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has been with me this morning in prayer, and enabled me sweetly to say "My Father, My God. 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.-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.-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 defence of Unitarianism, than I could have supposed.
"July 23.-I am entirely stupid. Am sensible of my situation and mourn over it, in some measure, but cannot
July 24.-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.-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.-Was alarmed with respect to my state, by reading Edwards on the Affections; but obtained comfort and assurance by prayer.
Aug. 2.-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.
"Aug. 3.-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.
"Aug. 4.-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 seemed 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.
"Aug. 10.-Felt extremely vile and sinful, humbled with distressing doubts concerning my situation. Have no humility, no love to God, or holiness, am bound to the world, am wasteful of my time, and live a useless being to society. Three and twenty years of my short life lost, and worse than lost.
Aug. 11.-Determined, by divine grace, to be more diligent and circumspect in my conduct. Had company in the evening, and little time for devotional exercises.
"Aug. 16.—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 to-morrow.
Retires to Rindge, and devotes himself exclusively to his preparation for the ministry.
In the month of August, 1806, Mr. Payson relinquished his charge of the Academy in Portland; and after settling his business, went on board a packet for Boston,' in which he remained several days, "tossed about by contrary winds, and wounded by the oaths and blasphemies of the wretches on board." He has described "a set" of his fellow passengers by two words, indicative of all that is revolting to modesty and pious feeling, and suited to vex the righteous soul;" the bare mention of which would cause others to join him in the exclamation -"How dreadful, to spend an eternity among such wretches!" On the fifth day from his embarcation, the vessel "arrived in Boston in a violent gale of wind, attended with some danger." He tarried in the neighborhood, till after commencement, and, notwithstanding the 'noise and confusion, found more pleasure, than he had expected, in meeting his classmates.' On his way from Cambridge to Rindge, he rode as far as Groton; but, whether the stage rested there over night, or took a different route, and his desire to tread again the threshold of his beloved home alone urged him forward-so it was, that he left the stage, and "walked home from Groton after six" in the evening, and was at his journey's end about four the next morning," ready to" receive the congratulations of his friends." His father's house continued, from this time, to be his hallowed and chosen retirement, till he entered on the active duties of the ministry.
Oft seeks to sweet, retired solitude;
Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings.”
This step, considered in all its aspects, may justly be regarded as one of the most important in Mr. Payson's life, and reflects the highest honor on his judgment and good sense. Four months previously to this time, as has been seen in the preceding pages, he seriously contemplated making application for license to preach the gospel. Whatever were the cause that prevented him, a gracious providence is visible in it. Not that he was particularly deficient in sacred learning;—on the contrary, his theological knowledge was probably equal to that of most candidates.' Among the works, which he is known* to have read with care, might be named Watson's Tracts, Witsius, Stackhouse, Jonathan Edwards, besides many works of devotion and practical divinity. Abstracts of several other treatises still exist in his hand-writing, which were made before he left Portland; also, a collection of "Thoughts on the composition and delivery of sermons." Still, during all this time, he was invested with a public trust, of no light responsibility. His school must have mainly engrossed his time, his thoughts, and his cares. To suppose, that his professional studies were allowed more than a secondary claim to his attention, were to suppose him unfaithful to an important charge, which he had voluntarily assumed. And though he could hardly have been other than a distinguished preacher, even had he entered on the sacred office without further preparation; yet he would not have been the minister, he afterwards was. This season of retirement has an intimate connection with his subsequent eminence and usefulness. To the occupations of these days of seclusion from the world, more than to any other means, may be traced his gigantic growth in the knowledge of God,' and that extraordinary unction, which attended his performance of official duties.
This period of his history is memorable, and highly instructive to the student of Theology. Having, after much
*His progress in some of them is noted in his diary, near the "hiatus" already spoken of, which probably contained more notices of the same kind. The diary, which was commenced as a check upon the misemployment of time," and which did, at first, record the occupations of every hour, ere long became, almost exclusively, a record of his religious exercises and experience.
deliberation and prayer, chosen the ministry of reconciliation as the business of his future life, he gave himself up to the work of preparation with an exclusiveness and ardor, perhaps never exceeded. From every study and pursuit, whatever its charms and attractions, which was not directly subsidiary to his grand design, he resolutely divorced himself; at least, till he had acquired the art-analogous to the supposed properties of the philosopher's stone-" of turning all to gold." He seems to have concentrated and directed all his powers to the acquisition of scriptural knowledge, and the cultivation of Christian and ministerial graces, in obedience to the apostolical precept, "give thyself wholly to them." A decision once formed, was with him usually final; and in executing his purpose, whatever his hand found to do he did with his might.' These, his permanent characteristics, were eminently conspicuous at this period, while learning to
"negotiate between God and man,
As God's ambassador, the grand concerns
With the most exalted views of the holy office, to which he was looking forward, and of the qualifications requisite to its competent and successful execution, he sought them with a proportionate zeal, devoting himself to the study of the sacred pages, if man ever did, "with all the heart, and soul, and strength, and mind."
For "Systems of Divinity," as drawn up by men, Mr. Payson seems to have felt but little reverence. It was not his habit to decry them as useless; but he regarded them with a watchful jealousy, and felt it unsafe to trust to them, as his practice evidently demonstrates. He found
a more excellent way" to the knowledge of his Master's will, by consulting directly "the law and the testimony." Thus to honor the "lively oracles" is the wisest and safest course for every man; for to embrace a system, with the intention of retaining or rejecting it, either wholly or in part, as it shall afterwards be found to agree, or not, with scripture, is to incur the hazard of perpetuating error-since a man's theory is more likely to modify his views of the scriptures, than the scriptures are to correct the mistakes of his theory. This every one may have ob