Miry Clay

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
~ Romans 5:12-14

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
~ Genesis 6:5, Romans 7:9

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
~ Luke 18:13

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
~ Psalm 40:2, Ezekiel 36:27

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
~ Isaiah 66:2

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
~ Isaiah 41:13, Jude 1:24-25

The Memoirs of Thomas Halyburton, by Thomas Halyburton (1674-1712). The following contains an excerpt from his work.

This being the design of this narrative, namely, to give some account of the Lord’s work with me, and of my own way towards him, as far as I remember it, from my birth to the present time; I shall proceed in it.

I came into the world, not only under the guilt of that offence, whereby many, nay, “all were made sinners,” and on account of which “judgment came upon all men to condemnation;” but I brought, moreover, with me a nature wholly corrupted, a heart wholly set in me to do evil. Of this the testimony of God in his word satisfies me. And herein I am strongly confirmed by undoubted experience, which fully convinceth me, that from the morning of my days, although under the advantage of gospel light, the inspection of godly parents, and not yet corrupted by custom, the imaginations of my heart, and the tenor of my life were evil, and “ only evil continually.”

It cannot be expected that, at so great a distance, I should remember the particulars of the first three or four years of my life; yet I may on the justest grounds presume that they were filled up with those sins which cleave to children in their infancy. And many of these are not only evil, as they flow from a poisonous root, for “a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit;” but they do also bear the impress of their corrupt source, and an evident congruity to it, and taste strong of that root of bitterness whereon: they grew. While we are yet on the breast, inbred corruption breaks forth, and before we give any tolerable evidence that we are rational, we give full evidence that we are corrupted. We show that we are inclined to evil, by pressing with impatience and eagerness after what is hurtful; we manifest our aversion to good, by refusing, with the greatest obstinacy, what is proper and useful for us. At first we are only employed about sensible objects, and it is respecting these that we give the first evidences that our nature is corrupt. And with the first appearances of reason, the corruption of our spirit discovers itself. How early do our actions show that passion, pride, revenge, dissimulation and sensuality are inlaid, as it were, in our very constitution. Any ordinary observer may discern, very early, innumerable instances of this sort in children. With these and the like evils, were the first years of my life, whereof I remember little, no doubt filled up. “ Folly is bound up in the heart of a child;” and we“ go astray as soon as we are born, speaking lies.”

In this first period of my life, I had advantages above most children. My parents were eminently religious, and I was, for the most part, trained up under their eyes and inspection. I continually heard the sound of divine truth in their instructions, ringing in my ears; and I had the beauty of the practice of religion continually represented to wine eyes, in their walk. I was, by their care, kept from ill company which might infect me. By these means I was restrained from those grosser out-breakings that children often run into, was habituated to a form of religion, and put upon the performing of such outward religious duties as my years were capable of. Hence it appears, that the sin in which I am now fully convinced I wallowed, during this period, is not to be imputed, either as to my inclinations or my actions, merely to a contracted custom, or lo occasional temptations; but was really the genuine fruit and result of that lamentable bias with which man, since the fall, is born. Surely the spring must be within, when, notwithstanding all the care taken to keep me from them, I impetuously went on in sinful courses. The holy God hedged up my way with precepts, example and discipline; but I broke through them all. Surely the spring must be within. And surely it must be very strong that was able to bear down such mounds as were set in its way, by the providence of God; and when it could run with so full a stream, notwithstanding, as much as could be, all outward occasions of its increase were cut off. Herein I have full evidence of a heart naturally estranged from the Lord, nay, opposed to him; and this, moreover, deeply aggravates my guilt. “And they have turned unto me the back and not the face though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.”

The care of my father during his life, which ended October, 1682, and of my mother, after his death, did not change but only hide nature; which is indeed often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. Although I cannot remember all the particulars from the fourth or fifth year of my life, yet so far as I do remember what was the general bent of my heart from that time, I must confess that it was wholly set against the Lord: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” To confirm this assertion; when I now examine the decalogue, and review this portion of my life, notwithstanding the great distance of time, I do distinctly remember, and, were it to edification, could relate, particular instances of the opposition of my heart to each of its precepts. Whatever influence education may have in moulding the outward appearance, yet surely ” the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

True it is, through the influence of the means before mentioned, I did all this while abominate the more gross breaches of all the commandments, and I disliked open sin. But, meanwhile, my heart was set upon the less discernible violations of the same holy law. My quarrel was not with sin, but with the consequences of it; and the main thing I regarded was the world’s opinion of it. Fear of punishment, pride that dislikes to be thought ill of, or, at best, a natural conscience enlightened by education, were my only reasons for performing duty or abstaining from sin. I was all this while, in secret, and when I could say “no eye shall see me,” prone to sins of all sorts, such as childhood is liable to. They who for credit’s sake, or from such like inducements, may seem averse to sin, will yet make bold in the dark with the worst sing. Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.”

