« PreviousContinue »
But this continued not long, for I decayed; and so thereby I was beaten from this, as I was from other resting places. The means and occasions were: (1.) Those who should have overseen me grew careless; they let me alone, and took no account of me at all, but intrusted me to others; and, therefore, “having no king, I did what was right in my own eyes,” (Judges xvii. 6.) (2.) The Lord, after he had several times drawn me to the yoke by fearful dreams and some small convictions, finding then that the impressions of these things wore off me, that I slipped out of the collar again, and not intending that this should be my rest, did not trouble me; and I not having changes, but being let alone, let God and duty alone, (Psal. lv. 19.) (3.) Because it was but common grace, and my soul being not united to Christ, the fountain, hence any thing I had vanished and perished, (John xv. 4.) (4.) Several lusts not being destroyed, but kept, notwithstanding of all my duties, especially pleasures, did in the end choke any good that was sown, (Luke viii. 14.) (5.) Evil company did me likewise much harm; and, through continual converse with them, I was transformed into their image, (1 Cor. v. 6; and xv. 33.) (6.) Because, if this had not broken under me, I would have rested here, and so, coming short of Christ, would have perished, (Micah ii. 10.) (7.) Because I got not full rest and contentment in God, and wanting it in him, I behoved to go out to my lusts for it at last; (Matth. xii. 44,) “The unclean spirit goeth out wanting rest, and finding none, hence he returns." (8.) Because my decay came by degrees, and not all at once; and therefore still I thought I would overtake it, and therefore said, “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber.” And the longer I continued, the more indisposed I grew, and greater difficulties I found, (Prov. xxiv. 33, 34.) Through these means mainly it was that I fell from this state, so as that I neglected duty altogether, and at last did so without a challenge, and gave but too much way to other sins, until God used new means, and made another assault, which he did shortly thereafter, thus :-
Was the zealous performance of some duties, especially prayer. Before I had nothing but conned lessons, but now I could bake my own bread; and I know not how, and wonder still at it, that, having so little knowledge, I could yet be able to conceive a prayer, and continue therein for some reasonable time ; and not only so, but to delight in it likewise, and that in a greater measure than I did formerly. The occasion was this : My father was sick, and like to die, and then sent for me, having provided a chaplain to the house, who was to have the oversight of me likewise ;' he was a godly, tender-hearted man, but none of the deepest reach ; and his zeal appeared still the more, in that there was nothing among ourselves but either ignorance, profanity, or formality, while he seemed to follow the power of godliness, for which he was generally hated and despised. He was a great enemy to vice, such as drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, and swearing, ills common enough in the family and country; and being continued our chaplain after my father's death, (for about that time he died,) he set himself to spread the sincere knowledge of God, and to do good to others; and, for this cause, instructed, reproved, and set them upon the practice of duties. I coming home, was delivered over to him, and to his oversight, which was a great grief to me, not relishing his strictness. The first night I would have gone to bed without prayers; but, as I was putting off my clothes, he marked my design, and commanded I should fall down on my knees, and recommend myself to God ere I went to bed, which I obeyed, and said over my evening prayer I had before got by heart, he reading his book in the meantime.
When I was in my bed, the consideration of my new yoke did put me out to weep bitterly. The man was lean and hard-favoured,
? The family of Brea was of some note in the North. There is in the library of the New College, Edinburgh, a MS. volume under the following title: “Some Miscellany Questions of Divinity, Polemical and Practical, by Sir James Frazer of Brea, Baronet."
and kept at a great distance from me, and was very precise, an humour I was never before acquainted with ; as, likewise, I was secretly fearing the imposition of greater burdens upon me. I comforted myself by a little vent I gave my sorrows.
