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ment to concerned parents, in the education of their offspring. They demonstrate, in a very satisfactory manner, the early susceptibility of the human mind to divine impressions;—that the hearts of “little children” receive, and understand the language of heavenly truth, restraining them from present evil, and opening their way to the highest attainments in christian knowledge.
Soon after this event he was put to school, where his conduct gave evidence that the instruction received under his former exercises was not easily forgot: for he tells us that “having been thus early convinced of the necessity of obedience and order, I dont recollect that I ever misbehaved, so as to receive a stroke or frown from my teacher. While the other children were engaged in play, he would often retire from their company, and walk alone in some secluded situation.
We are not, however, to conclude, from these early evidences of religious concern, that he was not subject to the temptations, incident to the seasons of childhood and youth. It is abundantly manifest from his own account, that he delighted in social pleasures, and sometimes gratified his inclination at the expense of his peace. On one occasion, several lads, his relations, paid the family a visit on first-day; but, his parents being from home, they spent the afternoon in sport and play, contrary to his sense of propriety at that time. In the evening, being alone, his mind was filled with remorse and sorrow;-and in this distress, he resolved to be more careful in future. .1770. About the thirteenth year of his
his parents removed to the county of York, and settled about two miles from York-town. Here, his inclination for social intercourse subjected him to many severe conflicts. He was strongly tempted to associate with the servants and hired persons, in his father's house;—a kind of society which he was clearly convinced had a tendency to lead his mind away from the Truth, and from the enjoyment of that peace and satisfaction of which, in a course of self-denial, he had largely partaken. Sometimes, he formed resolutions to be faithful to the clear discovery of his duty in this respect, and determined to take up the cross to this inclination; at other times, yielding to the force of temptation, he became alienated from the path of peace, and strayed from the fold of safety; upon the whole making no sensible progress in a religious life for about two years.
In the 8th month, 1772, he was deprived by death of the guardianship and care of his excellent father: but it pleased his heavenly Parent, by the renewed visitations of his light and love about this time, to supply his loss. He was now in his fifteenth year, and continued with his mother, working on the farm. When the mind is labouring under a consciousness of guilt, its uneasiness is often aggravated by events, which, under other circumstances, would pass unnoticed, or be viewed without alarm. The sentiment expressed in the proverb is confirmed by universal experience, “The wicked fee when no man pursueth:—but the righteous are bold as a lion.” A state of inward peace with God, is not easily disturbed by outward circumstances. In this state, the phenomena of nature are seen without terror: and, even those of the most awful kind, may be viewed with complacency. But when the mind is disturbed by a sense of guilt, the case is quite otherwise.
So it was with the subject of these memoirs. A storm of thunder and lightning which occurred about this period, threw him into a state of alarm, and proved a means, in the Divine hand, of turning his mind to seek after a preparation to meet the Lord in the way of his coming. “It proved,” says he, “through Him that worketh by what ways and means best pleaseth him, to be the loudest and most effectual preaching that ever I had heard, and tended to drive me home to Christ, who, as I waited on him, wrought in me both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.”
Yielding to the sanctifying operation of the holy Spirit, by obedience to its clear manifestations, his affections now began to be weaned from sublunary gratifications, and placed on the Author of all good, in whose presence there is "fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are rivers of pleasure.” If, at any time, his mind was drawn away into a state of forgetfulness, the storm and the thunder proved a fresh excitement to review his conduct; when, if a consciousness of unfaithfulness or negligence attended, Oh! the remorse he felt! which was only removed by repentance, and a renewed sense of the mercy and forgiveness of God. He had now also a clearer perception of the necessity of overcoming the passions of
anger and resentment. In the course of his business, as a farmer, he had often the management of unruly horses, by which his patience was much tried; and, conscious of his weakness, he was led to seek to the Lord for strength to overcome these passions, -and he did not seek in vain;--for he says, “in time I witnessed an overcoming, and as I continued fervent in spirit, I often experienced my
peace to flow as a river of comfort, filling and overflowing my whole inner man."
At this period, he also took great delight in reading the holy Scriptures, and spent most of his leisure time in that employment. In the perusal of those invaluable records, he often felt near unity of spirit with the holy prophets and apostles, who had borne the cross, despising the shame, some of them cheerfully sealing their testimony with their blood. He diligently attended religious meetings, and in fervent, silent waiting upon the Lord, was frequently favoured to know an inward communion with him in spirit; and joyfully to drink of that “river which maketh glad the whole heritage of God.”
About this time, on returning home from plough, he found several Friends at the house, who had come from a distance. One of them, an elderly man, after Elisha had told him his name, asked in a pleasant way if he was a prophet. “I felt,” says he,“ very serious, and wished that he had the same weighty sense of the prophetic character that I then felt. I soon found him to be of a very jocular natural disposition, with which I was soon pleased, and my mind led away from that watchful state in which he found me.
But soon after he was gone, finding my mind disquieted, I perceived that he had been the means of leading me from the watch-tower, where in alone there is safety; and sorrow and distress were the consequence.
I believe he was a friend who lived in a good degree of innocency. But how necessary it is for those, who profess to be the followers of Jesus Christ, to be careful lest they cause one of the Lord's little children to be offended, or to offend!”
In the latter part of the year 1773, being then about sixteen years of age, he travelled southward as far as Virginia; intending to go further in the search of a settlement,--and to remove with the family, if a suitable situation should offer. In the forepart of this journey, being exposed to rough and unprofitable company, he says, “I suffered considerable loss in my spiritual condition.” But here, a merciful dispensation of Divine Providence was instrumental in calling him to renewed circumspection, and a deep consideration of the uncertainty of life. While in Virginia, one of his companions was taken ill with a severe dysentery. The disorder appeared to be infectious, for nearly the whole family where they lodged were seized with it. Here, far from home and amongst strangers, disease and death in a most terrific aspect, stared him in the face; and brought him into a serious consideration of his spiritual state, and how he might be prepared to receive a disorder which often proved fatal. The view was awful; and in solemn consideration of the circumstances, his soul bowed in prostration before that Power, “in whose hand are the issues of life.” He was spared, and entered into renewed covenant with the God of mercy. This trial proved a blessing to his susceptible mind, and was a means of preserving him from the temptations incident to ardent, inexperienced young persons, in situations so exposed.
In the early part of winter he returned home, and continued to reside with his mother on the farm.In this situation, with the advantages derived from experience, his soul was drawn diligently to seek for strength and consolation from the only Fountain