THE LIFE OF COL. JAMES GARDINER,
WHO WAS SLAIN AT THE BATTLE OF PRESTONPANS,
SEPTEMBER 21, 1745.
BY P. DODDRIDGE, D.D.
'Justior alter Nec pietate fuit, nec bello major et armis.'—VIRGIL
I PARENTAGE AND EARLY DAYS.
II BATTLE OF RAMILLIES.
III MILITARY PREFERMENTS.
IV CHECKS OF CONSCIENCE.
V HIS CONVERSION.
VII DOMESTIC RELATIONS.
VIII CONDUCT AS AN OFFICER.
IX INTIMACY WITH THE AUTHOR.
X DEVOTION AND CHARITY.
XI EMBARKS FOR FLANDERS.
XII RETURN TO ENGLAND.
XIII REVIVAL OF RELIGION.
XIV APPREHENSIONS OF DEATH.
XV BATTLE OF PRESTONPANS.
THE COLONEL'S PERSONAL APPEARANCE.
[*Transcriber's Note: At the time of this book, England still followed the Julian calendar (after Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.), and celebrated New Year's Day on March 25th (Annunciation Day). Most Catholic countries accepted the Gregorian calendar (after Pope Gregory XIII) from some time after 1582 (the Catholic countries of France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy in 1582, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland within a year or two, Hungary in 1587, and Scotland in 1600), and celebrated New Year's Day on January 1st. England finally changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This is the reason for the double dates in the early months of the years in this narrative. January 1687 in England would have been January 1688 in Scotland. Only after March 25th was the year the same in the two countries. The Julian calendar was known as 'Old Style', and the Gregorian calendar as 'New Style' (N.S.).
(Thus a letter written from France on e.g. August 4th, 1719 would be dated August 4, N.S.)]
LIFE OF COL. JAMES GARDINER.
PARENTAGE AND EARLY DAYS.
When I promised the public some larger account of the life and character of this illustrious person, than I could conveniently insert in my sermon on the sad occasion of his death, I was secure, that if Providence continued my capacity of writing, I should not wholly disappoint the expectation; for I was furnished with a variety of particulars which appeared to me worthy of general notice, in consequence of that intimate friendship with which he had honoured me during the last six years of his life—a friendship which led him to open his heart to me, in repeated conversations, with an unbounded confidence, (as he then assured me, beyond what he had used with any other man living,) so far as religious experiences were concerned; and I had also received several very valuable letters from him during the time of our absence from each other, which contained most genuine and edifying traces of his Christian character. But I hoped further to learn many valuable particulars from the papers of his own closet, and from his letters to other friends, as well as from what they more circumstantially knew concerning him. I therefore determined to delay the execution of my promise till I could enjoy these advantages for performing it in the most satisfactory manner; nor have I, on the whole, reason to regret that determination.
I shall not trouble the reader with all the causes which concurred to retard these expected assistances for almost a whole year. The chief of them was the tedious languishing illness of his afflicted lady, through whose hands it was proper the papers should pass; together with the confusion into which the rebels had thrown them when they ransacked his seat at Bankton, where most of them were deposited. But having now received such of them as have escaped their rapacious hands, and could conveniently be collected and transmitted, I set myself with the greatest pleasure to perform what I esteem not merely a tribute of gratitude to the memory of my invaluable friend, (though never was the memory of any mortal man more precious and sacred to me,) but of duty to God, and to my fellow-creatures; for I have a most cheerful hope that the narrative I am now to write will, under the divine blessing, be a means of spreading, what of all things in the world, every benevolent heart will most desire to spread, a warm and lively sense of religion.
My own heart has been so much edified and animated by what I have read in the memoirs of persons who have been eminent for wisdom and piety, that I cannot but wish the treasure may be more and more increased; and I would hope the world may gather the like valuable fruits from the life I am now attempting, not only as it will contain very singular circumstances, which may excite general curiosity, but as it comes attended with some other particular advantages.
The reader is here to survey a character of such eminent and various goodness as might demand veneration, and inspire him with a desire of imitating it too, had it appeared in the obscurest rank; but it will surely command some peculiar regard, when viewed in so elevated and important a station, especially as it shone, not in ecclesiastical, but military life, where the temptations are so many, and the prevalence of the contrary character so great, that it may seem no inconsiderable praise and felicity to be free from dissolute vice, and to retain what in most other professions might be esteemed only a mediocrity of virtue. It may surely, with the highest justice, be expected that the title and bravery of Colonel Gardiner will invite many of our officers and soldiers, to whom his name has been long honourable and dear, to peruse this account of him with some peculiar attention; in consequence of which it may be a means of increasing the number, and brightening the character of those who are already adorning their office, their country, and their religion; and of reclaiming those who will see what they ought to be, rather than what they are. On the whole, to the gentlemen of the sword I would particularly offer these memoirs, as theirs by so distinguished a title; yet I am firmly persuaded there are none whose office is so sacred, or whose proficiency in the religious life is so advanced, but they may find something to demand their thankfulness, and to awaken their emulation.
COLONEL JAMES GARDINER was the son of Capt. Patrick Gardiner of the family of Torwoodhead, by Mrs.[*] Mary Hodge of the family of Gladsmuir. The captain, who was master of a handsome estate, served many years in the army of king William and queen Anne, and died abroad with the British forces in Germany, soon after the battle of Hochstett, through the fatigues he underwent in the duties of that celebrated campaign. He had a company in the regiment of foot once commanded by Colonel Hodge, his valiant brother-in-law, who was slain at the head of that regiment (my memorial from Scotland says) at the battle of Steenkirk, which was fought in the year 1692.
[*Transcriber's Note: Mrs. (Mistress), in that age, was the normal style of address for an unmarried daughter from a prominent family, as well as for a married lady.]
Mrs. Gardiner, our colonel's mother, was a lady of very respectable character; but it pleased God to exercise her with very uncommon trials; for she not only lost her husband and her brother in the service of their country, as before related, but also her eldest son, Mr. Robert Gardiner, on the day which completed the 16th year of his age, at the siege of Namur, in 1695. But there is great reason to believe that God blessed these various and heavy afflictions, as the means of forming her to that eminent degree of piety which will render her memory honourable as long as it continues.
Her second son, the worthy person of whom I am now to give a more particular account, was born at Carriden, in Linlithgowshire, on the 10th of January, A.D. 1687-8,—the memorable year of that glorious revolution which he justly esteemed among the happiest of all events; so that when he was slain in defence of those liberties which God then, by so gracious a providence, rescued from utter destruction, i.e. on the 21st of September 1745, he was aged 57 years, 8 months, and 11 days.
The annual return of his birth-day was observed by him in the latter and better years of his life, in a manner very different from what is commonly practised; for, instead of making it a day of festivity, I am told he rather distinguished it as a season of more than ordinary humiliation before God—both in commemoration of those mercies which he received in the first opening of life, and under an affectionate sense, as well of his long alienation from the great Author and support of his being, as of the many imperfections which he lamented in the best of his days and services.
I have not met with many things remarkable concerning the early days of his life, only that his mother took care to instruct him, with great tenderness and affection, in the principles of true Christianity. He was also trained up in humane literature, at the school at Linlithgow, where he made a very considerable progress in the languages. I remember to have heard him quote some passages of the Latin classics very pertinently; though his employment in life, and the various turns which his mind took under different impulses in succeeding years, prevented him from cultivating such studies.
