His religious history during the period embraced in the preceding chapter:
"When did Dr. Payson become religious?" —and "What was the character of his religious experience at the time he embraced the hope of the gospel?" —are questions which have been frequently proposed, but never satisfactorily answered. With respect to them he invariably maintained a reserve, which, to good people, who were over-curious to know, appeared wholly unaccountable. If he ever fully communicated those inward feelings and exercises, which issued in a confirmed hope, it must have been to his parents and sister, who are no longer inhabitants of earth. No solicitations by others could draw from him a particular history of that process, through which he was carried, before he could appropriate the comforting language, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The compiler of these pages studied his religious history in an inverted order, and being first made acquainted with that part of his experience which belonged to a subsequent period of his life, was ready to account for his reserve on the supposition, that the exercises attending his conversion were of an extraordinary kind; and, if adopted as a standard of religious experience—which, considering the character and station of their subject, and that sort of oracular authority which was connected in many minds with whatever he sanctioned, they could hardly fail to be, to some extent—would occasion much discomfort to real believers, and be far from recommending religion to such as have never yielded themselves to its influence.
A different supposition, however, is more credible, and has something like evidence to support it. It has already been seen, that his mother, who doubtless watched, and "pondered in her heart," every indication of the state of his feelings on this subject, was not without a partial belief, that he was converted in childhood. His roommate, since a minister of the gospel, thinks that "he experienced religion before entering college, but, owing to his peculiar situation while there, became a backslider." Another classmate, one of the literary associates mentioned in the preceding chapter, whose speculative views of religion are supposed to differ from those of his departed friend, but who has the power to discern, and a heart to appreciate worth, wherever found, has thus expressed himself in relation to these questions: "His theological opinions, during his early consideration of subjects of that nature, were essentially Calvinistic; but his views of the operative power of religious faith upon the heart and life, were materially altered, previous to entering upon the great work which occupied the remainder of his days. The important change took place gradually, not from any sudden or overpowering impressions."
With such an origin correspond the earlier fruits and operations of his religion, so far as they can be gathered from writings which he has left behind him. His religion was of a comparatively gentle, unobtrusive, amiable, yet progressive, character, less marked by the extremes of agonizing and triumphant feelings, than it was at a subsequent period—a difference, for which the reader will, in the sequel, be at no loss to account. From the early part of 1804, religion seems to have been his all-engrossing concern; his attention was then arrested and fixed, so as never afterwards to be diverted, for any length of time, from the subject. Whether he was in an unconverted or backslidden state, he was then roused, as from sleep, to take a solemn view of his relations as an accountable and immortal being. The occasion of this new or revived concern for his soul, was the death of a beloved brother. A letter to his parents, in answer to one which announced the sorrowful tidings, is the earliest production of his pen, which has escaped oblivion, and, on this account alone, will be read with interest. But it has a higher value, as it enables us to date the commencement of his attention to his spiritual interests as far back as May 20, 1804, the time when his letter was dated, and it more than intimates that the subject with him was not new.
"My dear mother’s fears respecting my attention to religious concerns were, alas! but too be founded. Infatuated by the pleasures and amusements which this place affords, and which took the more powerful hold on my senses from being adorned with a refinement to which I had before been a stranger, I gradually grew cold and indifferent to religion; and, though I still made attempts to reform, they mere too transient to be effectual.
"From this careless frame, nothing but a shock like that I have received could have roused me; and though my deceitful heart will, I fear, draw me back again into the snare, as soon as the first impression is worn off, yet I hope, by the assistance of divine grace, that this dispensation will prove of eternal benefit. This is my most earnest prayer, and I know it will be yours.
"In reflecting on the ends of divine Providence in this event, I am greatly distressed. To you, my dear parents, it could not be necessary. My sister, as you sometime since informed me, has turned her attention to religion; the other children are too young to receive benefit from it. It remains, then, that I am the Achan, who has drawn this punishment, and occasioned this distress to my friends. My careless, obdurate heart rendered it necessary to punish and humble it: and O that the punishment had fallen where it was due! But I can pursue the subject no further."
Here is the subdued tone of the penitent, "come to himself, and returning to his Father." Of his progress in piety for the next six months, nothing is known except what may be inferred from a letter dated December 12th of the same year. An extract will show that he was not inattentive to what passed in his own heart, nor without experience in the Christian conflict.
"I have nothing but complaints of myself to make, nothing but the same old story of erring and repenting, but never reforming. I fear I am in a sad way. I attend public worship and think of every subject but the proper one; or if, by strong exertions, I fix my attention for a few minutes, I feel an irresistible propensity to criticize the preacher, instead of attending to the instructions; and, notwithstanding a full conviction that this conduct is wrong, I persist in it still. Hence it happens, that the Sabbath, which is so admirably calculated to keep alive a sense of religion, becomes a stumbling-block. The thought of my sinful neglect and inattention so shames and distresses me, that I am tenable to approach the throne of grace, through shame. As this, I know, is the fruit of a self-righteous spirit, I strive against it; and, after two or three days, perhaps, am enabled to trust in Christ for the pardon of that and other sins. But, another Sabbath, the same round is repeated. Thus I go on, sinning and humbling myself after long seeking for a proper sense of my sin, then confessing it with contrition and remorse; and, the next moment, even while the joy of obtained pardon and gratitude for divine favor is thrilling in my heart, plunging, on the most trivial temptation, into the same error, whose bitter consequences I had so lately felt. Shame and remorse for the ungrateful returns I have made for the blessings bestowed, prevent secret prayer, frequently for two or three days together, until I can no longer support it; and though I have so often experienced forgiving love, I am too proud to ask for it."
A few weeks afterwards, he writes thus: —"I feel convinced by experience, that if I relax my exertions for ever so short a time; it will require additional exertions to repair it, and perhaps occasion a week’s gloom and despondency; yet the least temptation leads me to do what I feel conscious at the tune, I shall severely smart for. In the impracticable attempt to reconcile God and the world, I spend my time very unhappily, neither enjoying the comforts of this world nor of religion. But I have at last determined to renounce the false pleasures for which I pay so dear, and this I should have done long ago, but for the advice and example of some whose judgment I respected."
"I have lately been severely tried with doubts and difficulties respecting many parts of Scripture. Reading the other day, I met with this passage, ‘for his great name’s sake.’ It was immediately suggested to my mind, that, as the Deity bestowed all his favors on us ‘for his great name’s sake,’ we were under no obligations to feel grateful for them. And though my heart assented to the propriety of gratitude, my head would not. In hearing my scholars recite the Greek Testament, I am disturbed by numberless seeming inconsistencies and doubts, which, though they do not shake my belief, render me for a time extremely miserable. I find no relief in these trials from the treatises which have been written in proof of the truth of revelation. It is from a different source that assistance is received."
