« السابقةمتابعة »
own belief, but not disposed to inveigh against that of another; and though he imbibed some religious opinions which have done great injury to the dignity and the amiability of the Christian character, yet in him their tendency was neutralized by the sweetness of his natural disposition and the fervour of his devotional spirit. He dwelt much on the high points of election and predestination; maintained with great pertinacity that human nature undergoes no moral improvement, but remains as impure and deceitful after the great change has taken place, as it was before; and he considered an assurance of our final salvation so essential to the nature of faith, that he would not regard as a true believer a person who did not enjoy an unclouded prospect of eternal glory. These topics bounded the range of his inquiry; and though at times he would unawares make concessions which compromised their accuracy, yet when apprized of his danger, he would step back with singular adroitness, and resist the force of an argument to expose their fallacy, by saying to an antagonist, “You see through a glass darkly, while I see face to face.” If these opinions had been confined within the circle of his own family, and the few pious friends who were of the same theological school, he would have done no injury, as their devotional spirit and habits would have proved a safeguard against their pernicious tendency. But by bringing them forward in promiscuous company, and by holding them up as essential articles of the Christian faith, he often involved the judgment of the young disciple in great perplexity, and unintentionally threw down some of those barriers which the Scriptures have raised to restrain the evil propensities of our nature. The effects of these opinions on the mind of Miss Holmes may be seen in the following letter, which she addressed to her friend Mrs. Loader, a few weeks after her introduction to this family:
“MY DEAR FRIEND,--I should have replied earlier to your last letter; but since my convalescence I have been so engaged with my new duties, as the secretary to our Auxiliary Bible Society, that I have not been able to find time. I cannot express to you in words, how much pleasure I derived from your communication. It came at a season when my mind was sinking into despondency, and when I was tempted to give up my hope; but the Lord was pleased to employ it as the means of dispersing the darkness which was hovering around me, and I was enabled to rejoice once more in the light of his countenance. I had gained that elevated spot—that spiritual Pisgah, to which you so beautifully allude; from whence I could read “My title clear To mansions in the skies;’
and from whence I thought I should never be displaced; but alas! I am again compelled to give utterance to a feeling of despondency.
“I had my fears at the very commencement of my religious course, that my convictions and impressions, like the morning cloud and early dew, would soon pass away, and that I should be permitted to relapse into my original state of darkness and indifference; yet these fears came upon me only at times, like a sudden gust of wind in a serene evening. Now, alas! I have to mourn over their perpetual presence and desolating power; and I sometimes think, the doom of a backslider, or an apostate, awaits me. I shudder in anticipation of such a dreadful issue; and though I often pause and listen, yet I hear not the voice of the Comforter. Yet I cannot go back; perhaps I may say, when taking a survey of the more general state of my heart, I move slowly onwards between hope and fear.
“I have lately formed an intimate friendship with two excellent ladies, who reside with their brother, not more than a quarter of a mile from the Elms; and in whose society I spend a considerable portion of my leisure hours. From the influence of their example, and from their conversation, I anticipated much spiritual improvoment; but the oftener I visit them, the deeper I am plunged in mental despondency; and though I have ventured to allude, in indirect terms, to the perplexed state of my mind, yet I cannot obtain from them the words of consolation which I need. They and their brother have adopted the views of Romaine as their religious standard; and hold his memory in such veneration, that they rank him next to the inspired writers, and tacitly condemn all who, on any religious points, differ from him. They have lent me his treatises on the Life and Triumph of Faith, which I have read with close attention; but instead of deriving from them that satisfaction which I was led to expect, they have revived all my former fears, and invested them with a tenfold poignancy. He says, when addressing the believer, “Thou must be first persuaded of thine interest in Christ, before thou canst make use of it, and improve it; and therefore the knowledge of thy union with him must be clear and plain, before thou canst have a free and open communion with him.' I might have passed over this passage, without having taken any particular notice of it, had it not coincided with the belief which has been so often expressed by my excellent friends, the Misses Corrie and their brother. They say, in the most express terms, that an assurance