The good effects of his mother's prudent and exemplary care were not so conspicuous as she wished and hoped, in the earlier part of her son's life; yet there is great reason to believe they were not entirely lost. As they were probably the occasion of many convictions which in his younger years were overborne, so I doubt not, that when religious impressions took that strong hold of his heart which they afterwards did, that stock of knowledge which had been so early laid up in his mind, was found of considerable service. And I have heard them make the observation, as an encouragement to parents, and other pious friends, to do their duty, and to hope for those good consequences of it which may not immediately appear.
Could his mother, or a very religious aunt, (of whose good instructions and exhortations I have often heard him speak with pleasure,) have prevailed, he would not have thought of a military life, from which it is no wonder these ladies endeavoured to dissuade him, considering the mournful experience they had of the dangers attending it, and the dear relatives they had lost already by it. But it suited his taste; and the ardour of his spirit, animated by the persuasions of a friend who greatly urged it,[*] was not to be restrained. Nor will the reader wonder that, thus excited and supported, it easily overbore their tender remonstrances, when he knows that this lively youth fought three duels before he attained to the stature of a man; in one of which, when he was but eight years old, he received from a boy much older than himself, a wound in his right cheek, the scar of which was always very apparent. The false sense of honour which instigated him to it, might seem indeed something excusable in those unripened years, and considering the profession of his father, brother, and uncle; but I have often heard him mention this rashness with that regret which the reflection would naturally give to so wise and good a man in the maturity of life. And I have been informed that, after his remarkable conversion, he declined accepting a challenge, with this calm and truly great reply, which, in a man of his experienced bravery, was exceedingly graceful: "I fear sinning, though you know I do not fear fighting."
[*Note: I suppose this to have been Brigadier-General Rue, who had from his childhood a peculiar affection for him.]
BATTLE OF RAMILLIES.
He served first as a cadet, which must have been very early; and then, at fourteen years old, he bore an ensign's commission in a Scotch regiment in the Dutch service, in which he continued till the year 1702, when (if my information be right) he received an ensign's commission from queen Anne, which he bore in the battle of Ramillies, being then in the nineteenth year of his age. In this ever-memorable action he received a wound in his mouth by a musket-ball, which has often been reported to be the occasion of his conversion. That report was a mistaken one; but as some very remarkable circumstances attended this affair, which I have had the pleasure of hearing more than once from his own mouth, I hope my readers will excuse me, if I give him so uncommon a story at large.
Our young officer was of a party in the forlorn hope, and was commanded on what seemed almost a desperate service, to dispossess the French of the church-yard at Ramillies, where a considerable number of them were posted to remarkable advantage. They succeeded much better than was expected; and it may well be supposed that Mr. Gardiner, who had before been in several encounters, and had the view of making his fortune to animate the natural intrepidity of his spirit, was glad of such an opportunity of signalizing himself. Accordingly he had planted his colours on an advanced ground; and while he was calling to his men, (probably in that horrid language which is so peculiar a disgrace to our soldiery, and so absurdly common on such occasions of extreme danger,) he received into his mouth a shot, which, without beating out of any of his teeth, or touching the fore part of his tongue, went through his neck, and came out about an inch and a half on the left side of the vertebrae. Not feeling at first the pain of the stroke, he wondered what was become of the ball, and in the wildness of his surprise began to suspect he had swallowed it; but falling soon after, he traced the passage of it by his finger, when he could discover it in no other way; which I mention as one circumstance, among many which occur, to make it probable that the greater part of those who fall in battle by these instruments of death, feel very little anguish from the most mortal wounds.
This accident happened about five or six in the evening, on the 23d of May, 1706; and the army, pursuing its advantages against the French, without ever regarding the wounded, (which was, it seems, the Duke of Marlborough's constant method,) our young officer lay all night on the field, agitated, as may well be supposed, with a great variety of thoughts. He assured me, that when he reflected upon the circumstance of his wound, that a ball should, as he then conceived it, go through his head without killing him, he thought God had preserved him by a miracle; and therefore assuredly concluded that he should live, abandoned and desperate as his state seemed to be. Yet (which to me appeared very astonishing) he had little thoughts of humbling himself before God, and returning to him after the wanderings of a life so licentiously begun. But, expecting to recover, his mind was taken up with contrivances to secure his gold, of which he had a good deal about him; and he had recourse to a very odd expedient, which proved successful. Expecting to be stripped, he first took out a handful of that clotted gore of which he was frequently obliged to clear his mouth, or he would have been choked; and putting it into his left hand, he took out his money, which I think was about 19 pistoles, and shutting his hand, and besmearing the back part of it with blood, he kept in this position till the blood dried in such a manner that his hand could not easily fall open, though any sudden surprise should happen, in which he might lose the presence of mind which that concealment otherwise would have required.
In the morning the French, who were masters of that spot, though their forces were defeated at some distance, came to plunder the slain; and seeing him to appearance almost expiring, one of them was just applying a sword to his breast, to destroy the little remainder of life, when, in the critical moment, upon which all the extraordinary events of such a life as his afterwards proved, were suspended, a Cordelier who attended the plunderers interposed, (taking him by his dress for a Frenchman) and said, "Do not kill that poor child." Our young soldier heard all that passed, though he was not able to speak one word; and, opening his eyes, made a sign for something to drink. They gave him a sup of some spirituous liquor which happened to be at hand, by which he said he found a more sensible refreshment than he could remember from anything he had tasted either before or since. Then signifying to the friar to lean down his ear to his mouth, he employed the first efforts of his feeble breath in telling him (what, alas! was a contrived falsehood) that he was a nephew to the governor of Huy, a neutral town in the neighbourhood; and that if he could take any method of conveying him thither, he did not doubt but his uncle would liberally reward him. He had indeed a friend at Huy, who I think was governor, and, if I mistake not, had been acquainted with the captain, his father, from whom he expected a kind reception; but the relation was only pretended. On hearing this, they laid him on a sort of hand-barrow, and sent him by a file of musqueteers towards the place; but the men lost their way, and, towards the evening, got into a wood in which they were obliged to continue all night. The poor patient's wound being still undressed, it is not to be wondered at that by this time it raged violently. The anguish of it engaged him earnestly to beg that they would either kill him outright, or leave him there to die without the torture of any further motion; and indeed they were obliged to rest for a considerable time, on account of their own weariness. Thus he spent the second night in the open air, without any thing more than a common bandage to staunch the blood. He has often mentioned it as a most astonishing providence that he did not bleed to death, which, under God, he ascribed to the remarkable coldness of these two nights.
Judging it quite unsafe to attempt carrying him to Huy, from whence they were now several miles distant, his convoy took him early in the morning to a convent in the neighbourhood, where he was hospitably received, and treated with great kindness and tenderness. But the cure of his wound was committed to an ignorant barber-surgeon who lived near the house, the best shift that could then be made, at a time when it may easily be supposed persons of ability in their profession had their hands full of employment. The tent which this artist applied, was almost like a peg driven into the wound; and gentlemen of skill and experience, when they came to hear of the manner in which he was treated, wondered how he could possibly survive such management. But by the blessing of God on these applications, rough as they were, he recovered in a few months. The Lady Abbess, who called him her son, treated him with the affection and care of a mother; and he always declared that every thing which he saw within these walls, was conducted with the strictest decency and decorum. He received a great many devout admonitions from the ladies there, and they would fain have persuaded him to acknowledge what they thought so miraculous a deliverance, by embracing the Catholic faith, as they were pleased to call it. But they could not succeed; for though no religion lay near his heart, yet he had too much of the spirit of a gentleman lightly to change that form of religion which he wore, as it were loose about him; as well as too much good sense to swallow those monstrous absurdities of Popery which immediately presented themselves to him, unacquainted as he was with the niceties of the controversy.
