Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

discouragements from the government were renewed and multiplied: for, upon a Lord's day, a proclamation was set up at our meeting-house, strictly requiring all magistrates to suppress and probibit, as far as they lawfully could, all itinerant preachers, &c. which occasioned us to forbear reading that day, till we had time to deliberate and consult what was expedient to do; but how joyfully were we surprised, before the next sabbath, when we unexpectedly heard that Mr. Davies was come to preach so long among us, and especially that he had qualified himself according to law, and obtained the licensing of four meeting houses among us, which had never been done before. Thus man's extremity is the Lord's opportunity. For this seasonable interposition of divine providence, we desire to offer our grate, ful praises, and we importune the friends of Zion to con. cur with us,'

CHAPTER V.

DEVOTES HIMSELF TO THE MINISTRY

GRAMMAR AND COLLEGE COURSE-IS LISENCED,

A Heart which is really changed from sin to holiness will be anxious to be employed in promoting holiness. What shall I render to the Lord for all his mercies? will bę its language. Having obtained an answer to the

question, what shall I do to be saved? the happy person will next inquire, by what means shall I best promote the salvation of others? How shall I most effectually recommend to others the exceeding riches of that grace of which I am made an unworthy partaker? While revolving in his mind these and similar inquiries, Mr. Rice's attention was turned towards the gospel ministry. He was far, however, from considering his anxiety for the welfare of souls, or his anxiety for the advancement of God's glory, a warrant for him to assume the character of a preacher; much less was he disposed to consider his experience of God's goodness in delivering him from the bondage of sin, a sufficient qualification to enable him to act as a preacher. His experience had a quite different effect. It had convinced him of his ignorance and weakness, and of the many qualifications which were necessary to enable a man to expound scripture, and deal with the souls of his fellow men, These qualifications he did not expect to receive by any extraordinary revelation, but by a diligent use of ordi nary means. Ile believed also that the church, through the organs

of those courts which the lead himself hath instituted, is the only competent authority to decide what particular individual bath the necessary qualifica tions for the office of the holy ministry. These were his sentiments from the very first, and they were strengthened rather than weakened by the experience of upwariis of fifty years. "I yet believe," says he, that the mod. ern notion of preaching by the inspiration of the spirit has had a tendency to lead men into many errors which have greatly corrupted the christian system."

[ocr errors]

Having devoted himself to the work of the ministry, should God in his providence give him a regular call, he determined to sacrifice every inclination and every interest which would impede him in his pursuit of the of the necessary qualifications. He particularly resolve ed to avoid every degree of intimacy with the other sex, knowing that entering into the marriage state would impede if not entirely prevent the accomplishment of his object.

The great body of the people in the land of his. nativity were of the Episcopal or English church, and the temptation to attach himself to the service of that church was considerable. It was the Established church --under the special protection of the government--erery minister having secured to him the annual salary of 18,000 weight of tobacco, with other perquisites of considerable amount. But to a spiritual mind these external" advantages presented na, allurement. Though there were here and there a worthy respectable clergyman of that church, the great majority of the officiating clergy were vicious characters, and some of them so grossly immoral as to render them unfit company for any gentleman. This being the general character of the officiating priests, no discipline or government of a spiritual nature was exercised. The most profane athe.

sts, and deists, and drunkards, and debauchees of eve ry kind, were admitted, whenever they made 'application, to all the privileges of Christ's children. In this state of things, though Mr. Rice's heart was attached to the doctrines, and by no means averse to the worship of the Episcopal church, he could not in conscience think

[ocr errors]

The very

of taking any steps to procure orders in that church. With Moses, in a case by no means dissimilar, he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. reproach of Christ was of more value in his estimation than all the bonours and all the wealth of the dignified order.

He began the study of the Latin language at a Gram mar school kept by Rev. John Todd, and finished his Grammar course at another school kept by Rev. James Waddle, who was some years after minister of the gospel and doctor of divinity in Albemarle county. After Mr. Davies was appointed President of New-Surrey College, he went there, and at the end of two years commenced Batchelor of Arts. He then returned to Virginia, and studied Divinity under the aforesaid Mr. Todd.

Having struggled under a variety of discouraging circumstances, he was at last licensed as a probationer for the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Hanover, in Noy, 1762.

CHAPTER VI.

ENTERS ON THE MINISTRY-SCENE OF HIS

FIRST LABOURS-CHARACTER OF MRs, RICE.

No situation on earth is without its difficulties and pe. culiar temptations. Difficulties and temptations of one kind are no sooner over than they are succeeded by others of a different description. While the warfare is thus continued, a wise man and a saint will grow wiser and wiser, and be daily more conformed to the image of his Master. "In my first setting out,” says Mr. Rice, “I was considerably popular, and often met with the applause of my fellow creatures, which soon filled me with a considerable degree of vanity. This convinced me of the propriety of the apostle's injunction,-noť a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil—and that it requires much more knowledge to make a man humble than to make him a self-conceited pedant." How many otherwise well qualified preachers have had their usefulness nearly destroyed by not making, at an early period of their career, the same discovery! How kind is our Lord and Master in frequently letting loose the tongues of men against his servants!

He preached about six months in North Carolina and the southern parts of Virginia, not without some evidence of success. He then visited Pennsylvania, where,

« ZurückWeiter »