of our interest in Christ, and of our final salvation, is essential to faith; but this assurance I do not possess. Sometimes I have thought that the Saviour has looked with an eye of compassion on me, and has raised my desponding soul to the ineffable manifestations of his love; but I cannot say that “he gave himself for me.' I rely on the efficacy of his death for acceptance and eternal life; but I dare not say that my dependence is genuine. In some favoured moments, I have anticipated the blissful interview, when I have hoped to see him as he is, but I cannot speak with confidence —O no! I dare not. While my necessities compel me to go to the Saviour, and plead his promises, my want of assurance keeps me back; and thus, being suspended between these propelling and repulsive powers, I suffer extreme mental torture. “But this is not the only subject on which my mind is perplexed. In a conversation the other evening, when we were tracing up the bestowment of every good and every perfect gift to the free and unmerited grace of God, Mr. Corrie asserted, with the utmost degree of confidence, that no true believer in Jesus Christ can doubt his personal election to eternal life. This assertion, made by so good and amiable a man, and which met the decided approbation of his sisters, fell upon my ear with all the terror of the condemning sentence; and from that moment to the present, I have been driven, as an outcast, from the promises of mercy, I have read the Scriptures to satisfy my mind on this point, and there I read of sinners being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world—of their being elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father—of their being predestinated; but this high point appears invested with such terror, that my spirit recoils when attempting to approach it; and though I have prayed for faith to receive the hidden mysteries of revelation, and for wisdom to understand them, yet I cannot believe that I am one of the selected number, whose name has been enrolled in the Lamb's book of life. But should I feel all this terror on my spirit, when adverting to a doctrine which appears stated, with the utmost degree of explicitness, by the inspired writers, if I had that faith which is of the operation of the Spirit of God? Should I, if I possessed like precious faith, recoil, with almost instinctive dread, from a subject on which my pious friends speak with so much animation and delight? Surely there must be some defect in my experience, which renders me incapable of disengaging myself from the bondage of fear in which I am held; and which holds me back from a participation of that glorious liberty which I see enjoyed by the children of God around me. “There is one point of resemblance between my experience and that of my friends, too striking to pass unnoticed; yet, when reading the Scriptures, it has merely served to involve me in a still more perplexing labyrinth of difficulty. It is this—they maintain ‘that our hearts undergo no moral improvement when the great renovation takes place, but remain as impure and deceitful as before.' I certainly did anticipate, when I first felt the influence of the truth, that I should grow in grace as well as in knowledge; and that I should attain to a more near conformity to the image of Jesus Christ; but on a close and impartial examination, I am compelled to believe that I have made no progress: indeed, I fear I have made a retrograde movement. I do not feel that calm satisfaction, or any of the blissful emotions I felt, when my attention was first arrested by the unseen realities of eternity. I dé not feel that indifference to worldly objects, which I felt when confined to a couch of pain and languor. I am not so deeply affected by the unparalleled love of Christ, as I was when I first viewed him bearing away the iniquities of the people by the agonies of his death; nor does sin appear so exceedingly sinful, as when I first experienced its bitterness. I am neither so grateful for my mercies, nor so abased on account of my transgressions, as I was when the light of a supernatural manifestation first threw open to my view my neglected obligations and concealed defects. I feel, if possible, more fully convinced of the absolute need of a Saviour, than I was when I first felt the burden of guilt upon my conscience, but yet I am less able to exercise faith in him; and instead of that peace which was diffused through my heart when I first believed, I am sometimes driven to the verge of despondency. “I have not yet communicated to my dear parents the present perturbed state of my feelings, as I am unwilling to give one pang of sorrow to their tender bosom; and though I sometimes pray that the Lord would be pleased to turn away from me the face of his anger, and comfort me, yet I cannot pray in faith. Surely no one else ever felt what I feel, or suffered what I suffer. There are two verses in a favourite hymn, which, I believe, was composed by the venerable Newton, which I can repeat with intense earnestness:–
‘Lord, decide the doubtful case;
‘May I love thee more and more,
“I am happy to inform you, that there is a Dissenting chapel about three quarters of a mile from the Elms, in which the gospel is preached