When his liberty was regained by an exchange of prisoners, and his health thoroughly established, he was far from rendering unto the Lord according to that wonderful display of divine mercy which he had experienced. I know very little of the particulars of those wild, thoughtless and wretched years which lay between the 19th and 30th of his life; except that he frequently experienced the divine goodness in renewed instances, particularly in preserving him in several hot military actions, in all which he never received so much as a wound after this, forward as he was in tempting danger; and yet that all these years were spent in an entire alienation from God, and in an eager pursuit of animal pleasure as his supreme good. The series of criminal amours in which he was almost incessantly engaged during this time, must probably have afforded some remarkable adventures and occurrences; but the memory of them has perished. Nor do I think it unworthy of notice here, that amidst all the intimacy of our friendship, and the many hours of cheerful as well as serious converse which we spent together, I never remember to have heard him speak of any of these intrigues, otherwise than in the general with deep and solemn abhorrence. This I the rather mention, as it seemed a most genuine proof of his unfeigned repentance, which I think there is great reason to suspect, when people seem to take a pleasure in relating and describing scenes of vicious indulgence, which they yet profess to have disapproved and forsaken.
Amidst all these pernicious wanderings from the paths of religion, virtue, and happiness, he approved himself so well in his military character, that he was made a lieutenant in that year, viz. 1706; and I am told he was very quickly after promoted to a cornet's commission in Lord Stair's regiment of the Scots Greys, and, on the 31st of January, 1714-15, was made captain-lieutenant in Colonel Ker's regiment of dragoons. He had the honour of being known to the Earl of Stair some time before, and was made his aid-de-camp; and when, upon his Lordship's being appointed ambassador from his late Majesty to the court of France, he made so splendid an entrance into Paris, Captain Gardiner was his master of the horse; and I have been told that a great deal of the care of that admirably well-adjusted ceremony fell upon him; so that he gained great credit by the manner in which he conducted it. Under the benign influence of his Lordship's favour, which to the last day of his life he retained, a captain's commission was procured for him, dated July 22, 1715, in the regiment of dragoons commanded by Colonel Stanhope, now Earl of Harrington; and in 1717 he was advanced to the majority of that regiment, in which office he continued till it was reduced on November 10, 1718, when he was put out of commission. But when his Majesty, king George I., was thoroughly apprised of his faithful and important services, he gave him his sign-manual, entitling him to the first majority that should become vacant in any regiment of horse or dragoons, which happened, about five years after, to be in Croft's regiment of dragoons, in which he received a commission, dated 1st June, 1724; and on the 20th of July the same year, he was made major of an older regiment, commanded by the Earl of Stair.
As I am now speaking of so many of his military preferments, I will dispatch the account of them by observing, that, on the 24th January 1729-30, he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the same regiment, long under the command of Lord Cadogan, with whose friendship this brave and vigilant officer was also honoured for many years. And he continued in this rank and regiment till the 19th of April, 1743, when he received a colonel's commission over a regiment of dragoons lately commanded by Brigadier Bland, at the head of which he valiantly fell, in the defence of his sovereign and his country, about two years and a half after he received it.
We will now return to that period of his life which was passed at Paris, the scene of such remarkable and important events. He continued (if I remember right) several years under the roof of the brave and generous Earl of Stair, to whom he endeavoured to approve himself by every instance of diligent and faithful service. And his Lordship gave no inconsiderable proof of the dependence which he had upon him, when, in the beginning of 1715, he entrusted him with the important dispatches relating to a discovery which, by a series of admirable policy, he had made of a design which the French king was then forming for invading Great Britain in favour of the Pretender; in which the French apprehended they were so sure of success, that it seemed a point of friendship in one of the chief counsellors of that court to dissuade a dependent of his from accepting some employment under his Britannic majesty, when proposed by his envoy there, because it was said that in less than six weeks there would be a revolution in favour of what they called the family of the Stuarts. The captain dispatched his journey with the utmost speed; a variety of circumstances happily concurred to accelerate it; and they who remember how soon the regiments which that emergency required, were raised and armed, will, I doubt not, esteem it a memorable instance, both of the most cordial zeal in the friends of the government, and of the gracious care of Divine Providence over the house of Hanover and the British liberties, so inseparably connected with its interest.
While Captain Gardiner was at London, in one of the journeys he made upon this occasion, he, with that frankness which was natural to him, and which in those days was not always under the most prudent restraint, ventured to predict, from what he knew of the bad state of the French king's health, that he would not live six weeks. This was made known by some spies who were at St. James's, and came to be reported at the court of Versailles; for he received letters from some friends at Paris, advising him not to return thither, unless he could reconcile himself to a lodging in the Bastile. But he was soon free from that apprehension; for, if I mistake not, before half that time was accomplished, Louis XIV. died, (Sept. 1, 1715,) and it is generally thought his death was hastened by a very accidental circumstance, which had some reference to the captain's prophecy; for the last time he ever dined in public, which was a very little while after the report of it had been made there, he happened to discover our British envoy among the spectators. The penetration of this illustrious person was too great, and his attachment to the interest of his royal master too well known, not to render him very disagreeable to that crafty and tyrannical prince, whom God had so long suffered to be the disgrace of monarchy, and the scourge of Europe. He at first appeared very languid, as indeed he was; but on casting his eye upon the Earl of Stair, he affected to appear before him in a much better state of health than he really was; and therefore, as if he had been awakened on a sudden from some deep reverie, he immediately put himself into an erect posture, called up a laboured vivacity into his countenance, and ate much more heartily than was by any means advisable, repeating two or three times to a nobleman, (I think the Duke of Bourbon) then in waiting, "Il me semble que je ne mange pas mal pour un homme qui devoit mourir si tot." "Methinks I eat very well for a man who is to die so soon." But this inroad upon that regularity of living which he had for some time observed, agreed so ill with him that he never recovered this meal, but died in less than a fortnight. This gave occasion for some humorous people to say, that old Louis, after all, was killed by a Briton. But if this story be true, (which I think there can be no room to doubt, as the colonel, from whom I have often heard it, though absent, could scarce be misinformed,) it might more properly be said that he fell by his own vanity; in which view I thought it so remarkable, as not to be unworthy of a place in these memoirs.
The captain quickly returned, and continued, with small interruptions, at Paris, at least till 1720, and how much longer I do not certainly know. The Earl's favour and generosity made him easy in his affairs, though he was, (as has been observed before,) part of the time, out of commission, by breaking the regiment to which he belonged, of which before he was major. This was in all probability the gayest part of his life, and the most criminal. Whatever wise and good examples he might find in the family where he had the honour to reside, it is certain that the French court, during the regency of the Duke of Orleans, was one of the most dissolute under heaven. What, by a wretched abuse of language, have been called intrigues of love and gallantry, were so entirely to the major's then degenerate taste, that if not the whole business, at least the whole happiness of his life, consisted in them; and he had now too much leisure for one who was so prone to abuse it. His fine constitution, than which perhaps there was hardly ever a better, gave him great opportunities of indulging himself in these excesses; and his good spirits enabled him to pursue his pleasures of every kind in so alert and sprightly a manner, that multitudes envied him, and called him, by a dreadful kind of compliment, "the happy rake."
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.