Even those things which, in my way, seemed good and promising, such as detestation of gross sins, performance of duties, &c., were either purely the effects of habit, a bribe to the natural conscience to hold its peace, a sacrifice to self, a slavish performance, of what I took no delight in, to avoid the whip; or else a charm to keep me from danger, which I thought would befal me, and which I greatly dreaded, if I neglected prayer. Thus my best things awfully increased my guilt; being like the apples of Sodom, fair to look at, promising while untried, but within, full of ashes and noisome matter. When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me. And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?” “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination untamed; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is an iniquity, even the solemn meeting.”

Thus the spring of corruption, damned in on the one side, mean as to open profanity-by the inbounds of education, breaks out on the other side, in a form of religion which has none of its power, nay, which is plainly its opposite. But this is no less hateful to the holy God. The prayer of the wicked is sin, his sacrifice is an abomination. Sin, in the one case, has a little varnish that hides its deformity somewhat from the eyes of men; in the other, it is seen in its native hue and colours. In the one case it runs under ground; in the other, it openly follows its course. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some men They follow after.” The difference between the two is not great. The tree is known by its fruits. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” Sometimes it may bring forth good-like fruit.

But yet, after all, I must confess, that such was the strength of corruption, it drove me to the commission of several of the more plain and gross sins incident to this age, of which, though they are by some counted pardonable follies in children, the Lord makes a very different estimate: and some of them have been made bitter to me. Such as lying, to avoid punishment, Sabbath-breaking, revenge, hatred of my reprovers, and others of a like nature. Some particular sins committed in my childhood, which I had quite forgot, as being attended with no remarkable circumstances that should make them remain in my memory rather than other occurrences, and being of an older date than any thing else I can remember, were brought fresh to my recollection, when the Lord began closely to convince me of sin. And being presented in their native colours, in the light of the Lord’s word, and in all the circumstances of time, place, partners in sin, &c., were made matter of deep humiliation, loathing, and self-abhorrence; as not only full of wickedness in themselves, but pregnant evidences of the deepest natural depravity. Three things made me see to whom it was owing, that I went not to all the heights in wickedness, and into the grossest abominations that ever any were carried into; and to which a haughty heart, had it not been seasonably restrained, partly by a secret power, and partly by outward means, would inevitably have carried me. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child;” deeply rooted and fastened there. And no thanks to the best that they are kept from the worst things. “And David said to Abigail, blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me; and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand. For in very deed, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal, by the morning light, a single male.” What a monster I had been, if left to myself, and not seasonably restrained by outward means and inward power! Blessed be the invisible hand, and the outward instruments of this restraint, that kept me back from sinning.

These are but a very few of the innumerable evils which cleaved to me in this sinful period of my life, for ” who can understand his errors?” This period was altogether sinful and vain; nay, sin and vanity in the abstract. “Childhood is vanity.” All these my sins, too, were deeply aggravated by my stupid unconcern about them, all the while. Yet, not withstanding all of them, “I was pure in mine own eyes and yet not washed from my filthiness.” I was whole in my own opinion, though the plague sore was on me. While I thought I stood in need of nothing, I was “ poor, miserable, wretched, blind, naked.” “How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? See thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done.” “I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these. Yet thou sayest, because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me; behold I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.”

When I consider how many sins which had been long since forgotten, many of them of an older date than any thing else I remember, and which in their commission were attended with no such remarkable circumstances, as can rationally be supposed to have made any deep impression on the memory, and thus have had any influence in restoring them to my recollection, after they had been so long forgotten; when, I say, I consider how many such sins were now by the Lord brought to mind with unusual distinctness; I cannot but thence take occasion to observe what exact notice the holy God takes, and how deeply he resents those things which men generally will scarcely allow to be faults; or, at most, but small ones-pardonable follies, rather than sins. God truly saw that man’s imaginations are evil from his youth; and he will have us recollect and be humbled for the sins which have cleaved to us from our youth. “This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice,” is an aggravation of other sins which God charges on his people, and which, in itself, is a heavy accusation. How much reason is there for reckoning it as one great part of the misery of the wicked, that they lie down in their graves with bones full of the sins of their youth. How much reason is there for David’s prayer, that God would not remember against him the sins of his youth. What reason have we often, with Job, to suspect, that in the strokes which fall upon us in riper years, God is making us to possess the iniquities of our youth. How much reason have we, with holy Augustine, to confess and mourn over the sins of childhood, and track original sin, in its first outbreakings, even up to infancy. I here observe what an exact register, conscience, which is God’s deputy, keeps! How early it begins to mark, how accurate it is, even when it seems to take no notice, and to what a length it will go in justifying God’s severity against sinners at the last day. How distinctively and clearly it will then speak out its charges, and how far back it will fetch its accounts of those evils which we recollect nothing of, when God shall open its eyes to read what is written and to discern those prints, which, as Job says, God “sets upon the heels of our feet,” and shall give it a commission to tell us of them; when the books shall be “opened, and the dead, small and great, be judged out of them.”

