Joseph Perry

The Life And Ministry Of Joseph Perry

Gospel Standard 1853:

My father and mother, according to the information I have had, lived in the Strand, at London, where I and my two sisters were born. I heard that I had another brother, but he died in infancy. My father was, as I understood, by trade a whitesmith, and being a good workman, he had a good place of business under King Charles II. He was by profession a Roman Catholic; so was my mother, grandfather, and grandmother, both on father and mother’s side, with others of my relations, all of them deeply dyed in the profession of Papistry. We were all born and bred up in that religion. My father died in the prime of his life; he left us small, and I, being the youngest, cannot remember anything of him. He died in England, but my mother soon after went to Holland. She took only me along with her, leaving my two sisters, Dorothy and Elizabeth, with some of our relations about London. She went privately. What was the occasion of her going I cannot tell, unless, as I have thought since, it might be upon the account of her religion; she being, as I have heard, a very zealous woman in her profession, and it being a troublesome time, in the latter end of King Charles II.’s reign, against all those that did not conform to the Church of England; which act, though it was chiefly executed against the Dissenting Protestants, yet the Papists had some share in it. Now, Holland being a place where all enjoy the liberty of serving God according to their consciences, I conceive this might be one occasion of her going. But, alas! she had not been long there before she fell ill, and grew worse and worse; until she sickened and soon died.

Here I was left in a strange country, among a strange people, away from all my relations and acquaintances, and I myself altogether helpless, for I was so young that I cannot remember my father nor my mother; I cannot remember my going into Holland, nor any of these passages, but what I received something of by information since. But O the goodness of Divine Providence that appeared for me at such a time! “When father and mother had left me,” as David says, “then the Lord took me up.” The Lord was pleased to stir up and incline the heart of a Papist gentlewoman, who I suppose had some acquaintance with my mother before she died. This woman took me as if I had been her own, and put me out to nurse, and, when I was capable, she put me to school, where I continued until I could read any sort of books in Dutch well. I took my learning, though but a child, eagerly. I was always, I can remember, from the time that I began to read, very bookish; when I saw a book, I had an unsatisfied mind until I knew what was in it.

I was put out to a place where the chapel joined the house. There I was taught to serve mass, to wait at the altar upon the priest. I suppose their design was to have me go further, but Providence ordered it otherwise. I can well remember that then, though but about six or seven years old, I was at times under great conviction. They used to tell me what heaven, hell, and purgatory were. These things made a great impression upon my thoughts then. I was much afraid of hell; the thought of it was terrible to me; I had a great desire that I might go to heaven. Purgatory was very dreadful too; for as they told me, so I believed, that purgatory was as bad as hell, only out of purgatory there was redemption, but out of hell there was none. I was so settled in the principles of Popery, that I verily thought none went to heaven but Roman Catholics; yes, I can remember that I was so zealous, as for forcing others to turn Catholics, for if they were not, they could not be saved.

The gentlewoman who brought me up after my mother’s death was very strict with me, and made me say my prayers very often. She gave me beads to pray by, which I was to say through before I gave over, a prayer to every bead, which consisted in three parts: First, the Belief; secondly, the Lord’s Prayer; thirdly, prayers to the Virgin Mary. But I had other prayers besides these upon other occasions. Confession of sin I was forced to often; and I remember very well, that if I did not tell the priest all the sins I knew of, if I hid any particular sin, I went under the guilt of it; for I thought it could not be pardoned if I did not confess all my sins unto the priest.

When I was about seven or eight years old, as near as I can apprehend, I was under such convictions, that I used to get by myself in the chapel, when I thought nobody saw me, and fall down before the altar upon my knees, Christ hanging upon a cross just above the altar, in that very form that the Scriptures give us an account of—a crown of thorns upon his head, with the blood running down his temples; his hands and feet nailed to the cross, and the blood running from thence; a hole in his side made by the spear, the blood seeming to run out abundantly; nothing covered his naked body but a small thing like a linen cloth, or swathe, round about his middle. This was not like a picture drawn by the painter, but a solid body, so made to the life, that it appeared like a very man, with flesh, blood, and bones, hanging upon the cross; and so affecting to my carnal sense, that I was ready to adore it, as if it had been Christ himself. This image I used to fall down before upon my knees in private, and pray as well as I could. What words I made use of I cannot now remember, but they were to this effect, that I might be saved, my sins pardoned, and that I might not go to hell.

I was such an admirer of pictures, especially the picture of Christ and the Virgin Mary, that I could not forbear giving divine adoration to them; so ignorant was I, that I looked upon it as my duty. Yes, I remember very well how fearful I was to lie alone; but if I had but the picture of Christ or the Virgin Mary at the bed’s head, it would quiet me, and remove from me those fears that I was troubled with. I have many times since wondered at my own ignorance in many things that then I was zealous about and verily believed to be true.

In this place I continued until, I suppose, I might be between eight and nine years old, serving mass, waiting upon the priest at the altar, until the beginning of the reign of King James II., and then this gentlewoman wished to come to England, it being a time then that smiled upon the Papists. After she concluded to come, she waited the time and took me along with her. But she had told me that I should go back again with her; and so she had, as I think, told the people where I boarded, for they were very unwilling to part with me; therefore I was to have gone back, unless she could find any of my relations that should not be willing to let me go back, but would take care of me themselves.

Well, at the time appointed, when the vessel was ready to go, we took ship. We came by water first to Amsterdam, and there stayed a little time. I suppose the wind did not set right for England; but at last we set forward, and the wind being troublesome, we were a pretty deal longer upon the water than we should have been. At the latter end of the voyage it was so tempestuous that we were much affrighted; but at last, through the mercy of Divine Providence, we all came safe to shore. I remember I was very sick upon the water. Having landed, we came to London in the hackney coach. When we came to London, the gentlewoman took up her lodging at a painter’s house, where we continued some time. The pictures that I saw there were very delightful to me, insomuch that I had a great mind to have been a painter; I did begin to draw out many pictures with my pen. During our continuance here, we used to go to mass to a place about St. James’s Park, where we had organs, singing men in their white surplices, burning of incense, and all things delightful to nature. Sometimes we went to other places; having then free liberty in our way of worship, we went without fear. I sometimes served mass while I was at London. I remember one time a gentleman, whom I met in London some little time after, who had been at our worship when I served mass, spoke very kindly to me, calling me good boy, and gave me sixpence; this pleased me wonderfully.

But to be as brief as possible. It was not long before the gentlewoman that took care of me heard of and found out some of my relations living in London, who, I suppose, were glad to see me, not knowing whether I was dead or alive, or what had become of me and my mother, she, as I said before, having gone into Holland privately. The relations which this gentlewoman found out were two women, whom I called aunts, their father and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, being own brother and sister, all strong Roman Catholics. Well, these took me into their care, provided for me, and put me out to school to learn English, for I could speak nothing but Dutch; they clothed me from top to toe very genteelly, and seemed to have a very great love and respect for me; they made me believe that they would put me out to a painter, because I took so much delight in pictures.

Soon after this, the gentlewoman that was as a mother to me returned into Holland, I never having seen or heard of her since. Being thus left with my aunts, as I called them, they put me out to board, for they, being single, lived a retired life, having an estate left them by their father to live upon. Here I continued some time, as I said before, going to school. While here, I committed some fault, as without doubt I had committed many; but this was something for which I was complained against by the woman I boarded with, and for which I was forced to go to a priest and make confession of my sins. This I remember very well.

Some time after this, I understood that my grandfather and grandmother, and my eldest sister, were living in Derbyshire, at a place called West Hallem. They wanted to see me. My aunts having agreed to send me to my grandfather, there was an end put to my being a painter. When the time appointed came, I was sent into Derbyshire, where I continued some time with my grandfather and grandmother. They were very glad to see me. My sister had a great love for me, and so had I for her; I thought I loved her as my own soul. My grandfather was very weak, and was forced to keep his bed some years before he died. My grandmother was pretty hearty. She was very religious in her way, and I believe spent the greatest part of her latter time in reading and prayer; I can remember her going by herself to pray several times a day. My sister would not go out of doors until she had sprinkled her face with holy water. They were strict in their devotions, and, indeed, so was I, according to the blind zeal which I had in my young years; so that it might be said of us, in some respects, as the apostle said concerning Israel, “We had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” While I continued here, I used to go to school. I went often to a great gentleman’s house in the town, who was a Roman Catholic, and used to keep a priest in his house. This priest, I remember, had a respect for me; and after I had been there some time, he was willing to prefer me to a gentleman’s place, to wait upon one Sir Henry Robinson, at Cransley, in Northamptonshire; to which it was agreed that I should go. Thus Providence moved and removed me from place to place, until at last it brought me under the sound of the gospel. But more of that afterwards.

