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This doubting brought weakness on me and that weakness led to contrivance, how I might avoid this trial.
I knew the city pretty well, and remembered there was a back way, which though somewhat about, would bring me out of town, without pasing by those justices; yet loath I was to go that way. Wherefore I staid a pretty time in hopes they would have parted company, or removed to some other place, out of my way.
But when I had waited till I was uneasy for losing so much time; having entered into reasonings with flesh and blood, the weakness prevailed over me, and away I went the back way; which brought trouble and grief upon my spirit for having shunned the cross.
But the Lord looked on me with a tender eye; and seeing my heart was right to him, and that what ï had done was merely through weakness and fear of falling, and that I was sensible of my failing therein, and sorry for it, he was graciously pleased to pass it by, and speak peace to me again. So that before I got home, as when I went in the morning, my heart was full of breathing prayer to the Lord, that he would vouchsafe to be with me, and uphold and carry me through that days exercise : so now at my return in the evening, my heart was full of thankful acknowledge. ments, and praises unto him, for his great goodness and favour to me, in having thus far preserved, and kept me from falling into any thing that might have brought dishonour
to his holy name, which I had now taken on me.
But notwithstanding that it was thus with me, and that I found peace and acceptance with the Lord in some good degree, according to my obedience to the convictions I had received hy his holy spirit in me, yet was not the vail so done away or fully rent, but that there still remained a cloud upon my understanding, with respect to my carriage towards my father; and that notion, which the enemy had brought into my mind, that I ought to put such a difference between him and all others, as that, on the account of paternal relation, I should still deport myself towards him, both in gesture and language, as I had always here. tofore done, did yet prevail with me. So that when I came home, I went to my father bare-headed, as I used to do; and gave him a particular account of the business he had given me in command, in such manner, that he, observing no alteration in my carriage towards him, found no cause to take offence at me.
I had felt for some time before, an earnest desire of mind to go again to Isaac Pennington's. And I began to question whether, when my father should come (as I concluded ere long he would) to understand I inclined to settle among the people called Quakers, he would permit me the command of his horses, as before. Wherefore, in the morning when I went to Oxford, I gave direction to a servant
of his, to go that day to a gentleman of my acquaintance, who I knew had a riding nag to put off, either by sale, or to be kept for his work; and desire him, in my name, to send him to me; which he did, and I found him in the stable when I came home.
On this nag I designed to ride next day to Isaac Pennington's : and in order thereunto, arose betimes and got myself ready for the journey. But because I would pay all due respects to my father, and not go without his consent, or knowledge at the least, I sent one up to him, for he was not yet stirring, to acquaint him, that I had a purpose to go to Isaac Pennington's, and desired to know if he pleased to command me any service to them. He sent me word, he would speak with me before I went; and would have me come up to him, which I did, and stood by his bed-side.
Then in a mild and gentle tone, he said, I understand you have a mind to go to Mr. Pennington's. I answered, I have so. Why, said he, I wonder why you should. You were there, you know, but a few days ago; and unless you had business with them, do not you think it will look oddly? I said I thought not. I doubt, said he you will tire them with your company, and make them think they shall be troubled with you. If, replied I, I find any thing of that, I will make the shorter stay. But, said he, can you propose any sort of business with them, more than a mere
visit? Yes, said I, I propose to myself not: not only to see them, but to have some discourse with them. Why, said he, in a tone a little harsher, I hope you do not incline to be of their way. Truly, answered I, I like them and their way very well, so far as I yet understand it; and I am willing to go to them, that I may understand it better.
Thereupon he began to reckon up a beadroll of faults against the Quakers; telling me they were a rude unmannerly people, that would not give civil respect or honour to their superiors.; no, not to magistrates; that they held many dangerous principles; that they were an immodest, shameless people; and that one of them stripped himself stark-naked, and went in that unseemly manner about the streets, at fairs, and on market-days in great towns.
To all the other charges, I answered only, that perhaps they might be either misreported, or misunderstood, as the best of people had sometimes been. But to the last charge, of going naked, a particular answer, by way. of instance, was just then brought into my mind, and put into my mouth, which I had not thought of before ; and that was the ex. ample of Isaiah, who went naked among the people for a long time,- Isai. xx. 4. Aye, said my father, but you must consider, that he was a prophet of the Lord, and had an express command from God to go so.
Yes sir, replied I, I do consider that, but I consider
also, that the Jews among whom he lived, didnot own him for a prophet, nor believe that he had such a command from God. And, added I, how know we but that this Quaker may be a prophet too, and might be commanded to do as he did, for some reason which we understand not.
This put my father to a stand; so that let. ting fall his charges against the Quakers, he only said, I would wish you not to go so soon, but take a little time to consider of it; you may visit Mr. Pennington hereafter. Nay, sir, replied I, pray do not hinder my going now, for I have so strong a desire to go, that I do not well know how to forbear. And as I spake those words, I withdrew gently to the chamber door ; and then hastening down stairs, went immediately to the stable, where finding my horse ready bridled, I forthwith mounted, and went off ; lest I should receive a countermand.
This discourse with my father had cast me somewhat back in my journey, and it being fifteen long miles thither, the ways bad, and my nag but small, it was in the afternoon that I got thither. And understanding by the servant that took my horse, that there was then a meeting in the house, as there was weekly on that day, which was the fourth day of the week, though I, till then, understood it not, I hastened in; and knowing the rooms, went directly to the little parlour, where I found a few friends sitting together in silence;