Jane Attwater Diary: Selections from 1773
[Sunday] 14 March 1773
If I am not fit to join ye Society on Earth how much less shall I be to join ye Society above of ye saints & just made perfect Deliver me O my God from this supine lethargic state Deliver me from this indifference about things wch I am convinced are ye most important & interesting of all others grant me the Influences of thy blessed Spirit to search wither I am indeed a partaker of Faith which is ye Gift of God. If I am not O make haste & not delay to bestow this Gracious Gift upon me if I am give me some Evidences thereof & enable me to join with thy people here in Commemorating the Death of Jesus the Blessed redeemer who may I rejoice in a well grounded hope has loved me & gave himself for me Unworthy Unworthy as I am …”
[Sunday] 21 March 1773
At the sight of another of my fellow mortals being turn’d into a breathless corse a putrid mass of matter food for worms and just going to be consignd to the dust from whence it came my heart felt a shock Nature recoild & a trembling chill ran through my veins but what avails this tremour why this shock at another instance of mortality being presented to my view is it not what I have been already a frequent spectator too is it any more than what is recorded in almost the daily annals of fate surely tis an awful sight tis a confirmation that I too am mortal I soon must sink into deaths cold shade & bid a last a final adieu to all those shining glittering toys which now attract my notice nor do I know how soon the fatal dart may strike the destind blow & my disembodied spirit leave its breathless clay (tho’ now) in vigourous youth in health & ease and take its flight to unknown worlds forever to abide – Am I prepar’d think O my Soul the important business of the present now how much depends on the short bounderies of an hour – here is a numerous assembly perhaps met never to meet on Earth again Death in all probability will summon some of us ere long and we must obey those which are now the most robust & strong may first feel the fatal dart O may I learn the awful note to die improve the present call of providence & prepare to follow should I be the next that shall be called out of time into an awful eternity what are my prospects what is the foundation of my hopes am I a believer in Jesus the alone Saviour am I convincd of my lost an undone estate by nature & practice of the exceeding sinfulness there is in sin, of my utter unworthyness & inability to save myself of the absolute need there is of Jesus Christ for to reconcile me to an offended God to justify me in his Righteousness before him & to sanctify me throughout to regenerate & create me anew after the Spirit – have I a hatred to sin & a love to God & his ways can I hope for acceptance with God through Jesus Christ if my soul was now calld to quit its tott’ring Mansion of Clay important awful Question have I embracd Christ as my Saviour or have I rejected him think O my soul nor trifling stand on so dangerous a precipice impress deeply impress my heart O God with this thought Suffer me not to go on in a course of sin but turn me to thyself and enable me so to live yt I may not be afraid to die. If I could answer in the affirmative that I hope I am interested in Christ the blessed Saviour my fears of death would be dissipated I could then meet natures foe without a horror & welcome the last Messenger as a friend to convey me to blissful mansions of never ending joy such is the happy end of the Righteous they bid adieu to this world with all its flattring honours but how are their prospects made bright through Jesus in him they rejoice in him they triumph and in him is all their hope make it great God my only care for death & heaven to prepare then when my Soul shall quite its clay receive it to immortal day [...]
This month is ye Anniversary of a bad ague which I had when I was brought with it extremely weak Life then appeard to me in its proper light as very short & uncertain in its duration as liable to be put a stop unto by every blast the only business which seemd worth regarding and which is truly the only important business of my life is that to Learn to Die.