When I came to Cransley, which I suppose might be the eleventh year of my age, Sir Henry put me into a blue livery. I used to go with him when he went abroad, to wait upon him. Sir Henry was a strong Roman Catholic, but his lady was a Church of England woman. We had a priest sometimes in the house with us, yet we often went to Desborough, about a mile off Rothwell, to one Mr. Polton, a great Roman Catholic, who was made a justice of the peace in the time of King James II. Here we used to go to mass and confession of sin. Here a Jesuit used sometimes to preach. To this place Sir Henry R. and I went often, there being none in the family, nor, as I know of, in the town, that professed to be Roman Catholics but ourselves, only sometimes we had a priest with us; but at Desborough Mr. Polton’s whole family were Papists, with some others in the town, so that there several met together. Here I continued with Sir Henry R. until he fell distracted, which, I think, was about a quarter of a year before the Prince of Orange landed in England. After this, Lady R. broke up housekeeping, and most of her servants went away. I went to Mr. Polton’s, of Desborough, where I continued some time, until T could get a place.

At last I had a mind to go to some trade, and having made inquiry, one George Clarke, living at Cransley, proposed to take me apprentice if I was willing. After some consideration, it was agreed that I should go to him. I had some money to put me out. When I was about being bound, Mr. Polton, I remember, gave charge to my master not to let me work in Christmas holy-days, nor on some saints’ days, but let me have my liberty. This pleased me well enough, and so I came again to live at Cransley. This was, I suppose, about the twelfth, or between the twelfth and thirteenth years of my age.

After I had lived here a little time with my master, I understood he was a Dissenter, and went to the meetings; yet sometimes he would go to the church, but chiefly the other way. By this time I had grown very loose and vain; the convictions which I had in my younger time about a future state and the salvation of my soul, I had lost. I was for taking my pleasure with my companions, and spending the Lord’s Day wickedly. But my master, who had something of religion in him, not liking that I should spend my time so vainly upon the Lord’s Day, would be solicitous for me to go along with him, and sometimes I did. The first place I went to was Kettering meeting, where one Mr. Meadwell preached, but he being old and very low in his voice, I could neither understand nor well hear what he said. But sometimes my master went to Rothwell, and would have me go along with him there, and accordingly I did. This was some little time before Mr. Davis came. I think the man I then heard, whom I suppose they had upon trial, was one Mr. Harris. I thought the man preached well, and looked with a sober, solid countenance; but, alas I do not remember that I understood anything any more than the ground I stood upon. Soon after this, Mr. Davis came. We went to hear him; he had a good voice, and a thundering way of preaching, which I was pleased with. I used to wonder at one thing, and that was their sitting with their hats on while they were hearing, which I thought was not right. Yet in the little time that I heard them, I thought, and was convinced so far as to believe, that they were good people. Yet all this while I was ignorant of Christ and of salvation by him; ignorant of myself and the plague of my own heart.

But at this time Lady Robinson coming to her house at Cransley, she heard that I went with my master to the meeting. She sent for me, and when I came, she blamed me very much, and told me what bad people they were, and what grievous errors they held, therefore she would have me go to the church, promising that she would be very kind to me if I would not go to the meetings. I verily believe she had rather I had been a Papist still than that I should go to the meetings. She gave me a prayer-book and a catechism-book; and told me to learn my prayers and my catechism by heart, and when I had learned them to come to her again, and she would give me something; and be sure I came to the church. So what with her threatenings on the one hand, and her promises on the other, I, having no principles to guide me, was beaten off from going to the meeting for some time; nor do I know that I should have gone any more, had not God had, I hope, a design of mercy towards me, who, by his gracious providence, brought me under the means again. My lady having prevailed with me, I went to the church, nor had I inclination then of going elsewhere; but our parson was a very indifferent living man, so that the very light of nature would convince me that he was not a good preacher. There appearing no good in him, no good was to be expected from him, which made me, with some others of our town, go to Thorpe, a mile off, where one Mr. Courtman preached. This man was reputed to be a good preacher and of a good conversation. Here I used to go sometimes because others went, not out of any love I had to the word of God, nor any concern I had about my soul; neither can I remember that I understood what the man preached. Now, as long as I went to the church, and not to the meeting, my lady was well enough satisfied; but, alas! a poor ignorant, carnal creature I was, that knew not the right hand from the left in salvation matters, neither had I any concern about these things.

I remember that I was dismally frightened on the day called “Running Thursday,” when there was a rumour all over the nation that the French or Irish had landed in England, and that they killed, burnt up, and destroyed all the way that they went. This was in the beginning of King William’s reign. About us where I then lived it was said to be on a Thursday, and therefore called “Running Thursday,” though I have heard since that in some places it was not till Friday. A very terrible time it was while the fright lasted. I expected to be killed; but, alas! I cannot but wonder since how stupid and senseless I was about my soul. I cannot remember that I had in all that terrible fright a thought either of salvation or damnation; I was only afraid of losing my life. Thus I went on, in a poor carnal way of life, being at ease, and satisfying myself all was well enough as long as I went sometimes to the church.

As for the religion I was born and bred up in, it was quite lost, and the conviction that I had in my younger time, when a strong Roman Catholic, was worn off; neither was I willing to be counted a Papist any longer, because that name was not much countenanced among us after the Prince of Orange was proclaimed King of England.

About this time, I remember, a fire broke out at Thorpe, where I used to go to hear; the fire was violent and did much damage. The neighbouring towns being alarmed, I went among the rest, and was frightened to see how terribly the fire burned. This a little stirred up conviction in me again. Well, thought I, I will endeavour to take Lady Robinson’s counsel, and say my prayers and learn my catechism, and then I thought that God would be pleased with me. And then there was another thing which was taken notice of, and that was, that the fire missed the parson’s house, although it was very near it; and I think I heard them say that the fire flew over his house, and set Mr. Mansfield’s barn on fire, which had a great deal of grain in it, and was but a little way off the parson’s. This begat in me a better thought of Mr. Courtman.

After I had gone on thus for about two years and a half, a man came to our house, named John Clarke, who lived at Kingstead, in the same county, about seven or eight miles from Cransley, and who, I think is still living there; my master was his uncle. This man, understanding that his uncle had no great matter of business, had a mind to have me go and live with him, he being of the same trade. After my master and he had discoursed on the point, it was agreed that I should go, if I were willing, for he wanted a man very much. When they put the matter to me, I was willing to go, for it mattered not much where I went, so that I had but things needful.

This business being concluded, in a little time I went to live at Ringstead, with John Clarke; and when I got there, I understood that my new master and mistress were both Dissenters, which I did not know before, for I did not ask the question, nor do I remember that I was at all thoughtful about it: neither did I much regard it when I knew it, for I was allowed to go where I pleased, that is, on a Sunday, as we call it. Soon becoming acquainted with other young men I was willing to take my pleasure with them on that day. Besides, my fellow-apprentice, who was there before me, was very wicked, which did me much hurt, so that I grew worse and worse; and those little convictions and checks that I had at times, (mentioned before,) not sticking fast nor abiding long, were easily got off, and I began more eagerly to drink down iniquity like water.

My master and mistress used to go, on a Lord’s Day, sometimes to Kettering. (for my mistress was a member of that church in Mr. Meadwell’s time,) this was five miles; and sometimes to Thorpe Waterfield, where sometimes one preached and sometimes another; this was about four miles. Now when they were gone, and left us at full liberty at home, we were not wanting in making use of our time, in sinful vanity enough, the Lord knows!

But, O the infinite mercy and kindness of God to such a wicked, sinful creature as I was, that he did not suffer me to go on in that wicked course of life all my days, nor cut me off in my wickedness! My master and mistress desired that one of us should go along with them one day, and one another; but my companion was utterly averse to going to the meeting, and because he would not, I was also unwilling to go.

