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nurture and admonition of the Lord; he was placed when young with a man who was a shoemaker, and who dealt in wool, and followed grazing, and sold cattle; but it appears from William Penn, who became a member of the society, and was acquainted with him, that he principally followed the country part of his master's business, an employment that very well suited his turn of mind, both for its innocency, and the retirement and time thereby afforded for reflection. He took great delight in keeping sheep, which was a just figure of his after ministry and service; and in his youth he manifested a seriousness of spirit, not usual in persons of his age. This seriousness grew upon him; as it increased he encouraged it, and in his twentieth year, in consequence of the impressions he had received, he believed himself called upon to withdraw from the world, and to devote himself to religion: and from 1643 to 1646, he appears to have given himself to meditation and prayer. His trials and exercises of mind continued; he fasted much, and with no companion but his bible, often walked
abroad in solitary places till night came on: even during the night, he frequently thus spent his time in solitude and retirement from the world; and was prepared in this state of seclusion, for the services to which he was particularly called.
An. To what service was he particularly called, mother?
Mo. Soon after passing through these dispensations, he was engaged to preach the Gospel, or, to use his own expressions, “ Declare the truth to others.” At Duckenfield, some persons were convinced by his ministry, and united with him in Christian fellowship. He afterwards travelled in Nottinghamshire and the neighboring counties, taking opportunities, when large multitudes were drawn together on various occasions, to turn people “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,” frequently reproving them for their vices, and occasionally disputing with those who opposed his doctrines. His ministry was so powerful, and his conduct so remarkable, that many came from far and near to visit
him; and such was the success of his preaching, that in 1648 and the two years preceeding, several meetings were established, and his fellow-professors were gathered to the teaching of Christ in themselves, by that light, spirit, and power which broke forth daily more and more wonderfully, so that some of them began to promulgate the truths of the everlasting Gospel; among whom was Elizabeth Hooton, the first person George Fox mentions as uniting with him in his religious views, and who publicly espoused the doctrines professed by Friends.
Ed. Have we any ground in scripture for believing that women are authorzied to preach?
Mo. I think we have: it seems self-evident, that had the apostle disapproved of their ministry, he would not have given directions, respecting the appearance of women, as well as men, when engaged in the solemn act of praying, or prophesying. In the Old Testament, there are examples of women, who were impelled to speak to others on matters of religion by the immediate influences of
the Holy Ghost. Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah are expressly denominated prophetesses, and the wife of Isaiah was a prophetess. In the New Testament, we find the aged Anna in the temple, speaking of Christ, to all them that looked for redemption in Israel. Paul denominates Priscilla his helper in Christ, and he entreats the believers, say. ing Help those women who labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Lu. Were women allowed to preach in any other religious society?
Mo. Sewel, the historian of Friends, informs us, that in a book published at Dordt in 1647, it was stated that
other societies in London, there were women who preached in large meetings, and were heard by many with great satisfaction; and more recently we have the testimony of the eminent Adam Clark, a member of the Methodist society, in favour of females exercising the office of ministers of the Gospel. Perhaps
Edward may be willing to read us this interesting passage from his auto-biography.
ED. I will read the extract with pleasure, mother:
“ I have this morning heard Mary Sewel preach; she has a good talent for exhortation, and her words spring from a heart, that evidently feels deep concern for the souls of the people, and consequently her hearers are interested and effected. I have formerly been no friend to female preaching, but my sentiments are a little altered. If God give a holy woman a gift for exhortation and reproof, I see no reason why it should not be used. This woman's preaching has done much good; the fruits of it may be found copiously in different places of the circuit. Such women should be patterns of all piety, of unblamable conversation, correct and useful in their families, and furnished to every good work. This certainly is the character of Mary Sewel ; may she ever maintain it." “ And she did maintain it, but she died soon after, as she had lived; in the faith and consolation of the Gospel.”