Jane Attwater Diary: Selections from 1774

[Wednesday] 30 March 1774

[...] O for sanctifying grace give me O thou my maker to know that its by creation so by regenerating grace that thou art my father & God I find ye more I know of my self great cause for humiliation how apt am I tho’ a vile atom of sinful dust ashes to be puft up with various fancys how prone is my degenerate heart to lull itself in a stupid ease not searching diligently into ye inmost reaches of my Soul […]

[Sunday] 17 April 1774

At Sarum heard Mr Philips pch from Psalm 48 & last verse mostly from ye latter part of ye verse viz he will be our guide even unto Death. This sermon appeared to be rather unstudied & not so beneficial to me as most of my hond friends has been partly I believe owing to my self & partly to ye rambling manner many were ye good sentences that proceeded from him but these my deceitful heart cannot retain deliver me O God from a supine lethargic state rouse me from a death in sin & suffer me not to decieve myself in laying faults to others wch could I but be convinced of ye truth I should see was chiefly in myself – this week have read in doctor Gills Expositions but how little do I remember of any thing that is worth retaining how infatuated is my mind taken with vanity in it nor have I resolution enough to strive against any temptation as I ought Ignorance Indolence & Stupidity seems at present to darken my mind. How in ye days of Youth in ye Time for improvement yet how do I was those Golden hours. My sins how great their sum Lord give me pardon for ye past & strength for days to come. May I be blessd with wisdom to know how to act as I ought in thee & above all may I be made wise unto Salvation this I trust is my sincere desire.

[Saturday] 4 June 1774

[...] I have the past week read Mr Wallins treatise on ye Folly of Neglecting Divine Institutions I know not where I am worthy to be called one of those to whom he more particularly adresses himself though I may in one sense of ye word yet I find my heart to be as bad as ye worst of mankind it is deceitful about all things & desperately wicked yet I cannot be sufficiently humbled under a sense of it one of ye objections wch he mentions so truely mine wch is an “unsuitable Frame for Spritual service” (he says) “& is this thy complaint & art thou promiseing ready submission on a change for ye better what warrant has thou for delaying thy duty because of thy Frame hath Jesus required ye frame thou art seeking or are his people alowed to postpone their obedience? there is no reason to look for ye desired change in ye omission of means will a man refrain fm ye fire because he is cold? No less absurd is ye conduct of him who abstains fm gospel appointments wch are designed to quicken ye believer & to increase his Faith because his frame is but low there yield up this plea or it is highly probable thou wilt never obey thy Redeemer” – this have been my Objection when attending ye preaching of ye word of God or wn I have staid as a spectator at ye ordinance I have been shockd at my own Stupidity deadness & inatentiveness the thought of being in such a frame as I often I may add most times have been in when viewing ye partaking of yt solemn ordinance have (especialy of late) greatly shock’d me tis certain to perform any Duty in a wrong way is very sinful but this appears still more heinous as a solemn mockery of ye great Lord of Lords – but for incouragment has not God in his word said my grace shall be sufficient for thee[xviii] this promise I am confident will be fulfilld but my grand inquiry is am I indeed a partaker of the Grace of God. If I could from good Evidences have a hope yt I realy was I think I think I should be in no fear but what this would be made good even to me but I am often ready to fear I am not. [...] Many of my Objections I believe to be ye suggestions of Satan to deter me from what appears to be plainly my Duty were I a fit subject but I am at a loss to know how to determine between ye suggestions of ye wicked one & what my conscience tells me are real objections may ye Blessed spirit of God direct me to an Impartial Enquiry what I am for what I live what is my End and aim what are my hopes as to futurity & on what they are founded may I imbrace all ye truths of ye Gospel for in ym is Eternal life. May I never be left after all to myself or to resist ye holy spirit but may I have power given me to follow its dictates & may I be lead in ye path of true Holiness having ye vital power of Religion reigning in my heart [...]

