« PreviousContinue »
very brink of mischief; but it was I allotted about eight hours for sleep and always disclosed in due time. When I have meals, eight hours for exercise and devotion, thought myself most secure, I have been and eight hours to my books; and thus, by suddenly alarmed with danger; and when I diversifying my engagements, the whole day have almost despaired of life, as sudden a was agreeably filled up, and I seldom found deliverance has been vouchsafed me. My a day too long, or an hour to spare. My stay upon the coast was long, and the trade studies kept me employed, and so far it was very precarious; and, in the pursuit of my well; otherwise they were hardly worth the business, both on board and on shore, I was in time they cost, as they led me to an admiradeaths often. Let the following instance tion of false models and false maxims; an serve as a specimen.
almost unavoidable consequence, I suppose, I was at a place called Mana, near Cape of an admiration of classic authors. Abating Mount, where I had transacted very large what I have attained of the language, I think concerns, and had, at the time I am speak- I might have read Cassandra or Cleopatra ing of, some debts and accounts to settle, to as good purpose as I read Livy, whom I which required my attendance on shore, and now account an equal romancer, though in I intended to go the next morning. When a different way. I arose, I left the ship according to my pur From the coast, I went to St. Christopher's; pose; but when I came near the shore, the and here my idolatrous heart was its own pun. surf, or break of the sea, ran so high, that I ishment. The letters I expected from Mrs. was almost afraid to attempt landing. Indeed N***** were, by mistake, forwarded to AnI had often ventured at a worse time, but I tigua, which had been at first proposed as our felt an inward hinderance and backwardness, port. As I was certain of her punctuality which I could not account for: the surf fur- in writing, if alive, I concluded, by not hearnished a pretext for indulging it; and after ing from her, that she was surely dead. waiting and hesitating for about half an hour, This fear affected me more and more; I lost I returned to the ship, without doing any my appetite and rest; I felt an incessant pain business; which I think I never did but that in my stomach, and in about three weeks time morning, in all the time I used that trade. I was near sinking under the weight of an But I soon perceived the reason of all this. It imaginary stroke. I felt some severe sympseems the day before I intended to land, a toms of that mixture of pride and madness, scandalous and groundless charge had been which is commonly called a broken heart; laid against me (by whose instigation I could and, indeed, I wonder that this case is not never learn,) which greatly threatened my more common than it appears to be. How nonour and interest, both in Africa and Eng- often do the potsherds of the earth presume land, and would perhaps, humanly speaking, to contend with their maker! and what a have affected my life, if I had landed accord- wonder of mercy is it, that they are not all ing to my intention. I shall, perhaps, inclose broken! However, my complaint was not all a letter, which will give a full account of this grief; conscience had a share. I thought my strange adventure; and therefore shall say unfaithfulness to God had deprived me of no more of it here, any further than to tell her, especially my backwardness in speaking you, that an attempt aimed to destroy either of spiritual things, which I could hardly atmy life or my character, and which might tempt even to her. It was this thought, that very probably, in its consequences have ruin- I had lost invaluable, irrecoverable opportued my voyage, passed off without the least nities, which both duty and affection should inconvenience. The person most concerned have engaged me to improve, that chiefly owed me about a hundred pounds, which he stung me; and I thought I could have given sent me in a huff; and otherwise, perhaps, the world to know that she was living, that would not have paid me at all. I was very I might at least discharge my engagements by uneasy for a few hours, but was soon after- writing, though I were never to see her again. wards comforted. I heard no more of my This was a sharp lesson, but I hope it did accusation till the next voyage, and then it me good; and when I had thus suffered some was publicly acknowledged to have been a weeks, I thought of sending a small vessel malicious calumny, without the least shadow to Antigua. I did so, and she brought me of a ground.
several packets, which restored my health Such were the vicissitudes and difficulties and peace, and gave me a strong contrast of through which the Lord preserved me. the Lord's goodness to me, and my unbelief Now and then both faith and patience were and ingratitude towards him. sharply exercised, but suitabl strength was In August, 1753, I returned to 1 given; and as those things did not occur My stay was very short at home that voyage, every day, the study of the Latin, of which I only six weeks; in that space nothing very gave a general account in m last, was re- remarkable occurred; I shall therefore begin newed, and carried on from time to time, my next with an account of my third and when business would permit. I was mostly last voyage. And thus I give both you and very regular in the manageme t of my time. I myself" hopes of a speedy period to these
memoirs, which begin to be tedious and away to trade on the ship's account. When minute, even to myself; only I am animated we parted, I repeated and enforced my best by the thought that I write at your request, advice. I believe his friendship and regard and have therefore an opportunity of show- were as great as could be expected, where ing myself, your obliged servant.
principles were so diametrically opposite. January 31, 1763.
