Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
A Child of the Covenant
By Jonathan Edwards (17031758)
[Narrative of Surprising Conversions. 1736.]
I NOW proceed to the other instance that I would give an account of, which is of the little child forementioned. Her name is Phebe Bartlet, daughter of William Bartlet. I shall give the account as I took it from the mouths of her parents, whose veracity none that know them doubt of.
She was born in March, in the year 1731. About the latter end of April, or beginning of May, 1735, she was greatly affected by the talk of her brother, who had been hopefully converted a little before, at about eleven years of age, and then seriously talked to her about the great things of religion. Her parents did not know of it at that time, and were not wont, in the counsels they gave to their children, particularly to direct themselves to her, by reason of her being so young, and, as they supposed, not capable of understanding; but, after her brother had talked to her, they observed her very earnestly to listen to the advice they gave to the other children, and she was observed very constantly to retire, several times in a day, as was concluded, for secret prayer, and grew more and more engaged in religion, and was more frequently in her closet, till at last she was wont to visit it five or six times in a day, and was so engaged in it, that nothing would, at any time, divert her from her stated closet exercises. Her mother often observed and watched her, when such things occurred, as she thought most likely to divert her, either by putting it out of her thoughts, or otherwise engaging her inclinations, but never could observe her to fail. She mentioned some very remarkable instances.
She once, of her own accord, spake of her unsuccessfulness, in that she could not find God, or to that purpose. But on Thursday, the last day of July, about the middle of the day, the child being in the closet, where it used to retire, its mother heard it speaking aloud, which was unusual, and never had been observed before; and her voice seemed to be as of one exceeding importunate and engaged, but her mother could distinctly hear only these words (spoken in her childish manner, but seemed to be spoken with extraordinary earnestness, and out of distress of soul), Pray bessed Lord give me salvation! I pray, beg pardon all my sins! When the child had done prayer, she came out of the closet, and came and sat down by her mother, and cried out aloud. Her mother very earnestly asked her several times, what the matter was, before she would make any answer, but she continued exceedingly crying, and writhing her body to and fro, like one in anguish of spirit. Her mother then asked her whether she was afraid that God would not give her salvation. She then answered, Yes, I am afraid I shall go to hell! Her mother then endeavored to quiet her, and told her she would not have her cryshe must be a good girl, and pray every day, and she hoped God would give her salvation. But this did not quiet her at allbut she continued thus earnestly crying and taking on for some time, till at length she suddenly ceased crying and began to smile, and presently said with a smiling countenance, Mother, the kingdom of heaven is come to me! Her mother was surprised at the sudden alteration, and at the speech, and knew not what to make of it, but at first said nothing to her. The child presently spake again, and said, There is another come to me, and there is anotherthere is three; and being asked what she meant, she answered, One is, thy will be done, and there is anotherenjoy him for ever; by which it seems that when the child said, There is three come to me, she meant three passages of her catechism that came to her mind.
After the child had said this, she retired again into her closet; and her mother went over to her brothers, who was next neighbor; and when she came back, the child, being come out of the closet, meets her mother with this cheerful speech, I can find God now! Referring to what she had before complained of, that she could not find God. Then the child spoke again, and said, I love God! Her mother asked her how well she loved God, whether she loved God better than her father and mother, she said, Yes. Then she asked her whether she loved God better than her little sister Rachel, she answered, Yes, better than anything! Then her eldest sister, referring to her saying she could find God now, asked her where she could find God; she answered, In heaven. Why, said she, have you been in heaven? No, said the child. By this it seems not to have been any imagination of any thing seen with bodily eyes that she called God, when she said I can find God now. Her mother asked her whether she was afraid of going to hell, and that had made her cry. She answered, Yes, I was: but now I shall not. Her mother asked her whether she thought that God had given her salvation; she answered, Yes. Her mother asked her when; she answered, To-day. She appeared all that afternoon exceeding cheerful and joyful. One of the neighbors asked her how she felt herself? She answered, I feel better than I did. The neighbor asked her what made her feel better; she answered, God makes me. That evening as she lay abed, she called one of her little cousins to her, that was present in the room, as having something to say to him; and when he came, she told him that heaven was better than earth. The next day being Friday, her mother, asking her her catechism, asked her what God made her for; she answered, To serve him; and added, Everybody should serve God, and get an interest in Christ.
She has manifested great love to her minister; particularly when I returned from my long journey for my health last fall, when she heard of it she appeared very joyful at the news, and told the children of it with an elevated voice, as the most joyful tidings, repeating it over and over, Mr. Edwards is come home! Mr. Edwards is come home! She still continues very constant in secret prayer, so far as can be observed (for she scorns to have no desire that others should observe her when she retires, but seems to be a child of a reserved temper), and every night before she goes to bed will say her catechism, and will by no means miss of it; she never forgot it but once, and then after she was abed, thought of it, and cried out in tears, I have not said my catechism! And would not be quieted till her mother asked her the catechism as she lay in bed. She sometimes appears to be in doubt about the condition of her soul, and when asked whether she thinks that she is prepared for death, speaks something doubtfully about it; at other times seems to have no doubt, but when asked, replies Yes, without hesitation.