Sunday, December 26

Dec. 26.

This evening I was visited by a person under great spiritual exercise; the most remarkable instance of this kind I ever saw. She was a woman of (I believe) more than fourscore years old, and appeared to be much broken and very childish through age; so that it seemed impossible for man to instil into her mind any notions of divine things, not so much as to give her any doctrinal instruction, because she seemed incapable of being taught. - She was led by the hand into my house, and appeared in extreme anguish. I asked her what ailed her? She answered, "That her heart was distressed, and she feared she should never find Christ." I asked her when she began to be concerned? with divers other questions relating to her distress. To all which she answered, for substance, to this effect, viz. That she had heard me preach many times, but never knew any thing about it, never "felt it in her heart" till the last sabbath; and then it came (she said) "all one as if a needle had been thrust into her heart;" since which time, she had no rest day nor night. She added, that on the evening before Christmas, a number of Indians being together at the house where she was, and discoursing about Christ, their talk pricked her heart, so that she could not sit up, but fell down on her bed; at which time she went away, (as she expressed it,) and felt as if she dreamed, and yet is confident she did not dream. When she was thus gone, she saw two paths; one appeared very broad and crooked; and that turned to the left hand. The other appeared straight, and very narrow; and that went up the hill to the right hand. She travelled, she said, for some time up the narrow right-hand path, till at length something seemed to obstruct her journey. She sometimes called it darkness, and then described it otherwise, and seemed to compare it to a block or bar. She then remembered what she had heard me say about "striving to enter in at the strait gate," (although she took little notice of it, at the time when she heard me discourse upon that subject,) and thought she would climb over this bar. But just as she was thinking of this, she came back again, as she termed it, meaning that she came to herself; whereupon her soul was extremely distressed, apprehending she had now turned back and forsaken Christ, and that there was therefore no hope of mercy for her.

As I was sensible that trances and imaginary views of things, are of dangerous tendency in religion, when sought after, and depended upon; so I could not but be much concerned about this exercise, especially at first; apprehending this might be a design of Satan to bring a blemish upon the work of God here, by introducing visionary scenes, imaginary terrors, and all manner of mental disorders and delusions, in the room of genuine convictions of sin, and the enlightening influences of the blessed Spirit; and I was almost resolved to declare that I looked upon this to be one of Satan's devices, and to caution my people against it, and the like exercises, as such. - However, I determined first to inquire into her knowledge, to see whether she had any just views of things, that might be the occasion of her present distressing concern, or whether it was a mere fright arising only from imaginary terrors. I asked her divers questions respecting man's primitive, and more especially his present, state, and respecting her own heart; which she answered rationally, and to my surprise. And I thought it was next to impossible, if not altogether so, that a pagan who was become a child through age, should in that state gain so much knowledge by any mere human instruction, without being remarkably enlightened by a divine influence.

I then proposed to her the provision made in the gospel for the salvation of sinners, and the ability and willingness of Christ "to save to the uttermost all (old as well as young) that come to him." To which she seemed to give a hearty assent. But instantly replied, "Ay, but I cannot come; my wicked heart will not come to Christ; I do not know how to come," &c. And this she spoke in anguish of spirit, striking on her breast with tears in her eyes, and with such earnestness in her looks as was indeed piteous and affecting.

She seems to be really convinced of her sin and misery, and her need of a change of heart: and her concern is abiding and constant. So that nothing appears but that this exercise may have a saving issue. And indeed it seems hopeful, seeing she is so solicitous to obtain an interest in Christ, that her heart (as she expresses it) prays day and night.

How far God may make use of the imagination in awakening some persons under these and such like circumstances, I cannot pretend to determine. Or whether this exercise be from a divine influence, I shall leave others to judge. But this I must say, that its effects hitherto bespeak it to be such: nor can it, as I see, be accounted for in a rational way, but from the influence of some spirit, either good or evil. For the woman, I am sure, never heard divine things treated of in the manner she now viewed them in; and it would seem strange she should get such a rational notion of them from the mere working of her own fancy, without some superior, or at least foreign, aid. - And yet I must say, I have looked upon it as one of the glories of this work of grace among the Indians, and a special evidence of its being from a divine influence, that there has, till now, been no appearance of such things, no visionary notions, trances, and imaginations, intermixed with those rational convictions of sin, and solid consolations, that numbers have been made the subjects of. And might I have had my desire, there had been no appearance of any thing of this nature at all.

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