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THIRD MONTH, 1835.
LETTERS OF JACOB PAXSON. In the brief memorial of Jacob Paxson, lately published, notice was taken of the affectionate solicitude which he felt for the guarded education of children, and especially of those to whom he stood in the endeared relation of a parent. The following correspondence with a beloved daughter, (many years since deceased) who was engaged as a teacher in Philadelphia, and resided with the principal of the school, (a person of a different religious profession)—will exemplify the pious care with which he regarded the moral and religious instruction of his offspring; and the high value with which he esteemed the testimonies of Friends.
Written about the year 1808. “My dear girl,-If thou knew the anxiety of soul which thy parents feel-for thee during thy absence, it would, I am confident, in some degree, be available, in guarding thee from unthinkingly rushing into the broad way with the giddy multitude.There certainly never was a time when the generality of the people allowed themselves more latitude, and were less actuated by the dictates of conscience, than at the present. Call to mind the situation even of some that we have known,-how similar
to that of the prodigal, feeding on husks among swine!
My dear daughter, that virtue may be thy primary concern, is a subject that often pervades the hearts of thy parents. Let every other consideration become subservient to this; then, I am confident, thou wilt experience a greater degree of happiness, even in this world, than can be attained in the pursuit of any other enjoyment. I trust I am not writing to one who is entirely ignorant of what is proper to do, and what to leave undone. : I hope thou wilt ever remember what it was that rent. the kingdom from Saul, and produced his gradual decline from that time, and finally, his falling where there was neither dew nor rain, nor fields of offering. May the God of all grace follow my child, as a voice behind her, till she may be induced attentively to listen, and faithfully to obey. Then surely she will have to adopt the language-“That his voice indeed is sweet, and his countenance comely." I believe when this comes to be thy happy experience, our anxious care for thee by day and by night, will be in some degree abated.
I mean nothing by what I have written, more than an open avowal of unfeigned love for my child, and for the youth generally—but particularly in that great city, where there are blessings and favours showered down, more abundantly than on any other family of the earth; there are also more temptations abounding, suited to catch and ensnare the feet of the unwary.”
It may be gratifying to the reader to be informed, that the above effusion of parental affection was duly appreciated by the child to whom it was addressed. For, a heart overflowing with filial gratitude, prompted the following reply, which is an extract from her letter.
“Your letter, dear parents, conveyed to my mind a fresh feeling of undissembled love, breathing the natural effusions of hearts glowing with ardour for the protection of a child. The instructive sentiments it contained, I hope may never be forgotten. The earnest solicitude you expressed, feeling for me by day and by night,—sunk deep into my heart. It taught me to consider the importance of rectitude of conduct—and the monstrous ingratitude of neglecting or disregarding such feelings. You are not strangers to the sensibility of my heart, neither are you to the many imperfections of my nature. . To encounter these propensities, and invariably act with perfect rectitude, dignity and honour, requires more than the wisdom of Solomon. But, it has long been my unshaken belief, that the anxiety with which a rightly concerned parent impresses his advice on the darling hope of his succeeding years, is never wholly forgotten. It is indeed true, that youth, glowing with impetuosity of feeling, without the knowledge which experience teaches, does not always submit to the voice of reason and truth, tho' communicated thro’ the endearing medium of parental love. Nevertheless, when these inconsiderate, irregular creatures come to reap the fruits of their misguided opinions, and to witness the unhappy effects of leaning on the world, the mind often becomes pensive and contemplative, seeking in its own recesses, that peace which the world could not give. Then is the time we acknowledge with humility, the propriety of your interrogations, persuasions, and even commands."
The following letter which is given entire, extends to some topics of counsel not communicated before.
“Dear daughter,-For some days past, I have thought of writing to thee; but it seemed difficult to convey my thoughts and best wishes. For, altho' with respect to several things, I have felt much relieved, and have a comfortable hope that thou art careful, in a good degree, to keep on the watch tower; yet I am willing to own that my solicitude on this account, hath been impressive of latter times. It hath revived again and again, how Martha was concerned about many things, but Mary had chosen the better part.
My silent moments have been often employed with increasing care on my own account, as well as in regard to my dear children, that we might be found in the way of our religious duties; fully believing that our social and religious obligations are inseparable; and that we never shall arrive at that dignity designed for us by Heaven, without paying strict attention to both. I hope thou wilt accept this as the overflowing of pure love for my dear child. I have remembered, while writing, a sentiment once expressed, that our 'not doing'-that is, not attending to the Divine openings, will be set down among our darkest deeds.' I believe I am no sectarian, but am solicitous that all who have the light, may walk in the light. Then they will have fellowship one with another, and experience preservation from all sin,
I thought to have avoided particularizing any thing-but the bar that seems to be in thy way, at times, of meeting with thy friends in their solemn assemblies, when health will admit, must be thrown down. I wish thee to take it into solid consideration, remembering, dear child, 'if the truth makes us free, then are we free indeed.' The soul-solacing comfort that I, with thousands more, have experienced in our little week-day meetings, is not to be conveyed either by tongue or pen. Wisdom will be profitable to direct in this, as in all other things. I feel at the present moment as though my soul would never be at rest, with respect to my children, and in a particular manner for thee, until I see you in a good degree coming forth out of the wilderness, as is expressed touching the church, ‘leaning on the bosom of your Beloved-fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.
I believe the present day would exhibit to beholders, the most encouraging prospect that ever hath been opened in our land, if the children of this generation would strictly adhere to the manifestations of Divine light. Oh! what will become of you, if you do not walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called! I know that saying will never land me safe--and I hope to look at home. For the present farewell."