[Saturday] 24 April 1773
[After attending the funeral of a seven-year-old boy at nearby Westbury, Attwater writes that] [...] he was the only son of an amiable disposition and the hope of all their joy surely this was an affecting scene O may my heart be brought to see & feel that uncertainty of life the unsatisfying Nature of all transitory good & happiness and fix my hopes & aims on things of an immortal nature seeing neither Youth nor age is exempted from death the poor the rich all tend to this common end. ’Tis but a few days since I attended the funeral solemnity of a person decrepid by age & destitute of the riches & honours of this vain pinching world to whom life seemd rather a burden then an injoyment but how different is this to the present awful & melancholly dispensation heres one cut off in the vigour of youth a tender plant nipd in its early bud before the flower bloomd it witherd & shrunk into its native dust all the promising prospects of Youth are once blasted by death in vain did wealth pour her lavish bounty at thy feet honour crown thee with her trophies all all in vain no skill no power beneath divine could evade the direful stroke the fond parents pour their tears and prayers oer the little ingaging of their heart but ah in vain Omnipotence has decreed that time shall be no longer to the lovely babe doubtless for wise ends have this awful dispensation been sent to the weeping friends who with keenest anguish took the last farewell of their earthly comfort & joy […]
[Sunday] 9 May 1773 [at Bratton]
Mr Sutcliff pch fm John ye 12 35 & 36 1st made some observations on following Christ 2nd shewd in what respects we should view & take Christ for our Example 3ly the Maner how we should follow Christ 4thly what Christ says to his followers promises them that where he is they shall be also – then 2 inferences – Under ye 1st head said that we could not do this to perfection it would be very desireable to be perfectly holy but perfection is what we cannot attain unto in this depravd state &c &c – under 2nd head said that ye first thing we should follow [is] Christ in his holiness 2ly his zeal 3ly his indifferency to all sublunary things 4thly his patience under troubles & distresses & resignation to the will of his father 5thly in his humility 6thly in his love to God ye father & in his love to his Disciples & 7thly in his unweary’d labours to do good he went about doing good continually –Under the 3rd head said that we ought to follow Christ in a fervent earnest maner in a diligent & steadfast maner under ye 4th head said that it is impossible to express the pleasure & happiness that is promisd to those his followers in his presence there is fulness of joy & at his right hand there are pleasures forever more they shall sit down with him in his throne there shall be no more sin & great is the honour belonging to such as are followers of Christ & those that are not his folowers here shall not enjoy his presence hereafter. In ye afternoon Mr Sutcliff pch fm Hebrews ye 4th &9th verse [...]
[Sunday] 1 August 1773
Make me a partaker of this Faith O God its thou who first spoke me into being & tis thou alone yt can create me anew make a partaker of a true a genuine Faith & inable me to shew forth thy praise in the fruits of Faith inable me to die to sin & live unto thee not only O my God grant me ye remission of my various sins but grant me also the sanctification of all my powers & passions & heart.
[Sunday] 12 September 1773
[Rev. Philips] spoke in particular of indulging ourselfs with more rest or sleep on this day I could not but take this to myself as I lay longer abed then usual this day the strength of ye argument seem’d so very great that I hope I was lastingly convincd of this error tho’ I must own I had always a particular dislike to this custom but I now seem most feelingly convincd of ye evil and absurdity of it & I hope I have determind in ye strength of divine Grace to guard against the Evil and Earnestly wish ye good mans advice in every respect might be remember’d & practis’d by his unworthy hearer – they sung a hymn concerning ye love of Christ to his people at his Death Suffring &c (“Come all harmonious tongues”) my heart I hope felt something of Divine love to ye blessed redeemer O could I know that Christ was my Saviour & rejoice in him as my All Sufficient Righteousness Assist me O my God to lay hold on him as ye only hope set before me & grant me some manifestations of thy love & shew me that I am thine & that none shall ever pluck me out of thy hand could I but hope yt tho’ Satan has desired to sift me & has laid so many various temptations for me yet ye Christ has made intercession for me how should I rejoice in my all sufficient advocate. Seal my claim O God & I am blest wilt thou accept a trembling Sinner through Jesus ye only saviour & grant me the influence of thy blessed Spirit to enable to walk in thy commandment out of pure love to the once dying but now risen & exalted Saviour & O that his dying Love in wch may I have some well grounded hope yt I the unworthyest of all am interested in may a deep sence of the sufferings of the blessed redeemer constrain me to a cheerful obedience to his divine will & a perpetual desire to act agreeable to it may Sin ye bitter cause of all be utterly detested and abhorred by me & may thy strength be always sufficient for me to keep me from falling into any temptation guide me by thy counsel direct by thy good spirit fit me & at last receive me into Glory to join above in ye more exalted lays of worship & praise through an endless Eternity [...]
