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ther ; though I do not do my duty, I must acknowledge he doth his, and I can't but value him for it; and that brute my sister, what can she be made of, that she should break with him for that which he does, and which we all ought to blush for not doing? I'll go and talk to her about it again ; sure I shall make her change her mad resolution.
All this was upon the discourse already related; and he bad by this little turning the thing in his thoughts, mightily possessed himself with the notion of serving and worshiping God, as a homage due to him, and a debt most reasonable to be paid.
The power of natural religion having gone thus far, he was prepared by it to have an awful reverence for the serious part of religion, and a love to those that practised it; and, as we have seen the profaneness and wickedness of his sister brought him to a horror of her practice; especially that kind of triumpbing in sin, which both she and he too had been always guilty of before: it is true, he was not yet brought to a sense of the nature of offending God, rebelling against divine love, the insulting sovereign mercy, and acting in opposition to the dominion of grace in the heart: in a word, he was not come to the two great fundamentals of religion, faith and repentance; but we shall soon see him advance.
The wicked and blasphemous answers his sister gave to every thing that he offered to say in defence of religion, filled him with horror; his soul abominated to see religion, the name and worship of God made a jest of, and the honour due to God bis Maker treated with contempt, and yet be owned bimself to be a creature void of all religion himself
, it was true that the pleading of religion was perfcctly casual to him, but his reason told him he was right; and it was a shock to his very understanding, at last to think, that he was then strongly pleading for what he did not practise.
Wherefore it often retorted upon him, even in their very
discourse, I am telling her of duty, what is her duty, and of her husband doing his duty; but what is my duty ? And why do I not inquire a little about that? This reflection brought that expression again from him,"mentioned a little before, p. 88, when he told her she had been preaching to him, and her words were as good as a sermon; for, says he, you have exposed the folly and brutality of an irreligious conversation so much, by your way of practising it, that I resolve from this time to ainend my life, &c. And this he repeated often to himself.
This I may venture to call a full conviction, and she gave him abundance of other occasions to increase it several times after the first ; for she talked so profanely, and had such horrid expressions, that I have not thought it proper to acquaint the mouths, especially of young readers, with the very sound of the words; it is enough to tell you, that she struck him with a kind of terror, to hear her blaspheme and insult her Maker; and he was carried to that length by it afterward, as to desire ber, as civilly as his passion would allow him, to leave his bouse, telling her
very plainly, that he could not suffer his Maker to be used at that rate in his hearing, or under his roof.
But the good knight, for such I may now begin to call him, received a wound from her in the beginning of his convictions that bad like to have proved mortal to his reformation, and to have driven him back to his former loose course of life, merely by despair.
This was when she told him, upon his saying he would pray for her, that he might as well let it alone, intimating that his prayers would not be heard ; for, says she, “the prayer of the wicked is an abomination,”. &c. See
. p. 88 . This expression, as it is observed there, was à stab to his heart, and be stopped in his discourse, looked pale, and his sister was frighted, thinking he would have fainted. He recovered, indeed, and talked a great while with he. But the arrow was shot into his vitals, and the poison drank up bis spirits; he hastened the disocurse with his sister, and
went away to have found her husband, as before; and this was the reason that made him so uneasy, when he found his brother-in-law was gone to London.
His trouble increased upon him some days, and brought him to a dangerous crisis ; he began disputing against his own peace, from the fatal text, as he called it, which that wicked instructor, bis sister, had preached upon, and he brought it to this dreadful conclusion :
I am a wicked creature, that is out of doubt, never was a worse, this wretched branch of my owo unhappy stem excepted, wicked beyond others. And to aggravate this character to himself, he reckons up its parts thus :- I am a common swearer, a common drunkard, a blaspbemer of the name of God, a despiser of all religion, that have lived in the omission of all that can be called duty, and in a general neglect of religion all my days. If I am.not included in the word wicked, then there is no wicked map in the world.
The premises being plain, the consequence is upon me, my prayer would be an abomination to God.
