“The Experience of Elizabeth Scaddan: in a Letter to the Rev. Mr. Wesley.” Feb. 3, 1783
Arminian Magazine April 1791, v. XIV, pgs. 182-188
Rev. and dear Sir,
At your desire, I shall endeavor, though I am at a loss where to begin, to give the recital of that goodness and mercy, which hath followed me all the days of my life, and
which I can trace back to my earliest remembrance. I reflect with pleasure on the kindness manifested toward me by a young lady, who was one of my sponsors, in endeavouring to instill into my tender mind an early sense of my duty to God and my neighbor. Nothing in her power was wanting, in order to effect this, and from her I learned, both by example and principle, that the duties of religion demanded my chief concern. Her endeavours so far succeeded, as to give my mind a religious turn; and before I was ten years old, I felt a concern whenever I thought I had offended God. I had a heart that was gay and volatile, alive to pleasure, and not insensible to the miseries of my fellow-creatures. As I grew in years, I was often led to reflect on the many evils attendant on this state of existence and the hoys that awaited those who patiently continued in well-doing. I often meditated on the glories of heaven, and have been happy in the thought of one day being a partaker of them; though death wore a dreadful aspect, even when I considered him the messenger of my release from a world, where sin and pain abounded, to partake of the happiness of heaven.
I had sometimes a fear, lest I should not be admitted there; but for the most part valued myself on having better principles and morals than the generality of those I conversed with; which quieted my fears of judgement, but did not make me willing to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. In this respect I was subject to bondage, from which nothing but the coming in of a better hope, that what arose from the view of moral rectitude, could diliver me. I remember once while very young, I was ill and wept much lest I should die, and had some fear of not going to heaven, as I saw myself a sinner, and not prepared for that celestial city; but as I soon recovered, these impressions wore off, and gayer reflections took possession of my thoughts. I indulged my disposition for mirth and the enjoyment of the pleasures of the world, so far as I could, practicing what I deemed the duties of religion, when they did not interfere with my worldly delights; nor did I find that bitterness
or satiety in the gratifications of terrestrial things, which many have felt, and which have led to a renunciation of them. I believe this was owing to my not having the least notion that I did wrong, and from my natural disposition, which was not studious of occasions for uneasiness. I have abundant reason to praise God for his restraining grace; for, as touching the moral law, commonly received among men, I was truly conscientious, abhorring prophaneness, or a neglect of social duties.
I had the new whole Duty of Man, given me by the lady before mentioned. I read in this often, and with pleasure observed, that I was not very difficient in the duties contained therein; but felt some degree of distress on finding myself liable to frequent, sudden, and violent anger; and vainly imagined, that could I conquer this, I should be an almost perfect character. I took every means recommended in that book, in order to accomplish this end, and when I have been overcome by this sin, have retired and used the prayer there laid down on this occasion, with many tears and some degree of belief that the Lord would hear and answer my request; for I believed there was a God, and that “He was a rewarder of all who diligently seek him.” I had learnt to apply to him upon every occasion in life, and by prayer and supplication to make my request known to him, by using a form suited to my purpose.
I recollect one act of faith, which respect[e]d a temporal circumstance, in which I was interested. I laid it before the Lord, and intreated his aid, and promised if he would indeed answer my petition, I would record his mercy and sing a psalm of praise to him; and the psalm I fixed on was the hundred and sixteenth. I could see no prospect of deliverance, but by the interposition of Providence: and blessed be his name, I had an evidence that he heareth prayer and I accordingly sung praises to him with a glad heart. After this, I began to delight more in the ways of the Lord, and could prefer them to the
diversions and amusements of the world; yet would not totally renounce these, for fear of being singular.
A woman in your connection frequently talked to me on divine subjects; but for some time it had little effect, as I was much prejudiced against all who bore the name of a Methodist. I used sometimes to call at the preaching room with company, in our return from walking: but thought it no more my duty to attend to what was there delivered, than if I had gone into a Roman Catholic chapel, or to a Jew’s synagogue, nor did I fear even to jest in that place. After being more merry than usual there one evening, on my return home I met with a slight misfortune, which made me think I ought not to have gone to such a place, and I determined to go there no more. I kept this resolution, though often intreated to go there in order to pass a leisure hour, and to make sport of the people there assembled.
On a strict examination of myself, I found I had not power over anger. I lamented this in secret, and begged of the Lord to deliver me from it. Having still an opportunity of conversion with the woman above mentioned, I discovered something in her which I had not attained. I became fond of her conversation, and of reading the scriptures every day. I thought it a matter of importance to know the things belonging to my everlasting peace: and felt a growing delight in inquiries of this nature. I thought I had done wrong in promising not to hear Methodist preaching, and frankly told this woman my thoughts on this head. She convinced me that I was indeed wrong, and that such a promise was better broke than kept. I went again to the preaching room, with an earnest desire of improvement, thought quite ashamed of having this desire known; and I have often put on an air of gaiety, fearing my acquaintance would think I was seriously attending to the word preached, or joining in prayer.