When I review this first period of my life, what reason do I see to be ashamed and even confounded, to think that I have spent ten years of a short life, with scarcely a rational thought, and undoubtedly without one that was not sinful. — “ After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.”

The whole of what I have set down above, being matter of undoubted experience, of which I can no more doubt than of what I now see and feel; I have herein a strong confirmation of my faith, as to the guilt of Adam’s sin, its imputation to his posterity, and of my concernment therein in particular. For the bent of my soul from a child was set against the Lord. Nor was this the effect of custom and education; for there was a harmonious conspiracy of precept, discipline, and the example of those with whom I was conversant, during this first part of my life, to carry me another way. Nor can I charge the fault of this on my constitution of body, or any such thing, which might be alleged to proceed from my parents in a natural way. For those lusts which are of the mind, and are not influenced by any constitution of body, were as strong, as perceptible, active and prevalent as any other; nay, more so than those which may be supposed to depend on the frame of the body. And as my soul in its accursed inclinations, was thus opposed to the Lord, so the opposition was of such strength and force as could not be suppressed, much less be overcome and subdued, by the utmost care of my parents, and the best out. ward means. This is undoubted fact. I cannot, at all, conceive it consistent with the wisdom, goodness, or equity of God, to send me thus into the world without any fault on my part. To say I was thus originally framed, without respect to any sin chargeable on me, is a position so full of contrariety to all the notions which I can entertain of the Deity, that I cannot think of it without horror: much less can I believe it. Penal, then, this corruption must be, as, in fact, death and diseases are. And of what can it be a punishment, if not of Adam’s sin? While these things are so plain in fact, and the deduction from them so easy, I have no reason to be much shaken, or call this truth in question, whatever subtle arguments any may use to overthrow it. If once I am sure God hath done a thing, there is no room left for disputing its equity. I am sure I was corrupt from my infancy. I am sure God would not have made me so without a cause, or sent me into the world in such a condition, if it had not been for some fault in which I am concerned. If there is any attempt to charge God on this score, I look upon it as highly injurious. There is nothing left for me in this case, but humbly to clear God of imposing any seeming hardship. If we cannot easily do this; then I would much rather own my ignorance, and stoop under his incomprehensibility, than bring any charge of injustice against him. This has staid my soul against the most subtle arguings of men of perverse minds, and even of Satan, who hath often assaulted me on this point. Be their arguments what they will,“ Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” “That he may withdraw man from this his evil purpose,” of measuring God by his short line, “and hide pride from his eye.”

Hence, also, I am taught what estimate to make of the pretendedly good and virtuous inclinations, wherewith, as the Deists and Pelagians allege, some persons are born. Except in some few and rare instances of the early efficacy of sanctifying grace, all that which, in the cases under consideration, is looked upon as good, is really nothing more than the result of education, custom, occasional restraints and freedom from temptation. Or, perhaps, it flows from a natural temper, which, being influenced by these causes and by the constitution of the body, makes something of an opposition to the grosser actings of sin.

Nevertheless, whatever there is of this, save in the rare instances before mentioned, is but sin under disguise. The difference is not great. The one sort of sinners seem to promise good fruit, but deceive us; whereas the openly profane give a plain refusal, and forbid all expectation. And yet of this sort more receive the gospel than the former. i But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work in the vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him the first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

Chapter II.

Containing an account of the first rise of my concern about religion, its results, and other occurrences relating thereto, during the space of two years.

In the month of May, 1683, my mother being by the heat of the persecution obliged to retire into Holland, I went along with her. While we were at sea, being in some real or apprehended danger, my conscience, which, as far as I can now remember, during all the ten past years, had been fast asleep, began to awaken. I was convicted of sin; terrified with apprehensions of death and hell and the wrath of God, about which I had never thought, before I was brought into this distress:-” They have turned their back unto me and not their face; but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise and save us.”

