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Conversion of St. Paul; the latter, his Observa. tions on the resurrection of Christ; and both died in peace.
Pringle, one of the first characters of the present age, though blessed with a religious education, contracted the principles of infidelity, when he travelled abroad. But as he scorned to be an implicit believer, he was equally averse from being an implicit unbeliever. He therefore set himself to examine the principles of the gospel of Christ, with all caution and seriousness. The result of his investigation was, a full conviction of the divine original and authority of the gospel. The evidence of revelation appeared to him to be solid and invincible; and the nature of it to be such as demanded his warmest acceptance.
Soame Jenýns, by some means had been warped aside into the paths of infidelity, and continued in
The conversion of the present rector of St. Mary Woolnorth, in London, is also extremely remarkable. He was born of religious parents, and brought up in his younger years in a religious manner. The impressions of this kind seemed to be strong and deep. At length, however, the admonitions of conscience, which from successive repulses, had grown weaker and weaker, entirely ceased; he commenced infidel; and for the space of many months, if not for some years, he does not recollect that he had a single check of that sort. At times he was visited with sickness, and believed himself near to death; but he had not the least concern about the consequence. He seemed to have had every mark of final impenitence and rejection"; neither judgments nor mercies made the least impression on him.
In this unhappy condition he continued for a number of years, all the time improving himself under very unpropitious circumstances, in classical and mathematical learning. At the age of about twen. ty-three or twenty-four however, it pleased God to call him by his grace, out of darkness and delusion into his marvellous light, and in due time into the glorious liberty of the children of God. He has lived now for many years under the power and influence of religion, and has been an eminent instrument of good to many thousands of souls by his preaching and writings.
It is remarkable that in this case also, a religious education seemed to be the remote means of his conversion, after all his wanderings from the path of duty.
this state of mind several years. Finding his spirit
, however, not at rest, he was induced to examine the grounds upon which his unbelief was founded. He discovered his error; was led to believe in the Saviour of mankind; and wrote a small treatise in the defence of the gospel, entitled, a View of the internal Evidences of Christianity; a work worthy the perusal of every man, who wishes to understand the excellency of the religion which he professes.
Oliver, a famous physician, was a zealous unbeliever till within a short time of his death. Being convinced of his error, and the danger of his situation, he bewailed his past conduct with strong compunction of heart, and gave up his spirit at last, in confident expectation of mercy from God, through the merit of that Saviour, whom, for many years, he had ridiculed and opposed. “Oh,” said he, “ that I could undo the mischief that I have done! I was more ardent to poison people with the principles of irreligion and unbelief, than almost any Christian can be to spread the doctrines of Christ."
General Dykern received a mortal wound at the battle of Bergen in Germany, A. D. 1759. He was of a noble family, and possessed equal abilities as a minister in the closet, and a general in the field, being favoured with a liberal education. Having imbibed the principles of infidelity, he continued a professed deist, till the time he received his fatal wound. During his illness, however, a great and effectual change was wrought upon his mind by the power of divine grace, and he died in the full assurance of faith, glorying in the salvation of Jesus, and wondering at the happy change which had taken place in his soul.
John, earl of Rochester, was a great scholar, a gleat poet, a great sinner, and a great penitent. His life was written by Burnet, and his funeral sermon was preached and published by Mr. Parsons. Dr. Johnson, speaking of Burnet's life of this nobleman, says, “ The critic ought to read it for its elegance,
the philosopher for its argument, and the saint for its piety.”
His lordship, it appears, had advanced to an uncommon height of wickedness, having been an advocate in the black cause of atheism, and an encomiast to Beelzebub. He had raked too in the very bottom of the jakes of debauchery, and had been a satyrist against religion itself. But when, like the prodigal in the gospel, he came to himself, his mind was filled with the most extreme horror, which forced sharp and bitter invectives from him against himself; terming himself the vilest wretch that the sun ever shone upon; wishing he had been a crawling leper in a ditch, a linkboy, or a beggar, or had lived in a dungeon, rather than offended God in the manner he had done.
