To the editor of the Signs of the Times, as a brother beloved, having a communication to make as agent, having written lately on several subjects to yourself and others, having no new turn of thoughts to communicate, and yet having some inclination to darken the paper a little, I am somewhat at a loss for a subject. But while ruminating, the subject of Christian Experience comes before me; and I think of the consolation I hope I have received in reading some of the experiences of my brethren whose faces I have never seen, and the warmth of affection flowing towards them: and calling to mind past scenes which have been to me deeply interesting, I will tell my brethren through your columns, if you please, some of my cognoscence on the subject. Perhaps it may administer, through the operation of the blessed Spirit, some small degree of comfort to some of the weaklings of my Master’s flock. And I shall state it in this way. If a view by faith (as in a glass) of the divine glory and fulness of the blessed Saviour fills the soul with such self loathing as I hope I sometimes feel; and such desire to be like him in all holy exercise; to be diligent in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; how little do we see of his glory, and how seldom are the opportunities in which we are favored with such special manifestations of his grace! And how corrupt and abominable must our nature be, since we are so much of the time so low, dull, dark and indifferent in our feelings; so light, vain, proud, foolish and sinful thoughts, are so glued to this world and its vanities, so inconstant to Jesus in our affections, and our zeal in his cause so inferior to the zeal of many in the service of their idols! How unworthy the christian character do we act when Jesus hides his glorious face from our view, and that lump of corruption called self is left without the restraint of his special presence and power to keep it in subjection! It does not appear that such manifestations of his love as he sometimes makes is sufficient to keep the soul long in a tranquil state: for what Paul calls the old man can be as religious as the proud monarch of Babylon when he saw the form of the fourth in his overheated furnace: for when he saw there was a God who cold deliver from his fiery oven, he could at once make a religious law to show his zeal in behalf of the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego. So when we are quickened to diligence in duty by the light of Christ’s loving countenance, and a view of our former negligence makes us ashamed, and taste of the sweets of bliss divine is given, we begin at once to pass resolutions in relation to our future diligence in the way of duty. As the Arminian teaches that our comfort in religion depends on our faithfulness therein, and there is so much comfort to be enjoyed, and so much safety from future pain and the execution of the curse of the law, our old man (being an Arminian) resolves with all his might (which is perfect weakness) to be more faithful; he acknowledges that he has done wrong, he ought to do better, he must do better, he will do better – be more faithful – watch more – pray more – read more – repent more – be more studios in religious things – more punctual to fulfill his promises – more upright in his walk – more reserved in his conversation – more religious in his appearance – do more for God – indeed be much better every way, so that he may enjoy more comfort, have less trouble, be much better thought of among professors of religion and by the world at large. But all his resolutions, promises, prayers, tears, repentance and the rest of his religious exercises are no better than Nebuchadnezzar’s decree that nobody should speak anything against the God of Israel. Self, beloved self, is at bottom of such resolutions as originate in and flow from the flesh.
That we ought to pray more and repent of all our wickedness in the sigh of God, is granted; and when the Spirit of God leads thereto and Jesus gives repentance, it will be done, and done to purpose; and not otherwise. All our prayers and repentance that are not excited by these divine influences, and of the same kind that the scribes and Pharisees of old possessed: and modern pharisaism is no better for having a new dress and being called gospel instead of law; or for professing the name of Christ instead of Moses. I myself have formed more such resolutions, were they separately written, than you could print on the largest sheet of paper you ever saw, and am no better yet! – no better for all of them! they are all broken, and I am the same poor helpless sinner that I was when I first publicly engaged to be for God, and for none other, – more than forty-seven years ago. Still God is the same; his grace is the same, and my poor old loathsome sinful religious self is pretty much the same; perhaps as I grow older my corruptions grow stronger, or appear more unwieldy. I have hoped, however, that is has been the enjoyment of more light that has made my corruptions appear worse to me, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. May this then be my consolation, that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. So s sin hath abounded in me, grace may much more abound towards me; that as sin hath reigned in me unto death, even so may grace reign in me through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yours to serve for my Lord and in his cause, by the leave of his providence and the aid of his Spirit,
South-hill, Bradford Co., Pa., Jan. 21, 1841.
Signs of the Times
Volume 9, No. 5.
March 1, 1841