The Experience of Mrs. A.B. Arminian Magazine XII (1789): 414-417, 463-466.
The Experience of Mrs. A.B.
I was born of Popish parents in an Island of Lough E——-. God began very early to work upon my mind by his Spirit; for when I was about six years old I enquired of my mother how we should get to heaven?
When I was near eight years old, there came an old Protestant woman to lodge at my father’s house, who was sick and infirm. Mr. S. a Clergyman, came to visit her, and told her, except she was converted and born again, she could not go to heaven. Her conviction then began, and at length terminated in a sound conversion. Partly from hearing what the Clergyman said, and partly from conversing with, and asking the old woman questions, I began to see my lost estate; and would pray no other prayers but such as I heard her use. Among other things she warned me of the danger of trusting in
purgatory, and praying to saints and angels: and affirmed that she knew all her sins were forgiven. This made such a deep impression on my mind, that I resolved not to rest until I knew mine were forgiven also; which I experienced, glory be to God! about half a year after the old woman’s death. A little before she died, she lost her daughter, who attended her; and when my mother asked her what she would do now, seeing her daughter was gone? She answered, “Before this day fortnight I shall be in my Saviour’s arms!” accordingly nine days after she departed.
My distress was now so very great, that I wandered in the woods. I did not communicate my feelings to any person, nor had I indeed any one to whom I could open my mind, or who could be of use to me. At length, one day as I was wrestling in prayer in a wood, I found a measure of that rest which I sought: I found love and joy in my heart, and retained a degree of it till I was fifteen years of age.
When I was fifteen, my mother said it was time for me to go under the care of the Priest. I had the greatest aversion to this; but, as she insisted on it, to obey her I went to mass, contrary to my conscience. The very moment I bowed before the altar, I lost my confidence, my joy, and my peace; and imagined I saw hell moved from beneath to meet me. I then fell into despair, thinking I had sinned against the Holy Ghost, having sinned against light and knowledge. I ran back immediately from the mass, and threw my beads to my mother, saying I would never cary them again. She replied, I was mad; and many others besides her told me I never could go to heaven, except I got absolution from the Priest, and went through the fire of purgatory.
My state now was horrible. I often attempted to put an end to my life: and one day as I went forward to leap into a deep pool in my father’s ground, I saw many living things creeping on the bottom; at which I started back, with this reflection, “Now if there be a God, he will punish me, and the devils will
be, in this manner, crawling on my soul to all eternity!” Shortly after this my friends carried me to the priest, and afterwards to the Bishop. To these I told my distress. The Priest said that when these melancholy notions were out of my head, all would be well. He desired me to take pleasure in the world, to keep jovial company, and to be sure to dance a great deal! and added, “a shilling to the Priest, and a few days in purgatory would do away all!” The Bishop spoke much to the same purport, and anointed me with his oil, and having done so he threw the tow, which he used in anointing me, into the fire saying, “The witchcraft is all over!” But I never found myself worse; for I soon lost all my religion, and fell into great wickedness, and sinned with a high hand. I was often brought by reasoning, to doubt of the existence of a God. At other times I wished there was none.
After this manner I went on till I was twenty-one years of age; at which time I heard Mr. J. P. a Methodist Preacher. I now believed there was a God; and a gleam of hope sprung up that it was possible I might be saved; on which I found power to pray. My distress was deepened; and on my return to my friends, they were about to send again for the Priest. I told them it was too late, and that he need not come to me, except it was that I might tell him of his lost and undone estate. I continued near a year in conviction, and in deep distress, when God broke in once more upon me, and set my soul at liberty; giving me an assurance of his having healed my backslidings, and loving me freely for the sake of his Son.
