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learned of my companions to practise works of wickedness, to which I had formerly been a stranger. I grew worse and worse, so that by sixteen years of age, I became a noted rake, a despiser of the means of grace, and an enemy to all righteousness.”
He now became “ devoted to the theatre,” constantly attended its exhibitions, and associated with performers. His person was handsome; his manners were engaging ; his temper was naturally cheerful; and he delighted in company. Of a generous disposition, and a stranger to economy, he wasted his substance with companions who flattered his vanity, increased his expenses, and allured him forward in the career of ruinous dissipation. To riotous living, he added religious persecution ; and frequently joined with others to disturb divine worship, and harass the people of God. In all this conscience reproached him, and the Spirit of God strove with him. He often wished, and sometimes even prayed, that he might hear something from the very Preachers he disturbed, which might powerfully alarm his spirit, and compel him to forsake sin and return to God. The human heart is deceitful, cunning, and tortuous, as the crooked serpent; as full of contradictions as of de. vices. Good and evil were at perpetual strife within him. The early counsels of his parents, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit, conflicting with the temptations of the enemy, the corruptions of nature, and the inducements of sinful company, made his heart the seat of warfare; and, in the troubles of spiritual captivity, he prayed for deliverance from the power and bondage of sin. Reviewing this period, he says,-.
“When I reflect on this part of my life, indeed on the whole of it, I am lost in wonder that I am out of hell. I, who profaned the sacred Sabbath by various amusements; I, who for so many long rebellious years grieved my parents, despised their counsels, and resisted their rebukes; who vexed the Holy Spirit, and persecuted my Redeemer in bis people ; • I am, I am out of hell!””
After being about two years in Boston, he, at the request of a friend of his father, went to London ; and he says, “In London a new scene presented itself. My companions and my situation being entirely changed, I formed new resolutions; but they were feeble and transient. I soon found again companions like those I had left at Boston ; and with these I renewed my career of vice and folly, to the grief of my pious friends. Here I formed an acquaintance with a naval officer, who was a man of good abilities, but reduced in circumstances. At times I was able to relieve him, and shall always remember with pleasure his gratitude for unexpected assistance. He delighted in study, and my associat: ing with him preserved me awhile from scenes of folly. I now had strong desires to join the navy, and was introduced to a Captain, who engaged to take me as his secretary and companion. I went to bid adieu to my parents ; but my mother's feelings I am not able to describe. My friends were strongly opposed to my going to sea; and though regretting I could not obtain their general approbation, and seeming to hesitate,
yet I was determined to have my own way. While full of my intended voyage, and youthfully anticipating the pleasures of an untried scene, divine Providence, and kind friends, were providing for my entering with another partner into business respectably at Southampton.”
Here, like many others, he showed that he loved pleasure more than he loved God. · His Sabbaths were profanely wasted on the water, sailing to the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, and other places. Frequently the sea threatened to devour the daring rebel ; several times he narrowly escaped a watery grave. “One Lord's day,” he says, “being out at the islaud, on my voyage home in the packet, a violent squall arose, and drove the vessel near those dangerous rocks called the Needles. In this frightful storm we repeatedly expected the vessel to be dashed in pieces ; yet so hardened was my heart, that I must brave the danger with ungodly indifference and mirth; and with great urging I prevailed on a passenger to join me at a game of cards. O the patience of an insulted God! I wonder he did not send me to my own place. My heart was harder than ever; no compunction interrupted my abuse of divine long-suffering ; and when my atheistical companions in Southampton heard of my daring profaneness, they extolled it as the conduct of a fine fellow.”
So does one sinner commend another for acts of profaneness, too daring for his own present attainment in guilt. Inexperienced youth is easily deceived by crafty imposition, and business seldom thrives in the hands of a man of pleasure. The extravagance of profaneness would be wealth in the hands of benevolence; and the good accomplished by Christian philanthropy would yield the purest gratification to affections cultivated, not by theatrical representation, but by works of faith and charity in real life. God has made himself responsible for the sacrifices of economical charity, but who is to repair the waste of prodigal vanity ? Affairs did not go on well; the partnership was dissolved, and the business closed.
