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youth, and it was time enough for me when a man, to become religious. But still God followed me with his chastising rod, and often put me in mind of my covenant that I made with him in my distress; and that he had granted my request which I then made to him ; and un. less I would take up a cross to my own corrupt will and inclinations, he should take me out of the world. Then, Oh, then! I cried, Lord help, or I die! Save me, or I perish for ever! I cannot keep thy covenant, nor do thy will, without thy help and assistance ! And, indeed, if the Lord had not helped, I had been undone for ever.
So I continued bowed down in my mind, calling on the Lord; thinking and meditating on heaven and heavenly things : but as I am sensible I had an inward ene. my that always sought my hurt and overthrow, I have cause to bless God, who by his grace (as mine eye was turned to it) helped me to do his will, as he was pleased to manifest it to me, so that thereby some change was wrought on me both inwardly and outwardly.
And I then began to delight in reading and sobriety, which before were irksome to me: and when I read the Holy Scriptures, I desired that God would open them to my understanding, which he did to my edification many times. I also begged earnestly of the Lord, that he would be pleased to be with me, and make me like to those his children and servants, of whom I read in the Holy Scriptures, who faithfully served him all their days. And when I read of the crucifixion of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, it would break my soul into tenderness. I thought it was enough to awaken and humble any soul that was well meaning, and had any sense of the power, love, and grace of Christ. Thus I went on for several years, feeling that peace
passeth natural understanding, which many times accom. panied my poor and needy soul : and being advanced to about fourteen or fifteen years of age, I remember that I used to shun the cross of speaking in the plain language (which I always read in the Holy Scriptures) to those whom I conversed with, except my father and mother, who would not allow me to speak otherwise : I was convicted in my conscience that it was not right to play the hypocrite after that manner; and on a certain time I had occasion to speak with an officer, a great man in our neighbourhood, and my heart moved within me for fear I should shun the cross of Christ; for it was Christ's language to all, as we may read in the New Testament; and the Scriptures, from Genesis to the Revelations, speak thee and thou, to a single person in a general way.
So I took up the cross, and said thee to him; and he was much affronted, and said, “ Thee! what dost thou thee me for ?” I soberly asked him if he did not say thee to his Maker in his prayers ? and whether he was too good, or too great, to be spoke to in the same language in which he addressed the Almighty ? unto which he made no reply, but seemed to fall from his passion into admiration, as one smitten in himself. And he bore me respect ever after; and I greatly rejoiced that I was preserved faithful. Though it may look a little thing to some, yet I found it good (as the Scripture saith) not to despise the day of small things.
About the twentieth year of my age, I was pressed and carried on board of a vessel belonging to a man of war. I was put down into the hold in the dark, not having any thing to lie upon but casks; and what made it worse to me, I was among wicked, debauched men ; and as we were shut up in darkness, so was their conversation dark and hellish. In the morning, for which I longed more than the watchmen, the lieutenant called us up on deck, and examined us, whether we were willing to serve the king ? he called me to him, and asked me, if I was willing to serve his majesty ? I answered, that I was willing to serve him in my business, and according to my conscience; but as for war or fighting, Christ had forbid it in his excellent sermon on the mount; and for that reason I could not bear arms, nor be instrumental to destroy or kill men. Then the lieutenant looked on me and on the people, and said, “ Gentlemen, what shall we do with this fellow? he swears he will not fight.” The commander of the vessel made answer, No, no, he will neither swear nor fight.” Upon which they turned
me on shore. I was thankful that I was delivered out of their hands; and my tender parents were glad to see me again. Now as I
years, the world began to take too much root in me ; and my unwearied enemy would tell me that it was lawful enough (and indeed I see that he hurts many with lawful things, with whom he knoweth the unlawful things will not take) and here I had been lost if God had not been gracious to me. But he, in whose presence I delighted, withdrew, and deprived me of that enjoyment which was graceful and comfortable above all things to my soul. Then did I pray, with tears, Oh, that it might be with me as it was at other times before ! and I was willing to let the world go, rather than grace and God's glory. The Psalmist saith,
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psal. lxxxiv. 11.