All this concern was nothing more than a sad mixture of natural fear, and a selfish desire of preservation from the danger I supposed imminent. Peace and acceptance and communion with God, came not much into my thoughts. I was afraid and unwilling to die, and would gladly have been out of danger of hell. This was all my exercise at that time. It was not sin, but death and its consequences, which I was anxious to be rid of. “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now, therefore, forgive I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only.” As this exercise was wholly selfish and without any concern for the Lord’s glory; so it led me to selfish courses for relief. I promised that if I arrived at land I would live better than formerly. I engaged to keep all God’s commandments. My mother told me I was in a mistake, and should not hold to that resolution. But there was no persuading one of this, who was as ignorant of his own heart, as at that time, I was of mine. I multiplied engagements; and doubted not that I should perform them: “And the people answered, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other Gods. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay, but we will serve the Lord.”

No sooner was I come to land, and fixed at Rotterdam, than I verified what had been foretold. I forgot all my promises and resolutions. The unrenewed and corrupt heart, being freed from the restraint put upon it by the natural conscience, under the appearance of danger, took its course. I returned to former evils and grew worse. Corruption, that had been repressed for a little time, having easily forced down all those mounds which were raised to hold it in, ran out with the greater violence. It is true, that, through the mercy of God, I was still restrained from open, scandalous sins. To which result the awe I felt for my godly and prudent mother, as well as the principles of my education, did not a little contribute. But to, secret evils of all sorts, I had no aversion. Nay, to many of them I was strongly inclined, and in many instances f followed my own inclinations. Notwithstanding all my promises, I was a ready and easy prey to every temptation: “And thou saidst, I will pot transgress; when upon every high hill, and under every green tree thou wanderest.”

My sins in this place, had this grievous aggravation, that they were against greater light and under more of the means of grace than I had formerly enjoyed. On the Lord’s day we had three sermons and two lectures in the Scots’ church, and on Thursday a sermon there also. On Tuesday the ejected ministers preached by turns. Then was a meeting for prayer on Wednesday, On Monday and Friday nights Mr. James Kirkton commonly lectured in his family. On Saturday he catechise such children of the ejected Scots as came to him. My mother took care to have me attend on most of these occasions, was particular in keeping me to my duty, and was not wanting in advice, correction, and prayer with and for me. She also obliged me to read the scriptures and other edifying books. But so far were all these things from producing a good effect upon me, that I grew weary of them, and went on in my sins.” What could have been done more” (as it respects outward means) “to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” “Ye said, also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts: and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering; should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.”

At this time I was not without frequent convictions, occasioned sometimes by the preaching of the gospel, and at others by the influence of my education, which still clung to me, and was a check upon me. But all this was only like the starts of a sleeping man, occasioned by some sudden noise-up he gets, but presently he is down again, and faster asleep than before. I found means to get rid of these convictions. When they were uneasy I would promise them a hearing at another time.” And as Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” At other times I looked to the tendency of these convictions, that they aimed at engaging me to be holy; and then I reflected upon the difficulties of such a course, till I not only got the edge of my convictions blunted, but frighted myself from a compliance with their suggestions. “ The sluggard saith, There is a lion in the way, and I shall be slain in the streets.” When my convictions were light, I got rid of them by withdrawing myself from the use of the means of grace. “For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. Sometimes I promised them fair, and so put them off at that time, but remembered pot my promise afterwards. “And he came to the second and said likewise. And be answered and said, I go, sir; and went not.” Sometimes, my convictions resulted in fruitless, unactive, and slothful wishes. The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing.” The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” At other times, when they were troublesome, I turned my eye to something which, in my way, I thought good; though, the Lord knows, there was little which had so much as even the appearance of any tolerable good. Yet so foolish was I that I rested here, as if this was not only sufficient to atone for my past conduct, but would also procure me the favour of God. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Sometimes I endeavoured to extenuate my sins as much as I could. “In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.” When these expedients failed, and my convictions still made me uneasy, I then betook myself to diversions, and there effectually choked the word and the convictions springing from it. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”

About this time, I met with some things that crossed me. Whereupon I became thoughtful, seeking what way I should get rid of my difficulties. I seemed more than ordinarily troubled; and yet this difficulty did not really lead me to God. But my mind was employed in nourishing resentments against the real, or supposed authors of my uneasiness; and in proud, selfish, and vain contrivances for mine own ease and relief. The wicked through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” “They cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty. But none saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?”

