No treasures, nor pleasures,
Can make us happy long;
The heart ay's the part ay

That makes us right or wrong."

And my heart was out of tune, and tended to put everything around me out of tune.



My parents were Methodists of the strictest kind, and they did their utmost to make their children Methodists. And they were very successful. They had eleven children, ten of which became members of the Methodist Society before they were twenty years of age; and even the odd one did not escape the influence of religion altogether.

I was a believer in God and Christ, in duty and immortality, from my earliest days. And my faith was strong. Things spiritual were as real to me as things natural. Things seen and things unseen, things temporal and things eternal, formed one great whole,-one solemn and boundless universe. I lived and breathed in a spiritual world.

My parents were rigorously consistent. They were true Christians. They not only talked, but looked and lived as persons who felt themselves in the presence of a great and holy God, and in the face of an awful eternity; and the influence of their godly life, and daily prayers, and solemn counsels fell on me with a power that was irresistible.

If the doctrine taught me in my early days had been the doctrine of Christ, and the doctrine of Christ alone, in a form adapted to my youthful mind, the probability is, that I should have grown up to manhood, and passed through life a happy, useful and consistent Christian. But I was taught other doctrines. Though my father and mother taught me little but what was Christian, doctrines were

[ocr errors]


taught me by others that shocked both my reason and sense of right. I was taught, among other things, that in consequence of the sin of Adam, God had caused me to come into the world utterly depraved, and incapable, till I was made over again, of thinking one good thought, of speaking one good word, or of doing one good deed. I felt that I did think good thoughts, and that I had good feelings, and that I both said and did good things. But this I was told was a great delusion:-that nothing was good, and that nothing was pleasing to God, unless it came from faith in Christ. But I had faith in Christ. I believed in Him with all my heart.. I had believed in Him from the first. The answer was that I had believed with a common kind of faith, but that it was another kind of faith that was necessary to salvation, and that whatsoever did not spring from this other kind of faith, was sin. And I was given to understand, that if I thought otherwise, it was because of the naughtiness of my heart, which, I was told, was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. What this other kind of faith was, I did not know, and could not learn. I was then told that the natural man could not understand the things of the Spirit, and that before I could understand them, I must experience a change from nature to grace; all of which was past my comprehension. I was then informed that I must wait till God revealed those things unto me by His Spirit. But this made the matter no plainer.

I was further taught, that I was, in some way, answerable for Adam's sin,-that God made Adam the federal head of all mankind, and that all were bound by what he did;—that if he had done right, all would have come into the world pure, and good, and happy, and sure of eternal life; but that through his sin, we were all born, not only utterly depraved, but guilty and liable to eternal damnation.

Then followed strange things about satisfaction to offended justice, trust in Christ's merits and righteousness, justification, regeneration, and sanctification, all mysteries as dark to me as night.

Some time after, I found in my Catechism the doctrine of God's absolute and infinite fore-knowledge, the doc



trine that from eternity God knew who should be saved and who should be lost. This gave me the most terrible shock of all. It was plain that my doom was fixed forever. For if it was certainly foreknown, it must be unchangeably fixed.

These dreadful doctrines filled me with horror. They all but drove me mad. For a time, when I was about eight or nine years old, they did drive me mad. They were more than my nature could bear. I felt that if things were as these doctrines represented them to be, the ways of God were horribly unjust. And as I could do no other than believe the doctrines, my whole soul rose in rebellion against God. I supposed, as a matter of course, that I should be sent to hell for my rebelliousness; still I rebelled. It seemed a dreadful thing that God should hang one's. eternal destiny on things that were not in one's own power. I thought that if people could not do all that God required of them, He ought to allow them to fall back into their original nothingness. My mind especially revolted against the arrangement which God was said to have made with Adam, and the terrible consequences entailed thereby on his posterity. To bring men into being, and force them to live on forever, and at the same time to hang their eternal destiny on another, or on something beyond their power, seemed dreadfully unjust. I felt that every man ought to be allowed a fair trial for himself, and to stand or fall by his own doings. And nothing could make me feel that I was really answerable for the sin of Adam, any more than that Adam was answerable for my sins. And how God could impute one man's sin to another, was past all comprehension. And I felt, that if matters were managed as they were represented to be, the government of the universe was not right.