After we had gone on thus for a time, my mistress, who was a very good woman, understanding what wicked pranks we played on the Lord’s Day, often talked to us, and laid the evil of our ways before us, to which we too often turned a deaf ear. But one time, something that she had been speaking of to me stuck upon my mind, and that was, that the way I was so much set against was the right way, and that way that I had so much inclination to go in I might be sure was wrong, because we were naturally prone and inclined to that which was evil, and naturally bent against and averse to everything that is good, or to that effect; which, when I had seriously considered, I thought was certainly true; for I had received so much light and conviction before, in the little time that I had sat under the gospel, that I was more easily convinced of the truth of what she said.

So after this I went to Kettering, where my master and mistress went, though they had a horse, but I walked on foot. This was still in Mr. Meadwell’s time; and when I went there, Mr. Meadwell being aged, and, as I said before, very low in voice, I could hear but little, and understood less. Being very weary with walking five miles, the flesh was not willing to take such pains, and weary itself for nothing; so that I was unwilling to go any more, and did forbear some time, till at last they went to Thorpe Waterfield, and would have me go along with them there. I therefore went with them to Thorpe, where one Mr. Taylor preached, and sometimes Mr. Tabbot, of Rothwell, and sometimes Mr. Davis, and others, there being then no preacher settled there.

Here I went often, the way not being so long nor so tiresome, and I could hear better. But alas! I did not yet understand what I heard, only I had some renewals of my former conviction, that these were good people, and that this must be the right way; and I had more inclination to go to the meetings than I used to have: neither was I afraid of Lady Robinson, being removed some distance from her.

I remember I heard them say, that Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Robert Tabbott preached upon trial at Tharpe. I took such a liking to Mr. Taylor, that I greatly desired that he might be the man that should settle there. Once I heard Mr. Davis, of Rothwell, and when I heard him again, “Dear Lord,” thought I, “what a man is this!” I was ready to look upon him as if he had been an angel come from heaven. I thought the majesty of God shone in his countenance; his words seemed to stick like arrows in my soul. I felt such power and authority in his preaching the gospel, that it made me fall like a conquered captive at the sound of it. I saw now that I was a miserable sinner; and when he came to show how dreadful it would be with such as had not an interest in Christ, but lived and died in sin, I was afraid this would be my condition. Now my master and mistress had no need to persuade me to go to the meeting, for I was ready enough to go, and take all opportunities that possibly might be. But yet, notwithstanding the concern I was under, I continued ignorant of salvation purely and alone by Jesus Christ. I used to hear them speak of the grace of God, and that we must believe in Christ, and that without faith in him we could not be saved; but so foolish and ignorant was I, that I did not well understand what they meant by the word grace, nor by believing, or having faith in Christ. I did indeed understand this, that I was a sinner, and a wretched sinner too, and that we must be saved by Christ; but that we must be saved by Christ without doing anything, I did not yet understand. I thought surely we must do something that we might be saved, and something I was for doing. O to be saved purely by grace, and justified from law, condemnation, and the charge of offended justice, by the imputation of Christ’s pure and spotless righteousness, which must be received by faith—of this I was as ignorant of as any poor creature could be. There was another thing that I was very ignorant about, and that was election. The first time that I remember hearing anything about it, so as to take notice of it, was in conversation among Christian friends, as we were either going to or coming from, the meeting; but it was very strange and amazing to me when I heard of it. “What,” said I, “may not any person be saved if he will, if they are diligent in the use of the means, if they do what God has commanded them?” Surely, I thought, they might be saved. I did not yet know but that every man had power to do what God commanded him. This doctrine sounded very harsh in my ears, but yet I was not able to withstand the Scripture proofs and evidences that they brought out of God’s word, so that I was forced to be silent; but it was very awful, and begat heart-searchings in me, and inquiries whether I might be one of them, with a thousand fears lest I should not.

Some little time after this, a stranger came to preach at Thorpe, one Mr. Ward; several of us went out of our town to hear him. What the man preached from I cannot now remember, but I liked him wonderfully well, and something of his preaching was of use to me then, and made great impression upon my soul, though I cannot now remember the particulars. But there was one line in the hymn which he sung that God blessed, by fastening it upon my heart, which I could not wear off, but it sounded in my mind for some time wherever I went; and that was this, “If ye be wise, make Christ your prize.”

This expression was made of such use to me, together with his preaching, that now I did not only see myself to be a sinner, but in a vile, sinful, wretched, undone condition, without an interest in Jesus Christ. I saw that all the wisdom in the world, what specious pretences soever it may go under among men, was but foolishness, if not founded upon Christ for salvation. I saw that true wisdom, wisdom from above, the only wisdom that men could make use of was to secure an interest in Christ. I had a clear sight, blessed be distinguishing grace for it, that whatever religion or profession I might be of, or denomination I might go under, without a saving knowledge of Christ, and an interest in his person and righteousness for salvation, I must eternally perish. The Lord had now fully convinced me that it could not be anything that I could do, nor by works of righteousness that I had done. I not only saw that I was a sinful creature, but that there was sin in everything I did. Now the cry, the panting, breathing, and desire of my soul, was for an interest in Jesus Christ. O none but Christ, none but Christ, could satisfy my soul!

But, alas! notwithstanding I had so clear a sight of these things, and was convinced that I must be saved purely and alone by Jesus Christ, and that I was a sinful, undone creature without him, and my soul drawn in earnest desires after an interest in him, yet I was filled with abundance of fears and doubts whether he would accept of and save me, or not. Neither could I get over that doctrine of election. If I was not elected, notwithstanding all that had been said or done, I must perish.

But as to this, Mr. Davis’s preaching was made of great use to me. I remember when he used to speak to sinners, (for then I listened in particular,) he would exhort, with great earnestness, poor sinners to come to Christ, sinners as they were, and believe on him at the word of command:” This is the command of God, that ye believe on his Son,” (1 John 3:23,) and not stand to dispute whether thou art worthy or not worthy, elected or not elected. This being a secret, it was not for us to pry into, but as sinners we must come to Christ, believe on him, or be damned; from whence I saw that I might dispute and reason the case ever so long, yet I must put all to a venture, and at last go to Christ, sinner as I was; if I perished, I perished. I saw that there was no other way, but go I must or perish I must; and therefore I had a secret thought to put all to the venture, and throw myself at the foot of Christ for salvation. This afforded me a little ease, and gave me some encouragement, but did not remove the doubts and fears that I was almost always attended with.

Those words in 2 Kings 7 have been of great use to me, concerning the four lepers which lay at the gate of Samaria in the time of that sore famine. There was but one way that they could see of a possibility to live, and that was a desperate one too, by falling unto the host of the Syrians; committing themselves into the hands, or lying at the mercy of their enemies. Having reasoned the case thus, “If we sit still we must die; we cannot live by looking one upon another. If we go into the city, the famine is in the city, we must die there, nothing but death presents itself on every side; therefore let us venture, as if they should say, into the hands of the Syrians; if they save us alive, we shall live; if they kill us, we can but die.” Now the use that the Lord made of these words for my encouragement in venturing my soul upon Christ, was this: I thought if I did not come and venture my soul upon Christ, I must die; if I went elsewhere, to the works of the law, to my own duties and performances, I saw the famine was there; I must die also. No possibility could I see of life but this one way, and that was in coming and venturing my soul upon Christ only, as a poor perishing sinner, for salvation. And therefore, from these considerations, the Lord helped me to come and throw myself in the arms of Christ; if I perished, I perished; if I did die, I was resolved to die waiting at the foot of Christ for mercy; if he saved me alive, I should live; if not, I could but die. “And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate; and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians; if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” (2 Kings 7.3, 4.)