April 20, 1805.
"My Dearest Mother: —I have just been perusing something excessively interesting to my feelings. It is a short extract front your journal in my sister’s letter. Surely it is my own fault, that I do not resemble Samuel in more instances than one. What a disgrace to me, that, with such rare and inestimable advantages, I have made no greater progress! However, thanks to the, fervent, effectual prayers of my righteous parents, and the tender mercies of my God upon m, I have reason to hope, that the pious wishes, breathed over my infant head, are in some measure fulfilled; nor would I exchange the benefits which I have derived from my parents for the inheritance of any monarch in the universe.
"I feel inclined to hope that I am progressing, though by slow and imperceptible degrees, in the knowledge of divine things. On comparing my former and present views, I find that the latter are much less confused and perplexed; that I have clearer conceptions of my utter inability to take a single step in religion without divine assistance, of the consequent necessity of a Saviour, and of the way of salvation by him. Yet I cannot find that my conduct, my heart or disposition is made better. On the contrary, I fear they are worse than ever."
June 12, 1805.
"I find I have been trying to establish a righteousness of my own, though till lately I thought myself free from any such design. Hence arose all that unwillingness to perform the public and private exercises of devotion, which I felt after any neglect of duty. I wanted, forsooth, to be encouraged to hope for an answer of peace, by some merits of my own, and so felt unwilling to approach the throne of grace, when I had been guilty of anything which lessened my stock of goodness. In short, it was the same kind of reluctance which I should feel to approach a fellow being whom I had injured. And this, which I now see arose from pride, I fondly thought was the effect of great humility. Finding myself so deceived here, and in numberless other instances, I am utterly at a loss what to do. If I attempt to perform any duty, I am afraid it is only an attempt to build up a fabric of my own and if I neglect it, the case is still worse.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Since the period of my leaving home for Cambridge, it has appeared the most discouraging circumstance attending the spread of religion, that many who undertake to preach it are so shamefully negligent. Of this, my dear mother, you can form no just idea, unless you have heard them. Wile their hearers are wishing and longing for spiritual food, they are obliged to rest content with cold, dry lectures on morality, enforced by any motives rattler than evangelical. These ministers content themselves, generally, with pruning off some of the most prominent excrescences of vice; they leave the root untouched, and cut off only the leaves. The more I think of it, the more difficult does the duty appear; and I tremble at the thought of incurring such a responsibility. I fear, however, that part of my reluctance arises from an indolent disposition, from an unwillingness to encounter the fatigues, the difficulties and dangers attending the performance of a clergyman’s duty. I am afraid of conferring too much with flesh and blood."
The next notices which he has left of himself are found in a manuscript volume; written in characters which it has been a long and difficult work to decipher. The following are the first two paragraphs:—
July 25, 1805.
"This day, being my twenty-second birth day, I leave determined to commence a diary, as a, check on the misemployment of time."
Same Date. "Having resolved this day to dedicate myself to my Creator, in a serious and solemn manner, by a written covenant, I took a review of my past life, and of the numerous mercies by which it has been distinguished. Then, with sincerity, as I humbly hope, I took the Lord to be my God, and engaged to love, serve, and obey him. Relying on the assistance of his Holy Spirit, I engaged to take the holy Scriptures as the rule of my conduct, the Lord Jesus Christ to be my Saviour, and the Spirit of all grace and consolation as my Guide and Sanctifier. The vows of God are upon me."
Subsequent entries in his diary show an ever active desire to "pay the vows which his lips had uttered." He made strenuous efforts to redeem the morning hours from sleep, that he might enjoy an uninterrupted season for reading the Scriptures, and other devotional exercises; and, when he failed of this, he suffered much in consequence, and lamented it with deep feeling. His diligence in business, as well as fervor of spirit, are abundantly apparent from the account which he has given of the employment of every hour, from four in the morning to ten at night. In a letter to his parents, written on this anniversary, he speaks of having already "paid considerable attention to divinity," and of expecting, "in another year," to commence preaching, if he should feel competent to such an undertaking.
Portland, July 25, 1805.
Dear Parents, —This day, which completes my twenty-second year, renews the remembrance of the numerous claims your continued care and kindness have on my gratitude and affection. To you, next to my heavenly Father, I owe that I exist, that I am in a situation to support myself, and, what is a still greater obligation, to your admonitions and instructions I am indebted for all the moral and religious impressions which are imprinted in my mind, and which, I hope, under God, will give me reason to love and bless yon through eternity. How call I feel sufficient gratitude to the Giver of all good for blessing me with such parents! and how call I thank you sufficiently for all the kindness you have lavished upon me, as yet without return! But it shall be the study of my life to show, that I am not utterly devoid of every sentiment of gratitude and duty. Pardon me, my dearest parents, for all the pain, the trouble, and anxiety I have given you, and believe me while I promise never knowingly to be guilty of anything to increase the uneasiness I have already occasioned you. 1 consider it as one of my greatest blessings, that I am now in a situation which prevents my being a charge to you, and which, besides, might enable me, in case of misfortune, to repay some small part of the kindness I have received. I, with all I do or may possess, am your property, for you alone put me in a situation to obtain it. And if there be anything, (as I doubt not there is,) which would contribute to your happiness, in my power to procure for you, I most earnestly entreat you to let me know it; and if I do not, with the utmost pleasure, comply, cast me off as an ungrateful wretch, utterly unworthy of your kindness and affection."
Mr. Payson made a public profession of religion September 1, 1805, He connected himself originally with the church in Rindge, under the pastoral care of his father, while on a visit to his parents during one of his quarterly vacations. Of his exercises in the near prospect of this solemn act, not a memorial remains. The record of them was probably destroyed by himself, as there is a hiatus in his diary from about a month previous to this event till the 10th of January following. It is not an omission, but an obvious mutilation. The only direct allusion to this public dedication of himself to God is in a letter to his mother, written a short time afterwards, in which he says—"As yet I have no reason to repent of the step I took while at home. On the contrary, I esteem it a great blessing that no obstacles prevented it." He adds, " I have felt wondrous brave and resolute since my return; but I rejoice with trembling. If I know anything of myself, I shall need pretty severe discipline through life; and I often shrink at the thought of the conflicts that await me, but am encouraged by the promise that my strength shall be equal to my day." Never were apprehensions and hopes more signally realized. He who "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," however, reserved the bitterest trials for a confirmed state of religious experience, mercifully indulging his servant with the light of his countenance, and a peaceful and happy progress in his pilgrimage, in its earliest stages. October 6th, he writes—"I know it will add to your happiness, my dear mother, to hear that I possess a large quantity of that desirable commodity. Since my return from Rindge, bating a few disagreeable days after parting with my friends; I have hardly known one unhappy moment. The doubts which formerly obscured my mind are dissipated, and I leave enjoyed, and do still enjoy, mental peace, and, at times, happiness inexpressible. When I am thus happy, it renders me so benevolent that I want to make every one partake of it, and can hardly forbear preaching to every man I see. At the same time, the thought of what I deserve, compared with what I enjoy, humbles me to the dust: and the lower I get, the more happy do I feel; and then I am so full of gratitude and love, I can hardly support it. My only source of unhappiness, at such times, is the moral certainty that I shall again offend that God who is so infinitely, so condescendingly kind. This, indeed, seems impossible at the time; it then seems that worldly objects cannot possibly again acquire an undue influence over my mind. **** To think that I shall again become cold and inanimate, that I shall again offend and grieve the Holy Spirit, and perhaps be left openly to dishonor the holy name by which I am called—my dear mother, how distressing!"
