The Delusions of False Religion Discovered
If you will bear with me, I will write a few of the feelings that have passed, from time to time, in my soul, and some little account of the way in which I hope the Lord has led me.
From a child, I seemed to have some kind of fear of God; so that I could not follow sin and wickedness as others, in external acts; and I was obliged to keep away from ungodly characters. Being a teacher in the Church of England school, I was obliged to teach the children the awful lies in their Catechism. Here I continued for some years, attending the church, and passing, in the eyes of many, for a Christian.
I went amongst the Independents a little while, and was a strict hearer there. I was noticed by many of them as a very pious young lad, and a child of God. Thus I heard their preachers, and thought them all dear men of God.
Hearing my mother, who is, I believe, a gracious woman, converse with two of my sisters about the things of God; hearing her tell of her experience, how she had been bound down under the curse of the law for twelve years, expecting nothing but hell; how she had envied the very beasts of the field, because they had no soul to appear before God; how she had gone to bed, many times, afraid to shut her eyes in sleep lest she should awake in hell; and how the Lord had appeared to her, and washed away all her sins, by a blessed manifestation of pardon through the blood and righteousness of Christ made known to her soul; and hearing, also, a blessed account of the way in which the Lord led some of my sisters, I began to see that I knew nothing about real religion, and that the parson of the parish church bore no marks of a man of God; nor could I find any of the Church people, nor scarcely any among the Independents, or any of their preachers, near me, that could give an account of the real work of grace in their souls.
I afterwards attended a little chapel in the town, though the people who attended it were hated by the mere professors of religion. My mother being a member there, I became a constant hearer. The men who preached there appeared to me to be wonderful men. They preached eternal election, particular redemption, that salvation was all of grace, and that none could be saved but those that were everlastingly chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. I felt a great pleasure in hearing these men, as they preached doctrinal truths very clearly from the letter of the word, and much of the bright side of the experience of a child of God; and I was often melted' down into tears under their preaching.
I now became very zealous for the truth, and could read my Bible from morning till night, and thought that I had a great insight into the truth. I thought that I must be a child of God, because I was such a constant hearer of the word preached, and had, as I thought, such wonderful zeal for God and for his truth, and lived such a good' life that no one could bring anything against my character. I continued, for some time, in this state; and passed, in the eyes of some' of the children of God, as one that was born of God. I still increased in zeal and head-knowledge, until I thought myself almost fit to stand up in a pulpit.
Soon after this, it pleased the Lord to raise up a faithful servant, and send him amongst us. I heard J. W., a real heart-searching minister. He began to pull down my false hopes and counterfeit religion, and drew a line of distinction, not only between the sheep and the goats, but a searching separation between a Calvinistic sheep and a Calvinistic goat, and opened up the delusions of the day. He said that a man may know all the doctrines of the Bible, and have a wonderful insight into them, so that he may preach and explain them very clearly from the letter of the word, yet never have a spark of grace in his soul; and that whatever a man's religion was, if he had never been brought down under the mighty hand of God, and never had the law of God applied, more or less, with a supernatural power, to his conscience, nor had all his false hopes and false religion burned up and destroyed, nor been brought down a ruined wretch to the feet of Jesus, with groans, sighs, cries, and tears for a manifestation of pardon through the precious atoning blood of Christ made known to his soul by an inward experience, he will be lost to all eternity.
