THE LAWFUL CAPTIVE DELIVERED
HIS BEING AROUSED TO A MORE PUNGENT SENSE OF HIS LOST AND RUINED CONDITION BEFORE GOD.
Proverbs 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy, AND OF THE MANY FRIGHTS AND FEARS ARISING THERPFROM, AND OF THE GREAT SUFFERINGS OF HIS MIND OCCASIONED THEREBY.
As I have told my reader of the slight conviction which I was brought under from hearing the Rev. Mr. Flockton preach, and of the pharisaical exercises of my mind under the same; so now it behooves me to tell of the more acid and pungent part of my experience.
As it was the Lord that begun the good work of grace in my poor benighted soul, so he would not leave it unfinished, nor suffer me to be cheated out of my heavenly patrimony by the roguery and intrigues of a self-righteous spirit. Sooner than this should be the case, he would set his hand the second time to the work, and make a deeper wound in my heart, and visit me with heavier strokes, that thereby I might be cured of my pharisaical distemper of soul, and be clean divorced from a legal covenant to which I was so closely wedded, and from which I was seeking eternal life, contrary to the unalterable decree of heaven, which runs thus; “By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified,” Rom. 3. 20.
Although I was often defeated and disappointed while toiling for life at the law of works; yet upon the whole, my pharisaical spirit had raised me to considerable eminence in my own estimation; but from this my~ supposed excellency, the Lord was pleased to bring me down by “plunging me in the ditch, so that my own clothes abhorred me,” Job. 9. 31. Or in other words thus, God now effectually awakened me to a sense of my ruined and helpless condition by nature, by sending home to my heart his most holy law with its cutting and killing contents, by which means the hidden evils in my breast appeared to my view as I thought in all their frightful deformity. “Sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandments, deceived me, and by it, slew me,” Rom. 7.9,10, 11.
NOW stood trembling before God; yes, I fearfully trembled, and a sinner the chief I appeared in my own eyes, and was as filthy as sin could render me. I inwardly groaned as a man groaneth who is in great bodily pain. Indeed I was thrown into strange surprise, and deep was the wound in my heart and most sore my distress. Withal I. was so amazed at what had befallen me that I was like one desperate; but where to fly for relief I knew not, for my sandy foundation had given way, and my burdened soul was exposed to divine vengeance. This was an awful day to me, for my iniquities compassed me about, and the wrath of God was hot against me, and by the law I was condemned, nor could I then tell whether there was any mercy for me; but of bitterness, and sorrow, and pain, and frights, and fears, I found an ample store, for “the waters of a full cup were wrung out to me” on that occasion, Psa. 73. 10.
I thought there was no more chance of salvation for such a wretch as I, than if I had been a brute or a devil. I cried unto God in my distress and poured out before him my complaint, but found no helper near; I was forlorn, and all things around looked desolate and dark. Despair seemed to seize my mind and to drag me down almost to the pit of destruction. I told some of my religious acquaintances that I was as sure of being damned as I was born, if I died as I was then, for all my religion was vain, and that I had been deceived, and the Lord had now shown it to me. Hearing this from one whose religion they had thought so well of, was a matter of astonishment to them, nor could they account for it. But I told them it was so and I was sure of it; but I withheld from them as well as I could, the great distress of my mind on the account of what had taken place with me. I never before was in so sad a plight, for the bitterness of sin was great and its weight pressed me down so that I went mourning all the day long. Whereas I before this could boast and triumph in what I imagined I could do, I now was made to loathe myself, for I was a sinner vile and base in my own eyes, and under a load of guilt my soul was forced to bow, and all my fancied glory departed from rue, and my strength withered like grass. The rebukes of God were upon me, and my soul was full of trouble, and in my own apprehension I drew nigh unto the grave, for those strokes from God were a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure, Psa. 39.11 and Job. 21.23.
When I but slightly smarted for sin, I at times could keep up a consequence of my own; but when thus under the sharp rebukes of the Lord, it withered like a green herb, “and as the early dew it passed away,” Hosea, 6. 4. This was a ditch I had never before been in, and such scenes opened to my view that I had not seen before. When God appeareth to a poor sinner, arrayed in terrible majesty, and openeth to him the hidden evils of his heart, and the spirituality of his righteous law, and the demerit of sin, and the divine vengeance to which he stands exposed; his self-confidence gives away, and he, in his own view, appears the worst of fools and the chief of sinners. And this was my condition when I discovered that God’s “brightness was as the light, and that he had horns coming up out of his hand, in which was the hiding of his power,” Hab. 3. 4. Before this awful sight I could not stand, for my soul fainted in me, and I found it true what David saith; “The stout hearted are fallen, they have slept their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. Thou, even thou, art to be feared; and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” Psa. 76. 5, 6, 7.