The same encouragement I found from those words in Esther 5, about the queen venturing into the presence of Ahasuerus, the king, without being called, which was death by the law, unless the king, out of favour, should hold out the golden sceptre. Now the occasion of this, we find, was from that hellish plot Hainan had laid, to cut off and destroy all the Jews that were in the king’s dominions, and so, consequently, the queen’s life lay at stake as well as the rest; which, when Queen Esther had an understanding of, she appointed a fast for three days and three nights, “I also and my maidens,” said she, “will fast likewise; and so I will go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4.16.) Here was a necessity laid upon the queen; so I thought this was my very case. I saw myself in a perishing condition if I did not come, if I did not venture in; and I could but perish if I did. Therefore, sink or swim, live or die, I saw a necessity laid upon me to venture my soul upon Christ Jesus. But O the success which Queen Esther had by venturing, as it is recorded in chap, 5, has been something to me! the king holding out the golden sceptre, whereby she had not only her life, but what sh’e desired, to the half of the kingdom promised. So I thought the Lord Jesus Christ, holding forth the sceptre of his grace in the preaching of the gospel unto poor sinners to lay hold upon, gave me encouragement to venture. Yea, much more than Queen Esther had, for the golden sceptre was not held out until after she was come in; but the sceptre of mercy is held forth in the gospel to sinners before they come, with a proclamation that, “Whosoever will, may come, and take of the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22.17.) And then I saw a greater necessity laid upon me to come than there could be in Queen Esther’s venturing, because hers was but for a temporal, but mine for an eternal life. Yea, I saw such a necessity of coming and venturing upon Christ that I could not be satisfied, but I must come; Christ I must have. Those words in Matt. 11.12, were also of use to me on this account: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” However this text has been disputed, this I must needs say, that the words have been of great use to me. I was made to see such an absolute need and necessity of Christ, that I could not, would not be denied. That part of the word carried encouragement in it to me: “And the violent take it by force.” But this force, or violent motion, which I found in my soul after Christ must be the work of his own Spirit.

But to return. After I had heard Mr. Ward at Thorpe, the friends at Ringstead, as well as myself, being much taken with his preaching, invited him to preach at Ringstead, and in a little time he came. He preached there several times after; and the Lord so blessed his ministry in the conversion of many souls, that he came to live there, and a stated meeting was fixed, which is continued to this day, and now a church of Christ is planted there. But the first time he preached at Ringstead, (I think it was the first time,) after I had heard him at Thorpe, he preached from 1 Tim. 1.15, “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 did not know that he knew anything of me then, nor do I think he did; but if he had, he could not have made choice of a more suitable text of Scripture than this was to my condition. I heard with all the diligence that I possibly could, and God was pleased to bless that opportunity indeed to my soul a time which I shall never forget, I hope, as long as I live in this world.

As Mr. Ward was opening the words, and showing that the great end of Christ’s coming into the world was to save sinners, and not only to save sinners, but the chief of sinners, which he proved from many other texts of Scripture, O what a word was this to me! I saw indeed myself to be one of the chief of sinners, though I was at this time but young, I suppose about fifteen years old, or at most between fifteen and sixteen. Although I was conscious to myself that I had not been guilty of those great sins or gross immoralities which some had, yet I saw so much sin in my corrupt fallen nature as to convince me that I was not only a great sinner, but one of the chief of sinners.

Well, as he went on with the text, and spake very much for the encouragement of sinners, great sinners, yea, the chief of sinners, that the Lord Jesus Christ was not only able but willing to save poor sinners that come to him, and that for this end he came into the world, and withal answering some objections that the soul would be ready to make against itself, the Lord, I hope, in infinite mercy, was pleased to set this word with such power upon my soul, as that I believed at that time that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save me. O, thought I, if Christ came to save the chief of sinners, why then not me? Surely I was helped, then in particular, to lay hold on Jesus Christ for myself, as the chief of sinners. But O the joy that my soul was at that time filled with, I cannot express! The hopes and satisfaction that my soul had an interest in this glorious Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, filled my soul with joy and peace in believing.

But, alas! this transport of joy did not last long; but I was soon as bad as ever, and began to call all into question, and was afraid that what I had felt was but fancy or delusion; for I found so much sin, corruption, and darkness in my soul, that I thought if the work of God had been right, it would not have been thus with me. Surely, I thought, I should not have found sin, lust, and corruption so strong as I found they were in me. I was so foolish as to think that sin would have been subdued, and corruption kept under; but because I found them more strong than ever, I was ready to look upon myself still as a miserable creature. I looked upon others to be in a happier condition than I; yea, I thought that none were so bad as I was; for I found and dismally felt such lust and corruption boiling and bubbling up in my nature which I never felt before, or if I did, was not so sensible of it. O the cries, tears, and struggles that I have had in my soul about these things, but could in no wise be delivered from them! Those words of David have been something to me, where he says, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul,” fearing that this would be my condition. But when I found what had been the experience of so great a man of God as David was, it gave me a little relief; and those words of Paul, where he cries out about “a thorn in the flesh,” the “messenger of Satan to buffet him;” and how he prayed and sought the Lord thrice that it might be removed. But, alas! I sought the Lord a hundred and a hundred times over again, I am sure, and yet it was not removed. But there was something to be picked out of these words, and that was, that though Paul prayed so earnestly for the removal of it, he had no other answer than this, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” So I thought, if God’s grace was but sufficient for me, that was enough.

But Rom. 7 has been a wonderful chapter indeed to me; for here I could read something of my own experience in the experience of the apostle. What he complained of, I cried out under. If a man so wonderfully endued with the Spirit of God as the apostle was, if he, I thought, cried out, “O wretched man that I am!” well might I cry out so too. But I should be too tedious were I to give a particular account of what I have since seen and experienced from that chapter. It has been of such use to me many and many a time, that I thought I could not have done without this Rom. 7. I could not have borne up my head, if the Lord had not given me some comfort and support from this chapter; but yet I was not free from my fears and doubts, no not for some years. Sometimes I was a little up, and presently down again; sometimes a little comforted, and immediately disconsolate; sometimes hopes, and sometimes none, or very little, appeared.

Thus unevenly I walked for a long time; and in this perplexed condition my fears were much increased by a dream which I had one night. I dreamed that the day of judgment was past, and that all things were settled in an unchangeable state of eternity; and methought I was not in heaven, but excluded from the glorious presence of God and the comfortable communion of the saints. I thought I lay as if I were upon a bed; I do not remember that I felt any pain but what I felt in my mind, and that was terrible enough. I do not remember that I had any company with me, but I lay as if I were alone. Now that which was my greatest torment and was so dismal to my mind, was the exclusion of the glorious presence of God and the comfortable communion of the saints, whose company I so much loved and delighted to be with while in the world, that now ‘I must be excluded from them, and that for ever. O that was a killing word, “for ever!” The thoughts that everything was now settled in an eternal, unchangeable state, and that I was to lie in the state I was then in, separated from God, from Christ, and the saints for ever and ever, were very dismal, dreadful, and terrible to me; so that it soon awoke me, and glad I was that it was but a dream.

But when I came to consider it seriously, it filled me with dreadful fears, lest this should be my condition at last. O Lord, thought I, what shall I do? Is there no hope or possibility for such a poor creature as I am to be saved? This was the cry of my soul, “Dear Lord, I would not be excluded from thy presence for ten thousand worlds.” O, I thought, if there were any possible means to be made use of, I would endeavour to be found in them! And though the dream was indeed very dismal to me, yet it had the effect of stirring me up to double diligence, to be found in the use of all possible means; for it made a deep impression upon my mind for some time, and indeed I have often thought of it since; but I hope the Lord has done my soul good by it.

Some time after this, I dreamed again; indeed, I dream often, but I do not give much regard to them, unless they are remarkable, and more than ordinarily impress my mind. But the thing that was most remarkable in this dream was this: I thought I as perfectly heard a voice as ever I did when awake, repeat twice, “Read the ninth chapter of Proverbs; read the ninth chapter of Proverbs.” Indeed I was asleep; it was in my dream; nor do I remember that I saw any personal shape; but I never heard anything plainer in my life than I heard this. Upon this I awoke, with the sound of it in my ears.

What this ninth chapter of Proverbs was I could not tell; but because I was told to read it in such an unusual way, I wanted very much to know what was in it, and had much difficulty in waiting until it was light. But as soon as it was morning, I got up, took my Bible, and when I began to read, my soul was melted. Surely, I thought, this must be from the Lord; it was the Lord that bade me read, and was pleased to speak, to me in my sleep, that I might take the more notice of it when awake. For I seldom had any scriptures come to me as I used to hear others had; or if any scripture came, if it did not come in a more than ordinary way, I could not take it as coming from the Lord. I used to think it came from myself, or from my own thinking on such words; hut this was some concern to me, that I so seldom had any word, when I heard that others had so many.

But O when I came to read this chapter! “Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts! she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither; as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” How all the former part of it suited my condition! I could not but look upon it as a gracious invitation from the Lord to me; for I was not only directed to the chapter, but had those first verses opened to me in some measure. I was made to see that by “Wisdom” was meant the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the “house” which he builded was meant the church of God; by the “beasts”‘ that were killed, the death and sacrifice of Christ were shadowed out; the “table” furnished must be the rich provision of gospel grace; the “maidens,” the ministers of Christ; and the “simple ones,” poor sinners such as I was; the “mingled wine,” the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit flowing through the blood and satisfaction of Jesus Christ, or the harmonious agreement that there was in the Trinity of persons. Concerning the salvation of poor lost sinners, these words were of wonderful encouragement to me. I saw abundance of grace and mercy held forth in these invitations to sinners, and to me in particular. This chapter I had cause to bless the Lord for, and especially its coming in such a way and manner. This afforded some relief and comfort to me for a time.