He seemed greatly affected when I left him, but my words had no weight with him. When he found himself at liberty from un
der my eye, he gave a hasty loose to every LETTER XIII.
appetite; and his violent irregularities, joined
to the heat of the climate, soon threw him DEAR SIR, – My third voyage was shorter into a malignant fever, which carried him and less perplexed than either of the former. off in a few days. He died convinced, but Before I sailed, I met with a young man, who not changed. The account I had from those had formerly been a midshipman and my in- who were with him was dreadful; his rage timate companion, on board the Harwich. and despair struck them all with horror, and He was, at the time I first knew him, a so- he pronounced his own fatal doom before he ber youth, but I found too much success expired, without any appearance that he in my unhappy attempts to infect him with either hoped or asked for mercy. I thought libertine principles. When we met at this awful contrast inight not be improper to our acquaintance renewed upon the ground give you, as a stronger view of the distinof our former intimacy. He had good sense, guishing goodness of God to me the chief of and had read many books. Our conversation sinners. frequently turned upon religion, and I was I left the coast in about four months, and desirous to repair the mischiet'I had done him. sailed for St. Christopher's. Hitherto I had I gave him a plain account of the manner and enjoyed a perfect state of health, equally in reason of my change, and used every argu- every climate, for several years; but, upon ment to persuade him to relinquish his infi- this passage, I was visited with a fever, del schemes; and when I sometimes pressed which gave me a very near prospect of eterhim so close that he had no other reply to nity. I have obtained liberty to enclose you make, he would remind me that I was the three or four letters, which will more clearly very first person who had given him an idea illustrate the state and measure of my expeof his liberty. This occasioned me many rience, at different times, than any thing I mournful reflections. He was then going can say at present. One of them you will master to Guinea himself, but before his ship find was written at this period, when I could was ready, his merchant became a bankrupt, hardly hold a pen, and had some reason to which disconcerted his voyage. As he had believe I should write no more.
I had not no further expectations for that year, I ofter that ranpetopoz,* which is so desirable at a ed to take him with me as a companion, that time when flesh and heart fail; but my he might gain a knowledge of the coast; and hopes were greater than my fears, and I felt the gentleman who employed me promised to a silent composure of spirit, which enabled provide for him upon his return. My view me to wait the event without much anxiety. in this was not so much to rve him in his My trust, though weak in degree, was alone business, as to have opportunity of debating fixed upon the blood and righteousness of the point with him at leisure; and I hoped, Jesus; and those words, “ he is able to save in the course of my voyage, my arguments, to the uttermost,” gave me great relief. I example, and prayers, might have some good was for a while troubled with a very singular effect on him. My intention in this step thought. Whether it was a temptation, or was better than my judgment, and I had fre- that the fever disordered my faculties, I canquent reason to repent it. He was exceed- not say, but I seemed not so much afraid of ingly profane, and grew worse and worse: I wrath and punishment, as of being lost and saw in him a most lively picture of what I overlooked amidst the myriads that are conhad once been, but it was very inconvenient tinually entering the unseen world. What to have it always before my eyes. Besides, is my soul, thought I, among such an innuhe was not only deaf to my remonstrances merable multitude of beings? And this himself, but laboured all that he could to troubled me greatly. Perhaps the Lord will counteract my influence upon others. His take no notice of me. I was perplexed thus spirit and passions were likewise exceeding for some time, but at last a text of scripture, high, so that it required all my prudence and very apposite to the case, occurred to my authority to hold him in any degree of re- mind, and put an end to the doubt; "The straint
. Ile was as a sharp thorn in my side Lord knoweth them that are his.” In about for some time; but at length I had an oppor- ten days beyond the hopes of those about tunity upon the coast of buying a small vessel me, I began to amend, and by the time of which I supplied with a cargo from my own, and gave him the command, and sent him
* Full assurance.
