« AnteriorContinuar »
converse about the evidences. For some time past I have got over every doubt which can have the least influence upon my principles or moral conduct. If I had no other motive, this consideration alone is sufficient to make me believe in the Gospel, preferably to
every other religion I am acquainted with. No man who is in the least acquainted with the human nature, or the history of mankind, before the appearance of our Saviour, can possibly dispute the propriety and necessity of a divine revelation. There are but three religions of any consideration in the world that pretend to a direct revelation. I am thoroughly satisfied that of these, Christianity is the most rational, best accommodated to the weakness and imperfections of mankind,freest from absurdity, or even mystery, in its doctrines and institutions ;min a word, has more genuine marks of something superior to human wisdom. A man who can say this much with sincerity, and after a tolerably accurate comparison, is, I hope, not far from being a Christian.
One would naturally think, and it is unquestionably my duty, that nothing now remained but a hearty and diligent compliance with all the precepts and institutions of this
religion. But men have more motives to action than belief. It were easy to be a Christian, if a diligent attendance upon its public institutions were the only thing required. But, besides these, Christianity requires the purest and most perfect virtue, habitual gratitude and devotion to God, to the Saviour of the world. To guard against deceptions, to oppose the passions, to check vitious propensities, to keep devotion alive in the heart. A strict regard to these things would be sufficient employment for all our thoughts and all our industry, although no necessary interruptions were to occur. Heaven not only demands all this, 'but even that we should daily grow more and more perfect. Such, however, is the situation of almost the whole human race, that it is absolutely impossible, in the nature of things, that they should ever make even a tolerable progress in the duties of Christianity. The greatest and most valuable part of our time is necessarily con-sumed in labouring for subsistence; after which we must rest and sleep, to prepare for returning to our labour. Crosses in business and private affairs disturb our thoughts, and often put us out of all tune for devotion or religious exercises. These are difficulties
which you are well acquainted with. I mean not to mention purity and devotion as objections to Christianity; on the contrary, they are its excellence and its glory, But I mention these unavoidable difficulties as some apology for the small progress I have made in virtue and true goodness. I confess the apology is bad ; for much time is spent, to say no worse of it, in idleness and amusement, and sometimes in unprofitable study. But I promised to disclose the real motives that obstruct my progress in religion. So far as I know myself
, bashfulness is the great source of all
my errors. All other passions I have learnt to keep at least within decent bounds; but this passion is deeply rooted. That it is so I will not attribute entirely to constitution, I think I can trace something like a cause or origin. It was iny misfortune, very early in life, to lose my mother. My father, though he set before me an example of the purest manners and warmest devotion, was necessarily abroad at business from morning to night. He had no time to cause his children exhibit any portion of their religious duties before him. He was naturally abstracted; and performed every thing of that kind by himself. He often inculcated prayer, &c.
but enjoined secrecy, and never asked to hear our performances. You can easily see that, in a family of this nature, company would be but seldom indulged. Thus things went on, till I arrived at fourteen years of age, when I was put to business. This recluse kind of ļife had stampt such strong impressions of shamefacedness and bashfulness, that I dare say I was twenty years of age before I could even venture to read aloud in presence of a human creature. Since that time I have thrown off a great deal ; but, when so much was to do, a great deal makes but a small appearance. I am still far behind what I know to be my duty, which I earnestly wish to accomplish.
You will probably think that I ought to make a bold push. But an enterprize of this kind has done mischief, About five
years ago I attempted this, and even proceeded so far as to pray one evening in a family. You need not doubt but this was the result of much intreaty. You can scarcely figure my situation. I trembled,-my tongue faultered-neither sentiment nor expression could I command. In short, I was so highly disgusted with my performance, that I almost
secretly resolved never to make such another attempt.
My present situation is likewise unfortunate: Considerably chagrined with difficult affairs: Another person living in the house besides my own family. This last circumstance is an insuperable objection against setting that example which I so much desire. I hope, however, soon to get free from this obstruction, to take a cheaper house, and to live more privately. This is procrastinating, but I cannot resist. I could hardly think of communicating without previously setting up family worship, which I can never attempt till we are entirely alone; nor would I chuse to begin it without adhering uniformly to the practice.
I have endeavoured to be candid, to throw aside all sophistry, and to unbosom myself with simplicity and truth. I doubt not, how
you will be able to perceive both sophistry and deceit. If you do, I expect and desire you'll point them out.
You ask a poor favour. I have some of your letters ; others are destroyed. My