Preached from John v. 40. "And ye will not come to me," &c. in the open wilderness; the Indians having as yet no house for public worship in this place, nor scarce any shelters for themselves. Divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and it was a season of solemnity, tenderness, and affection.
Baptized one man this day, (the conjurer, murderer, &c. mentioned in my Journal of August 8, 1745, and February 1, 1746,) who appears to be such a remarkable instance of divine grace, that I cannot omit some brief account of him here. He lived near, and sometimes attended my meeting in, the Forks of Delaware for more than a year together; but was, like many others of them, extremely attached to strong drink, and seemed to be no ways reformed by the means I used with them for their instruction and conversion. At this time he likewise murdered a likely young Indian; which threw him into some kind of horror and desperation, so that he kept at a distance from me, and refused to hear me preach for several months together, till I had an opportunity of conversing freely with him, and giving him encouragement, that his sin might be forgiven for Christ's sake. After which he again attended my meeting some times.
But that which was the worst of all his conduct, was his conjuration. He was one of them who are sometimes called powows among the Indians: and notwithstanding his frequent attendance upon my preaching, he still followed his old charms and juggling tricks, "giving out that himself was some great one, and to him they gave heed," supposing him to be possessed of a great power. So that when I have instructed them respecting the miracles wrought by Christ in healing the sick, &c. and mentioned them as evidences of his divine mission, and the truth of his doctrines, they have quickly observed the wonders of that kind which this man had performed by his magic charms. Whence they had a high opinion of him, and his superstitious notions, which seemed to be a fatal obstruction to some of them in regard of their receiving the gospel. And I have often thought it would be a great favour to the design of gospellizing these Indians, if God would take that wretch out of the world; for I had scarce any hope of his ever coming to good. But God, "whose thoughts are not as man's thoughts," has been pleased to take a much more desirable method with him; a method agreeable to his own merciful nature, and, I trust, advantageous to his own interest among the Indians, as well as effectual to the salvation of this poor soul. To God be the glory of it.
The first genuine concern for his soul that ever appeared in him, was excited by seeing my interpreter and his wife baptized at the Forks of Delaware, July 21, 1745. Which so prevailed upon him, that with the invitation of an Indian, who was a friend to Christianity, he followed me down to Crossweeksung in the beginning of August following, in order to hear me preach, and there continued for several weeks in the season of the most remarkable and powerful awakening among the Indians; at which time he was more effectually awakened, and brought under great concern for his soul. And then, he says, upon his "feeling the word of God in his heart," as he expresses it, his spirit of conjuration left him entirely; that he had no more power of that nature since, than any other man living. And declares that he does not now so much as know how he used to charm and conjure; and that he could not do any thing of that nature if he was never so desirous of it.
He continued under convictions of his sinful and perishing state, and a considerable degree of concern for his soul, all the fall and former part of the winter past, but was not so deeply exercised till some time in January; and then the word of God took such hold upon him, that he was brought into great distress, and knew not what to do, nor where to turn himself. - He then told me, that when he used to hear me preach from time to time in the fall of the year, my preaching pricked his heart and made him very uneasy, but did not bring him to so great distress, because he still hoped he could do something for his own relief: but now, he said, I drove him up into "such a sharp corner," that he had no way to turn, and could not avoid being in distress.
He continued constantly under the heavy burden and pressure of a wounded spirit, till at length he was brought into the acute anguish and utmost agony of soul, mentioned in my Journal of Feb. 1, which continued that night, and part of the next day. - After this, he was brought to the utmost calmness and composure of mind, his trembling and heavy burden was removed, and he appeared perfectly sedate; although he had, to his apprehensions, scarce any hope of salvation.
I observed him to appear remarkably composed, and thereupon asked him how he did? He replied, "It is done, it is done, it is all done now." I asked him what he meant? He answered, "I can never do any more to save myself; it is all done for ever, I can do no more." I queried with him, whether he could not do a little more rather than to go to hell. He replied, "My heart is dead, I can never help myself." I asked him, what he thought would become of him then? He answered, "I must go to hell." I asked him if he thought it was right that God should send him to hell? He replied, "O it is right. The devil has been in me ever since I was born." I asked him if he felt this when he was in such great distress the evening before? He answered, "No, I did not then think it was right. I thought God would send me to hell, and that I was then dropping into it; but my heart quarrelled with God, and would not say it was right he should send me there. But now I know it is right, for I have always served the devil, and my heart has no goodness in it now, but is as bad as ever it was," &c. - I thought I had scarce ever seen any person more effectually brought off from a dependence upon his own contrivances and endeavours for salvation, or more apparently to lie at the foot of sovereign mercy, than this man now did under these views of things.
In this frame of mind he continued for several days, passing sentence of condemnation upon himself, and constantly owning, that it would be right he should be damned, and that he expected this would be his portion for the greatness of his sins. And yet it was plain he had a secret hope of mercy, though imperceptible to himself, which kept him not only from despair, but from any pressing distress: so that instead of being sad and dejected, his very countenance appeared pleasant and agreeable.
While he was in this frame, he sundry times asked me "When I would preach again?" and seemed desirous to hear the word of God every day. I asked him why he wanted to hear me preach, seeing "his heart was dead, and all was done?" That "he could never help himself, and expected that he must go to hell?" He replied, "I love to hear you speak about Christ for all." I added, But what good will that do you, if you must go to hell at last? - using now his own language with him; having before, from time to time, laboured in the best manner I could, to represent to him the excellency of Christ, his all-sufficiency and willingness to save lost sinners, and persons just in his case; although to no purpose, as to yielding him any special comfort. - He answered, "I would have others come to Christ, if I must go to hell myself." - It was remarkable, that he seemed to have a great love to the people of God, and nothing affected him so much as the thoughts of being separated from them. This seemed to be a very dreadful part of the hell to which he thought himself doomed. It was likewise remarkable, that in this season he was most diligent in the use of all means for his soul's salvation; although he had the clearest view of the insufficiency of means to afford him help. And would frequently say, "That all he did signified nothing at all;" and yet was never more constant in doing, attending secret and family prayer daily, and surprisingly diligent and attentive in hearing the word of God: so that he neither despaired of mercy, nor yet presumed to hope upon his own doings, but used means because appointed of God in order to salvation; and because he would wait upon God in his own way.
After he had continued in this frame of mind more than a week, while I was discoursing publicly he seemed to have a lively soul-refreshing view of the excellency of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, which melted him into tears, and filled him with admiration, comfort, satisfaction, and praise to God. Since then he has appeared to be an humble, devout, and affectionate Christian; serious and exemplary in his conversation and behaviour, frequently complaining of his barrenness, his want of spiritual warmth, life, and activity, and yet frequently favoured with quickening and refreshing influences. And in all respects, so far as I am capable to judge, he bears the marks and characters of one "created anew in Christ Jesus to good works."
His zeal for the cause of God was pleasing to me when he was with me at the Forks of Delaware in February last. There being an old Indian at the place where I preached, who threatened to bewitch me and my religious people who accompanied me there; this man presently challenged him to do his worst, telling him that himself had been as great a conjurer as he, and that notwithstanding, as soon as he felt that word in his heart which these people loved, (meaning the word of God,) his power of conjuring immediately left him. - And so it would you, said he, if you did but once feel it in your heart; and you have no power to hurt them, nor so much as to touch one of them, &c. - So that I may conclude my account of him by observing, (in allusion to what was said of St. Paul,) that he now zealously defends, and practically "preaches, the faith which he once destroyed," or at least was instrumental of obstructing. May God have the glory of the amazing change he has wrought in him!