October 29, 1805.
"These worldly comforts are nothing to the serenity and peace of mind with which I am favored, and the happiness arising from love, gratitude, and confidence. Even contrition and remorse for having slighted so long such infinite and condescending mercy, is not without a pleasing kind of pain. But I know this state of things is too good to continue long; and I hope I shall be enabled to take up with a much smaller number of the comforts of life without murmuring."
In a letter, dated November 11th, he says, "The happiness I mentioned in my last, and in which you so kindly participate, I still enjoy, though diminished, in some degree, by an examination I have been making respecting some important but perplexing truths."
Some weeks after this he wrote— "I did not intend to say another word about my feelings; but I must, or else cease writing. I am so happy, that I cannot possibly think nor write of anything else. Such a glorious, beautiful, consistent scheme for the redemption of such miserable wretches! such infinite love and goodness, joined with such wisdom! I would, if possible, raise, my voice so that the whole universe, to its remotest bounds, might hear me, if any language could be found worthy of such a subject. How transporting, and yet how humiliating, are the displays of divine goodness, which at some favored moments, we feel! what happiness in humbling ourselves in the dust, and confessing our sins and unworthiness!"
A solicitude for the spiritual welfare of others, which is among the early fruits of experimental religion, and one of the most pleasing evidences of its existence, was, in Mr. Payson, coeval with his profession of the faith and hope of the gospel. Of this his pupils, as was to be expected, were always the most interesting objects. —September 20th, he writes— "Last Saturday, I gave my scholars six questions in the catechism, and a hymn to commit to memory on the Sabbath; and, on Monday morning, after hearing them recite, I lectured them on the subjects about three quarters of an hour. They paid strict attention. It is, however, discouraging to attempt anything of this kind, and a most lively faith alone can make it otherwise. Is it not astonishing, that those who have a just sense of the importance of religion are not more earnest in recommending it to others? One would suppose they could hardly refrain from preaching to them in the streets. The reason we do not is, we have not a just sense of it."
October 29, 1805
"I hope your narrative—for which I thank you—will have a tendency to stir me up. I feel a strong and abiding impression on my mind, that all the good I enjoy my friends were stirred up to pray for; and I hope I and my scholars shall reap the advantage of them in this case. When I look at them, and reflect how many dangers they are exposed to, what bad examples even the parents of many set them, and how few hear anything like religions instruction, I cannot express my feelings. Lately I feel a great flow of words when addressing them; however, it is just like speaking to dry bones, unless a divine blessing assist. If I could be the means of doing good only to one, what transport! Thank God, it does not depend on the means, but on himself; otherwise I should give up in despair."
January 15, 1806
"This morning I was highly favored in speaking to my scholars. I spoke nearly three quarters of an hour with some earnestness, though not so much as I could have wished. Except once, I have felt a very considerable share of freedom on these occasions. Your mentioning that you were enabled to pray for a blessing on these poor endeavors has been a great encouragement to me. They are attentive, and a very perceptible difference has taken place in their attention to their studies. I hope that, sooner or later, they will become attentive to more important pursuits. I alas almost afraid to write even to you, my dear mother, on these subjects, lest I should make some gross blunder, through my ignorance and inexperience. I have often observed, that persons who begin to read late in life, are apt to think everything they meet with in books as new to others as it is to them, and so make themselves ridiculous by retailing, as novelty, what everyone knew before. In like manner, I am somewhat apprehensive of appearing to you, in mentioning my own feelings, as one who is detailing last years news; for your ideas and feelings must be so far beyond mine, that it will require some patience to read my relations. However, I trust to your goodness, and hope you will remember, that many things, which are now plain and common, were once dark and unusual to you. I am pursuing my studies pretty much at random, having no person to advise with."
This anxiety for the souls of his fellow-creatures, marked his intercourse with associates of the same standing with himself. One of his valued companions in literary pursuits has furnished the following extracts:
December 2, 1805
"There is no worldly blessing that is not heightened by religion, but none more so than friendship, whether it be between relatives by consanguinity, or those who are joined in marriage, or other friends. The idea of parting must embitter the pleasure of the man of the world; but the Christian, if he has chosen his friends aright, may hope to enjoy their society with more pleasure hereafter can he can now. For this reason I never should choose a partner for life, whom I could not hope to meet beyond the tomb."
December 9, 1805
"You ascribe, my friend, too much to age and a cultivated mind, when you speak of them as inconsistent with a ‘stupid blindness respecting futurity.’ Sad experience shows that age [of] the most mature, and minds [of] the most cultivated, are too often under the operation of such a blindness. Who, among the walks of science, ambition, avarice, or pleasure, is not blind to his own mortality? Who is there that sees, that every hour of his life he infringes that law which says — ‘cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written therein to do them?’ Who sees that his brittle thread of life is all on which he hangs over endless misery, and that, if any one of the many dangers to which he is exposed should be permitted to crush him, he would, in a moment, be the subject of despair? No age, no improvement of the mind, will make us see these truths to be such. We may assent to them, but our conduct shows we do not believe them. You do not yet, my friend, know the difficulty of the task. Consider, first, that the divine law extends to the thoughts, and that it makes no allowance for human infirmity, and then shut yourself up alone, out of the reach of temptation, and try for one hour to be innocent, and you will find, by the numberless foolish thoughts and vicious propensities arising in your mind, that it is no easy thing to be negatively good. When, in addition to this, you consider that sins of omission are equally fatal with sins of commission, you must certainly, if you know anything of your own heart, give up in despair. I write this not to discourage you, but to urge the immediate commencement of a work so difficult and so important; but still more to induce you to apply to One who can give you strength, and will give it, if asked for in a full conviction of your own weakness. You know nothing of your own heart and, though you may not assent to this now, the time, I hope and trust, will come, when you will assent to it. You may not now believe that naturally, like all others, you are an enemy to God and his goodness—but you must assent to it."