About the month of December, 1686, at the earnest request of my father’s sister, who was married to John Glass, provost of Perth, I was sent home. While I staid in this family I saw nothing of religion, though my aunt was a very moral woman. Here I was much indulged. I was offered liberty, and I took it. I saw little of the worship of God in others, and I readily accommodated myself to such circumstances, and became remiss too. What farther advances I made in this place, towards an open rejection of the very form of religion, I do not now, at this distance of time, distinctly remember; but I doubt not they were very great. This, however, I do remember, that I found my aversion to those sins, which, through the influence of education, I had before abominated, sensibly weakened. Yea, I found a secret hankering after some of them, a delight in the company of such persons as were guilty of them, and a sort of approbation of them in my heart. Nevertheless, I was, in a great measure, restrained from. an open and avowed compliance with their example, by the reverential impressions which early instruction had left on my mind, and which were not, as yet, wholly worn off. Yet they were greatly obliterated, considering the shortness of my time here; whence I may easily discern what would have become of them, if I had stayed there longer. Further, I recollect, that at that time I had a great aversion to learning; which was the only good thing, in that place, urged upon me. I looked upon it as a burden and drudgery, to which the basest employments were to be preferred; and therefore I did not, in the least, apply myself unto it, but trifled my time away. And many a sinful expedient did I resort to, that I might shuffle the time off my hands. Thus I hated instruction and cast God’s word behind my back: “When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.” “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself.”

Thus I spent the winter. In the spring of 1687, my mother, fearing I might be ensnared by the company amongst which I now was, came home for me; recollecting the wise man’s observation:-“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself-bringeth his mother to shame.” But so great was my wickedness, that in spite of my natural affection, I was grieved at her return, and when first I heard her voice, it damped my feelings—I cared not to see her. Nothing I disliked more, than a godly and affectionate mother’s conversation. I feared I should have to be questioned about my past conduct, I feared she would carry me back to Holland, in which case I should be put under uneasy restraints: “But thou saidst, There is no hope. No, for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” . In the spring, or rather towards summer, my mother carried me with her, much against my will, and put me to the Erasmus’ school. I staid but a short time there. Yet the advantageous method of teaching which was there practiced, pleased me; I began to delight in learning and quickly became proud of my success. Otherwise, I lived as I had done before, growing still worse and worse under all the means God made use of to bring me near to him and keep me there: “For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel, and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory; but they would not hear.”

Chapter III.

Containing an account of the renewal of my convictions, their effects, progress, results, and interruptions; from the close of the year 1687 to 1690 or 1691; when I went from Perth to reside at Edinburg.

In the month of February, 1687, King James issued his proclamation, granting toleration in religion; whereupon most of those who had fled ventured home; and, among the rest, my mother came back in August or September of that year. It would have doubtless been to my advantage, as it respected my education, to stay in Holland, and this consideration made me unwilling to return. On our return passage we were in iniminent danger of being shipwrecked upon the Scars of England; but through the mercy of God we escaped. The danger came upon us suddenly and was suddenly over, and so left little or no impression on my mind, When we came home we settled at Perth, and abode there till the autumn of 1690 or 1691, I cannot certainly remember which. The state of my soul during all this time, I will now, as far as I can remember, relate.

Soon after our settlement in this place, I was entered at school, where I made a somewhat better proficiency than formerly. But as to sin, I remained as unconcerned as ever; as intent upon sin, as averse to duty as before. However I might behave when under my mother’s eye; when with my comrades, I took my liberty, and joined them in all the follies and extravagancies they went into; but in my case there was this aggravation above most of them, that what I did I knew very often to be a fault, whereas they, at least many of them, did not. Yea, I not only went along with them but was foremost amongst them, and enticed others into folly, Still, the mercy of God kept me from open and scandalous sins; except in one instance that I recollect, where I along with some others, was seized in a garden taking some fruit. Of this I was much ashamed, and never again attempted the like; not from any real dislike to the sin, but through fears of a discovery. And thus I continued till towards the close of King James’ reign, when fears of a public massacre from the papists, concerning which there was then a great noise, every where, revived my concern about religion: “When he slew them, then they sought him; and they returned and inquired early after God: And they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer.”