Hearing such things as these, Lord's Day after Lord's Day, for some time, I began to see and feel things very differently to what I ever did before. I saw that I had never stepped one step in the path of life; that I had never possessed one grain of grace in my soul; that I had made lies, my refuge, hid myself under false pretences, and made an agreement with death, and a covenant with bell; that I knew nothing of the law, nor of the gospel; that I had never been killed nor made alive, wounded nor healed, stripped nor clothed, made poor nor made rich; that I had never been brought down nor raised up; that I had a name to live, while my soul was dead before God, dead in sins, dead in a profession, and dead under the curse of God's righteous law, yet knew it not, being blindfolded by the devil, and led captive at his will in a graceless profession. I saw that free will was no more than a spider's web to rest my never-dying soul upon, and that doctrines in the head, without grace, were no better. I saw that all my reading of the Bible and various religious books, all my attendance at places of worship from a child, all my zeal and head- knowledge, and all my prayers, were nothing but a mass of hypocrisy, deceit, and self-righteousness. I saw that there were thousands in hell that had been as far as I had in a profession of religion, and yet had died under the wrath of God. 0 how my soul went out after God in sighs, and groans, and wrestlings, and cries, that he would show mercy to such a wretch as I! I saw that the Lord would be just if he cut me off and sent me to hell. And O how my very soul hated hypocrisy and the delusions of my past life! I many times begged the Lord to drag me, in my feelings, through the very belly of hell, rather than let me live and die a hypocrite. O how my soul went out after the Lord in longing desires that he would appear as my God; that he would show mercy unto one so vile; and that he would lead me to Gethsemane, there to see, by precious faith, a slaughtered Jesus, bleeding for my transgressions, and dying that I might live, and that, by his death, I might have everlasting life beyond the grave. O that the Lord would apply these things to my conscience! O for one spark of divine life in my soul! O for one grain of precious faith! O for one drop of atoning blood, and an interest in the justifying righteousness of Christ! I saw that the commandment was exceedingly broad, and that I should soon enter the woful abode of endless night, unless I were saved by the matchless grace of God, and a salvation brought home, applied, and made known to my soul by his mighty power. All my false hopes of heaven, all my fleshly zeal, all my counterfeit faith, and all my head-knowledge of the word of God, appeared to be nothing but delusion; and I felt myself, in some little measure, in my real state, a lost, ruined, perishing sinner, without hope and without help in myself, and a poor, naked, needy, guilty, bankrupt beggar, and that I must for ever lie in hell, under the wrath of a just God, unless I have an experimental knowledge of my eternal election and interest in the person, life, and death of Jesus, so that my soul may not be found naked at the great and awful day.
I feel assured that Christ died for all the elect, and no others; but this will not satisfy my soul. I want a personal knowledge that I am one of the elect brought home to my soul with a living power, that I may know that I am born again of the blessed Spirit, by having his kingdom set up in my heart, so as to feel assured that he is my Lord and my God, and my everlasting portion beyond the grave. O thou great, unchangeable God, when wilt thou arise and shine into my soul, and bless me with this sweet hope in thy mercy, that I may feel the precious atoning blood of Jesus applied unto me? This is what my soul wants; this is what it longs for.
Sometimes I have felt my soul sweetly drawn out after the Lord, under the preaching of the word, when the servant of the Lord has been led by the blessed Spirit to trace out the feelings of the poor, the outcast, the desolate, the needy, the hopeless, and the helpless in themselves; and I have gone into the fields, under the ricks of corn, and over the hills, to some lonesome downs, where no human eye could see me, nor ear hear me, and poured out my soul unto the Lord, with cries and tears, that he would reveal himself to my soul, and show me his dear hands, and feet, and side, that I might say, with Thomas, "My Lord and my God;" and that he would say unto me, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven." I exclaimed, "This is what I want. Do not be angry; but grant me my petition. O Lord! I feel that I shall be lost for ever, unless I am saved in thee with an everlasting salvation. I deserve not the least of all thy mercies; I deserve nothing but hell; and canst thou, wilt thou have mercy on such a wretch?" Thus I have in tears poured out the feelings of my soul unto the Lord, until my poor body has been wearied with the exercise of my soul; yet I have felt some sweetness in pouring out my soul unto him, and have returned home with a "Who can tell but that the Lord may yet appear, and bless me with the pardon of all my sins?"
No preaching will do for me now, but such as is sound, searching, and experimental, and brought home with power to my soul. Christ in the letter, and a letter religion, will not do for me now. My soul seeks for realities, power, life, and feeling. Salvation felt, handled, and tasted in my soul, is what I long to experience.
Many times have I cried out, in the language of David, "Search me, O God! and try me." I have asked the Lord to see whether I bad any evil end in view, and supplicated him to lead me in the way everlasting. I have begged him to bring me to the light, and show unto me my real character and the very ground of my heart, that I might never be resting in a false hope, and never be building on a false foundation; but that I might be sifted and driven out of every refuge of lies, and be brought to the light, that I might have my real state opened to my view as I stand before God. O how I could bless and praise the matchless name of the Lord, that he had not cut me off whilst I was a stranger to him, in an ungodly profession; but that he had, in some little measure, opened my eyes to see, and my heart to feel the awful state in which I was!
