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RELATION OF MY EXPERIENCE.

Ramipo, N.Y., Jan.5,1852.

DEAR BROTHER: - About the time I left Maine, some of the brethren and sisters requested me to write for the SIGNS, and I have a mind so to do, inasmuch as I shall not be with them this winter as formerly. I have been satisfied for a number of years that in me, {that is in my flesh,} dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. It appears to me that I am more fearful and trembling than I used to be, and have more of a sense of my poverty and wretchedness. I frequently ask myself the question, can it be possible I am a christian, and that I am called to the work of the ministry? Sometimes I am almost overcome with the thought. If it was not that I at times have a sense of the goodness and mercy of God toward me, I should be overwhelmed with a sense of my sinfulness and wretchedness. For this reason I still feel to hope in God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. When I remember the great and terrible wilderness through which the saints of God have to pass, I reflect with some satisfaction on the dealings of the Lord with me. It has caused me to take a retrospective view of late of my former experience, when I was called out of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. From the time I was five, until I was seventeen years of age, I had many fearful apprehensions of death, judgment and eternity. But it was not until the summer of 1837 that I was specially led to reflect upon my situation before God. I cannot refer to any particular time when I received my first impression, but I well recollect that there was an alternation in my feelings which occasioned deep thought and reflection. I read the Bible, tried to pray, and attended meetings with a firm resolution to get religion, as it is called; but my prayers were very poor, and at last I got discouraged, and resolved to give it up. While under that resolve I took up a book which providentially came in my way, and the first words I read were a quotation from the Bible, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes, yet know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” This left an impression on my mind that I never could remove. I again resorted to my own works, for it was the way of my own heart, and seemed right in the sight of my own eyes, but instead of growing better, I constantly grew worse in my own view, until the following scriptures were applied to my mind: “All our righteousness are as filthy rags.” – “After we have done all we are unprofitable.” – “If we offend in one point we are guilty of all.” It was a death blow to all my hopes and expectations, for sin revived and I died. I knew not what to make of it, for I could neither repent, weep, nor feel sorrowful for my sins. My prayers appeared useless and sinful, and my thoughts and ways were altogether vile. I was lost and undone, and justly condemned, but had not that sense of it that I supposed persons under a work of grace must have. I wished I could say, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” from the heart, but I could not as I desired. One day I left the workshop to go to the house with an unusual sense of my hardened and lost condition, and on my arrival at the house I was astonished at the peace of mind I felt. My burden was gone, and I knew not what to think of it. I finally concluded I had lost all of my convictions, and that I was in a worse state than before. I concluded that I was deceived, and settled down under that impression, with a resolve never to say anything about it. In March, 1838, a certain minister was at the house of my father one day who closely questioned me on my religious exercises. I evaded an answer until my father told me to tell him {the minister} my thoughts; for, said he, it will not do you any hurt. I proceeded to tell him, and soon the minister left the house. After he was gone, it came fresh to my mind that I had deceived him, and that he would tell others that I had experienced religion, when it was all a mistake. I told my father the trouble I was in, and he advised me to go to an evening meeting which was to be held that night, and tell them I was deceived. I accordingly went and spoke in the meeting the first time in my life, but instead of saying what I intended, I told the people that I had passed from death unto life. My mind was relieved and I was set at liberty. The next day something said to me, “You have done it now, you went to meeting intending to remove a wrong impression, but instead of that you confirmed it, and your situation is now hopeless.” I was in dreadful anguish of soul for a few minutes, and then it passed off and left me in a sort of a calm. A few days past away, and without any particular sense of duty, I went to the conference of a Baptist church in the neighborhood, and related my experience. After they received me as a candidate for baptism, very unexpected to myself, for it was difficult for me to believe that I had told a gospel experience. The next day I was baptized, which was the first Sunday in April, 1838. I went into the water in a trembling, fearful state of mind, but came out of the water in a calm serene frame of mind. But after this I had many serious fears that all I had experienced I had borrowed, or learned from others. I soon began to take an active part in social meetings and by degrees I gained some strength. But I must stop my wandering lest I occupy too much space for one communication. I was a member of a New School Baptist church, though at the time I knew nothing of any division among the Baptists, but supposed they were all alike. I was baptized by a man who was considered by brethren at that time to be a gospel preacher. He died about one year after I was baptized. I passed through some severe trials while in connection with the New School Baptists, but finally in July, 1841, I left the church, and united with the Old School Baptist church at Bowdoinham, Maine, where I am still a member.

