I Looked for Hell, He Brought me Heaven
When young, my parents sent me to a Wesleyan Sunday School, which kept me perhaps from running into such lengths of profanity and sin, outwardly, as many young persons do. When I was about twelve years of age, I believe I had some strong convictions that I was a sinner, whether natural or not I leave you to judge, and began to say my prayers very devoutly, as I thought, for several months together. However, this wore off, and I indulged myself in sin to a great extent. About this time I had several awful dreams, which took such an effect upon my mind that I was often afraid to lay myself down to rest, for fear some infernal spirit should take me away.
About three years ago my mind was in such a dreadfully distressed state that I was often tempted to destroy myself, and have wandered about in the fields, meditating which would be the best method to put my design into execution; but hitherto the Lord hath prevented me, and to him be all the praise. A short time after this strong temptation had subsided, I had a great desire to hear some of the Lord's sent ministers who preach the truth in sincerity. It was some time before I had my wish gratified, as I knew of none nearer than L—, which was ten miles from where I lived. However, in the latter part of the year 1841 I was at L—, and heard the truths of the everlasting gospel preached. I was condemned under the word, for it cut me to the very quick, but the time to favour Zion was not yet come, yet I felt a faint hope spring up in my breast that I should one day see the salvation of God.
In October, 1842, it pleased Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will to lay his afflicting hand upon me. I was seized with a fever, and after being ill for a few days, I felt a solemn frame of mind coming over me, and the words, "Be still, and know that I am God," were impressed on my mind with power. On the night of October 18th I believe I began to see my real state as a sinner; the wrath of Almighty God in a holy law, which my conscience accused me of breaking in thousands of instances, was revealed; the sins of my former life were powerfully set before my eyes, and Satan suggested to my mind that it was all over with me now, and that I should soon be with him. Like Job, I was full of tossings to and fro, until the dawning of the day, and the next day passed in much the same despairing state of mind. But, blessed be the God of all grace, he did not leave my poor soul a prey to the enemy, but, towards the evening, he put a cry into my heart for mercy and deliverance, yea, "I cried, by reason of my affliction, unto the Lord, and he heard me," and these words came with mighty power, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." The blessed change the words produced, through the operation of the eternal Spirit, on my mind is indescribable. When these soul-comforting words were first darted into my mind I was at a loss to account for them, or where they sprang from, for I could not believe that the Lord could, consistently with his holiness, save such a hell-deserving wretch as I felt myself to be. I, a poor worm, was looking for hell, but, honours crown his brow, he brought me heaven. These words kept running in my mind over and over again, and, as I could not for my life get rid of them, they began to inspire my mind with hope. The blessed Spirit had begun the work, and he carried it on in spite of all my unbelieving fears, and, I trust, imparted divine faith to my soul. I saw, by the eye of faith, the Friend of Sinners on the cross, crucified for me, even for poor unworthy me. O! the blessed sight melted my heart to tenderness, and tears of godly sorrow and contrition trickled down my face. I was so ill in body that I could scarcely sit up in bed, yet my soul was drawn out in praise and adoration to my dear Redeemer for his love to my poor soul, which love was stronger than death. "Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul! and forget not all his benefits!" O that I may be often led to Calvary, and lay my poor soul at the feet of Jesus, and feel his love and blood flow into my heart, as I did at that happy period. However, I was very much tried by the tempter the next night, who, in his hellish spleen and malice, endeavoured to persuade me that what I had experienced the night before was all delusion, but when the enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against him, and my soul was again led to rejoice in the Lord.
My paper is about full, and I dare say you are tired of this scrawl. Suffice it to say that I lost, in a few weeks after my deliverance, much of the unction of it from my mind, and have been much in the dark, especially of late; sometimes, indeed, I have been ready to give up all hope, but, blessed be God, he has not left me without a witness, and has lifted the beggar from the dunghill, and caused me to love and praise his holy name.
I will just add that the rumour of my deliverance from bondage spread amongst some professors, and I was soon attacked by one of them about my principles, which they called damnable doctrines; and one of them who was very zealous for their cause told my wife that I should soon lose my religion, if I persevered in the opinions which I then held. They also invited me to join the Arminian camp. As for losing my religion, I have no goodness, piety, or personal holiness of my own to lose, but what I am, I am by sovereign, unmerited, yea, unlooked-for grace. I have not produced my religion by either free will or free agency, but I trust, and am persuaded, that the Lord will keep that which is communed to him till the last day.
That the Lord may bless you, and make you a blessing, is the prayer of,
July 14th, 1843.