[Sunday] 14 November 1773
Many things I have forgot for want of taking ye first opportunity to set them down but ye world & its trifling snares is to too apt to draw off my heart & thoughts from my Gracious Donor I too often “Idolize the Boon” renew my heart O God invigorate all my powers to love & serve Thee more fix my heart above those transient scenes of Vanity & lead me to thee the fountain of all good how benum’d how clog’d are all my powers I cannot raise my heart to God but trifles as light as air crowd on my my mind & draw away my Attention my weak endeavours cannot withstand the Lurking wiles of Satan & I find by sad experience my corrupt nature is ready to fall in with every fresh temptation yet notwithstanding my being thus enslaved to sin I cannot say I am one of those who labour and are heavy laden[viii] under it but seems to be in a state of supineness & negligence when I view my sad Estate by nature & by practice the absolute necessity of a Saviour & wn I hear a saviour proclaim salvation by him & that he has purchased life & Eternal Happiness for his followers – When I hear that sin was the cause of all his sufferings and sorrows – & how obnoxious it is in the sight of a just & holy God – […] Yet so insensible so hard is my adamantine heart that I can hear a recital of those important Truths often almost unmoved – or I am destitute of that contrition which one would naturally suppose should fill a heart sensible of the love of Christ I fear as I feel so little sorrow […]
[Sunday] 21 November 1773
[She dines that afternoon at the home of Rev. Philips, who asks her if she did not feel] a great difference myself sometimes having my Soul’s Affections drawn out to God & at other times dull & lifeless – Sinful shame kept me from returning any answer except I said O how I desired to love God & his ways but he said the Question is do you. He told me he had for many weeks past thought of speaking to me about the state of my soul he had singalized me out as one who was on ye enquiry What must I do to be saved & he thought I was not a stranger to ye new birth but was by divine grace inabled to see my own sinfulness & insufficience and ye absolute need there was of my being regenerated – he ask’d me what I thought of Baptism & joining with ye people of God I said I thought it was ye Duty of all those who think themselves worthy of partaking this ordinance he said as to worthyness none of ’em could pretend too it was a common notion yt people must be eminent Christians having knowledge &c &c before they join [to] ye people of God but they are to come into ye church to be taught Mrs P said Mr Lacy before he was baptized he was convinced it was his duty to submit to this ordinance for many years before he did but he thought he must be this yt & ye other before & at last when he was inabled to give himself up to the church he grew in grace in knowledge &c more in one year after yn in seven before so that we are not to wait for self fitness they beg’d me to excuse their freedom in thus talking to me as Mr P said he thought I had ye good work of God begun on my Soul &c if I know any thing of my own heart I took their conversation extremely kind knowing they did it with an Intent to promote my best interest but my foolish proud diffidence made me I fear give them suspicions that the Subject was not agreeable, but I hope I feel gratitude in my heart to those who are solicitous for my spiritual welfare I trust it is my earnest desire that my dear Friend may not think better of me yn I deserve think me something wn I am nothing but may Divine grace inlighten my mind & may I be influenced by the holy spirit to all good works may I have my conversation in the world with Simplicity & godly sincerity not with fleshly Wisdom.