I have given a general outline of my first experience, without entering too much into particulars. I cannot say that I am fully satisfied with what I have written, but it is the best I can do. I trust the experience of the children of God are essentially alike, though they may vary in many circumstances. There can be no boasting among them, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. There is a growth in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but it is altogether different from what human reason can teach or have any knowledge of. The Lord leads his children through scenes of various kinds, which at the time they cannot comprehend, but are made to see it afterwards, and to behold the purpose of God therein. Or at least if they cannot comprehend it fully as they desire they have to acknowledge the hand of God and confess that his way is just.


PART II.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - In view of the gracious dealings of our God with his church and people, and in consideration of his loving kindness and tender mercy extended toward a worm of the dust, I feel to continue a relation of my experience, hoping it may not be wholly unprofitable to the church of God. In my last letter I mentioned that after I had become a member of a Baptist church, I began to take an active part in social meetings. Sometimes I had liberty to speak and pray, and then again my mind would be closed up so that I could not express myself. Within three or four months after I joined the church, I had some interesting and comforting views on the plan of salvation, in a crucified and risen Savior, which caused a strong desire to arise in my mind to go forth and preach the gospel of the grace of God. The successive doubts and fears, which I previously had, at times were removed; I felt to rejoice in the Lord, and to joy in the God of my salvation. My confidence in the Lord was increased, and I was led on with rapidity in the christian course. But I did not express any of my thoughts about preaching, for I concluded that it was common for young christians to have such exercises, and still be deceived in them. I continued to pursue rather an active course in religious meetings for several months, until new and unexpected difficulties arose which brought me under the rod of correction and severe chastisement. My strength to speak in defense of the truth was taken away from me, and I was suffered to experience the fiery darts of the wicked. It will be remembered that I was a member of a New School Baptist church, and that I was led in a different manner from what the church appeared to be, which occasioned some deep trials of mind. I was led to behold the spirit of opposition to God and truth, among the N.S.Baptists, in common with all other branches of modern anti-christ, and I was a partaker of their sins. In August 1839, this scripture came to my mind, with an impression I never felt before, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Luke 22:31. I was confident that I was about to pass through something that would try me to the utmost extent. About the same time another passage of scripture was impressed on my mind, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Pet.1:13. I felt that I should be sustained through it, and that the exhortation of the apostle was applicable to me. A few days after this a thick cloud of darkness came over me, in a very unexpected manner, which deprived me of all sense of the preciousness of Jesus Christ to my soul.

I must pass over a succession of trials and temptations, for about one and a half years, during which time there was not a promise applied to me, that I ever should again experience any deliverance. I do not conclude that there was any temptation happened to me more than what is common to man. Sometimes I felt to weep and mourn, that I should question the truth of the Bible, and the existence of Christ, and of God, or that I should arraign infinite wisdom at the bar of human reason, and charge him with injustice and partiality. But such seasons of sorrow and contrition were very short, and seldom experienced. I attended Sunday meetings very regularly the whole time, but it was of no profit to me, for I heard no preaching that reached my case, or that afforded any comfort to my distressed soul. Some of the sorrowful expressions of the Old Testament saints, at times were a support, and encouragement to hope that deliverance would come at the appointed time. At last I refused to be comforted, for the heavens appeared like brass over my head, and the earth like iron under my feet, for everything I said and did appeared to be turned to my disadvantage. At the appointed time when all hope was taken away, and I was in indescribable anguish of soul, deliverance came through the application of the following scriptures, “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” Psa. 11:3. I was rescued from the jaws of devouring death, from the pit of misery and woe. I was in a state of perfect peace, and felt that underneath me were the everlasting arms, to sustain and support me. My mind was very weak and helpless, but I received assurance that I was not overlooked in the unchangeable love and mercy of God to his church and people. It was very plain that I should have to leave the church of which I was a member, though I trembled at the thought. I had felt at times a hard unforgiving spirit towards them, a disposition to mangle, cut, and destroy them if it had been in my power. But blessed be God, I trust it was removed from me through an application of the following scriptures, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. “Lord lay not this sin to their charge.” Acts 7:60. I felt to forgive them with all my heart, and also to leave them in the hand of God, who has declared, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Rev. 12:20. The words of Hosea rested with weight on my mind, in those days, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.” Hosea 4:17. I went to the church conference, and gave a brief relation of my experience, views of doctrine, and of the church, and denomination and that I should leave them, and where I intended to go. I probably talked about twenty-five minutes. For the first time for a long season was I sensible of a perfect deliverance from oppression and captivity. This scripture was applicable to me at that time. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” Isa. 40:29. I felt that the Lord had sustained me, and that I could run through a troop, and leap over a wall. This scripture had formerly been much on my mind, “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth, and he that departs from evil, maketh himself a prey.” Isa. 59:14-15.