May 8, 1805
"Take my word for it, there is inexpressibly more enjoyment in religion, in this life, than the most happy sinner since creation ever had to boast of. It appears gloomy at a distance, but; the nearer it approaches, the more delightful it becomes. You know that I am of a social turn, that I enjoy, or did enjoy, amusements about as well as others did, and that I have no particular reason for flying from them. You know, too, that I love you, and would promote your interest to the extent of my powers. You may then consider me, if you are so disposed, an impartial witness that the ways of Wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace. I hope and believe that your own feelings may attest the truth of my testimony. That you may know more and more of it, is the sincere prayer of your friend."
July 7, 1805
"I dare pledge anything most dear to me, that, if you persist in the diligent use of the means suggested, you shall not long use them in vain. But, what is infinitely more to the purpose, you have the oath of him who cannot be, on which to ground your hopes. You have nothing to do but to ask for faith; to come, as the leper did to our Saviour while on earth, and throw yourself at his feet with ‘Lord, if then wilt, thou canst make me clean;’ and rest assured that he will put forth his hand and say—‘I will; be thou clean.’ He is still as able and as willing, * * * * to grant every request of this nature as he was on earth. If you really feel yourself a sinner, and that you have no power to save yourself, and are willing to accept of him as a Saviour, he is ready to receive you. Do not wait, before you accept his offers, to render yourself worthy of his favor by going about to establish a righteousness of your own. He will not be a half Saviour. He will do all or nothing. If you mean to come to him, you must come as a helpless sinner; not as the Pharisee, with a list of virtuous deeds performed, but as the publican, with—‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.’"
Scarcely two months had elapsed from the time he made a public profession of religion, before Mr. Payson felt his mind embarrassed in relation to the doctrines of the Bible as understood by Calvinists. The first intimation of this perplexity is in the following words: —
"I have lately read Cole’s Discourses. It is a very comfortable doctrine for the elect, but not so for the sinner. My feelings say it is true, but reason wants to put in an oar. It is at once encouraging and discouraging to ministers."
He afterwards expresses himself more fully on this subject, and in a manner which shows that he did not take his religion upon trust, but that his subsequent firm adherence to the doctrines of grace was the result of impartial examination.
"I mentioned in a former letter that I had been reading Cole. Since that I have studied, with considerable attention, Edwards on the Will, and his treatise on Original Sin. I know not what to do. On one hand, the arguments in favor of Calvinism are strong; and, what is more to the point, I feel that most of them must be true; and yet there are difficulties, strong difficulties ***** in the way. I care very little about them, as it concerns myself; but to think that so many of mankind must be miserable, strikes me with disagreeable feelings I wonder not that the unregenerate are so bitterly opposed to these doctrines and their professors, nor that they appear to them as the effects of blindness and superstition. Poor Dr. M. is sadly abused on this account, and the most consummate scoundrel in existence could not merit worse epithets than the clergy of ***** heap on him. I find, however, that I have much clearer views of the grand scheme of redemption than I had; and as it relates to myself, it appears a miracle of love and mercy for which I never can feel, comparatively speaking, any gratitude. But with respect to others, it does not appear altogether so excellent. I cannot, however, complain of any doubts of the truth of these points, more than I have of the truth of the Bible; but I cannot reconcile them. I should make poor work at preaching in my present state of mind, for I could neither advance such doctrines nor let them alone. Thus I am perplexed. I feel that they are true, yet seem to know it is impossible they should be so. I never would meddle with them, were I not, in some measure, obliged to by the profession I have chosen. I almost long for death, that the apparent contradictions may be reconciled."
There were practical questions, also, scarcely less embarrassing to his mind, and which it required no small skill in Christian casuistry to determine. On account of his situation, as well as the inexhaustible fund of entertainment which he could carry into company, he was frequently solicited to make one of a visiting party, and to mingle in society on various occasions. The nature of the trials hence arising, as well as their issue, will be seen front a few extracts
"After long doubting the propriety, and even the lawfulness, of mixing at all in society where duty does not call, and after smarting a number of times for indulging myself in it, —more, however, through fear of offending, than for any pleasure I find in it, —I am at length brought to renounce it entirely; and it is not a needless scrupulosity. It does appear a duty to shun all communication with the world, when there is no well-grounded reason to hope to do good. There are, to be sure, many very plausible reasons, but I doubt whether they will bear the test of scripture."
To one who urged him to go into society and frequent public amusements, he, wrote:
"Can a man walk on pitch, and his feet not be defiled? Can a man take coals of fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? If he call, he may then mix freely with the world, and not be contaminated. But I am not the one who call do it. I cannot think it proper or expedient for a Christian to go into any company, unless necessity calls, where he may, perhaps, hear the name he loves and reverences blasphemed, or at least profaned, —where that book, which he esteems the word of God, will, if mentioned, be alluded to only to waken laughter or ‘adorn a tale,’ —where the laws of good breeding are almost the only laws which may not be broken with impunity, —and where every thing he hears or sees has a strong tendency to extinguish the glow of devotion, and entirely banish seriousness. I speak only for myself. Others may experience no bad effects, but for myself, when I go into company, if it is pleasant and agreeable, it has a tendency only to fix my thoughts on earth, from which it is my duty and my desire to turn them, —to give me a distaste for serious duties, especially prayer and meditation and to render me desirous of the applause and approbation of those with whom I associate. I cannot avoid feeling some desire for its friendship; and this friendship, the apostle assures us, and my own, experience feelingly convinces me, is enmity with God."
— "I have at length obtained satisfaction respecting my doubts about society; not, however, till I was brought to give it up. After I had done so; it appeared so plain and proper, that I wondered how a doubt could ever have arisen on this subject. Now, I shall hardly see a person in a week, except our own family; and I leave no doubt of being much happier for it. Two or three plain rules I find of wonderful service in deciding all difficult cases. One is, to do nothing of which I doubt, in any degree, the lawfulness; the second, to consider everything as unlawful which indisposes me for prayer, and interrupts communion with God: and the third is, never to go into any company, business, or situation, in which I cannot conscientiously ask and expect the divine presence. By the help of these three rules, I settle all my doubts in a trice, and find that many things I have hitherto indulged in, are, if not utterly unlawful, at least inexpedient, and I can renounce them without many sighs."
Referring to the dangers inseparable from worldly society, he incidentally mentions one defense against their influence, which was only imaginary: —"I consider it a blessing, or endeavor to do so, that I do not possess those talents for shinning in company, which are so apt to lead their possessors into too great a fondness for gay and brilliant society. Yet, I confess, though I am sensible they would prove a snare to me, I am sometimes tempted to repine at the want of them; and the grant of all my wishes would soon render me the most miserable of beings." The circumstances in which this was written preclude all suspicion of its being the language of affectation.
