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those times, my father being determined to see what I was doing, came to me, and found me reading Fox's Acts and Monuments. William, cried he sternly, that is an heretical book, and you are pot arrived at a sufficient a
for de tecting the sophistry of those artful people. I desire you to read it no more. I promised that I would not; and indeed I could not, for it was conveyed away, and, as I find by one of my dear sister's letters, given to Mrs. Privet, at whose house she providentially came to the sight of it. The effect which it had upon me I kept a profound secret: Indeed I was still persuaded that, on the whole, our religion was the best and safest"; for I had found no protestant half so strict as my father and Signior Albino, or whom I thought half so good. Perhaps, so far as respects protestants in general, I was not much out in my judgment. : -5. After I had lost my old companion, I met with another book which caught my attention. This was the History of the Puritans. I had always been taught to consider the church of England as having departed the least of all the Reformed churches from the church of Rome, which I believe is the case. The sectaries I had considered in the same light as Mr. Law considers poor people, namely, as the scum of the earth; and I determined to read this book, in order that I might be confirmed in my prejudice against them. The reading of it, however, had a different effect from what I have expected. It taught me not to take up an opinion of persons and things upon trust. It likewise shook my self-righteousness and vain confidence ; for when I compared my formality with their piety, 1 perceived the difference to be inexpressibly in their favour. This caused me for the future to be more watchful of my words and actions, and more solemn in my prayers. But alas ! I found myself unable to be so spiritual and devout as I saw those persons to have been whom I had so much despised; and the more I watched over my thoughts, words, and actions, the worse I appeared to myself to be. My trouble of mind was very great. I knew not what course to take. I durst on no aecount mention any thing to my father, or Signior
Albino, or even to my sister, lest I should be accused of heresy. Nothing, however, was further from my thoughts than leaving the church of Rome ; on the contrary, I was forming many schemes how to become more holy, and more devoted to God, in that communion. I had thoughts of becoming a monk; nay, I even wished to renounce the world, and become a hermit; and with these sentiments I was sent nearly three years ago to the English college at St. Omer's. My father thought this a wise precaution for preserving me from heresy and heretics. But in a Catholic country I found religion at a low ebb indeed. The poor, I perceived, were either careless or grossly superstitious : and the rich in general were deists or atheists, and talked and lived as if religion was only designed for the vulgar. I was shocked to see plays acted on the Sunday, and the time of the people occupied by other diversions on that sacred day. I had seen nothing of this kind at home : popery therefore appeared to me in a more suspicious light abroad than it had done in my own country. I associated with very few persons; for I soon discovered that great professions of friendship meant nothing at all, and repeatedly wrote to my father that I was weary of the haunts of men. All this time I knew nothing of salvation by Jesus Christ. I had indeed many just and dreadful apprehensions that things were not right with me respecting my eternal concerns; but I felt my misery, without knowing the remedy.
My leisure hours I employed in botany, a study of which I am very fond. Being a good walker, I frequently went several miles round the country. At one of these times, being near Mount Cassel upon a botanizing excursion, I fell into the company of a gentleman who spoke English nearly as well as myself. He resided in that town, and after some conversation about England and America, and upon several other subjects, invited me to drink tea at his house, which invitation I accepted. This event I esteem the happiest in my life.
M. de Bethune, (for that was bis name,) a descendant of the prime minister of Henry IV, had resided more than
twenty years in America.. Having there obtained a competency by his industry, he determined to return with his family to France. Not, said he, that I in the least disliked my situation, the country, or the climate, except that the weather was sometimes extremely cold, and at other times too hot; but I bad an ardent desire once more to behold the place where I first drew my bveath, and to converse with my old friends and acquaintance. Alas! in twenty years the greatest part of them had passed out of time into eternity; and I had not been here more than a week, and taken a view of the haunts of my cbildhood, the house where I was brought up, and some other things, before I felt an anxiety to return: and not more than half a year elapsed before I actually formed the resolution of doing 80. My son, who is in his twenty-fifth year, came over with his wife, whom he had just married, not doubting but a person with money might find a profitable employment any where. In this however we were mistaken : nothing presented itself which he approved, although we went to Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, and Bourdeaux. In consequence of this disappointment he and his wife set sail for NewYork about a month since. He intends to travel through the States till he meets with a purchase to his mind, which · being done, I and his mother, and my two daughters that
you now see, intend to go to him. We did not accompany him, because a considerable part of our property is in France, which it is necessary for us to stay and collect to gether.