For two years or upwards I continued to enjoy the constant light of his countenance, and my soul was without a cloud; though I met with the severest persecution and trials of every kind. I now resolved to read my recantation of the church of Rome. The Priest hearing this sent me word that he would make hawk’s meat of me, and that he would even tear me out of the church. I returned for answer, that God was above him; that the laws of England we it very strong: and that
through divine grace I would settle him, and not only him, but his grand Vizier, the Pope. I then applied to the Rector of the parish to receive me; who, after examining me concerning my purpose, and my telling him that I was born of God, and that I knew my sins were pardoned, cried out “alas! alas! the poor widow’s daughter is gone mad: go home, my girl, to your mother.” I told him I would apply to another Clergyman, which I did soon after, who received me kindly, approved of my resolution, and, after giving me proper directions, and promising me his protection, in case of persecution, wrote to my own parish Minister to admit me.
After my conversion to God, my friends took many methods to turn me aside from the right way. They had agreed to marry me by force, and did not even acquaint me
with it. They had fixed the wedding-day, and determined to carry me away forcibly from the house where I lodged. This their intention was made known to me by my sister on that very day. I fled that day and the next seventeen miles, and the day following caught a fever. When the people at whose house I was, knew it, they would not suffer me to stay; so I was obliged to return immediately back to my mother, who, with my other friends, insisted upon my complying with their desires, or they would not keep me. I chose to leave them again, and was permitted by a poor man to lie in his cabin, during my illness; where, with scarce any attendance, or the necessary sustenance, I recovered.
Among those who attacked me on my return to my mother’s house was, my old parish priest, who said all the heretics were going to hell, and that none could be saved out of their church; (meaning the church of Rome.) I asked him if he would receive me again? and when he answered he would, I replied, “So would your father the devil; but neither of you shall get me.” After this I wandered from place to place, endeavouring to get a livelihood by working, or knitting; but my health began to decline much by the persecution and various kinds of hardship I went through. At length that shining ornament of the church, Mrs. Johnston of Lisleen hearing of me sent for me and treated me as a sister indeed, with whom I lived for the most part of three years in the closest union.
After this I went through various trials. One day when my heart was in deep distress, I fell fast asleep, reclined on a chair, and dreamed I saw an angel of God with a drawn sword in his hand standing as a sentinel by my side. Some years before this I thought I was closely pursued by the devil, who followed me to a river and said he would have me. I told him he should not, until he could do what he saw me doing, viz. wade up the river in the name of the Lord, which I did, and so made my escape.
I continued some years thus a poor lonely pilgrim. Proposals of marriage were made to me by one which I rejected. At length, in answer to many earned prayers, my God favoured me with the man that I loved above any other. We were married just ten years after my departure from my relations, and had only one halfpenny the first journey we took after our union. Soon after, my husband, when alone on the road, believed that the ever blessed Spirit of God said, or whispered to his heart, “You have taken a poor child of mine, and I will pay her fortune.” The truth of this we have proved from time to time ever since.
I have gone through honour and dishonour, poverty and plenty, sickness and health; sin, sorrow, the strife of tongues, &c. &c. Yet in all I have a faithful, loving, patient, powerful, compassionate friend, who is with me always; and, if I do not wickedly depart from him, he will not forsake me.
When in W—– we had divisions, strife, and warm contentions. But some of the people loved me well: may the good Lord freely forgive all who injured me; and may he give us as much love to our mistaken brethren, as Jesus manifested for us on Calvary!
At B—– I found such friendship from Mr. M’s family and others (whose names are in the book of life) that none, except the followers of Jesus can manifest: and surely I have cause, above many others, to glorify our all loving Saviour.
Some years ago Dr. C. cut a cancer out of my breast. Last summer I had a return of it under my left arm. Some weeks before Conference my husband mentioned my severe distress to W. G. with whom he slept, who willingly joined him in prayer for my recovery; and one night, when they were in Dublin, I lay down as peaceful as usual; sleep sealed my “frail eyelids,” and in the morning my pain was gone.
The heat of my natural temper, and my burning zeal for the glory of God, have constrained me to speak to sinners in a
manner not altogether so full of meekness as I could desire : yet I hope I do not often hurt either myself or weak brethren by plain dealing. However I hope through grace to hold fast the faith delivered unto the saints, and continue doing and suffering the “good and acceptable will of God,” until the last enemy is overcome: and until we, who have so many joyful meetings, and sorrowful partings on earth, shall overtake our Father’s children amongst the “spirits of just men made perfect.”