Bangs's deep familiarity with the Bible is displayed in this entry
where he weaves, probably
from memory, ten identifiable Old and New Testament texts
(or allusions to texts) into a single heartfelt and
highly introspective narrative.
Given that Bangs had been ordained an elder by this time
and was about to organize the first Methodist camp
meeting in Upper Canada, his spiritual insecurities may
strike some readers as bizarre or even feigned. One must
recall, however, that Wesleyan theology
not only put the onus of choosing salvation on the
individual, but also required its followers to to
strive for a life of perfect holiness each day.
Indeed, insecurities like Bangs's were not uncommon among
Methodists of the period and were even used as evidence that
Methodist conversions were not wholly genuine. In
1791, for example, James Lackington, writing as a lapsed Methodist, published a memoir
that condemned Methodism
for its excessive enthusiasm and the ongoing spiritual
fear it seemed to foster among its converts. When Bangs
himself encountered Lackington's
book circulating in Upper Canada in 1801 it
seriously shook his faith (Steven 86).
Wednesday 17 [July 1805]
I am yet striving to move in the circle
of duty, and the Lord meets me at every turn. The blessing
of the Lord it maketh rich and he addeth no sorrow with it
When the pure unmixt love of God reigns in the soul we have
perfect enjoyment. But I fear sometimes my wine is mixed with
water [Is 1.22] — that some earthly good shares in my affections.
Death seems often a great terror to me, which makes me fear
that all is not as it should be. My only refuge in this respect
is to fix my faith in this manner. I believe that now I
have peace with God through Jesus Christ [Rm 5.1], and I am endeavouring
to be conformable to the image of God [cf.
Rm 8.29], both inwardly and
outwardly and in this I find peace and Joy. I believe if I
am faithful in improving my talent [cf.
Mt 25.14-28] God will perfect the work
in my Soul and when I am ripe God will cast me down, and
give me Grace to stand the shock. — That he who now
supplies my wants will also supply them in the hour of
death. This is the antidote which I find to ease the
pains of death, and then by grace I am striving to die dayly
[1 Cor 15.31],
and am praying that as my outward man decayeth, the inward
man may be renewed day by day [cf.
2 Cor 5.17]. If I miss my mark I am
gone forever, but I cannot doubt upon those principals for I
have God's word, that he will give Grace and Glory and no
good thing will He withhold from those that walk uprightly
[Ps 84.11]. Yea as an Eagle stirreth up her might, fluttereth over her
young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, and beareth
them [Dt 32.11], so doth the Lord shelter those that trust in him. O my soul trust thou in the Lord for he is thy shield and
thy exceeding great reward [Gn 15.1].
God gives me
to see some little fruit of my labours which more than
compensates for all my toil. I esteem it the greatest of all
blessings to be instrumental in saving souls from death, but
O if after I have preached to others I myself should become
a castaway, How intolerable my misery; How deep my hell; How
endless my torments. Great God be merciful unto me a Sinner. Let my own soul be fed with those truths which I administer
to others through Jesus Christ my Lord.