Tue 24 Jan 1738: We spoke with two ships, outward bound, from whom we had the welcome news of our wanting but 160 leagues of the Land’s End. My mind was now full of thought, part of which I writ down as follows:
I went to America to convert the Indians; but Oh! who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near: but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’
I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore!
I think verily, if the gospel be true, I am safe. For I not only have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor; I not only give my body to be burned, drowned, or whatever God shall appoint for me, but I follow after charity (though not as I ought, yet as I can) if haply I may attain it. I now believe the gospel is true. ‘I show my faith by my works,’ by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make. Whoever sees me sees I would be a Christian. Therefore ‘are my ways not like other men’s ways’. Therefore I have been, I am, I am content to be, ‘a by-word, a proverb of reproach’.
But in a storm I think, ‘What if the gospel be not true?’ Then thou art of all men most foolish. For what hast thou given thy goods, thy ease, thy friends, thy reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou wandering over the face of the earth? A dream, ‘a cunningly devised fable’? O who will deliver me from this fear of death! What shall I do? Where shall I fly from it? Should I fight against it by thinking, or by not thinking of it? A wise man advised me some time since, ‘Be still and go on.’ Perhaps this is best, to look upon it as my cross; when it comes, to let it humble me, and quicken all my good resolutions, especially that of praying without ceasing; and at other times to take no thought about it, but quietly to go on ‘in the work of the Lord’.
We went on with a small, fair wind, till Thursday in the afternoon, and then sounding, found a whitish sand at seventy-five fathom. But having had no observation for several days, the Captain began to be uneasy, fearing we might either get unawares into the Bristol Channel, or strike in the night on the rocks of Scilly.