Upon the first visit of Mr. Parsons to him on May 26th, 1680, after a journey from the West, he found him labouring under great trouble of mind, and his conscience full of terror. The earl told him-“ When on his journey, he had been arguing with greater vigour against God and religion, than ever he had done in his life-time before, and that he had been resolved to run them down with all the argument and spite in the world; but like the great convert, Paul, he found it hard to kick against God.” At this time, however, his heart was so powerfully affected, that he argued as much for God and religion, as ever he had done against them.--He had such tremendous apprehensions of the Divine Majesty, mingled with such delightful contemplations of his nature and perfections, and of the amiableness of religion, that he said, "I never was advanced thus far towards happiness in my life before; though upon the commission of some sins extraordinary, I have had some considerable checks and warnings from within ; but still I struggled with them, and so wore them off again. One day, at an atheistical meeting in the house of a person of quality, I undertook to manage the cause, and was the principal disputant against God and religion; and
for my performances received the applauses of the whole company.-Upon this my mind was terribly struck, and I immediately replied thus to myself “ Good God, that a man that walks upright, that sees the wonderful works of God, and has the use of his senses and reason, should use them to the defying of his Creator !But though this was a good beginning towards my conversion, to find my conscience touched for my sins, yet it went off again: nay, all my life long, I had a secret value and reverence for an honest man, and loved morality in others. But I had formed an odd scheme of religion to myself, which would solve all that God or conscience might force upon me; yet I was never reconciled to the business of christianity; nor had I that reverence for the gospel of Christ, which I ought to have had.”
This state of mind continued till the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was read to him, together with some other parts of the sacred Scriptures ; when it pleased God to fill his mind with such peace and joy in believing, that it was remarkable to all about him, upon which he used to enlarge in a very familiar and affectionate manner, applying the whole to his own humiliation and encouragement.
“ O blessed God,” would he say, can such a horrid creature as I am be accepted by thee, who have denied thy Being, and contemned thy power? Can there be mercy and pardon for me? Will God own such a wretch as I ?”
In the middle of his sickness he said still farther :“ Shall the unspeakable joys of heaven be conferred on me? O mighty Saviour, never but through thine infinite love and satisfaction ! O never but by the purchase of thy blood.”—adding that with all abhor. · rence he reflected upon his former life that from his
heart he repented of all that folly and madness of which he had been guilty.”
He had a strong and growing esteem for the sacred Scriptures, and evidently saw their divine fulness and
excellency :-“ For, having spoken to his heart, he acknowledged, all the seeming absurdities and contradictions fancied by men of corrupt and reprobate judgments, were vanished ; and the excellency and beauty of them appeared conspicuously, now that he was come to receive the truth in the love of it.”
During his illness he had a hearty concern for the pious education of children, wishing “ his son might never be a wit, one of those wretched creatures who pride themselves in abusing God and religion, denying his Being or his Providence; but that he might become an honest man ; and of a truly religious character, which only could be the support and blessing of his family."
One of his companions coming to see him on his death-bed, he said to him :-“ O remember that you contemn God no more. He is an avenging God, and will visit you for your sins; and will, I hope, in merсу touch
your conscience, sooner or later, as he has done mine.-You and I have been friends and sinners together a great while, therefore I am the more free with you. We have been all mistaken in our conceits and opinions; our persuasions have been false and groundless; therefore I pray God grant you repent
When he drew towards the last stage of his sick. ness, he said, “ If God should spare me yet a little longer time here, I hope to bring glory. to his name, proportionably to the dishonour I have done to him in my whole life ; and particularly by my endeavours to convince others, and to assure them of the danger of their condition, if they continued impenitent; and to tell them how graciously God hath dealt with me.”
And when he came within still nearer viwes of dissolution, about three or four days before it, he said, "I shall now die: but, Oh; what unspeakable glories do I see! What joys, beyond thought or expression am I sensible of! I am assured of God's mercy