[A Correspondence between Archippus, a Minister of the Gospel, and Epaphras, a young man who had been one of his hearers.]
[Epaphras to Archippus]
My dear Sir,
For several years past, you know, I have sat under your ministry. Having lately been removed by providence beyond the reach of it, many things, which made but little impression upon my mind at the time, have been called to remembrance. My heart often sinks at the thought of the non-improvement of my former mercies, and trembles lest those solemn warnings and tender expostulations which I have heard from you should, on a future day, bear witness against me.
You have more than once talked to me on the concerns of my soul; but I could never be free to answer you. Indeed I did not like to hear of the subject. It always struck a damp upon my spirits, and rendered your company, which otherwise was very agreeable, a burden. But now, seldom seeing your face, I feel a wish to open my mind to you; and the rather because the salvation of my soul has of late concerned me more than at any former period.
Though you were well acquainted with my person, you knew but little of my character, or of the things which were at work in my mind. I have been guilty of many evils from my youth. I have also been the subject of occasional convictions; and strange thoughts have passed my mind concerning religion. When about twelve years of age, the death of several persons around me impressed my mind with solemn reflections about my own future state. I conceived of God as an almighty Being; but had no just ideas of his moral character. It appeared to me that, being stronger than we, his will must be our law. I saw no justness or fitness in its being so; but, as we were unable to dispute with him, it must be so. I entertained many hard thoughts of his government, on the ground of our first parent being constituted the head of his posterity, and of the consequence of his sin as affecting us. Sometimes I wished I had never been born; but then again it would recur to me, born I am, and die I must, and after death is a judgment! At other times, my thoughts would turn to the only hope set before us, the salvation of Jesus Christ. I conceived of him, however, as coming into the world, not to satisfy the injured justice of God, but to make us amends for the injury we had received from Adam’s transgression, and to give us, as it were, another chance for our life. I thought God must know that he had dealt hardly with us; and, therefore, was constrained by equity to do as he did, in giving his Son to die for us; and that, if he had not done this, we should have had just cause for complaint, whatever we might have as it was.
I read in the Scriptures of the necessity of repentance and conversion; and many thoughts passed through my mind on this subject; but I generally postponed a serious attention to it to some future day. I formed resolutions of amendment, and fixed times when I would return to God by repentance; but as the former seldom proved to be of any account in the hour of temptation, so the latter passed over, and left me where I was. About this time I fell into company, which often drew me into a breach of the sabbath. During the summer season we used to walk in the fields, to the neglect of public worship. I could not do this, however, without its being followed by keen remorse. Such was the bitterness of my soul on one of these occasions, that I invoked the curse of the Almighty upon myself, and wrote it upon the walls of a building near the outside of the town, if I passed that building any more on the sabbath day, to the neglect of his worship.
I now began to think myself a little better; but still suspected I was not right at heart. The words of Christ to Nicodemus would in a manner strike me dead, “Ye must be born again!” The ideas which I formed of the new birth, as nearly as I can remember, were, that I must be in some very deep distress, next to despair; and in that state of mind a voice from heaven, or something like it, was to set me at liberty. I used to go alone into the fields in an evening, and there weep over my condition, and pray that I might be converted; but it always seemed to me that God would not hear me. At length I began to despair. I thought I never should be converted, and so must perish for ever. Sometimes I thought of giving up all concern about it, and enjoying the pleasures of life while I could; but as I knew not how to shake off my uneasiness, I thought I would try another year, and wait and pray … peradventure by that I might be converted.
During this year I was often beset with thoughts like these—Perhaps, after all, there is nothing in religion; perhaps the Bible is nothing more than the invention of some great man, to keep the world in order; perhaps the Mahomedans have as good ground to believe in the Alcoran as we have in the Scriptures; perhaps there is no hereafter; perhaps there is no God.—My heart, I believe, would willingly have received these principles, shocking as they are; but my conscience would not suffer me do it. I even took pains to convince myself of their falsehood, by walking out into the fields in a star-light evening, viewing the heavens, and inferring thence the being of a God; which, when admitted, the reality of religion followed as a necessary consequence.
About this time I read “Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted.” He said, “There were some who thought themselves converted, but were not so; and others who thought they were not converted, but were so.” I overlooked the alarming part of the treatise, and caught hold of this, gathering from it some sort of hope that the latter might possibly be my case. My year was now expired; and though I had a few hopes, I felt no ground for any satisfactory conclusion. I thought I must be better than I was; yet how to make myself so I knew not.
But my sheet is full; I therefore at present subscribe myself yours with much respect,
Excerpt from: “The Great Question Answered,” in Miscellaneous Tracts, Essays, and Letters.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 549–551). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.