He removed for awhile into Lincolnshire, in a little while to Staffordshire, and afterwards to Hampshire, where he had a brother. And he looks on this portion of his time, which he spent with his brother, as the most moral part of his early life. Here he took a sitting in the Independent chapel at Basingstoke, regularly attended the ministry, and often felt most acutely under the word. Especially on one Sabbath evening he was deeply affected while the Minister was discoursing from Job vii. 20, “I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou Preserver of men ?” He says, “ I felt so strongly under this sermon, that I feared I should be constrained to cry aloud for mercy in the chapel ; though I had very little hope that it would be granted to such a rebel as I was." It is of consequence to improve favourable times of gracious impression ; and to deal properly with awakened consciences is no mean part of the wisdom that winneth souls. Mr. Close intimates that he was not wisely advised. He says, “ My convictions remained ; and on the succeeding Wednesday evening I told my state to the Minister. His advice was not suitable : it lulled my conscience to sleep with the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation; so that I went to the tavern again, determined to take all the pleasure I could, thinking if I were elected, I should certainly be saved; and if reprobated, whatever I might do, I must of necessity perish. I grieved, I quenched, the Holy Spirit. From this fatal advice, and from the conduct of my profane clerical Tutor while at school, my heart was hardened against the fear of God; and I sought refuge from the pains of guilt in the delusions of infidelity. I dared to believe the divine word was untrue, and religion a cunningly devised fable!”
Shortly after this, at the request of his brother in Cornwall, he went to reside with him. This placed him among the means of salvation, which eventually were blessed to his conversion. His own account of himself shows from what deep depravity he was raised by divine mercy. He says, “ Cornwall presented new scenes, new companions, and new temptations. Here I showed myself to all around me a daring profligate, so zealous in sin as by my conduct to surprise the most hardened of my associates. I had accustomed myself to horrid oaths and impreeations; and being truly “a child of wrath,' any trifling occurrence would raise a tempest of wickedness in my agitated soul, and make me like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. To such shocking lengths did I proceed in some of those seasons, that one day, a man who was himself very guilty of profane swearing, came up to me, and said, • Really you are too bad. This reproof from such a person caused me in some degree to desist from that horribly wicked practice.”
Several times did the kind providence of God preserve his life when in the most imminent danger. At one time, riding in the winter, bis horse stepped on ice and fell; but rose again before he could disentangle his foot from the stirrup; and for a considerable distance dragged bim along the ground. His face was bruised and cut, and his clothes torn ; but mercy preserved his life from destruction.
" Being one day,” he says, “ out with a shooting party, we had marked a woodcock. My brother and myself were first in pursuit. He stepping over the hedge just before me, I perceived close to my breast the muzzle of his gun, which I removed a little aside, and remonstrated with him for carrying it so carelessly ; and while he was replying there was no danger, its contents went close to my ear, and carried away part of my hat! But not a shot grazed my skin! Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ? At various other times the Lord has delivered me from the verge of destruction : surely it is that I might devote my life to his service.”
His conversion to God will be best described by himself. He says, “ My Sabbaths in this neighbourhood were spent partly in attending places of worship. There was divine service in the forenoon three Sundays in the established Church, and once a month in the Methodist chapel, where l attended chiefly to amuse myself with criticising the language of the Local Preachers; and if I could detect any grammatical errors, I generally took some pains to let them hear of it. If I could succeed in making them uneasy, it was very gratifying to the pride of my wicked heart.
“On the first Sunday in May, 1815, while riding to the morning service, I was musing on Methodism ; and thought, “ Are the Methodists what they profess to be ? Are they real Christians ? Are their doctrines the truth?' I had till this time looked upon them as the filth of the earth, and the offscouring of all things ;' and would not be seen in their company, lest I should be reckoned one of them. I now began to pray earnestly that if any good might be gained from hearing their preaching, the Lord would bless it to me that morning. Immediately my mind was impressed that I should receive good; and under that impression I went for once to hear for the benefit of my soul. I entered the chapel with feelings such as I had scarcely ever before experienced. I was struck with the solemnity of the place, and with what I had never before noticed, the seriousness of the people. The Preacher, very late, at length arrived; I believe we had never seen each other's face before. The hymns he gave out much affected me; and to his earnest prayer before sermon, I sometimes breathed my cordial Amen. I was still much more affected with bis text,— Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' While he, Mr. S. Annear, of St. Austle, was describing the characters that would not be able to enter in, because they sought improperly, I felt myself included ; and saw that I must with all my heart strive to enter the gate of salvation, or I should be at last rejected from the kingdom of God.