This concern of mind to which…being somewhat deeper, and the effects of it more remarkable and lasting than any previous, I shall endeavour to give a distinct account of it. About this time, the Lord, by means of the preached word, and public and private catechising, enlightened my mind farther, respecting the doctrines of the law and the gospel. My capacity, and Knowledge of what sin was, and what was duty, increasing with my years; sin was left open and naked, without the excuse of ignorance. Conscience, too, had this farther advantage, that it was armed with more knowledge than heretofore; for which cause the checks it gave me, now that by the Lord’s providences it was in some measure awakened, were more frequent and not so easily evaded. If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin.” Some touches of sickness riveted on me the impressions of frailty and mortality, and of the tendency of each of that numerous train of diseases, through which we are daily exposed to death. But that which affected me more than all, and gave an edge to my convictions, was the continued fears we were in, of being suddenly destroyed by the papists. This kept death in its most terrible shape, ever in my eyes and thoughts. And, to my great terror, I saw wrath and judgment following it. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites; who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Hereupon I was cast into grievous disquiet. “I took counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily.” I was in a dreadful strait between two things. On the one hand my convictions of sin were pungent, because fears of a present death quickened them. This made me attend more to the word of God. The more I attended to that the more my convictions increased, and I was daily, more and more persuaded, that there was no way to get rid of them, but by embracing religion. On the other hand, if I should in earnest engage in religion, I saw the hazard I should run of suffering on account of it, and knew not but I might be immediately called to die for it. And this I could not think of doing. Between the two I was dreadfully tossed in my own mind, some nights’ sleep went from me, and I was full of trouble. I set my imagination to work, and did, sometimes, strongly impress my mind with the fancy of an Irish cut-throat holding a dagger to my breast, and offering me these terms: “Quit your religion, turn papist, and you shall live-hold it and you are dead.” This imagination was sometimes so strong, that I have almost fainted under it, and I was still completely unresolved what to do. Sometimes I would determine to let him give the fatal stroke, and then my spirits would shrink and my heart fail at the approach of death. At other times, I would resolve to quit my religion, but with the resolution to take it up again, when the danger was over. But here I could get no rest. What, thought I, if the treacherous enemy destroy me after I have done so, and so I lose both life and religion? And what if I die before the danger is over, and so have no time allowed me to repent? “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.”

This sort of exercise frequently recurred; and I continued in this way, at times, until after the battle of Killiecrankie, which was fought, July 27th, 1689. My years had some interruptions, and then I was remiss as before; but for nearly a year, few weeks, and even few days passed over me without some such feelings. But the dread of the papists being quickly over, my remaining difficulty was only with my convictions. And as to these, I endeavoured to relieve myself by promises of abstaining from those sins which were, in my view, most clearly wrong, and for which I was most evidently rebuked. “And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, Entreat the Lord for me–and I will let the people go.” I took refuge in resolutions of enquiring into the Lord’s mind, and complying with his will. But when I consulted any practical book, or the ministers of the gospel, and found that they did not give such instructions as were agreeable to my unrenewed heart, I was offended and went no farther. ” And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” I tried to find peace in a more careful attendance upon duties. Thus “ being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish my own righteousness, I submitted not. myself to the righteousness of God;” nor did I shew any regard for Christ, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every man that believeth.”

Though my foolish heart ran after these devices, yet, really, they afforded no solid repose. For the first sin against light, and the first omission of duty-which very speedily ensued upon the intermission of present convictions–shook all my confidence. And I was confounded at the thoughts of appearing before God in a righteousness so plainly ragged, that where it had one piece it wanted two. Though these contrivances gave me some ease when trials were at a distance, yet when the thoughts of death came near, I could find no quiet in them. There were not gold tried in the fire, nor would they abide so much as a near view of trials; but at the very appearance of a storm, this sandy foundation shook. Whenever convictions on account of new sins were awakened, remorse for my old ones recurred; which showed that the cure was imperfect: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

The effects of these exercises of mind, which continued and afterwards increased, were principally as follow. I was hereby brought into doubt about the truths of religion, the being of God, and eternal things. This doubt did not arise from any arguments which offered themselves against these truths, nor yet from any suspicion I had of ministers, parents or others, from whom I had received them. But, whenever in danger or difficulties, I sought for security in these religious truths, a secret suspicion haunted me; “ What if these things are not?” And then I was made to think that I had not certainty and evidence concerning them, equal to the weight that was to be laid on them. Í thought death and the troubles attending it, were certain and evident things; but I could not get my mind. satisfied and fully assured about the truths of religion. And when, under apprehension of death, I would fain have rested upon them, my confidence failed me, and my mind began to waver, though I could give no reason for it: “ The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.” I was hereby persuaded, and this persuasion ever after increased in strength, that I could never have peace till I came to another sort of evidence and certainty about the truths of religion, than any I was yet acquainted with. Death I saw inevitable—it might be very sudden. I was impressed with apprehensions of it, and could not banish them. Therefore I concluded, that unless I could obtain such a conviction of the truth of religion, and such an interest in it, as would not only enable me to look on death without fear, but also to go through it with comfort, it would have been better for me that I had never been born. But how or where these were to be obtained, I was utterly ignorant. Here I remained, in great perplexity, under the melancholy impressions that I had hitherto “spent my money for that which is not bread, and my labour for that which profiteth not.” This perplexity was somewhat relieved, while, one day, I was reading in the close of the Fulfilling of the Scriptures,” how Mr. Robert Bruce was shaken in his belief concerning the being of a God, and how at length he came to the fullest satisfaction. Hereby a hope secretly sprung up, that one line or other, in one way or other, the like might happen to me also, and that the Lord might satisfy me in this thing. Here was the dawning of a light which, though it did not shine perfectly clear, was never again wholly put out. Though it was far from satisfying me, yet it kept me from despair. “And he took the blind man by the band and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.” But notwithstanding all this, the veil was still not taken away.

