By experience, I am well acquainted with Satan’s intention in employing so many of his servants to invent and propagate those pestilential errors, whether in speculation or practice, that have, in all ages, corrupted and deviated from the pure and powerful doctrine of the gospel; for they lead to forgetfulness of God, and security in sin, and are deadly poison to every soul that drinks of them, unless a miracle of grace prevents it.
Such, on the one hand, are all the superstitious doctrines of popery: purgatory, penances, absolutions, indulgences, merits of good works, and the acceptability of will-worship and uncommanded observances. What are these but engines of the devil to keep men quiet in their sins? Man, resolved to follow the dictates of his depraved inclination, and, not bound in his pursuits and enjoyments by the limits of God’s holy law, catches at anything to soften the horrible thought of eternal misery. This is the awakening reflection, God’s sword in the conscience, which it is Satan’s business, by all his diabolical tricks, to endeavor to sheath, blunt, or turn aside; knowing that while this alarming thought is present to the soul, he can never maintain possession of it in peace.
By such inventions, then, as these, he takes care to furnish the sinner with what he seeks, to enable him to walk according to the course of this wicked world and the desires of depraved nature, without being disturbed by such dreadful thoughts. The same, on the other hand, is the tendency of all those speculations of reasoning men, which set God’s attributes to contradict each other; which represent the Supreme Governor as so weakly merciful, that he regards neither the demands of his justice, the glory of his holiness, the truth of his Word, nor the peaceable order and subordination of the universe; which explains away all the mysteries of the gospel, and represents sin, that fruitful root of evil, that enemy of God, that favorite of Satan, as a very little thing, scarcely noticed by the Almighty, and which, contrary to the Scriptures and universal experience and observation, would persuade us that man is not a depraved creature.
To these latter sentiments, I agreed, and maintained them as long as I could; and I did it most certainly because they soothed my conscience, freed me from the intolerable fears of damnation, and enabled me to think favorably of myself. For these reasons alone, I loved and chose this ground: I fixed myself on it, and there fortified myself by all the arguments and reasons I could find. These things I wished to believe; and I had my wish: for, at length, I most confidently believe in them. Being taken captive in this snare of Satan, I should here have perished with a lie in my right hand, had not the Lord, whom I dishonored, snatched me as a brand from the burning!
In this awful state of mind, I attempted to obtain admission into Holy Orders! Wrapped up in the proud notion of the dignity of human nature, I lost sight of the evil of sin, and thought little of my own sinfulness. I was filled with a self-important opinion of my own worth, and the depth of my understanding, and had adopted a system of religion accommodated to that foolish pride; having almost wholly discarded mysteries from my creed, and regarded with supreme contempt those who believed them.
As far as I understand such controversies, I was nearly a Socinian and Pelagian, and wholly an Arminian: yet, to my shame may it be said, I sought to obtain an acceptance. Possibly some readers may not fully understand the importance of these terms: and, for their benefit, I would observe that the Socinians consider Christ as a mere man, and his death merely as an example of patience, and a confirmation of his doctrine, and not as a real atonement satisfactory to divine justice for man’s sins. They deny the Deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, and will not admit that all Christians experience his renewing, sanctifying, and comforting influences; and they generally reject the doctrine of eternal punishment.
The Pelagians deny original sin, and explain away the scriptural history mission into the ministry, in a church whose doctrines are diametrically opposed to all three; without once concerning myself about those barriers which the wisdom of our forefathers has placed around her, purposely to prevent the intrusion of such dangerous heretics as I then was.
While I was preparing for this solemn office, I lived as before in known sin, and in utter neglect of prayer; my whole preparation consisting of nothing else than an attention to those studies which were more immediately requisite for a good pass in the previous examination.
Thus, with a heart full of pride and wickedness, my life polluted with many unrepented and unforsaken sins, without one cry for mercy, one prayer for direction or assistance, or a blessing upon what I was about to do; after having concealed my real feelings under a mask of general expressions. After having subscribed to articles directly contrary to what I believed; and after having blasphemously declared, in the presence of God and of the congregation, in a most solemn manner, sealing it with the Lord’s Supper, that I judged myself to be “inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit to take that office upon me” (not knowing or believing that there was a Holy Spirit!).
On Sept. 20th, 1772, I was ordained a Deacon. Forever blessed be the God of all long-suffering and mercy, who had patience with such a rebel and blasphemer; such an irreverent trifler with his Majesty; and such a presumptuous intruder into his sacred ministry! I never think of this daring wickedness without being filled with amazement that I am out of hell; without admiring that gracious God, who permitted such an atrocious sinner to live, yes, to serve him, and with acceptance, I trust, to call him Father; and as his minister to speak in his name.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” (Psalm 103:1-4)
May I love, and very humbly and devoutly serve that God, who has multiplied his mercies in abundantly pardoning my complicated provocation!
Thomas Scott (1747–1821) was an influential preacher and author who is principally known for his best-selling work “A Commentary On The Whole Bible” and “The Force of Truth” and as one of the founders Scott was, with Newton, and its first Secretary. of the Church Missionary Society. However, in 1772, Scott became ordained as an Anglican priest at the age of 25. As he afterwards admitted, he went into the ministry for a comfortable career, and did not believe in most of the doctrine he was required to preach. Scott began a friendship and correspondence with the hymn writer John Newton who was curate of neighboring Olney. This instigated the examination of his conscience and study of the scriptures that were to convert him into an evangelical Christian, a conversion he related in his spiritual autobiography The Force of Truth published in 1779. This excerpt comes from his book “The Force of Truth.”