have been constrained to set them forth in the most sublime manner that I was able; and sometimes so as actually to bring them who heard me Converse upon the subject to believe and rejoice in the Universal Restoration, while I thought myself an opposer of it, and only proposed the arguments in its favor to see what effect they would have on such who never heard them before. And I was often carried away before I was aware, even while I intended only to let my friends hear what might be said. I remember once, while I was at my father's table in the year 1789, that I mentioned the doctrine of the Restoration, and finding that none in the company had ever so much as heard of such a scheme, I began to hold it forth, produced many arguments in its favor, brought up many objections, answered them in such a manner as astonished all present, and I was amazed at myself, I spoke with so much ease and readiness as I had hardly ever experienced before on any occasion.— Nay, I was so much animated with the subject that I said, That I did not doubt but that in sixty years time, that very doctrine would universally be preached, and generally embraced in that very country, and would certainly prevail over all opposition.
This discourse made a greater impression upon the minds of those who heard it, and upon my own also, than I intended; and though I afterwards used the best arguments I could in favour of the common opinarguments
ion, yet I found them insufficient wholly to remove the effects of what I had before said.
After spending about twelve months in the most delightful manner, constantly journeying and preaching with great success, to vast multitudes of people in my native country, I set off with intention to return towards South-Carolina. On the way I tarried some time at the Rev. Mr. Samuel Waldo, in Pawlings Precinct, State of New-York, whose kind and friendly behaviour towards me I remember with pleasure, and mention with gratitude. I had a great deal of very agreeable conversation with him upon the matter, and he did not seem to oppose the ideas hardly at all; but only gently cautioned me against receiving any thing erroneous. He is a man of a most excellent spirit, and his family was upon the whole the most delightful, agreeable and happy family that I ever knew. While I was at his house one of his children, then about twenty years of age, seemed fully convinced of the truth of the doctrine, by listening to our conversation, and was filled with great joy at the idea.— Several religious men who were on a journey, lodged at the house while I was there, got a hint of the matter, and wished to hear all that I could say in defence of it; I accordingly gave them some of the principal arguments in its favour, and obviated some of the most capital objections that could be brought against it; and I afterwards overheard them wishing that they had not been so curious as to have inquired so far into the subject, for they could not resist the arguments, although they seemed resolved to treat the sentiments
as an error.
In this state of mind, half a convert to the doctrine of the Restoration, I arrived in the city of Philadelphia, on the 7th of October, 1789. I intended to have left the city in a few days, and to have gone on towards South-Carolina, but the Baptist Church being destitute of a minister, they invited me to stop and preach with them, to which I was at length persuaded, and for sometime I was much followed, and there
were great additions to the Church. The congregations increased in such a manner, especially on Sunday evenings, that our place of worship, though large, would by no means contain them; at length leave was asked by some of my friends for me to preach in the church of St. Paul, in that city, which was granted. This was one of the largest houses of worship in Philadelphia, and equal in bigness to most of the churches in London. I think I preached there about eighteen sermons, and generally to very crowded audiences, frequently more than could possibly get into the house; most of the clergy of every denomination in the city, heard me there, and many thousands of different people. I am inclined to think, that I never preached to so many before nor since as I did sometimes in that house, and with almost universal approbation. But now the time of my trouble and casting down came on, and thus it was.
Soon after I arrived in the city I had enquired of some friend for The Everlasting Gospel, which I could not light on for some time, but they lent me Mr. Stonehouse's book upon the Restitution of all Things, which I had never seen, nor heard of before; this very learned work I read with great care, and his reasoning, arguments, and scripture proof seemed to me entirely satisfactory.
The friends who procured me the works of Mr. Stonehouse, were concerned at my having an inclination to read any ing upon such a subject; nevertheless, though there were several of them with whom I conversed pretty freely upon the matter, and who knew of my reading Mr. Stonehouse's works, yet they behaved in so friendly a manner towards me, that they never mentioned a word of it to any, until by other means it came to be known and talked of.
In the house where I lodged, when I first came to the city, I had, in the freedom of conversation, and with some appearance of joy,expressed myself in general terms upon the subject, but always in the exact words of Scripture, or in such a manner as this, viz.
That I could not help hoping that God would finally bring every knee to bow and every tongue to swear; and that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth; and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess JESUS CHRIST to be Lord to the glory of God the Father. And that I hoped, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather togather in one all things in CHRIST, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, &c.
Such passages as these I mentioned in this manner, hoping that they would be fulfilled. The people of the house seemed surprised, and asked me if I believed so; I answered, "That sometimes I could not help hoping that it might be so." I could hardly have imagined among friends, that any danger could have arisen from my expressing a hope that the Scriptures were true.
However these false friends told a minister, whom for a number of years 1 had esteemed as my best and most intimate friend, that I was turned heretic, and believed the doctrine of the Universal Restoration, and desired him to convince me. Some time after he met with me in the street, and in a very abrupt manner told me, that he had wanted to see me for some time, that he might give me a piece of his mind; that he had been informed by such a person, that I was inclined to the doctrine of the Universal Restoration, and then, instead of using any argument to convince me, or taking any method for my recovery, added this laconic speech, "If you embrace this sentiment, I shall no longer own you for a brother." And he has hitherto been as good as his word, having never written nor spoken to me from that day to this; and when I have since offered to shake hands with him, he has refused; and yet he was one whom I esteemed above any other on earth, as a hearty, sincere, longtried, and faithful friend. If my intimate friend treated me in such a manner, what had I not to expect from my open and avowed enemies?
I now foresaw the storm, and I determined to prepare for it, not by denying what I had said, but by examining and determining for myself, whether the sentiment was according to Scripture or not. If I found that it was not, I was determined to retract, but if it was, to hold it fast, let the consequences be what they might. I had now no time to lose, I expected in a short time to be called to an account, and examined respecting this doctrine, and obliged either to defend or deny it; I was already too well persuaded that it was true, to do the latter without hesitation, and yet not sufficiently for the former. For this purpose, I shut myself up chiefly in my chamber, read the Scriptures, and prayed to God to lead me into all truth, and not suffer me to embrace any error; and I think that with an upright mind, I laid myself open to believe whatever the Lord had revealed. It would be too long to tell all the teachings I had on this head; let it suffice, in short, to say, That I became so well persuaded of the truth of the Universal Restoration, that I was determined never to deny it, let it cost me ever so much, though all my numerous friends should forsake me, as I expected they would, and though I should be driven from men, and obliged to dwell in caves or dens of the earth, and feed on wild roots and vegetables, and suffer the loss of all things, friends, wealth, fame, health, character, and even life itself. The truth appeared to me more valuable than all things, and as I had found it, I was determined never to part with it, let what would be offered in exchange.
I had now formed my resolution, and was determined how to act when the trial came. Hitherto I had said nothing about the Restoration in public, and but little in private; but I preached up the death of Christ, and salvation for mankind through him, without restriction. This free manner of preaching gave offence to some, who came to hear me no more. On the evening of the 22d of January 1781, a number of the members of the church, who had heard that I held