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His birth and parenluge.- Some account of the opera:ions of divine grace on his mind in his youth.-His first appearance in the ministryand his considerutions, while young, on the keeping of slaves.
I have often felt a motion of love to leave some binis in writing of my experience of the goodness of God; and now, in the thirty-sixth year of my age, I begin this work.
I was born in Northampton, in Burlington Couniy, West Jersey, in the
1720. Before I was seven years old I began to be acquainted with the operations of divine love. Through the care of my parents, I was taught to read nearly as soon as I was capable of it; and as I went from school one day, I remember that while my companions were playing by the way, I went forward out of sight, and siit ng down I read the 22nd chapter of the Revela:ions: " He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, &c.” In reading it, my mind was drawn to seek after that
pure habitation which I then believed God bad prepared for his servants. The place where I sat, and ihe sweetness that allended my mind, remain fresh in my memory. This, and the like gracious visitations, bad such an effect upon ine, that when boys used ill language, it troubled me; and, through the continued mercies of God, I was preserved from that evil.
The pious instructions of my parents were often fresh in my mind, when I happened to be among wicked chil. dren, and were of use to me. Having a large family of children, they used frequently, on first-days after meeting, to set is one after another 10 read ibe boly scriptures, or some religious books, the rest sitting by without much conversation; I have since often thought it was a good practice. From what I had read and heard, I believed there had been, in past ages, people who walked in uprightness before God, in a degree exceeding any that I knew or heard of now living: and the apprehension of there being less steadiness and firmness amongst people in the present age, often troubled me while I was a child.
I may here mention a remarkable circumstance thai occurred in iny childhood. On going to a neighbor's house, I saw on the way a robin sitting on her nest, and as I came near she went off; but baving young ones, she few about, and with many cries expressed her concern for them. I stood and threw stones at ber, and one striking her, she fell down dead. At first I was pleased with the exploit, but after a few minutes was seized with horror, at having, in a sportive way, killed an innocent creature while she was careful for her young.
I bebeld her lying dead, and thought those young ones, for which she was so caresul, nust now perish for want of their dam to nourish them. After some painful considerations on the subject, I climbed up the tree, took all the young birds, and killled them; supposing that better than to leave them to pine away and die miserably. In this case I believed that scripture proverb was fulfilled, “ The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.' I then went on my errand, and for sone hours could think of little else but the cruelties I had committed, and was much troubled. Thus He, whose tender mercies are over all bis works, haib placed a principle in the human mind, which incites to exercise goodness towards every living creature; and this being singly attended to, people become tender-hearted and sympathizing; but when frequently and totally rejected, the mind becomes shut rp in a contrary disposition.
About the twelfth year of my age, my father being abroad, my mother reproved me for some misconduct, 10 which I made an undutiful reply. The next first day, as I was with my father returning from meeting, be told me that be understood I had behaved amiss to my mother, and advised me to be more careful in future. I knew myself blameable, and in shame and confusion remained silent. Being thus awakened to a sense of my wickedness, I selt remorse in my mind, and, on getting home, I retired and prayed to the Lord to forgive me; and I do not remember that I ever afterwards spoke unhandsomely to either of my parents, however foolish in some other things.
Having attained the age of sixteen years, I began to love wanton company; and though I was preserved from profane language, or scandalous conduct, yet I perceived a plant in me which produced much wild grapes: my merciful Father did not however forsake me utterly, but at times, through his grace, I was brought seriously to consider my ways; and the sight of my backslidings affected me with sorrow; yet for want of rightly attending to the reproofs of instruction, vanity was added to vanity, and repentance to repentance. Upon the whole, my mind became more and more alienated from the truth, and I hastened toward destruction. Wbile I meditate on the gulf towards which I travelled, and reflect on my youthful disobedience, for these things I weep, inine eye runneth down with water.
Advancing in age, the number of my acquaintance increased, and thereby my way grew inore difficult. Though I had found comfort in reading the holy scriptures, and thinking on heavenly things, I was now estranged therefrom. I knew I was going from the flock of Christ, and had no resolution to return; hence serious reflections were uneasy to me, and youthful vanities and diversions were my greatest pleasure. In this road I found many like myself; and we associated in that which is adverse to true friendship.
In this swift race it pleased God to visit me with sick
ness, so that I doubted of recovery; then did darkness, horror, and amaze:nent, with full force seize me, even when my pain and distress of body were very great. I thought it would bave been better for me never to have had being, than to see the day which I now saw. I was blled with confusion; and in great affliction, both of mind and body, I lay and bewailed myself. I had not confidence to lift up my cries to God, whoin I bad thus offended; but, in a deep sense of my great folly, I was bumbled before him. At length, that word which is as a fire and a bammer, broke and dissolved my rebellious heart; my cries were put up in contrition; and in the multitude of bis inercies I found inward relief, and a close engagement, that if he was pleased to restore my health, I might walk bumbly before him.
Aster my recovery, this exercise remained with me a considerable time; but by degrees giving way to youthful vanities, and associating with wapton young people, I lost ground. The Lord had been very gracious, and spoke peace to me in the time of my distress, and I now inost ungratefully turned again to folly; at times I felt sharp reproof, but I did not get low enough to cry for help. I was not so hardy as to commit things scandalous; but to exceed in vanity, and to promote mirth, was my chief study. Still I relained a love and esteem for pious people; and their company brought an awe upon me. My dear parents several times admonished me in the fear of the Lord, and their admonition entered into my heart, and had a good effect for a season; but not getting deep enough to pray righily, the tempter when he came found entrance. Once having spent a part of the day in wantonness, when I went to bed at night there lay in a window, near my bed, a bible, which I opened, and first cast any eye on the text, “ We die down in our shame, and our confusion covers us." This I knew lo be my case; and meeting with so unex• pected a reproof, I was somewhat affected with it, and went to bed under remorse of conscience; which I soon cast off again.
Thus time passed on; my heart was replenished with mirth and wantonvess, while pleasing scenes of vanity were presented to my imagination, till I attained the age of