And now I am come to that astonishing part of his story, the account of his conversion, which I cannot enter upon without assuring the reader that I have sometimes been tempted to suppress many circumstances of it; not only as they may seem incredible to some, and enthusiastical to others, but I am very sensible they are liable to great abuses; which was the reason that he gave me for concealing the most extraordinary from many persons to whom he mentioned some of the rest. And I believe it was this, together with the desire of avoiding every thing that might look like ostentation on this head, that prevented his leaving a written account of it, though I have often entreated him to do it, as I particularly remember I did in the very last letter I ever wrote him, and pleaded the possibility of his falling amidst those dangers to which I knew his valour might, in such circumstances, naturally expose him. I was not so happy as to receive any answer to this letter, which reached him but a few days before his death; nor can I certainly say whether he had or had not complied with my request, as it is very possible a paper of this kind, if it were written, might be lost amidst the ravages which the rebels made when they plundered Bankton.
The story, however, was so remarkable, that I had little reason to apprehend I should ever forget it; and yet, to guard against all contingencies of that kind, I wrote it down that very evening, as I heard it from his own mouth; and I have now before me the memoirs of that conversation, dated Aug. 14, 1739, which conclude with these words, (which I added that if we should both have died that night, the world might not have lost this edifying and affecting history, or have wanted any attestation of it I was capable of giving): "N.B. I have written down this account with all the exactness I am capable of, and could safely take an oath of it as to the truth of every circumstance, to the best of my remembrance, as the colonel related it to me a few hours ago." I do not know that I had reviewed this paper since I wrote it, till I set myself thus publicly to record this extraordinary fact; but I find it punctually to agree with what I have often related from my memory, which I charged carefully with so wonderful and important a fact. It is with all solemnity that I now deliver it down to posterity as in the sight and presence of God; and I choose deliberately to expose myself to those severe censures which the haughty but empty scorn of infidelity, or principles nearly approaching it, and effectually doing its pernicious work, may very probably dictate upon the occasion, rather than to smother a relation, which may, in the judgment of my conscience, be like to conduce so much to the glory of God, the honour of the gospel, and the good of mankind. One thing more I will only premise, that I hope none who have heard the colonel himself speak something of this wonderful scene, will be surprised if they find some new circumstances here; because he assured me, at the time he first gave me the whole narration, (which was in the very room in which I now write,) that he had never imparted it so fully to any living before; yet, at the same time, he gave me full liberty to communicate it to whomsoever I should in my conscience judge it might be useful to do it, whether before or after his death. Accordingly I did, while he was alive, recount almost every circumstance I am now going to write, to several pious friends; referring them at the same time to the colonel himself, whenever they might have an opportunity of seeing or writing to him, for a further confirmation of what I told them, if they judged it requisite. They glorified God in him; and I humbly hope many of my readers will also do it. They will soon perceive the reason of so much caution in my introduction to this story, for which, therefore, I shall make no further apology.[*]
[*Note: It is no small satisfaction to me, since I wrote this, to have received a letter from the Rev. Mr. Spears, minister of the gospel at Burntisland, dated Jan 14, 1746-7 in which he relates to me this whole story, as he had it from the colonel's own mouth about four years after he gave me the narration. There is not a single circumstance in which either of our narrations disagrees, and every one of the particulars in mine, which seems most astonishing, is attested by this, and sometimes in stronger words, one only excepted, on which I shall add a short remark when I come to it. As this letter was written near Lady Frances Gardiner at her desire, and attended with a postscript from her own hand, this is, in effect, a sufficient attestation how agreeable it was to those accounts which she must often have heard the colonel give of this matter.]
This memorable event happened towards the middle of July, 1719; but I cannot be exact as to the day. The major had spent the evening (and if I mistake not, it was the Sabbath) in some gay company, and had an unhappy assignation with a married woman, of what rank or quality I did not particularly inquire, whom he was to attend exactly at twelve. The company broke up about eleven; and not judging it convenient to anticipate the time appointed, he went into his chamber to kill the tedious hour, perhaps with some amusing book, or in some other way. But it very accidentally happened that he took up a religious book which his good mother or aunt had, without his knowledge, slipped into his portmanteau. It was called, if I remember the title exactly, The Christian Soldier, or Heaven taken by Storm, and was written by Mr. Thomas Watson. Guessing by the title of it that he should find some phrases of his own profession spiritualized in a manner which he thought might afford him some diversion, he resolved to dip into it; but he took no serious notice of any thing he read in it; and yet, while this book was in his hand, an impression was made upon his mind, (perhaps God only knows how,) which drew after it a train of the most important and happy consequences.
There is indeed a possibility, that while he was sitting in this solitude, and reading in this careless and profane manner, he might suddenly fall asleep, and only dream of what he apprehended he saw. But nothing can be more certain than that, when he gave me this relation, he judged himself to have been as broad awake during the whole time as he ever was in any part of his life; and he mentioned it to me several times afterwards as what undoubtedly passed, not only in his imagination, but before his eyes.[*]
[*Note: Mr. Spears, in the letter mentioned above, where he introduces the colonel telling his own story, has these words "All of a sudden there was presented in a very lively manner to my view, or to my mind, a representation of my glorious Redeemer," &c. And this gentleman adds, in a parenthesis, "It was so lively and striking, that he could not tell whether it was to his bodily eyes, or to those of his mind." This makes me think that what I had said to him on the phenomena of visions, apparitions, &c., (as being, when most real, supernatural impressions on the imagination, rather than attended with any external object,) had some influence upon him. Yet still it is evident he looked upon this as a vision, whether it was before the eyes or in the mind, and not as a dream.]
He thought he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the book while he was reading, which he at first imagined might happen by some accident in the candle. But, lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a visible representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, surrounded on all sides with a glory; and was impressed as if a voice, or something equivalent to a voice, had come to him to this effect, (for he was not confident as to the very words). "Oh, sinner! did I suffer this for thee, and are these the returns?" But whether this were an audible voice, or only a strong impression on his mind equally striking, he did not seem very confident, though, to the best of my remembrance, he rather judged it to be the former. Struck with so amazing a phenomenon as this, there remained hardly any life in him, so that he sunk down in the arm chair in which he sat, and continued, he knew not exactly how long, insensible, (which was one circumstance that made me several times take the liberty to suggest that he might possibly be all this while asleep,) but however that were, he quickly after opened his eyes, and saw nothing more than usual.
It may easily be supposed he was in no condition to make any observations upon the time in which he had remained in an insensible state, nor did he, throughout all the remainder of the night, once recollect that criminal and detestable assignation which had before engrossed all his thoughts. He rose in a tumult of passions not to be conceived, and walked to and fro in his chamber till he was ready to drop down in unutterable astonishment and agony of heart, appearing to himself the vilest monster in the creation of God, who had all his lifetime been crucifying Christ afresh by his sins, and now saw, as he assuredly believed, by a miraculous vision, the horror of what he had done. With this was connected such a view of both the majesty and goodness of God, as caused him to loathe and abhor himself, and to repent as in dust and ashes. He immediately gave judgment against himself, that he was most justly worthy of eternal damnation, he was astonished that he had not been immediately struck dead in the midst of his wickedness, and (which I think deserves particular remark) though he assuredly believed that he should ere long be in hell, and settled it as a point with himself for several months that the wisdom and justice of God did almost necessarily require that such an enormous sinner should be made an example of everlasting vengeance, and a spectacle as such both to angels and men, so that he hardly durst presume to pray for pardon; yet what he then suffered was not so much from the fear of hell, though he concluded it would soon be his portion, as from a sense of that horrible ingratitude he had shown to the God of his life, and to that blessed Redeemer who had been in so affecting a manner set forth as crucified before him.