Why then, says he, I must not pray at all; and if I cannot pray, all my thoughts about religion are at a full stop; I am just where I was ; and here he mused awhile.
Just where I was, says he, and where is that? A rebel 10 God, a villain to a merciful Creator, a reprobate condemned to be so still; forbid to pray to God for mercy, against whom I bave behaved so wickedly; unworthy his mercy, and shut out from asking it.
At this dreadful period, this poor gentleman stopped short ; and having missed his friend, from whom he hoped to have had some comfort and direction, he came back very melancholy and dejected.
His disorder was visible to all the house ; his lady thought him not well; his servants thought him out of humour; his sister thought he was angry with her, wbich, by the way, made a downright quarrel afterwards; when the gentlemen came to see him, he cxcused himself as indisposed, just
spoke to them, and begged their pardon to retire: he went out no where, kept no company; in a word, he was given up to melancholy and despair.
It continued thus with him several days; during which time he had no assistance but from his own thoughts; however he oftentimes argued strongly with bimself, that certainly it did not consist with the merciful nature of God to forbid sinners to repent, and to forbid them, when they were penitent, to pray for forgiveness. But still as these were but reasonings within himself, and here was a positive scripture agaiost him, it overwhelmed all his arguments, and left bim always in the utmost discouragement.
Poor gentleman! He had no religious education; no instructions of ancient parents, which lie as a fund or magazine of directions; and though they sleep for many years, yet often revive to the consolation and direction of the returning prodigal: his parents had been all like himself, who bad bred him up as they had been bred themselves, more to good manners than to good principles, more to letters than to religion. Nay, so ignorant and so remote bad he been led on from any sacred knowledge, that the scripture, which is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge to the ignorant, the fountain of comfort, and the restorer of life to the oppressed mind, bad little effect here; he had but little of it in his head, and consequently little of.it could occur to him on a such a needful occasion.
However, as when God will speak to the heart, by his Spirit, he never wants a minister, so it happened here; this gentleman had some books, but not many, and fewer still of such books as were suitable to his present purpose: but ruminating upon these things one day in bis closet, he found an old, torn, dirty, imperfect book, written by he knew not who, and perhaps scarce ever looked upon in that place for many years, entitled, " The Excellency and Usefulness of Reading the Scriptures.”
The author, in pursuing bis discourse, tells a story of a man who was made to despair even to rage, and almost to
self-destruction, by reading the 15th verse of Isaiah i. and going no farther, whereas the very next verse would have comforted him, and did so it seems afterwards. The words of the 15th verse are thus: “ When you spread forth your hands, I will bide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” This put the poor man, says the story, into such a rage of despair, that on a sudden he threw his Bible into the fire, and run about with his hands lifted up in the air, crying out, he was cast off, was damned, was a reprobate, that God would not bear bis prayer, and that therefore it was to no purpose for him to pray at all. The story was so apposite to Sir Richard's case, that he flew to the Bible, and read the verse, with four verses before it, all to the same purpose, and had almost fallen into the same spare the poor man did, of whom the story was told, for he could not withhold his passion : but stopping at the verse, said to himself, Who can blame the poor man? My case is the same, just the same; and if the scripture is to be believed, I am undone.
He kept the little old torn book in his hand; and though he was under an inexpressible concern, he was willing to know what became of the man, when the story goes on thus : a good minister in the neighbourhood coming to visit him while he was in this extremity, asked him from what occasion he had taken up bis despairing thoughts? From reading the Bible, says the man; I wish I had never seen it. The Bible ! says the minister, that is impossible ! Yes, yes, says the man, it was from reading the Bible. It shall never be said, says the minister, that reading the word of God ever made a man despair; it has awakened and alarmed many a sinner, says he, but it always led them by the band to comfort at the same time; and I am here, says be, to vindicate the word of God from that scandal, and do affirm that there is not a word of terror in the Bible, without a word of comfort near at hand to it. Come, friend, says he, where did you read? Nay, 1 know not, says the man?