our arrival in the West Indies, I was per-, genteel employment, and is usually very fectly recovered.—I hope this visitation was profitable, though to me it did not prove so, made useful to me.
the Lord seeing that a large increase of Thus far, that is, for about the space of six wealth could not be good for me. However, years, the Lord was pleased to lead me in a I considered myself as a sort of gaoler or secret way. I had learned something of the turnkey; and I was sometimes shocked with evil of my heart; I had read the Bible over an employment that was perpetually converand over, with several good books, and had a sant with chains, bolts, and shackles. In general view of gospel truths. But my con- this view I had often petitioned, in my pray. ceptions were, in many respects, confused ; ers, that the Lord, in his own time, would not having, in all this time, met with one be pleased to fix me in a more humane callacquaintance who could assist my inquiries. ing, and, if it might be, place me where I But upon my arrival at St. Christopher's, this might have more frequent converse with voyage, I found a captain of a ship from Lon his people and ordinances, and be freed from don, whose conversation was greatly helpful those long separations from home, which to me. He was, and is a member of Mr. very often were hard to bear. My prayers B—-r's church, a man of experience in the were now answered, though in a way I little tlıings of God, and of a lively, communicative expected. I now experienced another sudturn. We discovered each other by some den, unforeseen change of life. I was within casual expressions in mixed company, and two days of sailing, and, to all appearance, in soon became (so far as business would per- good health as usual; but in the afternoon, mit) inseparable. For near a month, we as I was sitting with Mrs. N*****, by ourspent every evening together, on board each selves, drinking tea, and talking over past other's ship alternately, and often prolonged events, I was in a moment seized with a fit, our visits till towards day-break. I was all which deprived me of sense and motion, and ears; and what was better, he not only inform- left me no other sign of life than that of ed my understanding, but his discourse in- breathing. I suppose it was of the apoplecflamed my heart. He encouraged me to open tic kind. It lasted about an hour, and when my mouth in social prayer; he taught me the I recovered, it left a pain and dizziness in advantage of christian converse; he put me my head, which continued with such sympupon an attempt to make my profession more toms as induced the physicians to judge it public, and to venture to speak for God. would not be safe or prudent for me to proFrom him, or rather from the Lord, by his ceed on the voyage. Accordingly, by the means, I received an increase of know- advice of my friend, to whom the ship beledge; my conceptions became clearer and longed, I resigned the command the day bemore evangelical, and I was delivered from fore she sailed; and thus I was unexpectedly a fear which had long troubled me, the fear called from that service, and freed from a of relapsing into my former apostacy. But share of the future consequences of that now I began to understand the security of voyage, which proved extremely calamitous. the covenant of grace, and to expect to be The person who went in my room, most of preserved, not by my own power and holiness, the officers, and many of the crew, died, and but by the mighty power and promise of the vessel was brought home with great difGod, through faith in an unchangeable Sa- ficulty, viour. He likewise gave me a general view As I was now disengaged from business. I of the state of religion, with the errors and left L , and spent most of the following controversies of the times (things to which I year at London, and in Kent. But I entered had been entirely a stranger,) and finally upon a new trial. You will easily conceive directed me where to apply in London for that Mrs. N***** was not an unconcerned further instruction. With these newly ac- spectator, when I lay extended, and, as she quired advantages, I left him, and my pas- thought, expiring upon the ground. In effect, sage homewards gave me leisure to digest the blow that struck me reached her in the what I had received. I had much comfort same instant: she did not, indeed, immediateand freedom during those seven weeks, and ly feel it, till her apprehensions on my acmy sun was seldom clouded. I arrived safe count began to subside; but as I grew betin August, 1754.
ter, she became worse: her surprise threw My stay at home was intended to be but her into a disorder, which no physicans could short, and by the beginning of November, I define, or medicines remove. was again ready for the sea: but the Lord of the ordinary symptoms of a consumption, saw fit to over-rule my design. During the she decayed almost visibly, till she became time I was engaged in the slave trade, Iso weak that she could hardly bear any one never had the least scruple as to its lawful- to walk across the room she was in. I was
I was, upon the whole, satisfied with placed for about eleven months in what Dr. it, as the appointment Providence had mark- Young calls the ed out for me; yet it was, in many respects,
dreadful post of observation, far from eligible. It is, indeed, accounted a
Darker every hour."