His determination to exclude himself from company was very conscientiously formed; and, so far was he from making his own practice a law for others in this matter, he expressly assigns his "weakness and inexperience" as the reason why he "could not indulge in society without detriment." Besides, situated as he was, he saw "no medium between the life of a hermit and that of a votary of pleasure." If such were the alternative, his decision is to be approved. It resulted from a right application of his "three plain rules," which are certainly scriptural, and worthy of universal adoption. This course was not the fruit of misanthropic feelings; for no man was more susceptible of the delights of friendship, or more highly appreciated its benefits; but how "can two walk together, except they be agreed?" His heart now sighed for friendships founded on a religious basis. He speaks of "a friend, with whom he could converse on religious subjects, as having long been a desideratum;" and when he thought he had found such a one among his former beloved associates, he expresses the most ardent gratitude to the Giver of every good gift. "I feel a satisfaction," he writes, "on this discovery, similar to what I should feel at meeting a townsman in a desert island. You, who live in the midst of Christian friends, can hardly conceive of it. Associates are pleasant in any pursuit, but especially so in this. Two are better than one. We shall together be better able to stand our ground against the assaults of ridicule and reproach; and may animate and encourage each other in our course."
Having, in a letter to his mother, expressed himself as ready to give almost anything he possessed for an "experienced friend," he anticipates her reply —"You will say, perhaps, the Bible is a friend, which, if duly consulted, would supersede the necessity of any other adviser. It may be so; but we are apt to be bad commentators, where we are concerned ourselves. A friend can judge of our concerns, and give us better counsel, than, perhaps, he would give himself. We are but poor casuists in our own affairs."
Some miscellaneous extracts will now be given.
December 8, 1805.
"Though I have experienced many and great comforts, yet I am at trines almost discouraged. My heart seems to be a soil so bad, that all labor is thrown away upon it; for, instead of growing better, it grows worse. What a wearisome task, or rather conflict, it is, to be always fighting with an enemy, whom no defeats can weaken or tire. I am afraid, that many of my desires to be delivered from his power proceed rather from a sinful impatience, than a better source. But it is most distressing, when favored with manifestations of a Savior’s love, to think we shall again sin against and grieve him; especially, in the sacrament of the supper, the idea that I shall certainly go away and offend him, who is there set forth crucified before me, embitters all my happiness."
December 25, 1805
"MY DEAR SISTER: —I am not very prone to indulge the idea, that my happiness can depend on change of place; but when such fancies do gain admittance, home is always the scene of my imaginary bliss. It is, however, a remedy to consider, that, however we may be separated from our friends in this world, yet, if we choose them aright, we may indulge the hope of spending an eternity together in the next."
"I have of late taken some pleasure in recollecting the pilgrimages of our old friend Bunyan, and see a striking propriety in many parts of them, which I did not then rightly understand. For some time past I have been with Tender Conscience in the caves of Good Resolution and Contemplation, and, like him, fell into the clutches of Spiritual Pride. It is astonishing, and what nothing but sad experience could make us believe, that Satan and a corrupt heart should have the art of extracting the most dangerous poison from those things which apparently would, and certainly ought to, have the most beneficial effects. If I do not, after all, fall into the hands of old Carnal Security, I shall have reason to be thankful. There is such a fascination in the magic circle of worldly pleasures and pursuits, as call hardly be conceived without experience; and I am astonished and vexed, to find its influence continually thwarting and hindering me. And so many plausible excuses are perpetually suggesting themselves, that compliance can hardly be avoided."
January 25, 1806
"MY DEAR MOTHER: —In one of the classics, which form part of my daily occupation, there is an account of a tyrant, who used to torture his subjects, by binding them to dead bodies, and leaving them to perish by an unnatural and painful death. I have often thought the situation of a Christian is, in some respects, like that of these poor wretches. Bound to a loathsome body of sin, from which death alone can free him, and obliged daily to experience effects from it not much less painful and displeasing to him, than the stench of a putrefying carcass was to those who were united to it, he must suffer almost continual torment. I have lately felt doubtful how far a due resignation to the divine will obliges us to submit with patience to this most painful of all trials, and since we know that perfection is not granted to any in this world, how far ought we to extend our prayers and wishes. I know there is little danger of being too much engaged in seeking deliverance from sin; but is there no danger of that fretful impatience, which we are apt to feel on other occasions, gaining admittance under the appearance of an earnest desire for holiness? And is not indolence; and a wish to be freed from the necessity of continual watchfulness and conflict, apt to insinuate itself into our desires and petitions for divine assistance? Sin is a sly traitor; and it is but lately I discovered it in my bosom; and now I am so much afraid of it, that I hardly dare ask assistance at all.
"For this month past, I have enjoyed very little of that happiness which I once rejoiced in. Yet, blessed be God! I am not left utterly dead and stupid, and am enabled to persevere in the use of means, though they seldom seem so productive of peace as they once did. I hope I have clearer ideas of my strong, amazingly strong, propensity to everything that is evil, and of the infinite and glorious sufficiency of my Saviour, than I had while my joys were greater. Then I was ready to flatter myself that sin was destroyed; but now I find, by sad experience, it is not only alive, but extremely active; and had I not all almighty Helper, I should instantly give up in despair."
Portland, February 9, 1806
"MY DEAR MOTHER: —For many reasons, it is impossible that my letters should be so acceptable at home as those I receive from home are to me. You leave friends there, to divide your attention, to participate in your care, and to share and increase your pleasures. But I am alone. All my affections must center at home, and, consequently, I must feel a greater desire to hear from home, and to receive assurances that I am not forgotten, than my friends can possibly have, to hear from me.
"I find nobody, except at times, to whom I can communicate my joys, hopes, desires, and fears; nobody who can participate my pleasures or sympathize in my griefs. It is, perhaps, best for me that it should be so; but it is very unpleasant. Most of my acquaintances consider me, as near as I can guess, but a kind of hypocrite, who must, as a student in divinity, preserve a decent exterior, in order to be respected. However, it is some consolation, that they think the same of every one else. Their opinion is of very trifling consequence. One thing only I wish not to be thought, and that is what is commonly called a rational Christian, an epithet which is very frequently bestowed on young candidates, and which is almost synonymous with no Christian. Liberal divines are pretty much of the same character."
