Chapter 19: The Joy of Baptism
So he took me to Mr Sanders, the Pastor. We came to his house a little before Eight in the Evening. Mr Sanders had just come into the house. Mr Whitehead introduced me as one that wished to join the Church. While talking of the matter, the servant came to announce to Mr Sanders that Supper was waiting for him. So he bid us good night and said he would bring my case before the Church; and Visitors would be appointed to wait on me. I was rather disappointed; for I thought he would pray for me first.
Mr Whitehead was very kind and took me along with him sometimes to meet with some Friends. When they got on the subject of Election, with which there was sharp dispute, Mr Whitehead said: "Well, if there is no Election, I would not thank God for his heaven". This shocked me greatly. "What", says I to myself, "not thank God for his heaven! Here am I that would thank God for his heaven in any terms. What is this? I cannot understand it!" That same Mr Whitehead left the Church and went to Manchester and turned Infidel, as I was told.
Visitors were appointed to wait upon me. They reported to the Church that I was a fit and proper person to be Baptised. I was requested to appear before the Church at the next Monthly Meeting and say what the Lord had done for my Soul. Now I was exceedingly perplexed and troubled that I had given in my name. "O dear me, what shall I do now", says I to myself, "and what if I prove to be unfit, and bring a disgrace upon the Church?" "Well" says I to myself, "I cannot live after the World! I am sick of it, and myself too, if I stop here. What reason have I to think it will be better for me?; but if I join God's people may I not reasonably expect that God will look after me better than if I had stayed without."
"Anyhow, I have given in my Name and now I must await the result". Nevertheless it gave me much trouble: as the time drew near my anxiety increased. But, when the Evening had come I fell into tribulation and fear, and paced up and down the Room where I was, and said: "O, I have made a great mistake!" All my former experience was lost sight of, and I only possessed a dark and cloudy soul. As I paced the Room I was, as it were, brought to a stand, and said "Unfit, unfit!" In my confusion I said "Why, I am lost!" Immmediately Jesus said "I came to seek and to save that which is lost". I looked up and said "Yes, Lord, I know thou art kind to me; but what will the Father say?" Immmediately the Father said "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is Risen again, and sitteth at the right hand of God". As this Voice passed, I saw that Glorious light that I saw on a previous occasion and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, standing between me and that light which I could not look at then without shame and confusion but now could look upon without confusion or shame. The Picture represented to me the full Gospel of God.
"Now", said I, "I can go to the Church meeting without fear!" There were six of us to be examined. When it came to my turn, they asked me why I wished to be Baptised. I said I was Baptised in my infancy; but I was not satisfied with that because I was unconscious at that time. Consequently it was no true Baptism before God, because he required a reasonable Service. I said nothing about my former Experience, because I thought if they knew how bad I was, they would have nothing to do with me. When it was put to the Church what they thought of me, one of them, as I understood afterwards, thought I was very dark and ignorant about Spiritual things. And one of them, Mr Whitehead, he that was the means of bringing me forward, said he thought I was a Subject of Divine Grace. The Pastor said "the Eunuch also was not well instructed, yet God received him". So, finally I was accepted as a Candidate and was requested to present myself at the next Lord's Day to be Baptised.
I found it a very serious business; but, when it was over I felt great Peace. The Lord indulged me in a Wonderful way with his Presence. I was, as it were, with him in my going out and in my coming in. "O", thought I, "what a fool have I been, to think Religion was a Gloomy thing. Never till now have I known what Joy and Peace mean. Before I knew Jesus Christ and his great Salvation I feared, above all, Death; but now it is the sweetest thought to think about Death that is the consummation of all my hopes." Now I was much taken up with the World to come and its Glory; but that did not hinder me in taking part in all that was going on all around. My Work as a labouring Man was dignified. The Place that I had was to Glorify the Lord. Every little thing that I did was for him. In the World where I lived now was my father's House. Rich and Poor alike were all his Servants. My Master's business I took a delight in as if it was my own. My own part of it was eighteen shilling a week; but I wanted no more: I have enough and to Spare. It was enough for me that I knew Jesus Christ and his great Salvation. Come what might, I was right for Eternity. The consideration of this made everything else Small and insignificant. Before I knew the Lord, I was full of Schemes for this World in my little way. I was going to join a Club, and, in other things to make an Effort to get Rich, as we talk; but, when Soul trouble came on, all my schemes evaporated in Smoke.
Now the great Question was "What must I do to be saved?". This swallowed up all my time and thoughts, and when I found the way, Christ Jesus being the Way, the Truth and the Life, my thoughts could fix upon nothing else than the Loveliness of Chist and his great Salvation. Now I was like that Man recorded in the Gospels out of whom he had cast out a Legion of Devils. I wanted to be with him, and I knew that I could not be but by Dying, so I dwell upon that continuously.
In going to Chapel I had to pass St John's Church, Liverpool, where they buried at that Time. There would be three or four Hearses standing at the Gate, which was a most Pleasant sight to behold. I would say to myself:- "O, I shall be like one of them one of these days! O that my time was come! Then I shall be 'ever with the Lord'".
I would, as it were, take excursions in Spirit, and he before the Throne giving my Alleluias to God and the Lamb. The thoughts of Heaven and of Glory would be so strong on me that my immediate surroundings, and the best things in this world were quite insipid things; but to my Horror I found that all these good things, and the Grasses of the Spirit, I was making an Idol of. Now I began to tremble, for the Lord was withdrawing his light and Presence from me. Now my mind became dark and confused. I felt sensibly the withdrawal of God's Presence. I cried and whined, like a little child losing the comforts of its mother.
Now Satan was permitted to beset me behind and before. Says he; "All those Glowing things of God, of Christ and of Heaven, which you fancied, are all a delusion. There is no God. There is no Heaven. There are no Scriptures of God". Satan kept plying me with such thoughts as these. That was wretched beyond degree. I could find nothing to describe my state (other) than that Scripture recorded in Jeremiah :- "I swooned in my Sighing".
The wretched state that I was then in appeared to be beyond endurance. I could neither sit nor stand, nor walk about. So I fell flat on my Face upon the Floor and groaned a bitter groan, and could say nothing but groan. At last I came out with: "O God, O God: I cannot live without God". My soul seemed to be swooning away into Ether, without either Foothold or Handhold., but groaned away with sighing. Then I said: "Neither can I die without God." Then I found courage to call upon God and say:- "O God have mercy on me and deliver me."
Now faith came gradually back. I was one dead come to life again. But - O the Wormwood and the Gall - my Soul has them still in remembrance. This Bout made a great impression on me, shewing me that, whatever Graces of the spirit we may have, without his sustaining Power we are Nothing.