[Sunday] 19 June 1774

[...] I resolved in my own mind always first to apply to my Bible which I hope I believe to be ye word of God – & then if I have a mind to see others opinions on those objects to afterwards apply to ym but first may ye word of God be my constant & never failing resource to fly unto for in yt are ye words of eternal Life […] I view myself highly favourd indeed unspeakable are ye mercies I receive I have every temporal blessing in possession now while my powers & passions are in their full strength while Youth & all its vigour animates this frame. O be those hours devoted to ye noblest purposes now O my Soul exert thy every power in the Service of thy God. [...]

[Sunday] 24 July 1774

[After reading Jonathan Edwards’s On the Religious Affections,[xix] she writes] ... it’s a very searching author nicely distinguishing between error & truth may it be attended with a blessing to me to make me more diligent in examining every Spring of my Actions to search ye bottom of my heart to see ye various evils there is there. [...]

[Wednesday] 21 September 1774 [at Bradford]

At ye Methodist room heard Mr John Westly in ye Eve – pch from ye 2nd of Cors 6 Chapr & 1st verse [...] [he] spoke of justifying Grace said yt this had been unknown to him till about 3 years yt is whether converting grace or justifying grace was first but on reading Mr Haliburtons dissertation on yt Subject he was yn convincd yt sinners are born again first they are born again or converted & justified in a moment yn said is this all no there is also sanctifying grace this enables to go on to perfection yn spoke of yt yn said yt first we are to obey ye dictates of preventive grace – we are not to resist ye holy Spirit in conviction we are to accept of justification thro’ Jesus Christ as he is “behold ye lamb yt was slain” to take away all sin he died to save all men went on in ye general terms said that God never decreed yt a soul should be miserable exhorted to go to perfection to follow ye Apostles doctrine of growing to ye perfect nature of Christ or something to yt purpose under justification said we should bid adieu to all doubt &c fears for then the suggestions of ye devil & of ye evil Spirits wch goes about seeking whom they may devour on ye whole I thought he spoke many good things but in my humble opinion many of his Sentiments could not be agreeable to Scripture – [...]

[Tuesday] 27 September 1774

Monday morn hd three women speak at ye Quaker meeting house it was a quarterly meeting with ym the first exhorted to be quiet peaceable & ye 2nd chiefly of ye Light within said yt it as our duty to diligently attend to ye one thing & yt one thing our blessed Lord assures us is to be born again our desire should be to obtain ye evidences of ye regenerative work of ye Spirit being begun on ye Soul or this we must have from within lamented much yt ye power of religion did not prevail no more among all denominations spoke in a candid pretty manner exhorted us to remember ye lilies of ye valley &c from wch she took opportunity to shew ye absurdity of being over anxious about ye things of this Life & bid us to remember ye command of Christ seek first ye kingdom &c yn said does any see their insufficiency &c they have a promise yt those yt hunger after Righteousness shall be filled &c ye last yt spoke said for ye most part ye purport of wt ye 2nd had done only in a far more concise manner & concluded with for without holiness no man &c ye 2nd yt spoke yn concluded in prayer.

[Sunday] 2 October 1774 [at Bradford]

[The minister] spoke very justly of ye judgments of God wch seem abroad in ye Earth – of the unseasonable rains yt we now have in wch we may evidently see ye displeasure of God & this calls for deep humiliation & repentance before God & should be laid to heart by us all […] I am born for Eternity to Glorify God to ye end of my creation & shall I spend yt Life wch was given me for such noble ends in what is unworthy of an immortal being forbid it O almighty power Let thy Grace renew my soul & do thou indue me with power from on high to use & improve every one of thy favours as becometh a reasonable being a candidate for Eternity – Let me not lie in this “poor dying state” but invigorate all my powers to serve obey love & adore thee ye author of my being make me thy willing & obedient Servant – may I if I am permitted to injoy another means of Grace be better fitted for it suffer it not to be in vain to my soul suffer it not to rise in judgment against me at ye last day may it be a savour of Life unto Life & not of death unto death.