About this time there was a great concern on my mind, rightly to distinguish between the voice of Christ, and the whisperings of Satan ; and thus it opened to me : that Christ, the truth, always speaketh good, and for a good end, and that there is divine life to the soul in this speaking ; but the devil never speaks good, unless sometimes for a bad end, and then not good in reality, only coloured with good or fair shew.
And keeping under this exercise, the Lord appeared to me again, and many times refreshed my heart with his goodness. And when I was in
And when I was in my business amongst men, I did witness the Holy Ghost, the comforter, to be near me; which was more to me than all the world, or the riches, glory and beauty of it; the love of God being so sweet to my soul and spirit, my breathings, prayers and supplications, were to the Lord, that my neighbours, acquaintance, and relations, might also partake of the like precious faith and love which I enjoyed ; and that the children of men might answer that great and good end for which the Lord did create them; which is, that glory, honour and praise, might ascend and be given to Him.
I had such a sense and fear of dishonouring God, that I often, with tears, cried, Never let me live to dishonour thee. Oh! it had been better for me that I had never been born, or my mother's womb had been my grave, than that I should live to dishonour thee, or wilfully reproach the name of Christ, who, with the Father, is only worthy of divine honour.
In this concern I felt the gospel power of our Lord Jesus Christ to work upon my soul, and the word of God was as a seed in my heart, growing, and opening in me, speaking to me, and making my understanding fruitful in the things of his kingdom ; and in that ability which was given me of God, through his grace and holy spirit, I exhorted people to repentance and amendment of life : and I always humbly desired the help and divine influ. ence of God's eternal word therein. Oh! I did fervently pray, that I might minister the gospel in the power of Jesus; for I clearly discerned, in the light of the Son of God, that all ministering out of Christ's power, was neither edifying nor efficacious unto souls: therefore I did earnestly beseech God for the continuance of the gift of his spirit, that I might be enabled to preach the gospel in the power of Christ Jesus. The concern that was upon me on this account at that time, is hard to be ex. pressed in words.
The latter end of the year 1695, my father sent me into Essex, on some business, which, when I had accomplished, I visited some meetings of friends there, and my mind being much affected with the apprehensions of an impending storm (the nation being about this time threatened with an invasion from France, in favour of the late king James, so that there was expectation of much blood. shed and confusion in the land) I wrote a letter to my parents, and another to friends of the evening meeting (kept weekly at my father's house) expressing my thankfulness to the Almighty, in remembrance of the many precious visitations of divine love and favour we had been partakers of, to the uniting our hearts to him, and to one another; and my earnest prayers and supplications, that we might be preserved in true love, and the unity of the spir.
it, which is the bond of everlasting peace; and that the world might be made sensible of this true peace, which abounds in those who love and fear the Lord, and truly believe in the name of Jesus. Oh! surely, they would then depart from sin; and abandon iniquity, by which they incur the wrath of the Lord, and provoke the just one to anger; so that the line of confusion seems to be stretched over the city and nation, and the eye of the faithful seeth it to the grief of their souls. Yet the mercy of the Lord, even of the just God (who will ren. der a just reward to every one according to his deeds done in the body) is still handed forth to the land. Oh! that the inhabitants thereof would consider their ways, and be wise, and turn to the Lord with unfeigned repentance, while the day of mercy lasteth, before it be said, now it is hid from thine eyes; for the Lord, even the God and Father of Spirits, hath said, “ My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh.” Gen. vi. 3.
On the expiration of my apprenticeship, having serv. ed my father faithfully seven years, I entered more strongly into covenant with my heavenly Father and master, to serve him all my days, through his assistance ; and was soon after drawn forth, in the spirit and love of Christ, to visit the meetings of friends westward from London, viz. through Surry, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall to the Land's-end ; in which journey I was accompanied by William Hornould. At one of our meetings at Falmouth, in Cornwall, two men (called gentlemen) came from the inn to hear the strangers; and after meeting, they said they could take their oath that I was a Jesuit, and that they had heard me preach in a Romish chapel in France; which was utterly false ; for I never was in France in my life. Be. sides, had I been a papist, or popishly inclined (which I was not) I was too young to be a Jesuit.
Indeed, I thought I was mean for the work of the mina istry, but the good remembrancer brought those truths to my rerhembrance, which strengthened me in the work and service of God. The spirit breatheth where it list.