To this he refers in a letter dated from Douglas, the 1st of April 1725, communicated to me by his lady,[*] but I know not to whom it was addressed. His words are these: "One thing relating to my conversion, and a remarkable instance of the goodness of God to me, the chief of sinners, I do not remember that I ever told to any other person. It was this, that after the astonishing sight I had of my blessed Lord, the terrible condition in which I was proceeded not so much from the terrors of the law, as from a sense of having been so ungrateful a monster to him whom I thought I saw pierced for my transgressions." I the rather insert these words, as they evidently attest the circumstance which may seem most amazing in this affair, and contain so express a declaration of his own apprehension concerning it.
[*Note: Where I make any extracts as from Colonel Gardiner's letters, they are either from originals, which I have in my own hands, or from copies which were transmitted to me from persons of undoubted credit, chiefly by the Right Honourable the Lady Frances Gardiner, through the hands of the Rev. Mr. Webster, one of the ministers of Edinburgh. This I the rather mention, because some letters have been brought to me as Colonel Gardiner's, concerning which I have not only been very dubious, but morally certain that they could not have been written by him. I have also heard of many who have been fond of assuring the world that they were well acquainted with him, and were near him when he fell, whose reports have been most inconsistent with each other, as well as contrary to that testimony relating to the circumstances of his death, which, on the whole, appeared to me beyond controversy the most natural and authentic, from whence, therefore, I shall take my account of that affecting scene.]
In this view it may naturally be supposed that he passed the remainder of the night waking, and he could get but little rest in several that followed. His mind was continually taken up in reflecting on the divine purity and goodness; the grace which had been proposed to him in the gospel, and which he had rejected; the singular advantages he had enjoyed and abused; and the many favours of providence which he had received, particularly in rescuing him from so many imminent dangers of death, which he now saw must have been attended with such dreadful and hopeless destruction. The privileges of his education, which he had so much despised, now lay with an almost insupportable weight on his mind; and the folly of that career of sinful pleasure which he had so many years been running with desperate eagerness and unworthy delight, now filled him with indignation against himself, and against the great deceiver, by whom (to use his own phrase) he had been "so wretchedly and scandalously befooled." This he used often to express in the strongest terms, which I shall not repeat so particularly, as I cannot recollect some of them. But on the whole it is certain that, by what passed before he left his chamber the next day, the whole frame and disposition of his soul was new-modelled and changed; so that he became, and continued to the last day of his exemplary and truly Christian life, the very reverse of what he had been before. A variety of particulars, which I am afterwards to mention, will illustrate this in the most convincing manner. But I cannot proceed to them without pausing to adore so illustrious an instance of the power and freedom of divine grace, and entreating my reader seriously to reflect upon it, that his own heart may be suitably affected. For surely, if the truth of the fact be admitted in the lowest views in which it can be placed, (that is, supposing the first impression to have passed in a dream,) it must be allowed to have been little, if anything less than miraculous. It cannot in the course of nature be imagined how such a dream should arise in a mind full of the most impure ideas and affections, and (as he himself often pleaded) more alienated from the thoughts of a crucified Saviour, than from any other object that can be conceived; nor can we surely suppose it should, without a mighty energy of the divine power, be effectual to produce not only some transient flow of passion, but so entire and permanent a change in character and conduct.
On the whole, therefore, I must beg leave to express my own sentiments of the matter, by repeating on this occasion what I wrote several years ago, in my eighth sermon on regeneration, in a passage dictated chiefly by the circumstantial knowledge which I had of this amazing story, and methinks sufficiently vindicated by it, if it stood entirely alone, which yet, I must take the liberty to say, it does not; for I hope the world will be particularly informed, that there is at least a second that very nearly approaches it, whenever the established church of England shall lose one of its brightest living ornaments, and one of the most useful members which that, or perhaps any other Christian communion, can boast. In the mean time, may his exemplary life be long continued, and his zealous ministry abundantly prospered! I beg my reader's pardon for this digression. The passage I referred to above is remarkably, though not equally, applicable to both the cases, under that head where I am showing that God sometimes accomplishes the great work of which we speak, by secret and immediate impressions on the mind. After preceding illustrations, there are the following words, on which the colonel's conversion will throw the justest light. "Yea, I have known those of distinguished genius, polite manners, and great experience in human affairs, who, after having out-grown all the impressions of a religious education—after having been hardened, rather than subdued by the most singular mercies, even various, repeated, and astonishing deliverances, which have appeared to themselves as no less than miraculous—after having lived for years without God in the world, notoriously corrupt themselves, and labouring to the utmost to corrupt others, have been stopped on a sudden in the full career of their sin, and have felt such rays of the divine presence, and of redeeming love, darting in upon their minds, almost like lightning from heaven, as have at once roused, overpowered, and transformed them; so that they have come out of their secret chambers with an irreconcilable enmity to those vices to which, when they entered them, they were the tamest and most abandoned slaves; and have appeared from that very hour the votaries, the patrons, the champions of religion; and after a course of the most resolute attachment to it, in spite of all the reasonings or the railleries, the importunities or the reproaches of its enemies, they have continued to this day some of its brightest ornaments; a change which I behold with equal wonder and delight, and which, if a nation should join in deriding it, I would adore as the finger of God."
The mind of Major Gardiner continued from this remarkable time, till towards the end of October, (that is rather more than three months, but especially the first two of them,) in as extraordinary a situation as one can well imagine. He knew nothing of the joys arising from a sense of pardon; but, on the contrary, for the greater part of that time, and with very short intervals of hope towards the end of it, took it for granted that he must in all probability quickly perish. Nevertheless, he had such a sense of the evil of sin, of the goodness of the Divine Being, and of the admirable tendency of the Christian revelation, that he resolved to spend the remainder of his life, while God continued him out of hell, in as rational and as useful a manner as he could; and to continue casting himself at the foot of divine mercy every day, and often in a day, if peradventure there might be hope of pardon, of which all that he could say was, that he did not absolutely despair. He had at that time such a sense of the degeneracy of his own heart, that he hardly durst form any determinate resolution against sin, or pretend to engage himself by any vow in the presence of God; but he was continually crying to him, that he would deliver him from the bondage of corruption. He perceived in himself a most surprising alteration with regard to the dispositions of his heart; so that, though he felt little of the delight of religious duties, he extremely desired opportunities of being engaged in them; and those licentious pleasures which had before been his heaven, were now absolutely his aversion. And indeed, when I consider how habitual all those criminal indulgences were grown to him, and that he was now in the prime of life, and all this while in high health too, I cannot but be astonished to reflect upon it, that he should be so wonderfully sanctified in body, as well as in soul and spirit, as that, for all the future years of his life, he from that hour should find so constant a disinclination to, and abhorrence of, those criminal sensualities to which he fancied he was before so invincibly impelled by his very constitution, that he was used strangely to think, and to say; that Omnipotence itself could not reform him, without destroying that body, and giving him another.[*]
[*Note: Mr. Spears expresses this wonderful circumstance in these remarkable words "I was (said the colonel to me) effectually cured of all inclination to that sin I was so strongly addicted to, that I thought nothing but shooting me through the head could have cured me of it, and all desire and inclination to it was removed, as entirely as if I had been a sucking child, nor did the temptation return to this day." Mr. Webster's words on the same subject are these "One thing I have heard the colonel frequently say, that he was much addicted to impurity before his acquaintance with religion, but that, so soon as he was enlightened from above, he felt the power of the Holy Ghost changing his nature so wonderfully, that his sanctification in this respect seemed more remarkable than in any other." On which that worthy person makes this very reasonable reflection "So thorough a change of such a polluted nature, evidenced by the most unblemished walk and conversation for a long course of years, demonstrates indeed the power of the Highest, and leaves no room to doubt of its reality." Mr. Spears says, this happened in three days' time, but from what I can recollect, all that the colonel could mean by that expression, if he used it, (as I conclude he did,) was that he began to make the observation in the space of three days whereas, during that time, his thoughts were so taken up with the wonderful views presented to his mind, that he did not immediately attend to it. If he had, within the first three days, any temptation to seek some ease from the anguish of his mind, in returning to former sensualities, it is a circumstance he did not mention to me, and by what I can recollect of the strain of his discourse, he intimated if he did not express the contrary.]