In this sad state I continued for more than a year, and at times I suffered most grievously, and many bitter things I wrote against myself. Yes, my days were spent with grief and sighing; and often to some solitary place would I retire, and there mourn and wish I had never been born, or that I had “been carried from the womb to the grave,” Job, 10. 19. Here also I would beg of the Lord to call me by his grace and make known to me his great salvation; for I now greatly felt the want of grace, and Christ, and all heavenly blessings: and I clearly saw that nothing short of those things could bring true relief to my burdened mind; and yet for the present all those things were withheld from me, and I left at an uncertainty about whether or not I should ever obtain them, and yet I knew that if I did not I should be undone forever.
But the Lord seemed bent on trying me in the furnace, even in the burning fiery furnace, and to cause me to pass under the rod before I should receive the comforts of the gospel to any great extent. Nor was there given to me so much as a word on which to hope that in time to come I should see better days; but left I was all in the dark about how things would end with me. And thus I was in great distress and knew not what to do, so sad was my condition. But of all things concerning the salvation of my soul, I had to judge by present appearances, and those appearances were by no means favorable as I supposed; and hence my state was a painful one, for I knew well that my salvation was wholly suspended on the mercy of God, and that it was at his option whether mercy should be extended towards me or not.
The day of human merit was now about closing, for the sword of the Lord was upon the arm, and upon the right eye of my pharisaical spirit, and his arm was fast drying up, and his right eye becoming dark, Zech. 11. 17; and thus I had no hope from that quarter; so that look which way I would, all was desolation, and I found trouble and sorrow both by day and by night, for I saw that much was at stake with me, and I felt it sensibly. A blight was brought upon all my pleasant things, and I experienced the force of those words; “I have smitten you with blasting and mildew,” Amos, 4. 9.
But although I was thus smitten, and thus dealt with, and thus hard put to it, yet my great necessity obliged me to cry to the Lord and to beg of him to be favorable unto me if he could. Before him I poured out all my trouble, and confessed all my sins and faults, and I also renounced all claim to human merit, worth and worthiness: and also relinquished all my former hopes of salvation by the deeds of the law of Moses, and frankly acknowledge myself a sinner lost and undone, and that I richly deserved the displeasure of heaven. All this I performed before God without disguise, for I meant and felt what I said; and it was not a time to dissemble, or to act perfidiously. My condition called for candor and honesty, and honest I was before the Lord. I was willing to own myself a transgressor, and that God would be just according to the tenor of his law in damning me: but I was not willing to be lost; and hence I begged of the Lord for pardon and peace.
The idea of perishing forever from God was cutting and keen to all my feelings, and yet Satan often signified to me that this would be the case in the end, and I feared it. The tempter has tried hard to sink my soul in fell despair, or to get me to believe that there was no God, nor any hereafter, nor any reality in religion. But in those attempts he has been unsuccessful, the Lord having “lifted up a standard against him,” Isa. 59. 19, in order to screen me. I saw much of God’s power in those trying days; for as my trials abounded, and my confidence failed me, his hand was stretched out to prevent me from sinking so as to rise no more. But of a truth, my temptations were great and trying to my soul, for it seemed that I should be destroyed by the malice and rage of Satan.
At one time he brought me near to the end of my days by violently tempting me to commit suicide. All arrangements were made, and the time and place pitched on, where this horrid deed was to be perpetrated. My mind also was wrought up to a state of phrenzy, so that I could scarcely tell where I then was; but I remember that I thought that I should be in eternity in the course of a few minutes from then. At that moment something seemed to say that I had as good go to prayer for the last time. I was all in confusion and bustle, and immediately I fell on my knees, but have no recollection of saying any one thing. But I had not, I think, been on my knees five minutes before those words as an audible voice sounded in my ears, Let it stand another year. The text reads thus, “Let it alone this year also.” Luke, 13. 8.
I immediately arose from my knees, and was like one awakened out of sleep by a sudden noise. I was also greatly surprised at the words which sounded in my ears, and at the fitness of them to my case, and at the composed state which they brought my poor distracted mind into, and of the snare being broken by their force and power. Who will dare to say that the hand of God was not engaged in my deliverance, from a snare so destructive both to body and soul? And with “the sweet Psalmist of Israel,” 2 Sam. 23. 1, I surely may here exclaim; “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt on silence. When I said my foot slippeth, thy mercy O Lord, held me up,” Psa. 94. 17, 18.
Here Satan was defeated, and so me little pound afforded me on which to hope for better things and better days. But the respite which I here received from the merciful interference of the Lord in this perilous hour, was but of short duration; for I soon fell back again to doubting and fearing that I had no part nor lot in the mercy of God, but was a cast off, and “a captive removing to and fro,” Isa. 49. 21. Under these exercises of mind, I have gone into the most lonesome fields and there secreted myself as well as I could, and with a mind pensive and sad, meditated on the woeful state my soul was in, and also entreated the Lord to have mercy on me; but finding no relief, I have left the fields with a mind sadly beclouded and cast down.
* Part 3-continued ... *
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Elder James Osbourn--Part 3