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struction and salvation of the world. I saw them building schools and chapels, and supplying them with teachers and preachers. I saw them printing books, and tracts, and Bibles, and spreading them abroad in all directions. I saw them founding libraries and reading-rooms, and young men's Christian associations, and ladies' sewing societies. I saw them sending out missionaries abroad, and carrying on a multitude of beneficent operations at home. I asked for the schools and libraries, the books and periodicals, the halls of science and the missionary operations of the enemies of Christianity; but they were nowhere to be found. They talked about education, but instructed no one. They talked about science, but did nothing for its spread or its advancement. They abused Christians for neglecting men's temporal interests, but did nothing to promote men's earthly happiness themselves. They found fault with Sunday-schools, and talked of the faults of Christians, but never corrected their own. They talked of liberty, and practised tyranny. They complained of intolerance, yet followed such as renounced their society, or questioned their views, with the bitterest reproaches, and the most heartless persecution. They talked of reform, but sowed the seeds of rebellion, anarchy, and unbounded licentiousness.
The Christians had the advantage over their adversaries even in outward appearance. They were cleaner and better clad, and were more orderly in their deportment. There was quite a contrast between the crowds of Christians that passed along the streets to their places of worship, and the knots of Godless, Christless men who strolled along, or sat in their doors, in their dirty clothes, with their unwashed faces, smoking their pipes, or reading their filthy papers. There was a contrast between Christian congregations and infidel meetings. One had the appearance of purity and elevation; while the other had the stamp of pollution and degradation. Irreligion seemed the nurse of coarseness and barbarism. Some of the secularists actually argued against civilization, as Rousseau had done before them. One of them reprinted Burke's ironical work in favor of the savage state, and sent it to me for review, and was greatly offended because I refused to recommend it as a sober, serious, philosophical treatise to my readers.
It was plain that there was something wrong in infidelity; that its tendency was to vice and depravity; while Christianity, whether it was divine in its origin or not, was evidently the friend and benefactor of our race.
In 1862, some friends of mine at Burnley, who had built a public hall there, engaged me as their lecturer. The parties were unbelievers, but they were opposed to the advocates of unbounded license. They were favorable to morality, and wished to have an association that should embody what they thought good in the Church, without being decidedly religious. They wished to have music and singing at the Sunday meetings, and to limit public discussion to the week-night meetings. They also wished to have Sunday-schools, day-schools, reading-rooms, and libraries. We had come to the conclusion that the Christians were right on the whole in their way of conducting their public meetings, and we were resolved to imitate them as far as we honestly could. And here I lived and labored for more than a year. We did not succeed however so well as we had expected. Our singers, and musicians, and Sundayschool teachers had no high and powerful motive to keep them regularly at their posts, so that whenever a strong temptation came to lure them away, they ran from their tasks, and left me and another or two to toil alone. We then formed a Church, and made laws, thinking to keep our associates to their duty in that way. But this made matters worse. Their fancies and pleasures were their laws, and they would obey no other. Most of our teachers left, and I and a friend or two had to teach the school ourselves. My friends established a day-school, and hired a teacher; but he turned out to be an unbounded license man; he brought with him, in fact, an unmarried woman instead of his wife, and they found it necessary to get rid of him as soon as they could.
All the time I was at Burnley my heart first, and then my head, were coming nearer and nearer to Christ and Christianity. I gradually gave up. my opposition both to religion and to the churches. The last lecture in which I gave utterance to anything unfavorable to the Bible was one on Noah's flood. I spoke on the subject by request, and against my inclination, and before I had got half through
I began to feel unutterably dissatisfied with myself. I was really unhappy. From that time forward I dwelt chiefly on moral subjects, and often took occasion to speak favorably of the Bible and Christianity. I tried to explain what was dark, and to set forth what was manifestly true and good in their teachings.
I lectured on the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs, on the beauty of Christ's character, and on the excellency of many of His doctrines, on the advantages of faith in Christ, and on the follies and vices of infidel secularism, and on quite a number of other Christian subjects.
My younger son came to reside at Burnley while I was there, and we had frequent talks as we walked together along the fields and lanes, and over the neighboring hills; and this also helped to bring me nearer to Christ and His Church. I read the works of Epictetus at this time, and my faith in God and immortality, and my love of virtue too, were strengthened by his reasonings.