But, alas! with shame I have cause to speak it; notwithstanding what I have seen, felt, and experienced of the work of God upon my soul, and the signal appearances of the Lord towards me, yet it was not long ere I began to be as bad as ever, fearing that it was not right; because I could not be free from these strugglings and prevailings of sin, lust, and corruption, which I was continually perplexed with, to the wounding of my spirit and the bowing down of my soul.

But the Lord, who is infinite in mercy, did not leave me altogether comfortless in this condition; for I remember, upon a certain time, Mr. Ward was speaking from those words in 1 Pet. 2.7, “And to you that believe he is precious,” when he was showing how precious Christ was to a believer, and that he was precious to none but them, the Lord was pleased to bless this word with some comfort and establishment to my soul. I thought I had as clear a sight of my having believed in Christ as ever I had since God had begun to work upon me. For here lay a great part of my distress, whether I had savingly believed in Christ or no. I looked upon faith and believing in Christ to be such a great and extraordinary thing, that it filled me with fears, because I could not find those wonderful fruits and effects which I thought it should have in the subduing and keeping under of sin. But these words were made of great use to me, as I said before, for I could experience this, that Christ was precious, lovely, and desirable to my soul. I could, in some measure, say with the spouse, that Christ was the chiefest of ten thousand, and that he was altogether lovely to me, as it is in Song 5.10, 16. I could say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” O there was none in earth nor heaven so precious to me nor that my soul desired more than Jesus Christ. Therefore from hence I inferred, that if Jesus Christ was precious to them, and none but them that believe, and I could experience that Christ was precious to me, why then I hoped that I had savingly believed on Jesus Christ. These words were not only of use to me then, but have been, I hope, of use to me often since. The encouragement that I found in them wonderfully bore up my soul under these sinking despondencies.

One would have thought that, after so many seals and testimonies of the lovingkindness of God to my soul, there should have been no room for doubts and fears; but, alas! I was not yet free from them. I found, by woeful experience, that when the sunshine of God’s countenance was a little gone off, doubts and fears would as naturally arise in my soul as it is for the ensuing night to follow the preceding day. I saw that when I believed and had some good hopes through grace, I could no more keep up the faith of an interest in Christ without the divine power, than I could at the first believe without divine help.

Under all the doubts and fears that my soul was so much distressed with, whether the work of God upon me was a right work or no, those words in Judges 13.23 have afforded me some relief. Manoah thought that they must surely die because they had seen God: “But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would, as at this time, have told us such things as these.” So I thought, if God had designed to have destroyed me, he would not have told me such things as he has, nor have showed me such things as he has showed me. If the Lord had been minded to have destroyed me, he would not have showed me what a lost and miserable condition I was in by nature; he would not have showed me the beauty, glory, excellency, and suitableness that is in Christ; he would not have drawn out my soul in such earnest desires that I could not be satisfied without him; he would never have begotten such hungerings, thirstings, pantings, and breathings in my soul after himself. The consideration of these things gave me some hope that the Lord had begun a good work upon me; and if I could but be once assured of this, that God had indeed begun a special work of grace in my soul, then I should have no reason to fear nor question but that this work should be maintained and carried on unto the day of Christ, according to the words of the apostle in Phil. 1.6. But these fears, I found, would frequently arise in me, whether it were rightly begun or no; yet I can say, in some measure, that from the first time I believed, or had hopes of an interest in Christ, I have had a secret trusting, resting, and relying upon the Lord Jesus in the lowest condition; in the midst of all my doubts and fears there was something of a secret trusting and relying upon Christ. Those words in Job 13.15 have been of use to me often: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Here I desired to lie, trust, and depend, whatever dark, cloudy, and slaying dispensations I might be brought under. This has afforded me some support under dark and trying providences. The consideration of that word has been somewhat affecting to me: ” Whoever trusted in the Lord and were confounded or ashamed? Surely, I thought, the Lord would not suffer me to be ashamed of my hope, though sometimes it was so weak that I could hardly discern it.

I remember at one time I had such a thought, nay, and expressed my desire to the Lord in this manner: “O Lord,” said I, “if thou wouldest but once give me the faith of assurance, then I should never doubt more.” I had heard others speak of the faith of assurance, that they did not doubt nor question their interest in Christ, nor salvation by him. O, thought I, if the Lord would but once give me this faith, how comfortable might I live! I thought that if I could be but once assured, I should doubt no more. What faith I had. had before, as I thought, when I hoped I believed, had some mixture of fears in it; but O that I were once assured, and could believe without any mixture of fears, then I should never question again. Well, the Lord was pleased, in some little time after, to grant my desires, and it was under Mr. Davis’s preaching at Thorpe Waterfield. The particulars I have now forgotten, but this I remember, it was such a sealing time of the love of God in Christ Jesus, that I am not able by words to express it. O the ravishing transports of joy that my soul had with God, in his love to me through Jesus Christ, is inexpressible! I then believed my interest in Christ and his salvation, I think I may say, without any mixture of doubts or fears. Such times my soul has experienced in the ordinances of Christ more than once or twice, blessed for ever be his glorious name. But, alas! I do not know that it lasted many minutes, though something of the savour abided upon my soul after I had had such an opportunity.

But as to this faith of assurance, when I had it, as I dare not doubt that I have had it many and many a time, blessed be the Lord, I saw that I could not hold it long, but doubts and fears would presently arise again. Neither am I free from them to this day, though, through the blessing of God, not such distressing fears as I had then.

I shall endeavor to give a few reasons, according to the apprehensions I have, why it should be that I was thus exercised with doubts and fears:

The first reason, I humbly conceive, lies in the sovereignty of God, who dispenses his grace how, which way, and in what measure he pleases. To some he gives strong faith, to some weaker, as he sees fit.

Secondly. That those who are strong might help those who are weak, that so the whole mystical body of Christ might be useful to the strengthening of each other; wherein the wisdom of God and his goodness wonderfully appear.

Thirdly. That hereby we might be kept humble. It may be he sees something in us that we do not see in ourselves, which is prone to be lifted up; therefore he is pleased to lead many of his dear children on in a secret way of believing, resting, and trusting, that their continual dependence might be upon him.

Fourthly. That we might be the more diligent in making “our calling and election sure,” as we are exhorted. The Lord loves to see his children diligent; therefore, it may be that he is pleased to exercise us, that we may be more diligent in hearing, praying, reading, and searching the word of God; that we might be more diligent in waiting upon the Lord and being found in all the ordinances of Christ.

Fifthly. That we might be brought the oftener to the throne of grace, and be the more earnest with God in prayer. It may be the Lord would not hear of us so often, nor find us so frequent at his foot, if those enemies, corruptions and temptations, and the fears that we find in us, did not engage us to go to him.

Sixthly. More particularly in reference to myself. Why I was thus distressed with doubts and fears is, as I conceive, from the work being carried on in such a gradual way upon my soul. I have heard of some with whom this work of God has been quick and sudden; they have come under the sound of the gospel with wickedness in their hearts, (it may be to make sport, or to hear what “the babbler” will say,) and God has been pleased in mercy to touch their hearts, and they have become new men before they have gone thence. Now the work of God has been so wonderful and evident upon them, that I thought it appeared a work of God indeed. This has made me sometimes desire that the work would begin again, and that it might be quick and sudden; then I used to think that I could better believe that it was a work of God. Thus I would fain have chalked the Lord out a way, but he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;” and it is well for us that he does so, though we cannot always see it.

