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ALMOST twenty years have now elapsed, since the ensuing Narrative was first published. During this time the Author has had abundant opportunities of examining, over and over again, the principles which he then intended to inculcate. If therefore, he had, on further reflection, materially altered his sentiments, he should have thought himself bound, by the strongest obligations, to retract what he had erroneously advanced. But he is thankful that, on the contrary, he feels it incumbent on liim to declare most solemnly, as in the presence of God, that every thing he has since experienced, observed, heard, and read, has concurred in establishing his most assured confidence, that the doctrines recommended in this publication, are the grand and distinguishing peculiarities of genuine Christianity.
Very many verbal corrections, with a few retrenchments and additions, will be found in this
. edition. In improvements of this kind, the Author has bestowed considerable pains; but he has been scrupulously, and almost superstiously, careful to admit no alterations, which can in the least degree change the meaning of any passage.
He feels thankful, that the leading desire of his heart, in publishing a work, which seems to relate almost exclusively to himself and his own little concerns, has not been wholly disappointed: but he would earnestly request the prayers of all, who favour the doctrines here inculcated, for a more abundant and extensive blessing on this, and all his other feeble endeavours, to “ contend earnest“ ly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
N. B. The First Edition was dated Feb. 26, 1779, when the Author was Curate of Ravenstone and Weston-Underwood, near Olney, Bucks.
An account of the state of the Author's mind and
conscience in the early part of his life; especially stating what his sentiments and conduct were, at the beginning of that change of which he proposes to give the history.
I HOUGH I was not educated in what is commonly considered as ignorance of God and religion; yet, till the sixteenth year of my age, I do not remember that I ever was under any serious conviction of being a sinner, in danger of wrath or in need of mercy; nor did I ever during this part of my life, that I recollect, offer one hearty prayer to God in secret. “Being alienated from “God through the ignorance that was in me, I lived without him in the world; and as utterly neglected to pay him any voluntary service, as if I had been an Atheist in principle.
But about my sixteenth year I began to see that I was a sinner. I was indeed a leper in every part,
there being 'no health in me;' but out of many external indications of inward depravity, conscience discovered and reproached me with one especially; and I was for the first time, disquieted with apprehensions of the wrath of an offended God. My attendance at the Lord's table was expected about the same time: and though I was very ignorant of the meaning and end of that sacred ordinance; yet this circumstance, uniting with the accusations of my conscience, brought an awe upon my spirits, and interrupted my before undisturbed course of sin.
Being, however, an utter stranger to the depravity and helplessness of fallen nature, I had no doubt that I could amend my life whenever I pleased. Previously therefore to communicating, I set about an unwilling reformation; and, procuring a form of prayer, I attempted to pay my secret addresses to the Majesty of heaven. Having in this manner silenced my conscience, I partook of the ordinance: I held my resolutions also, and continued my devotions, such as they were, for a short time: but they were a weariness and a task to me, and, temptations soon returning, I relapsed; so that my prayer-book was thrown aside, and no more thought of, till my conscience was again alarmed by the next warning given for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Then the same ground was gone over again, and with the same issue. My “goodness was like the morning dew
" that passeth away;" and, loving sin and disrelishing religious duties as much as ever, I returned, as“ the sow that is washed to her wallowing in “ the mire.”
With little variation this was my course of life for nine years: but in that time I had such experience of my own weakness, and the superior force of temptation, that I secretly concluded reformation in my case to be impracticable. “ Can “the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard “his spots ?” I was experimentally convinced that I was equally unable, with the feeble barrier of resolutions and endeavours, to stem the torrent of my impetuous inclinations, when swelled by welcome, suitable, and powerful temptations: and being ignorant that God had reserved this to himself as his own work, and had engaged to do it for the poor sinner who, feeling his own insufficiency, is heartily desirous to have it done by him, I stifled my convictions as well as I could, and put off my repentance to a more convenient season.
But being of a reflecting turn, and much alone, my mind was almost constantly employed. Aware of the uncertainty of life, I was disquieted with continual apprehensions that this more convenient season would never arrive; especially as, through an unconfirmed state of health, I had many warnings and near prospects of death and eternity. For a long time I entertained no doubt that impenitent sinners would be miserable for ever in