Portland, April 1, 1806
"MY DEAR MOTHER: —I am now entirely alone, and, except a visit once a fortnight from Mr. R., I see no face within my chamber from one week to another. It is sometimes unpleasant, but, I believe, very profitable, to be debarred from society. I am so prone to trust to broken cisterns, that nothing, but their being out of my reach, can restrain me. When I come home from school, weary and dull, if I had any earthly friends at hand, I should certainly apply to them for relief; but, not having any, I am constrained to go where I am much more sure of finding it. I begin to find, that the smiles with which my early infancy was supported, are changing for the less agreeable, but certainly not less needful, discipline of education; and O what severe discipline, and how much of it, shall I require! I see already, that hard fare and hard labor will be necessary to preserve me from ‘waxing fat and kicking:’ and if it has this effect, I shall welcome it with pleasure. It seems to me one of the worst of the hellish offspring of fallen nature, that it should have such a tendency to pride, and above all, spiritual bride. How many artifices does it contrive to hide itself! If, at any time, I am favored with clearer discoveries of my natural and acquired depravity and hatefulness in the sight of God, and am enabled to mourn over it, in comes Spiritual Pride, with ‘Ay, this is something like! this is holy mourning for sin: this is true humility.’ If I happen to detect and spurn at these thoughts, immediately he changes his battery, and begins: ‘Another person would have indulged those feelings, and imagined he was really humble, but you know better; you can detect and banish pride at once, as you ought to do.’ Thus this hateful enemy continually harasses me. What proof that the heart is the native soil of pride, when it thus contrives to gather strength from those very exercises which one would think must destroy it utterly!
"My other chief besetting sin, which will cut out abundance of work for me, is fondness for applause. When I sit down to write, this demon is immediately in the way; prompting to seek for such observations as will be admired, rather than such as will be felt, and have a tendency to do good. My proneness to these two evils, which I have mentioned, makes me think I shall have but little sensible comfort in this world; and that I shall be tried by many and grievous afflictions, in order to keep me humble and dependent. However; it is of no consequence. I know my great Physician is both able and willing to cure me, and I leave the manner to him; trusting that he will enable me to take whatever he prescribes, and bless the prescription."
Portland, June 17, 1806
"My DEAR Mother: —After I have told you that I have been unwell some time past, and that I am now as well as usual, my stock of information is exhausted—unless, indeed, I still make myself the subject; and, for want of a better, I must. Owing partly, I believe, to my ill health, I have been much afflicted with doubt, whether it is not my duty to give up preaching at all. I want, at times, to get as far back into the country as possible, and, on a little farm, lead a life as much remote from observation, as circumstances will allow. It seems to me a little remarkable, that while I am harassed with doubts and perplexities about everything else, I feel none, or comparatively none, about my own state. If at any time such doubts intruded, they were banished by that text, ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake.’ But, lately, the very absence of doubt has caused me to doubt; for if I were a child of God; how should I be free from those doubts which trouble them? But the greatest difficulty of all is, that the certainty which I almost ever feel of my safety, should have no more effect on my disposition and conduct. This seems to me more unaccountable than anything else; for even the devils, one would think, might and would rejoice to think of approaching happiness.
"I have for some time, had something like a desire to become a missionary. I have not mentioned it before, because I doubted whether it would not be only a temporary wish. I should feel less backward to preach to savages, or white men little above savages, than anywhere else. However. I hope Providence will, some way or other, get me into the place where I shall be most useful, be it what it may. I do not feel very solicitous in which way or in what situation.
I shall be in Boston about the 23d of August, and, after commencement, set out for Rindge, should nothing prevent. At present, I can write no more. The bearer is booted, whipped, chaired, and waiting.
Present my most affectionate regards to pa. I shall make great encroachments on his time, when I come home.
Your affectionate son,
A desire to become a missionary, in 1806, was a less dubious proof of expansive Christian benevolence, than it would be at the present day. The obligation of Christians to send the gospel to the heathen could not have been learned from anything which the American Church was then doing, or had done for a long period. As to any visible movement, she appeared as indifferent to the claims of the unevangelized tribes of men; as though her Redeemer and Lord had not left it in charge, to "preach the gospel to every creature." Mr. Payson was probably ignorant that another youthful bosom in the country panted with the same desire; though it was about this time if not this very year—a coincidence which they who regard the works of the Lord, and the operation of his hands, will notice with pleasure—that Samuel J. Mills felt the desire, and formed the purpose, to devote his life to the service of Christ among the heathen—a purpose, however, which was known, first to his mother, and then to a few individuals only, till about four years afterwards.
In the extracts which have been inserted from his letters, the reader has discovered his intimate acquaintance with the subtle workings of the human heart, and his unsleeping vigilance to detect and guard against its impositions. His self-knowledge and the rigid self-inspection which he habitually maintained, would appear in a still more striking light from his private diary, if that were spread before the public eye. Neither friends nor foes could name a fault in him, which he had not detected, and condemned in terms of unsparing severity. They would find their severest judgments anticipated; and they would field too—what the world little suspects of the Christian—that the smallest trespasses were the cause of heart-felt lamentation and grief in those hours of secret retirement, when no eye but Jehovah’s was witness to his sorrow. In his example, the young aspirant for fame might see an illustration of the wise man’s maxim, "before honor is humility;" and that the surest path to an enduring reputation is found by "asking counsel of God," and "acknowledging him in all our ways." Faithfulness, either to the dead or the living, cannot, however, require, that a very free use should be made of the record of what passed in the inward sanctuary of his soul—a record obviously designed for his private use only, and in characters intended to be illegible by every eye except his own. So much will, nevertheless; be inserted, as is necessary to substantiate the representations in his narrative, or disclose important facts in his history, which could be learned from no other source.
EXTRACTS FROM HIS DIARY.
"February 5, 1806. For this fortnight past, I have enjoyed a tolerable share of assistance, but nothing transporting. Slow progress."
"February 7, 1806. Little opportunity for prayer in the morning; yet God was pleased not wholly to desert me during the day, and, in the evening, favored me with clearer views of the glorious all-sufficiency of my Saviour, and of my absolute need of him, than I have before experienced. I could, in some measure, feel that my deepest humiliation has rank pride, and all that I am or can do, is sin. Yet, blessed be God, I can plead the sufferings and perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom, though weak in myself I am strong."
"February 8, 1806. There is no vice, of which I do not see the seeds in myself, and which would bear fruit did not grace prevent. Notwithstanding this, I am perpetually pulling the mote out of my brother’s eye."
"February 9, 1806. Was much favored in prayer, and still more in reading the Bible. Every word seemed to come home with power. Of late, I have none of those rapturous feelings, which used to be so transporting; but I enjoy a more calm and equable degree of comfort; and, though slowly, yet surely, find myself advancing."
"February 11, 1806. A very drill day—almost discouraged; yet I hope the experience I gain of my utter inability to think so much as a good thought, will have a tendency to mortify pride."
"February 15, 1806. Felt some liveliness in morning prayer, and some aspirations after greater measures of holiness. Resolved to observe this as a day of fasting and prayer. After seeking divine assistance, reflecting on the innumerable sins, of which my life has been full, and on the great aggravations that enhance my guilt, I attempted, I hope sincerely, to give myself and all I possess to God, in the renewal of my covenant engagements."