But to return. One day as we were talking more familiarly than ordinarily we were wont, he desired to hear my prayers. I thereupon repeated both morning and evening prayers I had learned formerly. To which, he giving attention, and knowing both by the matter, and my way of repeating them, that they were a conned lesson, which I had some way learned from others, he told me, that unless I had got the Spirit of God to teach me to pray, I could not go to heaven; and that all other prayers proved ineffectual. And, thereupon, a while after, he, in all his exhortations to me, addressed himself to speak against set forms of prayer; and pressed us, that were children, to express the pure and real conceivings of our own hearts, though we should but utter five sentences at a time; and that this, coming from the heart, was better and more acceptable to God than many and long prayers taught us by others. He likewise taught us the principles of religion, the meaning of the Belief, the Lord's Prayer, and Ten Commands; and had a very strict eye over us, correcting us soundly for cursing, swearing, lying, and Sabbath-breaking; and observed our ways narrowly, and took a strict account of us, both as to what we learned, and of our practices, but especially of me; so that, in a short time, through the Lord's blessing, I attained to some competent measure of knowledge, and left my former ways, and set about secret and public duties, being about eleven years at this time; and use made duties easy; and the peace I had in them, with the hopes of a reward, and the influence of a natural conscience, made me delight in them, so as in a short time I went about them no longer by constraint, but did them of mine own accord, and willingly, and sometimes would exceed what was enjoined me. Every day, morning and evening, I would bow my knee, and read some portion of Scripture, and would pray a conceived prayer at some length, and with some earnestness, but had
no spiritual exercise, and had no communication with God. I likewise began to comply with my pedagogue better, and to love him better; and he seeing me profit both in letters and godliness, was more kindly to me. Nor could he be said, for all his strictness, to be rigid to me, insomuch that, for the space of a whole year, I remember not that I was twice whipt, and one time was for swearing and playing at cards. During the time which he was with me, being a year and a half, I learned the most of my grammar; but this being not my rest, I fell grievously away from all this profession and practice.
$ 2. The steps of this decay were, (1.) Wantonness and lightness in time of public prayers, through a foolish light humour, and the tentations of others; for I studied not heart-reformation. (2.) More slight performance of duties when I durst not omit them : God suffered this to go with me. And, therefore, (3.) I would sometimes omit them altogether, when out of the knowledge of my governor. (4.) I began to play on the Sabbath-day with others, for which I got a memorandum. For one day, being the Lord's Day, the children and I were playing some childish rogueries; which our governor (good man) hearing, calls us up, and then very seriously endeavours to persuade us and convince us of the sin of Sabbath-breaking, and the danger thereof, and gave us a large exhortation, and thereafter enjoined us all to go to our knees and confess our sins to God, and seek pardon thereof, which we obeyed; and for my part, though at first I was constrained to it, yet I was serious both in acknowledging of guilt, and seeking pardon of sin. And, when we had done, we were dismissed, being first exhorted not to do the like again ; which produced a reformation in us all for some time. (5.) Through mine own evil nature, which was never as then mortified, and the counsel of others that were my companions, I despised my governor or pedagogue, and did join with others in afflicting him, by approbation and desire, though I durst not do it so openly. And I remember, one time he being out, an old soldier, who was pitifully cut and mangled in the face, had come to the house, with whom we got some way acquaint, and put him in the pedagogue's chamber with a drawn sword in his hand, and an old red gown on his back, a candle burning before him, and sitting in a chair with a table on which he leaned, with a Greek New Testament in his hand on which he seemed to read; and all this, that, when the good man would enter the chamber, the strangeness of the spectacle might affright him, and that we might have matter of scorning him ; and for this cause we followed him as he was coming to his chamber after supper. But, when he came in, he suspected that it was a trick, and went to the soldier and took the sword out of his hand, and putting him out of doors, he made him discover all those that had a hand in it, whom the next day thereafter he made to crave pardon publicly. O how mighty are folks when they walk with the Lord ! and how little do their adversaries gain of them! (6.) I proceeded from this to a more open violation of the Sabbath, and played with the servants at the club on the Lord's Day, from six o'clock till it was nine, my tutor in the meantime, I know not how, either remitting in his zeal, or hoping when we were more settled in our affairs (for we were to go South on the next day) to rectify things. (7.) When I came South, my pedagogue became more rigid to me, and whipped me more frequently, I confess deservedly; and I turned to hate him, and became stub born, and would do nothing for him. My father being dead, I was but too much countenanced by those with whom I was, who would not suffer him to take such course with me as he would and I merited; so that things came this length, that I openly reviled him, and avowedly omitted duty. At last he was put away. (8.) He once being put away, I became worse, and did no good at all; I neglected duty sometimes for many days together. (9.) I was much given to lying, and made an ordinary practice of it, so as that I could scarce speak a true word. (10.) I turned to mock godliness sometimes, though this did not proceed so much from an habit, and nature, and inclination, as from the tentations of others, whom, by this means, I studied to please. (11.) My conscience at last became seared and insensible, so that I did all this with little or no remorse. (12.) Swearing little petty oaths of faith, conscience, and truth, was