I remember Mr. Davis’s preaching was made of great use upon this account. He would sometimes use this objection, which the soul is so ready to make against itself, “It may be you are afraid that the work of God is not right upon your soul;” (O this used to be my objection often!) “well, what then? Soul, tell Satan, for it is his business to make you question if the work be not right. If you have not yet believed on Christ, if you have not come to him and ventured your soul upon the Lord Jesus for salvation, it is time now to come, it is time now to believe, it is time now to venture upon Christ. Therefore come now, come now as a poor sinner, and throw yourself now in the arms of his mercy for salvation.” While Mr. Davis was speaking thus, by way of encouragement to poor doubting souls, I was made to see that coming, believing, and venturing upon the Lord Jesus Christ as a perishing sinner for salvation was a continual work all the days of my life. I have heard of an expression that one Mr. Browning, a great man of God, who was Mr. Davis’s predecessor, made use of; and that is, “If ever I have been converted once, I have been converted a hundred and a hundred times.” This, through infinite grace, I have experienced something of, that conversion, believing, and coming to Christ, is not only needful once, but as long as we live. But,

Seventhly. Another reason why I was so much perplexed with doubts and fears, I found to be from that sin, lust, and corruption which was so strong and powerful in me, and used to bring a cloud of guilt and darkness upon my soul, so that sometimes I could not see that I had the least light of interest in Christ. Those lusts, corruptions, and temptations so boiled and bubbled up in my nature, as I said before, that I was carried away captive in my desires, though, blessed be God, I have been kept from the acts. But alas! when I came to see into the spirituality of the law, I saw by the law I was guilty. I used sometimes to think of those words, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

O no one knows what struggles and conflicts I have had about these things but God and myself! Though I cried and prayed to God in secret, yea, and shed a fountain of tears, God is my witness that I could in no wise be rid of them. I have often thought of those words of Christ, where he says, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” I thought I could willingly have my right hand cut off, so that I might be free from these temptations. I did not see that it must be cut off by faith, prayer, repentance, and mortification of sin, so clearly then as the Lord has helped me to see since.

Well, what to do I could not tell. It is true the Lord was pleased to give me comfort sometimes, which did a little bear me up and carry me on; but these temptations would soon embitter them, and make me grow disconsolate again, many a day. But at last I came to a conclusion what to do. Well, thought I, I will fast and pray; I will keep certain days in fasting and prayer. I used to think on these words, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” So I used to keep some days in this manner; for this was when I was upon my own hands, and lived by myself, as I did some time.

Thus I went on, until I was resolved to pinch and afflict the body, by not letting it have what was needful. I purposed and concluded in my mind to eat nothing but bread and to drink nothing but water; by this means, so foolish was I, I thought I should keep my corruptions and temptations under. I used to think of John the Baptist, who lived in the wilderness upon locusts and wild honey; I thought that was not much better than my bread and water. Well, I began thus to live, and I thought if I could but get master of myself, and be satisfied to live this sort of life, I should not only keep the flesh, sin, and corruptions under, but I should have a great deal of time to devote myself wholly to the work and service of God, excepting now and then to do something for a little bread; water I could have for nothing.

O what a paradise did I make in my own fancy, and how pleased was I with it! Now I thought I should give up myself to hearing, reading, praying, and meditation; now I thought I should be nothing but spiritual, and my mind wholly taken up with spiritual things. This was not only a desire to live so, but I really designed to do so; yea, and made a beginning, and went on thus for a little time. I remember one day I went to the baker’s for some bread, and the baker had just drawn a pot of apples; and being asked if I would eat some, I durst not; I was afraid to eat a baked apple, because I had purposed to eat and drink nothing but bread and water. But these things I kept to myself; I was not willing that any person should know them.

Well, thus I went on for a little time; indeed I could not go on thus long, though I attempted it more than once or twice. But alas! I could not bear this hard and austere life; it was as great an affliction to me as the Egyptian taskmasters were to the Israelites. Neither could I find that sin and corruption were at all subdued, but were as strong as before. This brings to my mind what I have read of one of the old fathers, who would devote himself wholly to God, and therefore had a place made for him in a wood, and had food brought him privately, that he might not see anybody, nor hear the noise, nor see the temptations that were in the world, but that his mind might be wholly taken up in reading, prayer, and meditation. But alas! it was not a wood, a cave, nor the most retired place in the world that could subdue sin and keep under those corruptions and enemies that were within; for when he would have his mind taken up with the things of God, he thought he saw a company of beautiful ladies dancing before him; that is, in his mind he apprehended such ensnaring objects present.

But I met with a disappointment. My covenant was soon broken; my purposes came to nothing; now I could not tell what to do. I saw plainly enough that I could not subdue my own corruptions by any means that I could use. Well, I thought, if I must perish, I must perish; for I saw I could do nothing. Nor could I find any relief in this condition, until I was helped to commit and cast myself wholly upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, as a poor sinner, for peace, pardon, redemption, and salvation; and in the Lord’s time he was pleased to deliver me from these temptations in a great measure. The Lord helped me to see which way sin must be subdued as well as pardoned, and that is by faith in the blood and satisfaction that Christ gave in his death. I saw, through infinite grace, that there was no way for the mortifying of sin and corruption, but the exercise of faith in Christ crucified for sin, aye, and for my sins. The more I was helped to see this, the more bitter and odious sin appeared to me.

I remember one time when I was at Rothwell, and Mr. Davis was administering the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, I had such a sight by faith of the death, blood, righteousness, and satisfaction which the Lord Jesus Christ gave as a sacrifice for my sins, as afforded much comfort to my soul. I saw that it was my sins that plucked off the hair, when he gave his back to the smiters; it was my sins that crowned his head with thorns; I saw it was my sins that pierced his side and made him sweat great drops of blood. O the sight that my soul had of the love, grace, mercy, and kindness of God, flowing through the blood of Jesus Christ, I am not able to declare! I have had many comfortable refreshments in that ordinance, blessed be the Lord, but this was a particular time. O the meltings of my soul! I could not lift up my head during the ordinance; then I could tell what it was to have tears of joy. O how sweet was the love of God in Christ Jesus to my soul at that time, and how bitter was sin made to me! I found it was that which my soul abhorred, and would fain, if possible, have lived without. My soul was made to see from hence that it was nothing but the infinite, pure, free, unmerited grace, love, mercy, and favor of God through Christ, that I must depend upon for salvation and consolation. I thought I could have trampled on that rotten notion of free will. I had tried to do what I could for the subduing of sin and the keeping of my heart above; but alas! I found by experience that I could do nothing, but must be beholden to the free grace of God for all, and therefore will set the crown upon the head of free grace, and cry out, “Grace, grace, from the foundation to the top stone.” Well may it be said, “By grace are ye saved.” (Eph. 2.8.) But,

Eighthly. I may briefly give another reason why I was so much distressed with doubts and fears, and that was, I would fain have proved the truth of my salvation by the measure, of my sanctification, which I found to be a very uncertain way. For what sanctification can there be in the soul without faith in Christ, for justification? If the spring of faith in justification be low, I am sure the stream of sanctification must be low also. And therefore to seek in ourselves for sanctification as the evidence of our interest in Christ for justification, is like looking for fruit upon a vine in the midst of winter, or like seeking the living among the dead.

It is true, where there is an imputation of Christ’s righteousness for justification, there is an implantation of righteousness for sanctification. These two graces are to be distinguished, but not confounded together, nor yet separated; for where there is an imputation of the one by faith, there is certainly an implantation of the other by the Spirit; and these can no more be separated than we can separate heat from the fire or light from the sun. Whatever sanctification any person may pretend to, if not flowing from faith in Jesus Christ, I am sure it is but dead and legal. Now, for me to look for the truth and reality of my interest in Christ, when my faith is low and my soul at a loss about it; then, I say, for me to look in myself for what sanctification I have to evidence my interest, is but to puzzle, perplex, and drive me out of all hopes.

But the Lord has since helped me to see that the only way for satisfaction of my interest in Jesus Christ is to believe on the word of grace, or promise of salvation, held forth in the gospel to sinners, and then, by looking into myself, to see what fruits and effects this faith, has upon my soul in the producing of sanctification; this being the only rule God has given us in his word to prove our interest by, according to those words in James, “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” “Show me thy faith without thy works, if thou canst;” as if the apostle should say, “thy faith, whatever faith thou mayest pretend to, is worth nothing if it have not works, good works flowing from it; but I will show thee my faith by my works that is, I will show thee the truth and reality of my faith by the inseparable fruit, good works;” or, “Those works, whatever works we may pretend to, if not flowing from faith in Christ, are worth nothing either.” So that we see we are to prove the truth of our faith by the good works it produces, and the truth of our good works by the faith which they flow from. O I see what a proneness there is still to be looking into myself for something, whereas it is my mercy to be going out of myself as a naked, empty creature, unto Christ Jesus, held forth in the gospel in all his fulness, as a free and suitable Object to fix and centre my soul continually upon both for salvation, comfort, and consolation!