Since I have felt these things, a secret hope sometimes rises up in my mind, that had the blessed Lord meant to destroy me, he would not have shown me those things; that he would not have implanted his fear in my soul, (as I hope he has,) nor have brought me to see and feel all my righteousness, all my good works and all my bad works, to be as filthy rags; and that he would not have caused me to groan, and pant, and long, and sigh for the precious imputed righteousness and atoning blood of Jesus to be applied to my soul. I have seen that all real religion was supernatural, and came from God, and from God alone; and that unless I had this real, vital religion brought with supernatural power into my conscience, and experimentally enjoyed the pardon of all my sins, by an internal manifestation of the precious blood and righteousness of Christ by the Holy Spirit, I rested in a refuge of lies. O how my soul did long and pant after these things to be experimentally felt in my soul! What desire I have felt towards the blessed Redeemer! I have felt that I could leave father and mother, house and land, gold and silver, anything and everything that this world calls good or great; I felt that I could leave all for Christ's sake, and die for his honour and glory, would he but manifest himself to me.
Some times, on a Lord's Day, the faithful servant of the Lord has entered into the feelings of my soul in such a manner that I have been constrained to bless and praise the name of the Lord for sending such a one amongst us; one whose face was set as a flint, and who stood as an iron pillar and as a brazen wall against the deceitful religion of the day; one that had been led into the everlasting distinction between the elect and the reprobate; one that separated the precious from the vile, cast up the highway, and lifted up a standard to the people; one that had been experimentally led into the footsteps of the flock, and experimentally traced out the experience of gracious souls; and one that had been led into the deep things of God and deep soul-trouble, that he might find out the poor dear children of God, and speak of the path as he experimentally passed through it. While he was speaking from these words, "For in a time accepted have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I succoured thee. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," O the wonderful things that he was enabled to bring out of them, as the mouth of God to my soul! As soon as he began to preach, the words dropped into my soul, melted my hard heart, crumbled me into nothing, and laid me in the dust; all my fears were gone-, and a sweet hope sprang up in my soul. O the beauty, power, life, and feeling that seemed to clothe the words which dropped from his lips! What union I felt to the dear faithful servant of the Lord! My soul was, as it were, melted with love to the ever- blessed Jehovah, and to the minister as his servant. I felt a sweet calm in my soul for some time. How worthless were the things of this world to me! I felt that I could leave it and ten thousand other worlds for the name and sake of a precious Christ. But these feelings did not last long; and
"to my own sad state return;"
yet I sometimes felt encouragement under the ministry of the word, and sweet nearness to the Lord in my daily walks, and whilst working in the fields.
My eyes were now opened more clearly to see the errors of the Church of England and the dissenters generally. The minister of the parish church had been taken away by an almost sudden death, and, to all outward appearances, sudden destruction to his soul. It evidently appeared that the devil had raised up a Pope, and sent him in his place, to do his best to lead hundreds blindfolded down with himself into hell. I saw that the Church of England was nothing but a false, unscriptural, formal, corrupt, worldly, counterfeit church, and bore no more marks and evidences of the true, scriptural church of Christ, than Dagon of old did of the ever-blessed Jehovah; and it is my firm belief that there is not one in a hundred of her ministers, nor one in a thousand of her members, who is not dead in trespasses and sins; and if they die in their present state of malice and hatred against the truth of God, hell will be their portion for ever and ever. And when I took a view of the Ranters, Wesleyans, Independents, and General Baptists, I was led to conclude that they were scarcely one whit better than the Church of England.
O! with what weight have these things lain, at times, on my mind, when I have looked around me, and have seen flocks of goats, wolves, and hypocrites, flocking backwards and forwards to and from the Popish churches and chapels, with merry and cheerful countenances! I cannot describe with my pen what I have often felt for them. They have caused me many gloomy moments. I felt assured that all the elect of God would be brought out from amongst them, and be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation, before they close their eyes in death; but when I have heard of professor after professor dropping out of time into eternity, without the least shadow of a true gospel hope, I have had many searchings of heart, and humblings of soul, and cries unto the Lord that he would lead me and guide me into that blessed path that leads to the kingdom of God.
But, to conclude. There is still wanting in my soul the eternal witness of the blessed Spirit witnessing to my spirit the full assurance of the pardon of my sins, so as to give me full satisfaction. This is what I have long sought after with many cries and tears unto the Lord; but I find that by all my wrestlings, strugglings, and cries, I cannot put myself amongst the manifested children of God; for I have no power, nor might, nor spiritual strength of my own. "I am a worm, and no man;" a poor, vile, hell-deserving wretch, and daily feel the evil workings of my base heart, and the awful abominations which are done in the land of my soul.
Farewell, my dearly-beloved friends.
A Lover of the Truth.
Wilts, May 17, 1843.