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Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate Speech, What a fool, quoth he, am I thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a Key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good News; good Brother pluck it out of thy bosom and try. — John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
Do you know the story of Titus Basfield, a 19th century African-American Associate Presbyterian minister? We have highlighted that story here previously. It is a remarkable one, and Basfield’s 1858 autobiography is worth reading in full. Today’s post zeroes in on a portion of the account he gave of his life wherein, having embraced Christ by faith, after careful study of the Old and New Testaments, he still needed to settle certain matters of faith and practice in his own mind and heart. It may be an encouragement to others even today.
In the meantime the [Westminster] Assembly's Questions were put into my hands, and I committed them to memory; and Mr. [James] Hervey's whole works being at hand, I made it my business to read these carefully through. The clear, simple and concise manner in which gospel truth was explained and set forth in the Assembly's Questions, and the masterly manner in which the judicious Hervey managed his Scripture arguments in his Theron and Aspasio, and especially Aspasio Vindicated, opened up to me clearly the great doctrines of the atonement, the divine decrees, election, the vicarious death of the Son of God, imputation of his righteousness as the only ground of our justification and acceptance before God, and of free sovereign grace reigning through the all-prevailing righteousness and satisfaction of the Eternal Son -- and fully settled my mind as to the great truth that these were doctrines taught in the Holy Scriptures. I also read a number of books highly recommended in Mr. Hervey's works, which treated largely upon these subjects, such as [Thomas] Boston's "Human Nature in its Four-fold State;" his excellent treatise on the Covenants, and [Walter] Marshall's "Gospel Mystery of Sanctification." This last is a book so highly esteemed, that he makes it his choice after the Bible. These books I sought, obtained, and read with the greatest care and attention, which afforded a fund of scriptural knowledge, and a good degree of steadfastness in the Calvinistic system. (And here I would seriously recommend these valuable books, which will serve as a 'key to open any lock in Doubting Castle.' Pilgrim's Progress.)