“I thought the Preacher looked particularly at me ; (perhaps my powdered head and gay appearance attracted his attention ;) and I fancied all the sermon was pointedly addressed to myself; so powerfully did the Spirit of God apply it to my heart. He discovered to me my sin and danger; and I determined from that hour to give all diligence to save my soul. I returned home to dinner with a heavy heart, and no appetite. I was inquired of as usual about the Preacher; but I could not, as formerly, ridicule the sermon. I said, the Preacher was the best I ever heard ; and I was determined to hear him again. I learned where he was to preach in the evening, and attended to hear him. He seemed as though he well knew my heart, while he disclosed it in his sermon from Revelation iii. 20, · Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.' My convictions were deepened; conscience powerfully accused me, my sins were in dreadful array before me, and I was truly miserable. The Spirit of God had touched me, and my adamantine heart was broken. Hell yawned before me, and I feared lest it should close upon me. I was ready to cry aloud, as I did secretly, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.' I wished to tell the Preacher my state; and when he left the chapel, I followed him, and disclosed my mind, and requested his advice, which he kindly gave.
“I felt my need of mercy, and began to pray in earnest. I had many temptations to defer the work of my conversion to a more convenient season, lest my companions should deride, and my brother should persecute. But I considered that the grace of God was sufficient for me, though all the world should be against me; and I thought that by delay I should increase the cause, lessen the opportunity, and perhaps sin away the inclination, to repent. Such reflections as these also occupied my mind : 'Alas! that I who am high as heaven in privilege, should be deep as hell in sin! Instead of repenting of my wickedness, I have aggravated my guilt. Instead of pleasing and glorifying God, I have dishonoured and provoked him. O what love have I grieved ! Christ was crucified for me; and shall be also again be crucified by me ? Shall I pierce that heart with grief which for my sake was wounded with a spear?' My heart was broken, and melted down.”
The Sabbath on which he heard Mr. Appear preach, he had previously engaged with some young men of Bodmin to spend at Wadebridge, as a party of pleasure. On the Saturday evening he laid a few things in readiness for his Sunday excursion. But on that Sabbath morning he totally forgot his engagement, and never recollected it till some time afterwards, when the party blamed him for not meeting them according to promise. This direction of his mind to the utter forgetfulness of his own purpose, he thought was the interference and work of divine mercy, in answer to the prayers of his friends for the salvation of his soul ; and he sometimes mentioned this to encourage his hearers to pray for their relations and friends. That which also tended to confirm him in the opinion that this special mercy was given in answer to prayer, was the fact, that some peculiar circumstances attended the man whose labours God so remarkably blessed in promoting his conversion. Mr. Annear, the Preacher, had for some weeks been deeply distressed in mind about his call to preach the Gospel; because he had not, to his satisfaction, seen any fruit of his preaching; and his fears had nearly persuaded him to discontinue his public labours. On the Friday he had written a note to a Local Preacher in a neighbouring Circuit, requesting him to supply his place at St. Stephen's; and he had made arrangements for its conveyance; but the intended bearer forgot to call for it. When the Sunday morning came he was still painfully exercised with fears, which so troubled him, that although he had ridden part of the way, he returned home again, declaring he could not preach. His wife reasoned with him ; they prayed together, and entreated the Lord, that, if he had called him to the work, he would that morning give him some evident proof of it. He then set out again, and went praying all the way. God did, indeed, that day sanction his labours; and he sealed the call of his servant to engage in that work, which, after this particular instance of usefulness, he pursued with unwearied zeal.
Strong temptations to sin soon succeeded to Mr. Close's deep concern for salvation. On the Monday, a person who had seen him deeply af.