"February 16, 1806. Very dull and lifeless in the morning. Made a resolution to restrain my temper, and the next moment broke it. Felt more lively at meeting. In the afternoon and evening was remarkably favored. I felt such an overwhelming sense of God’s amazing goodness, and my own unworthiness, as I never had before. It gave me a most earnest desire to spend and be spent in the service of God, in any way he should please to employ me."
"February 17, 1806. In the morning, felt strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; thought I could stand against all enemies, but soon was as lifeless as ever. When shall I learn that all my sufficiency is of God."
"February 19, 1806. What a poor, weak, unstable creature I am, when Christ is absent! Read Baxter’s Saint’s Rest; but though it is very affectingly written, I was totally unmoved by it."
"February 22, 1806. This is a day to be remembered. I determined to spend it in fasting and prayer, but was prevented. In the afternoon, received an invitation to spend the evening with _____, _____ &c.; but, thanks to divine goodness, was enabled to decline it. I tasted much sweetness in the former part of the evening; but in the latter part, I was favored with such displays of divine goodness, as almost forced me to exclaim, Lord, stay thine hand!"
"February 23, 1806. Was again favored with the divine presence. I leave some expectation of a heavy stroke impending. If it is so, God’s will be done."
"February 24, 1806. A great falling off from the enjoyments and life of yesterday; yet, blessed be God, I am not wholly deserted. I was much favored in speaking to the scholars, and they seemed rather more affected than common. But I have suffered much today from the attacks of spiritual pride. This, I already see, will be the enemy against which my efforts must be directed, and which will cost me most conflicts. But I trust in an almighty arm."
"February 26, 1806. I drag along without advancing. O, how disproportionate are my endeavors to the mighty prize for which I contend!"
"February 28, 1806. Resolved to spend this day in fasting and prayer. Did so, but found no relief. Was astonishingly dead and wandering. In reading Mr. Brainerd’s life, I seemed to feel a most ardent desire after some portion of his spirit; but, when I attempted to pray, it vanished. I could not even mourn over my coldness."
"March 3, 1806. In the evening, partly by my own fault, and partly by accident, got entangled in vain company. Afterwards was in most exquisite distress of mind. Had a clearer view of my own sinfulness and vileness than ever."
"March 4, 1806. I seem rather to go back than to advance. What a display of divine power, to make a saint of such a wretch as I!"
"March 6, 1806. My time flies like a vapor, and nothing is done. When shall I begin to live for God!"
"March 8, 1806. I cannot accuse myself of indulging in any known sin, or neglecting any known duty; but I am so lifeless, so little engaged in religious things, that I seem to believe as though I believed not."
"March 10, 1806. Found considerable freedom in prayer. Was too passionate in a dispute about a theatre. Had little freedom in speaking to the scholars. Was enabled to be diligent in filling up my time. Was assisted in my studies."
"March 12, 1806. I act as if eternal things were a dream. When shall I be wise!"
"March 13, 1806. Favored with great liberty in prayer. Was enabled to pray for others more than usual."
"March 17, 1806. Thanks to divine goodness, this has been a good day to me. Was favored with considerable freedom in the morning, and rejoiced in the Lord through the day. But in the evening, felt an unusual degree of assistance, both in prayer and study. Since I began to beg God’s blessing on my studies, I have done more in one week than in the whole year before. Surely, it is good to draw near to God at all times."
"March 19, 1806. Less freedom in prayer than usual. In the evening, was betrayed into folly if not into sin. Could neither write nor read with any profit. What a miserable creature am I, when Jesus withdraws his assistance! Was very positive in a trifle, and was justly punished by finding myself in the wrong. Hope it will prove a profitable lesson to me."
"March 23, 1806. Am much exercised respecting applying for license to preach, and afraid I am under the influence of improper motives; but I trust my Guide will direct me."
"March 28, 1806. Read Pike’s Saving Faith; and, though at first I was somewhat alarmed with fears that I had it not, yet, blessed be God, my fears and doubts were soon removed. I was enabled to appeal to God for a witness of what he has done for me. I know that, I love my Saviour; and, though my love is infinitely short of his merits, I trust He who gave it [to] me can and will increase it. I am sinful but He died for sinners. Felt unusual fervency and sweetness in prayer, and reading the Scriptures, and was encouraged to go on, striving for more holiness."
"March 29, 1806. Renewed my covenant with God. Asked assistance to do it with sincerity. My prayer was answered in an unusual degree. I had a clearer view of my own vileness and depravity, and a more distinct and satisfying perception of Christ’s all-sufficiency and goodness, by far, than I ever enjoyed before; so that I was ready to think I had never known anything of the matter. Was enabled to say Abba Father! in the true spirit of adoption, and to exercise strong faith in Christ and love to him."
"March 30, 1806. Had more comfort in ordinances than ever before. I was almost ready to think this the period of my conversion. The transport I felt was more rational and penetrating than I ever before experienced. It arose from an apprehension of the perfect sufficiency of Christ in all his offices, and from a clear discovery of God as my Father, so that I was enabled to trust, rejoice, and exult in him."
"April 2, 1806. Was enabled in some measure to guard against a peevish, impatient disposition. In the evening, unusually lively and fervent in prayer."
"April 5, 1806. Was very much harassed with wandering thoughts this morning. Sought to Christ for deliverance, and found it. ….Have fresh reason to think visiting is detrimental. In the evening, was exceedingly depressed with a sense of my vileness. I wished to shrink from society and observation. Could hardly think of attempting to preach. Threw myself at the feet of my blessed Saviour, and poured forth my sorrows and complaints before him. Yet I suspect there was more of self than any other principle in my tears."
"April 8, 1806. Was much exercised today on the subject of election, and other truths connected with it. Have been much in doubt respecting offering myself for examination next month. Fear I am not under the influence of proper motives."
"April 13, 1806. Sabbath. Felt the love of God sweetly shed abroad in my heart. Continued in this frame all the morning. Derived much more advantage from ordinances than usual, especially from the sacrament. A profitable day."
"April 14, 1806. Was in a comfortable frame this morning. Had some assistance in speaking to my scholars. But, alas! my heart before noon betrayed me into sin. I fell into a passion with an inanimate substance; and thought, if I did not utter, curses. Was soon aroused to a sense of my folly and guilt."
"April 19, 1806. I know not why, but this has been the worst week I have had these six months. Believe I expected too much from the sacrament."
"April 20, 1806. Had some sense of my miserable state, but little fervency in seeking relief. Suspect the weather and my health have some influence on me. In the evening, had more fervency, but not more sensible assistance. Was, however, resigned to my Master’s will, and enabled to trust in him."
"April 26, 1806. Was much favored in my approaches to the throne of grace today."
"May 1, 1806. Rose early, and had some life and comfort. Have been so much engaged in preparing my sermon for examination, that my mind has been much taken off from religion. I find writing sermons is not praying."