About the same time a person wrote to me to go and lecture at Goole. I went. No subject had been named to me, and I resolved to speak in favor of the leading practical principles of Christianity. When I got to Goole, I found that the man who had invited me had put up a bill, calling on his neighbors and fellow-townsmen to come and hear the triumphant opponent of Christianity demolish their religion. I told him he should not have put forth a bill like that,―that I was not an opponent of Christianity,that I was not an enemy of the churches,-that I had no desire to demolish religion,—that I wished to bring people to cherish and practise the leading principles of Christianity. This rather puzzled and distressed him; but notwithstanding his disappointment, he would have me lecture. The meeting was out of doors. I soon had a large audience. I quickly undeceived such as had come expecting to hear me vilify the Bible, the churches, or religion. I spoke in the highest terms of Christ and His teachings. I showed that many of them were the perfection of wisdom and goodness. I spoke of the causes of human wretchedness, and showed that obedience to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles would remove them all. Many things that I said, and especially some remarks I made on domestic duties
MY FIRST PRAYER. THE RESULT.
and domestic happiness, went home to the hearts of my hearers. Not a murmur was heard from any quarter. Men nudged each other, and women looked in each others' faces, and all gave signs that they felt the truth of my remarks, and the wisdom of my counsels, and the meeting ended as satisfactorily as could be desired.
It was while I was living at Burnley that I began again to pray. A young atheist died, and I was invited to his funeral, and requested to speak at his grave. When we got to the cemetery the little chapel was occupied by another company, and we had to wait some time for our turn. My mind was in a sad and solemn mood, and I left my party and wandered to the farther end of the cemetery. It was a bright and beautiful day in April. The grass was springing fresh and green, and the hawthorn buds were opening, and everything seemed full of life, and big with promise. The sun was shining in all his glory. The thrushes and the blackbirds were singing in the surrounding groves and thickets, and the larks were pouring forth their melody in the air. Yet all was dark and sorrowful within. I felt the misery of unbelief, yet felt myself unable to free myself from its horrible and tormenting power. I had a growing conviction that I was the slave of a vicious method of reasoning, and of an inveterate habit of unreasonable or excessive doubt, and that I had not the power to do God and Christianity justice. I felt as if I ought to pray, but something whispered, "It is irrational.' No matter, I could refrain no longer and lifting up my tearful eyes to heaven I exclaimed, "God help me." He did help me. He strengthened my struggling soul from that hour, and gave to the good within me a growing power over the evil. I dried my tears and returned to my party. I spoke at the poor young Atheist's grave, and concluded my address with the following prayer, "May trust in God, and the hope of a better life, and the love of truth and virtue, and delight in doing good, remain with all who have them, and come to all who have them not. Amen.'
The gentleman with whom I had lived at Burnley had said to me on the morning of that very day, that if I prayed at the funeral he should never think well of me more. He afterwards said. when he heard of the prayer I had offered,
he had no objection to a prayer like that. He was not aware of the shorter prayer that I had offered when alone, or he would have spoken probably in another strain. He was dreadfully opposed to religion, and very uneasy when he saw me moving in the direction of Christianity.
Among the friends who left the church on account of my expulsion, was Samuel Methley, of Mirfield, near Huddersfield. He was rather eccentric in some respects; but he was an honest, earnest, kind, and Christian man. He had had little or no school instruction, and he had nothing that could be called learning, or high intellectual culture; but he was a man of great faith, of much love, and much prayer. His affection and reverence for me were almost unbounded, and so long as I continued a believer in Christ, he was ready to go with me any lengths in Evangelical reform. When I ran into politics he was somewhat staggered, but followed me as far as he durst. When I began to be skeptical he stood still, afraid, and very unhappy. On one occasion he ventured to rebuke me; but I knew that the rebuke was the offspring of affection, and I took it quietly. When I went to America he was greatly distressed, and prayed for me most anxiously and earnestly. When he found I had become an unbeliever, he resolved never to go near a meeting of mine again, and prayed to God to help him to keep his resolution. For many years he tried to wean himself from me, to extinguish his passionate regard for me; but whenever he found that I was to lecture in his neighborhood, he lost his self-control, and came, though with reluctance, and many misgivings, to my meetings. He generally rose after my lectures, to protest against my extravagances, and to testify his uncontrollable affection for me, and his anxious desire for my salvation. To do otherwise than take his remarks in good part was impossible. Poor, dear, good man! I little thought at the time how much distress and pain I was causing him. When he found that I was coming back to Christ, he was joyful beyond measure. When he heard me preach on true religion, he was in transports. At a meeting that followed, he spoke with so much feeling and fervor, that I was obliged to try to check him a little, for fear the violence of his excitement should injure his feeble