It was not till after my settlement in my | sometimes at London, and sometimes in the present station, that the Lord was pleased to country, ill the autumn of the following year. restore her by his own hand, when all hopes All this while I had two trials, more or less, from ordinary means were at an end. But upon my mind; the first and principal was Defore this took place, I have some other Mrs. N*****'s illness; she still grew worse, particulars to mention, which must be the and I had daily more reason to fear that the subject of the following sheet, which I hope hour of separation was at hand. When faith will be the last on this subject, from-Your was in exercise, I was in some measure reaffectionate servant.
signed to the Lord's will; but too often my February 1, 1764.
neart rebelled, and I found it hard either to trust or to submit. I had likewise some care about my future settlement; the African trade was
overdone that year, and my friends did not LETTER XIV.
care to fit out another ship till mine return
ed. I was sometime in suspense; but, indeed, DEAR SIR,—By the directions I had receiv- a provision of food and raiment has seldom ed from my friend at St. Kitt's, I soon found been a cause of great solicitude to me. I out a religious acquaintance in London. I found it easier to trust the Lord in this point first applied to Mr. B and chiefly attend- than in the former, and accordingly this was ed upon his ministry, when in town. From first answered. In August I received an bim I received many helps both in public and account that I was nominated to the office private; for he was pleased to favour me of — These places are usually obtained, with his friendship, from the first. His kind- or at least sought, by dint of much interest ness and the intimacy between us have con- and application ; but this came to me untinued and increased to this day; and of all sought and unexpected. I knew, indeed, my my many friends, I am most deeply indebted good friend in L had endeavoured to to him. The late Mr. H—d was my second procure another post for me, but found it acquaintance; a man of a choice spirit, and pre-engaged. I found afterwards, that the an abundant zeal for the Lord's service. I place I had missed would have been very enjoyed his correspondence till near the time unsuitable for me, and that this, which I had of his death. Soon after, upon Mr. W-d's no thought of, was the very thing I could return from America, my two good friends have wished for, as it afforded me much introduced me to him; and though I had little leisure, and the liberty of living in my own personal acquaintance with him till after-way. Several circumstances, unnoticed by wards, his ministry was exceeding useful to others concurred, to show me that the good me. I had likewise access to some religious hand of the Lord was as remarkably consocieties, and became known to many excel. cerned in this event as in any other leading ient christians in private life. Thus, when turn of my life. at London, I lived at the fountain head, as it But when I gained this point, my distress were, for spiritual advantages. When I was in the other was doubled; I was obliged to in Kent, it was very different, yet I found leave Mrs. N*****, in the greatest extremity sore serious persons there; but the fine va- of pain and illness, when the physicians riegated woodland country afforded me ad- could do no more, and I had no ground of vantages of another kind. Most of my time, bope that I should see her again alive, but at least some hours every day, I passed in this, that nothing is impossible with the retirement, when the weather was fair; Lord. I had a severe conflict; but faith presometimes in the thickest woods, sometimes vailed. I found the promise remarkably on the highest hills, where almost every step i fulfilled, of strength proportioned to my need. varied the prospect. It has been my custom The day before I set out, and not till then, for many years, to perform my devotional the burden was entirely taken from my mind. exercises sub dio, when I have opportunity, I was strengthened to resign both her and and I always find these rural scenes have myself to the Lord's disposal, and departed some tendency both to refresh and compose from her in a cheerful frame. Soon after I my spirits. A beautiful diversified prospect was gone, she began to amend, and recoverglardens my heart. When I am withdrawn ed so fast, that in about two months I had from the noise and petty works of men, I the pleasure to meet her at Stone, on her consider myself as in the great temple, which journey to Lthe Lord hath built for his own honour. And now, I think, I have answered, if not
The country between Rochester and Maid- exceeded, your desire. Since October 1755, stone, bordering upon the Medway, was well we have been comfortably settled here, and mited to the turn of my mind; and was I to all my circumstances have been as remarkgo over it now, I could point to many a place ably smooth and uniforin as they were variwhere I remember either to have earnestly ous in foriner years. My trials have been sought, or happily found, the Lord's comforta- light and few, not but that I still tind, in the ble presence with my soul. And thus I lived, experience of every day, the necessity of a