"May 11, 1806. It is now long since I have enjoyed any of those sweet seasons of communion with God, which used to be my chief happiness. I fear I have neglected the Scriptures too much. Am determined to pay more attention to them."
"May 13, 1806. This was the day in which I intended to be examined before the Association, but it pleased Providence to prevent. In the evening; reflected on my late coldness and backwardness in religion, and resolved, by the help of divine grace, to run with more alacrity the race set before me."
"May 18, 1806. I think I never was so favored in prayer for so long a period in my life. At meeting, tolerably lively. In the intermission, and after meeting, was enabled to spend the time profitably, so that I never was favored with a more profitable Sabbath."
"May 19, 1806. Enjoyed considerable fervor in the morning, and some life in speaking to my scholars. Engaged in a dispute at breakfast; and foolishly became angry. Retired and prayed for him with whom I was angry, and for myself. Was enabled, in a considerable degree, to conquer my auger in this matter."
"May 20, 1806. Find some remains of anger, notwithstanding all my endeavors to suppress it."
"May 22, 1806. Since I began, in pursuance of my design, to read the Scriptures, I have enjoyed more of the divine presence than before."
"May 23, 1806. Was favored in prayer. —Was applied to by the selectmen to deliver an oration on the 4th of July. Refused at first; but, being persuaded to consider of it, pride and vanity prevailed, and I foolishly complied.—Mem. Never to consider, when I have a presentiment, at first, what I ought to do."
"Sabbath, June 1, 1806. Sacrament. Enjoyed much of the divine presence and assistance in prayer and meditation. Have never had a more profitable morning. Found my Saviour in his ordinances. Hope I have found this a good day. Seemed to feel more property in Christ and his benefits than I had ever done before. After meeting, was filled with the blessed consolations of the Spirit. O, how refreshing are those foretastes of heaven! How ravishing the presence of Jesus! Felt a full assurance of my interest in the blessings purchased by Christ. No doubts obscured the sunshine of my mind. God be praised."
"June 9, 1806. Resolved to spend all the time before six in religious exercises. Enjoyed some comfort in prayer."
"June 15, 1806. Sabbath. Never felt such strong and lively faith in prayer as this morning. It seemed as if I had nothing to do but to take whatever I pleased."
"June 17, 1806. Was much harassed with wandering thoughts in morning prayer. Was much assisted in my studies."
"June 28, 1806. Felt myself exceedingly vile. Found no comfort in the exercises of public worship. My oration is a snare to me. O, what an astonishing, bewitching power a thirst for applause has over my mind! I know it is of no consequence what mankind think of me, and yet I am continually seeking their approbation."
"June 29, 1806. Sabbath. Rose early, and was favored with the presence and assistance of the blessed Spirit in prayer. O, how sweet and refreshing it is to pour out our souls before God ! O, the wonderful and unmerited goodness of God, in keeping me from openly disgracing my profession! If he had left me one moment to myself, I had been ruined. Next Sabbath is the sacrament. God grant that it may be a refreshing season to me, and many others."
"July 2, 1806. Still harassed and perplexed about my oration. Could not have believed, that the desire of applause had gained such power over me."
"July 4, 1806. Was enabled to ask for assistance to perform the services of the day. In the evening, felt in a most sweet, humble, thankful frame. How shall I praise the Lord for all his goodness!"
"July 5, 1806. Felt much of the sane temper I experienced yesterday. In the evening, was favored with much of the divine presence and blessing in prayer.—Mem. Applause cannot confer happiness!"
"July 6, 1806. Sabbath. My infinitely gracious God is still present, to make his goodness pass before me. He has been with me this morning in prayer, and enabled me sweetly to say, My Father, my God. At the sacrament, my gracious Saviour favored me with some tokens of his presence. O that I could find words to express half his goodness, or my own vileness! I hope my faith received some increase. But what I desire to praise my God for, is his wonderful goodness in assisting me against pride."
"July 7, 1806. Still favored with the smiles of my blessed Lord. Surely his loving kindness is better than life. How condescendingly kind! I hope he is teaching me the value of worldly applause, and how incompetent it is to afford happiness. I have had enough to satisfy me, if there were any satisfaction in it. But happiness is to be found in God alone."
"July 18, 1806. Very little comfort in prayer. Have fallen into a sad, lifeless state the week past. Hope it will convince me, more strongly than ever, of my weakness and vileness. Sat up till 2 o’clock at night, talking with Mr. _____, on religious topics. Found he had more to say in defense of Unitarianism, than I could have supposed."
"July 23, 1806. I am entirely stupid. Am sensible of my situation, and mourn over it, in some measure, but cannot escape."
"July 24, 1806. No life at all. O that it were with me as in months past! In the evening, was favored with more of the divine presence than I have enjoyed this fortnight."
"July 25, 1806. Spent the day, according to previous resolution, in fasting and prayer. Was favored with much of the divine presence and blessing, so that it was a comfortable and profitable day to me. Called to mind the events of my past life, the mercies I have received and the ill returns I have made for them. Felt a deep sense of my own unworthiness, and the unmerited goodness of God."
"July 27, 1806. Was alarmed with respect to my state, by reading Edwards on the Affections; but obtained comfort and assurance by prayer."
"August 2, 1806. Was much engaged in prayer, and thought I was humbled under a sense of sin. Was enabled to plead with some earnestness for spiritual blessings. But afterwards, reading an account of the conversion of some persons, I was led to doubt whether I had ever known what it meant, and was much distressed."
"August 3, 1806. Was again disturbed with apprehensions that I knew nothing of religion; but, though I could not come to Christ, as one of his members, I threw myself down before him, as a sinner, who needed his mediation, and my doubts vanished."
"August 4, 1806. Rose with the impression, that all I had formerly experienced was a delusion, and that I was still an enemy to God. Was enabled to go to Jesus, and plead earnestly for mercy, not for my own sake, but for his. I seem determined, if I must perish, to perish at his feet; but perhaps I was deceived. However, my hopes began to revive. In the evening, foolishly went into company, and had no time for prayer."
"August 16, 1806. Seemed to be something more alive to divine things, this morning. Found some sweetness in prayer and reading the Scriptures. In the evening, was much assisted in preparation for the sacrament tomorrow."
 This date is given, as it appears in Dr. Payson’s handwriting. A correspondent, however, places it a year later. If the date of the brother’s death has been preserved on the Family Record, which is altogether probable, to that date this change in his feelings should be referred. It is possible something may have faded from the last of the figures denoting the year.
It has been stated, on credible authority, that Dr. Payson was so much affected by this bereavement, that he confined himself to his chamber for three days; and that, previously to this period, he had purposed to devote himself to the profession of the law. If so, the affliction was no less a mercy to the church than to himself.
 The admirers of Cowper—between whom and the subject of this Memoir there are several strong points of resemblance—will be reminded, at once, of those beautiful lines: