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MERCIES OF A COVENANT GOD.
I was born at Stand, about five miles from Manchester, in October, 1776. My parents being poor, I had but little opportunity of acquiring human learning, though, by the tender mercy of God, I obtained a little reading and writing, a blessing for which I have often felt thankful. My dear mother was, I believe, a vessel prepared unto glory before the mountains were brought forth. This God made manifest when I was about eight years of age in a manner that has often filled me with surprise. I had frequently been astonished to see my dear mother sighing, groaning, and weeping when reading her Bible, but, upon one occasion, I distinctly recollect that a neighbouring woman called in, and, observing my mother in tears, asked what was the matter with her that she was in so much trouble. My mother, as soon as she was able to speak, cried out that her poor soul was lost for ever and ever; at which the poor woman was astonished, and so was I. The woman endeavoured to comfort her by telling her that she had been a good wife, mother, and neighbour, and, consequently, could have nothing to fear, for if such good people as she were lost, woe to thousands besides! “ Moreover,” she continued," you ought not to indulge in such thoughts as these, for who can tell in what they will end ?” My poor mother, however, could not drink in such doctrine as this, but exclaimed, “O! I am the greatest sinner that ever was upon the earth, and lost I must be for ever! There is no salvation for me! O! that I had never been born!” The woman bade her remember that there is mercy with God for every one that repenteth. “ Yes," said my
people around her
mother, “there is to his own people, but I am not one of them. I am a cast-away, lost for ever and ever!” How astonishing did all this appear to my mind! How did I desire to know what God could be, and who were his people! I remember that I cried, and, retiring to a private place, said my prayers twice very devoutly, and was as firmly resolved, as any Arminian in the world, to be good; “for God,” thought I, “will love me if I continue good, and I shall become one of his people; and what a happy people must they be who are God's, and how holy too; for if my poor mother, who is so good, is not one of them, how very good they must be.” I then vowed and promised how good I would be. I found upon examination that I had done many wrong things, such as frequently telling untruths, uttering bad words, and occasionally stealing a toy from the children with whom I was in the habit of playing. Then I prayed the Lord to forgive me, and vowed never to commit the like again. From this period I went on with many natural convictions, until I arrived at the age of fifteen or sixteen years, when, getting acquainted with many loose companions, I was given up to all manner of wickedness, and so continued until my arrival at that time and place which God had purposed,- not to offer, but to call by grace;
“ To change the heart, renew the will,
And turn the feet to Zion's hill.” I'was at that time married, and hearing that a new church, containing a fine organ, was to be opened at Bolton (distant about six miles), I made up my mind to go, and to enjoy myself by spending a few shillings that I had at the various public-houses on my way home. These houses had been my delight for years; but blessed be the dear Lord, he had designed other things. When the day came, I went, and was greatly pleased with the appearance of the church. But when the minister entered the reading-desk, I was struck with astonishment at observing that he was the very man whom I had heard preach one sermon in our parish church many years before; a sermon which had alarmed me to that degree that I made many vows to live a new life, and for several weeks afterwards durst scarcely
look or speak for fear of sinning. I had soon, however, broken my vows, and become worse than ever in open wickedness, until God laid hold of me. When the minister began to read the prayers, I thought I had never heard them read in like manner before. But when he got into the pulpit, and read his text, it came from his mouth into my heart like a two-edged sword. His tèxt was, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." I verily believed that he pointed directly at me; for his eyes appeared to look right through me, and I thought I should have dropped into hell. All my sins and iniquities, from a child, stared me in the face, and I trembled like a leaf. He began to show what man was by nature, and how far natural men might go in rowing and breaking their vows, in sinning and repenting, until, if grace prevented not, hell proved their awful abode. He showed that for men to vow, was merely to mock God, and deceive their own souls. My very hair stood on end with the violence of my feelings, and I verily believed that he meant me, and none else in the church. Nay, he so particularly described my ungodly life, my vowing and vow-breaking, and so entered into every transaction of it, as if he had been an eye-witness to everything I had done or said, that I looked up at him, wondering whether he were a man or an angel. I thought that he fastened his eyes directly upon me, and pointed personally at me with his finger; and when he had thus cut me up, root and branch, he repeated his text again like thunder in my ears, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” O! the power with which it entered my soul, like a dagger that cut me through and through. I now saw and felt (what I had never seen nor felt before) that I had been mocking God, and deceiving my soul all my life long. Oh! how my poor soul heayed up with grief and sorrow, “ God be inerciful to me a sinner.” “O!” thought I, “ he can never show mercy to such a wretch as I, for I have mocked God all these years, and what a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” And, again, the dear man repeated, “ God is not mocked.” As soon as he had concluded,