« PreviousContinue »
AN ESSAY, &c.
WHEN a man who has, for eighteen years of his life, taken an active part in the concerns of a religious society, and promoted its interest with all his power, leaves it and attaches himself to another, a decent respect for their opinion, as well as a proper regard for his own character for consistency and uprightness, renders it not improper that he should state the reasons which induced him to make the change. This I propose to do in the following pages.
Those who know me intimately, know that I have ever embraced the truth when convinced I had discovered it, with little regard for the consequences that might follow. Having had the truths of the Christian religion impressed upon my mind by the unwearied care of a most affectionate mother, I occasionally had serious reflections on the subject, although in general by far too indifferent to it, until about nineteen years ago. In the summer of 1810 I met with a pamphlet called the "Star in the East," by Dr. Buchanan, giving an account among other things of the discovery of a Christian Church in Hindostan, secluded from all the world, which derived its origin from the Apostles themselves. This narrative produced a very strong impression on my mind, and, as I had been for some months more thoughtful than common on the subject of religion, I determined to investigate the evidence on which the doctrines of the Christian religion rest. Shortly after, a book-pedler passed through the village, and I purchased a bible with Canne's marginal references, and Bishop Porteus's Evidences of the Christian Revelation.
I had always been in the habit of requiring strong evidence upon every subject and never yielding assent to any thing, that was not supported by it. I sat down therefore, to the reading of Porteus with the determination narrowly to examine and weigh every argument.
The result was a strong impression made on my mind by the first perusal, during which no quotations from the scripture were examined, the interest excited by the force of the argument being too great to allow stopping to examine them. The book was read however very attentively a second time, with careful examination of the quotations of scripture, and the result was a thorough conviction of the truth of the Christian Revelation; immediately on expressing which to myself, with an audible voice, I felt my mind drawn out in a feeling of gratitude and love to that Saviour who had died that I might live-the first I had experienced and not to be forgotten while life and recollection shall continue. The first reading of this book was in September or October, 1810. It had such an effect on my mind as to lead me to regular private devotion. The second reading was about Christmas.
Between the middle and end of January I heard my friend Mr. Tidings, to whom I was then an entire stranger, preach for the first time, and again on the Sunday following, and was so much pleased that on the Sunday week after I became a member of the Methodist Society, which I then considered the purest Church as to doctrine. In that society I have continued ever since, in general well satisfied; and among its members, but particularly the preachers of the Baltimore Annual Conference, I have many valued friends. These I would not offend, I would not appear to slight, for any thing less than conscience sake. That I have until within the last eight weeks taken an active part in promoting the welfare of the society which I have left, is well known to some of them, and was not long ago evinced in the part I took in the establishment of a religious paper to be published by the Methodist Society,
Soon after that time a volume of sermons by the Rev. Dr. Chapman, for which I had subscribed, was brought home, and for some days no attention was paid to it. At a leisure moment curiosity led me to look into it, when I found the manner and style so strik ing and the subject so new to me, that I determined to read the book. I had heard that the Church denied the validity of Presbyterian ordination; but had never thought it worth while to inquire into a claim at first sight apparently so extravagant. I was determined to see what could be said in support of such pretensions, I read carefully the first seven sermons, by which I was most forcibly struck. The language chaste, the style perspicuous, I was carried along without labour and comprehended without the slight