Preliminary Epistles

To Noctua Aurita, in the Desert.

I RECEIVED your kind epistle, and do most sincerely thank you for the same, and shall comply with your request, for I feel a pleasure in so doing; and should I give too much scope to my pen, I hope you will pardon it. To proceed. My parents being professors of religion, I was early brought to attend on the word preached, under the Rev. D____ B____ . He being a Calvinist dissenter, and I believe he preached the doctrines of the gospel clearly, I sat under him till I was in my twentieth year; but it was from constraint, and not out of any love to it. But during all these years I attained to no degree of knowledge of the doctrines I heard; and I believe that the heathens, who never saw a Bible nor heard the word, could not be more blind and ignorant than I was.

But, at the end of this period of time, one Lord's day Mr. B____ . preached from these words, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help." As he went on treating of the first part, I found my attention drawn to it, and saw that I was interested in the subject; and I do believe there never was a truer description given of the fall of man, as far as it could be conveyed from light received from the Letter of the word, than he gave at that time: it made me tremble from head to foot. I believed the report; and clearly did he shew how fallen man was under the curse of the law, and, as such, obnoxious to the wrath of God; and conscience made the application by bearing this testimony, "Thou art the man." He then treated largely on free grace, and salvation by Christ, and shewed that it was only for sinners that Christ died, and that this salvation became ours by believing. I shall not enlarge on his sermon, but tell you that these last tidings made my very heart leap for joy. I thought, yea, I had not a doubt, but I was one of those that Christ died for, because I now saw myself a sinner. On this ground I commenced a believer; and I came from under the sermon with light on the whole plan of salvation, and as firm a confidence of my own personal interest therein as a poor creature could have. For two nights I could not close my eyes, my joys did rise so high; and all the free invitations and unconditional promises of the gospel kept flowing into my mind. I thought I was in a new world; the world was now nothing to me, and I wanted to die, that I might be out of it. I could not pay the feast attention to any worldly affairs for three weeks. I once went to Mr. B____, and told him how his ministry had been blessed to me, and we rejoiced together; and my wonderful conversion was blazed abroad far and near. I sat under his ministry, I think, about six years.

My joys at length were not quite so high. After the time men-atoned above they began to abate, which I thought to be strange; but I went to my father, and told him how it was with me, and he told me that all those who were walking in the ways of God found it so, and I should only maintain and keep my comfort in a way of religion. Indeed he was a good nurse to me, and very high I was in his esteem, but not more so than he was in mine. I had no small share of joy, at seasons, for the space of a year and a half. About this time these words were brought suddenly to my mind, and that with power: "And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." I was much perplexed at this, and thought what rod had I got to pass under? And I thought I was safe enough in the bond of the covenant already However, about six months after this I was visited with severe afflictions, which so weakened my tabernacle, and the faculties of my soul, that at times I was incapable of thinking, contemplating, or any thing else. But this I conjectured to be the fulfilment of the first part of the foregoing promise which the Lord sent to me. From that time my joys declined; but my confidence still remained unshaken as to the reality of the work. At times I can recollect that there was something within me that would whisper that all was not right at the bottom. But this voice was soon hushed and smothered, by being attributed to other causes, viz. the devil and the power of unbelief, which I was taught to resist. Indeed, I had so many to build me up in this my confidence, that it was no wonder I stood my ground; and I had as high an opinion of myself as others had of mo. which only fed my pride. Having sat under the aforesaid instrument about six years, he left his charge to take another; and in his stead came the Rev. G____ T____. He was, to my view, as sound in the doctrines of the gospel as the other, and I much approved of his ministry, and sat under it, I think, about four years. At this time I married, and providence fixed my habitation in this place, where I sat under the ministry of J____ M____, and was much delighted with the same; as he was not inferior to him I left. After some time I heard that Mr. Jenkins preached in a very singular way; but as I heard he preached the doctrines of the gospel, I thought I would go and hear him; for I assure you from these I never deviated in judgment, for all my religion lay in the belief of them. But I now know that my religion would not stand the fiery test. But sure, if it had been God's genuine work, it could not have been overthrown; for what he does is done for ever. But a stormy wind has rent this wall; and when it fell there was not left so much as one stone upon another that was not thrown down. O Sir! to think how many that are called shepherds, and whole flocks under them, are resting short of the things that accompany salvation, is a sore trial to me. But I must leave this part of the Saviour's government with him who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working; but cannot get rid of my feelings for those who are so near to me. Adieu; and may God reward your kindness to the chiefest of all sinners. So prays

Yours, in the hope of the gospel,

The King's Dale.