I have related these few particulars concerning a person to whom I am indebted, under God, for much more than my natural life; that knowledge with which eternal life is connected being far more valuable than mere existence. He is now returned to America. The day before my friends arrived at St. Omer's I had bidden farewell to him and his family. The thoughts of seeing each other no more in this world, were the occasion of much sorrow on both sides. He and his wife considered me almost as another son, and the children loved me like a brother.
Young gentleman, said he, at our first interview, you have told me that you are sent to St. Omer's to finish your education ; knowledge is undoubtedly excellent ; but'I wish to learn from your own mouth whether you possess that knowledge which is the most important. I was so unused to this kind of discourse, that I knew not how to reply. I therefore requested him to speak more intelligibly. My friend, answered he, you will one day die, and after death you will be either happy or miserable. What I ask you is, whether you have a good hope through grace that you will be eternally happy. I replied, that I took it very kindly that M. de Bethune should thus interest himself respecting me; and that I had had many thoughts on the subject, but was at present unprepared to answer such an important question. I added, that I should esteem it a very great favour if he would instruct me. My friend, said he, the Christian only has a well-founded hope of eternal life : and every Christian has that hope, either in a greater or smaller degree. Pray, sir, said I, are you a catholic or a protestant? A protestant, sir, replied he ; but I do not consider this as any proof of my being a Christian, or a true worshipper of God; there are many wicked protestants; you have undoubtedly seen such in your own country. To be a Christian is to be like Christ, and to be godly is to be like God. Read with care our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus. You will there learn, that except a man be born again, he not only cannot enter into the kingdom of God, but cannot see it. The world, said the apostle John, knoweth us not, because it knew him not. If the Jews had known the hidden wisdom of God, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory: but, their minds being perverted by sin, they turned his glory into shaines and cast out his name as evil, in like manner as they afterwards did the names of his followers.
This brought to my mind all that I had read of the servants of God who were burned in the time of queen Mary. The catholics who burned them, and the Jews who cruci. fied Christ, appeared to me to be persons of similar characters.
I then asked M. de Bethune, whether there had not been a visible church of Christ in all ages. Not visible, answered he, to the world. The world saw the men, but did not know the dignity of their character. And I must continue to maintain, that except a man be born again, he is an utter stranger to the church of Christ in general, and to every member of it in particular Our I ord promised that the gates of hell should not prevail against his church; but I think, Sir, you find, both in England and France, that the gates of hell do prevail against the majority of men called Christians, whatever be their denominations. The church of Christ, therefore, if he has a church upon earth, must be sought for, like any thing else that is hidden, or out of sight, until it be found.
These sentiments were new to me. If my hope of eternal life was weak before, it now entirely vanished. I had been educated in a belief that the church of Rome was the only true church of Christ, and that, all the promises of God being made to that church, I was safe in its bosom. The church of England, I knew, acknowledged the church of Rome to be a true church ; and I thought that she could not separate herself from a true church without committing schism, and that therefore all her members were in a state of condemnation. Upon reading, however, Fox's Acts and Monuments, I admired the disposition of the martyrs; and when I read the lives of the Puritans, I perceived in them a spirit which I was desirous of possessing. I sometimes thought that I could gladly have changed situation with them. These things occurred to my remembrance when I was conversing with M de Bethune.
I asked him where I must look for the church he had been speaking of. If, Sir, answered he, you have eyes you need not ask, this question ; and if you are blind, it is in vain to ask it. Still keep in mind the words of the Redeemer, Except a man, be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Gad; and again, Except a man br born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.