Read CHAPTER IV of The Life of Col. James Gardiner Who Was Slain at the Battle of Prestonpans‚ September 21‚ 1745, free online book, by P. Doddridge, on ReadCentral.com.

CHECKS OF CONSCIENCE.

Yet still the checks of conscience, and some remaining principles of so good an education, would break in upon his most licentious hours; and I particularly remember he told me, that when some of his dissolute companions were once congratulating him on his distinguished felicity, a dog happening at that time to come into the room, he could not forbear groaning inwardly, and saying to himself, ‘Oh that I were that dog!’ Such then was his happiness; and such perhaps is that of hundreds more who bear themselves highest in the contempt of religion, and glory in that infamous servitude which they affect to call liberty. But these remonstrances of reason and conscience were in vain; and, in short, he carried things so far in this wretched part of his life, that I am well assured some sober English gentlemen, who made no great pretences to religion, how agreeable soever he might have been to them on other accounts, rather declined than sought his company, as fearing they might have been ensnared and corrupted by it.

Yet I cannot find that in these most abandoned days he was fond of drinking. Indeed, he never had any natural relish for that kind of intemperance, from which he used to think a manly pride might be sufficient to preserve persons of sense and spirit; as by it they give up every thing that distinguishes them from the meanest of their species, or indeed from animals the most below it. So that if ever he fell into any excesses of this kind, it was merely out of complaisance to his company, and that he might not appear stiff and singular. His frank, obliging, and generous temper procured him many friends; and these principles, which rendered him amiable to others, not being under the direction of true wisdom and piety, sometimes made him, in the ways of living he pursued, more uneasy to himself than he might, perhaps, have been, if he could have entirely overcome them; especially as he never was a sceptic in his principles, but still retained a secret apprehension that natural and revealed religion, though he did not much care to think of either, were founded in truth. And, with this conviction, his notorious violations of the most essential precepts of both could not but occasion some secret misgivings of heart. His continual neglect of the great Author of his being, of whose perfections he could not doubt, and to whom he knew himself to be under daily and perpetual obligations, gave him, in some moments of involuntary reflection, inexpressible remorse; and this at times wrought upon him to such a degree, that he resolved he would attempt to pay him some acknowledgments. Accordingly, for a few mornings he did it, repeating in retirement some passages out of the Psalms, and perhaps other scriptures which he still retained in his memory; and owning, in a few strong words, the many mercies and deliverances he had received, and the ill returns he had made for them.

I find, among the other papers transmitted to me, the following verses, which I have heard him repeat, as what had impressed him a good deal in his unconverted state; and as I suppose they did something towards setting him on this effort towards devotion, and might probably furnish a part of these orisons, I hope I need make no apology to my reader for inserting them, especially as I do not recollect that I have seen them any where else.

Attend, my soul! the early birds inspire
My grovelling thoughts with pure celestial fire;
They from their temperate sleep awake, and pay
Their thankful anthems for the new-born day.
See how the tuneful lark is mounted high,
And, poet-like, salutes the eastern sky!
He warbles through the fragrant air his lays,
And seems the beauties of the morn to praise.
But man, more void of gratitude awakes,
And gives no thanks for the sweet rest he takes;
Looks on the glorious sun’s new kindled flame,
Without one thought of Him from whom it came.
The wretch unhallowed does the day begin,
Shakes off his sleep, but shakes not off his sin.

But these strains were too devout to continue long in a heart as yet quite unsanctified; for how readily soever he could repeat such acknowledgments of the Divine power, presence, and goodness, and own his own follies and faults, he was stopped short by the remonstrances of conscience as to the flagrant absurdity of confessing sins he did not desire to forsake, and of pretending to praise God for his mercies, when he did not endeavour to live to his service, and to behave in such a manner as gratitude, if sincere, would plainly dictate. A model of devotion where such sentiments made no part, his good sense could not digest; and the use of such language before a heart-searching God, merely as an hypocritical form, while the sentiments of his soul were contrary to it, justly appeared to him such daring profaneness, that, irregular as the state of his mind was, the thought of it struck him with horror. He therefore determined to make no more attempts of this sort, and was perhaps one of the first who deliberately laid aside prayer from some sense of God’s omniscience, and some natural principle of honour and conscience.

These secret debates with himself and ineffectual efforts would sometimes return; but they were overborne again and again by the force of temptation, and it is no wonder that in consequence of them his heart grew yet harder. Nor was it softened or awakened by some very memorable deliverances which at this time he received. He was in extreme danger by a fall from his horse, as he was riding post I think in the streets of Calais. When going down a hill, the horse threw him over his head, and pitched over him; so that when he rose, the beast lay beyond him, and almost dead. Yet, though he received not the least harm, it made no serious impression on his mind. On his return from England in the packet-boat, if I remember right, but a few weeks after the former accident, a violent storm, that drove them up to Harwich, tossed them from thence for several hours in a dark night on the coast of Holland, and brought them into such extremity, that the captain of the vessel urged him to go to prayers immediately, if he ever intended to do it at all; for he concluded they would in a few minutes be at the bottom of the sea. In this circumstance he did pray, and that very fervently too; and it was very remarkable, that while he was crying to God for deliverance, the wind fell, and quickly after they arrived at Calais. But the major was so little affected with what had befallen him, that when some of his gay friends, on hearing the story, rallied him upon the efficacy of his prayers, he excused himself from the scandal of being thought much in earnest, by saying “that it was at midnight, an hour when his good mother and aunt were asleep, or else he should have left that part of the business to them;” a speech which I should not have mentioned, but as it shows in so lively a view the wretched situation of his mind at that time, though his great deliverance from the power of darkness was then nearly approaching. He recounted these things to me with the greatest humility, as showing how utterly unworthy he was of that miracle of divine grace by which he was quickly after brought to so true and so permanent a sense of religion.