At length the Lord in mercy gave me the hearing ear, and understanding heart; so that about the latter end of the year
1772, I was inquiring the way to Zion, having my face thitherward. The word of God came with power, and I found it to be a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I saw myself obnoxious to divine wrath, and that I had only as it were been “putting a new piece on an old garment,” according to our Lord’s parable; but I now saw the necessity of being formed anew, in order to regain the lost image of my glorious Creator. I could no longer esteem myself, on account of my fancied excellence. The conviction of my lost estate increated daily, though without any fears of hell, which I since wondered at; for, I scarce ever thought of any thing beside how I should be reconciled to God, or admitted into his favour: nor had I just views of the all-sufficiency of my Saviour’s merit.
I dared not to frequent the congregation of the people called Methodists; my friends and relations having taken some means to prevent my so doing, on seeing me more thoughtful than usual. I earnestly applied to God saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Only reveal thy will concerning me, and through thy grace, I am determined to follow thee through evil as well as good report.” It plainly appeared to me, that I ought not to neglect any opportunity of assembling in his name. I felt the work of grace deepening n my soul, till I was enabled to come to God, stripped of every plea but the blood and righteousness of a crucified Saviour. Yet, before I felt the word of reconciliation, or was brought into communion with God, while my spirit was wounded for sin, the burthen of which became intolerable, Satan stirred up my relations to hinder this work in my soul. They thought I should be for ever undone, if they did not prevent my association with the people above mentioned.
Gentle methods were at first taken, in order to prevent my so doing; and they promised I should have as much time allowed me as I desired for worshipping God, if I would give up this people. Tears were joined to intreaties, which melted my
heart, but did not shake my resolution. In vain did I plead that a wrong judgment was the ground of the objections raised against them: that God had owned their meetings, that I believed it my duty to attend them, and that I ought to obey God rather than man. All I could say had no other effect than to incense my friends against me. My mother begged some friends, of whom I had the highest opinion, to remonstrate with me, which they did in the mildest terms. I allowed the weight of their arguments, if conscience did not dictate to the contrary; but when this was the case, I could not be controuled.
They were surprized to find so young a person obstinately persist in what elder and more experienced persons disapproved. I answered, that I was not too young to die, or to give an account for my conduct in this life: and that I ought to use the means which I was convinced were the most conducive to my soul’s good. The displeasure of my family increased, on finding they could not attain the end proposed; and threats were made use of to deter me from proceeding any farther. I was told that I should no longer remain with them; that the would disown me; and accordingly I had only till the next morning to determine what answer to give them. In vain did I urge them to try me for a little longer, that they might see whether any ill consequences attended my being with the Methodists; and shewed the impropriety of casting me out into the world utterly unprovided for. This only enraged them more. My elder sister had some serious impressions, and would like to have gone in the same way with me; but not being convinced of the necessity of it, she did not contend. I was now distressed exceedingly, and thus reasoned with myself, “I am indeed very young, and inexperienced; yet I have set my judgment in opposition to elder and wiser persons.” I was at a loss how to proceed, well knowing that if I went out of the way of duty, I could not expect divine aid. I believed the Lord would not deceive me; I therefore intreated Him to dispose my mind in
the morning to pursue the way in which he would have me to walk; and if I had been wrong, that I might no longer persist. I thus gave myself up to his direction, and felt my mind composed.
In the morning when I aoke, I felt a sense of the divine presence, and clearly saw that I ought not to give up the people I had contended for: all my concern therefore was for my dear relations, who were fighting against God! But how was I surprized to find that the Lord had so wrought upon the mind of one of my family, who was the most bitter of my adversaries, that he was thoroughly convinced of his error, though the night before he determined to shew no lenity towards me. He was now giving thanks to God, who had done such great things for me: and the rest of the family, astonished at such an instantaneous alteration, were reconciled to me also, and never attempted to hinder me afterward; nor was it long ere the Lord made me a joyful partaker of his pardoning love.
Since that time, I have for the most part gone on my way rejoicing, though various have been the snares laid for me, and the temptations and trials I have been exercised with; yet, having obtained the help of God, I continue to this day. Glory be to his name, he has often granted my petitions, and I had the satisfaction of having two of my family as well as some of my intimate friends in the same connection with ,e: and this in a very short time after their being amongst my persecutors.
And now, dear Sir, I have endeavoured to give the relation desired by you; though to be as particular as I might, would take up too much paper, and too much of your time. Excuse what difficiencies you will find in this, and believe me, with the utmost duty and respect, your friend and servant,