life of faith. My principal trial is, the body, Scapula, the Synopis, and others, who had of sin and death, which makes me often to sustained the drudgery before me. In the sigh out the apostle's complaint, “O wretch- Hebrew, I can read the historical books and ed man, &c." But with him likewise I can psalms with tolerable ease; but in the prosay, " I thank God through Jesus Christ my phetical and difficult parts, I am frequently Lord.” I live in a barren land, where the obliged to have recourse to lexicons, &c. knowledge and power of the gospel is very However, I know so much as to be able, low; yet here are a few of the Lord's people; with such helps as are at hand, to judge for and this wilderness has been a useful school myself the meaning of any passage I have to me, where I have studied more leisurely occasion to consult. Beyond this I do not the truths which I gathered up in London. think of proceeding, if I can find better emI brought down with me a considerable stock ployment; for I would rather be some way of notional truths; but I have since found, useful to others, than die with the reputation that there is no effectual teacher but God; of an eminent linguist. that we can receive no further than he is Together with these studies, I have kept pleased to communicate; and that no know- up a course of reading of the best writers in ledge is truly useful to me, but what is made divinity. that have come to my hand, in the my own by experience. Many things, I Latin and English tongues, and some French; thought I had learned, would not stand in for I picked up the French at times while I an hour of temptation, till I had in this way used the sea. But within these two or three learned them over again. Since the year years I have accustomed myself chiefly to 1757, I have had an increasing acquaintance writing, and Have not found time to read in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the many books besides the scriptures. gospel flourishes greatly. This has been a I am the more particular in this account. good school to me. I have conversed at as my case has been somewhat singular; for, large among all parties, without joining any; in all my literary attempts, I have been and in my attempts to hit the golden mean, obliged to strike out my own path, by the I have sometimes been drawn too near the light I could acquire from books, as I have not different extremes; yet the Lord has enabled had a teacher or assistant since I was ten me to profit by my mistakes. In brief, I am years of age. still a learner, and the Lord still condescends One word concerning my views to the mito teach me. I begin at length to see that nistry, and I have done. I have told you, I have attained but very little; but I trust in that this was my dear mother's hope concernhim to carry on his own work in my soul, and, ing me; but her death, and the scenes of lite by all the dispensations of his grace and pro- in which I afterwards engaged, seemed to vidence, to increase my knowledge of him cut off the probability. The first desires of and of myself.
this sort in my own mind, arose many years When I was fixed in a house, and found ago, from a reflection on Gal. i. 23, 24. I my business would afford me much leisure could not but wish for such a public opportutime, I considered in what manner I should nity to testify the riches of divine grace. I improve it. And now, having reason to close thought I was, above most living, a fit person with the apostle's determination, “ to know to proclaim that faithful saying, “ That Jesus nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” Christ came into the world to save the chief I devoted my life to the prosecution of spirit- of sinners;" and as my life had been full of ual knowledge, and resolved to pursue no- remarkable turns, and I seemed selected to thing but in subservience to this main design. show what the Lord could do, I was in some This resolution divorced me, as I have al- hopes that, perhaps, sooner or later, he might ready hinted, from the classics and mathema- call me into his service. tics. My first attempt was to learn so much I believe it was a distant hope of this that Greek as would enable me to understand the determined me to study the original scripNew Testament and Septuagint; and when tures; but it remained an imperfect desire in I had made some progress this way, I enter- my own breast, till it was recommended to ed upon the Hebrew the following year; and me by some christian friends. I started at two years afterwards, having surmised some the thought, when first seriously proposed advantages from the Syriac version, I began to me; but afterwards set apart some weeks with that language. You must not think to consider the case, to consult my friends, that I have attained, or ever aimed at, a cri- and to intreat the Lord's direction. The tical skill in any of these. I had no business judgment of my friends, and many things with them but as in reference to something that occurred, tended to engage me. My else. I never read one classic author in the first thought was to join the dissenters, from Greek. I thought it too late in life to a presumption that I could not honestly make take such a round in this language as I had the required subscriptions; but Mr. Cdone in the Latin. I only wanted the signifi- in a conversation upon these points, modecation of scriptural words and phrases; and rated my scruples ; and preferring the estafor this I thought I might avail myself of blished church in some other respects, I ac.