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Past and Present
The Outset


It was a Suuny, lovely afternoon in the month of June, in the year 1828, that a dear friend, a young minister, called in to see the writer start for his first circuit, and to say “ Fare-1 well-!” The friend just mentioned engaged in prayer for ourself in the arduous work on which we were now entering and for the family. It was a time of solemnity to the young candidate for a minister’s life. He had looked forward to the day when he might be permitted to enter the vineyard of the Lord in the character of an authorized laborer, with ardent expectation. His opportunities for the cultivation of his mind had been small, and those he had possessed had not all been improved as they might have been. This was partly the result of boyish heedlessness, before his conversion; and partly from a, mistaken or unfounded dread, for some time after that event that learning would corrupt him and spoil his simplicity. By the time this error was dissipated, he found himself apprenticed to learn a mechanic art, a situation which left him but little leisure for mental improvement. The love of God had been shed abroad in his young and ardent heart about the age of fifteen. Impelled by that love he began at once to pray in public—to reprove sin wherever he witnessed it—and, in less than a year and a half after this event, to teach in a humble way, in a Sunday school. His first class consisted of four only, two of whom had a coloured skin and curly heads, and the other two, though white, were troubled with an infection which precluded their associating with other children. The more he did for God and souls the more he felt inwardly prompted to do. These convictions of duty were certainly not diminished by old and experienced disciples telling him, ever and anon, "you have a work to do.” No wonder then, if, when an opportunity presented itself of quitting his trade, with the consent of his employer, and of devoting himself to study, he had availed himself of it. He had at the period when our narrative begins been eighteen months employed in attending school or teaching. This interval, though short, was rendered a highly favored one through the interest shown and assistance afforded by two or three educated friends, whose kindness (especially the superior kindness of one of the three) will never be forgotten while, memory holds its seat.. During this time nearly every Sabbath, and frequently on the, weeknight evenings, found him employed in meeting a class, or publicly exhorting and warning his fellow-sinners to flee from the wrath to come. Sometimes, though not officially authorized, he presumed to “ smuggle a text,” as it then used to be termed.. He always thought he could build the better for having a foundation. About a week before the time we are describing, he had received instructions from the “Presiding Elder” to make preparations to supply a vacancy in an adjacent circuit, till the ensuing Conference, He had been now four years converted^ and was nearly nineteen years of age, A newly presented pocket Bible and Hymn Book, a volume of Sermons, and a copy of Watt’s Logic, constituted his whole travelling library.

Having thus cleared the way, we take a fair start once more. The youth received the parting kiss of a fond and pious mother; bad farewell to an aged and unregenerate father, about whom he was very anxious, and with whom he now ventured, though with a faltering tongue, to leave a few words of parting admonition; he received a cordial shake hands from the manly grasp of his brothers, to all of whom he was junior, and having strapped on his valice before, and thrown his saddle-bags (an indispensable part of an itinerant’s paraphernalia in those days) across the saddle, he bestrode the back of his rat-tailed, “Arabian Spot,” and turned away with emotion from the door.

He rode through the town, at the other end of which was the residence of a talented servant of Christ, under whose pastorship he had been placed for the two years immediately preceding. He went up to the door to receive his parting advice and benediction. The latter was most solemnly and devoutly given; and the former the writer will never forget. It related to his personal piety—ministerial conflicts—his behavior in the families he visited—and his manner in the pulpit, or while preaching, On this latter topic he advised him never to put a chair before him, much less to spread out his pocket handkerchief over its back, Advice which he has religiously adhered to ever since,

Again he turned his horse’s head, and is soon on the road. But there is one place more at which he must call, before he can leave the town, and that is the house of his first and best beloved class-leader, A man of a most affectionate heart, and rare qualifications for helping on young converts. The young man, however, was denied the pleasure of seeing him—he was not at home. But his interesting lady and family came out and gave him “ the parting hand.” In a few minutes, he is out of town inhaling the balmy air of the country, the cooling influence of which he felt most grateful to his throbbing temples, heated and wearied as he was by the labor and excitement attendant on his morning preparations for departing. His thoughts now became occupied with his purposes of future usefulness.

Just this moment, he was joined by a fellow traveller, an equestrian also. After customary salutations, the young preacher thinking it his duty to be “ instant in season and out of season,” broached the subject of personal religion. Unhappily he found the soil on which he attempted to cast the good seed most unpromising, the subject of his exhortations being already very religious. He was of that class of Unitarians, who call themselves “Christians" as if they alone are such) and at the time of the encounter, nearly drunk. The writer was not sorry, therefore, when this worthy professor took advantage of the superior speed of his horse and rode away from him, leaving him to his own meditations. These became increasingly sweet as the shades of evening drew on, and as the sombre forest thickened around him. It was full four o’clock p. m., when he cleared the suburbs of the town \ and, having about fifteen miles to ride, it was after dark when he got to the nearest settlement in his appointed circuit. He rode to the door of a house occupied by a Methodist family of which he had some knowledge. The kind and cordial reception he met with was very soothing to his agitated feelings, although he blushed when the mother of the family called out to “Billy” to “come and take care of the Preacher’s horse.”

“A sorry substitute for a preacher truly,” thought he. After a simple repast of mush and milk, and the delightful exercise of family prayer, the incipient itinerant retired—but not to sleep, The heat of the atmosphere—the pain of his flesh and bones from riding, to which he had been unaccustomed—the anxieties of his mind about his future success prevented Ms taking much rest for that night. Such was the first day of the itinerant life of one who has been thirty-one years in the mark.


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