[Sunday] 26 December 1773
[...] And now reflect my Soul another year has run its hasty round this is ye last Sabbath how have improved the numerous priviledges I have injoy’d my priviledges have been great & numerous have I been diligent in using them or has they been as it were thrown away upon like water spilt on ye ground which cannot be gatherd wt have I learnt wt have I done how much have I ran of ye Christian race is my knowledge in Divine things increased or do I know and only know more of my Duty & still persist in neglecting to perform it – am I more convinced of my depravity by Nature my lost & undone Estate by practice the absolute need I have of a Savior, of a better Righteousnesss then my own of my own Insufficiency so much as to think a good thought much to do a good Action am I feelingly convinced of these things of the need & importance of seeking an Interest in the Saviours love I think I can say Lord I hope I believe help thou my unbelief but Oh how faint are all my wishes how cold my affections to God how depraved is my wretched heart O wretched yt I am who shall deliver me fm this body of sin & Death to God alone I know is sufficient for things grant me O God sanctifying as well as saving Grace raise me fm a death in sin to life of Righteousness deliver fm all hypocrisy & make thy Glory my ultimate End – may glorify God in mind & body.
[Friday] 31 December 1773
“Another and Another & ye Last are copies of ye dull defective past” – May I not with too much just propriety adopt those words as peculiarly applicable to me an Infatuated Mortal truely I may does not ye close of every year on reviewing my past misconduct bring with it painful regret & disagreeable Reflection I feel it does I see my folly yet am unable to resist the pursuits of vanity & withstand ye flattering temptations of an Inticeing world this is the last Hour of another period of my appointed time. My Life is running to its hasty round & soon my days on Earth will be ended soon shall those active Limbs this tenement of clay be food for worms and be dissolv’d into its native dust then shall my Life appear like a just Light this little spot of Earth inhabitated by thousands of humane beings will then stand in its proper distance celestial worlds on high will then claim my whole attention and there will my hopes & wishes center thither my soul with inlarged Ideas takes her flight & leaves this state of probation for an everlasting Inheritance. In that best world may I at last arrive & find a full fruition of those hopes wch sometimes feebly animates my soul – Another period of my appointed time is past see the Quick revolving days how hasty has been their flight scarce could I call them mine & straight they were gone forever fled never never to return – and have not time wch still so swiftly flies a voice wch speaks to mortals now be wise – See see how swift my chariot rolls her Car measure my space that’s past thy race how far How far unfinished is that work so immense that work superior to all things of sense – That work commanded by Omnipotence Does not my ever active power convict Thee trifling mortal of thy great neglect – In every ebbing sand thy pulse decrease Thy Life & hours decline & soon shall cease No more to own thee Mortal here below Immortal Life through thy Spirit of Love – “Gracious God what is the Life of Man” how short is time Eternity how long & shall I heedless totter on the brink nor view my danger nor the Gulph beneath which gapes to swallow those who fall Almighty God forbid – give me to catch the Golden moments ere they fly learn well to live & be prepared to die recal my Heart my numerous folies past & let past sins suffice – persist not in the path of ruin wch leads to endless pain to misery & woe O give me strength to live to Thee my preserver my Maker & my God in whom I live I move and have my being – O may I breathe each breath in praise now tune my soul with deepest adoration to my God for all my mercies past O how great how wonderful has been thy mercys unto me through all my Life thy Guardian care was my peculiar lot – Hitherto can I say of a Truth “the Lord has helped me” how many blessings how numerous are the suns which I have shared in the past year my Friends preserved Health restored deliverance surprising Salvations wrought out for them & wn Hope was almost ready to give place to dispair the Kind physician display’d his Almighty power & heald from pain & freed our h[ear]ts from Anxious fear & sorrow all Glory that gave & still preserves my dearest earthly comforts – O how many souls is fled since last I saw the day wch now approaches yet we are spard forbearing mercy & unfathom’d Love may Gratitude sincere now exert all its aid & invigorate my every power to praise adore my bounteous Friend give me a Heart to love and praise thee more O God of Love nor suffer my adamantine heart to be lulled in a stupifaction & insensibility of those numerous blessings detested sin ingratitude thou Horrid vice harbour not within my breast my Love divine diffuse its vital powers through all my soul & constrain my passion to praise obey & love my gracious God.