Having experienced a relief from the toils, and din of war, I vainly supposed that I should enjoy rest and quietness, as I had become a member of an O.S.Baptist church, but in a short time my exercises in regard to preaching revived and I soon began to be in trouble. Being a tanner and currier by trade I tried to have my attention occupied in my business, and dismiss all thoughts of the work of the ministry. I traveled some among O.S.Baptists, and tried to satisfy myself with taking an active part in meetings, without attempting to preach. But it was of no avail, for the more I shifted from side to side, the more my trouble increased. I thought if I was only qualified I should be willing to preach, for I was very selfish and desired to have my own way. I desired death and longed for it, as for a hidden treasure. But on a certain time, very unexpectedly, a question was asked me by some invisible power in the following manner, “Will you preach, or shall I take my Holy Spirit from you?” I was stopped in my reasoning in a moment. I trembled for fear of the consequences resulting from such obstinacy, and willfulness on my part. The thought of banishment from the presence of God, or that he should take his Holy Spirit from me, was dreadful to reflect upon. I had rather preach or suffer anything imaginable, than that such should be the case. After I became satisfied I should have to make the attempt, I continued to postpone the time to some future period, until I was brought to a complete stand, you must preach now or die. I was away from home at the time; and I was led in my feelings to return home, and go to the church of which I am a member, and tell them my exercises in regards to preaching. I proceeded to do so; the way was made clear before me, and I made my first attempt, by taking a text of scripture on the second Sunday, in November 1841. I looked for nothing but death at the first onset, and I can truly say, if the Lord had not been my help, I should have perished in my affliction. I am far from being satisfied with myself, for the longer I live, and the experience I have, the more I am constrained to exclaim, “O, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:24. It is a matter of encouragement that it was said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” II Cor. 12:9. Paul said, “I die daily.” He also said, “As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Rom. 8:36-37. It is also said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” I Tim.1:15. The church of God is led to believe and to rejoice in this the truth.

For five years after I began to preach, I had occasionally feelings of deep unreconciliation to my course in the ministry. But since that time I have been more at rest on that subject. After I left the N.S. Baptists, for a long time I had a vivid sense of the wounds I received while among them, but it is now passed over, and a sense of those trying scenes are measurably forgotten. All I have experienced thus far has been calculated to establish me more and more in the great truth of the gospel. But I am deeply sensible that I am a man unfit, and unworthy to be recognized among the saints of the Most High God. I am at times almost overcome with such reflections. I hope my apparent egotism will be over looked, and that brethren and sisters will bear with my infirmities. Bear one another’s burdens, said Paul, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I am now at Ramapo, Rockland County, New York. I shall never forget the brethren and sisters in Maine, though mountains, hills, and rivers, with more than four hundred miles in distance now separate me from them. The churches at Bowdoinham, Jay and Whittfield, in a particular manner bear upon my mind, with feelings of solicitude. May the blessing of God abide upon them and upon all the elect of God, throughout the length and breadth of this wide extended republic.

The churches here are in union among themselves in the fellowship of the gospel of Christ. Some of our meetings have been interesting through the presence of our God and King.

Joseph L. Purington.