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notions I had of religion, seemed to be entirely contradicted by them. And when I had procured some of the fashionable commentators of the day, such as Whitby, Locke, and Zachary Pearce, formerly Bishop of Rochester ; all I got from them confused me but
; the more; as it always struck me that the comment contradicted the text, and that instead of explaining matters, they seemed to be explaining them away. Some things were to be confined to primitive times, and others restricted to the Christians, as just coming from under the Jewish dispensation ; and much of the Bible was to mean next to nothing, because it was figurative and metaphorical; but when I came to look at Zachary Pearce's comment on that striking passage, “One thing is needful ;” notwithstanding all his learning, that completely did for him in my esteem.
Wor. Why, what did he make of it?
Wor. Is it possible ? what a strange letting down of such a fine expression !
Mer. Yes, and I remember with shame, in our different carousings with each other, in our profane mirth, how we used to laugh at the intepretation, by saying, neither one dish nor one bottle would be enough for us.
Loveg. Well, well, I bless God, I could get no satisfaction from these lame interpreters, for with all their learning, they appeared to me to be so inconsistent with themselves. And one evening, how was I struck, when seeking for a text ? my eyes were fixed on those words of St. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians—“Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." For a time I could make nothing of the expression, till others, very similar, forcibly entered iny mind, about being “ crucified with Christ;" being“ dead and buried with him;" and of our" being risen with him;" and then that passage in our church catechism, as it relates to what is required of all baptized Christians, "a death unto sin, and a new birth
unto righteousness.” It struck me, that I had been directed to instruct children in a doctrine which was unknown to my own heart, and that I was a “blind leader of the blind.” At that moment I fell down on my knees, and wept excessively; and prayed, I think from the bottom of my heart for the first time, that I might not presume to continue to be the pretended instructor of the ignorant, while so ignorant myself.
Wor. I suppose after this, the tenor of your preaching was immediately altered.
Loveg. Sir, the change was still gradual, I knew I was wrong, but I did not know how I could be set right. But herein the providence of God wonderfully favoured me.
Mer. I have often heard you explain the nature of our conversion from sin to.
but I never heard you explain so particularly the nature of your own conversion. I wish you would proceed.
Loveg. when I first came to my curacy, I was told that five or six people went regularly, Sunday after Sunday, to hear the Rev. Mr. Slapdash, who has a small living in those parts. You know he is an animated, bold preacher, and is attended by a large congregation ; and I never could hear but that his zeal is tempered with prudence; and that he is a good man: and that though he has a strong, rapid, hasty way of expressing himself, yet what he delivers is entirely consistent with the sound truths of the gospel. Still their absenting themselves from the church gave considerable offence to the pride of my heart, not knowing that it was my ignorance which drove them at a distance.
However one Sunday, these young men, contrary to their usual custom, stopt at home to hear me. It was soon after that text of scripture so impressed my mind. Ignorance of my Bible, and consequently, unfitness for my office, intermixed with our workings of corruption, from the pride and anger of my heart on account of my dark preconceived notions in religion, having been so contradicted by the word of God, affected me not a little. In this state of mind I was obliged to preach as well as I could; and I remember I was remarkably low and affected, on the Sunday these young men stopt to hear me. And while I was preaching, I saw them nodding and smiling, first at me, and then at each other, in such an uncommon manner, that I could not conceive but that they meant to be laughing at me all the time for my ignorance; espcially as it was reported, that the man they went to hear was quite a madınan : and upon this I went the next day, to converse with them on what I conceived to be their odd conduct at church, My mind being much perplexed, and my spirits very low; and having determined to speak to them with much mildness; I ne sooner began to open my mouth, but tears started from my eyes, I told them they should not have laughed at me before all the congregation, on account of what they thought of my ignorance, for ibat I did my best ; and that I hoped and prayed to God, if I was not right, he would set me right.
Wor. Well, and what effect had this upon the young men ?
Loveg. O sir ! The good young men were as much affected as myself, at my misconceptions of them. They told me that their smiles and nods were the effect, not of sneering contempt, but of approbation and joy; for they were now fully persuaded that I should soon become a faithful Minister of the gospel : and that they never went to church while young Mr. Wanton was the curate, yet as they saw me so different from bim, and as it was reported that I was likely soon to be mad with melancholy, they thought I might be under some serious impressions respecting the state of my soul : and if I continued to preach as I had done, they should soon discontinue hearing Mr. Slapdash, though he was a very powerful
and lively preacher, as they called him, and a very good man.
Wor. Then you discovered that these young inen were truly serious and good.
Loveg. Yes, and two of them I found to be useful and profitable companions to me, having good understandings, which they had well improved by reading among themselves various religious authors. And I was much struck before we parted, at the great modesty with which they expressed themselves, wishing I would but read some of their books which they read among themselves, that they might have my opinion how far I approved of them. They then showed me their little library; and one of them particularly requested me to read the Pilgrim's Progress, with very precious notes, which they said, by way of recommending it, were written by a very learned man, and which I was the more willing to do, as I remembered reading it as a novel when a child. Among other books, I saw they had Brown's self-interpreting Bible, and as I began to be entirely sick of my old commentators, I begged to borrow it. This they very readily consented to; so I put the Pilgrim's Progress in one pocket, and Bostou's Four-fold State in the other, and went home ; and when I took my leave of them, I was very much surprised at their humble and affectionate farewell; following me with a thousand blessing's, and thanking, me most cordially for my visit. Soon afterwards I found one of them at my heels with Brown's Bible, which they wished me to keep as long as I chose.
Wor. Well, this was a kind Providence. But how did you seem to like your new authors ? did you much admire their choice of books for you? The Pilgrim's Progress, I confess, is an inimitable drama, and beautifully describes the state of the real Christian in his spiritual progress; yet Bunyan, in the general way, happens to be the humble treasure of divinity in the poor man's cottage ; and I fear is not so
often to be found in the study of a contemplative divine.
Loveg. Sir, if God had conferred on me the honour of being the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, I should have been tempted to be the proudest man upon earth. However, the simplicity and affection of the good people I went to see, led me to cast my eyes over that book a second time, very much to my profit. For on the same day I shut myself up in my study, and began to read. Page after page, my.
, attention was arrested : and as I pursued the subject, light continued to break in upon my mind, while it brought me upon my knees again and again. I now began to see, somewhat clearly, the plan of the gospel salvation alone by Jesus Christ. Every paragraph I read was intermixed with a tear of thankfulness and surprise ; and night after night, I was happy to be sleepless, that I might pursue the pilgrims on their road, as I now began to find I could travel with them, while every step appeared plain before me.
Mor. It is lovely work, when we can read and meditate under such frame of mind. I remember how I used to hate to read the Bible, merely because I could not understand it; but as soon as I could enter into its meaning, I found no book like it. I recollect, some time ago, in the library at my house, I laid my hands upon a book written by Bishop Patrick, called the Parable of the Pilgrim, but I found it a heavy performance.
Loveg. Yes Sir, I have heard of it. It is a large lumpy volume, though the Bishop was a serious and respectable man; yet while Bunyan keeps you awake, Patrick lulls you asleep.
Mer. It seems then, that the Tinker, was a wiser man than the Bishop.
Loveg. Why no man gets either brains or grace, by education or title : many gifts of this sort we may receive as the gifts of the God of nature, or of providence; but a sanctified use of these blessings,