The next thing I shall give a few hints upon is the great doctrine of election, which I was so much puzzled and distressed about at first. When the Lord was pleased to give me some hope through grace, O how sweet was this doctrine to my soul! My soul could not but stand and wonder, to consider that God should have such a poor unworthy creature as I was upon his heart; that I should have a room and place in God’s vast thoughts from everlasting; that he should make choice of me in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, when thousands and thousands are passed by! O that Christ should be set up as my Mediator and Head of the eternal covenant, into whose hand an infinite fulness of unchangeable grace was put by the Father, to be secured and in time communicated to me! This is wonderful, amazing, and inexpressible grace. The consideration of distinguishing love has made me often cry out with Judas, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” How my soul loved and delighted to hear and read this sweet and soul-ravishing doctrine, and that when I had but some secret hopes of an interest in it! I found that if I could live more in the exercise of faith upon this doctrine of electing love, there was nothing which would so sweetly draw and engage my soul in gospel evangelical obedience as this would. This is that amongst the great train of salvation blessings which will fill the hearts of the saints with admiration and adoration for ever. If electing love, distinguishing grace, and redeeming mercy be so sweet to faith now, when we have but now and then a short glimpse of it, how ravishing, sweet, and inexpressibly glorious must this be to an eternal, uninterrupted vision!

But to draw these remarks to a close, though I might make further enlargements; for what I have here set down are but a few brief hints of what I have seen, felt, and experienced of the work and dealings of God upon my soul. Some things have slipped my thoughts in so long a time, but many of them are still fresh upon my mind; neither had I so clear and distinct an apprehension of these things then as the Lord has given me since; nor have I set down everything in such precise order as I might have done if I had written my experience sooner. But what I have set down of the dealings and dispensations of God towards me, is as near as I can remember and collect things together. I shall give a few further hints of those points of doctrine that were most affecting and wonderful to my soul, since the Lord has been pleased to reveal himself to me, and they are,

1. The doctrine of the holy Trinity. O how wonderful has the consideration of this been, that there should be a Trinity of Persons in the unity of essence, or one God; that three should be one, and one should be three. This was a mystery I found too deep for me to fathom, but I saw it was my mercy to believe it, because it is so full and plain in the holy Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament. (Deut. 6.4; Jer. 10.10; 1 John 5.7.)

2. The doctrine of God’s decrees. That God should from all eternity decree in himself whatsoever should come to pass, in his infinite, wise, holy, and unchangeable counsels, which reach from the greatest to the least thing that ever was, is, or ever shall be in time or eternity, yet so ordering them as that he himself is not the author of sin, because his decree offers no violence to the will of the creature. But that which God designed in his holy and wise decree was the magnifying of all his glorious attributes in the creation both of angels and men, the attributes of his love, mercy, power, wisdom, faithfulness, and goodness, in the salvation of elect men and angels; and the attributes of his justice, holiness, and purity, in the deserved punishment of all who perish. O the depth both of the wisdom and counsels of God! how unchangeable are his judgments! and his ways are past finding out. (Isa. 46.10; Eph. 1.11; Acts 15.18; Rom. 9.11, 22.)

3. The grace of redemption has been wonderful and affecting; I mean the consideration of the way which God himself, in his infinite wisdom and grace, found out for the recovering of lost man from that fallen state which by sin he had plunged himself into; and that this must be by the Son of God coming out of his Father’s bosom into this world, assuming our nature, taking upon him our sin, yea, and being made sin for us, bearing our curse, standing in our place, shedding his blood, pouring forth his soul unto death, as the great atoning Sacrifice for sin, that so he might redeem us from sin, the curse, hell, wrath, and eternal misery, by his fulfilling the law in his holy life, and satisfying offended justice by his meritorious death. (Eph. 1.7; John 3.16.)

4. The grace of justification, when the Lord was pleased to lead me into it, and give me some comfortable hopes of interest, was very sweet and wonderful; for I believe God had really been at work upon my heart some time before I had a clear distinct apprehension of it. But when I came to see that the matter of my acceptance as righteous, in the sight of a holy and pure God, was alone by the pure and spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness, which he wrought out in his own person as God-Man Mediator, in his active and passive obedience, actively fulfilling the law in his holy and sinless life, and passively suffering the penalty, the wrath of God, that was due to us for the breach of it; and so working out a complete, perfect, justifying righteousness, which when the Lord helped me to believe was, by a pure act of grace in the Father, imputed, made over, and accounted to me as my own, apprehended, received, and laid hold upon by faith, as the only ground and foundation of my acceptance and justification, both of person and performance before God, it was great and unspeakably wonderful to my soul. (Rom. 3.21, 22, 24.)

5. The grace of sanctification was a sweet grace too, though indeed I saw, and still see, so much weakness and imperfection of this grace in myself, as that I find continual cause with shame to lie in the dust of self-abhorrence. But when the Lord helped me to see that the Lord Jesus Christ is “of God made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” O then I saw that Christ was made not only righteousness for justification unto me, but he was made righteousness for sanctification also! I saw it was my privilege, in all my approaches or drawings near to God and enjoying communion with him, to have my eye fixed upon that holiness, purity, righteousness, and sanctification that is in Christ for me; and however weak and imperfect this is in myself, yet in Christ I see it is always full, perfect, and complete: “That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” And sure I am, whatever others may pretend to, that the only way for the abounding of the fruits of sanctification in my soul is to fix the eye of faith upon Christ’s righteousness, purity, holiness, and sanctification, as the fountain from whence it must spring to me. (Hos. 14.8.)

6. Again. The grace of adoption has often been, through infinite mercy, very sweet to my soul. The consideration that I, who was such a vile, sinful, polluted creature, should, by an act of pure grace, be made a son of God; that I, who was the child of wrath by nature, even as others, should be invested, installed into the privileges of a son; this I saw was grace indeed. Those words have been very sweet to me in 1 John 3.1, 2, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” I saw that it was from pure love in the Father to me. I saw by this grace that I stood related to God as a child to a father, and therefore was invested with all the privileges of a child. Those words in Rom. 8 have been wonderful, “If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” I thought, what could I or any other creature desire more than to be an heir of God, an heir of all good, the fountain of all happiness, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, which he cannot inherit without us. O grace, grace indeed! “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3.1; Eph, 1.5; Rom. 8.17.)

7. The grace of regeneration was wonderful too; that the Lord should call me by the power of his grace, that he should open my eyes and let me see what a miserable, undone, perishing creature I was as I came into this world; and not only so, but should let me see what beauty, preciousness, and suitableness there was in Christ Jesus for salvation. O that he should draw out my soul in such earnest desires after him that I could not be satisfied without him! O that he should bring me under the sound of the gospel, and not only so, but cause me to hear it, and not to hear it only, but to know the joyful sound of it. That he should pluck me as a firebrand out of the burning; that I should be “brought out of the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son;” that Christ Jesus, his person, glory, righteousness, and excellency, should be revealed to me for salvation; O the consideration of the distinguishing nature of it has been wonderful to me; that God should take me from all my relations, who were all involved in Popish darkness; that the Lord should bring me out, and reveal his Son in me; that he should break my “heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, and put his Spirit within me, and write his law,” the law of grace, the law of love, the law of faith and obedience, “in my inward parts;” and his fear, not a slavish, but a childlike, godly, filial fear, according to the promise of the new covenant! I thought indeed there was none that received Christ ‘but who had cause eternally to admire the grace of God; but if any, I thought, had cause to admire it more than others, surely I had; and O that I could admire it more. (John 3.3; Col. 1.12; Ezek. 11.19.)

8. Again. The final perseverance of the saints has been and is very sweet; that the Lord should not only begin this good work, a work of grace upon my heart, but that he should stand engaged to carry it on, and to complete the work which he has begun, by his word, oath, covenant, and promise, unto the day of Christ; therefore it is said, “The righteous shall hold on his way;” and, “They that believe shall be saved; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand;” “All that thou hast given me,” saith Christ, “have I kept, and lost none, but the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled;” “This is the will of him that hath sent me,” that is, the will of his Father, “that of all those which thou hast given me I should lose nothing, but raise it up again at the last day.” And many other passages show how impossible it is for any of those who were given to Christ, or have believed on him, to perish. O this has been comfortable indeed and sweet to me! (John 6.39; Phil. 1.6.)