Nor was he only delivered from that bondage of corruption which had been habitual to him for many years, but felt in his breast so contrary a disposition, that he was grieved to see human nature, in those to whom he was most entirely a stranger, prostituted to such low and contemptible pursuits. He therefore exerted his natural courage in a very new kind of combat, and became an open advocate for religion in all its principles, so far as he was acquainted with them, and all its precepts, relating to sobriety, righteousness, and godliness. Yet he was very desirous and cautious that he might not run into extremes, and made it one of his first petitions to God, the very day after these amazing impressions had been wrought in his mind, that he might not be suffered to behave with such an affected strictness and preciseness as would lead others about him into mistaken notions of religion, and expose it to reproach or suspicion, as if it were an unlovely or uncomfortable thing. For this reason, he endeavoured to appear as cheerful in conversation as he conscientiously could; though, in spite of all his precautions, some traces of that deep inward sense which he had of his guilt and misery would at times appear. He made no secret of it, however, that his views were entirely changed, though he concealed the particular circumstances attending that change. He told his most intimate companions freely that he had reflected on the course of life in which he had so long joined them, and found it to be folly and madness, unworthy a rational creature, and much more unworthy persons calling themselves Christians. And he set up his standard, upon all occasions, against principles of infidelity and practices of vice, as determinately and as boldly as ever he displayed or planted his colours, when he bore them with so much honour in the field.
I cannot forbear mentioning one struggle of this kind which he described to me, with a large detail of circumstances, the first day of our acquaintance. There was at that time in Paris a certain lady (whose name, then well known in the grand and gay world, I must beg leave to conceal) who had imbibed the principles of deism, and valued herself much upon being an avowed advocate for them. The major, with his usual frankness, (though I doubt not with that politeness of manners which was so habitual to him, and which he retained throughout his whole life,) answered her like a man who perfectly saw through the fallacy of her arguments, and was grieved to the heart for her delusions. On this she briskly challenged him to debate the matter at large, and to fix upon a day for that purpose, when he should dine with her, attended by any clergyman he might choose, whether of the Protestant or Catholic communion. A sense of duty would not allow him to decline this challenge; and yet he had no sooner accepted it, but he was thrown into great perplexity and distress lest, being, as I remember he expressed it when he told me the story, only a Christian of six weeks old, he should prejudice so good a cause by his unskilful manner of defending it. However, he sought his refuge in earnest and repeated prayers to God, that he who can ordain strength, and perfect praise, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, would graciously enable him on this occasion to vindicate his truths in a manner which might carry conviction along with it. He then endeavoured to marshal the arguments in his own mind as well as he could; and apprehending that he could not speak with so much freedom before a number of persons, especially before such whose province he might seem in that case to invade, if he had not devolved the principal part of the discourse upon them, he easily admitted the apology of a clergyman or two, to whom he mentioned the affair, and waited on the lady alone upon the day appointed. But his heart was so set upon the business, that he came earlier than he was expected, and time enough to have two hours' discourse before dinner; nor did he at all decline having two persons, nearly related to the lady, present during the conference. The major opened it, with a view of such arguments for the Christian religion as he had digested in his own mind, to prove that the apostles were not mistaken themselves, and that they could not have intended to impose upon us, in the accounts they give of the grand facts they attest; with the truth of which facts, that of the Christian religion is most apparently connected. And it was a great encouragement to him to find, that unaccustomed as he was to discourses of this nature, he had an unusual command both of thought and expression, so that he recollected and uttered every thing as he could have wished. The lady heard with attention; and though he paused between every branch of the argument, she did not interrupt the course of it till he told her he had finished his design, and waited for her reply. She then, produced some of her objections, which he took up and canvassed in such a manner that at length she burst into tears, allowed the force of his arguments and replies, and appeared for some time after so deeply impressed with the conversation, that it was observed by several of her friends; and there is reason to believe that the impression continued, at least so far as to prevent her from ever appearing under the character of an unbeliever or a sceptic.
This is only one specimen among many of the battles he was almost daily called out to fight in the cause of religion and virtue; with relation to which I find him expressing himself thus in a letter to Mrs. Gardiner, his good mother, dated from Paris the 25th of January following, that is 1719-20, in answer to one in which she had warned him to expect such trials: "I have (says he) already met with them, and am obliged to fight, and to dispute every inch of ground. But all thanks and praise to the great Captain of my salvation. He fights for me, and then it is no wonder that I come off more than conqueror:" by which last expression I suppose he meant to insinuate that he was strengthened and established, rather than overborne, by this opposition. Yet it was not immediately that he gained such fortitude. He has often told me how much he felt in those days of the emphasis of those well-chosen words of the apostle, in which he ranks the trial of cruel mockings, with scourgings, and bonds, and imprisonments. The continual railleries with which he was received, in almost all companies where he had been most familiar before, did often distress him beyond measure; so that he several times declared he would much rather have marched up to a battery of the enemy's cannon, than have been obliged, so continually as he was, to face such artillery as this. But, like a brave soldier in the first action wherein he is engaged, he continued resolute, though shuddering at the terror of the assault; and quickly overcame those impressions which it is not perhaps in nature wholly to avoid; and therefore I find him, in the letter above referred to, which was written about half a year after his conversion, "quite ashamed to think of the uneasiness which these things once gave him." In a word, he went on, as every resolute Christian by divine grace may do, till he turned ridicule and opposition into respect and veneration.