About this time, one Mr. Donaldson, a reverend old minister, preached at Perth, and came to visit my mother. He called me to him, and among other questions, he asked me if I sought a blessing on my learning; to which I ingenuously answered, No. He replied with an austere look, “Sirrah, unsanctified learning has done inuch mischief to the kirk of God.” This saying made a deep impression on my mind, and remained with me ever afterward; so that whenever I was in any way distressed, I applied to God, by prayer, for help in my learning, and for pardon that I did not sooner seek his blessing. But this was only when I was more than ordinarily perplexed. But as to the main point, all these exercises lest me just where I was before, afar off from God, and an enemy to him in my mind; which I manifested by wicked works.

Chapter IV.

Giving an account of the increase of my convictions, during my stay in Edinburg, from the autumn of 1690 or 1691, till May 1693, and the vain refuges to which I betook myself for relief.

My mother, designing to have me well educated, for the sake of having better schools removed to Edinburg, in the autumn of 1690 or 1691, and placed me at Mr. Gavin Weir’s School: Here, with the exception of some months that I abode in Carlop’s family, and learned with his children and some others, under the instruction of one who had been an usher of Mr. Weir’s. I staid till November, 1692, when I entered college, under Mr. Alexander Cunningham. Here it was my good fortune to fall in with sober companions, and such as were studiously inclined. But I design not to speak of this, and therefore proceed to narrate the progress of the Lord’s work upon my soul. During my abode in college, the Lord gave not over his dealings with me. “And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.” Long also did he bear with my manners. In this place also the work went on. For, as knowledge increased, so convictions of sin increased; if not in force, yet in number. And still as knowledge of the law grew, as it daily did under the means of grace, the knowledge of sin also grew. For “the law is the knowledge of sin.” The Lord daily let me see that he was wroth on account of sins which formerly I had not noticed.” These things thou hast done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes.” By new afflictions, the impressions of my mortality were riveted upon me, and I was brought still farther into bondage, through my growing fears of death. The gospel being daily preached, and daily coming in contact with my conscience, forced me, however unwilling, to make some inquiry about the sincerity of my religion; of which I now made some profession. A searching question will at length bring a Judas to say: “ Master, is it I?” The means of grace made me engage, Herod-like, and in order that I might save some bosom idols, ” to do many things, and hear him gladly.” .

The means by which these effects were produced, were as follow: By the preaching of the word, the “two-edged sword that goeth out of his mouth,” the Lord did often wound me, and the secrets of my heart were made manifest. I found the word of God a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Lord also made use of the rod. He laid his hand upon me. When I was in health and prosperity the truth did not affect me so much, nor did I attend to it so carefully. “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not bear; this hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.” “In their affliction they will seek me early.” And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; then he showeth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.” I read Shepherd’s Treatise called, “The Sincere Convert,” which galled me and cut me to the quick. It came close home to me, and affected me very much, and put me to questioning, very seriously, my sincerity.

By these means I was sometimes driven to a great extremity, and went great lengths in a form of religion. I not only prayed morning and evening, but at times I would retire and weep plentifully in secret, and read and pray, and resolve to live otherwise than I had done. “His goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the morning dew it goeth away.” It kept pace with my convictions. It was force, not nature; and this strictness in the performance of duty lasted no longer than the force that occasioned it. “And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” But Jehoiada waxed old, and died.” “Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah and made obeisance to the king: then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols.”