9. Neither can I easily pass by the consideration of that soul-ravishing doctrine of the union of the two natures, divine and human, in the blessed person of the Mediator, a favor not vouchsafed to the angels. He did not take upon him the nature of angels, but the nature of the seed of Abraham. And again, “the children being partakers of flesh and blood, he, that is, the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity, himself took part of the same, and so became the great “Immanuel, God with us”, or God in our nature; not by changing the divine nature into the human, nor by changing the human nature into the divine, nor by confounding these two natures together; but the divine nature, that is to say, the Second Person in God, did, in the fulness of time, really assume a human body and a reasonable soul in the sanctified womb of the Virgin Mary, very flesh, blood, and bones, as we are, yet without sin; because his conception and birth were not after the ordinary generation of men, but by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost; as it is in Heb. 10.5, “A body hast thou prepared (or fitted) me.” By this union of the two distinct natures, divine and human, in one person, the person of the Mediator, are we brought as near unto God, and the enjoyment of him both by faith here, and vision hereafter, as possibly creatures can be to the enjoyment of the Creator. How the love, mercy, grace, and goodness of God appear, through the Lord Jesus Christ, unto us, in the union of these two natures, whereby we are brought so nigh to God! This was the way his infinite wisdom, grace, and mercy devised, that his banished might not be excluded from him. This is the marrow, spring, and fountain of all our comfort, consolation, and happiness, either in grace or glory. O how wonderful is the consideration of this union, whereby our nature is united to the Divine Being into a personal union of the Mediator for ever, whereby the saints will be capable of enjoying God, the Fountain of eternal happiness, in such a near relation, to eternal ages. “Well might the apostle say, “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3.16; Matt. 1.23; Heb. 2.14.)

I might take notice of many other precious truths of the gospel, but I forbear, lest I should be too tedious; but these have been more than ordinarily sweet and comfortable to my soul. I shall mention but four or five more, the consideration of which have been wonderful to me:

First. The immortality of the soul. It has been very great and awful to me, that the soul is of an immortal nature, and has no dependence upon corporeal matter, that is, the body, but is capable of living out of as well as in the body, and so consequently capable of enjoying communion with God in a state of separation from the body. O how wonderful was and is the consideration of this, that the soul should be of such a spiritual nature that it can live, and sensibly feel happiness or misery, in a state of separation. The truth of this I saw very fully and plainly in God’s word, both in the Old and New Testament; though I was indeed for reading all the books I could obtain which treated upon the subject, for I have been so afflicted with atheistical thoughts as I never used to be troubled with, so far as I can remember, in the days of my unregeneracy. This has stirred me up to a more diligent search of the Scriptures and good men’s writings; and, blessed be the Lord, the more I have read and studied this point, the more satisfaction my soul has found in it. (Gen. 2.7; Matt. 10.28; Luke 23.43.)

Secondly. The resurrection of the body. The consideration of this has been both sweet and wonderful to me, that the body which for many ages has lain mouldering in the dust shall rise again the self- same body in the last day. The truth of this has appeared so undeniable to me in God’s word, that I saw I might as well question the truth of the Bible as to question this. But O how sweet has the thought been to me, that the bodies of the saints shall rise again, and that in the likeness of Christ’s glorious body; and therefore it is said, “He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” The bodies of the saints that then shall be living shall be changed, and the bodies of the saints that are in the graves shall be raised into a state of incorruptibility and immortality, like the glorious body of Christ. As the body of Christ is fair, beautiful, and lovely, so shall the bodies of the saints be; as the body of Christ is sinless and free from all imperfection, so shall the bodies of the saints be; as the body of Christ is strong, swift, and full of agility, so shall the bodies of the saints be; as the body of Christ is incorruptible and immortal, so shall the bodies of the saints be in the resurrection. How glorious will the saints appear in that day, when soul and body, both glorious, shall be reunited and glorified together, and so fitted for an eternal communion with God for ever and ever! How sweet is the consideration of this to faith! But what will it be to sight, when they shall be like Christ, and see him as he is? The bodies of the wicked must also rise, but that will be a dismal and a dreadful resurrection to them. (John 5; 28.29; 1 Cor. 15.51, 52; Phil. 3.21.)

Thirdly. The second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. The consideration of this, that there will be such a time was very sweet to me, soon after the Lord had been at work upon my soul, or soon after I began to have some comfortable hopes through grace of an interest in Jesus Christ. As soon as I began to have any light or discerning in the word of God about these things, a serious thought of it was very affecting to my soul. O how I loved to hear any preach or discourse about Christ’s personal coming and kingdom! No hungry man could have more desire for his food than my soul had to feed upon these things. But I used to wonder that the ministers of Christ preached so seldom about Christ’s coming. Sure, I thought, if these things had been so warm and comfortable upon their spirits as they were upon mine, they could not forbear, but must oftener preach them up than they did.

Fourthly. That there will be a general judgment of all men that ever did, do, or ever shall live in the world. This I saw very plainly too; but the thought and consideration of it have been very great and awful to me many and many a time, that the dead, small and great, rich and poor, noble or ignoble, of whatever nation, kindred, tongue, or people they have been of, must all appear before the tribunal seat of Jesus Christ, to give an account of what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil. But, as I humbly conceive, there will not only be a difference as to the manner of the resurrection of the saints and the wicked, but also a difference as to the time. So will there be a difference between the time of the judgment of the one and the judgment of the other; as the saints will rise first, so will their judgment be before the other begins. This is very full in God’s word that the saints shall not stand at the bar with the wicked, but shall sit down with Christ upon thrones of judgment, to judge the world and fallen angels. For I apprehend that the personal reign and kingdom of Christ and the judgment of the saints will be contemporary; so that in this perfect-kingdom state it will be both a time of judging and a time of reigning among the saints.

That blessed Millennium, or one thousand years spoken of in Rev. 20, I conceive cannot be understood of any other time than when the Lord Jesus Christ will be personally present with the saints, and they personally present with Christ, in a perfect, incorruptible state of immortality; for Christ, I cannot believe, whatever have been or may be the thoughts of other good men on this point, will come down from the right hand of his Father, until his whole mystical body is completed, or the whole election brought home to Christ by converting grace. So that to me it appears evident that this thousand years’ glory of Christ’s personal kingdom, or the saints’ reigning with Christ a thousand years, will be in the day of judgment among the saints a time of judging and a time of reigning.

How wonderful has the consideration of these things been to me! O that it might be the will of God, to fasten them with seriousness upon the heart of each particular soul, that they might not spend their precious time and opportunities about shadows, as all these things of the world are, which will stand their precious souls in no stead at that day! O that now poor souls might be in earnest about salvation matters, by laying hold, as poor, naked, empty, perishing sinners, upon Christ Jesus and his righteousness, by faith for salvation, and so securing an interest in these wonderful blessings and privileges of the sons of God, escape that dreadful state of punishment into which the wicked must be turned.

I may briefly add another thing, that my thoughts have been many a time lost in the consideration of, that it is an endless eternity. O eternity, eternity! How wonderful has the thought of thee been to me! Sometimes I used to let my thoughts go out in the multiplying of years; as thus: Suppose there should be as many thousands of years as there have been minutes of time passed from the beginning of the world to the end of it, how many thousands of years would that amount to? Again: Suppose there should be as many thousands of years as there are drops of water in the sea and all the rivers, or as many thousands of years as there are piles of grass growing upon the face of all the earth; as many thousands of years as there are stars in the firmament, grains of sand on the shore, or atoms flying in the immaterial space, with many other things endless to express; how innumerable do these thousands and millions of years appear, almost, one would think, to an eternity itself! But, alas! when we have gone this way by multiplying years as far as we can possibly go in our conceptions, we shall come and sit down infinitely short of eternity. Though my thoughts and conceptions have been lost in these considerations, yet this difference I could easily perceive, that when I had multiplied these before mentioned years, yet every thousand years there would be a thousand the less. But this cannot be said of eternity. O how sweet is the consideration of it to the saints now, and how sweet will it be in heaven! But how dreadful will it be to the wicked!

Joseph Perry (1677-?) was a sovereign grace preacher. He was one of Richard Davis’ lay preachers sent out from the church at Rothwell, Northamptonshire. He served the pastorate of several churches and is the author some interesting books, one of which records the testimony of his conversion to Christ from Roman Catholicism (“The Life and Miraculous Conversion From Popery Of Joseph Perry”, 1727).