But this sensible triumph over these difficulties was not till his Christian experience had been abundantly advanced by the blessing of God on the sermons he heard, (particularly in the Swiss chapel,) and on the many hours which he spent in devout retirement, pouring out his whole soul before God in prayer. He began, within about two months after his first memorable change, to perceive some secret dawnings of more cheerful hope, that vile as he saw himself to be, (and I believe no words can express how vile that was,) he might nevertheless obtain mercy through the Redeemer. At length (if I remember right, about the end of October, 1719) he found all the burthen of his mind taken off at once by the powerful impression of that memorable scripture on his mind, Romans iii. 25, 26, "Whom God hath set forth for a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins,—that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." He had used to imagine that the justice of God required the damnation of so enormous a sinner as he saw himself to be; but now he was made deeply sensible that the divine justice might be not only vindicated, but glorified, in saving him by the blood of Jesus, even that blood which cleanseth us from all sin. Then did he see and feel the riches of redeeming love and grace in such a manner as not only engaged him with the utmost pleasure and confidence to venture his soul upon it, but even swallowed up, as it were, his whole heart in the returns of love, which from that blessed time became this genuine and delightful principle of his obedience, and animated him, with an enlarged heart, to run the way of God's commandments. Thus God was pleased (as he himself used to speak) in an hour to turn his captivity. All the terrors of his former state were changed into unutterable joy, which kept him almost continually waking for three nights together, and yet refreshed him as the noblest of cordials. His expressions, though naturally very strong, always seemed to be swallowed up when he would describe the series of thought through which he now passed, under the rapturous experience of that joy unspeakable and full of glory, which then seemed to overflow his very soul, as indeed there was nothing he seemed to speak of with greater relish. And though the first ecstasies of it afterwards subsided into a more calm and composed delight, yet were the impressions so deep and so permanent, that he assured me, on the word of a Christian and a friend, wonderful as it might seem, that, for about seven years after this, he enjoyed almost heaven upon earth. His soul was so continually filled with a sense of the love of God in Christ, that it knew little interruption, but when necessary converse, and the duties of his station, called off his thoughts for a little time. And when they did so, as soon as he was alone, the torrent returned into its natural channel again; so that, from the minute of awakening in the morning, his heart was raised to God, and triumphing in him; and these thoughts attended him through all the scenes of life, till he lay down on his bed again, and a short parenthesis of sleep (for it was but a very short one that he allowed himself) invigorated his animal powers, for renewing them with greater intenseness and sensibility.
I shall have an opportunity of illustrating this in the most convincing manner below, by extracts from several letters which he wrote to intimate friends during this happy period of time—letters which breathe a spirit of such sublime and fervent piety as I have seldom met with any where else. In these circumstances, it is no wonder that he was greatly delighted with Dr. Watts's imitation of the 126th Psalm, since it may be questioned whether there ever was a person to whom the following stanzas of it were more suitable:—
When God revealed his gracious name, And changed my mournful state, My rapture seemed a pleasing dream, Thy grace appeared so great.
The world beheld the glorious change, And did thine hand confess; My tongue broke out in unknown strains, And sung surprising grace.
"Great is the work," my neighbours cried, And owned the power divine: "Great is the work," my heart replied, "And be the glory thine."
The Lord can change the darkest skies, Can give us day for night, Make drops of sacred sorrow rise, To rivers of delight.
Let those that sow in sadness, wait Till the fair harvest come! They shall confess their sheaves are great, And shout the blessings home.
I have been so happy as to get the sight of five original letters which he wrote to his mother about this time, which do, in a lively manner, illustrate the surprising change made in the whole current of his thoughts and temper of his mind. Many of them were written in the most hasty manner, just as the courier who brought them was perhaps unexpectedly setting out, and they relate chiefly to affairs in which the public is not at all concerned; yet there is not one of them in which he has not inserted some warm and genuine sentiment of religion. Indeed it is very remarkable, that though he was pleased to honour me with a great many letters, and I have seen several more which he wrote to others, some of them on journeys, where he could have but a few minutes at command, yet I cannot recollect that I ever saw any one in which there was not some trace of piety; and the Rev. Mr. Webster, who was employed to review great numbers of them, that he might select such extracts as he should think proper to communicate to me, has made the same observation.[*]
[*Note: His words are these: "I have read over a vast number of the colonel's letters, and have not found any one of them, however short, and writ in the most passing manner, even when posting, but what is expressive of the most passionate breathings towards his God and Saviour. If the letter consists but of two sentences, religion is not forgot, which doubtless deserves to be carefully remarked, as the most uncontested evidence of a pious mind, ever under the warmest impressions of divine things."]
The major, with great justice, tells the good lady his mother, "that when she saw him again she would find the person indeed the same, but every thing else entirely changed." And she might easily have perceived it of herself by the whole tenor of these letters, which every where breathe the unaffected spirit of a true Christian. They are taken up sometimes with giving advice and directions concerning some pious and charitable contributions, one of which, I remember, amounted to ten guineas, though as he was then out of commission, and had not formerly been very frugal, it cannot be supposed he had much to spare; sometimes in speaking of the pleasure with which he attended sermons, and expected sacramental opportunities; and at other times in exhorting her, established as she was in religion, to labour after a yet more exemplary character and conduct, or in recommending her to the divine presence and blessing, as well as himself to her prayers. What satisfaction such letters as these must give to a lady of her distinguished piety, who had so long wept over this dear and amiable son as quite lost to God, and on the verge of final destruction, it is not for me to describe, nor indeed to conceive. But hastily as these letters were written, only for private view, I will give a few specimens from them in his own words, which will serve to illustrate as well as confirm what I have hinted above.
"I must take the liberty," says he, in a letter dated on the first day of the new year, or, according to the old style, Dec. 21, 1719, "to entreat you that you would receive no company on the Lord's day. I know you have a great many good acquaintance, with whose discourses one might be very well edified; but as you cannot keep out and let in whom you please, the best way, in my humble opinion, will be to see none." In another, of Jan. 25, "I am happier than any one can imagine, except I could put him exactly in the same situation with myself; which is what the world cannot give, and no man ever attained it, unless it were from above." In another, dated March 30, which was just before a sacrament day, "To-morrow, if it please God, I shall be happy, my soul being to be fed with the bread of life which came down from heaven. I shall be mindful of you all there." In another of Jan. 29, he thus expresses that indifference for worldly possessions which he so remarkably carried through the remainder of his life: "I know the rich are only stewards for the poor, and must give an account of every penny; therefore, the less I have, the more easy will it be to give an account of it." And to add no more from these letters at present, in the conclusion of one of them he has these comprehensive and solemn words: "Now that He, who is the ease of the afflicted, the support of the weak, the wealth of the poor, the teacher of the ignorant, the anchor of the fearful, and the infinite reward of all faithful souls, may pour out upon you all his richest blessings, shall always be the prayer of him who is entirely yours," &c.
To this account of his correspondence with his excellent mother, I should be glad to add a large view of another, to which she introduced him, with that reverend and valuable person under whose pastoral care she was placed—I mean the justly celebrated Doctor Edmund Calamy, to whom she could not but early communicate the joyful news of her son's conversion. I am not so happy as to be possessed of the letters which passed between them, which I have reason to believe would make a curious and valuable collection; but I have had the pleasure of receiving from my worthy and amiable friend, the Rev. Mr. Edmund Calamy, one of the letters the doctor, his father, wrote to the major on this wonderful occasion. I perceive by the contents of it that it was the first, and, indeed, it is dated as early as the 3d of August, 1719, which must be but a few days after his own account, dated August 4, N.S., could reach England. There is so much true religion and good sense in this paper, and the counsel it suggests may be so reasonable to other persons in circumstances which bear any resemblance to his, that I make no apology to my reader for inserting a large extract from it.
