"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (I Timothy 1. 15)."
We are acquainted with an individual whose history we will give in the following words, viz. He was (like all the race of which he is a member) conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity. He was born in the eastern part of the State of Connecticut. He was a religionist from his birth, yet an enemy to God and a stranger to grace during the first seven years of his natural life (for he was alive before the commandment came). He had at this period been taught to say his prayers, but had never been taught to pray; he had made some progress in the "Westminster Catechism", and, in short, as touching the religion of the Pharisees he excelled many of his equals. It would have terrified him exceedingly to have gone to sleep at night without counter-balancing all the sins of the day by a repetition of his forms of worship, but on all occasions when he had paid his vows he had peace offerings at home. Up to about this period of his life he was led to suppose that as touching the righteousness of the law he was blameless. We cannot describe to our readers the mortification and disappointment of this young lad when being suddenly arrested by an arrow from the quiver of the Lord he was summoned to stand at the dreadful bar of divine justice and give the reason (if any he had) why the tremendous sentence of the law of God should not be executed upon his guilty soul. Great was his consternation when he cast his eager glance around in search of those fancied treasures of personal holiness which he had believed himself to be in possession of. Alas, his stronghold failed him in this very critical moment, he felt that he was ruined, but like Edom, he said, I am impoverished, but I will return and build again my waste places. Great were his efforts, his labors, toils and pains to mend again that holy law which he had broken. He would have prayed, but he could no longer view the great, the dreadful God as a being that might be trifled with, or pacified by what he could do. He struggled, but the harder he struggled the deeper he seemed to be involved in an horrible pit and in miry clay; these exercises continued for many days and weeks. Sometimes he meditated a retreat from this awful, wretched state, but whither could he flee? If on the wings of the morning he flew to the uttermost sea, God was there, everywhere present, beholding the evil and the good; there could be no retreating from God, before whose flaming eyes all things are naked and open. At length the day seemed to arrive when the dreadful sentence of the inexorable law of God must be put in execution. Now blackness and darkness and tempests gathered round his frighted soul, hell yawned before him, justice stood with uplifted arm, and the flaming sword of vengeance was drawn from its scabbard and brandished over his guilty head; the books were brought, the arch accuser was also there, and what was to him more dreadful still than all, the piercing eye of God brought the black crimes of years to light, and what had been transacted in midnight darkness was now exposed upon the housetop. Chilled thus with horror, and pressed down to death with intense despair, remorse, guilt and keen anguish throbbing in his breast, tell us, dear reader, did he need an anxious bench, or knives, or lancets, to secure his conviction? Or would it have comforted him to have been informed by some "Universalist" that there was no hell, when the very pains of hell had hold of him? As well might he be told when writhing on a bed of embers that there was no heat in fire. The spell of such delusion was now broken, the Spirit had moved upon the face of the great deep of his inmost soul, and although all had been without form, and void, yet God had said, Let there be light, and light broke in upon him, and in this light that heart which he had thought was a temple meet for the Holy Ghost to dwell in, was now manifestly the habitation of dragons, etc., the hold of every unclean and hateful bird. It was thus when in or about his eleventh year he went to a distant barn, under an impression like that expressed by the poet:
"I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away I know
I must forever die."
He fell upon his bended knees, but he could not pray; a rustling leaf, a turning straw, frightened his guilty soul and chained his speechless tongue; awful apprehensions and fearful forebodings pursued him back to his chamber, when despairing of mercy he threw himself upon a bed to die and meet his fiery doom. Worn out with labor and want of rest, nature sank beneath the load, he fell into a sleep. Unconscious of what passed while sleeping, he woke himself singing these words:
"How glorious is our heavenly King,
Who reigns above the sky;
How shall a child presume to sing
His dreadful majesty?"
He seemed indeed in a new world, his load of guilt and sin was gone, the love of God shed abroad in his heart.
"His tongue broke out in unknown strains,
And sang surprising grace."
At the age of eleven years and four weeks, on the second Sunday in December, 1811, he was permitted to be buried with his precious Lord in baptism, in the river Thames, in the city of Norwich, Conn., by Elder John Sterry, who has since fallen asleep. After remaining eight years a member of the Baptist Church in Norwich, he removed his relation to the church in the city of New York, then under the pastoral care of that defender of the truth, Elder Jonathan Van Velsen, who also has fallen asleep. While a member of the Ebenezer Church, in New York, the subject of our narrative, when in his twentieth year, was licensed to preach the gospel. The peculiar circumstances of his call to the work of the ministry our present limits will not admit; let it suffice to say that being experimentally, he could not help being doctrinally a Predestinarian. For more than fourteen years he has been lisping the name of Jesus with such ability as the Lord has been pleased to bestow, without any of the polish of Gamaliel's school, and although it has been his privilege to suffer some persecution, yet he has not resisted unto blood, striving against sin; he finds by every day's experience that he is a sinner yet, his nature is evil as ever it was. To will is present with him, but how to perform that which is good he finds not. He is still the chief of sinners, and if a saint, the least of all.
New Vernon, N.Y.
April 30, 1834.
[The above article was first republished in 1865 by request of Elder Beebe's daughters.]
Volume 8, No. 1