[Sunday] 23 October 1774 [at Bratton]

[Hugh Evans of Bristol preaches and performs a baptism] [...] on seeing this ordinance performed once I saw it before it then appeard as a duty incumbent on those who thought it so but how does it now appear am I more fit to be found in ye performance yn I then was I am ready to fear & with too much justice yt I am like ye door on its hinges going from one priviledge & advantage to another & still receiving little or no benefit if I am ready to fear my heart grows harder & harder & may I not fear yt ere long it will be said to me Let those yt persist in their wickedness be wicked still do I not resist ye convictions which I have & reject ye counsel & commands of God or am I still one of ye unbelieving race I hope I can say Lord I believe help thou my unbelief – do I not sometimes see some thing of my own vileness & weakness of ye need of a better righteousness yn my own do I not see yt Jesus is ye alone the Almighty Saviour the only refuge for to fly unto do not I desire an Interest in him more yn all the things this world can afford – do I not desire to be in all things more conformable to his will & to have his Image impressed on my soul with averse of wt is my duty & inable me to perform & be found obedient to all thy just commands.

[Sunday] 30 October 1774 [at Bratton]

[Her sister Marianna Head is] [...] very ill wanted much to go & see her my will was very much bent on going I hope I desired to be directed by an allwise power & to have my mind brot to acquiesce with the will of God in ye morning I was rather inclined to stay. I cant look at this circumstance as something very peculiar I am now anxious for my dear mother & sister Head I hope I desire to cheerfully confide in that almighty goodness wch has hitherto preservd my dear Friends & my unworthy self how changing in the mind one time we wish wt perhaps ye next day we dread so I wishd to go home but soon after it appeared impracticable – Now through a kind & indulgent providence I have ye happiness to hear my dear sister Waters is better my mama & all friends well my dear Maria wonderfully preserved through a long & painful labour. Blessed by God that she is spard & tho ye tender plant is cut off yet her yt bore it is I trust in mercy spared ’twas a lovely Infant perfect & well formd child O may the great disposer of Events sanctify this awful providence to us all may we by it learn righteousness Lead us to see ye great evil of sin ye procuring cause of sorrow & to deep humiliation & repentance & may ye kind dispensation of providence in preserving my dear sister excite a cheerful confidence in God for a continuance of every needful mercy & love gratitude & praise in ye Beauty of holiness may these dispensations of providence be sanctified to us all not be forgot but wise improved to ye glory of God & for ye good of our immortal souls [...]

[Sunday] 6 November 1774 [at Bradford]

[...] I have lately distributed many papers among the poor it is admonitions against Sabbath breaking drunkenness & swearing they met with a very good reception I hope I know something of Philanthropy. If I know anything of my own heart my desire is yt God may be glorified & souls soberingly enlightened & brot home to Christ be led to see ye Evil of their ways turn’d from sin & Satan and be brot to a true knowledge of God & Salvation by Jesus Christ that they may be christians & walk worthy of yt name. I am now happy in wishing ye good of all my fellow creatures O that a spirit of universal Love & Charity may always dwell in me may I ever be solicitous for the Eternal welfare of my fellow mortals be a humble Instrument in ye hand of God to promote ye good of many O that I may devote my all unto him who gave my all to me & to whom my all is unquestionably due.

[Thursday] 27 November 1774

[After reading Elizabeth Singer Rowe’s Devout Exercises of the Mind][xxvii] [...] O how dead how cold are all my affections to hers wn shall my heart be thus filld with ye Love of God & his ways. Strange yt so much deadness & stupefaction should still remain I am often ready to say to my self thou has neither pt nor lot in this matter for thy heart is not right with God – was I once possessed of ye grace of God in truth I think ye work of sanctification would appear in me but I can perceive no change my evil powers & passions seem still to reign & I can most feelingly say that wn I say feeble wishes tho’ tis too seldom yt they thus arise but wn I wish to do good evil is present with me whilst I daily feel such a backwardness to good such a mercenary principle prevailing in me I cannot hope I am one of those who are born again & if not how dreadful is my case knowing yt then I cannot enter ye kingdom of heaven in an unregenerate state …”