"Dear Sir,—I conceive it will not much surprise you to understand that your good mother communicated to me your letter to her, dated August 4, N.S., which brought her the news you conceive would be so acceptable to her. I, who have often been a witness to her concern for you on a spiritual account, can attest with what joy this news was received by her, and imparted to me as a special friend, who she knew would bear a part with her on such an occasion. And, indeed, if (as our Saviour intimates, Luke xv. 7, 10,) there is, is such cases, joy in heaven and among the angels of God, it may be well supposed that of a pious mother who has spent so many prayers and tears upon you, and has, as it were, travailed in birth with you again till Christ was formed in you, could not be small. You may believe me if I add, that I also, as a common friend of hers and yours, and which is much more, of the Prince of Light, whom you now declare you heartily fall in with in opposition to that of the dark kingdom, could not but be tenderly affected with an account of it under your own hand. My joy on this account was the greater, considering the importance of your capacity, interests, and prospects, which, in such an age as this, may promise most happy consequences, on your heartily appearing on God's side, and embarking in the interest of our Redeemer. If I have hitherto at all remembered you at the throne of grace, at your good mother's desire, (which you are pleased to take notice of with so much respect,) I can assure you I shall henceforth be led to do it, with more concern and particularity both by duty and inclination; and if I were capable of giving you any little assistance in the noble design you are engaging in, by corresponding with you by letter while you are at such a distance, I should do it most cheerfully. And perhaps such a motion may not, be altogether unacceptable; for I am inclinable to believe, that when some whom you are obliged to converse with, observe your behaviour so different from what it formerly was, and banter you upon it as mad and fanciful, it may be some little relief to correspond with one who will take a pleasure in heartening and encouraging you. And when a great many things frequently offer, in which conscience may be concerned where duty may not always be plain, nor suitable persons to advise with at hand, it may be some satisfaction to you to correspond with one with whom you may use a friendly freedom in all such matters, and on whose fidelity you may depend. You may, therefore, command me in any of these respects, and I shall take a pleasure in serving you. One piece of advice I shall venture to give you, though your own good sense will make my enlarging upon it less needful—I mean, that you would, from your first setting out, carefully distinguish between the essentials of real religion, and those things which are commonly reckoned by its professors to belong to it. The want of this distinction has had very unhappy consequences from one age to another, and perhaps in none more than the present. But your daily converse with your Bible, which you mention, may herein give you great assistance. I move also, that since infidelity so much abounds, you would not only, by close and serious consideration, endeavour to settle yourself well in the fundamental principles of religion; but also that, as opportunity offers, you would converse with those books which treat most judiciously on the divine original of Christianity, such as Grotins, Abbadie, Baxter, Bates, Du Plessis, &c., which may establish you against the cavils that occur in almost all conversations, and furnish you with arguments which, when properly offered, may be of use to make some impression on others. But being too much straitened to enlarge at present, I can only add, that if your hearty falling in with serious religion should prove any hinderance to your advancement in the world, (which I pray God it may not, unless such advancement would be a real snare to you,) I hope you will trust our Saviour's word, that it shall be no disadvantage to you in the final issue: he has given you his word for it, Matt. xix. 29, upon which you may safely depend; and I am satisfied none that ever did so at last repented of it. May you go on and prosper, and the God of all grace and peace be with you!"
I think it very evident from the contents of this letter, that the major had not imparted to his mother the most singular circumstances attending his conversion; and indeed there was something so peculiar in them, that I do not wonder he was always cautious in speaking of them, and especially that he was at first much on the reserve. We may also naturally reflect that there seems to have been something very providential in this letter, considering the debate in which our illustrious convert was so soon engaged; for it was written but about three weeks before his conference with the lady above mentioned in the defence of Christianity, or at least before the appointment of it. And as some of the books recommended by Dr. Calamy, particularly Abbadie and Du Plessis, were undoubtedly within his reach, (if our English advocates were not,) this might, by the divine blessing, contribute considerably towards arming him for that combat in which he came off with such happy success. As in this instance, so in many others, they who will observe the coincidence and concurrence of things, may be engaged to adore the wise conduct of Providence in events which, when taken singly and by themselves, have nothing very remarkable in them.
I think it was about this time that this resolute and exemplary Christian entered upon that methodical manner of living which he pursued through so many succeeding years of life, and I believe generally, so far as the broken state of his health would allow it in his latter days, to the very end of it. He used constantly to rise at four in the morning, and to spend his time till six in the secret exercises of devotion, reading, meditation, and prayer, in which last he contracted such a fervency of spirit as I believe few men living ever obtained. This certainly tended very much to strengthen that firm faith in God, and reverent animating sense of his presence, for which he was so eminently remarkable, and which carried him through the trials and services of life with such steadiness and with such activity; for he indeed endured and acted as always seeing Him who is invisible. If at any time he was obliged to go out before six in the morning, he rose proportionably sooner; so that when a journey or a march has required him to be on horseback by four, he would be at his devotions at furthest by two. He likewise secured time for retirement in an evening; and that he might have it the more at command, and be the more fit to use it properly, as well as be better able to rise early the next morning, he generally went to bed about ten; and, during the time I was acquainted with him, he seldom ate any supper but a mouthful of bread, with one glass of wine. In consequence of this, as well as of his admirably good constitution, and the long habit he had formed, he required less sleep than most persons I have known; and I doubt not but his uncommon progress in piety was in a great measure owing to these resolute habits of self-denial.
A life anything like this could not, to be sure, be entered upon in the midst of such company as he had been accustomed to keep, without great opposition, especially as he did not entirely withdraw himself from all the circle of cheerful conversation; but, on the contrary, gave several hours every day to it, lest religion should be reproached as having made him morose. He however, early began a practice, which to the last day of his life he retained, of reproving vice and profaneness; and was never afraid to debate the matter with any one, under the consciousness of great superiority in the goodness of his cause.
A remarkable instance of this happened, if I mistake not, about the middle of 1720, though I cannot be very exact as to the date of the story. It was, however, on his first return to make any considerable abode in England after this remarkable change. He had heard, on the other side of the water, that it was currently reported among his companions at home that he was stark mad—a report at which no reader who knows the wisdom of the world in these matters, will be much surprised, any more than himself. He concluded, therefore, that he should have many battles to fight, and was willing to dispatch the business as fast as he could. And therefore, being to spend a few days at the country-house of a person of distinguished rank, with whom he had been very intimate, (whose name I do not remember that he told me, nor did I think it proper to inquire after it,) he begged the favour of him that he would contrive matters so, that, a day or two after he came down, several of their former gay companions might meet at his lordship's table, that he might have an opportunity of making his apology to them, and acquainting them with the nature and reasons of his change. It was accordingly agreed to; and a pretty large company met on the day appointed, with previous notice that Major Gardiner would be there. A good deal of raillery passed at dinner, to which the major made very little answer. But when the cloth was taken away, and the servants retired, he begged their patience for a few minutes, and then plainly and seriously told them what notions he entertained of virtue and religion, and on what considerations he had absolutely determined that by the grace of God he would make it the care and business of life, whatever he might lose by it, and whatever censure and contempt he might incur. He well knew how improper it was in such company to relate the extraordinary manner in which he was awakened, which they would probably have interpreted as a demonstration of lunacy, against all the gravity and solidity of his discourse; but he contented himself with such a rational defence of a righteous, sober, and godly life, as he knew none of them could with any shadow of reason contest. He then challenged them to propose any thing they could urge, to prove that a life of irreligion and debauchery was preferable to the fear, love and worship of the eternal God, and a conduct agreeable to the precepts of his gospel. And he failed not to bear his testimony, from his own experience, (to one part of which many of them had been witnesses) that after having run the widest round of sensual pleasure, with all the advantages the best constitution and spirits could give him, he had never tasted any thing that deserved to be called happiness, till he had made religion his refuge and his delight. He testified calmly and boldly the habitual serenity and peace which he now felt in his own breast, (for the most elevated delights he did not think fit to plead, lest they should be esteemed enthusiasm,) and the composure and pleasure with which he looked forward to objects which the gayest sinner must acknowledge to be equally unavoidable and dreadful.