[ocr errors]

But supposing that God had a right to do as He pleased, and not knowing that He was so good that it was impossible that He should ever please to do wrong, I suffered in silence. But I often said to myself, 'God does not deal fairly with mankind,' and my feelings towards Him were anything but those of love and gratitude. So far was I from feeling any obligation to Him, that I looked on my existence as a tremendous curse, and I would gladly have

consented to undergo any amount of torment, for any length of time short of eternity, for the privilege of being allowed to return to my original nothingness. The thought that even this was too much to be hoped for, that it was fixed unchangeably that I must live on forever, and that there was but one dark path, which I might never be able to find, by which I could escape the unbounded and unending torments of hell, darkened all the days of my early youth, and made me exceedingly miserable. Some kind of blind unbelief, or a partial spiritual slumber at length came over me, and made it possible for me to live. But even then my life was anything but a happy one.

I cannot give the story of my life at length; but I afterwards got over the difficulties of my early creed, or exchanged the blasphemous horrors of theology for the teachings of Christ, and became a cheerful, joyous Christian, and a happy and successful Christian minister.

As I have said in Chapter fourteenth, I regarded the Bible as the Word of God from my early childhood. I believed every word to be true, and every command to be binding. My faith, at first, rested on the testimony of my parents and teachers, and of those among whom I lived. Every one I heard speak of the Book, spoke of it as divine, and the thought that it might be otherwise did not, that I remember, ever enter my mind. This my hereditary faith in the Bible was strengthened by the instinctive tendencies of my mind to believe in God, and in all the great doctrines which the book inculcated.

The first attempt to prove the divinity of the Bible, of which I have any recollection, was made by my mother, while I was yet a child. What led her to make the attempt I do not remember. It might be some perplexing question that I had asked her; for I used to propose to her puzzling questions sometimes. Her argument was,-'Bad men could not write such a book, and good men would not. It must therefore, have been written by God.' Another argument that I remember to have heard in those days was,- No man would write the Bible who did not know it to be true; because it tells liars that their portion will be in the lake of fire and brimstone.' There was also an impression among such people as my parents, that the Bible was so



good a book, and that it wrought with such a blessed power upon their souls, that it was impossible it should be written by any one but God. The last had probably the greatest effect upon their minds. Then they found in the Bible so many things in harmony with their best affections, their moral instincts, and their religious feelings, that they felt as if they had proof of its heavenly origin in their own souls. I came, at one period of my life, to look on these arguments with contempt. And it is certain, that to give them much force with men of logical habits, they would require qualification, and considerable illustration. But they are none of them so foolish as I once supposed. As for the last two, they are, when presented in a proper way, unanswerable.

There was another argument that was sometimes used, namely, that though the different portions of the Bible were written by persons of widely distant ages, of different occupations and ranks, and of very different degrees of culture, they all aim at one end, all bear one way, and all tend to make men good and happy to the last degree. This is a great fact, and when properly considered, may well be accepted as a proof that the Bible, as a whole, is from God.

What effect these arguments had on my mind in my early days, I do not exactly remember, but the probability is, that they helped to strengthen my instinctive and hereditary faith in the divine origin of the Bible.

This my instinctive and hereditary faith was a great and beneficent power, and would have proved an inestimable blessing, if it had been preserved unshaken through life. And I am sorry it was not. I have no sympathy with those who speak of doubt as a blessing, and who recommend people to demolish their first belief, that they may raise a better structure in its place. We do not destroy our first and lower life, to prepare the way for a higher spiritual life. Nor do we kill the body to secure the development of the soul. Nor do we extinguish our natural home affections, in order to kindle the fires of friendship, patriotism, and philanthropy. The higher life grows out of the lower. The lower nourishes and sustains the higher. At first we are little more than vegetables: then we become animals: then men; and last of all, sages, saints, and

« ForrigeFortsett »