While I was under these distresses, many a wicked expedient did I betake myself to for relief; but without success. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet he could not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” When I found any thing in the word of God, or in other books calculated to make known to myself the wickedness of my heart, then, if any thing was spoken that did in appearance, make for me, I eagerly clung to that. For I was very unwilling to see my own hypocrisy, and, therefore, if the least pretence for laying claim to religion appeared, I laid hold of it;, like the young man in the gospel who, being unacquainted with the spiritual extent of the law, when Christ spoke of keeping the commandments, answered—“All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I vet?” So said I. When I found something required, which I neither had performed, nor could resolve to perform, because, perhaps, it was, for some reason or other against my wishes, then I resolved to compromise the matter and make amends some other way, and, like Naaman, beg a license for that sin. “Thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice, unto other gods but into the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on iny hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.” When any inark of a Christian was presented to me, to which I could not pretend, then I was ready to question whether he that offered it was not mistaken, and secretly doubted the truth, following the method Satan took with Eve. “ Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden.” “Ye shall not surely die.” When I could not see, not from want of sufficient light, but through my unwillingness to admit it, I was ready to quarrel that ministers and books did not tell me more plainly.” Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou bė the Christ tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you and ye believed not.” Sometimes, when I was embarrassed with a truth, I promised it a hearing at a more convenient season, and so, like Felix, got rid of the trouble for that time. Sometimes I would slip over those things which made against me: “He that doeth evil, cometh not to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” I carefully sought for the lowest standard of religion, and for the least degrees of such grace as should be saving. I designed to get only as much religion as would carry me safe to heaven; and therefore I still inquired, with the young man, ” What good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” I desired no more than would serve this my turn, and, provided my beloved “lusts were spared, any thing which would effect this, I was, with him, ready to resolve upon doing. When none of these expedients would avail, I would then make the general resolution of doing whatsoever the Lord required; like him who said, “ Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” But, like him, I still drew back when the Lord, as was often the case, told me of particular duties he would have me perform, and which were contrary to my inclination. When I saw I must quit all these vain pretences, as the Lord often convinced me I must; then I begged for a little respite or delay, when I would comply. Augustine-like,“ | was content to be holy, but not yet.” “And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell—which are home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man having put his hand unto the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” An excuse, a delay, in God’s account, is a plain refusal; for all commands and invitations require present obedience: “ Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation.”. “To day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” When all these ways had been tried, and I found no relief, I blamed my education. I knew there was some change; the question was if it were the right one. Now, thought I, if I had not been religiously educated, but had turned Christian all at once, the change would have been more easily to be discerned. Thus was I entangled in my own ways. “We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noon-day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.” And the true reason of my being in difficulty was, I scorned the light and did not desire it, unless it should be such as would please me. “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness.” “ The scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.” Many other deceits and subterfuges my heart used, which, at this distance of time, I cannot remember. But the above are the principal ones that, on reflection, recur to my mind; and how evident do they make it appear that ” the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Though now I sometimes seemed to have gone far in religion, yet in reality, I was wholly wrong. For, all this while, being convinced of the necessity of a righteousness, and being ignorant of Christ’s righteousness, I sought it by the works of the law. That carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God,” still continued with me. All my exercises of mind were no ‘more than a hesitating between duty and a love of sin; and sin still gained the victory, because I would, by no means, part with my bosom idols. Self was the animating principle of all the religion I had. I desired as much of it as would save me from hell and take me to heaven, and no more. All This religion came and went with the occasions of it was not abiding.

About this time, Clark’s Martyrology was, providentially, cast into my hands. I loved history, and read this book greedily. And it left some impressions upon me, which were not without use to me, both then and afterwards. The patience, joy and courage of the martyrs, convinced me that there was a power, a reality in religion, beyond what nature could supply. To such a religion I was persuaded I was, as yet, a stranger, because I could not think of suffering. And I was brought to have some faint desires for an acquaintance with this power of religion, “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.” ” There is no other God that can deliver after this sort.” Often, in reading this book, did I have Balaam’s wish, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” . But, like him, I loved not their life.

I observe here, that at this time, God restrained me from many follies into which others run, and to which I was much inclined. He did this through a bodily infirmity, a weakness in my joints, which rendered me unable to walk. “ Thus he hedged in my way, that I should not find my lovers.” The Lord, also, in mercy provided me with comrades, who were tender of me and took care of me. He fed me, and led me, though I knew him not. So far was I from being thankful, that my proud heart fretted, because I was kept from those things which others followed. I wished to have been rejoicing in my strength; and vexed enough I was that an occasion of glorying was taken from me. Neither was I thankful that the Lord did, by this means, cut off many opportunities of sin; nor for his mercy in providing persons lo take care of me. O what reason have I to say, The Lord ” is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

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